Bishops of the European Union are unhappy with a section of a proposed EU healthcare report which refers to abortion as a human right, and which says “a total ban on abortion care or denial of abortion care is a form of gender-based violence”. The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (Comece) challenged abortion being referred to as “an ‘essential health service’ that should be available to everyone”, saying “its qualification as an essential service degrades the unborn child”. The report’s approval would not dictate changes to any EU laws but could influence policy debates and public opinion. The bishops also noted “that the draft resolution negates the fundamental right to conscientious objection”.
Hungary’s controversial premier has claimed he is embracing Christian principles ahead of the Pope’s September visit and has called on Catholics to work with members of other Churches in upholding the faith “against a hostile world”. “Christianity created a free man, so we must also first and foremost protect human dignity. It created a Christian family, so we must protect the Christian family as a concept. It created nations in this part of the world, so we must also protect the nation, as well as religious communities and the Church,” Viktor Orbán said. A Calvinist, whose wife and daughters are Catholic, Orbán made the comments in Croatia’s Catholic Glas Koncila: Christianity cannot be sustained in Europe “without the complete unity of Christians, Orthodox included”. He admitted that his government’s firm opposition to migration had created “obvious and visible” differences with the Catholic Church, but defended its reluctance to admit Muslims and its tough approach to LGBT rights. In mid-June parliament banned gay people from featuring in educational material in schools.
Cardinal Gerhard Muller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is among 12 appointees to the Vatican’s Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura whose names were announced on Monday. Also among the appointees were Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, in the United States; Cardinal James Michael Harvey, archpriest of the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls; and Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops.
The first Catholic priest to be declared a national hero by the Zimbabwe government and to be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre, Fr Emmanuel Ribeiro, was laid to rest in Harare on 21 June. Harare Archdiocese’s Fr Ribeiro died after a short illness at the age of 86 at St Anne’s Hospital on 17 June. “The decision to honour him this way was befitting and unanimous,” said President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the burial. During the 1970s liberation war, Fr Ribeiro masterminded the escape of nationalists, including the late former President Robert Mugabe and the late Edgar Tekere, from then Rhodesia to Mozambique to lead the armed struggle.
At the Angelus last Sunday. Pope Francis called for humanitarian corridors and for churches, schools and hospitals in Myanmar “to be respected as neutral places of refuge” amid the “harrowing experience of thousands of people in that country who are displaced and are dying of hunger”.Fr Francis Soe Naing, chancellor of Loikaw Diocese in Kayah state, said people sheltering in churches had to escape into the jungle when three churches were shelled by the military.
On the feast of St Francis, 4 October, leaders of world religions or their representatives will meet at the Vatican to draft a statement to political leaders attending November’s COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow. Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, said last week it was “highly likely” that Pope Francis would be involved in the October meeting.
The president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said he is “deeply concerned” that by ruling federal law protects LGBT workers from discrimination, the US Supreme Court “has effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law”. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez said: “This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life.” Earlier in the same day the Scotus in a 6-3 vote said LGBT people are protected from job discrimination by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” said Justice Neil Gorsuch writing the majority opinion. Dissenting votes were from Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.
Pope Francis has put French statesman Robert Schuman, one of the EU’s founding fathers, on the path to sainthood. He has approved a decree recognising Catholic Schuman’s “heroic virtues”, an early stage of the process that can lead to canonisation. One miracle would have to be attributed to Schuman for beatification and then another for sainthood.
Zambia’s Catholic Bishops say they believe that the best way to mourn “our fallen hero”, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, who died last week, “is to live by the national values he laboured to inculcate into the fabric of the nation, especially those of love, unity in diversity, peace and human dignity of every person regardless of tribe, race, nation, creed and political affiliation”. Conference President, Archbishop Ignatius Chama of Kasama, said that Dr Kaunda “never tired of preaching the primacy and significance of love of God and of one’s neighbour.”The country declared 21 days of mourning after the last leader of Africa’s “Liberation Era” died of pneumonia, aged 97. The son of a Church of Scotland minister, Kaunda served as President of Zambia from 1964 until defeat in the 1991 election.
Elections took place in Ethiopia on Tuesday 22 June, under a cloud of conflict and violence. Tigray, the northern state at war with the central government, was not participating in the controversial vote. Ahead of the elections, Catholic bishops called on all Ethiopians to turn out in large numbers to vote and demanded measures to ensure the elections are free and fair, and the results when announced are credible.
Bombay’s High Court has extended the hospitalisation of jailed Jesuit Father Stan Swamy until 5 July after his health deteriorated.The 84-year-old Indian Jesuit contracted Covid-19 in prison. Meanwhile, the Church is supporting tens of thousands of people displaced and hungry in eastern India a month after Cyclone Yaas destroyed homes and grain stores. Fr Lijo George, who directs social service projects in Balasore Diocese, reported that “at least for one year our people cannot farm because their lands were filled with saline seawater.”
A former leader of France’s Community of St John has been dismissed from the clerical state by the Vatican and expelled from the order after repeated accusations of sexual aggression from brothers and sisters of the group. Marie-Dominique Goutierre, the order’s former head of studies, was punished by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and expelled from his community. Goutierre was considered the order’s intellectual successor to its founder, the Dominican Fr Marie-Dominique Philippe, who died in 2006, and was later accused of sexual abuse by several adult women under his spiritual direction, before being disavowed by the community in 2019.
Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez last week said that “people’s lives are at stake” as a law on the right to water reached El Salvador’sparliament and a draft of the General Law of Water Resources was presented to the Legislative Assembly. The draft says water is a fundamental right, and outlaws its privatisation. The Church has long lobbied for a ban on mining for gold and other metals which cause water pollution.
The social justice arm of the PhilippinesCatholic Church has welcomed a ruling by lawmakers to halt construction of a controversial dam which would have flooded forest ecosystems. The Bishops’ Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace said the Kaliwa mega dam project in Quezon province, “is against inclusive development” and would force indigenous groups from ancestral lands.
Since late May, the Nicaraguan government of President Daniel Ortega has detained 16 people on charges of crimes against the state; 13 of those detained are members of the political opposition, including four prospective candidates for the presidential election in November. The Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference denounced the “persecution”.