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Posted on 01/10/2020 07:00 AM (Archdiocese of New York)
Posted on 01/10/2020 02:19 AM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 9, 2020 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- The presidency of the Venezuelan bishops' conference warned Wednesday that the disputed election of Luis Parra as president of the National Assembly is "contrary to all constitutional legality."
Parra was elected head of Venezuela's de jure legislature Jan. 5 by pro-government lawmakers, while opposition legislators were blocked from entering the chamber. It is the latest in a crisis over the government of Venezuela.
Under the socialist administration of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages of food and medicine, high unemployment, blackouts, and hyperinflation. Some 4.5 million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015.
The Venezuelan bishops' presidency said Jan. 8 that Parra's election was "a shameful event" that "has replanted in the souls of Venezuelans reasons for hopelessness and a greater sense of helplessness."
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó and 100 other opposition legislators were blocked Jan. 5 by Venezuelan National Guard troops from attending a vote in the legislature, where Guaidó was standing for re-election as its leader. Parra was elected instead, without a quorum, by pro-government lawmakers and some opposition politicians. Parra had been expelled last month from the Justice First party over alleged corruption.
Telesur, a state television network in Venezuela, said Parra was elected with 140 votes. The National Assembly has 167 seats.
Guaidó had declared himself interim president of Venezuela in January 2019, after president Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term, having won a contested election in which oppositon candidates were barred from running or imprisoned. Guaidó and the Venezuelan bishops held Maduro's second term to be invalid, and the presidency vacant.
He said that according to the Venezuelan constitution, when the presidency falls vacant, power is assumed by the president of the National Assembly.
On Jan. 5, Guaidó and opposition legislators held their session of the National Assembly at the headquarters of El Nacional, a Caracas daily. At that session, Guaidó was re-elected president of the legislature by about 100 lawmakers.
Then on Jan. 7, Guaidó and 100 of his fellow opposition lawmakers accessed the National Assembly only after a half-hour stand-off with National Guardsmen who had cordoned the building. Pro-government legislators left when the opposition entered, and power to the building was cut.
Venezuela's bishops said that the events of Jan. 7 were "a new abuse of power ... which implies a hijacking of more than one democratic institution."
They indicated that the recent events are "a new manifestation of the totalitarian ideology of those who hold political power. They have promoted and protected the non-recognition of the lack of autonomy of the legitimate National Assembly; and, at the same time, they intend to recognize leadership invalidly elected against all constitutional legality ”.
The bishops urged members of the armed forces to place themselves “on the true side of the Constitution and of the people to which they belong and swore to defend."
Archbishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala of Maracaibo, president of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, said Jan. 7 that Parra's election as speaker was an “invalid appointment” which pro-government lawmakers had done by “violating all norms of the assembly.”
Archbishop Azuaje's statement was read at the opening of the Venezuelan bishops' plenary assembly.
He said that because Parra's National Assembly presidency is invalid, “it will be the responsibility of the true leadership elected by vote and according the norms of the National Assembly, to continue to examine deeply how to resolve the main problems afflicting the people.”
Archbishop Azuaje asked citizens to be aware because what is behind the crisis the country is undergoing is “power, as it is conceived and put into practice. Today, power as dominion is gaining ground against the truth.”
He called for “a new history based on the common good and on freedom.”
The opposition gained control of the National Assembly in a December 2016 election, and in 2017 Maduro formed a pro-government legislature, the Constituent Assembly, to supersede it. The Venezuelan bishops do not recognize the Constituent Assembly as legitimate or valid.
In 2018, Venezuela's annual inflation rate was 1.3 million percent; late in 2019, the IMF forecast an inflation rate of 10 million percent for that year.
Posted on 01/8/2020 23:46 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Tlaxcala, Mexico, Jan 8, 2020 / 02:46 pm (CNA).- A Mexican priest who had been kidnapped is in the hospital in serious condition after having been discovered released on the side of a highway with four gunshot wounds.
Fr. Roly Candelario Piña Camacho, a Piarist priest from the Diocese of Tlaxcala, was found wounded on the side of the México-Puebla federal highway Jan. 6, the diocese said.
Local media reports did not specify when the priest was kidnapped, but said his family members paid the unspecified ransom request to his captors. He had suffered four gunshot wounds and was transported to a local hospital, where the National Guard is offering protection against further violence, according to reports.
In a Jan. 7 statement, the Diocese of Tlaxcala said that the priest is “in serious condition.”
“The Diocese of Tlaxcala expresses its solidarity and spiritual closeness to Father Roly, the Piarist community and his family. We pray for an end to the violence and for human life to be respected,” the statement says.
The Mexican bishops called for prayers for the priest’s recovery.
“We join in prayer for the swift recovery of Fr. Roly Candelario Sch.p (Piarist) and deeply deplore the violent situation the country is going through,” the bishops’ conference said on Facebook.
More than two dozen priests have been murdered in Mexico in the past decade, according to the Catholic Multimedia Center, which tracks violence in Mexico.
Posted on 01/8/2020 07:00 AM (Archdiocese of New York)
Posted on 01/7/2020 19:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Ottawa, Canada, Jan 7, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Increasing numbers of people killed by euthanasia are supplying a “boon” for organ transplant surgeries in Canada, according to an Ottawa newspaper. But politicians and ethicists told CNA the practice was “rather horrifying” and raises questions of “coercion.”
A Jan. 6 article titled “Medically assisted deaths prove a growing boon to organ donation in Ontario” in the Ottawa Citizen, explained that while the number of people in need of a transplant in Ontario has remained relatively static, fewer and fewer people are registering in advance as donors, with assisted deaths providing a positive answer.
“This relatively new source of organs and tissues is significant in that Ontario’s waiting list for organs typically hovers around 1,600 without any great headway made to eliminate that number,” Bruce Deachman reported.
From January until November of 2019, there were 18 organ and 95 tissue donations from patients who died by euthanasia. These numbers, which do not include the month of December, represent an increase of 14% over all of 2018, and 109% compared to all of 2017.
According to the Trillium Gift of Life Network, which runs organ and tissue donation in the province of Ontario, these donations were 5% of the province’s overall number of organ and tissue donations. This was more than double the percentage of euthanasia-related donations in 2017.
“Medical assistance in dying,” as it is legally referred to in the country, has been legal in Canada since 2016. Canadians who have a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” are able to elect to end their lives. This is defined as a “serious and incurable illness, disease or disability” that results in “an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability,” and causes “enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable” and cannot be treated in an “acceptable” manner.
A person’s death has to become “reasonably foreseeable” in order to be approved for euthanasia, but their condition does not necessarily have to be considered terminal.
In Ontario, Trillium “proactively” solicits patients to discuss organ donation once they have elected to be killed. It is provincial law that Trillium be made aware once a person has been approved to end their life.
Ronnie Gavsie, the CEO of Trillium, defended this as “the right thing to do for those on the [organ donation] wait list.”
“And, as part of high-quality end-of life care, we make sure that all patients and families are provided with the information they need and the opportunity to make a decision on whether they wish to make a donation,” Gavsie told the Ottawa Citizen. “That just follows the logical protocol under the law and the humane approach for those who are undergoing medical assistance in dying.”
In Quebec, it recently was approved for Transplant Quebec to raise the possibility of organ donation after a person’s request to die by euthanasia is approved by doctors.
Conservative MP Michael Cooper told CNA that while he is not necessarily opposed to someone donating their organs after dying by euthanasia, he said the practice raises questions regarding consent, and opens up the possibility of coercion.
“The concern that I have is that it muddies the waters in terms of the patient making a decision freely, without any degree of coercion or influence from anyone,” said Cooper. He added that with the current setup of physician-assisted death in Canada, there is a chance that it is administered to a patient who is not able to properly consent or who may not want to die.
Organ donation “should not be part of the conversation” when a patient makes a decision regarding physician-assisted dying, said Cooper, and that he feels as though the decision to donate one's organs should be “completely separate” from the decision to pursue euthanasia.
Dr. Moira McQueen, a moral theologian and the executive director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, told CNA said such practices appear “rather horrifying.”
McQueen cited the scenario of a patient who opts to begin the euthasia process at home and be transferred to a hospital for organ donation as one that sparks “even more ethical and legal problems.” In this case, a patient would essentially be sedated at home and then transported to a hospital for the final dose of lethal medication and then have their organs removed.
“That situation makes it clearer that the focus is truly on 'harvesting',” said McQueen. “The donor's dignity is compromised and the 'separation' of teams that is supposed to be the warrant of independence of the teams is completely blurred.”
While the Church does not have ethical issues with the use of organ donations from consenting donors who died natural deaths, or from unconscious donors whose relatives have elected to donate their organs, McQueen said there are serious ethical questions about the transplant use of organs retrieved after euthanasia.
“There’s no Church teaching on it that says specifically, you can’t. There is definitely something that talks about the dignity of the body, and I would think, as a Catholic, most of us would say ‘oh no, you can’t use these organs because the person has died a sinful death, died a wrong death by asking for euthanasia,” she said.
The ethical questions regarding this situation have not been resolved, she explained, and that she could see both sides of the issue. McQueen told CNA that she feels the conversations regarding organ donation and euthanasia need to be completely separate. If this were the case, following the death of the patient, the organs could be considered “neutral.”
“I think there could be a possibility that [the organs] could be used, despite the fact now that we are talking about people who have asked for euthanasia,” she said, but could only be considered if the medical team administering euthanasia was entirely and wholly separate from the medical team that handled the organ retreival.
“I think the Church will eventually deal with all these implications, but right now everyone is watching these events unfold and it's tricky to separate what's morally wrong,” she said.
Given that a person who is approved for euthanasia may not be terminally ill, McQueen said it is not out of the realm of possibility that a primary physician “might well suggest organ donation as, if not an incentive, a kind of 'consolation' for the person's own loss of life.”
“These scenarios are all too real, and many people will be all too willing to 'justify' their decisions by turning something which even to them cannot be an unqualified good into something quite noble,” she said.
Posted on 01/7/2020 03:50 AM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Santiago, Chile, Jan 6, 2020 / 06:50 pm (CNA).- A mob of masked protesters set fire Jan. 3 to a Catholic church dedicated to serving the national police in Santiago, Chile, while an anti-government demonstration was in progress in nearby Plaza Italia.
According to local reports, a group of masked individuals surrounded Saint Francis Borgia Church, located two blocks away from the plaza, around 8 p.m., setting fire to a vehicle parked outside and then starting fires inside the church and an attached building.
Three companies of firemen arrived at the scene, but the masked mob blocked their passage and they were unable to put out the fire in a timely manner, according to reports.
The church was built in 1876 and was originally the Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel of Saint Borgia Hospital. In November 1975, it was set aside to serve the spiritual needs of the Carabineros, the national police force.
The church is situated in the same area of Santiago where Assumption and Veracruz (True Cross) churches were also set on fire last November.
The Carabineros tweeted “we deeply regret to report that Saint Francis Borgia church where we have said farewell to our more than one thousand martyrs has been set on fire by a mob of vandals.”
Anti-government demonstrations broke out in mid-October in Santiago over a now-suspended increase in subway fares. Other regions joined in the protests, expanding their grievances to inequality and the cost of healthcare.
A number of churches across Chile have been attacked and looted amid the demonstrations in the country.
The protests have put pressure on the administration of President Sebastián Piñera to introduce reforms, in addition to announcing the drafting of a new Constitution to replace the one enacted by the military regime of Augusto Pinochet in 1980.
Protest marches often start our peacefully, but end up with clashes between the police and masked protesters, who often turn to attacking churches as well as public and private property.
In a Jan. 4 message following the fire at Saint Franics Borgia church, Chile's bishop for the military and security forces, Santiago Silva Retamales, expressed his closeness to the Carabineros and condemned the persistent violence in the country.
He called the attack “bewildering” and “incomprehensible,” noting that the church serves not only the national police, but also the whole community.
“To all the members of the beloved institution of the Carabineros throughout the country, spiritually united around this church during recent decades, I express my closeness in these difficult moments and I encourage you to remain determined safeguard order and social peace,” the bishop said.
While the local Church has promoted respect for human rights and the legitimate, just demands of society, it also condemns the “persistent violence that only deepens Chile's wounds,” he said.
“The future of the country depends on our capacity for sincere dialogue to discern what is just,” Bishop Silva stressed, “with agreements involving all parties that should be respected and concrete actions that would restore to Chile its soul as a people with the vocation of unity, respect for everyone, and integral development.”
A Mass of reparation was offered in front of Saint Francis Borgia church Jan. 5, celebrated by Bishop Silva and concelebrated by the apostolic nuncio, several other bishops, the chaplains of the three branches of the Armed Forces and the Carabineros, along with clergy from these institutions.
In attendance were the General Director of the Carabineros, General Mario Rozas Córdova and his wife, accompanied by the High Command, delegations from the Armed Forces and the Carabineros along with their families, friends of the Carabineros, neighbors and hundreds of other people.
In his homily, Silva said that although “they had burned the church, they had not burned the community, they did not burn the faith.”
“Our hope is untouched,” he said.
Posted on 01/4/2020 14:53 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Managua, Nicaragua, Jan 4, 2020 / 05:53 am (CNA).- As political tensions continue in Nicaragua, the archbishop of Managua stressed that for peace to be achieved, people need to look past their differences and foster dialogue without exclusion or manipulation.
“Only by choosing the path of respect will it be possible to break the spiral of vengeance,” said Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes on the World Day of Peace, celebrated Jan. 1.
“Peace as the object of our hope is a precious good to which all humanity aspires,” he said.
“War often begins because of intolerance of other people's diversity, which foments the desire to possess and the will to dominate,” Brenes stressed, adding that war “is born in the heart of man because of egoism and pride, because of hatred that incites people to destroy, to frame others in a negative image, to exclude them or eliminate them.”
War feeds on broken relationships, abuse of power and ambitions, and fear of others and their differences, he said.
The cardinal said that peace is only achieved by a change in the human heart, which leads to a political willingness to reconcile and unite people and communities.
“The world doesn't need empty words, but convinced witnesses, artisans of peace, open to dialogue without exclusion or manipulation,” he said.
Cardinal Brenes’ comments come amid continued heated protests against the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
Anti-government protests in the country began in April 2018. The crackdown from security forces and pro-government militias resulted in more than 320 deaths that year, with 2,000 injured and tens of thousands fleeing the country as refugees.
Modest pension reforms triggered the unrest but protests quickly turned to objections to what critics said was Ortega’s authoritarian bent.
Ortega, who previously led the country for over a decade after the Sandinistas’ 1979 ouster of the Somoza dictatorship, has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.
The Catholic Church has served as a mediator in on-again, off-again talks between the government and opposition leaders. Church leaders had suggested that the elections scheduled for 2021 be held in 2019, but Ortega rejected the idea.
Ortega’s government has accused many bishops and priests of supporting the opposition. The president’s backers have said that a demand for the president to leave office early and to hold early elections are tantamount to a coup attempt. Some have labeled the protesters as terrorists, the Associated Press reports.
Rosario Murillo, Nicaragua’s vice president and Ortega’s wife, criticized “those who claim to speak in the name of the faith,” calling them “repugnant wolves who spread hatred.”
Since the protests began, there has been a series of attacks against clergy, churches and church facilities targeted by pro-government bands.
Posted on 01/3/2020 07:00 AM (Archdiocese of New York)
Posted on 01/3/2020 07:00 AM (Archdiocese of New York)
Posted on 01/3/2020 02:51 AM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 2, 2020 / 05:51 pm (CNA).- The president of the Mexican bishops' conference expressed his support for a bill that would grant more freedom to the Church in the country, loosening long-established restrictions on religious groups.
“I like the proposal a lot because it is framed in terms of human rights,” said Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López of Monterrey at a Dec. 22 press conference.
He stressed that “citizens have the right to believe or not believe, the right to belong or not belong to a church or religion. This is the point of departure and it's very important.”
The bill reforming the 1992 Law on Religious Associations and Public Worship was introduced last month by Senator María Soledad Luévano Cantú and is now being studied by Senate committees.
The AP reported Dec. 18 that “among specific measures, it would reportedly allow religious groups greater access to all manner of media, including TV, radio and newspapers, relax regulations on church ownership of property, provide for cooperation between church and state on cultural and social development and allow ‘conscientious objections’ to law on religious grounds.”
It would also let church authorities offer spiritual services in government facilities including hospitals, rehabilitation centers and military institutions.
The separation of church and state in Mexico traces back to the mid 1800s when a series of reforms were instituted, particularly under the presidency of Benito Juarez. Church properties not used for worship and instruction, such as cemeteries, were nationalized. Birth and marriage records were placed under civil authority.
Tensions heightened at the beginning of the 20th century with the enactment of the 1917 Constitution and the “Calles Laws” instituted by then President Plutarco Elías Calles, which banned religious congregations and imposed restrictions on priests and public worship.
The Calles Laws sparked the Cristero rebellion for religious freedom in the late 1920s, leaving tens of thousands of government and rebel fighters dead. Although the war ended in 1929, religious persecution continued for a number of years afterwards.
It was not until the constitutional reforms of 1992 and the enactment of the Law on Religious Associations and Public Worship that same year that the Catholic Church was able to become a juridical person and monastic orders were no longer prohibited.
Catholic churches built before 1992 are still considered federal property and the Church cannot have radio or TV stations.
According to Archbishop Cabrera López, amending the religious associations law would give “freedom to citizens but it also gives the state freedom to be autonomous, to be independent against any reading of the law that would make a break with the secularity of the state.”
“I believe there is no law as secular as this one that has been introduced because nowhere do there appear privileges and cronyism between government officials and pastors.”
Luévano Cantú, who introduced the proposal, is a member of President López Obrador's Morena political party. However, President Lopez Obrador recently came out against the proposed reform. At a Dec. 18 press conference he stated that “that issue should not be broached.”
“I consider that this has already been resolved for more than a century and a half, I believe this was resolved, the separation of the Church and the State. To God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's,” he said.
López Obrador said the majority of Mexicans “agree that the secular state should prevail, which the Constitution establishes. And the secular state, it also has to be said, means guaranteeing religious freedom.”
“We shouldn't sponsor anything that means confrontation,” the president said.
However, Archbishop Cabrera López argued that the reform bill does not harm the secular state.
“No priest, no bishop can claim to have power in the country,” he said, and stressed that the bill “is very good; although it does not expressly say that the separation of Church and State must be maintained, it is sufficiently clear that there can no longer be privileges, and of course it would be antiquated to imagine a government married with some religion.”