News Roundup

Verdict in Cardinal Zen’s trial expected 

The verdict in the trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 90-year-old former bishop of Hong Kong, is expected to be handed down tomorrow (Friday).

He is one of six pro-democracy advocates arrested under Hong Kong’s national security law.

All six have pleaded not guilty to charges that they failed to register a fund that helped Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters pay for their legal fees and medical treatments.

Senior Counsel Robert Pang defended Zen in court and argued last month that imposing “criminal sanctions on the failure to register must be an infringement of freedom of association.”

Pang has also represented Jimmy Lai, a Catholic pro-democracy advocate and former publisher of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily who has been jailed since December 2020 for violating the same national security law.

Lai’s trial is scheduled for December 1.

In a recent interview, Hong Kong’s current bishop said that the Catholic Church has “not remained idle” in the face of challenges posed by the national security law.


The UN, and Amnesty International condemn India’s discrimination of religious minorities

NGOs including Amnesty International have condemned India’s treatment of Christians and other religious minorities.

At least 21 countries have urged India to improve its protection of freedom of religion, with several raising concerns over the government’s adoption of discriminatory policies such as “anti-conversion” laws.

The issues were raised during a recent UN sponsored Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process and were highlighted again on Monday by six international human rights groups.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken various legislative and other actions that have made it lawful to discriminate against religious minorities, particularly Muslims, and enabled violent Hindu majoritarianism, the groups said.

At least 10 Indian states forbid forced religious conversion, but they misuse the laws to target Christians.


ACN Ireland launches major religious freedom report

An international Catholic charity has released a major report highlighting the worst examples of Christian persecution over the last two years.

Aid to the Church in Need, Ireland, launched the report on Red Wednesday, the annual day when ACN raises awareness of the plight of persecuted Christians and encourages prayer on their behalf.

‘Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2020-22’, highlights some of the most shocking examples of Christian persecution, from massacres in Nigeria and Ethiopia to the abduction of Christian girls in Pakistan to the arrest of Cardinal Zen in China.

Among the key findings, in 75 percent of countries surveyed, the oppression or persecution of Christians increased. In Africa, the situation of Christians worsened in all countries reviewed, amid evidence of a sharp increase in genocidal violence from militant non-state actors, including jihadists.

In the Middle East, continuing migration deepened the crisis threatening the survival of three of the world’s oldest and most important Christian communities located in Iraq, Syria and Palestine.

In Asia, state-authoritarianism has been the critical factor causing worsening oppression against Christians in Burma (Myanmar), China, Vietnam and elsewhere. At its worst, freedom of religion and conscience is being strangulated, as in North Korea.

Elsewhere in Asia, religious nationalism has caused increasing persecution against Christians in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and elsewhere.


Boylan calls for defunding of Catholic schools and hospitals

There has been a call for ceasing State-funding of Catholic institutions in education and health-care.

Writing in the Irish Times, Dr Peter Boylan, the former master of the National Maternity Hospital said the Catholic Church “is fully entitled to provide health and education, but if it wants a ‘parallel and alternative option’ to that of the State, delivered according to its ethos, it should not be funded by the State”.

“We have started a debate in this country about assisted dying, but Catholic teaching holds that this would be intentional taking of life and never permissible. Should a future dying with dignity Act be passed, Catholic hospitals will opt out precisely as they do today on abortion, IVF and contraception”, he wrote.

He added: “As we debate these issues and plan for the future, we need to understand that the expanding Catholic healthcare system in Ireland will never provide treatment forbidden by the church even if it is legal in the State. Pupils in Catholic schools will be left in no doubt of the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage or abortion, despite both being legal”.

Dr Boylan did not address whether the resulting shortfall in funding should result in the schools and hospitals closing down or being taken over – in effect “nationalised” – by the State.


ACN’s Red Wednesday unveils horrors faced by persecuted Christians

Forced conversions, lost childhoods, years of hiding, living in limbo — the persecution Christians face around the world was given specific, concrete shape by the testimony of survivors at the annual Red Wednesday vespers in Toronto’s St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. Red Wednesday, organised by the Pontifical Charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), is being marked November 23rd in Ireland and Britain.

“The first thing they did was forcefully convert us to Islam,” said a 16-year-old Nigerian survivor of kidnapping by Boko Haram, the northern Nigerian terror group whose name means “Western Education is forbidden.”

Taken with 21 other children when she was seven-years-old, Maryamu Joseph is recovering in a trauma centre set up by the Diocese of Maiduguri with help from Aid to the Church in Need. Aid to the Church in Need sponsors the annual Red Wednesday event to commemorate persecuted Christians worldwide. The annual event sees cathedrals and parish churches around the world bathed in red light after dark. St. Michael’s and Montreal’s Mary Queen of the World Basilica were Canadian churches taking part in the Nov. 16 event.


New DCU course to train teachers on RSE

Post-primary teachers are being invited to sign up for a new course to help them deliver classes in sex education to teenagers.

Dublin City University (DCU) has been selected to run a one-year post-graduate course in Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and RSE to upskill existing teachers.

It is the first specialist teacher professional development programme of its kind at post-primary level in Ireland.

The Department of Education is funding the course, so teachers will not have to pay any fees. Schools will also be funded for substitute cover to replace those attending the course.

Education Minister Norma Foley said the course would provide a pathway for progression for post-primary teachers interested in developing their skills in SPHE/RSE and would build capacity and leadership within the profession in relation to an important area.

She encouraged any teacher of RSE/SPHE who was eligible to avail of this opportunity.


West must protect Christians, Nigerian bishop says at ACN event

Nigeria is at risk of following the fate of Afghanistan and being overrun by Islamist insurgents unless the West acts firmly to prevent terrorist violence there, an African bishop told British politicians.

Bishop Jude Arogundade of Ondo, Nigeria, said the Christians of his country are suffering persecution so intense that it bordered on genocide.

He made his remarks at the launch in London of “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for Their Faith 2020-22,” which was compiled and published by the British branch of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, which helps persecuted Christians.

“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria has spoken against the unprecedented insecurity situation in Nigeria repeatedly but to no avail,” he said in a Nov. 16 speech in a committee room of the Houses of Parliament.

“We have walked for life, protested and even called the President (Muhammadu Buhari) to resign if he is incapable of fulfilling the basic purpose of government — the security of lives and properties of citizens. Even at that, nothing has changed,” he said.

“With 3,478 people killed as of June this year and the increased cases of terror thereafter,” he said he strongly wished to appeal to the U.K. government and “all people of goodwill to compel the Nigerian government to stop the genocide.”


European Court dismisses case against Poland’s pro-life laws

A top human rights court has thrown out a case against a Polish doctor who refused to carry out an abortion of a disabled unborn child, 24 weeks into a pregnancy.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the B.B. v. Poland decision unanimously declared the application inadmissible as the mother of the child had already reached an amicable settlement with the hospital in question, and had received substantial compensation.

According to one litigant, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), the decision is a blow to the main abortion lobbies who were “attacking the restrictions on access to abortion in Poland and the right to conscientious objection”.

They added that the lobby had “once again revealed its true face with this case, in particular its eugenic beliefs”.

“The doctor was publicly called by the Polish left ‘the incarnation of Satan’, a ‘possessed” person’, a ‘degenerate’ and a ‘person without conscience.’ He lost his position as hospital director because of this case. Finally, in 2020, the Constitutional Court of Poland declared eugenic abortion contrary to the human dignity guaranteed in the Constitution and consequently banned it”.


Rotunda doctor reveals 95pc of babies with DS diagnosis are aborted

The vast majority of babies – up to 95pc – that receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome at the Rotunda maternity hospital are aborted afterwards. Their mothers travel to the UK for the procedure because abortion in these cases is not available in Ireland.

The figure was revealed by Professor Fergal Malone, the Master of the Rotunda maternity hospital.

He wants the current abortion law to change so that unborn babies with serious, but not life-threatening disabilities would also be eligible for abortion. Critics say this is a form of eugenics.

But he does not see a way to expand the current law without legislating also for abortion on grounds of disability, which he did not believe the majority of the public or politicians would support.

Meanwhile, Dr Aoife Mullally, the national clinical lead for the HSE’s abortion provision, revealed that some women who take pills to induce an early, medical abortion, later find out it did not work.

“The cases that keep me awake all night are the ones where, through no fault of their own, women have found themselves with a failed termination after 12 weeks and they have to travel,” she said.

“And, you know, they don’t have abnormalities, but they have made a decision to end a pregnancy.

“They’re now in a situation where the foetus may have sustained harm from the medication that they’re taking, but the pregnancy is ongoing”.


NI Catholics identify with religion for political reasons, MPs told

Many non-practicing Catholics in the North continue to identify themselves by their religion because of its “political significance”, MPs at Westminster were told.

Giving his assessment of the 2021 census results – which found Catholics outnumbered Protestants for the first time in Northern Ireland’s history – Dr Kevin McNicholl said that, for him, there was an “important takeaway” that “hadn’t been commented on as much”.

“Part of the reason why someone would call themselves Protestant to indicate they’re Protestant is not the same reason someone would indicate that they’re Catholic,” the Open Learning tutor at Queen’s University Belfast told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

“It seems when Catholics stop their religious observance they would still call themselves ‘Catholic’; it’s more of a cultural thing with political significance.