|'I was sure that it was Mother Teresa who healed me'
Rimini, Italy, August 30 (CNA/EWTN News) .- The Brazilian man who received the miracle allowing for Mother Teresa’s canonization has shared his story, saying he and his wife were ordinary believers who received an extraordinary sign of God’s mercy.
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WASHINGTON D.C., August 29 (CNA/EWTN News) .- A jump in Texas’ maternal mortality rate has sparked criticism that the closures of abortion clinics in the state caused a shortage in life-saving prenatal health care – but is that true?
“There have been abortion clinic closures, but abortion clinics here in the state of Texas, none of them provided prenatal care,” Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood clinic director and founder of And Then There Were None ministry which helps abortion clinic workers escape the industry, told CNA.
Ultimately, she added, “we don’t know anything about these women” so it is hard to conclude any one reason behind the increase in Texas’ maternal mortality rate from 2010-14.
A study conducted by Obstetrics & Gynecology journal found that Texas’ death rate for expecting mothers was much higher than the national average after 2010. The rate there doubled in 2011 and 2012, the report noted.
Some advocates quickly speculated that the state’s cuts to public health funding for “family planning” in 2011 and its regulation of abortion clinics – which was just ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court – shut down abortion clinics that purportedly offered mothers life-saving prenatal care, and thus could have caused a spike in pregnancy-related deaths.
One column in the Dallas Morning News asked “Where, oh where, are all those lawmakers who cited ‘women's health’ as their rallying cry in defunding Planned Parenthood, shuttering clinics, and forcing sonograms and delays on abortion patients? These women are dying – why aren't aren't [sic] they sounding the sirens and ringing the alarm bells? Why don't we see the same political zeal on behalf of dying women?”
CNN suggested that the cuts, clinic closures, and maternal death spike could all be related, reporting that “in Texas, where clinics serving women have shuttered and their health interests have been battled all the way up to the US Supreme Court, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths more than doubled over the course of two years.”
However, the actual study was careful not to draw any direct conclusion from the numbers, saying they were abnormally high.
“There were some changes in the provision of women’s health services in Texas from 2011 to 2015, including the closing of several women’s health clinics,” the report noted. “Still, in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a 2-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely.”
“A future study will examine Texas data by race-ethnicity and detailed causes of death to better understand this unusual finding,” it added.
The abortion clinics that closed did not offer prenatal care, Johnson maintained. And “Texas is funding women’s health at a historically-high level,” she added.
PolitiFact actually declared that to be true last year, providing 2014-15 numbers from the state’s health commission showing a $100 million expansion on “primary health care” as well as more than $24 million in breast and cervical cancer screening.
“There are some other factors” that could have affected the numbers, Johnson noted.
The state does have a high immigrant population where pregnant mothers coming to the U.S. may have received prenatal care in another country. There are also other health issues, like Texas having one of the highest obesity rates in the country, she noted.
However, it would be impossible to know what exactly is behind the mortality rate increase without more data, Johnson insisted. Regardless, mothers must take their prenatal health seriously.
“We always need to encourage women to begin prenatal care early, take care of themselves during their pregnancies, make wise decisions during their pregnancies,” she said.
WASHINGTON D.C., August 29 (CNA) .- Amidst national outrage over the steep cost hike of a potentially life-saving drug, questions have been raised about the market ethics of drug pricing.
There are “a lot of factors” behind price increases in the prescription drug market, Dr. Jack Hoadley, a health policy analyst and researcher at Georgetown University, told CNA. Thus, it’s hard to attribute the 400 percent rise in cost of the EpiPen to one particular cause, he said.
However, if Mylan – the manufacturer of the EpiPen – was simply “taking advantage of a partial monopoly,” he continued, than one “could raise the question” about the ethics of the cost increases.
The EpiPen is an injection device used on a patient whose allergic reaction has become a medical emergency. Some 3.6 million Americans were prescribed an EpiPen last year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In very serious cases, an allergic reaction can become Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition with symptoms including trouble breathing, reduced blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, and itchy skin. Some of the most common reactions of Anaphylaxis are from peanut and shellfish allergies, bee stings, and latex exposure.
These severe allergies require a hospital visit and an immediate injection of epinephrine, the drug in EpiPens.
Since it acquired the EpiPen in 2007, Mylan has been raising the cost of the device. In 2007, two pens cost just over $100, but now they cost over $600, according to the New York Times. EpiPens can only be used once because of a spring-loaded mechanism for dispensing the epinephrine that activates upon injection.
The news of the price hike has led to widespread outcry, with some critics citing Pope Francis, who has spoken out numerous times about the dangers of a free market when it is not governed by Christ-like principles and morals.
Hoadley suggested that if the EpiPen price hike is an example of drug makers taking advantage of very limited competition, at the expense of people who need the drug, ethical questions could be raised.
Different consumers will be affected by the cost hike in different ways, he noted.
For instance, someone without insurance will have to pay the high out-of-pocket costs for the EpiPen. A low-income family whose children are on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program may obtain it for a small co-pay or even for free, and the cost would be passed on to the states or federal government.
For those with private insurance, it would depend on their plan. In the short-term, there only might be a small increase in their co-pay, but a large increase in their premium later on.
In cases where a health plan doesn’t cover an EpiPen, however, patients may be on the hook for most or all of the cost of new pens.
A number of reported upgrades were made to the device over the years, like a retractable needle and better grip for the pen. Many factors go into the cost of drugs, Hoadley explained, like the cost of ingredients, and producing and manufacturing a drug. Still, the cost of the epinephrine dosage in EpiPens has been estimated by experts to be only several dollars.
But market forces can also play a big role in costs, he said, as when a drug company is devoid of real competition and there are no real “market countervailing pressures” for a drug company.
In this particular case of EpiPens, he said, one competitor left the market over “FDA issues.” A competing pen, Auvi-Q is no longer available, and the FDA rejected another generic alternative to the EpiPen, according to the Times.
A generic alternative still exists – Adrenaclick – for a lower cost, Consumer Reports has noted.
Mylan has also pushed for its product to be in public schools as an emergency device. A federal law signed by President Obama in 2013 – which Mylan actively lobbied for – rewarded the states that mandated epinephrine injectors in schools. Mylan’s program EpiPens4Schools provides several free pens per year for qualifying public schools.
Mylan announced last week that it was taking measures to supposedly make it easier for patients to obtain EpiPens. They said they were “doubling eligibility for our patient assistance program,” so that “a family of four making up to $97,200 would pay nothing out of pocket for their EpiPen Auto-Injector.” They also offered a “savings card” to trim costs by almost half for a two-pack of pens for those paying “full list price.”
“We recognize the significant burden on patients from continued, rising insurance premiums and being forced increasingly to pay the full list price for medicines at the pharmacy counter,” Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said in a statement.
Then on August 29, amid continuing outcry, the company announced that it would release a generic version of the product – containing the same drug and auto-injection function – for $300 per two-pack, half the price of the name brand version.
It is unclear whether the announcement will be enough to satisfy critics.
However, Hoadley said, Mylan’s cost increase is a “symptom of some of the issues that we’re dealing with” in the larger prescription drug market as a whole, where cost hikes of drugs have been linked by some to companies using “market leverage.”
For instance, Martin Shkreli – former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals – made headlines after Turing increased the cost of its anti-parasite drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750. Subpoenaed by Congress, he simply told members that he would “invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.”
BOGOTá, COLOMBIA, August 29 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Our Lady of Guadalupe is the model for how Christian works of mercy can cross cultural divides in the Americas, Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl Anderson told a major Catholic gathering in Colombia on Monday.
Anderson recounted the story of the appearances of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, an indigenous man living in early colonial Mexico in 1531.
When Our Lady of Guadalupe healed Juan Diego’s uncle, she “transcended cultures and welcomed everyone, while leading them to Christ,” Anderson said Aug. 29.
He voiced hope that the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic laity in the Americas, and the entire Church would continue the Virgin Mary’s witness.
“When we act in witness to our faith through these corporal and spiritual works of mercy, we engage in a ‘charity that evangelizes’ across cultural and other divides,” he said.
Anderson spoke at the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, held in Bogota, Colombia Aug. 27-30. The event drew Catholic cardinals, bishops and other leaders from all the Americas and received a special video message from Pope Francis.
The celebration was jointly organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).
Anderson told the gathering that the Western hemisphere has a unique collective history of Christianity.
He drew on Pope Francis’ statement that the proclamation of the Gospel should be the aspiration of all the laity, who are “called to evangelize by virtue of their baptism.”
These words of encouragement have a meaning for the laity who unite to serve God and neighbor.
“And such unity has also been seen as integral at the continental level as well,” he said.
Several Popes, including Pope Francis, have sought to describe the hemisphere as simply “America,” Anderson explained.
St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in America” deliberately spoke of North, South and Central America as one “America.” In the Pope’s own words, this word choice aimed to express existing unity and also pointed to “a closer bond” possible for America’s people as the Church promotes “the communion of all in the Lord.”
Anderson reflected on the founding of the Knights of Columbus in 1882 to help Catholics, many of whom were immigrants, at a time when they faced suspicion and discrimination in employment and society. He cited a founding member of the Knights who said the organization was designed “to unify American Catholic citizens of every nation and origin … giving scope and purpose to their aims as Catholics and as Americans.”
“From almost the very beginning that unity was manifested as we counted membership that was not just Irish, but French-Canadian, Hispanic, Italian and African American,” Anderson said.
The Catholic fraternal organization now has 1.9 million members worldwide.
Anderson noted the Knights’ history of service for all races and ethnicities, its opposition to groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and its effort to promote the history of minorities in the U.S. including Jews, African-Americans and Germans.
“While reaching out the margins, we have worked to make sure that Catholics were not subject to exclusion as well,” he said.
The Knights provided humanitarian assistance and raised public awareness during anti-Catholic persecution in Mexico in the 1920s, and are doing the same for Middle East Christians today. The organization has aided earthquake relief in Haiti, flood relief in Louisiana, and helped support the religious freedom of the Little Sisters of the Poor against restrictive U.S. government mandates.
“This unified approach to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy has always informed our outlook,” Anderson said. “So where people are hungry, we feed them, where they are cold, we provide warm clothing, where their faith is wavering, we evangelize, where the lives of the innocent, the elderly and the unborn are not valued, we stand with them and serve as their voice. Where there is a mother in a crisis pregnancy, we are there to help her, and her child.”
He noted Pope Francis’ encouragement for people who give alms to interact with the poor and physically touch them.
“That sort of personal touch that goes to the margins and brings the mercy and love of God to those there through charity is central to the Knights of Columbus,” said Anderson.
RIMINI, ITALY, August 30 (CNA/EWTN News) .- The Brazilian man who received the miracle allowing for Mother Teresa’s canonization has shared his story, saying he and his wife were ordinary believers who received an extraordinary sign of God’s mercy.
“From the beginning, the diagnoses weren’t good and they seemed only worse. (But) from that moment, inside this great suffering, we understood that something had happened,” Marcilio Haddad Andrino said of his miraculous healing.
“I was sure that it was Mother Teresa who healed me.”
Andrino, who comes from Santos, Brazil, was healed through the intercession of Mother Teresa – the miracle that paved the way for her canonization, which is set for Sept. 4.
He spoke with journalists during the Aug. 19-25 annual Rimini Meeting in Italy alongside his wife Fernanda, who each shared their own perspective of Marcilio’s illness and miraculous healing.
Fernanda, sharing her perspective of her husband’s long, drawn-out illness, explained that Marcilio had been sick for two years and had seen countless doctors, but with no diagnosis.
“It was a wait full of anguish, because he was very sick for two years and we didn’t know what was wrong,” she said, explaining that the first attempt for treatment “was unsuccessful. So the doctor changed therapy, but Marcilio continued to deteriorate.”
She recalled how it wasn’t until Marcilio was hospitalized in October 2008 that they finally received their answer.
After running a series of tests “the doctor looked at the exam and, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, understood that Marcilio had eight brain abscesses,” she said.
“We always prayed to Mother Teresa,” she said, noting that her parish priest had given her a relic of Mother Teresa before the couple got married.
“I put the relic on Marcilio’s head, where he had the abscesses. I recited the prayer of beatification and also what came from my heart,” she said, noting that “it wasn’t easy, but this period enriched me a lot, it enriched our love, our faith … today I can say it was worth it.”
Marcilio, speaking of the moment he was healed, said he woke up Dec. 9, 2008, just a few months after he was diagnosed, with an “unbearable” headache that left him unable to speak, and asked his wife to pray for him.
“From that moment many doctors came to visit me and found that my situation was very serious,” he said, explaining that he was eventually taken to the hospital and prepped for surgery.
However, Marcilio said he never made it in. Instead, he awoke inside the operating room with “a great peace inside me and I no longer had the headache. I didn’t understand what was happening to me.”
The doctors, he said, told him that since he was feeling better they were going to move him to intensive care and put off the surgery until the next day.
Marcilio said he slept through the night without any problems, and that when he met with the doctor the next day, was told to return to his room if the headache still hadn’t come back.
Upon returning to the room “I learned that the abscesses were greatly reduced, just as the hydrocephalus,” Marcilio said, referring to the medical term for the abnormal build-up of fluid in the skull, causing the brain to swell.
“The abscesses were reduced by 70% and the hydrocephalus had disappeared,” he said, explaining that after another three days of testing “not even the scars of the abscesses were visible.”
“At that time I discovered that I was cured,” he said, noting that he was able to return home for Christmas.
Fernanda, recounting her experience of the event, said that when she returned to the hospital with Marcilio’s parents the day after he was admitted, the doctors told her he was stable and had returned to his room, instead of going into surgery.
“(The doctor) didn’t tell me that he was cured but I already knew it strongly from what I had prayed to God through the intercession of Mother Teresa,” she said, adding that when she went to Marcilio’s room and saw him sitting up and speaking, “I understood that Mother Teresa had healed him.”
She said Marcilio was “very surprised” by what happened and attributed the fact that he was feeling better to one of the antibiotics he took after being admitted.
However, the doctor, Fernanda recalled, told them that “No antibiotic exists that takes effect immediately, the day after … someone up there loves you a lot.”
Marcilio explained that after leaving the hospital, he and Fernanda spoke with their parish priest about what had happened. The priest, who had accompanied the couple throughout Marcilio’s illness and who had given him last rites, told them to write to the Missionaries of Charity explaining what happened.
“My case was a very difficult one clinically,” Marcilio said, explaining that his wife prayed for him “ceaselessly,” and they were certain “that a miracle happened … I was sure that it was Mother Teresa who healed me.”
He noted that the miracle didn’t just heal his brain, but went a step further.
“When I began to feel sick, Fernanda and I had been recently married,” he said, explaining that the doctor gave them the grim news that they would never be able to have children due to the treatments Marcilio would have to undergo.
Although devastated, the couple accepted it, telling themselves that “if God wants it, we will have children.”
Six months after his healing, the couple moved to Rio de Janiero and Marcilio returned to work. It was around the same time Fernanda began to experience nausea.
When the doctor told them she was pregnant, Marcilio said they didn’t initially believe it, but that after having some tests, they confirmed that “the child was there.”
Marcilio said his life has significantly changed since receiving the miracle: “My faith has grown a lot, I see the grace. I was sick, I couldn’t walk, I always had to be helped. Today I walk, I have a family, and I’m very grateful.”
Having been young when Mother Teresa was alive, Marcilio said he knew her story generally like everyone else, but only began to study her life in depth after he was healed.
Now, eight years after the miracle, he and Fernanda continue to carry their relic of Mother Teresa everywhere they go, and pray to her with their children.
“When I see my children, I see Mother Teresa. This miracle has made my family stronger and more unified,” he said, explaining that his children know everything about his illness and healing.
“They always accompany us and, when we go to the sisters to pray, they understand everything and they pray with us.”
Although he was Catholic before his illness, Marcilio said his faith has grown since his healing, and now he is convinced that miracles exist.
“Mother Teresa’s message is that the mercy of God is for everyone,” he said, noting that he and Fernanda are just “normal people” like everyone else.
“God chooses those who make his mercy known so as to reach everyone, as in the case of Mother Teresa, who cured everyone without distinction,” he said, expressing his hope that her canonization “teaches all peoples to have compassion on each other.”
While he is one of the few to experience a miracle such as this, Marcilio stressed that “God’ mercy is for everyone. I received this miracle, but God also chooses you. We are all chosen.”
Fernanda, for her part, said she feels an “enormous gratitude” whenever she sees Marcilio and their children.
“I thank God and Mother Teresa each time I look at them, each time I see them, my gratitude grows,” she said, expressing her confidence that “all the prayers were heard by God” and that “he always gives us his love.”
“On the day of the canonization, I think I won’t have the right to ask anything more of God: I can only be grateful.”
ROME, ITALY, August 30 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Shia Muslim religious leaders from Iran and U.S. Catholic bishops say they have a common fight against weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and violent religious extremism.
“Christianity and Islam share a commitment to love and respect for the life, dignity, and welfare of all members of the human community,” they said in an Aug. 18 joint declaration. “Peaceful coexistence is built on equity and justice. We call upon all to work toward developing a culture of encounter, tolerance, dialogue, and peace that respects the religious traditions of others.”
The two delegations agreed that belief in one God unifies Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
“Religious leaders must provide moral guidance and speak out against injustice and anything that is harmful to humankind,” said the declaration, titled “Gathered in the name of God.”
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, signed the document, as did Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.
The joint declaration followed a June 5-10 meeting in Rome. The dialogue built upon a meeting in Qom, in northern Iran, in March 2014 which focused on the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Bishop Cantú said the joint declaration is the fruit of “sincere dialogue between two religions that are united in their concern for the life and dignity of the human person.”
“Together, we commit ourselves to continued dialogue on the most pressing issues facing the human family, such as poverty, injustice, intolerance, terrorism, and war,” he added, according to the U.S. bishops’ conference.
The Iranians who signed the document are Ayatollah Ali-Reza A'arafi, president of Al-Mustafa International University, and Dr. Abdul-Majid Hakim-Elahi, director of the International Affairs Office of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars.
The joint declaration rejected the development and use of weapons of mass destruction as well as “all acts of terrorism.”
“Together we are working for a world without weapons of mass destruction. We call on all nations to reject acquiring such weapons and call on those who possess them to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons, including chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons,” the declaration said.
The religious leaders similarly opposed “indiscriminate sanctions” and other policies that harm innocent civilians, like the forced expulsion of people from their homelands.
They also rejected extremism.
“We remain gravely concerned by the spread of extremist ideologies, often fueled by superficial and erroneous readings of religious texts, that negate the inherent worth and dignity of every person, regardless of religious belief,” their declaration said. “We call upon religious and community leaders to confront the spread of such ideologies that induce sectarianism and violence.”
They characterized violent extremism and terrorism as “perversions of authentic religious belief.”
“The guilt of terrorist acts should not be assigned to members of an entire religion, nationality, culture, race, or ethnic group,” they added. “Countering violent extremism requires firm determination and cooperation to address its root causes.”
“We call upon all to work toward developing a culture of encounter, tolerance, dialogue, and peace that respects the religious traditions of others,” they said.
“Serving God requires working for the welfare of all His creatures and the common good of humanity. Religious leaders must provide moral guidance and speak out against injustice and anything that is harmful to humankind,” said the declaration.
Other bishops in the Catholic delegation included Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines nd Auxiliary Bishop Denis Madden of Baltimore. The five-member Iranian delegation was headed by Ayatollah Mahdi Hadavi Moghaddam Tehrani and Ayatollah Abolghasem Alidoost.
PARIS, FRANCE, August 29 (CNA) .- The lifting of a controversial burkini ban in one beach town along the French Riviera may signal an end to similar policies in the country - but it has not put an end to cultural tensions surrounding it.
The Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, ruled that the burkini ban in the town of Villeneuve-Loubet “seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms,” including freedom of belief.
A burkini (also spelled burqini) is a type of full-body swimwear that some Muslim women wear in order to cover their arms, legs and hair. Citing concerns over terrorism and overt displays of religious affiliation, several coastal towns in France have issued bans against such swimwear in the past few weeks. The policies cite the French Republic’s concept of laïcité (roughly, secularism), saying that women need to dress for the beach in a way that respects “good morals and secularism.”
Tensions in the country have been high after French civilians have been the target of several attacks perpetrated by extremists with the Islamic State. The most recent attacks happened on Bastille Day on July 14, when a terrorist killed 84 people while plowing through crowds with a truck, and again less than two weeks later, when a French Catholic priest was murdered while saying Mass.
Grégor Puppinck, director of the European Centre for Law and Justice in Strasbourg, France, told CNA that while he was glad that the burkini issue may be over, it is not the end of the cultural conflicts in the country.
“I’m quite pleased that it is being lifted...in terms of individual freedoms it is quite important,” he said.
But the burkini ban is just one example of the conflict of cultures that is now out in the open in France, as it grapples with a greater influx of immigrants who do not share traditional French values, Puppinck added.
“We now are in a critical time of our history, and we are realizing that Muslims are Muslims. We believed for decades that the immigrants could become secular, and could adhere to secular values. And now we are witnessing in a large extent the failure of this idea, and now we see that this whole portion of the French population does not want to share these values of our modern, contemporary culture,” he said.
The burkini bans have sparked outcry and debate worldwide, with some people posting photos on social media showing Muslim women being fined by police and removing their clothing in order to comply with the bans.
Many people on Twitter criticized the bukini ban by posting photos of Catholic religious sisters in full habits at the beach.
Dear Nuns in France,
Can you please help out our Muslim Sisters & visit beaches in your habits!#BurkiniBan pic.twitter.com/nfYbj1r5Zr
— Nickie (@MuskokaMoneybag) August 24, 2016
I wonder if France would make these ladies take their clothes off too. #BurkiniBan pic.twitter.com/PP6EIWlaoZ
— Irene Adler (@The_Whip_Hand) August 24, 2016
Bishop Nunzio Galantino, the secretary-general of the Italian bishops’ conference, also criticized the burkini ban, saying that he found it “ironic” that officials are concerned about women who are overdressed while going out for a swim.
“It’s hard to imagine that a woman [in a burkini] who enters the water is there to carry out an attack,” Bishop Galantino said in an interview with Corriere della Sera.
“I can only think of our nuns, and I think of our peasant grandmothers who still wear head coverings,” he said.
Religious sisters in full habit, including a long skirt, long sleeves and a veil, are a common sight on the beaches of Italy.
Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano, told the Corriere della Sera daily newspaper that he thinks the burkini ban could have the opposite of its intended effect.
“The interior minister's responsibility is to ensure security and to choose the severity of responses which, however, must never become provocations that could potentially attract attacks,” Alfano said.
The recent overturning of the ban in Villeneuve-Loubet could signal the eventual end to the policy across the country. According to the New York Times, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve suggested in a statement that it was time for the local officials to back down, saying it was now “up to each and every one to responsibly seek to ease tensions, which is the only way to avoid disturbances to public order and to bolster coexistence.”
But later on Friday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a statement on Facebook that the ruling “doesn’t exhaust the debate that has opened up in our society on the question of the burkini.”
Puppinck told CNA that Christians should be cautious in considering the secular government to be an ally.
“And we should remember that 100 years ago, the same Republican values were used against the Catholics,” Puppinck said. At that time, the Third Republic officially established state secularism in France, causing a subsequent wave of anti-Catholicism, which included the end of government funding for religious schools, mandatory civil marriage and the removal of chaplains from the army.
“So we should remember that the French Republic has always been anti-religious, so Christians should not imagine that the Republic is in some extent their ally, but keep faithful to our own hope and religion and values and faith.”
JAKARTA, INDONESIA, August 29 (CNA/EWTN News) .- A priest suffered minor injuries after a man armed with a suicide bomb and an axe attacked at Sunday Mass in Indonesia this weekend.
A woman sitting next to the would-be suicide bomber at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Medan told the Jakarta Post that she noticed the man was fidgeting throughout Mass and unable to follow the liturgy.
When Father Albertus Pandiangan began his homily, the woman said the main connected two cables, presumably to detonate the suicide bomb, causing a small explosion.
According to reports from The Guardian, local chief detective Nur Fallah said the explosion was “like a firecracker, but the firecracker didn’t explode, it only fumed.”
Realizing the suicide bomb had failed, the attacker ran toward the priest armed with an axe and a knife. Parishioners were able to restrain him, and Fr. Pandiangan suffered only a minor injury to the left hand, according to authorities.
While the attacker reportedly carried a piece of paper with a hand-drawn Islamic State flag on it, the motive of the attack is still under investigation.
National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) chief Suhardi Alius told Jakarta Globe that authorities believe the suspect is only a “puppet” in the attack, considering his young age.
Christians have been the target of several attacks in the country, which has the largest Muslim majority population in the world.
In addition, recent months have seen attacks around the world, many of them connected to ISIS sympathizers. Last month, an 84-year-old priest was killed by two gunmen while celebrating Mass in France. And on July 14, Bastille Day, a terrorist killed 84 people while plowing through crowds in Nice, France with a truck.
CAIRO, EGYPT, August 30 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Christians in Egypt are hoping that a new law will make it easier for them to build churches, particularly after old laws effectively forced Christians to celebrate Mass in house churches.
“It is vital that the final law that gets passed should be acceptable to all parties and fully consistent with Article 235 of the constitution,” Dwight Bashir, co-director of policy and research at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, stated to CNA.
Article 235 of the 2014 Constitution of Egypt mandated that the country’s parliament would “in its first legislative term” pass a new law about building churches “in a manner that guarantees the freedom to practice religious rituals for Christians.”
However, the parliament did not pass the law in its first term, and set a new deadline by the end of September.
Christians have encountered serious obstacles to building new churches in Egypt, thanks to old laws that require approval from the local community and from the president.
The group Coptic Solidarity noted that “over the past six decades” only two churches per year have been approved in Egypt, and there are only 2,600 churches in the entire country – “about one church for every 5,500 Christian citizens.” Meanwhile, there is “one mosque for every 620 Muslim citizens,” the group said.
Christians have resorted to having Mass said in their houses or other buildings, “triggering countless acts of mob violence, often backed by official indifference, complacency, or state intervention charging Copts on the spurious basis of using unauthorized places of worship.”
Thus, the new law to which the amendments are attached was supposed to ease the process of church building; Christians wouldn’t have to get approval from the president, but rather from the local leader, and there was reportedly a four-month timetable for an approval.
A few days ago, however, Coptic Christian leaders refused to support proposed amendments to the law, calling them “unacceptable.” They have since come to an agreement after meeting with the president, and the cabinet is expected to send a draft of a bill to parliament.
The Church stated that the law “needs an open mind when it comes to practical, not literal implementation,” as reported by the outlet Mada Masr.
Christians in Egypt have suffered violence and attacks on their churches, particularly since the summer of 2013 after the Muslim Brotherhood was unseated from power. The State Department reported that 78 “churches and other Christian buildings” were attacked, and the military has restored 26 of them.
However, there have also been attacks on Christians in recent months. A church in southern Egypt was burned down by a mob, and perhaps most infamously a Christian woman in her seventies was beaten, stripped, and dragged through the streets because her son allegedly had an affair with a Muslim woman.
The perpetrators have operated many times with impunity.
“There also continues to be inadequate accountability for past violent attacks,” USCIRF noted in its 2016 report on religious freedom, adding that “most perpetrators from large-scale incidents that occurred between 2011 and 2013 – and even before that – have not been prosecuted.”
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