Archive of January 27, 2014

Anti-superstition health drive launched after child dies in India

Miao, India, Jan 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Negligence and blind faith led to the death of a student in far north-east India, and the Church there has responded with an anti-superstition education campaign for parents.

The child was a student at St. Xavier's primary school in Lazu, part of the Miao diocese in Arunachal Pradesh state. At a regular school health check up before the Christmas break, he was diagnosed with appendicitis.

St. Xavier's principal, Fr. Joy Moc, urged the parents to seek medical treatment for their son at a hospital during the Christmas vacation.

But trusting in supernatural, magical cures, and having blind faith, the parents failed to follow Fr. Moc's advice, and their son has died from the rupture of his appendix.

“An innocent life is lost,” Fr. Moc told CNA Jan 23.

“We do not want to repeat these incidents in future.”

In an effort to educate parents so that such an avoidable death can be prevented in the future, the Diocese of Miao has launched a health and anti-superstition campaign in Lazu.

On Jan. 17, more than 500 students and faithful of the diocese participated in the medical awareness program. A “Say No to Superstition” march was held, with participants holding banners with the slogan, as well as “health is our right,” “go to the doctor when you are sick,” and “right medicine at the right time.” The banners were written in India's official languages, Hindi and English, as well as the local language Ollo.

Bishop George Pallipparambil  expressed his sympathy with the community, and assured his solidarity as he prayed for the boy.

St. Xavier's school collaborated with the local Catholic “Seva Kendra,” or social center, to educate and empower the local population with regard to health care.

Three religious sisters conducted workshops on various health awareness topics to make people to respond to timely medical needs so as to avoid such tragic events in the future.

They explained the importance of timely medical treatment, immunizations, and personal cleanliness, in addition to prayer for health.

An official of the Assam Rifles, a national paramilitary force which assists in communications, medical assistance and education in such remote areas as the Miao diocese, spoke to those gathered about the free medicines available to them at the Seva Kendra.

A physician from the nearest hospital, located some 25 miles away, educated the people about illnesses and their treatment.

The students of St. Xavier's also performed an educational skit on the unfortunate death.

At the program's conclusion, those assembled pledged to care for themselves and their families by going to physicians when sick and “saying no to superstitions.”

Arunachal Pradesh, home to the Miao diocese, is a remote part of India, and part of it is claimed by China; the diocese borders both China and Burma.

The area is mountainous, home to the easternmost portions of the Himalayas. Its mountainous terrain and remoteness has led to challenges of poverty, a lack of infrastructure, and underemployment.

In 2011, the per capita GDP of the state was $1,300, and the literacy rate was 67 percent.

In a Dec. 6 interview, Bishop Pallipparambil told CNA that “ignorance and the shackles of superstition are also big challenges, and so to tackle them, education is a priority need.”

The Miao diocese was established in 2005, and Bishop Pallipparambil, a Salesian, is its first bishop. The diocese is home to 83,500 Catholics across an area of nearly 17,000 square miles.

The diocese's total population is roughly 500,000, with Christians – most of them Catholic – comprising some 19 percent of the population. The largest religious group is Hindus, with large minorities of Buddhists and traditional religions, as well as small numbers of Muslims, Sikhs, and Jains.

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Pope, Hollande discuss positive role of religion in society

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - During Pope Francis’ meeting with French president Francois Hollande on Friday, the two discussed an array of topics concerning human dignity, centering the meeting on the role of religion in society.

In a Jan. 24 statement released regarding the meeting earlier that morning, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi revealed that the “cordial” discussion primarily focused on “the contribution that religion makes to the common good.”

Pope Francis received President Hollande in audience at the Vatican Apostolic Palace on Friday morning, which was the first meeting between the two since either has been elected.

Hollande won the 2012 elections in the French Republic as the Socialist party candidate, and is the first leftwing president the country has had in almost 20 years.

Emphasizing the standing positive relations between France and the Holy See, both the Pope and the President voiced a mutual commitment to sustaining regular dialogue between the State and the Catholic Church, and continuing constructive collaboration regarding questions of common interest.

In the context of the defense and promotion of the dignity of the human person, the Vatican’s statement revealed that the two discussed various matters which are of current relevance, including the topics of the family, bioethics, respect for religious communities and the protection of places of worship.

The discussion then turned to international issues, such as problems regarding poverty and development, migration and the environment, and particular concern was voiced surrounding the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, and in some regions of Africa.

Regarding these situations, the pair expressed hope that a peaceful social co-existence in the countries affected can be established again through dialogue, with the full participation of all members of society.

Pope Francis and the President also spoke of their desire that this restored peace would be one that recognizes with full respect the rights of all, in particular those of ethnic and religious minorities.

The last meeting to take place between a Pope and French officials was in Oct. of 2010, when retired pontiff Benedict XVI met with President Nicolas Sarkozy.

During the 2010 encounter, Benedict and Sarkozy spoke of the role of Christians in various countries around the world, as well as the task of getting a broader spectrum of countries involved in multilateral organizations.

Among the other issues discussed between the two were the ethical and social dimensions of economic problems in light of the Pope’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritatae,” as well as the international political situation, including peace efforts and the Middle East, with particular emphasis on relations with the Muslim population.

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Pope lauds 'bravery' of those anointed by God

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily Mass, Pope Francis reflected on the significance of the special anointing given to priests and bishops, emphasizing that it marks their role of service to the Church, which we should be grateful for.

“Today, thinking about this anointing of David, it will do us good to think of our brave, holy, good, faithful bishops and priests, and pray for them. We are here today thanks to them,” the Pope stated in his Jan. 27 homily.

Addressing those present for his Mass in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, Pope Francis began his homily by drawing attention to the day’ first reading, taken from the Second Book of Samuel, in which the tribes of Israel anoint David as their king.

“Without this anointing, David would have been only the head” of a “company” or a “political society, which was the Kingdom of Israel,” observed the pontiff, explaining that David would have been a mere “political organizer.”

However, “after the anointing, the Spirit of the Lord” descends upon David and remains with him, the Pope stated recalled, adding that “This is precisely the difference anointing makes.”

Explaining that the one who is anointed is chosen by the Lord, Pope Francis expressed that it is also the same with bishops and priests, and that “the bishops are elected not only to conduct an organization, which is called the particular Church…they are anointed.”

“They have the anointing and the Spirit of the Lord is with them,” he noted, highlighting that “all the bishops are sinners, every one;” but “still, we are anointed.”

“We all want to be more holy every day, more faithful to this anointing,” the Pope continued, adding that “the person of the bishop is the thing that (constitutes) a Church (as such), in the name of Jesus Christ – because he is anointed, not because he was voted by the majority.”

“It is in this anointing that a particular Church has its strength. Because they take part (in the bishop’s mission of service) priests are anointed, as well,” the Pope explained.

Pope Francis observed that anointing brings bishops and priests closer to the Lord, and gives them the strength “to carry (their) people forward, to help (their) people, to live in the service of (their) people.”

It also gives them the joy of feeling “chosen by the Lord, watched by the Lord, with that love with which the Lord looks upon all of us,” said the Pope, and therefore “when we think of bishops and priests, we must think of them in this way: (as) anointed ones.”

“On the contrary,” he said, “it is impossible to understand – not only – it is impossible to explain how the Church could continue under merely human strength,” but “this diocese goes forward because it has a holy people…and also an anointed one who leads, who helps it to grow.”

Looking to history, the Pope explained that we only know “a small part” of “how many holy bishops, how many priests, how many holy priests have given their lives in the service of the diocese, the parish.”

“How many people have received the power of faith, the power of love, hope (itself) from these anonymous pastors?” he asked, emphasizing that “We do not know: there are so many.”

“The parish priests of the country or the city, who, with their anointing have given strength the people, who have passed on the teaching of the faith, have given the sacraments: (in a word), holiness.”

Pope Francis then drew attention to those who are often critical of priests, and who say things such as “‘But, Father, I have read in a newspaper that a bishop has done such a thing, or a priest who has done this thing.’”

“Oh yes, I read it, too,” he explained, but “tell me, though: do the papers carry news of what great charity so many priests, so many priests in so many parishes of the city and the countryside, perform? Of the great work they do in carrying their people forward? No?”

“This is not news,” observed the Pope, noting that “it is the same as always: a single falling tree makes more noise than a forest that grows.”

However, the pontiff concluded by encouraging those present to think “about this anointing,” and to pray and give thanks for “our brave, holy, good, faithful bishops and priests.”

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Walk for Life West Coast draws witness across generations

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - This past Saturday the tenth annual Walk for Life West Coast drew people from across the nation and of all age groups, particularly young adults and college students, to a prayerful witness to the value of life.

“We drove up yesterday, an eight hour drive, and we're here to support the movement to end abortion,  and to join with other Christians, and other people of faith – and people not of faith – because abortion is not a Christian topic … to fight alongside them, and to pray for an end to abortion,” Simon Esshaki, 22, told CNA Jan. 25 while preparing to begin the Walk.

Esshaki, a seminarian of the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle, had traveled on a bus from San Diego among a sizable group of Chaldean Catholics to participate in the pro-life witness held annually in San Francisco.

Many of the some 50,000 participants were university students, coming from Berkeley across the bay, Thomas Aquinas College downstate, and even from Wyoming Catholic College, four states away.

Jordan Dunnaway, a senior at Wyoming Catholic, told CNA she was “extremely impressed by the number of people.”

She noted the unity of Christians of different denominations who were “all there for the same purpose,” as well as the enthusiasm of the Walk's participants, especially “the joy of everyone singing, praying, chanting.”

Participants came from across the country – as far away as Virginia, and alongside Catholics were Lutherans, Anglicans, Baptists, and agnostics as well.

At a rally held just before the Walk, one of the event's co-founders, Eva Muntean, stressed the importance of changing hearts, and transforming the culture of death into a culture of life. “Laws change because people change,” she reminded those gathered.

The rally's speakers included Grace Dulaney, of the Agnus Dei Foundation, who spoke of the importance of adoption in supporting the value of life, and Clenard Childress, who addressed the profound threat abortion is to the African-American community.

Monica Snyder, of the group Secular Pro-Life, noted that abortion “is not solely a religious” issue. The agnostic called abortion an issue of “human rights, not religion,” pointing out that it doesn't take faith to recognize abortion as murder.

“We are winning,” she said, “because there are secular pro-life persons here today.”

Shari Rigby, an actress and mother who was in the film “October Baby,” encouraged pro-lifers to give mothers who find themselves in crisis pregnancies “hope and encouragement that they won't be abandoned.”

We are called to be “a voice of hope … and forgiveness,” she said.

Prior to the rally, San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said Mass for the pilgrims who had come to give their witness to the value of life, during which he drew attention to the youthful joy of supporting the pro-life movement.

“Yes, the pro-life movement is young, vibrant and growing in strength,” he said during his homily, while inviting the youth to “look around and notice those who are your elders here in this church,” commending them for their example of prayerful patience while supporting the cause of life and the end of abortion.

“We don’t know what the next critical issue threatening human life and dignity will be for the generation that will come after you,” he told the young people gathered in the cathedral.

“One thing, though, we do know: they will look to you as the ones who bore the brunt of the battle in your generation, as you look to your elders now in the pro-life movement.

He admonished, “Don't let them down … eventually they will be your age, and will look to you for inspiration in defending human life and dignity.”

Following the Mass, Archbishop Cordileone told CNA that he is glad to have the Walk for Life West Coast in his city, noting that “we can all gather here, and by virtue of our numbers bear witness to the strength of the pro-life movement.”

Christine Mugridge, media relations director for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, told CNA that the Walk for Life's significance is that “this understanding of human dignity, and the gift of human life, is passed on from generation to generation …  it resonates a truth with people that bypasses age groups.”

“People love to see youth walking with a joy in their step, and here they do. They are bouncing with joy; but this is not a joyful topic, so the idea is 'why are they coming here, from all over the country, at great expense and exhaustion on buses, and sharing in something they celebrate'?”

She answered, “Because the meaning and focus of this isn’t anti-anything, its pro-something; that meaning is infectious around the city, people see that it's a joyful witness, of the proclamation of the value and dignity of life, and that joy is contagious, and it's represented by people of all cultural backgrounds and age groups.”

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US military expands accommodations for religious attire

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2014 (CNA) - New rules from the Pentagon seek to broaden religious attire protections for members of the armed services, though some critics say that the policy does not go far enough.

“Under its new regulations, the military is now more respectful of diverse religious viewpoints,” said Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, in a Jan. 24 statement.

However, the new regulations are problematic, Blomberg said, because they redefine religious freedom laws “in a way that forces government officials to make theological judgments about which religious beliefs deserve respect.”

On Jan. 22, the Department of Defense announced a new policy to accommodate the religious attire requirements of service members, including clothing, hair styles and body art while in uniform.

Individuals are invited to apply, on a case-by-case basis, for an exemption from military dress standards that are in conflict with their religious beliefs.

Requests may be rejected if the religious attire practices of the service member “have an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion and good order and discipline,” explained Pentagon spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan J. Christensen, in a statement.

“Each request must be considered based on its unique facts, the nature of the requested religious accommodation, the effect of approval or denial on the service member's exercise of religion, and the effect of approval or denial on mission accomplishment, including unit cohesion,” Christensen added.

“The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the military services to observe the tenets of their respective religions,” he said.

The new policy could benefit adherents of Sikhism, Islam, Judaism and other traditions that require believers to observe certain grooming and dress standards.

Blomberg described the Jan. 22 announcement as a “tardy but welcome step in the right direction.”

While the updated policy is “a good start” towards respecting religious freedom in the armed services, he suggested, the military should do more to protect religious liberty among its ranks.

“The members of our nation’s military give their lives to protect our liberties,” he stressed.

The new regulations, Blomberg said, will open military service to groups who were, in the past, “all but barred from access to military service,” such as the Sikhs, whose religious beliefs forbid adherents from cutting their hair – a practice in conflict with the military’s grooming standards.

However, the new rules still place the government as the arbiter of theological and religious matters, he noted, adding that “the military will both harm our service members and invite litigation until it corrects this error.”

He also argued that the new rules “aren’t accommodating enough” because they require “religious minorities to violate their beliefs before they can obtain protection for those beliefs,” barring many persons of faith from the armed services.

“We can, and should, do better than that,” Blomberg stated.

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Pope Francis' writings on ecology could become encyclical

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A statement released by the Vatican last Friday revealed that Pope Francis has begun to work on a text surrounding the topic of ecology, which could eventually become an encyclical.

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed the news in his Jan. 24 statement, noting that in his text, the Pope intends to give a strong emphasis to the theme of “human ecology” – a phrase that was originally coined by retired pontiff Benedict XVI.

This expression, explained the spokesman, describes not only how the faithful must respect the environment, but also how the nature of the person – masculine and feminine as created by God – must also be defended.

Fr. Lombardi highlighted that although the Pope has already begun writing, the text is still in its early stages and it is too early to predict a possible time of publication.

Pope Francis’ first encyclical, entitled “Lumen Fidei,” or “Light of Faith,” was released last summer on July 5. It was written by the pontiff as a completion of the work initiated by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who resigned before the document was finished.

Benedict XVI had been writing the encyclical on faith as the third in a trilogy dedicated to the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Love. The first to be published was his letter on Love “Deus Caritas Est,” meaning “God is Love,” and the next was “Spe Salvi,” or “Saved in Hope.”

According to what an Italian bishop stated on his website in May of last year, Pope Francis is also in the process of writing another encyclical on poverty, which is to be titled after the beatitude “Blessed Are the Poor,” however there is no projected date for its completion.

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Defense of conscience critical to pro-life movement, scholar says

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Prevailing attitudes toward abortion within the medical community show the need to safeguard conscience rights while working to protect life, said Princeton law professor Robert P. George.

“Today, many of those who would sanction and support the taking of human life by abortion or in embryo-destructive research have also made themselves the enemies of conscience,” said George in a Jan. 20 talk at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.  

“We, who are the friends of life, must also be the friends of conscience.”

George, who is the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, delivered the keynote address at the 2014 Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life, the largest student-run pro-life conference in the country.  

In addition to currently serving as the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, George previously served on the President's Council on Bioethics. He has written numerous books and articles on a variety of topics, including the defense of conscience, life and marriage.

Pointing to testimony given by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, George explained that abortion supporters defend their position by discussing abortion “as if it were a matter of health care, rather than what it typically is, namely, a decision based upon non-medical considerations.”

The testimony presented by the medical organization illustrates a definition of “medicine,” he continued, that is “not about the preservation and restoration of health” in a concrete manner, but instead centers on “satisfying the personal preferences or lifestyle desires of people,” whether or not the surgeries and procedures they request “are in any meaningful sense medically indicated.”

Abortion, he said, is not a question of  “'reproductive health' or health of any kind, precisely because direct abortions are not procedures designed to make sick people healthy or to protect them against disease.”

In the case of elective abortion, George observed, a woman is not sick. “Pregnancy is not a disease. It is a natural process.”

The push to label direct abortion as health care, he said, is not about medicine, but about ideology. “It is about politics and political power.”

Questions about the personhood of the unborn human and the morality of abortion can only be solved with the help of philosophic reflection and debate, the scholar stated. Calling abortion 'health care' as a matter of medicinal fact, is therefore “rhetorical manipulation” because it encompasses “a philosophical, ethical, and political opinion.”

“It is a judgment brought to medicine, not a judgment derived from it.”

George commented that it is misleading and dishonest to discuss elective abortion, in vitro fertilization and other procedures that “facilitate people's lifestyle choices” as if they were an essential part of medicine..

Efforts to do so represent “a sheer power play on behalf of pro-abortion individuals” in the medical profession, he added.

The report from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology depicts the medical profession going to great lengths to impose its “partisan position,” George said, and this shows “who in the debate is guilty of intolerance.”

Asserting that women have the “right” to demand that doctors kill their developing unborn babies, the report suggests limiting the right of doctors and other medical professionals to decline to perform of refer for abortions.

Ironically, George observed, “those responsible for the report and its recommendations evidently would use coercion” to force doctors and pharmacists to carry out procedures that violate their conscience.

On the other hand, he noted, a physician who refuses to participate in an abortion “is not 'imposing' anything on anyone.”

Ongoing attempts to coercively impose an accepting view of abortion on all doctors now threaten the consciences of pro-life physicians – and their ability to continue practicing, George said.

If the recommendations of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology were to be followed, he said, “their field of medical practice would be cleansed of pro-life physicians whose convictions required them to refrain from performing or referring for abortions.”

This means that faithful Catholic, Evangelical and other Protestant doctors, as well as many observant Jews and Muslims, would be forced out of medicine, he explained.

“The entire field would be composed of people who could be relied on either to agree with, or at a minimum go along with, the moral and political convictions of the report's authors,” he said.

In light of these trends, George called pro-life supporters to “be conscience’s best friends.”

He asked the students to resist definitions of abortion as healthcare, “not only for the sake of defending the lives of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters – children in the womb – but also in defense of what James Madison called 'the sacred rights of conscience'.”
“For many of us, standing up for conscience means defending the principles of our faith,” George said. “For all of us, standing up for conscience means defending principles on which our nation was founded.”

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