News Roundup

Appeal made to Minister to not arrest clergy who engage in public worship

Legislation for the current phase five lockdown includes a criminal offence for conducting public worship, according to an Independent TD for Clare who chairs the Oireachtas Covid-19 Committee.

Deputy Michael McNamara was speaking yesterday as the Dáil debated the extension of public health emergency legislation restricting individual rights from November 9th until June 9th, 2021.

He appealed directly to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to not go arresting priests:

“I do not know whether the Minister is aware of one measure in the motion but he must be because he signed it. Priests will be committing a criminal offence if they open the doors of their churches for mass. I know that lots of priests do not want to say mass and do not believe it is appropriate. That is their prerogative. I am not a mass goer, but I know how important it is in the community I represent for people to go to mass or to a church or mosque. The Government is denying them that. Is the Government is going to send gardaí after priests who decide to say mass? If the Government is thinking of that, I have one word to say, “Don’t”.”


Polish court declares abortion for life limiting conditions unconstitutional

Poland’s constitutional court ruled Thursday that a 1993 law permitting abortion for foetal abnormalities is unconstitutional.

Approximately 1,000 legal abortions take place in Poland each year. The majority are carried out in cases where the unborn child has a severe and irreversible disability or a life-threatening incurable disease. Polish pro-life campaigners describe the legal provision as “eugenic.”

Hundreds of thousands of Poles had supported a citizen-initiated bill to ban abortion in cases of fetal abnormality earlier this year.

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, expressed delight at the outcome.

“With this decision, it was found that the concept of ‘life not worth living’ is in sharp contradiction to the principle of a democratic state ruled by law. The life of every human being from conception to natural death is of equal value to God and should be equally protected by the state,” he said.

He added: “While rejoicing in this epochal change of law, let us now remember that children — who are directly affected by today’s decision of the Constitutional Tribunal — and their families should be surrounded with special kindness and real care on the part of the state, society, and the Church.”

In Poland, abortion continues to be legal in cases of rape, incest, or risk to the mother’s life.


Welsh archbishop ‘disappointed’ in plan to re-impose ban on public worship

A two-week “firebreak” to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Wales has “disappointed” the Archbishop of Cardiff, since it will close churches to public worship.

“Since their re-opening at the end of the first lockdown, our churches have been places of safety and security as well as tranquility and peace, so much needed in these turmoil-ridden days,” said Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff in an Oct. 20 statement.

“Ours is an incarnational religion. The ‘Eucharistic Famine’ of the recent months of lockdown has been painful to us in so many ways – known and unknown. Churches are not just places in which we worship God but with which we worship God,” the archbishop said.

Stack said the Catholic Church is continuing to dialogue with the Welsh government “in the hope” that churches will be allowed to remain open for private prayer at specified times during the “firebreak.”

Wales joins the Republic of Ireland as the only nations in Europe to have reimposed bans on public worship due to the spike of COVID-19 cases.


MEPs call for EU to fill vacant role of Religious Freedom envoy

Politicians in the European Parliament want the vacancy of Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion and Belief filled as soon as possible.

In a letter, 48 MEPs have written to Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, asking for the re-appointment of an Envoy who will specifically work on defending the freedoms of religious people.

It was announced back in July that the position would be renewed, having previously been held by only one person – Ján Figel – since the creation of the role in 2016. The role has been vacant for almost a year.

The signatories say promoting freedom of religion is an essential aim of the EU.

“Targeted attacks on religious freedoms in recent years have demonstrated the need for a more targeted and urgent response,” they say.


Government relent on attendance limits at funerals

The Government has increased the number of people who can attend funerals to 25 under Level 5 restrictions.

The move follows criticism of the new lockdown rules which permitted 25 people to attend a wedding but only 10 attend a funeral.

At a Cabinet meeting yesterday, the Taoiseach and his ministers agreed to increase the number who can attend a funeral to 25.

Former Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen yesterday said he planned to write to the Taoiseach to ask him to increase the number who can attend funerals.

Micheál Martin initially defended the decision to keep it at 10 for funerals and 25 at weddings.


Poll: Young Catholics more likely to accept Church teachings

A new US survey 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.

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.


US research shows positive teen well-being during quarantine

Teenagers did not do as badly as feared during the quarantine in America according to research by the Institute of Family Studies.

While adults in spring 2020 were three times more likely to experience mental distress, anxiety, or depression, most teens fared relatively well during the pandemic, mainly due to more time with family and additional sleep. However, teens in two parent families fared better than their peers.

Among the report’s key findings are that depression and loneliness were actually lower among teens in 2020 than in 2018, and unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life were only slightly higher.

They spent less time on social media and gaming than in 2018. However, they did increase their consumption of TV and videos.

 These patterns were not uniform across all teens. Overall mental health was significantly better for teens in two-parent families, both before and during the pandemic. Teens who spent more time with their families during the pandemic and who felt their families had grown closer were less likely to be depressed. Thus, it appears that one of the primary foundations for teen resilience during the pandemic is family support and connection.

The study concluded that the results reveal “a nuanced picture of teens during the pandemic quarantine: They were resilient yet worried, isolated yet connected to family, and well-rested yet concerned”.


Historic churches in Chilean capital set ablaze by protestors

Groups of hooded protesters entered two churches in Chile’s capital city Sunday and set them ablaze.

Both churches are among the oldest in Santiago.

The spire of the Church of the Assumption collapsed as the church burned, drawing cheers from demonstrators protesting outside the building. The interior of the St. Francis Borgia Church was gutted by the fire, and both buildings may be beyond repair.

On the wall of one of the burnt out churches, protesters wrote “Muerte al Nazareno” which translates as “Death to the Nazarene”.

At least five people have been arrested for setting one of those churches ablaze, with one detained inside the church and four outside.

The attacks came as demonstrators across the country called for a constitution, and 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 Archbishop of Santiago de Chile condemned the arson attacks and called on Catholics to carry out acts of reparation for them.


Welsh government accused of seeing Catholic schools as a ‘problem’

The Welsh government appears to see Catholic schools as a “problem,” a Church education adviser said Monday as officials press ahead with plans for a radical shake-up of religious education.

Angela Keller, Wales Adviser of the Catholic Education Service (CES), made the comment in an Oct. 19 press statement after giving evidence against the changes to a Welsh parliamentary committee.

She said: “It’s hurtful that the Welsh government appears to see Catholic schools as the problem because we teach Catholic RE. The Welsh government needs to start trusting Catholic schools and the professionals who work extremely hard in them.”

The authorities are moving forward with plans to rename Religious Education as “Religion, Values and Ethics” in a new curriculum, despite widespread opposition.

Catholic educators argue that the new proposals would place additional legal burdens on Catholic schools, obliging them to teach an additional secular RE curriculum.


Diocese blasts New York over Mass-attendance restrictions

The Diocese of Brooklyn has attacked the state of New York, charging that a new additional set of restrictions that further reduce church capacity violates freedom of religion.

Churches had been operating at 25% capacity and had reported no Covid outbreaks. The new rules mean that churches in some areas are reduced to 10 attendees, while others are reduced to 25.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn said that the measures were “not reasonable.”

“We’re not asking for full capacity,” he said, noting that churches in the diocese “are very large” and can safely accommodate far more than the 10-or-25-person limit the state is effectively ordering.

The 10-person restriction is one of the lowest caps on religious services in the country. San Francisco had been limiting outdoor religious services to 12 people, with indoor services prohibited, until early this month when San Francisco’s mayor announced that places of worship will be permitted to hold services indoors at 25% capacity, up to 100 people.

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