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Pro-life Democrats make the case for a 22-week abortion ban in Colorado

Denver, Colo., Oct 20, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- As Colorado voters consider a ballot measure to ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy, pro-life Democrats have been vocal in support, stressing its mainstream appeal and the need to give care to vulnerable human beings who can survive outside of the womb.

“When people realize abortion is allowed up to birth for any reason in Colorado most are shocked. People travel from all over the U.S. and even the world to Colorado to get late-term abortions,” Kristin Vail, vice president of Democrats for Life of Colorado, told CNA Oct. 19. “I don’t think people want our state to be known for that.”

“Every human has value and deserves to live free from violence. Late-term abortions are especially horrific because at 22 weeks fetuses can feel pain and can survive outside the womb with medical support,” Vail said. “Proposition 115 will save lives from abortion.”

Proposition 115 asks voters whether to ban abortion in the state after 22 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where a mother’s life is threatened.

A 9 News / Colorado Politics survey of 1,021 registered likely voters found 42% of respondents said they are certain to vote yes on Proposition 115, 45% said no, while 13% are uncertain.

63% of Republicans said they would vote in favor of the ban, as did 28% of Democrats and 35% of unaffiliated voters. The survey was conducted by SurveyUSA in early October. It claims a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.9%.

For Vail, it’s an issue of justice. “Abortion is just oppression and violence redistributed to someone more vulnerable,” she told CNA.

“Pre-born children are the most vulnerable and voiceless in our society and they are being killed by the thousands every day. Quality healthcare should be provided for everyone, including both mother and child. When the main objective of a procedure is to end a human life, our healthcare system has failed,” Vail said.

Dr. Tom Perille, a retired physician and president of the Democrats for Life of Colorado, also backs the ballot measure.

“Prop. 115 should pass because it appeals to the moral sensibilities of Coloradans and reflects a popular consensus when abortion restrictions are appropriate,” he told CNA. “If a baby born prematurely at 22 weeks enjoys all the rights and privileges of other Colorado citizens and is protected by state/federal law, a fetus in utero at that exact same gestational age should not be able to be legally and cruelly killed. National and state polling suggests that a majority of people believe that abortion should be restricted after fetal viability.”

“Colorado has a long history of embracing abortion rights,” Perille continued. “However, Coloradans also understand science. Most Coloradans recognize that a 22-week fetus is a fully formed, if immature, human being. They are repulsed by those who refer to this vital human being as ‘pregnancy tissue.’ Coloradans are willing to accept reasonable restrictions on abortion after fetal viability.”

Perille stressed bipartisan support for the measure, saying nearly 19,000 Democrats signed the petition to place it on the state ballot. He suggested that efforts to raise public awareness about abortion after 22 weeks and Proposition 115 could push Democratic support for the measure above 33%.

During his time collecting signatures for the petition, Perille said a number of signers identified as pro-choice but thought abortions past 22 weeks were “simply too extreme.”

“I recall one woman, in particular, who said she was pro-choice, but quickly added that she was born prematurely at 28 weeks gestation. She knew what it was like to be born premature,” he said. “She was emphatic that at 22 weeks ‘It’s a baby’.”

“Democrats have historically championed the rights of the less privileged in society, those that are dehumanized, voiceless and marginalized. The viable fetus fits this description to a T. Democrats have lost their way on this issue, but at their core, they still believe in fighting for the little guy,” said Perille.

If the ballot measure passes, doctors would face a three-year license suspension for performing or attempting to perform an abortion of an unborn child beyond 22 weeks of gestation. Women would not be charged for seeking or obtaining an illegal abortion.

In 1984 Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment banning public funding of abortions except to prevent the death of the mother. In 1998 they passed an initiative requiring parental consent and a waiting period for minors who seek abortions.

“We have had to endure a tidal wave of misinformation from our opposition on social media and TV fueled by millions of dollars from the abortion industry - who stand to lose the most if Prop 115 passes,” said Perille, who made a medical case against late-term abortion.

“If a woman encounters a pregnancy related health issue after 22 weeks, fetal viability, she may need to have her baby urgently or emergently delivered, but there is no reason or rationale to kill the baby,” said Perille. “In fact, a late abortion for an urgent or emergent pregnancy related health issue would be considered medical malpractice. It takes 30 minutes to deliver the baby and 2-4 days to perform a late abortion procedure.”

Prenatal screening for genetic and other fetal abnormalities takes place “well before 22 weeks,” he said. While it is a “very rare situation” where fetal diagnosis is not discovered until 22 weeks into pregnancy, Perille said pre-natal hospice offers “ a compassionate, life-affirming alternative to late abortion” with better outcomes for the woman’s mental health and bereavement.

Kristen Day, president of the Democrats for Life of America, told CNA the group’s Colorado chapter has distributed 15,000 brochures to Democratic voters to make the case for Proposition 115. The chapter organized a rally and phone calls.

Day said opposition to late-term abortion is very much a majority position.

“Even Democrats oppose late-term abortion. 82% of Democrats and 77% of independents and 94% of Republicans oppose third trimester abortions,” she said. “It's a very mainstream position.”

“It makes a lot of sense, especially from a Democrat perspective. We believe in healthcare for all, and making sure that everybody has the opportunity to receive live-giving care,” Day continued. “When we’re talking about a baby who is 22 weeks and could survive outside of the womb if given appropriate health care, it makes very little sense that we would end that life.”

“We care about the babies but we also care about the mothers as well. Let’s choose both. Protect both,” she said.

Given Colorado’s role as a strongly Democratic state and its role in passing the first law to legalize abortion in 1967, Day said passage of a late-term abortion ban would be “huge.”

“A lot of people will vote for Prop 115 and also vote for Joe Biden,” she said.

Other abortion-related measures have not succeeded. The 2008 and 2010 Colorado ballots included two slightly different personhood initiatives, which tried to define a person under state law to include every human being from the moment of fertilization or “from the beginning of biological development,” respectively. The 2008 proposal won under 27% approval from voters, while the 2010 proposal received under 30% of votes.

Colorado Right to Life opposes Proposition 115 on the grounds it only regulates abortion and implicitly permits most abortions. The group is a former affiliate of National Right to Life, but broke from the national organization in 2007 over philosophical differences and the Colorado group’s criticism of a partial-birth abortion Supreme Court decision.

Backers of Proposition 115 told CNA that the overwhelming majority of pro-life voters are with them.

Some 24 U.S. states limit abortion based on gestational age.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat elected to office with strong support from legal abortion advocates, has argued that the ballot measure would be overruled by Supreme Court precedents like Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

“It’s hard to see this ban being upheld,” he told Colorado Public Radio. He argued it would be an undue burden on a woman to carry a child conceived in rape or incest.

Dr. Kristina Tocce, vice president and medical director of abortion provider Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, was also critical of the measure.

“Decisions around pregnancy must be made by a patient, their family, and in consultation with physicians, without political influence, because an all or nothing model of health care is not acceptable and especially not with the complexities of pregnancy,” she said.

Tocce said it is misleading to argue that fetuses are viable at 22 weeks into pregnancy. “There’s not a viability switch, that automatically gets flipped at 22 weeks or any gestational age for that matter because each pregnancy is unique and medical circumstances differ from patient to patient,” she told Colorado Public Radio, which reported 38% of babies born at 22 weeks survive after given intensive care.

The Catholic bishops of Colorado, the Catholic Medical Association, and a group of more than 130 medical professionals and scientists in Colorado have backed Proposition 115.

“Rest assured that your ‘Yes’ to Proposition 115 will have innumerable consequences for the lives of many children who, within their mother’s womb, count on you for life,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila and Bishop Jorge Rodriguez said in a Sept. 27 letter to Hispanics in the Archdiocese of Denver.

After parish in Santiago, Chile destroyed by arson, pastor urges hope

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).-  

The pastor of a parish destroyed by arson in Santiago, Chile on Sunday has urged local Catholics to reject temptations toward revenge, and to place their hope in unity with Jesus Christ.

Fr. Pedro Narbona, pastor of the Church of the Assumption in Santiago, Chile, which was destroyed by arsonists Oct. 18 called on people to open their hearts “without hatred and without revenge” and to “deeply reflect on the Chile that we want to build.”

“Death and pain don’t have the last word, rather hope and life always have the last word. The one who triumphs is always Our Lord and we are upheld by him and united with him,” Narbona told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner.

The priest said he was especially concerned because “with so much destruction, so much hatred and revenge” those most affected are the poor. “And in this case, a specific community that has seen the historic place where they meet and worship vandalized twice, three times.”


El dolor no tiene la última palabra mientras la esperanza y la vida vivan en la humanidad. (Parroquia La Asunción y Parroquia Francisco de Borja tras el ataque del 18 octubre) pic.twitter.com/94SKEsto5v

— Giselle Vargas ن (@Giselle_VN) October 19, 2020  

“This is a living place,” Narbona said of his parish, where people “trust that Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd leads them through dark valleys and we fear nothing. The certainty and the strength that it gives us now is that, without hatred, without revenge, we may open our hearts to deeply reflect on the Chile that we want to build.”

Narbona was alluding to an Oct. 25 referendum in Chile on a new constitution that would replace the current one written in 1980 under the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli tutti “invites us to dream of the world we want, the country we want; we want an open country, a welcoming country, a country where we can all sit at the table, but truly everyone, with no one excluded,” Narbona said.

“Chile, as our bishops say, has a vocation to understanding, not confrontation, Chile is called to be a country of brothers where everyone has his daily bread, respect and joy. That is what’s fundamental, what’s most important. Opening our hearts to hope, to Jesus Christ.”

The priest asked believers to “find light and peace--may the Lord disarm our hands, cool off our heads and open our hearts to dialogue,” which would be the best thing that could happen, Narbona concluded.

Chilean police are investigating the church fire. After that, Narbona and diocesan officials say they will evaluate how to rebuild the parish community spiritually, morally and physically.

The Church of the Assumption had previously been attacked by looters in November 2019. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been difficult for the community to begin rebuilding.

A few weeks ago, Masses and pastoral life resumed, putting in place the measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On Sunday, at the same time that Narbona’s parish was lit ablaze, rioters also attacked nearby St. Francis Borgia Church, which serves the national police force. The two churches are located in Santiago’s downtown area near Plaza de Italia, where demonstrations began that day.

Both churches were looted, tagged with slogans, and completely burned,  with bell towers and roofs coming down in the conflagration.

The Chilean Investigative Police and other federal police forces are still investigating the blazes. Some arrests have already been made.

The attacks came as demonstrators across the country marked the one-year anniversary of large anti-government protests that took place across Chile last year, during which riots destroyed supermarkets and other businesses, and reportedly caused more than 30 deaths.

The demonstrations began last 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.

Since last October 57 churches and religious buildings have been attacked in Chile.

Adding to that total, a large outdoor statue of the Virgin Mary in Pirque, a town located on the outskirts of Santiago, was doused with red paint and tagged with anti-Catholic abortion slogans on Oct. 18. The green neckerchief adopted by abortion advocates in Latin America was tied around Our Lady’s face.

On Monday night, unidentified vandals smashed windows, tagged, and tried to burn down Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Serena, Chile, about 245 miles north of Santiago. A quick response by the local unit of the national police put the vandals to flight and prevented further damage.

This report was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


Poll: Young adults more likely than older Catholics to accept all of Church teaching

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 05:24 pm (CNA).- A new survey released this week has found that 1 in 5 Catholic likely voters say they accept everything the Church teaches, with young adults being more likely than older generations to say they agree with Catholic doctrine.

RealClear Opinion Research, in partnership with EWTN News, conducted an Oct. 5-11 poll, surveying 1,490 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic. It is the fourth in a series of surveys of Catholics over the past year.

The poll asked Catholic likely voters about their religious beliefs and practices. Answers from respondents on questions such as the importance of faith in their life and their frequency of prayer are consistent with answers in previous polls in the series.

One significant shift in the data is an increase in young adult Catholics who say they believe everything the Catholic Church teaches.

Twenty-five percent of 18-34 year olds in the latest survey said they accept everything the Church teaches, compared to 21% of those ages 35-54 and 16% of those 55 and older.

A previous survey in late January and early February asked Catholic registered voters the same question. It found that 17% of young adult Catholics said they accept everything the Church teaches, with 19% of older age groups saying the same.

Overall, 88% percent of respondents said religion is important in their life, including 50% who said it was “very important.” More than 8 in 10 respondents of all ages, races, and genders agreed that religion is important to them.

Catholics who say they accept everything the Church teaches were almost twice as likely to say their faith is “very important” as those who do not accept all of Church teaching.

Almost 4 in 10 Catholics surveyed said they attended Mass at least once per week before coronavirus restrictions were put in place earlier this year.

An earlier poll by RealClear Opinion Research and EWTN News, conducted in late August, found that just over half of Catholic likely voters said that once restrictions are lifted, they plan to attend Mass more frequently than they did before the pandemic.

Half of Catholics in the latest poll said they believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, with just over one-third saying they believe the Eucharist is just a symbol, and the remainder saying they are unsure.

Those who attend Mass more frequently were more likely to believe in the True Presence, with almost 7 in 10 respondents who attend Mass at least weekly saying they believe the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ.

These findings on belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist are consistent with a previous poll of Catholic registered voters by RealClear Opinion Research and EWTN News last November.

Four in five Catholic likely voters say they pray at least once per week, with more than half of respondents saying they pray daily. Regular prayer is common regardless of age, gender, and race – more than 70% of each demographic in the poll said they pray at least weekly.

Among survey respondents, 11% say they pray the rosary every day, while an additional 16% say they pray the rosary at least once per week. Thirty-one percent said they pray the rosary monthly to yearly, and 43% do so less than once per year.

Sixty percent of Catholic likely voters say they go to confession less than once per year. Ten percent say they go to confession annually, 21% say they go a few times per year, and 9% say they go at least monthly.

Catholics ages 18-34 are most likely to go to confession at least once per year, with 56% saying they do so, compared to 46% of those ages 35-43 and 26% of those 55 and older. Fifteen percent of men said they go to confession at least monthly, while 5% of women said the same.

The practices of monthly confession and praying the rosary at least once per week were significantly more common among Catholics who said they accept all of the Church’s teachings and those who attend Mass at least weekly than among those who do not accept everything the Church teaches and those who attend Mass less frequently.

NY Catholic Conference: Follow the science. Open the churches.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 20, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- New York’s Catholic dioceses continue to push back on new coronavirus restrictions that have shut down more than two dozen churches in the state, despite there being no connection between churches and an outbreak of the virus. 

Dennis Poust, director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference, told CNA Tuesday that the state’s dioceses “are not aware of any outbreaks related to a Catholic Church anywhere in the state, including in the so-called ‘hot zones,’” identified by New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

Cuomo announced at the start of October that there would be new “cluster” designations of “red,” “orange,” and “yellow” for zip codes that are experiencing new cases of the coronavirus. 

For houses of worship located in the “red” zip codes, capacity is limited to 10 people, a figure which grows to a maximum of 25 for houses of worship in “orange” zip codes. Public and private schools, as well as “non-essential” businesses located in these “red” and “orange” zip codes were also forced to close due to the new restrictions. 

These new regulations mean that about two dozen churches located in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn have been effectively forced to close for the time being. A federal judge rejected a request from the Diocese of Brooklyn for an injunction that would have allowed churches in the diocese to continue operating at 25% capacity. 

“Gov. Cuomo talks about following the science,” Poust told CNA. “We say 'amen.' We are following all Department of Health and CDC guidelines and keeping our people safe, yet he effectively closed down more than two dozen Catholic churches anyway.” 

Poust told CNA that New York’s bishops have been working hard to ensure the safety of all who attend their churches, with much success. 

“We have been partners with the administration from Day 1 of the crisis, writing to the governor and pledging our cooperation, offering the use of Catholic facilities for spillover hospital space, whatever we could do,” Poust told CNA on Tuesday. 

He noted that the bishops had dispensed the Sunday obligation and canceled Masses prior to the start of Holy Week, and that Catholic schools in New York City had closed before public schools in order to help halt the spread of the virus. 

“Fighting this pandemic is a pro-life imperative and we’ve been treating it as one from the start,’ he said. “I’ve been so proud of our parishes.” 

Catholics at every level, from bishop to lay parishioners, were involved in discussions for safe reopening, Poust told CNA, calling the efforts taken to ensure liturgies are as safe as possible, including the suspension of the distribution of the chalice at Mass, enforcing masks, and social distancing, a “stunning success.” 

But, he said, Cuomo’s recent measures did not reflect the results of this cooperation.

On October 16, the Jewish publication Hamodia shared a recording of a phone call Cuomo had with Jewish leaders. In the call, Cuomo laid blame at the closing of private schools on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and said that it was a “fear-driven response” as “the virus scares people.” 

“I’m 100% frank and candid,” said Cuomo. “This is not a highly-nuanced, sophisticated response. This is a fear-driven response.” He said that perhaps a “smarter, more-tailored approach” to the closing of schools, houses of worship, and businesses could be developed once “the anxiety comes down” in the red zip codes. 

Poust said that by severely limiting the capacity of houses of worship, Cuomo is “sending a message that churches are not safe anywhere,” something he says “just hasn’t been shown to be true.” 

“Can a church or synagogue be a super spreader? Of course, if they aren’t masking and social distancing,” he said. “But with appropriate precautions, the risks are very low and the statistics bear that out.”

With limited exceptions, said Poust, the vast majority of schools and religious congregations have been “exceedingly safe.” 

And while Poust said that there was “much to praise” in how Cuomo has handled the coronavirus outbreak--with ”the exception of the early policy regarding nursing homes”--he thinks it is “important to enforce restrictions appropriately, namely on those who are violating the rules and causing spread.”

“The governor knows exactly which congregations have been problematic. It is a small minority that has been unwilling to follow the rules,” he said. 

Poust said that isolated incidents of rule breaking do not justify broad action against entire religious communities. 

Highlighting criticism by New York state and city officials of some Jewish congregations, he said it is not appropriate to treat the wider Jewish community - or all religious communities - with a broad brush.

“I am confident if it was a Catholic parish violating the law, the state would not have shut down every church, synagogue and mosque in the community. It would have enforced the law against the bad-actor parish,” he said.

Portland archdiocese holds rosary, Eucharistic procession for peace

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 03:18 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon held a Eucharistic procession through the city on Saturday for the intention of peace in the city.

Praying before the exposed Blessed Sacrament during the Oct. 17 event, Archbishop Alexander Sample said: “Mary, your son is the Prince of Peace. Through your intercession, may he bring peace to our cities and our communities, may his peace reign in our hearts.”

The prayers began with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, followed by a procession to the North Park Blocks, where the archbishop led a rosary and performed an exorcism. Archbishop Sample prayed over the city the “Exorcism Against Satan and the Fallen Angels” from the Roman Ritual.

The procession returned to the cathedral, concluding with Benediction and the Angelus.

Ahead of the event, Archbishop Sample said that “There is no better time than in the wake of civil unrest and the eve of the elections to come together in prayer, especially here in Portland. The Catholic Church takes the promotion of unity, and accordingly peace, as belonging to the innermost nature of the Church. For this reason, the Church fosters solidarity among peoples, and calls peoples and nations to sacrifices of advantages of power and wealth for the sake of solidarity of the human family.”

Portland has seen months of street protests, often taking the form of crowds of hundreds of people protesting, ostensibly, against racism, police brutality, and fascism.

Some of the protests have been accompanied by riots and looting. In addition to extensive property damage in the city’s downtown, there have been occasional incidents of violence within or adjacent to the protests, including shootings and stabbings.

Protesters in Portland have at various times fired commercial-grade fireworks at the federal courthouse, and have thrown rocks, cans, water bottles, and potatoes at federal agents, the AP has reported. Police reported that in July, the protesters attempted to burn down the courthouse.

Police have occasionally used tear gas and pepper spray against protesters.

Protesters in the city have toppled statues of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and Harvey W. Scott, an editor of The Oregonian in the late 19th century.

More than 200 people participated in Saturday's Eucharistic procession.

One of the participants, Carolina Ruth Valdez, told The Catholic Sentinel that “what we did contrasts with what has been going on in our city and all this disarray. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. No Jesus, no peace.”

Valdez led the crowd in cheering “Viva Cristo Rey” at the conclusion of the procession.

In July, Archbishop Sample had encouraged Catholics to learn about and study how to respond to the sin of racism, while at the same time condemning the violence accompanying many of the protests in the city for the past two months.

“This all began over the terrible, tragic killing of a man, and initially the outcry against injustice, against racism, was well-placed, and I have been very supportive of the peaceful demonstrations on behalf of justice and against racism,” Archbishop Alexander Sample said in a July 24 video message, referencing the protests sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

“But sadly, that’s not what this is about any more,” he said.

Zimbabwe's bishops encourage return to Mass in new guidelines

Harare, Zimbabwe, Oct 20, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- In a statement announcing directives to guide the expansion of public worship in Zimbabwe last week, the nation’s bishops encouraged the people of God to attend Mass.

“We now discourage live-streaming of Holy Masses and other relevant pastoral programmes except for the spiritual nourishment of the faithful who may be physically impeded in attending Holy Mass,” the members of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in their Oct. 12 statement “The Joy of Coming Together for Public Worship”.

They added that Catholics have “the obligation to attend Holy Mass if there is no major reason to absent oneself”, and emphasized that “physical attendance together is more rewarding than live-streaming.”

Public worship resumed in Zimbabwe in June under a revised guidance that allowed a 50-person congregation after President Emmerson Mnangagwa eased COVID-19 restrictions that had been in place since March.

In September, the number of worshippers was revised upward to 100.

In their Oct. 12 statement, the bishops recalled some of the guidelines issued when public Masses resumed in June, saying, “Holy communion must only be received on the hand... the reception of the blood of Christ by concelebrants and members of the congregation remains suspended.”

“The sign of peace during Mass is also suspended,” the members of the ZCBC added.
The bishops also said that all Church gatherings must be conducted “while adhering to the stipulated numbers given by the government.”

In places of worship where appropriate distancing may not be possible, the faithful must be encouraged to congregate in an open space, the bishops said.

Zimbabwe’s bishops also directed that Confirmations and Ordinations are permissible. Meetings of parish councils, associations, and catechumens have also been allowed at the parish and deanery levels.

However, diocesan meetings and national congresses remain suspended until the situation in the country normalizes.

“We need to be ever conscious of the threat of COVID-19 and take all the necessary precautions, as directed by the local Parish Council, medical personnel, Ministry of Health and WHO,” they said.

The bishops expressed their gratitude to God that “the impact of the pandemic was not as harsh in Zimbabwe as in other parts of the world.”

The country has had 8,159 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 232 deaths.

“We pledge our pastoral closeness and joint prayers through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the victims of COVID-19,” the members of the ZCBC concluded.

Pope Francis: ‘The world has a profound thirst for peace’

Rome, Italy, Oct 20, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis affirmed the signal importance of peace at an interreligious gathering Tuesday on Rome’s Capitoline Hill.

“We need peace. More peace. We cannot remain indifferent. Today the world has a profound thirst for peace. In many countries, people are suffering due to wars which, though often forgotten, are always the cause of suffering and poverty,” Pope Francis said Oct. 20.

“To put an end to war is a solemn duty before God incumbent on all those holding political responsibilities. Peace is the priority of all politics. God will ask an accounting of those who failed to seek peace, or who fomented tensions and conflicts. He will call them to account for all the days, months and years of war endured by the world’s peoples,” the pope said.

Pope Francis was joined by representatives of the world’s major religions in his appeal for peace in the Campidoglio Square, designed by Michelangelo. The Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, and Buddhist representatives each gave speeches, lit a candle in a candelabrum, and signed a scroll containing an “Appeal for Peace.”

Immediately before this interreligious meeting, the pope prayed with other Christian leaders in the neighboring Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli on the Capitoline Hill. 

“From the cross forgiveness poured forth and fraternal love was reborn: the cross makes us brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said in his message at the ecumenical prayer service.

“Let us ask the crucified God to grant us the grace to be more united and more fraternal. When we are tempted to follow the way of this world, may we be reminded of Jesus’ words: ‘Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it,’” he said.

Candles were lit in the basilica as the Christians prayed together for peace in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Somalia, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and the Holy Land. 

Prayer candles were also lit for an end to violence throughout Central America, the persecution of Christians in Burkina Faso, attacks in northern Mozambique, violence in Venezuela, the conflict in Mali, the violence perpetrated by the drug gangs in Mexico, and instability in Lebanon.

The Christian leaders also prayed for an end to tensions in Belarus, on the Korean peninsula, in the Caucasus region, and between India and Pakistan, as well as for the peace agreements signed in Colombia and South Sudan.

Concurrent gatherings to pray for peace were held by Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists, before everyone came together for the interreligious event on the Capitoline Hill.

The theme of the event, organized by the Sant’Egidio lay Catholic community, was “No one is saved alone,” a phrase that comes from Pope Francis’ most recent encyclical, Fratelli tutti. Pope Francis expanded upon this line in his message at an ecumenical prayer in the basilica before the ceremony:

“The closer we become to the Lord Jesus, the more we will be open and ‘universal,’ since we will feel responsible for others. And others will become the means of our own salvation: all others, every human person, whatever his or  her history and beliefs. Beginning with the poor, who are those most like Jesus,” the pope said.

“The great archbishop of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom, once wrote: ‘If there were no poor, the greater part of our salvation would be overthrown,’” Pope Francis added.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Haim Korsia, Chief Rabbi of France, Mohamed Abdelsalam of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, and Zen Buddhist Shoten Minegishi all spoke at the interreligious event. 

In his speech, Abdelsalam, the Muslim General Secretary of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, condemned the recent beheading of a Paris school teacher in an Islamist terror attack.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella and other Italian government authorities were also present at the event.

“Rome and Italy are proud to be once again a crossroads in the dialogue of peace,” Mattarella said.

The Community of Sant’Egidio said that the event was inspired by the first World Day of Prayer for Peace, organized by St. John Paul II in 1986 in Assisi with 160 other religious leaders.

“The Assisi Meeting and its vision of peace contained a prophetic seed that by God’s grace has gradually matured through unprecedented encounters, acts of peacemaking, and fresh initiatives of  fraternity,” Pope Francis told the religious and civil leaders.

“Although the intervening years have witnessed painful events, including conflicts, terrorism and radicalism, at times in the name of religion, we must also acknowledge the fruitful steps undertaken in the dialogue between the religions,” the pope said.

The “Appeal for Peace” signed by each of the religious leaders at the event said: “On this Capitoline Hill, in the wake of the greatest conflict in history, the nations that had been at war made a pact based on a dream of unity that later came true: the dream of a united Europe. Today, in these uncertain times, as we feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that threatens peace by aggravating inequalities and fear, we firmly state that no one can be saved alone: no people, no single individual!”

“Wars and peace, pandemics and health care, hunger and access to food, global warming and sustainable development, the displacement of populations, the elimination of nuclear threats and the reduction of inequalities: these are not matters that concern individual nations alone …

Let us pray to the Most High that, after this time of trial, there may no longer be ‘others,’ but rather, a great ‘we,’ rich in diversity. The time has come to boldly dream  anew that peace is possible, that it is necessary, that a world without war is not utopian. This is why we want to say once more: ‘No more war.’”

Catholic diocese worked with HHS to get priests to COVID patients

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 20, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Arlington helped intervene on behalf of a dying COVID patient when he needed a priest to offer him the sacraments, the Department of Health and Human Services said on Tuesday.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Roger Severino—director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS—announced that the office had resolved two religious discrimination complaints concerning lack of access to Catholic priests at hospitals during the pandemic.

One of the two cases was at Mary Washington Healthcare hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in the Arlington diocese. Family of a COVID-positive patient who was dying requested a Catholic priest to visit and administer the Last Rights, which usually include the sacraments of anointing and confession, and receiving the viaticum, but the hospital allegedly denied the request due to its coronavirus visitation policies.

In August, the Arlington diocese notified the OCR’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division (CRFD), which in turn contacted the hospital.

A priest was allowed inside the hospital to visit the patient before their death, the diocese confirmed to CNA on Tuesday.

“Understanding the many competing interests a hospital must balance, particularly during a pandemic, the ability of a patient to exercise his/her religious freedom at such an important time must remain central, as long as reasonable precautions are taken by the cleric,” a spokesperson for the diocese told CNA in a statement.

“We are pleased the situation ultimately worked out well and now serves as a model to the country.”

Shortly after that, HHS says that the diocese again reached out about another case at the hospital where a Catholic patient in the intensive care unit had just received surgery but was denied access to a priest due to the hospital’s policy of treating the ICU ward as a COVID-positive area, barring outside visitors except in end-of-life cases.  

Severino said on Tuesday that, after his office reached out to the hospital, the hospital updated their policy to allow for clergy visits to COVID-positive patients in end-of-life situations, so long as clergy wear proper equipment and undergo infection control training.

If the urgency of a situation precludes the training, then clergy can still visit the patient but must self-quarantine for 14 days afterward. Clergy can visit non-COVID units upon request “at any reasonable time,” HHS said.

“As we work as hard as we can to save as many lives as possible, we must not forget what many people live for,” Severino said of faith and religious practice. “You can safely treat the patient without neglecting the whole patient—that’s mind, body, and soul.”

The resolution was a “reasonable balancing” of the “urgency of the situation” with the advice of infectious disease specialists, Severino said.

In another case in Maryland, a mother who gave birth at Southern Maryland Hospital tested positive for coronavirus and was separated from her newborn baby, per the hospital’s policy. She asked for a Catholic priest to baptize the child, but the hospital denied her request due to its visitor policy during the pandemic.

Guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that the mother and doctor should decide the question of her separation from her child if she tests positive for the coronavirus or is suspected of having it.

HHS also intervened in that case, and the MedStar Health System produced a new policy for its ten hospitals. Under the new policy, patients in both COVID-positive and non-COVID units can request a clerical visit so long as it “does not disrupt care.”

In a second case in Maryland, the University of Maryland Medical System adjusted its clergy-visitation policies this summer after the OCR reached out; a Catholic woman had requested a priest to give the sacraments to her critically-injured husband at Prince George’s Hospital Center, but was denied because he was not at the point of death.

The resolution announced Tuesday “balances the safety of patients with the right of patients to have clergy visitation, even during a pandemic,” Severino said.

Due to the contagious and deadly nature of the virus, some hospitals have set up strict visitor policies during the pandemic that have included even family members not being able to visit their loved ones in intensive care units or wards where COVID-positive patients were being cared for.

The HHS OCR helped resolve another case in Connecticut of a woman with aphasia being able to have her advocate inside the hospital while she was being treated.  

“We’ve heard too many heart-wrenching stories of people literally dying alone during this crisis,” Severino said in June.

In an HHS March bulletin, OCR instructed hospitals and other health care providers to respect “requests for religious accommodations in treatment and access to clergy or faith practices as practicable.”

Pope Francis appoints bishop in US as administrator of Canadian eparchy

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed a New Jersey-based bishop as the administrator of a Canadian eparchy Tuesday.

The Holy See press office announced Oct. 20 that the pope had named Bishop Kurt Burnette as the apostolic administrator of the Slovak Catholic Eparchy of Ss. Cyril and Methodius of Toronto. 

The pope made the appointment after accepting the resignation of Bishop Marián Andrej Pacák, who had overseen the eparchy since 2018.

Pacák, 47, was the third bishop of the eparchy for Byzantine-rite Eastern Catholics of Slovak origin in Canada since it was founded in 1980.

The Vatican did not give a reason for the resignation of the bishop, who was born in present-day Slovakia in 1973 and is a member of the Redemptorist order.

Burnette, 64, will administer the eparchy while continuing to serve as the bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, located in Woodland Park, New Jersey.

He was enthroned in 2013 as the fifth bishop of the eparchy which was established in 1963 and serves an estimated 14,000 Ruthenian Catholics along the Atlantic coast of the U.S.

He was born in Fakenham, a market town in Norfolk, England, in 1955. He was ordained a priest for the Ruthenian Eparchy of Van Nuys in 1989.

Burnette received a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome in 2007, and holds doctorates in civil law and mathematics, according to a biography on the website of the New Jersey Catholic Conference.

He has served on the tribunals of the dioceses of Phoenix, Las Vegas, Gallup, and Santa Fe. He was appointed rector of the Byzantine Seminary of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh in 2012, a post he held until his appointment as bishop.

The Slovak Catholic Eparchy of Ss. Cyril and Methodius of Toronto is part of the Slovak Greek Catholic Church, one of the 23 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. But it is immediately subject to the Holy See, rather than being a suffragan see.

The eparchy remained a vacant see between 2016 and 2018 after Pope Francis named Bishop John Stephen Pažak as the eparch of the Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Protection of Mary, based in Phoenix, Arizona. Pažak remained apostolic administrator of the Canadian eparchy until Pacák was appointed on July 5, 2018.

Supreme Court takes case against 'Remain in Mexico' asylum policy

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, under which some asylum applicants have to wait outside the United States while their applications are considered. The policy is opposed by the U.S. bishops’ conference.

On Monday, the court agreed to hear the case of Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab, a challenge to the administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, implemented in January of 2019. The policy requires non-Mexican immigrants seeking asylum at the San Ysidro border crossing to remain in Mexico while their cases were processed by an immigration judge.

The “Remain in Mexico” policy has since been expanded to include entries across the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

Asylum seekers receive a notice to appear in immigration court and may re-enter the U.S. for that court date; to stay in the U.S., they must prove a fear of persecution or torture in Mexico.

The policy does not apply to all asylum-seekers: unaccompanied minors and those with known physical or mental health problems are exempt, among others.

The chair of the U.S. bishops’ immigration committee has opposed the policy, along with the president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS); in a joint statement in May of 2019, Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, and Sean Callahan of CRS said the policy “needlessly increases the suffering of the most vulnerable and violates international protocols.”

Both a federal district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the federal government in the case, with the Ninth Circuit noting that the Department of Homeland Security drafted the rule “without notice-and-comment rulemaking.”

The court also ruled that the plaintiffs bringing the lawsuit had a “likelihood of success” in their claim that the policy is “inconsistent” with immigration law.

Bishop Vasquez and Callahan stated in 2019 that the “recent efforts to curtail and deter the right” to seek asylum were “deeply troubling.”

“We must look beyond our borders; families are escaping extreme violence and poverty at home and are fleeing for their lives,” they stated.

The court on Monday also agreed to take up a border wall case brought by the Sierra Club; the Ninth Circuit court ruled against the Trump administration’s diversion of Department of Defense funds to go for construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

In February of 2019, Congress reached a compromise on a spending bill that appropriated more than $1 billion for the border wall but included a clause prohibiting any construction on certain sites near the border—a protection that included the historic La Lomita Chapel owned by the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas.

However, President Trump then declared a national emergency to divert more Defense funds toward the construction of a wall, funds that were technically not subject to the clause enacted by Congress protecting certain properties. In February of 2020, he extended the emergency declaration for another year.

Catholics in the diocese and at the USCCB have been concerned that the chapel could be demolished or cut off if its property was used for the border wall construction.

The USCCB also opposed that executive action by President Trump in February of 2019, saying that it “circumvents the clear intent of Congress to limit funding of a wall.”

“The wall first and foremost is a symbol of division and animosity between two friendly countries,” they stated. “We remain steadfast and resolute in the vision articulated by Pope Francis that at this time we need to be building bridges and not walls.”