Jerusalem, May 25, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- Peace, mutual equality, and respect must be the foundation of progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations, despite continued setbacks, the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land said this week.
Continuing difficulties in Palestine and Israel have caused many people to question “whether international diplomacy and the peace process were ever actually based on justice and good will,” the ordinaries said in a May 20 message.
“Many in Palestine and in Israel feel that since the launch of the peace process, their lives have become more and more unbearable,” the ordinaries said. “Many have left, many more consider leaving and some are resorting to violence. Some die quietly and others are losing faith and hope.”
The ordinaries represent a diverse group of Middle East Christians in communion with Rome. Their message was signed by current and past patriarchs, archbishops and bishops, exarchs, men and women religious, and other leaders, from the Maronite Catholic Church, the Melkite Catholic Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.
While Israel’s population is predominantly Jewish, about 20 percent of the country’s 8.5 million people are Arab. About two percent are Christians, though their numbers have sharply declined after decades of emigration.
The Palestinian population is largely split geographically and politically between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants, largely based in Gaza, have engaged in military attacks on Israelis, and the Israeli military has also conducted military action.
Security borders have impaired Palestinians’ ability to work and travel, including travel to Muslim and Christian holy places, while Jewish settlements in the West Bank are a continuing source of tension.
For the ordinaries of the Holy Land, it is time for Churches and spiritual leaders “to point to another way, to insist that all, Israelis and Palestinians, are brothers and sisters in humanity.”
“The Churches insist that we can love one another and live together in mutual respect and equality, equal in rights and duties, in this same land,” they said. “This is not simply a dream but the powerful basis of a vision that inspired our ancestors, the prophets.”
More moderate Palestinian groups, based in the West Bank, have hoped to secure East Jerusalem as the recognized capital of a Palestinian state under a negotiated two-state solution. Gaza has been ruled by the Islamist political party Hamas since 2007. Israel and Egypt have conducted an economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, restricting the flow of persons and goods in an effort to limit rocket attacks on Israel launched from the territory. The blockade has driven up unemployment and harmed supplies of electric power and drinking water.
Under the Trump administration, the United States has moved its embassy to Jerusalem and ended vital humanitarian aid to the West Bank and to Gaza, including aid to hospitals in East Jerusalem. It has recognized the Golan Heights, long contested with Syria, as Israeli territory.
Recent Israeli elections returned to power a right-wing coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which tends to take a hardline attitude on Palestinian issues.
The Catholic ordinaries lamented the failure to make progress.
“The recent developments in the Palestine-Israel context, the ongoing loss of lives, the continuing evaporation of hope for a durable solution, and the failure of the international community to insist on the application of international law to save the peoples of this land from more struggle and despair, have reached a point where we witness more extremism and discrimination,” they said. “Even those who once presented themselves as guardians of democracy and promoters of peace, have become power-brokers and partisan participants in the conflict.”
In recent decades, the Catholic leaders said, “we were promised peace and reconciliation but received more hatred and oppression, corruption and demagoguery.”
While a two-state solution has long been presented as the solution to the conflict and the fulfillment of commitments to the Palestinian people, the Catholic leaders voiced doubts.
“The proposal for a two-state solution has gone nowhere and is repeated to no avail,” they said. “In fact, all talk of political solution seems empty rhetoric in the present situation.”
“Therefore, we promote a vision according to which everyone in this Holy Land has full equality, the equality befitting all men and women created equal in God’s own image and likeness. We believe that equality, whatever political solutions might be adopted, is a fundamental condition for a just and lasting peace.”
The only possible peace must be based on “dignity, mutual respect and equality as human beings,” they insisted. Any resolution “must be based on the common good of all who live in this land without distinction.”
“We call on Christians in Palestine-Israel to join their voices with Jews, Muslims, Druze and all others, who share this vision of a society based on equality and the common good and invite all to build bridges of mutual respect and love.”
“We have lived together in this land in the past, why should we not live together in the future too?” they asked.
The Holy See has long supported a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and on a diplomatic level recognizes and refers to both “the State of Israel” and “the State of Palestine.”
According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is to be discussed in the late stages of peace talks. Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized by the international community.
Vatican City, May 25, 2019 / 08:28 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed Spanish Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot Saturday as president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Guixot succeeds Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, who led the Vatican dicastery for over ten years until his death in July 2018.
As a priest in the Comboni Missionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Guixot served as a missionary in Egypt and Sudan. He has degrees in Arabic and Islamic studies, in addition to a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the University of Granada.
Guixot, 66, served as the dean of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome until Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in 2012.
In 2016 Pope Francis consecrated Guixot as a bishop, assigning him the titular see of Luperciana. Originally from Seville, Guixot, speaks Arabic, English, French, and Italian, in addition to Spanish.
Interreligious dialogue has been a focus of Pope Francis’ pastoral visits in 2019. His trips to the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Bulgaria all included interreligious meetings.
In Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis signed a joint-statement on human fraternity with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, which he called “a new page in the history of dialogue between Christianity and Islam.”
Vatican City, May 25, 2019 / 06:25 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Saturday that abortion is never the answer to difficult prenatal diagnoses, calling selective abortion of the disabled the “expression of an inhuman eugenics mentality.”
“Fear and hostility towards disability often lead to the choice of abortion, configuring it as a practice of ‘prevention,’” Pope Francis said May 25.
“But the Church's teaching on this point is clear: human life is sacred and inviolable and the use of prenatal diagnosis for selective purposes must be strongly discouraged because it is the expression of an inhuman eugenics mentality, which removes the possibility for families to accept, embrace and love their weakest children,” he said.
The pope addressed a Vatican conference on perinatal hospice highlighting medical care and ministries that support families who have received a prenatal diagnosis indicating that their baby will likely die before or just after birth.
“Yes to Life: Caring for the precious gift of life in its frailness,” a conference organized by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life May 23-25 brought together medical professionals, bioethicists, ministry providers, and families from 70 countries to discuss how best to provide medical, psychological, and emotional support for parents expecting a child with a life-limiting illness.
“Sometimes people ask me, what does perinatal hospice look like? And I answer, ‘It looks like love,’” author and mother Amy Kuebelbeck shared at the conference.
Kuelbeck was 25 weeks pregnant when she received the diagnosis that her unborn son had an incurable heart defect. She carried her pregnancy to term and had a little more than 2 hours with her son, Gabriel, before he died after birth.
“It was one of the most profound experiences of my life,” Kuelbeck said. She wrote a memoir of her experience of grief, loss, and love called “Waiting with Gabriel: A Story of Cherishing a Baby's Brief Life.”
“I know that some people assume that continuing a pregnancy with a baby who will die is all for nothing. But it isn’t all for nothing. Parents can wait with their baby, protect their baby, and love their baby for as long as that baby is able to live. They can give that baby a peaceful life – and a peaceful goodbye. That’s not nothing. That is a gift,” Kuelbeck wrote in “Waiting with Gabriel.”
Dr. Byron Calhoun, a medical professor of obstetrics and gynecology, who first coined the term “perinatal hospice” spoke at the conference. His research has found that allowing parents of newborns with a terminal prenatal diagnosis the chance to be parents can result in less distress for the mother than pregnancy termination.
Many families facing these diagnoses have to decide if they will seek extraordinary or disproportionate medical care for their child after birth.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of ‘over-zealous’ treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted.”
Ministries like Alexandra’s House, a perinatal hospice in Kansas City, provide counsel and grief support to parents as they face these difficult medical decisions. They also connect families with a network of other parents who have had a terminal prenatal diagnosis. “Most of the families stay in contact indefinitely,” said MaryCarroll Sullivan, nurse and bioethics advisor for the ministry.
There are now more than 300 hospitals, hospices, and ministries providing perinatal palliative care around the world.
Sister Giustina Olha Holubets, a geneticist at the University of Lviv, helped to found “Imprint of Life” a perinatal palliative care center in Ukraine that offers grief accompaniment, individualized birth plans, the sacrament of baptism, and burial, as well as respectful photos, footprints, and memory books to help families cherish their brief moments with their child.
The motto of Imprint of Life is “I cannot give more days to your life, but I can give more life to your days.”
Pope Francis met with Sister Giustina and other perinatal hospice providers in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on the last day of the conference.
The pope thanked them for creating “networks of love” to which couples can turn to receive accompaniment with the undeniable practical, human, and spiritual difficulties they face.
“Your testimony of love is a gift to the world,” he said.
“Taking care of these children helps parents to mourn and to think of this not only as a loss, but as a step in a journey together. That child will stay in their life forever, and they will have been able to love him,” Pope Francis said.
“Those few hours in which a mother can lull her child can leave a mark on the heart of that woman that she will never forget,” he said.
Berlin, NJ, May 25, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Kelly Mantoan doesn’t have a lot of free time. Between mothering 5 children, homeschooling some of them, getting her two youngest sons on the school bus on time, and juggling a writing career and a successful blog, she has a full schedule.
Her days even look a little different from those of the typical mother to a large family, because the Mantoan family’s two youngest children, Fulton, 10, and Teddy, 8, were both born with a rare degenerative genetic disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA.
Both boys use motorized wheelchairs full time for mobility, and require round-the-clock care to ensure their health needs are met. Kelly and her husband,Tony know something about the strain that can accompany such comprehensive care.
That’s where the idea of a day-long conference designed especially for caregiving, special needs parents called “Accepting the Gift” was born.
“There's really nothing else out there like it for Catholics – there are Protestant ministries to support parents of special needs children, but we looked and couldn’t find anything that ministered to Catholic parents, whose needs can be really unique,” Mantoan explained.
“From a theological standpoint, the Catholic faith is so instrumental in how I deal with my struggles as a special needs parents, we have such a rich theology of suffering.” Mantoan said, explaining that her Catholic faith has uniquely equipped her to accept her sons’ diagnoses.
“As a Catholic, I've been able to see that there is nothing wrong with my child, and God can bring joy in this, and this is who he is.’
Mantoan wanted to bring that kind of spiritual and emotional support to other parents of children with special needs, too.
“Last summer I started looking around and couldn't find anything like what I was envisioning. We asked our pastor in August of 2018 if he would be supportive - he has a brother with Down’s syndrome who is very involved in our parish life, so we thought he would - and we got permission, set the date, and went ahead and started asking other special needs parents, you know, ‘What kind of talks and things would you want?’”
“We just started throwing things together willy nilly, and I quickly realized realized I needed to fundraise, it was very haphazard, a couple at our church stepped up and did all food and meals and logistics.”
“I'd run a conference before, I've run a major homeschool conference, so I'm like, 'Wow I'm totally qualified to plan something like this,'” Mantoan told CNA.
She called the conference’s inaugural installment a “trial by fire learning experience,”
“It didn't totally squash my spirit,” she clarified. “It was hard for me at first to figure out how to get the word out reliably to everybody. I have an online presence, our keynote has an online presence, I just figured, well, if we get the word out...”
What Mantoan didn’t count on, however, was that she would find few diocesan offices had staff members responsible for ministry or formation with disabled Catholics.
Still, despite those initial difficulties, the first conference was an encouraging start, she said.
Several dozen parents came to Mater Ecclesiae Church in Berlin, NJ, for the April 27 conference, and a larger remote audience streamed online.
The conference featured a series of talks and expert panels by author Mary Lenaburg, David Rizzo, creator of the Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit, and National Catholic Bioethics Center ethicist DiAnn Ecret, onhand to provide insight into complex ethical scenarios including adverse prenatal diagnoses and known genetic susceptibility.
Rev. Matthew Schneider, the priest behind the Twitter handle @AutisticPriest, was also in attendance. Since announcing his autism diagnosis this spring, he has started a YouTube channel where he speaks openly about his life and ministry through the lens of autism.
Mantoan called Schneider, who live-tweeted the event, “a real ray of hope to parents of autistic kids who are wondering what the future may hold. He advocates for those with autism, but also speaks from the perspective of a priest and offers a unique insight on how to make parishes more open to disabled people.”
Keynote speaker Mary Lenaburg reminded attendees “my daughter - your children - are heralds for a new world … our children show us the face of God every single day.”
Looking toward next year’s event, Mantoan said, “I have to work at getting the word out more in advance so it's not such a surprise – logistics, not being well-known or established...it’s a work in progress, and there is no major network for Catholic special needs parents to connect – so we’re asking ourselves, how can we connect and share resources?”
“Many special needs parents are full time caregivers. They can’t leave. They can’t fly somewhere for multiple days of travel for an event. They are on 24/7. That’s who we most want to reach, and that’s why we streamed the content,” she said.
“This is for the frazzled stay-at-home caregiver who feels like they really can't get out, for whom it’s so hard to get that face to face support.”
“I know what it's like when you have a lot of little kids, a lot of special needs kids, you might feel isolated, might be the only special needs family in your parish,” she explained.
When asked whether other factors affect Catholic special needs parents uniquely, Mantoan pointed out that family planning can be a big difficulty and source of stress.
“In so many families, you have a special needs child - especially with a grave medical condition, and that’s it, you’re done. You get sterilized, you stop having kids.”
Mantoan continued, “If you're a faithful Catholic and you have kids with genetic diseases or you are disabled with a genetic disease that makes childbirth dangerous, if you have a large family with disabilities, do you keep being open to life? How do you manage special needs parenting and continue living your life?”
“For us, for a long time, the whole family planning aspect was a huge struggle...When we got their diagnoses, it was like, oh, I have a 1 in 4 chance of having a child who also carries this disease.”
“It was difficult for a long time,” Mantoan admitted.
“Probably I can say within the last 3 years we've finally reached a point of peace. Basically up until that point, we were doing what the Church taught because we knew it was right, but we weren't happy about it.”
“We're still very, very prudent and very, very cautious with NFP, and I'm really excited we didn't go ahead and do something drastic like get sterilized. Thankfully we hadn't taken any permanent steps during all that difficulty.”
“I think that's the thing, you get to a point where you say ‘thank goodness we were faithful;’ it strengthened us as a couple. And my feelings now are totally different. My heart is in a different place in terms of what I can accept. We were really angry, and now we're really happy we were faithful. Because there is peace now, and our marriage is stronger.”
Online access to “Accepting the Gift” is still available at the Catholic Parents of Special Needs Children (CPSNC) website, and planning for next year’s event is underway.
“If you're in the middle of nowhere and your parish is telling you, ‘We don't know how to give your kids sacraments;’ if you don’t have support, if you feel isolated, we want to alleviate some of that for you, to help you understand what your rights are as Catholic parents, to help you navigate that,” Mantoan said.
“The message is that there is joy here; joy in accepting your kids and who they are, and joy even in the midst of suffering and hardship.”
Winnipeg, Canada, May 24, 2019 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- St. Vladimir died of old age in 1015, but his modern-day statue in Canada met a much more gruesome end.
The rector of Sts Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral in Winnipeg said he is “devastated” after a statue of St. Vladimir was found decapitated Tuesday.
The head, along with pieces of the statue’s staff, are still missing, church officials told the CBC.
Fr. Michael Buyachok is pastor of the cathedral of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Winnipeg. The statue was a landmark of the parish, beloved by parishioners, and created by a local sculptor, Buyachok told the CBC.
"It's a tragic event, because the statue symbolizes something for us. Our congregation, they know the statue from memory. But that's the way it is," he said.
It’s especially devastating because the statue had been blessed by St. John Paul II during his visit to Winnipeg in 1984, Buyachok added.
Police have been informed of the incident, which they described as vandalism and theft, they told CBC.
St. Vladimir the Great, Grand Prince of Kiev, is venerated for being baptized in 988, which resulted in the Christianization of Kievan Rus', a state whose heritage Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus all claim.
It is yet unclear who cut off and stole the head of the statue and parts of the staff. Church officials said nearby residents of a nursing home reported teenagers playing around the statue on Monday night, while residents of an apartment complex behind the statue reported hearing a grinding sound early Tuesday morning, they told the CBC.
"I really couldn't tell you. I think it's just vandalism, straight vandalism," Buyachok told the CBC. "They wouldn't have anything against the cathedral, because the statue's been there for years, since 1984."
The church has informed local metal scrappers of the incident, in case they are sold the head or staff.
Buyachok said he just hoped the pieces would be returned.
"I would just simply tell them, just return the head to us. We won't prosecute you," he said. "Let those that prosecute people, let them do that. But we won't do anything to you, because what's the point?"