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Attacks against India's Christians doubled in 2017

New Delhi, India, Feb 21, 2018 / 12:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Compared to 2016, attacks against Christians in India by Hindu extremists more than doubled in 2017 amid efforts to label the religious minority a danger to the state.

The persecution ranges from threats and physical violence to destruction of church property, but false allegations against Christians have also increased.

"It is a new trend to accuse Christians of serious crimes," said Shibu Thomas, founder of the ecumenical forum Persecution Relief.

The allegations are "a clear indicat[ion] that those opposed to Christians want to portray them as serious threats to the nation's safety and security," he told UCA News.

According to a report from Persecution Relief, last year 736 incidents of attacks occurred throughout India compared to the 348 that happened in 2016. Most of these are "daring physical attacks," the report said, but the victims of these attacks were also accused of sedition, discrimination, and destruction of religious property.

"When victims reach for police help, they find themselves accused of violations. … This is a dangerous sign. Unfortunately, the police are in league with fanatics and elects members support their actions," Thomas said.

Attacks against Christians have increased since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won the general election in 2014, naming Narendra Modi as prime minister.

The party has now the largest representation in the country's parliament. A majority of the attacks stem from four of India's 29 states - Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Chhattisgarh - three of which are governed by the BJP.

"Christians are not safe anymore in India under the current situation," said Anil Andrias, who leads a protestant congregation in Uttar Pradesh.

Andrias told UCA News that the persecution against Christians could be physical attacks and false allegations, but he also said Christians have been denied government services, such as collecting public water or using public roads.

Christians make up 2.3 percent of India's population, with 80 percent identifying as Hindu.

Bishops praise Christian witness of evangelist Billy Graham

Charlotte, N.C., Feb 21, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The evangelist Billy Graham died Wednesday at his home in Montreat, N.C., his family has announced. He was 99.

Born in Charlotte, N.C., Graham was ordained a Southern Baptist minister in 1939. During his work in ministry, he wrote more than 30 books and conducted the annual Billy Graham Crusades until his retirement from active ministry in 2005. His last book, Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond the Now, was published in 2015.

During his time in ministry, Graham insisted that his crusades and rallies be racially integrated, and was friends with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1981, Graham first met with St. John Paul II, who said that the two were “brothers.” They would meet again several times. When John Paul II died in 2005, Graham said he believed that the Pope had been “the most influential voice for morality and peace in the world during the last 100 years,” and praised his “strong Catholic faith” and perseverance through his illnesses.

Prominent Catholics reacted with sadness to Graham’s death, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. In a statement on the archdiocesan website, Dolan wrote that while his family was Catholic, there was a level of respect for Graham’s work in bringing people to Christ.

“There was no question that the Dolans were a Catholic family, firm in our faith, but in our household there was always respect and admiration for Billy Graham and the work he was doing to bring people to God,” said Dolan.

“As an historian, my admiration for him only grew as I studied our nation’s religious past, and came to appreciate even more the tremendous role he played in the American evangelical movement.  May the Lord that Billy Graham loved so passionately now grant him eternal rest."

Dolan’s sentiment was echoed by Catholic Herald editor Damian Thompson, who praised Graham’s evolution on Catholicism. Thompson called Graham a “fine man, a powerful force for good.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Billy Graham started out as an typical evangelical anti-Catholic and ended up acclaiming St John Paul II as the world’s greatest witness to Christianity. A fine man, a powerful force for good: rest in peace.</p>&mdash; Damian Thompson (@holysmoke) <a href="https://twitter.com/holysmoke/status/966317143523495936?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 21, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered condolences to the Graham family and said that he was praying for the repose of his soul. DiNardo praised Graham for his work spreading the gospel around the country, and said he was thankful for his ministry.

“His faith and integrity invited countless thousands around the world into a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for the ministry of Billy Graham,” said DiNardo.

Dr. Robert George, a professor at Princeton University and a former chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, compared Graham to St. John Paul II and other religious figures, saying that while he was “firmly rooted” in his denomination, Graham was able to reach all people.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Billy Graham was like John Paul II, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He was firmly rooted in a particular tradition of faith, yet somehow spoke to--and in a sense belonged to--all of us.</p>&mdash; Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) <a href="https://twitter.com/McCormickProf/status/966320319681187841?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 21, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Archbishop Scicluna hospitalized in Chile amid abuse investigation

Santiago, Chile, Feb 21, 2018 / 10:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who is currently in Chile investigating allegations of abuse cover-up by a local bishop, was hospitalized Wednesday and underwent gallbladder surgery, though he is expected to make a full recovery.

The Archdiocese of Malta announced the news in a brief statement Feb. 21, saying Scicluna was admitted to the San Carlos de Apoquindo Hospital in Santiago.

According to the Chilean bishops’ conference, Scicluna had been experiencing pain since last week. The spokesman, Deacon Jaime Coiro, said the archbishop has come out of surgery and is in stable condition. His recovery time in hospital is expected to take between two and three days.

Scicluna arrived in Santiago Feb. 19 to interview victims of sexual abuse and those opposed to the 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros as Bishop of Osorno, whom they say covered up the crimes of his longtime friend Fr. Fernando Karadima, who in 2011 was found guilty of sexually abusing minors and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude.

In addition to heading the Diocese of Malta, Scicluna in 2015 was named by the Pope to oversee the doctrinal team charged with handling appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He served as the congregation’s Promoter of Justice for 17 years, beginning in 1995, and is widely known for his expertise in the canonical norms governing allegations of sexual abuse.

Prior to arriving in Santiago, Scicluna stopped in New York to interview Juan Carlos Cruz, one of Karadima's most high-profile victims and one of Barros' most vocal opponents.

Barros’ appointment to Osorno was met with harsh criticism and continues to be a source of contention for activists and abuse victims who accuse the bishop of covering up the crimes of Karadima.

Barros has repeatedly insisted that he knew nothing of the abuse, and Pope Francis has backed him, saying during a visit to Chile last month that accusations against the bishop were “calumny,” as he has received no evidence backing the allegations and no victims had come forward.

However, shortly after returning from his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, the Vatican announced that Francis had named Scicluna as his envoy to interview several witnesses who came forward claiming to have evidence of the cover-up.

The case then took another complicated turn when Cruz made a statement in an interview with the Associated Press saying he had sent the Pope an eight-page letter in April 2015 claiming that Barros had not only witnessed Karadima's abuse, but had at times participated.

He had given the letter to four members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, who in turn handed it to the head of the commission Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who was to deliver it to the Pope.

News of the letter and the Pope's statement in Chile that no victims had come forward raised questions as to whether or not Francis had received the letter, or whether he read it if it did in fact reach his desk.

After leaving Malta Feb. 15 to meet with Cruz in person in New York, Scicluna then went to Santiago Feb. 19 to interview more witnesses related to the Barros case. He is scheduled to return to Malta Feb. 25.

According to the Chilean bishops’ conference, Scicluna's surgery has not impacted the investigation, and the interviews “will continue as planned,” being carried out instead by Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, an official from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who accompanied Scicluna as notary for the case. In turn, another priest traveling with two has been asked to act as notary.

In their statement, the Chilean bishops’ conference voiced their hope that Scicluna will have a “quick recovery.” The archbishop, they noted, voiced his desire to meet with some of the witnesses as soon as he is able.

British judge allows toddler's life support switched off, despite parents' wishes

Liverpool, England, Feb 20, 2018 / 04:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A British court ruled Tuesday that physicians can stop providing life support, against his parents' wishes, to Alfie Evans, a 21-month old boy who has an unknown neurological degenerative condition.

Evans is in a “semi-vegetative state” and on life support at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, where doctors have said further efforts are futile and went to court to argue that continuing treatment, as his parents wish, is not in Evans' best interest.

Justice Anthony Hayden of the High Court ruled Feb. 20 that “Alfie's need now is for good quality palliative care … He requires peace, quiet, and stability, so that he may conclude his life as he has lived it.”

“I am satisfied that continued ventilatory support is no longer in Alfie’s interests. This decision I appreciate will be devastating news to Alfie’s parents. I hope they will take time to read this judgement again.”

Alder Hey Children's Hospital has said it always tries to agree with patients on plans for care: “Our aim is always to try and reach an agreement with parents about the most appropriate care plan for their child. Unfortunately there are sometimes rare situations such as this where agreement cannot be reached and the treating team believe that continued active treatment is not in a child's best interests.”

The hospital may withdraw Evans' ventilation on Friday.

Alfie's parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, are considering appealing the decision.

His doctors have described his condition as untreatable, but his parents are requesting their son’s transfer to the Vatican-linked Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in Rome for further diagnosis and possible treatment.

Evans' case echoes that of Charlie Gard, a terminally ill English infant who died in July 2017 after being taken off life support against his parents' wishes. Gard was 11 months old, and had been at the center of a months-long legal debate regarding parental rights and human life.

Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital treating Gard also went to court to take him off of life support, saying his parent's decision to maintain treatment was not in his interest.

Though Gard's parents raised more than $1.6 million for his treatment and had offers from hospitals in Europe and the US to give him experimental treatments, a High Court judge ordered that he be taken off life support.

Discussing Gard's situation with CNA in June 2017, Dr. Melissa Moschella, a Catholic University of America philosophy professor, said: “It seems to me completely wrongheaded that the state should be stepping in here when the decision that the parents are making is really aimed at the best interests of the child.”

“It’s not crazy, it’s not abusive, it’s not neglectful. It’s the decision of parents who want to, however they can, to give their very sick child a chance for life.”

She said such a decision “should be completely within the prerogative of the parent,” citing the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to Moschella, that declaration “clearly indicates that the parents, not the state will have primarily responsibility.”

Recent polls encourage Ireland's pro-life advocates

Dublin, Ireland, Feb 20, 2018 / 02:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Republic of Ireland prepares to vote in a referendum that could liberalize the country’s abortion laws, a recent poll has shown dwindling support for a change in the constitution.

According to a recent Sunday Times Behavior and Attitudes poll, support for abortions past three-months gestation fell to 43 percent from 51 percent, while opposition to changing the country’s abortion laws rose to 35 percent from 27 percent.

“These new figures represent a notional 16 percent swing towards opposition in a two-week period,” Niamh Ui Bhriain, a spokesman for the pro-life campaign Savethe8th, said in a recent statement.

“This tallies with the experience of our campaign, which has been that the more people find out about the government’s extreme proposal, the more they reject it,” Ui Bhriain continued.

Ui Bhriain voiced her hope in the new numbers, but also noted that “all polls should be taken with a grain of salt.”

The proposed bill would repeal the country’s eighth amendment, which recognizes the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child. Under current law, the practice of abortion in Ireland is illegal, unless the mother’s health is endangered.

The eighth amendment was passed in Ireland in 1983, with upwards of 67 percent voter-approval. It reads, in part, “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

The new legislation is seeking to repeal the amendment, which would allow unrestricted access to abortion for the first three months of pregnancy.

Advocates of the referendum are also noticing the drop in support for the proposed law. Regina Doherty, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, said there is a lot of “work to be done” if they are to repeal the eighth amendment.  

“Standing right now, if nobody does anything, I don’t think this referendum will pass,” Doherty said, according to the Irish Examiner.

Health Minister Simon Harris said in a Tweet that they were in for “a busy few weeks ahead on an extremely important issue.”  

Some reports have noted conflicting viewpoints among cabinet members, causing confusion in the discussion surrounding the amendment. However, Doherty denounced the speculation, saying,  “I don’t think there is anybody creating problems or muddying the waters.”

The BBC reported that the Irish cabinet is set to release a final text of the referendum bill March 6.

The proposal will be brought to the people, who will vote on whether a “provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancies.” The formal referendum will take place in May.

In an effort to fight against the referendum, Savethe8th will be hosting a rally March 10 at the Dublin City Center at 2:00 PM. This gathering will be the last major pro-life rally in an effort to “keep Ireland a safe place for mothers and babies,” before the referendum vote in the spring.

“If this referendum is passed, there will be no constitutional protection for the unborn child at any stage of pregnancy,” said Ui Bhriain.

“We will campaign will all of our strength to defeat it, and we are going to win.”