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Bishops welcome proposed rule to protect rights of religious employers

The chairmen of three U.S. bishops' committees welcomed a proposed rule aimed at clarifying religious protections that may be invoked by federal contractors, including faith-based organizations.

Bangladesh flood victims reel as aid agencies struggle to respond

Weeks after devastating floods affected millions and killed more than 100 people in Bangladesh, many families are reeling from a lack of aid as the country suffers an outbreak of waterborne diseases.

Matters of life and death: Pope to bring his message to southern Africa

IMAGE: CNS photo/Stringer, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Rejecting violence, promoting interreligious harmony, caring for the environment and stamping out government corruption are expected to be high on the agenda Sept. 4-10 when Pope Francis visits Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius.

"The pope's very presence will be his principle message to the people of Mozambique," said Father Giorgio Ferretti, an Italian missionary and pastor of the cathedral in Maputo, Mozambique. "Just the fact of him walking these streets, meeting the people, speaking to them will be a great message of peace."

After 15 years of civil war in Mozambique, a peace agreement was signed in 1992, concluding a two-year mediation process facilitated by the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio, the Catholic archbishop of Beira and representatives of the Italian government.

The country has been at peace for 27 years, "but there still hasn't been a real de-militarization of some parts of what had been the armed opposition, so we must still pray and work for peace in this country," Father Ferretti said. "Then, in the north of the country, in the province of Cabo Delgado -- where there are Americans, Italians and others involved in the extraction of gas -- there has been disorder; it still is not clear at all whether we are dealing with Islamic fundamentalists, but there has been violence."

When the incidents began in October 2017, many were quick to suspect Islamic fundamentalists; however, others believe the violence is more closely linked to the foreign expansion of the natural gas industry in a region where most people are very poor.

St. John Paul II's visit to Mozambique in 1988 "laid the foundations for a commitment to peace," Father Ferretti said. "Now, the visit of Pope Francis can be like a final seal on that process for an effective and definitive peace in the country. This is the great hope of the church and the people for the visit of the pope."

Leah Marie Lucas is director of Caritas Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province, where in addition to the insecurity mentioned by Father Ferretti, people are struggling to recover from the devastation caused by Cyclone Kenneth in April.

Pope Francis will not be visiting the areas devastated by Cyclone Idai in March or Cyclone Kenneth a few weeks later, but he is likely to remember the hundreds of Mozambicans who died in the violent storms and the thousands left homeless.

In Cabo Delgado, some people already were displaced by the violence when the cyclone wiped out more homes, Lucas said. "Even if they remain close to their home village, they are not able to farm, and this year will experience serious food security challenges."

More frequent and more violent super storms like Idai and Kenneth are headline-making signs of the devastating impact climate change already is having on the countries of southern Africa and the Indian Ocean, including Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius.

Franciscan Father Jean-Charles Rakotondranaivo, "custos" or superior of Franciscans in Madagascar and Mauritius, said people in the two nations "are already experiencing the effects of climate change," much of it caused by the people themselves.

Particularly in Madagascar, "we are experiencing rapid and growing deforestation," he said. "In 50 years, we have lost three-quarters of our forest" to meet the demand for fuel wood and charcoal and to clear areas for farming.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Catholic overseas aid and development agency, has been working in Madagascar for more than 50 years; meeting the challenges of climate change while helping poor farmers is a key part of its work there.

Partnering with other development agencies, for example, CRS is helping farmers sow plants that can stabilize sand dunes along the southern coast and prevent them from encroaching on farm plots. Another project helps subsistence farmers create cooperatives and generate income by growing spices since the island is the world's largest producer and exporter of vanilla and also produces black pepper, cloves, turmeric and cinnamon.

Shaun Ferris, CRS director of agriculture and livelihoods, said soil and water management is a key focus of the agency's programs in Madagascar "where more than 50% of all households can be classified as food insecure, and 90% of the country's population lives on less than $2 a day."

Pope Francis' social-environmental encyclical, "Laudato Si'," was "a brilliant document," Ferris said, and its message "is the message of the decade" because climate change and ecological degradation are real and strongly contribute to poverty, hunger, conflict and migration.

Father Rakotondranaivo sees the pope's repeated condemnations of corruption and his teaching on politics as service as another essential message for the region, particularly for Madagascar.

Unfortunately, he said, having political and civil responsibility too often is seen "not as a service but as a great privilege, a way to enrich oneself. Generally, politicians get rich very quickly. Madagascar is a country rich in natural resources, but the population is very poor. The inequality between a handful of rich and the poor majority is blatant. It is time to wake politicians up to focus more on the common good."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Update: Australian pro-life leaders organize to block bill legalizing abortion

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giovanni Portelli, courtesy Right To Life NSW

By Catherine Sheehan

SYDNEY (CNS) -- Thousands of pro-life supporters demonstrated in the streets of Sydney, expressing their opposition to a bill in the New South Wales state parliament that would permit abortion until birth for any reason.

The demonstration Aug. 20 called on members of parliament (MPs) to defeat the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill that was introduced Aug. 1.

The bill passed Aug. 8 in the Legislative Assembly, the lower house of the state parliament, 59-31, following a limited three-day period for comment.

The bill is pending in the Legislative Council, the upper house of parliament. Legislators had planned to vote on the bill by Aug. 23. However, in response to MPs angry at the lack of due process, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejilkian announced the vote had been delayed until mid-September. Berejilkian supports the measure.

New South Wales is the only Australian state where abortion remains a criminal offense. Abortion is permitted only when the mother's physical or mental health is in danger.

As MPs debated the bill in the lower house, the pro-life movement maintained a vigil lasting several days outside of parliament. Many were young women concerned about the lack of protection in the bill for women and babies.

Bethany Marsh, 21, a university student, was one of those leading the peaceful but lively gathering.

The chairperson of LifeChoice Australia told Catholic News Service many young women are increasingly opposed to the ideology behind the push for abortion on demand, which pits women against their unborn children.

"The bill, while claiming to be 'compassionate', is possibly the most demeaning and inhumane piece of legislation to have ever been considered by the NSW parliament," she said.

"The presence of hundreds of young women outside parliament should have sent the message, loud and clear, that we, the young pro-life generation, do not want these abhorrent practices."

Later, thousands gathered for the Stand for Life Rally Aug. 20 in Sydney's Martin Place to protest the bill. The rally brought together secular pro-life groups and representatives of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney addressed the crowd, saying they were evidence of "people power" and "God power." He thanked participants for saying "'no' to a bill that says you can kill babies right up to birth and even after they're born."

MP Tanya Davies, a member of the Liberal Party who voted against the bill, said the public deliberately had been shut out of the democratic process.

"Citizens of NSW, you have an equal voice in this debate and up to now the process has been designed to exclude your voice and the voice of your communities," she told the crowd.

She called for "a tsunami" of opposition to the legislation over the next three weeks.

If enacted, the legislation would further the financial aims of abortion providers, Rachel Carling-Jenkins, CEO of Right To Life NSW, told Catholic News Service.

"This is harmful to mothers who, instead of getting the help they need during a crisis, will be automatically be redirected to the cheapest option, i.e., termination of their unborn child," Carling-Jenkins said.

"This bill opens up an opportunity for abortion providers to further profit from women uncertain of their options."

Tiana Legge, CEO of Women and Babies Support, said the lack of restrictions on abortion in the legislation would make pregnant women even more vulnerable to coerced abortion.

"What we've heard from women is that many are pressured and coerced and coercion can take many forms," Legge said. "It can include a male partner who is using physical or emotional threats and violence against her to coerce her to have an abortion. It can also involve pressure from parents, others close to them or work colleagues and also just a general lack of support."

In its present form, the bill does not require that women seeking abortion be offered counseling, that babies born alive after failed abortions be rendered medical assistance, or that parental consent be obtained before performing abortions on minors young than 16. It also does not prohibit sex-selective abortion.

The bill mandates, however, that a doctor with a conscientious objection to abortion must refer a woman seeking an abortion to another doctor willing to perform the procedure.

MPs in the lower house sought to have protections for women, babies and medical practitioners added to the legislation, but the amendments were rejected.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Australian pro-life leaders organize to block bill legalizing abortion

Thousands of pro-life supporters demonstrated in the streets of Sydney, expressing their opposition to a bill in the New South Wales state parliament that would permit abortion until birth for any reason.

Vatican investigates abuse allegation against Chilean president's uncle

The apostolic nunciature in Chile announced that the Vatican has opened an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against retired Archbishop Bernardino Pinera Carvallo of La Serena, who is the uncle of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.

Cleveland's Esperanza Threads 'sews' seeds of hope in new generation

The Field Hospital: "Esperanza" is Spanish for "hope" and Ursuline Sr. Mary Eileen Boyle, 70, who founded the program, has helped inspire hope in the lives of hundreds of women and men who learned in-demand skills and found employment in the sewing industry and beyond.

Links for 8/22/19

Michael Sean Winters rounds up political news and commentary: interpreting the Vatican II shift to a global church; Sen. Warren's clumsy speech to Native Americans; Democrats can learn from FDR; unemployment rates examined in key swing states

Copy Desk Daily, Aug. 22, 2019

NCR Today: The Copy Desk Daily highlights recommended news and opinion articles that have crossed the copy editors' desks on their way to you.

People are suffering, dying; please stop the rhetoric!

Just Catholic: For the developed world's pundits and politicians, the discussion is not about people who are poor. It's about themselves. As our collapsing world writhes in pain, they break out in Twitter wars.