News Roundup

Church leaders in Ireland welcome return of public worship, as NI begins two-week ban

Dublin’s two Archbishops have welcomed the lifting of Government pandemic restrictions that will see public worship resume in the Republic from tomorrow, with the same restriction as under level 2.

However, in Armagh, Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin noted that in Northern Ireland, public worship has once more been suspended for two weeks even while, “south of the border, congregations can return to Mass and the Sacraments.” Public worship in the South ended again on October 7, but in certain counties such as Dublin and Donegal the previous month.

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson said the reopening of churches for public worship on Tuesday, “while modest in comparison with what we have been accustomed to doing, will gladden the hearts of members of my own diocese particularly at this time of year.”

Gathering, he said, was “important in how people of faith function. This relates both to our self–understanding and to the positive contributions we make to civil society.”

The Irish Church Together group, which represents the more evangelical Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal and New churches in Ireland, thanked Taoiseach Micheál Martin for the return to public worship. “Thank you for your detailed consideration of the case we made for public worship to be allowed at Level 3.”


Pope Francis encourages Argentine women opposing abortion bill

Pope Francis has written a note to women in his homeland who requested his help in opposing a bill to liberalise the country’s abortion law.

Eight women signed a letter to Pope Francis expressing fear that the abortion bill targets poor women and asking him “to help us by making our voice heard.”

The Argentine daily La Nacion published the full letter, together with the pope’s response, which was sent through the national deputy for the City of Buenos Aires, Victoria Morales Gorleri.

In the handwritten note, Pope Francis said that abortion “is not a primarily religious issue but one of human ethics, prior to any religious confession.”

“Is it fair to eliminate a human life to solve a problem? Is it fair to hire a hitman to solve a problem?” he said.


Canada: 90-year-old chooses assisted suicide over another lockdown

The family of a 90 year old Canadian woman says she chose a ‘medically-assisted death’ (MAID) rather than face another lockdown during which people could not visit her in her nursing home.

In Canada, you do not need to have a fatal or terminal condition to apply for assisted suicide.

Some in the field of assisted suicide report a growing number of elderly people inquiring about it, and that lockdowns are accelerating the timelines among seniors already considering assisted suicide.


Down Syndrome Ireland urges Emmerdale producers to scrap abortion storyline

An Irish advocacy group for people with Down syndrome is urging the producers of the UK soap Emmerdale to cancel a storyline featuring a couple ending their pregnancy after being told their unborn child has the chromosomal condition.

Down Syndrome Ireland says the storyline will be challenging and distressing for many people with the condition and for their families.

They add that the difficult emotions and choices that arise when considering abortion could have been explored without mentioning the child’s diagnosis.

“We would like to remind TV producers that people with Down syndrome watch TV programmes, listen to the news and read media articles,” the group said.

“This storyline will be challenging and distressing for many people with Down syndrome and their families, as well as for expectant parents”.


US Supreme Court suspends toughest restrictions on public worship in New York

The most stringent coronavirus restrictions on public worship in New York are a violation of religious freedom, the US Supreme Court said Wednesday night.

The state had forbade the attendance of more than 10 people at religious services in areas designated “red zones”, and 25 people in “orange zones.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch said: “It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques”.

While the numeric limits are suspended, the less onerous limit of keeping houses of worship at 50% capacity remains in place.

Welcoming the ruling, the Bishop of Brooklyn, whose diocese was a plaintiff in the suit, said that religious worship should be considered an essential service during the coronavirus pandemic.


French bishops express ‘incredulity’ at Government’s 30-person Mass limit

The French bishops are “both disappointed and surprised” at President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement that public worship would be limited to 30 people per church.

“This announcement is not at all in line with the discussions that have taken place in recent weeks with the ministers concerned,” a statement said.

“Indeed, this unrealistic and inapplicable measure is completely disrespectful of the reality of the religious practice of Catholics.”

The French bishops had originally proposed a protocol of reopening public liturgies at a third of each church’s capacity, with increased social distancing.

Following Macron’s announcement, some bishops took to social media to express their incredulity.

Bishop François Touvet of Châlons wrote on Twitter: “30 people in my cathedral is ridiculous and absurd. It is 96 m long and 25 m wide (40m transept) by 30 m high. Total = 2500 m²: with 4 m² per person, we can fit 600 people! You have to learn to count!”


Netherlands makes it easier to kill dementia patients

Doctors euthanising a patient with severe dementia will now officially be allowed to slip a sedative into their food or drink if there are concerns they will become “disturbed, agitated or aggressive”, under a change to the codes of practice in the Netherlands. The new code also says that in cases where a patient has advanced dementia, “it is not necessary for the doctor to agree with the patient the time or manner in which euthanasia will be given”.
The move comes in response to the failed prosecution for murder of Dutch doctor Marinou Arends.
Tasked with euthanising a dementia patient in a nursing home via lethal injection, Arends drugged the patient’s coffee, a violation of euthanasia rules. But in the midst of the termination, the patient woke up and began to struggle. The doctor instructed the family to hold the resisting patient down while she injected the poison.
A Dutch medical board issued a reprimand to Arends, but a court later cleared her of a murder charge.
Jacob Kohnstamm, the chair of the euthanasia review committee, said: “Doctors now have less to worry about putting their necks in a noose with euthanasia. They need less fear of justice. Or for the review committee.”

Twitter does nothing as trending topic in Spain calls for burning priests

A trending hashtag on social media in Spain called for Catholic priests to be burned alive.
The posts were not removed for violating rules against calls for violence.
The invitation to #FuegoAlClero, or set fire to the clergy, was first issued by several pro-Marxist accounts, originally in defense of a bill to reform Spain’s education system that would put the state in control of religious instruction in public schools and limit support for thousands of Catholic schools, which could lead to their closure.
However, the trending topic was accompanied by calls to burn down churches because “the only church that illuminates is the one that is in flames,” signed by “the daughters of the witches you couldn’t burn.”
By Tuesday evening, Twitter had done nothing about the tweets, despite thousands of users complaining the hashtag was inciting hatred and a direct violation of the company’s rules against “violence, harassment and other similar types of behaviour.”

Banned Catholic pro-life midwifery student wins apology and payout

A Catholic midwifery student who was suspended from her studies at Nottingham University for leading a pro-life society has won an apology and a payout.
Julia Rynkiewicz, 25, was suspended from her studies in midwifery and subjected to a four-month fitness-to-practice inquiry because of her role as president of Nottingham Students for Life.
The investigation left Ms Rynkiewicz with the prospect of being expelled from the university.
The Telegraph reports that the university dismissed the case against Ms Rynkiewicz, who then pursued a formal apology from the institution.
University bosses have now reached a settlement with Ms Rynkiewicz and offered an apology.
Responding to the outcome, she said the settlement “demonstrates that the university’s treatment of me was wrong, and while I’m happy to move on, I hope this means that no other student will have to experience what I have”.
“What happened to me risks creating a fear among students to discuss their values and beliefs, but university should be the place where you are invited to do just that.”

Pope Calls Uighurs ‘persecuted,’ for the first time

Pope Francis has sparked the ire of Chinese authorities after he included the Muslim minority Uighurs among examples of groups persecuted for their faith for the first time. It is estimated that China has 1 million Uighur men held in concentration camps.

In a new book ‘Let Us Dream’, Francis writes: “I think often of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uighurs, the Yazidi — what ISIS did to them was truly cruel — or Christians in Egypt and Pakistan killed by bombs that went off while they prayed in church”.

Francis has declined to call out China for its crackdown on religious minorities, including Catholics, much to the dismay of many church leaders and human rights groups. The Vatican last month renewed its controversial agreement with Beijing on nominating Catholic bishops, and Francis has been careful to not say or do anything to offend the Chinese government on the subject.

China and the Vatican have had no formal relations since the Communist Party cut ties and arrested Catholic clerics soon after seizing power in 1949 but recently renewed an agreement that gives Beijing a say over the appointment of bishops.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Francis’ remarks had “no factual basis at all.”

“People of all ethnic groups enjoy the full rights of survival, development, and freedom of religious belief,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

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