Catholic universities study how to respond to migrant, refugee crisis

Vatican City, Nov 3, 2017 / 02:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This week, representatives from Catholic universities around the world are gathered in Rome to study how higher education can better respond to the global migrant and refugee crisis, particularly when it comes to research. Catholic universities have a lot of potential, and “it was thought that if this potential was put at the service of one of the principal concerns of the Holy Father, migrants and refugees, we can really make a change, make a difference in respect to what was done before,” Fr. Fabio Baggio told CNA. One of two undersecretaries for the migrants and refugees section of the Vatican dicastery for Integral Human Development, Baggio spoke ahead of a conference organized by Catholic universities around the world, titled “Migrants and Refugees in a Globalized World: the Response of Universities.” Happening in Rome Nov. 1-4, the conference is organized by the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) in partnership with the Being the Blessing Foundation, the Pontifical Gregorian University, and the Center for Interreligious Understanding. In his comments to CNA, Baggio said as soon as the dicastery heard about the initiative, they offered their support, and are hopeful that “the good practices that some universities already have can be applied, multiplied and that many others can do it.” Baggio also voiced his hope that the universities would be able to build a stronger network in order to both share resources among the wealthier universities and those with less funding, and to share best practices. Key goals for the conference include garnering a better understanding of the reality of the global migrant and refugee crisis, studying the different approaches to teaching university students about the issue, and exploring various ways to respond to the need for higher education of those living in refugee camps. Various representatives from Catholic universities throughout the world are speaking on the issue from their local perspectives, and exchanging ideas on how to conduct better research in order to come up with concrete action points when responding to the educational needs of migrants. The topic of migrants and refugees has been among the leading issues of Pope Francis’ pontificate. Not only does he address it in many of his speeches, but he has chosen to directly oversee the migrant and refugee section of the dicastery for Integral Human Development. Fr. Baggio technically works under dicastery president Cardinal Peter Turkson. However, he reports directly to the Pope on the topic of migrants and refugees. He said Francis has been very clear about the issue from the beginning. “The Holy Father was very clear the first time he spoke about this in Strasbourg (and) he was very clear when he received the Charlemagne Prize here in Rome, where he said that Europe must rediscover its roots, cultural roots and the roots of civilization,” he said. “The moment in which we abdicate that which we built as a civilization, is the moment when we completely annul everything, we are resigned,” he said, explaining that in Europe, “we are in the cradle of law and the cradle of human rights and the cradle of dignity.” “So I say that in this sense it’s a great invitation for Europe to rediscover her own roots, and to go forward with a great project of unity for all peoples, not being afraid of losing one’s own identity, but on the contrary, to be enriched with the wealth that others bring.” Pope Francis will be meeting with conference participants Saturday, Sept. 4, to close out the event, to discuss what he believes universities can and should be doing when it comes to the migrant and refugee crisis.   Read more

In latest prayer video, Pope shines light on challenges in Asia

Vatican City, Nov 3, 2017 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his prayer video for November Pope Francis prays for the Church in Asia, that despite challenges it may continue to be a source of peace and dialogue between religions. “On this continent, where the Church is a minority, the challenges are intense,” the Pope says in the video. “Let us pray that Christians in Asia may promote dialogue, peace, and mutual understanding especially with those of other religions.” Released Nov. 3, the video shows people of different religions and countries from throughout Asia. It also shows scenes of life in Asia, including the celebration of Mass. “The most striking feature of Asia is the variety of its peoples who are heirs to ancient cultures, religions and traditions,” the Pope says. Because of this variety, dialogue becomes an “essential part of the mission of the Church” in Asian countries, he pointed out. The Pope’s prayer for Asia comes just a few weeks ahead of his Nov. 27 – Dec. 2 pastoral visit to Burma and Bangladesh. The Catholic population in both countries is very small. In Bangladesh less than three percent of the population is Catholic, and in Burma it’s less than one percent. In addition to being a minority religion in itself, the Church in these countries is also made up of people from a variety of ethnic minority backgrounds as well. His visit is expected to focus on peace and coexistence, especially amid persecution of minorities. An initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer, the Pope’s prayer videos are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center and mark the first time the Roman Pontiff’s monthly prayer intentions have been featured on video. The Apostleship of Prayer, which produces the monthly videos on the Pope’s intentions, was founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884 to encourage Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church. Since the late 1800s, the organization has received a monthly, universal intention from the Pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by the Holy Father, aimed at the faithful in particular. Read more

Georgetown students’ commission votes not to sanction pro-marriage group

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2017 / 10:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Georgetown University’s Student Activities Commission voted Friday to maintain university funding for Love Saxa, a pro-marriage student group that had been accused by fellow students of promoting intolerance and hate. The activities commission’s Nov. 3 vote regarding Love Saxa was in response to a petition filed by a student-senator in the Georgetown University Student Association, and supported by leaders of gay pride student organizations at Georgetown. They voted 8-4 to reject the argument levied by students Chad Gasman and Jasmin Ouseph that Love Saxa had violated standards that student organizations are ineligible for recognition and benefits “if their purpose or activities … foster hatred or intolerance of others because of their race, nationality, gender, religion, or sexual preferences.” “Love Saxa is one of many groups operating on campus with positions that affirm the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Georgetown’s senior director for strategic communications, Rachel Pugh, told student newspaper The Hoya. “Through [SAC], the University supports more than 100 co-curricular student organizations with access to benefits, including Love Saxa. We strongly support a climate that continues to provide students with new and deeper contexts for engaging with our Catholic tradition and identity.” Members of the activities commission deliberated for several hours on Thursday night and into Friday morning following a hearing on Monday into the allegations of Love Saxa’s intolerance. The vote is not binding, and is a recommendation to the university’s director of student engagement. It can be appealed, and Ouseph and Gasman have said they intend to do so. As a recognized student group, Love Saxa receives $250 annually in funding from the university and has access to classrooms for events. In a Sept. 6 column in The Hoya, Love Saxa’s president, Amelia Irvine, wrote that “we believe that marriage is a conjugal union on every level – emotional, spiritual, physical and mental – directed toward caring for biological children. To us, marriage is much more than commitment of love between two consenting adults.” Leaders of gay pride student organizations at Georgetown denounced this language as homophobic, and claimed it violated university standards. Fr. James Martin, SJ, a prominent advocate of dialogue with and acceptance of LBGT groups by the Church, told CNA last month that he supports the right of Love Saxa to promote its views at Georgetown. “Why should a student group that espouses Catholic teaching respectfully be defunded by a Catholic university? As long as Love Saxa treats LGBT people (both on campus and off campus) with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity,’ as the Catechism requires, then they should be able to have their say on campus,” he said. Robert George, a professor of constitutional law at Princeton University, said the effort to defund Love Saxa “ought to be a matter of grave concern for honorable people across the ideological spectrum.” Georgetown is a Catholic university in Washington, D.C., founded by the Society of Jesus in 1789.   Read more

Hope after the Horror: Reflections on a massacre of Baghdadi Christians

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- This Halloween marks the seventh anniversary of when my parents’ church in Baghdad was held hostage by the Islamic State in Iraq, a little known group at the time. After a few tense hours, the Iraqi army moved in to try and save the hostages held up in the Syriac Catholic Our Lady of Deliverance Cathedral located in the heart of Baghdad. The standoff led to the death of 58 worshipers, including three priests, children, and a baby who was beheaded on the altar. 78 worshipers were severely wounded or maimed, losing legs, arms and requiring months of operations to remove shrapnel or heal other injuries. For many Iraqi Christians, this massacre answered the question that many had asked themselves throughout the almost 10 years of bloody sectarian civil war that engulfed Iraq: “Are we still welcome in this country anymore?” Sadly, many could no longer look at their children and promise them a good future while they remained in Iraq. In the ensuing few months, a mass exodus of Christians from Baghdad started which brought down the population of Christians from 20 percent to only several thousand. My parents, having witnessed on TV the horror that befell Iraq with the onset of the civil war, lost hope for any future for Christians in Iraq, because while the Shia had Iran and the Sunnis had the Gulf and Turkey, nobody was willing to stick up for the Christians. They watched as their ancestral city of Mosul saw a growth in Salafi activity and mourned as Christians, Yezidis, Shabaks and Mandeans were ethnically cleansed from the city. With the onset of the war in Syria, more reports of Christians being killed, tortured and taken as slaves on account of their faith came to the forefront and painted a dark picture for the future of Christianity in the region. Exploding out of the Syrian crisis, ISIS burst onto the stage in Iraq and put one-third of the country under its control. During their blitzkrieg in the northern part of the country, ISIS attempted to wipe out all followers of the ancient Yezidi faith historically concentrated in the Sinjar region of the Nineveh Province. However, they did not stop there, and moved to destroy the ancient Christian heartland of Iraq found in the Nineveh Plains region northeast of the city of Mosul. Over 100,000 Christians fled overnight as ISIS swarmed in and killed dozens of people and took many others as sex slaves. The dead included my mother’s elderly nanny, Naeema, who had raised her and her brothers since they were children. Naeema taught my mom how to pray, tucked her in to bed every night and greeted her with coffee and freshly ironed cloths every day. Her death made them feel powerless and numb with pain as she was thrown into an unmarked grave and forgotten. My parents’ Muslim neighbors mourned the destruction brought upon their Christian brothers and sisters, but despite their goodwill, they were powerless to do anything. The ISIS invasion of Mosul brought more pain to my family, as my grandfather’s grave was likely destroyed along with hundreds of others as ISIS tried to destroy as much of Mosul’s Christian history as they could. The monastery of Saint Behnam and his sister Sarah that my grandfather was named after was blown up and recorded in a spectacular video. My family mourned the destruction of so much of what was near and dear to them and became distressed as depressing updates continued to come out of Iraq. Hundreds of Christian properties in Mosul were ruined or given to ISIS fighters. These homes had belonged to these families for generations, and losing them was tantamount to losing their entire history and several lifetimes of work. In my current capacity as a Special Assistant for the non-profit In Defense of Christians, I was lucky to be given the opportunity to help an organization prepare for their annual summit. IDC’s summit focuses on a cause I care about deeply: the plight of Christian minorities in the Middle East. This year, IDC decided to focus on a five-point policy agenda which works to stabilize Lebanon and Syria, deliver desperately needed aid to victims of genocide in Iraq and Syria, correct a historic injustice by recognizing the Armenian genocide, hold American allies who persecute Christians and other minorities accountable and identify individuals or groups who supported ISIS’ campaign of terror and genocide against Christians. As the fate of the Christian communities in the Middle East hangs in the balance, this sort of work is imperative to preserve the existence of an ancient community from going extinct. One of the most exciting aspects of the summit was having the Vice President of the United States Mike Pence come and deliver the keynote address at our annual Solidarity Dinner. In the lead up to the dinner, the air was crackling with excitement as we were all waiting for the Vice President to take to stage and deliver remarks. When he arrived, the dinner attendees clapped then quickly turned quiet as they waited to hear what he would say. It was almost inconceivable that somebody of this stature would be addressing a crowd of people passionate about the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. During his keynote address, the Vice President noted that “In Iraq, the followers of Christ have fallen by 80 percent in the past decade and a half…but tonight, I came to tell you: Help is on the way.” I had to wipe away the tears that last phrase brought to my eyes. It seemed too good to be true that after all of these years of hardship Iraqi Christians have suffered that the Vice President of the United States would stand there and announce that help was coming for a people the international community had done nothing for in the past 14 years. The Vice President held no punches in his speech and cut through over careful dancing around of words to state that “Christianity is under unprecedented assault in those ancient lands where it first grew.” In a moving moment for many in the room, Vice President Pence noted that “In the mountains of Syria, the valleys of Lebanon, on the plains of Nineveh, the plateaus of Armenia, on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, the delta of the Nile, the fathers and mothers of our faith planted seeds of belief. They’ve blossomed and borne fruit ever since.” Acknowledging the ancient roots of Christianity in the region and invoking the names of the areas where they still exist today moved not just me, as almost all Middle Eastern attendees I spoke with afterwards mentioned the use of this imagery. As somebody who has been tracking and writing about the reconstruction efforts of Christian villages on the Nineveh Plains, my anxiety over the massive reconstruction challenges were eased over almost instantaneously by the Vice President’s announcement that the US would work with faith-based groups and private organizations through USAID to help genocide victims. This one action has the ability to remove the most pressing issue facing Christians who want to return to their homes and not immigrate to Europe: rebuilding their homes targeted for destruction by ISIS.   Returning home much later that night, I called my mother and woke her up to tell her the news. She could not believe me when I told her that Mike Pence had spoken about our community’s issues and worked to ensure they would be able to rebuild their homes. When I told her that he remarked that “In Iraq, we see monasteries demolished, priests and monks beheaded, the two-millennia-old Christian tradition in Mosul clinging for survival,” neither could she nor my father restrain their tears of joy. The fact that he mentioned the plight of oft-forgotten Mosulawi Christians and alluded to the destruction of the Mar Behnam monastery brought out a happiness in them that they had long contained. That happiness came from regaining a sense of hope again. For the first time, it seemed like somebody had finally responded to our pleas of help at the 11th hour and acknowledged our pain. For the first time in seven years, my family and I slept peacefully on Halloween.  Yousif Kalian is an analyst who focuses on Iraq, Syria, Kurdish issues and religious minorities. He currently works for In Defense of Christians, and was previously a Research Assistant at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He has been published in the American Interest, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism and elsewhere. Read more

Hope after the Horror: Reflections on a massacre of Baghdadi Christians

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- This Halloween marks the seventh anniversary of when my parents’ church in Baghdad was held hostage by the Islamic State in Iraq, a little known group at the time. After a few tense hours, the Iraqi army moved in to try and save the hostages held up in the Syriac Catholic Our Lady of Deliverance Cathedral located in the heart of Baghdad. The standoff led to the death of 58 worshipers, including three priests, children, and a baby who was beheaded on the altar. 78 worshipers were severely wounded or maimed, losing legs, arms and requiring months of operations to remove shrapnel or heal other injuries. For many Iraqi Christians, this massacre answered the question that many had asked themselves throughout the almost 10 years of bloody sectarian civil war that engulfed Iraq: “Are we still welcome in this country anymore?” Sadly, many could no longer look at their children and promise them a good future while they remained in Iraq. In the ensuing few months, a mass exodus of Christians from Baghdad started which brought down the population of Christians from 20 percent to only several thousand. My parents, having witnessed on TV the horror that befell Iraq with the onset of the civil war, lost hope for any future for Christians in Iraq, because while the Shia had Iran and the Sunnis had the Gulf and Turkey, nobody was willing to stick up for the Christians. They watched as their ancestral city of Mosul saw a growth in Salafi activity and mourned as Christians, Yezidis, Shabaks and Mandeans were ethnically cleansed from the city. With the onset of the war in Syria, more reports of Christians being killed, tortured and taken as slaves on account of their faith came to the forefront and painted a dark picture for the future of Christianity in the region. Exploding out of the Syrian crisis, ISIS burst onto the stage in Iraq and put one-third of the country under its control. During their blitzkrieg in the northern part of the country, ISIS attempted to wipe out all followers of the ancient Yezidi faith historically concentrated in the Sinjar region of the Nineveh Province. However, they did not stop there, and moved to destroy the ancient Christian heartland of Iraq found in the Nineveh Plains region northeast of the city of Mosul. Over 100,000 Christians fled overnight as ISIS swarmed in and killed dozens of people and took many others as sex slaves. The dead included my mother’s elderly nanny, Naeema, who had raised her and her brothers since they were children. Naeema taught my mom how to pray, tucked her in to bed every night and greeted her with coffee and freshly ironed cloths every day. Her death made them feel powerless and numb with pain as she was thrown into an unmarked grave and forgotten. My parents’ Muslim neighbors mourned the destruction brought upon their Christian brothers and sisters, but despite their goodwill, they were powerless to do anything. The ISIS invasion of Mosul brought more pain to my family, as my grandfather’s grave was likely destroyed along with hundreds of others as ISIS tried to destroy as much of Mosul’s Christian history as they could. The monastery of Saint Behnam and his sister Sarah that my grandfather was named after was blown up and recorded in a spectacular video. My family mourned the destruction of so much of what was near and dear to them and became distressed as depressing updates continued to come out of Iraq. Hundreds of Christian properties in Mosul were ruined or given to ISIS fighters. These homes had belonged to these families for generations, and losing them was tantamount to losing their entire history and several lifetimes of work. In my current capacity as a Special Assistant for the non-profit In Defense of Christians, I was lucky to be given the opportunity to help an organization prepare for their annual summit. IDC’s summit focuses on a cause I care about deeply: the plight of Christian minorities in the Middle East. This year, IDC decided to focus on a five-point policy agenda which works to stabilize Lebanon and Syria, deliver desperately needed aid to victims of genocide in Iraq and Syria, correct a historic injustice by recognizing the Armenian genocide, hold American allies who persecute Christians and other minorities accountable and identify individuals or groups who supported ISIS’ campaign of terror and genocide against Christians. As the fate of the Christian communities in the Middle East hangs in the balance, this sort of work is imperative to preserve the existence of an ancient community from going extinct. One of the most exciting aspects of the summit was having the Vice President of the United States Mike Pence come and deliver the keynote address at our annual Solidarity Dinner. In the lead up to the dinner, the air was crackling with excitement as we were all waiting for the Vice President to take to stage and deliver remarks. When he arrived, the dinner attendees clapped then quickly turned quiet as they waited to hear what he would say. It was almost inconceivable that somebody of this stature would be addressing a crowd of people passionate about the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. During his keynote address, the Vice President noted that “In Iraq, the followers of Christ have fallen by 80 percent in the past decade and a half…but tonight, I came to tell you: Help is on the way.” I had to wipe away the tears that last phrase brought to my eyes. It seemed too good to be true that after all of these years of hardship Iraqi Christians have suffered that the Vice President of the United States would stand there and announce that help was coming for a people the international community had done nothing for in the past 14 years. The Vice President held no punches in his speech and cut through over careful dancing around of words to state that “Christianity is under unprecedented assault in those ancient lands where it first grew.” In a moving moment for many in the room, Vice President Pence noted that “In the mountains of Syria, the valleys of Lebanon, on the plains of Nineveh, the plateaus of Armenia, on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, the delta of the Nile, the fathers and mothers of our faith planted seeds of belief. They’ve blossomed and borne fruit ever since.” Acknowledging the ancient roots of Christianity in the region and invoking the names of the areas where they still exist today moved not just me, as almost all Middle Eastern attendees I spoke with afterwards mentioned the use of this imagery. As somebody who has been tracking and writing about the reconstruction efforts of Christian villages on the Nineveh Plains, my anxiety over the massive reconstruction challenges were eased over almost instantaneously by the Vice President’s announcement that the US would work with faith-based groups and private organizations through USAID to help genocide victims. This one action has the ability to remove the most pressing issue facing Christians who want to return to their homes and not immigrate to Europe: rebuilding their homes targeted for destruction by ISIS.   Returning home much later that night, I called my mother and woke her up to tell her the news. She could not believe me when I told her that Mike Pence had spoken about our community’s issues and worked to ensure they would be able to rebuild their homes. When I told her that he remarked that “In Iraq, we see monasteries demolished, priests and monks beheaded, the two-millennia-old Christian tradition in Mosul clinging for survival,” neither could she nor my father restrain their tears of joy. The fact that he mentioned the plight of oft-forgotten Mosulawi Christians and alluded to the destruction of the Mar Behnam monastery brought out a happiness in them that they had long contained. That happiness came from regaining a sense of hope again. For the first time, it seemed like somebody had finally responded to our pleas of help at the 11th hour and acknowledged our pain. For the first time in seven years, my family and I slept peacefully on Halloween.  Yousif Kalian is an analyst who focuses on Iraq, Syria, Kurdish issues and religious minorities. He currently works for In Defense of Christians, and was previously a Research Assistant at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He has been published in the American Interest, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism and elsewhere. Read more

Choose everlasting life, not death, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Nov 3, 2017 / 04:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis said that in contemplating death we are reminded of our ultimate purpose – and how the choices we make here on earth will determine whether we eventually spend eternity in heaven. “A fundamental mark of the Christian is a sense of anxious expectation of our final encounter with God,” the Pope said Nov. 3. “Death makes definitive the ‘crossroads’ which even now, in this world, stands before us: the way of life, with God, or the way of death, far from him.” The Pope’s reflection on life and death was made in a special Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica for the souls of the cardinals and bishops who have died in the past year. In his homily Francis reflected on the longing found in the words of the Responsorial Psalm: “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” These words, he said, were impressed upon the souls of the cardinals and bishops remembered in today’s Mass. They served the Church and the people entrusted to them while keeping their eyes set on the prospect of eternity. Today’s celebration of the Mass can help us to do the same, he said. In praying for the dead we are confronted with the reality of our own death, and though it may renew our sorrow for our friends and family members who have died, it also increases our hope. We especially find hope in the Eucharist, he said. In the Eucharist is the physical expression of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.” “These words evoke Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He accepted death in order to save those whom the Father had given him, who were dead in the slavery of sin. By his love, he shattered the yoke of death and opened to us the doors of life.” When we receive the body and blood of Jesus, he said, we unite ourselves to his faithful love and to his “victory of good over evil, suffering and death.” In this divine bond with the charity of Christ we can know that communion with those who have died before us is not “merely a desire,” but that it “becomes real,” he said. Francis closed saying that through his death and resurrection, Jesus has shown us that “death is not the last word.” And faith in this resurrection transforms us into “men and women of hope, not despair, men and women of life, not death.” “This hope, rekindled in us by the word of God, helps us to be trusting in the face of death.” Read more

For opposing gay marriage, she’s facing death threats and million-dollar lawsuits

New York City, N.Y., Nov 3, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Barronelle Stutzman took a stand for her Christian beliefs four-and-a-half years ago, she never imagined that she would eventually be appealing to the US Supreme Court to defend her dec… Read more

Filipinos gather in Rome to promote bishop’s beatification cause

Rome, Italy, Nov 3, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In Rome, hundreds of Filipinos gathered for Mass on Sunday to promote the cause of beatification of the Servant of God Alfredo Versoza y Florentin, who was Bishop of Lipa for 35 years. The Mass was celebrated Oct. 29 at St. Mary of Sorrows parish by Archbishop Emeritus Ernesto Salgado of Nueva Segovia, where Bishop Versoza had grown up. Many of those attending the Mass were migrants of the Ilocano people, a Filinipo ethnic group from the northern portions of Luzon. Bishop Versoza was himself an Ilocano. The Missionary of Catechists of the Sacred Heart, which was cofounded by the Servant of God, and the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia have pushed heavily for his beatification, especially in light of the 100th anniversary of his episcopal consecration. Versoza’s cause for beatification was opened in 2013, and the diocesan phase was concluded last year. Versoza was born in 1877, and ordained a priest in 1904. He was appointed Bishop of Lipa in 1916, and he remained in that post until his retirement in 1951 at the age of 73. He died in 1954. He was the first Ilocano to be consecrated a bishop, and he was instrumental in fighting a 1902 schism that produced the Philippine Independent Church, which has since become part of the Anglican Communion. His passion for catechesis lead him and Laura Mendoza to found the Missionary Catechists of the Sacred Heart in 1923. The order is a congregation of nuns established to aid education and the administration of catechesis. Numerous religious orders, such as the Carmelite Fathers, Pauline Fathers, and Pauline Sisters, were also brought the Lipa diocese at the bishop’s invitation. A supposed Marian apparition occurred in Lipa in 1948, while Versoza was bishop. He approved the veneration of the alleged apparition, but a subsequent decision by fellow Filipino bishops judged that there was no supernatural intervention in the event. The Vatican has confirmed it does not consider the Lipa apparitions as supernatural in nature. Read more

Philosophy professor launches international pro-life academy

Vatican City, Nov 2, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A former member of the Pontifical Academy for Life has launched an independent organization he claims will work to “unfold the splendor of truth about life and family.” Josef Seifert, president of the new lay-run John Paul II Academy for Human Life and Family, announced the academy Oct. 18 in Rome at a conference on the topic of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae.” “The academy’s aim is to clarify, to teach and to spread that part of the truth about man and about God that serves human life and the natural family, and, through serving these, serves and glorifies God,” said Seifert. Seifert, a philosophy professor from Austria, has taught at the University of Dallas. He was founding rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein. Until recently, he had served as Dietrich von Hildebrand Chair for Realist Phenomenology at the International Academy of Philosophy-Instituto de Filosofía Edith Stein. He has said he was forced to retire for asking whether parts of Pope Francis’ 2016 post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” led to the conclusion that there are no intrinsically wrong acts. He had previously been suspended from teaching seminarians, following the publication of a different essay criticizing the exhortation. According to Seifert, the new organization aims to serve the same goals as the original Pontifical Academy for Life, founded in 1994 by St. John Paul II. This academy will be “a lay non-governmental organization that will remain independent of civil and religious organizations.” The Pontifical Academy for Life is a team of scientists and ethicists representing different branches of biomedical sciences who are appointed by the Holy Father to work with Vatican dicasteries to discuss issues related to science and the protection of the dignity of human life. Under Pope Francis, its new statutes explicitly advocate care for the human person “at different stages of life” as well as an authentic “human ecology” that aims to restore balance in creation “between the human person and the entire universe.” The American members of this academy appointed or confirmed by Pope Francis include Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus; John M. Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia; and Kathleen M. Foley, M.D., attending neurologist in the Pain and Palliative Care Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and professor of neurology, neuroscience, and clinical pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine of Cornell University. In Nov. 2016, Pope Francis promulgated new statutes for the Pontifical Academy for Life, withdrawing the lifetime appointments of 139 members, including Seifert.  While 28 members were reappointed in June 2017, Seifert was not among them. The academy’s new statutes explicitly allow non-Catholics to be appointed to the pontifical academy, and establish that new members would no longer be required to sign a statement promising to defend life according to Catholic teaching. Some new appointees were criticized for apparent disagreement with Catholic teaching on questions like euthanasia. Seifert said his new lay academy includes several former members of the pontifical academy. Most of these were lifetime members. The members of the new lay academy are “deeply committed” to the original pontifical academy and its goals as envisioned by St. John Paul II, he said. Their Catholic members are, in his words, “fully faithful to the authentic Magisterium and perennial doctrine of the Catholic Church,” while open to the truths of human reason. Membership in this lay academy is also open to non-Catholics. The independent academy will also consider medical, social and health developments; “anti-life and gender ideology”; topics like “brain death”; and the ethics of death and transplant medicine. In his remarks introducing the new lay academy, Seifert was critical of a “new emphasis on subjective conscience that would justify committing adultery, homosexual relations or even abortion subjectively.” He opposed the claim that God would want people to commit acts like adultery “because leaving our new partner might lead us to greater sins and cause greater evils.” He emphasized the importance of John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, encyclical Veritatis Splendor, and Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae to the new academy. Read more

UK bishop calls for prayers as MPs urge ban on abortion clinic vigils

London, England, Nov 2, 2017 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Bishop of Portsmouth, England has called Catholics to pray for the conversion of 113 Members of the British Parliament who signed a letter urging the ban of prayer vigils outside of abortion… Read more




Browse Our Archives