Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 02:17 pm (CNA).- Religious freeom is innate and must be protected, US president Donald Trump said in his proclamation for Religious Freedom Day, which is observed Wednesday.
“On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate our Nation’s long-standing commitment to freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one’s own faith,” Trump said in his proclamation for the Jan. 16 observance. “The right to religious freedom is innate to the dignity of every human person and is foundational to the pursuit of truth.”
He said many of America's settlers, including the Pilgrims, “fled their home countries to escape religious persecution. Aware of this history, our Nation’s Founding Fathers readily understood that a just government must respect the deep yearning for truth and openness to the transcendent that are part of the human spirit. For this reason, from the beginning, our constitutional republic has endeavored to protect a robust understanding of religious freedom.”
Trump noted that Virginia enacted a Statute for Religious Freedom Jan. 16, 1786, “to protect the right of individual conscience and religious exercise and to prohibit the compulsory support of any church.”
The statute “set forth the principle that religious liberty is an inherent right and not a gift of the state,” and was the model for religious freedom clauses of the First Amendment, the president stated.
“Unfortunately, the fundamental human right to religious freedom is under attack,” he said. “Efforts to circumscribe religious freedom — or to separate it from adjoining civil liberties, like property rights or free speech — are on the rise.”
Trump added that legislative attacks on religious liberty “have given way to actual violence,” citing the October 2018 attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and saying that “attacks on people of faith and their houses of worship have increased in frequency in recent years.”
He said his administration is acting “to protect religious liberty and to seek justice against those who seek to abridge it.”
The president noted that the Department of Justice “is aggressively prosecuting those who use violence or threats to interfere with the religious freedom of their fellow Americans”; and that last January the department raised the profile of religious liberty cases in its Justice Manual, and the Health and Human Services department adopted more robust conscience protection regulations.
Trump also noted international religious freedom problems, saying his Secretary of State convened a Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in July 2018 to “[listen] to the voices of those risking their lives for their religious beliefs, and … to the families of people who have died fighting for their fundamental right of conscience.”
“Our Nation was founded on the premise that a just government abides by the 'Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.' As the Founders recognized, the Constitution protects religious freedom to secure the rights endowed to man by his very nature,” he concluded.
“On this day, we recognize this history and affirm our commitment to the preservation of religious freedom.”
Douglas, Isle of Man, Jan 16, 2019 / 12:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Isle of Man's Abortion Reform Bill 2018 gained royal assent Tuesday, meaning women in the territory will soon be able to procure elective abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion policy on the the Isle of Man, a crown dependency located between England and Northern Ireland, had been governed by the Termination of Pregnancy Act 1995, which allows abortion only in cases where the mother’s life is endangered or if the baby has a low survival rate.
Royal assent was given Jan. 15 by Richard Gozney, Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man.
Abortion rights supporters have urged the Department of Health and Social Care to enact the change as soon as possible.
The bill, which decriminalizes abortion, was passed unanimously by the Legislative Council Nov. 6, 2018. It allows elective abortion up to 14 weeks; up to 24 weeks if medical reasons or “serious social grounds” were presented; and, according to Isle of Man Today, “in certain emergency or serious situations after 24 weeks.”
Among amendments made to the bill were measures regarding counseling services and conscientious objection.
It will provide for buffer zones around medical centers to keep pro-life counselors and protesters at a distance from women procuring abortion, as well as measures to prevent sex-selective abortions.
The Anglican bishop of Sodor and Man, Peter Eagles, who is an ex officio member of the Legislative Council, had voted against the bill earlier in the year, but was in favor of it at the November vote.
“I see these amendments as being entirely within the spirit of the discussion held in this council earlier and as being instrumental in enhancing the bill’s effectiveness,” Eagles said, according to Isle of Man Today.
The bill has been opposed by the Catholic Church on the island and by Humanity and Equality in Abortion Reform.
It was expected to receive royal assent in 2018, but Manx Radio reported that the process was delayed by “the increased workload currently on the UK's civil service” due to preparations for Brexit.
To gain royal assent, the British Ministry of Justice needed to examine the bill to ensure its compliance with human rights laws.
“There have been several recent cases where anti-abortion groups have tried to overturn laws made by democratically elected parliaments through employing barristers to present technical legal arguments,” Alex Allinson, a Member of the House of Keys, told Manx Radio last week.
The bill will be promulgated on Tynwald Day, July 5, 2019.
Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2019 / 11:20 am (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl will not celebrate the Jan. 18 Mass for Life, to be held at a youth rally before the annual March for Life. Wuerl was until today scheduled to be the principal celebrant of the Mass.
In his stead will be Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, the Archdiocese of Washington announced on Wednesday.
Pierre will be joined by Washington auxiliary bishops Mario Dorsonville and Roy Campbell, who will represent the archdiocese.
The Youth Rally and Mass for Life takes place the morning of the annual March for Life, at which thousands of pro-life supporters are expected to process up the National Mall towards the Supreme Court. The march is held in January each year to mark the Supreme Court decision in the case Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion in the United States.
The Mass for Life is organized by the Archdiocese of Washington and in previous years has been celebrated by Wuerl.
The archdiocese declined to comment on the reasons for Wuerl’s decision not to participate in this year’s event.
Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation as the archbishop of Washington in October, and has not yet named his replacement. In the meantime, he continues to lead the archdiocese on an interim basis.
Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, there had been a growing call for Wuerl to step aside from celebrating the Mass, following criticism of the cardinal for his response to the allegations sexual abuse and misconduct made against his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.
More than 300 people signed a petition requesting that Wuerl not celebrate the Mass, and others threatened to walk out in protest if he were present.
The Archdiocese of Washington has hosted a large youth rally and Mass before the March for Life for the last 25 years. The 2019 event will be held in the Capital One Arena, and 20,000 pilgrims from across the country are expected to attend. In addition to the Mass, there will be testimonies from pro-life leaders and musical performances.
Vatican City, Jan 16, 2019 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Just over a month ahead of the much-anticipated February meeting on sex abuse, the Vatican said the summit’s goal is for bishops to leave the meeting knowing clearly what it is they need to do to stop the abuse of minors.
According to a statement by papal spokesperson Alessandro Gisotti Jan. 16, the February meeting “has a concrete purpose: the goal is that all of the bishops clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors.”
“It is fundamental for the Holy Father,” Gisotti said, that the bishops of the February gathering, when they have returned home, “understand the laws to be applied and that they take the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims, and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried.”
It was also stated that Pope Francis wants the summit of bishops to be “an assembly of Pastors, not an academic conference,” and that he knows “a global problem can only be resolved with a global response.”
It will be a meeting “characterized by prayer and discernment, a catechetical and working gathering,” the statement read.
It concluded by drawing attention to the high expectations surrounding the summit, recalling that the Church is “not at the beginning of the fight against abuse,” but that the meeting is just one step along a “painful journey” the Church has “decisively undertaken” for the last 15 years.
According to the Vatican, the February meeting will include plenary sessions, working groups, moments of prayer, listening to victim testimonies, a penitential liturgy, and a final Mass.
Pope Francis will be present for the entirety of the gathering.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, president of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation and former director of the Holy See Press Office has been asked by Pope Francis to moderate the plenary sessions.
The gathering, which will take place Feb. 21-24, is focused on the protection of minors from sexual abuse within the Church. The pope has asked the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, and the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches, to attend.
The U.S. bishops expected to attend are United States Conference of Bishops President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Vice-President Jose Gomez, and Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, who is on the planning committee of the summit.
One part of the preparation for the meeting is a questionnaire which bishops were asked to fill out and submit to the planning committee by January 15.
Participating bishops were also urged to meet with victims of clergy sexual abuse in their own countries in advance of the gathering.
Vatican City, Jan 16, 2019 / 05:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- God the Father will always be there for his beloved children, Pope Francis said Wednesday, with a reminder that the unconditional love of God is not limited by our own sense of guilt or unworthiness.
“God is looking for you, even if you do not seek Him. God loves you, even if you forget Him. God sees beauty in you, even if you think you have squandered all your talents in vain,” Pope Francis said in his general audience Jan. 16.
The pope reflected on the first two words of the “Our Father,” focusing on the depth of personal love for each person found within God’s fatherhood.
“It may be that we too happen to walk on paths far from God, as happened to the prodigal son; or fall into a loneliness that makes us feel abandoned in the world; or, again, do wrong and are paralyzed by a sense of guilt,” Pope Francis explained.
In those moments, one’s prayer should simply start by saying the word, “Father,” with the tenderness of a child who calls out “Papa” or “Abbà,” in the original Aramaic, Francis said.
“You have a father who loves you!” Pope Francis said enthusiastically. Call out to God as “Father,” and God will answer you, he said.
If you respond to God by saying, “But, Father, I have done this...” God will answer, “I never lost sight of you. I saw everything. But I was always there, close to you, faithful to my love for you,” Pope Francis said.
To call God “Father,” the pope explained, is to have “the whole world of Jesus poured into one's heart.”
Pope Francis described the intimacy of the Aramaic expression “Abbà” used twice in the letters of St. Paul. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul wrote, “As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!'"
Francis repeated the words that Italian children use, “Papa” and “Babbo” - which are roughly equivalent to saying “Daddy” in English - to exemplify the depth and closeness found in the word “Abba.”
“We continue to say ‘Our Father,’ but with the heart we are invited to say ‘Papa,’ to have a relationship with God like that of a child with his father, who says ‘Papa, Babbo,’” he said.
“These expressions evoke love, evoke warmth, something that projects us into the context of childhood: the image of a child completely enveloped by the embrace of a father who feels infinite tenderness for him,” he said.
Pope Francis continued, “dear brothers and sisters, to pray well, we must get to have a child's heart … like a child in the arms of his father.”