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Abortion Expansion Act (Reproductive Health Act): Memorandum of Opposition

This legislation was recently introduced and is being fast-tracked for legislative votes. Despite how it is framed by proponents, this bill is not a simple update of New York’s laws. It is an extreme expansion of current state abortion policy.

New and Noteworthy: Wednesday, January 9

Today we have an editorial you may have missed in the Wall Street Journal, showing just how far the Democratic party has moved from the days of Governor Al Smith and JFK.

Young adults embrace opportunity to deepen their faith at SEEK2019

IMAGE: CNS photo/John Shaughnessy, The Criterion

By John Shaughnessy

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Tears filled Missy Brassie's eyes as she talked about the most emotional part of the five-day SEEK2019 conference involving more than 17,000 young adult Catholics from around the world.

It happened the evening of Jan. 5 in a massive ballroom of the Indiana Convention Center during the conference established to give participants the opportunity to deepen their encounter with Jesus.

"All of these people coming together for eucharistic adoration is the best part of the conference," said Brassie, 31, a Denver resident who returned to Indianapolis, her hometown, for the gathering sponsored by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, known as FOCUS.

"Surrounded by thousands of their peers during adoration, they feel that they're not alone in their faith, and they feel that they're personally spoken to by the Lord," she told The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese. "People say that everyone around them disappears. It's just Jesus and that person in that moment."

The overwhelming emotion Brassie experienced has happened before at SEEK conferences. This year's event, held Jan. 3-7, was her eighth.

"My relationship with Jesus is always deepened here," Brassie said. "Even though I've been to so many conferences, there is always something that renews me."

Brassie has been a FOCUS missionary for the last seven years, striving to bring college students to a deeper relationship with God at the University of Illinois, Texas A&M University and Ave Maria University in Florida. She also works at the FOCUS headquarters, based in the Denver area.

Her role as one of the nearly 700 missionaries in 159 worldwide locations has led her to interactions with a wide range of people, from international students who have no knowledge of Jesus to lifelong Catholics seeking to become closer to him. No matter their background, her conversations involve asking people two defining questions.

"I say, 'Do you know that God loves you? Do you know he has a plan for you?'" she explained. "Our conversations go from the basic level to deep discussions. That has been really cool. I don't have to have all the answers because Jesus loves them."

Other attendees were pleased to share their faith and return to their daily lives with a renewed sense of inspiration and awe in God.

Nigerian Timi Soyoola, 20, couldn't pass up the invitation to attend.

"I was coming on a flight from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis after visiting my uncle, and a lady was talking to me about this conference," said Soyoola, a senior pre-med student at Indiana University in Kokomo. "It's a new year, and I wanted to try something new. I wanted to learn more about my faith."

It didn't matter to Soyoola that she didn't know anyone else at the conference. After all, Soyoola -- whose full first name, Oluwatimilehin, basically translates to "God's got my back" -- already knew she could count on one person.

"Jesus is the person I depend on," she said, her eyes and her smile lighting up. "When you come to a new country, you don't know anyone. He's the one I depend on. He's the most important person in my life."

The opportunity to deepen their faith drew Josh and Katie Fatzinger from their home in Flagstaff, Arizona. The young married couple arrived at the conference with their 1-year-old daughter, Ellie, and other family members. Katie is expecting the couple's second child in February.

"I'm here with my mother, my wife, one of my sisters and three of my brothers," said Josh, 27. "I'm from a big Catholic family, one of 14. I encouraged my younger brothers to come because it was a great experience for me when I came in 2013. It's a great place to encounter a lot of people, and we're all here to encounter Christ."

Standing by Ellie's stroller, Katie looked around the crowd at the convention center and noted, "There's all the hope you see and all the excitement. It's very uplifting. It's really powerful to celebrate the sacraments and be with that many people praising God. I'm waiting to see how he can impact their lives."

Louis Cain held the same hope as he led a group of 60 students from McNeese State University in Louisiana during the conference that featured opportunities for Mass, confession and eucharistic adoration as well as faith-related workshops, inspirational speakers and entertainment by Catholic musicians. In his third year as a FOCUS missionary, Cain embraced the opportunity to bring other young adults to a stronger relationship with Jesus.

"It's really cool to have this time in my life when I'm trying to get closer to Jesus and help others to do the same 24/7," Cain said. "One thing that's cool about being here is that you realize you're not alone. Everyone is here to grow in their faith. It's pretty amazing."

Cain maintained that positive attitude as he answered a question about how he thinks the clergy sexual abuse crisis has affected young adults' perspectives of the church and their faith.

"Our church needs healing," he said. "In times of crisis in the church, great saints rise up. We need to have saints rise up in our church. It should motivate us to live our faith more seriously."

Amy Gasper, 19, a sophomore at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, felt much the same.

"You get to see how hungry people are for the Lord. It makes my heart leap for joy," she said. "There are people here who are wanting to devote their life to God and grow in their relationship with him."

She said the conference allows her to grow her faith.

"I know I'm alive for one reason, and that's to answer God's call for my life. It's a never-ending joy. So many people search for that. You have to let God take over your life for the good."

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Shaughnessy is assistant editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: 'Nationalistic tendencies' threaten world peace, pope tells diplomats

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As it did prior to the Second World War, the rise of nationalism in the world poses a threat to peace and constructive dialogue among nations, Pope Francis said.

During his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, the pope said that the establishment of the League of Nations nearly 100 years ago ushered a new era of multilateral diplomacy based on goodwill, readiness among nations to deal fairly and honestly with each other and openness to compromise.

However, he warned in his speech Jan. 7 that the lack of one of those necessary elements results in nations searching "for unilateral solutions and, in the end, the domination of the powerful over the weak."

"The League of Nations failed for these very reasons, and one notes with regret that the same attitudes are presently threatening the stability of the major international organizations," the pope said.

Clearly, he added, "relationships within the international community, and the multilateral system as a whole, are experiencing a period of difficulty with the resurgence of nationalistic tendencies at odds with the vocation of the international organizations to be a setting for dialogue and encounter for all countries."

In his nearly one-hour speech to the diplomats, the pope warned that the re-emergence of populist and nationalist ideologies is "progressively weakening" multilateral institutions and subsequently creating a "general lack of trust, a crisis of credibility in international political life and a gradual marginalization of the most vulnerable members of the family of nations."

An essential aspect of good politics, he said, is the pursuit of the common good that would enable individuals and the international community as a whole to "achieve their proper material and spiritual well-being."

"Peace is never a partial good, but one that embraces the entire human race," he said.

Recalling the ongoing humanitarian crises in countries such as Ukraine and Syria, Pope Francis urged the international community to defend the most vulnerable in the world "and to give a voice to those who have none."

Among those most affected by instability, he noted are Christian communities in the Middle East where many people have been forced to flee from violence and persecution, particularly due to the resurgence of attempts "to foment hostility between Muslims and Christians."

The pope expressed his hope that his upcoming visits to the United Arab Emirates and to Morocco would provide an opportunity to "advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding between the followers of both religions."

Pope Francis also made an appeal for assistance to migrants who are forced to emigrate due to "the scourge of poverty and various forms of violence and persecution," as well as natural disasters and climate change.

"All human beings long for a better and more prosperous life, and the challenge of migration cannot be met with a mindset of violence and indifference, nor by offering merely partial solutions," he said.

Among the most vulnerable in today's world, the pope continued, are young people who face an "uncertain future" due to lack of employment.

Urging world leaders to take steps to ensure the physical, psychological and spiritual growth of children, Pope Francis acknowledged the church's failure to protect children.

Child sexual abuse, especially by members of the clergy, "is one of the plagues of our time," he said.

"The abuse of minors is one of the vilest and most heinous crimes conceivable," he said. "Such abuse inexorably sweeps away the best of what human life holds out for innocent children and causes irreparable and lifelong damage."

The church is committed to preventing clerical sex abuse and its concealment, he said, expressing hope that his Feb. 21-24 meeting with the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences will be "a further step in the church's efforts to shed full light on the facts and to alleviate the wounds caused by such crimes."

Pope Francis also urged the diplomatic community to continue to work toward building peace between nations divided by war.

While there have been significant strides in building peace in some places, such as the end of the decades-long conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea and an easing of relations between North and South Korea, the pope called for peace in areas such as Venezuela and the Holy Land which are still affected by internal strife and divisions.

Citing St. Paul VI's 1965 speech to the United Nations, the pope said that peace is not built merely through politics and protecting interests but with "the mind, with ideas, with works of peace."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope Francis: Serve the sick with generosity

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2019 / 04:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- To serve the poor and sick in a generous manner is a powerful form of evangelization, Pope Francis said Tuesday in a message for the upcoming World Day of the Sick.

“The Church – as a Mother to all her children, especially the infirm – reminds us that generous gestures, like that of the Good Samaritan, are the most credible means of evangelization,” the pope wrote.

His message for the World Day of the Sick was published Jan. 8, in advance of the solemn celebration to be held Feb. 11, 2019, in Calcutta, India. The theme of this year’s message comes from Matthew 10:8: “You received without payment; give without payment.”

“Gift,” Francis said, is more than giving of physical property or objects as presents: “it involves the giving of oneself,” freely, and with the desire for relationship with others, “the basis of society.”

Moreover, “‘gift’ is a reflection of God’s love, which culminates in the incarnation of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

The pope noted that one person who exemplified self-gift, especially in service of the sick, is St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who “helps us understand that our only criterion of action must be selfless love for every human being, without distinction of language, culture, ethnicity or religion.”

Her example continues to be a guide of hope and joy for those in need of understanding and love – especially the suffering, he said.

Quoting from the homily he gave at her canonization Mass Sept. 4, 2016, he said: “For Mother Teresa, mercy was the ‘salt’ which gave flavor to her work; it was the ‘light’ that shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.”

“Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor,” he continued.

Pope Francis said that when thinking of the sick or infirm, it is good to remember that every person, at birth, is reliant on his or her parents to survive, and remains in need of the help of others in some manner at every stage of life.

Acknowledging this fact helps people to practice solidarity with those in need, he explained: “Only if we see ourselves, not as a world apart, but in a fraternal relationship with others, can we develop a social practice of solidarity aimed at the common good.”

People should not fear personal limitations or reliance on others, because “God himself, in Jesus, has humbly stooped down to us and continues to do so; in our poverty, he comes to our aid and grants us gifts beyond our imagining,” Francis stated.

In his message, the pope also praised the work of healthcare volunteers, who, he said, “eloquently embody the spirituality of the Good Samaritan.”

Volunteer work in hospitals and in homes, offering health care and spiritual support, “is of primary importance,” he stated, urging people to continue to be a sign of the Church’s presence to the sick and elderly and infirm in body or mind.

Catholic healthcare institutions, in particular, should be inspired by generosity, self-giving, and solidarity, he explained, since they “carry out their activity in the light of the Gospel.”

“Catholic healthcare institutions must not fall into the trap of simply running a business; they must be concerned with personal care more than profit,” he said.

Analysis: The non-trial of Theodore McCarrick

Vatican City, Jan 7, 2019 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- While recent media reports suggest that a trial of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick is underway, Vatican sources have told CNA that his case is not being handled by a full judicial process.


Sources at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have confirmed that allegations against McCarrick are being considered through an abbreviated approach called an “administrative penal process.”


That decision gives insight into the strength of evidence against McCarrick, and suggests that resolving sexual abuse allegations against the archbishop is a top priority for Pope Francis and other senior Vatican officials.




Canon law outlines specific processes for handling allegations of sexual abuse by clerics. All of these are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. When the charges involve a bishop, the CDF requires specially delegated authority from the pope to handle the case.


A full canonical trial is a lengthy affair. Depositions of witnesses and alleged victims are taken by the court at which a prosecutor, called the “promoter of justice” in canon law, and lawyers for the defense are present. Written argumentation is exchanged through a panel of judges, with precise timelines, manners of proceeding, and legal minutiae that must be observed at each step of the way, in order to ensure that the rights of the accused are protected.


In previous sexual abuse cases against bishops, full and formal trials have taken years, and include the possibility of appeals by both the prosecution and defense. But this is not happening with McCarrick.


Under certain circumstances canon law allows for a legal investigation and determination to be conducted by an administrative penal process. This is a much-abbreviated mechanism that leaves out many of the procedural stages of a full judicial process or trial, including the back-and-forth argumentation between prosecution and defense.


An administrative process is only used when the evidence collected during the preliminary investigation is so clear as to make a full trial unnecessary.


In McCarrick’s case, the use of an administrative process strongly suggests that the Vatican has clear evidence the archbishop has committed a delict, an ecclesiastical crime, especially because his position as an archbishop and former cardinal guarantee considerable scrutiny of the result.


The use of the abbreviated process for McCarrick also indicates a significant change in the CDF’s assessment of the evidence and allegations he faces.


The first public accusation against McCarrick, announced by the Archdiocese of New York in June, concerned abuse against an altar boy who was, at the time of the alleged abuse, 16 years old.


While that allegation was enough to trigger a number of subsequent disclosures about McCarrick’s alleged behavior over a period of years, and prompted his departure from the college of cardinals, sources close to the CDF told CNA that a trial over that allegation was, by itself, unlikely to result in McCarrick’s laicization.


In addition to the relative paucity of evidence, sources also noted that at the time of the alleged abuse in the early 1970s, canon law did not consider someone over 16 years old to be a minor, which means that a trial might have concerned delicts more difficult to prosecute than child abuse.


But in the course of the CDF’s investigation, evidence has been received from a number of other alleged victims of McCarrick.


Key among McCarrick’s accusers is James Grein, who gave evidence before specially deputized archdiocesan officials in New York on Dec. 27.


As part of the CDF’s investigation, Grein testified that McCarrick, a family friend, sexually abused him over a period of years, beginning when he was 11 years old. He also alleged that McCarrick carried out some of the abuse during the sacrament of confession - itself a separate canonical crime that can lead to the penalty of laicization.


The CDF has also reportedly received evidence from an additional alleged victim of McCarrick - 13 at the time of the alleged abuse began - and from as many as 8 seminarian-victims in the New Jersey dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, in which McCarrick served as bishop.


Because of the collection of that evidence, McCarrick now faces multiple canonical charges of sexual misconduct and abuse concerning both minors and adults, including solicitation in the confessional. Use of the abbreviated administrative process, which is only employed in cases of compelling evidence, indicates that McCarrick is likely to be convicted on at least some of the charges.




According to CDF sources, the investigative phase of the process has now been formally concluded and McCarrick has been given the chance to speak in his own defense. His canon lawyer may also submit arguments on his behalf.


The CDF is expected to formally assess the evidence and defense within the next week, and to reach a final determination.


While many Catholics, including some bishops, have expressed frustration at a lack of resolution to the McCarrick case, his process is proceeding at break-neck pace, at least by canonical standards.


Nevertheless, the CDF has been under pressure from the pope, together with several senior American cardinals, to resolve the matter before the heads of the world’s bishops’ conferences gather in Rome next month for a crisis summit on the recent sexual abuse scandals.


Some announcement of a decision is highly likely ahead of that meeting.


McCarrick is likely to be laicized if he is found guilty.


The Church has refrained from dismissing clerics who are either too old, infirm, and without other means of support, recognizing a moral obligation by the Church to see to their basic subsistence.


But while McCarrick is old and in failing health, he is also known to be financially independent. As one source in Rome told CNA “The CDF don’t usually laicize someone if it means they’ll be living on the street, but McCarrick has always had money to throw around.”


It also seems likely that as a technical matter, it will be Pope Francis, not the CDF, that declares a verdict and imposes a penalty on the archbishop.


The CDF’s legal procedures for an administrative process include the option to “present the most grave cases to the decision of the Roman Pontiff,” especially when they include dismissal from the clerical state. The pope has stated that he prefers to make the final decision on cases involving bishops, and the CDF is likely to acquiesce to the preference.


Among the reasons Pope Francis might decide McCarrick’s case personally is expediency. If the CDF imposes a penalty on McCarrick, the archbishop will be free to appeal the matter to the pope, and that could delay announcement of a resolution to sometime after the February summit.


On the other hand, if CDF chooses to make a recommendation to Francis that he personally declare the guilty verdict and the penalty of laicization, and if the pope does so, it would be formally impossible for the decision to be appealed.




Since the announcement of the first formal accusation against him in June, McCarrick has become for many the public face of the sexual abuse crisis. His fall from grace has damaged the credibility of many senior members of the Church’s hierarchy, both in the United States and in Rome, and has touched the legacies of three successive popes.


Removing McCarrick from the newscycle - and possibly the clerical state - has been a major priority for both the pope and the American hierarchy.


If his case is resolved before the February summit, it could be seen a much-needed demonstration by Pope Francis that he is serious about punishing offending bishops.


But even if resolved, the McCarrick case will pose serious questions for the bishops to consider next month in Rome.


The long list of charges he faces includes many seminarians and other adults. While he may be convicted and laicized on the strength of the evidence he abused minors, his other victims will also look for justice.


Prominent voices like Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Marie Collins, the abuse survivor and former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, have called for a change in the CDF’s legal definition of “vulnerable adults,” who are classed alongside minors by the CDF in sexual abuse cases.


Currently, a vulnerable adult is someone who “habitually lacks the use of reason.” O’Malley and Collins have both called for the definition to be broadened to include other victims, especially when sexual abuse it accompanied by an abuse of authority or power. Such a redefinition would include McCarrick’s alleged seminarian-victims.


If the Rome meeting next month sets out to narrowly treat the the issue of minors, and seems to exclude other victims of coercive sexual abuse, the figure of Theodore McCarrick might still cast a shadow over anything it tries to achieve.

Pope to diplomats: Remember transcendent dimension of human persons

Vatican City, Jan 7, 2019 / 11:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Upholding the dignity of the human person, and the rule of law, are essential for good politics, Pope Francis said Monday to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

Such politics promote the common good and establish and maintain peace between nations, he said, by considering “the transcendent dimension of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God.”

The pope made his annual address to the diplomatic corps Jan. 7 in the Vatican's Sala Regia.

“Respect for the dignity of each human being is thus the indispensable premise for all truly peaceful coexistence,” he said, “and law becomes the essential instrument for achieving social justice and nurturing fraternal bonds between peoples.”

Human rights must be reaffirmed, he added, “lest there prevail partial and subjective visions of humanity that risk leading to new forms of inequality, injustice, discrimination and, in extreme cases, also new forms of violence and oppression.”

Francis emphasized that “politics must be farsighted and not limited to seeking short-term solutions,” noting that political leaders “should listen to the voices of their constituencies and seek concrete solutions to promote their greater good.”

“Yet this,” he said, “demands respect for law and justice both within their national communities and within the international community, since reactive, emotional and hasty solutions may well be able to garner short-term consensus, but they will certainly not help the solution of deeper problems; indeed, they will aggravate them.”

The Holy See has diplomatic relations with 183 states, as well as the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Of these, 89 states maintain embassies to the Holy See in Rome.

The pope told the diplomatic corps that “fidelity to the spiritual mission” of Christ's command to the Apostle Peter to “feed my lambs,” impels him and thus the Holy See “to show concern for the whole human family and its needs, including those of the material and social order.”

The Holy See “has no intention of interfering in the life of States,” he stressed, but wants to be an attentive and sensitive listener to the issues involving humanity; “the same concern leads the Church everywhere to work for the growth of peaceful and reconciled societies.”

Structured on St. Paul VI’s 1965 speech of to the United Nations, the pope emphasized in his lengthy address the importance of increasing multilateral diplomacy, promoting justice, defending the vulnerable, and building peace.

Quoting St. Paul VI’s UN address, he said, “You sanction the great principle that relationships between nations must be regulated by reason, justice, law, by negotiation, not by force, nor by violence, force, war, nor indeed by fear and deceit.”

This still an important idea for today, especially as, according to Pope Francis, nationalistic tendencies have grown, many relationships within the international community, and the multilateral system, have entered a difficult period.

Reasons for this include, he said, an “inability of the multilateral system to offer effective solutions to a number of long unresolved situations, like certain protracted conflicts” and to confront present challenges in a satisfactory way.

National policies based on “quick partisan consensus” rather than pursuit of the common good and an increase in powerful and influential interest groups and “new forms of ideological colonization” have also contributed, he said.

“In part too, it is a consequence of the reaction in some parts of the world to a globalization that has in some respects developed in too rapid and disorderly a manner, resulting in a tension between globalization and local realities,” he added. “The global dimension has to be considered without ever losing sight of the local.”

The pope listed several grave issues facing humanity in the coming year, namely, ongoing international conflicts, especially in the Middle East; the refugee and migrant crisis; violence against women; the rights of workers; climate change; and the prevalence of nuclear arms.

He also highlighted the issue of abuse against minors, which he noted has “sadly” involved members of the Catholic clergy. “The abuse of minors is one of the vilest and most heinous crimes conceivable,” he said.

“The Holy See and the Church as a whole are working to combat and prevent these crimes and their concealment,” he said, adding that a February meeting with bishops is intended as a “further step in the Church’s efforts to shed full light on the facts and to alleviate the wounds caused by such crimes.”

Pope Francis sends Christmas greetings to Coptic Christians

Cairo, Egypt, Jan 7, 2019 / 04:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis sent Christmas and New Year’s greetings to Coptic Christians and all Egyptians upon the inauguration of a major Coptic cathedral, jointly opened with a larger mosque at the same complex.

“With joy I greet all of you, on the happy occasion of the dedication of the new Cathedral of the Nativity, built in the new administrative capital,” the pope said. “The prince of peace gives the gift of peace and prosperity to Egypt, the Middle East and all the world.”

For the Coptic Orthodox, Jan. 7 marks the celebration of Christmas. Francis’ message in part addressed the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, who also bears the title “Pope.”

“I offer a special greeting to my very dear brother His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and to the dear Coptic Orthodox Church, which is known to give a true witness of faith and charity even in very difficult times,” Pope Francis said.

The cathedral has a capacity of 8,200 people and takes up 30 percent of a 4.1-acre complex designed around a large central square, the Egyptian news site Ahram Online says. It is located in Egypt’s new administrative capital to the east of Cairo.

“May the worship of God in the highest heaven ever be welcomed in the new cathedral, and may blessings and peace descend upon all people, whom God loves,” the pope’s message continued.

The church’s newly dedicated neighbor, Al-Fattah Al-Alim Mosque, is claimed to be the largest mosque in Egypt and the Middle East, with a capacity of over 17,000 people. Both were constructed over a period of about 18 months.

Christians make up about ten percent of Egypt’s 98 million people. The vast majority of these Christians are Coptic Orthodox, with roots dating back to the apostolic period.

The dedication event follows years of trouble for Christians in the region. The beheading of 20 Coptic Christians and another man in Libya was recorded on video and shocked the world when it was released in February 2015.

In December 2016, A bomb exploded at a chapel attached to St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, killing over 20 people.

In February 2017, the Islamic State group called for Egypt’s Christians to be targeted. Dozens of Christians were killed in Palm Sunday church bombings that year. Islamic militants have sometimes conducted deadly attacks on buses of Christians traveling to Christian sites.

Pope Francis alluded to these deaths in his message, saying “you have some martyrs who give strength to your faith. Thank you for your example.”

Legal regulations on new church construction and church repair have created a heavy burden on the region’s Christians. Middle East observers at the Project on Middle East Democracy suggested that despite the construction of the prominent cathedral, many of these issues are still unresolved.

In his message, Pope Francis gave separate greetings to the Egyptian government and to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who attended the ceremonies.

The inauguration ceremonies began at the complex’s convention center. Various artists performed Islamic chants and Christian hymns. A children’s choir sang about Egyptian unity amid religious difference, as did the popular singer Angham.

Pope Tawadros toured the mosque with President El-Sisi, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other local and international leaders.

“This is a day of joy as we see our beloved country write a new page in the history of civilization,” the Coptic pope said.

“Today we celebrate an unprecedented occasion where the minarets of Al-Fattah Al-Alim Mosque are embracing those of the Nativity of the Christ Cathedral, opening a new horizon for our beloved country on this happy occasion, achieved through the Egyptian people’s donations and efforts with sincerity and love.”

“As an Egyptian citizen, I am happy to stand in the mosque to celebrate its opening with my Muslim brothers,” he continued, praising el-Sisi’s fulfillment of his promise to build the mosque and the cathedral.

“We pray for our unity to continue as the world witnesses such tolerance and love in our country, God bless you all, long live Egypt,” he said.

During the dedication of a plaque outside the church, Muslim cleric Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyeb of Al-Azhar Mosque, a leading Sunni institution, said the joint inauguration is “the embodiment of the soul of brotherhood and love.” He said Islamic law requires safeguarding Christian and Jewish houses of worship just as mosques are protected.

After entering the cathedral, el-Sisi said the occasion sends the message “that we will not allow anybody to come between us.” He voiced dislike for calling conflicts “sectarian strife,” because “Muslims and Christians in Egypt are one, and will stay one.”

He said the event “represents a tree of love which we have planted together, but this tree still needs attention and care so that its fruit reaches from Egypt to the whole world.”

“Strife will not end, but God saved Egypt and he will continue to do so for the sake of its people,” the president said. He discussed the 2013 attacks on Egyptian churches, saying Pope Tawadros’ words helped the country repair the damage and build new projects.

El-Sisi, a former general, became president in the 2013 elections following a military coup against a government led by the Muslim Brotherhood. He was re-elected in 2018 but his government’s human rights record has faced strong criticism due to its treatment of its political opponents.

The dedication event took place under significant security. A policeman was killed trying to defuse an explosive device near a church in a Cairo neighborhood late on Saturday. The explosion wounded two policemen, including the bomb squad commander, BBC News reports.

In April 2017 Pope Francis traveled to Cairo and appeared in public with Pope Tawadros II and other religious figures. Pope Francis honored various Coptic martyrs during this visit, and declared that the sufferings of the Copts “are also our sufferings.”

Argentine archbishop temporarily closes monastery after monks arrested

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 4, 2019 / 04:40 pm (ACI Prensa).- Archbishop Marcelo Daniel Colombo of Mendoza, Argentina has temporarily closed the Christ at Prayer Monastery in the town of Tupungato, after two of the community’s founding monks were arrested on sexual abuse charges.

“Without pre-judging the guilt of these priests, which is being evaluated by the canonical and state criminal justice system, it becomes necessary for us, right now, to consider the way to continue this experience of religious life in this context,” the archbishop said in a statement.

On December 27, a police delegation entered the monastery and arrested Fr. Diego Roque and Fr. Oscar Portillo, two priests from Buenos Aires who have led the monastery since 1996.

The priests are accused of sexual abuse, including abuse of a minor, and abuse of authority between 2009 and 2015. They allegedly abused a man who tried to enter the monastery.

Both priests maintain their innocence. They will remain in custody while the facts of the case are being determined.

In his statement, Archbishop Colombo said that the monastery was left with only four brothers and without their authorities. As a result, he is closing the monastery until further notice.

“The youngest brothers, who very recently entered will return to their family homes and will continue to be spiritually accompanied in their vocational search,” the archbishop said.

The two older members, “one professed and the other a novice, already a priest, will from now on live in a parish community to be designated and will be able to continue discerning their vocational call in a climate of spiritual recollection.”

As for the administration and management of the monastery, Archbishop Colombo said that it will be the direct responsibility of the Archdiocese of Mendoza in the person of Fr. Aldo Vallone, who will serve as Diocesan Moderator of the Christ at Prayer Monastery.

“Sharing the pain that these events cause us, I ask you to accompany us with your prayers,” the archbishop said. “I know of many people who love the Monastery…I ask them to try to understand the unprecedented situation this poses and the indispensable prudential action which is expected of the Church in cases like these.”

Colombo asked for prayers for all those who have suffered abuse. He and called on Our Lady of the Rosary to accompany the community. 

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