UK rabbi: secular humanists are ‘ever-more combative’ against religious groups

Madrid, Spain, Sep 20, 2019 / 03:07 pm (CNA).- A top UK rabbi has criticized secular groups in Britain for their remarks against religious practices and faith-based schools. Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Great B… […]

Novena of thanksgiving to precede Newman’s canonization

Birmingham, England, Sep 20, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- The Oratories of England are organizing a novena next month leading up to the canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman, in thanksgiving for his life and holiness and asking his intercession.

“This is a time of special grace for us to join together and form links in a great chain of prayer, where we call upon the soon-to-be-Saint to crown our prayers with his intercession in heaven,” Newman Canonisation said on its website.

“We encourage you to form links in that chain by joining in our Novena with Newman.”

The Oct. 4-12 novena will precede Newman’s Oct. 13 canonization.

Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, priest, and cardinal. Originally an Anglican priest, he converted to the Catholic Church in 1845. He was ordained a priest in 1847, and was made a cardinal in 1879.

His works are considered among the most important contributions to the thought of the Church in recent centuries. Among his writings are The Idea of a University, Loss and Gain, and a Letter to the Duke of Norfolk.

He founded in England the Oratory of St. Philip Neri; the confederation now has three houses in the country, at Birmingham, London, and Oxford.

The novena highlights each day an aspect of Newman’s character: an example of humility, child of Mary, priest of God’s altar, man of prayer, guardian of conscience, counsellor of converts, educator of the laity, servant of the Church, and model of friendship.

Each day of the novena includes an intention, an extract from his writings, a decade of the rosary, and this prayer: “O God our heavenly Father, we offer you heartfelt thanks for the life and holiness of John Henry Newman. In him you give us an inspiring example of priest and teacher, heroic and humble in his labour for the salvation of souls and the pursuit of holiness. Through his intercession we ask you to lead us by the kindly light of the Holy Spirit, and so grant us peace and joy, in the one fold of the Redeemer. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Father Ignatius Harrison, provost of the Birmingham Oratory, said that “Newman’s lifelong success in bringing others to Christ shows us that the apostolate of Christian friendship achieves much more by attracting people to the Lord than by aggressive polemic. Newman’s long and incremental spiritual pilgrimage shows us that God leads us to Himself step by step, in ways that He customises to our individual needs, and in His own good time.”

Newman was beatified in Birmingham by Benedict XVI in 2010. At the Mass of beatification, Benedict said that Newman’s “insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world.”

The first miracle attributed to Newman’s intercession involved the complete and inexplicable healing of a deacon from a disabling spinal condition.

His second miracle concerned the healing of a pregnant American woman. The woman prayed for the intercession of Cardinal Newman at the time of a life-threatening diagnosis, and her doctors have been unable to explain how or why she was able to suddenly recover.

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UK court clears 80-year-old accused of ‘mercy killing’ her husband 

London, England, Sep 19, 2019 / 06:39 pm (CNA).- Family members of an 80-year-old woman in England are advocating for legalized assisted suicide after the woman was found not guilty by a U.K. court in an apparent “mercy killing” of her husband.

Mavis Eccleston, 80, was accused of killing her husband Dennis, 81, with a lethal dose of prescription medicine.

Prosecutors claimed that Mavis had done so without Dennis’ knowledge or permission.

But, according to the BBC, Mavis told jurors at the Stafford Crown Court that she and her husband had both intended to take their lives with the medication, and that they had decided to do so after Dennis’ diagnosis of terminal cancer.

The couple was found in their apartment by family members on Feb. 19, 2018, after they had taken the drugs. The couple was rushed to the hospital and given an antidote to the medication. Mavis survived; Dennis did not.

After the hearing, Joy Munns, a daughter of Dennis and Mavis, called for the legalization of assisted suicide “so that dying people aren’t forced to suffer, make plans in secret or ask loved ones to risk prosecution by helping them,” the BBC reported.

Both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are illegal under U.K. law. According to the U.K.’s National Health Service, euthanasia could be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while physician-assisted suicide carries with it a maximum punishment of 14 years imprisonment.

In 2015 the U.K. parliament rejected a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide for patients with a terminal diagnosis, by a vote of 330 to 118.

The U.K.’s Suicide Act 1961 was challenged in High Court in 2017 by a terminally ill man, Noel Conway, who wanted a doctor to be able to prescribe him a lethal dose. His case was dismissed.

Some disability groups in the U.K. and throughout the world have argued against legalized physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, saying that such legislation would put vulnerable populations such as the elderly, physically disabled and mentally ill at risk for coercion.

The Catholic Church teaches that assisted suicide and euthanasia are a violation of the dignity of all human life, and therefore morally impermissible.

“Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible. Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church states.

“Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded,” it adds.

The Catechism similarly states that suicide or the cooperation in suicide is morally unacceptable, though it notes that: “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”

In the recent U.K. hearing, Mavis told jurors that her husband wanted to end his life after receiving a terminal diagnosis of bowel cancer. He had stopped treatment except for pain management medication, and he had reportedly talked about going to Switzerland to take advantage of legal assisted suicide in the country.

The couple decided to end their lives together with a lethal dose of medication, and reportedly wrote a note to their family explaining their decision.

According to the BBC, Mavis said she handed the medicine to her husband before taking it herself, and that Dennis “knew full well” what he was doing as he gave himself the medicine.

Mavis said after she took the medicine herself, she kissed her husband and covered him before lying down, and remembers nothing else until she woke up in the hospital.

One of the couple’s children said outside of the courthouse that while they were “grateful and relieved” for the court’s ruling of not guilty, they said that if there “had been an assisted dying law here in the UK our dad would have been able to have the choice to end his suffering, with medical support, and with his loved ones around him.”

The case is similar to a 2017 case in which an English chemist was cleared after administering lethal drugs to his 85-year-old father, who had reportedly wanted to die. A judge at the time ruled that the chemist’s actions “were acts of pure compassion and mercy.”
 

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Spanish bishops on migrants: ‘We don’t love God if we don’t love our brothers’

Madrid, Spain, Sep 19, 2019 / 05:50 pm (CNA).- The head of the migration commission for the Spanish Bishops’ Conference emphasized that love of neighbor is essential for Christians, and this includes a care for migrants and refugees.

“We don’t love God if we don’t love our brothers,” stressed Bishop Luis Quinteiro of Tuy-Vigo in a presentation on the bishops’ preparations for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Observed in the Church since 1914 as an opportunity for prayer and awareness, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be held Sept. 29. Pope Francis has chosen as this year’s theme, “It’s not just about migrants.”

Normally observed in January, the day will instead by marked on the last Sunday of September this year.

Quinteiro called migration “a decisive issue” and said he hopes that this World Day of Migrants and Refugees will help remind people that foreigners are “not a danger, but help to enrich us.”

In a message, the Spanish bishops called for the most vulnerable to be protected and for human rights of migrants to be respected regardless of their legal status.

They also called for the closure of detention centers where migrants who cross the border illegally are held. The detention centers have drawn significant criticism for poor living conditions.

“It’s not just about migrants, it’s about humanity,” said Fr. José Luis Pinilla, secretary general of the Spanish Conference of Religious.

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Padre Pio overcame suffering with hope, says Italian journalist

Foggia, Italy, Sep 19, 2019 / 04:58 pm (CNA).- More than 50 years after the death of Padre Pio, one of the last journalists to interview the saint has reflected on the saint’s hope and suffering.

Renzo Allegri, the author of the biography “Man of Hope,” visited the Italian saint a year before he died in 1968. He said Pio’s suffering was difficult to witness, but the experience emphasized the saint’s silent strength.

“It was hard for me to watch him walking in the sacristy or the corridors of the monastery, bent over, dragging his swollen feet, and holding on to the walls so that he would not fall down,” wrote Allegri.

“His suffering was tremendous, but he bore it without complaining as he continued to give himself to those who needed him. When he would lift his head and look around, his big eyes looked like they were burning, not from pain but from a goodness that he could not contain.”

Allegri said that during his stay at San Giovanni Rotondo in 1967, he was able to speak with Pio twice. He said he witnessed an “extraordinary moral strength that emanated from [Pio’s] whole being.”

Following the saint’s death, Allegri wrote a long newspaper piece on Pio’s life and works. During his research, the journalist was given thousands of unpublished documents regarding the saint’s hardships.

“I discovered something about Padre Pio that few people knew: he had endured incredibly enormous suffering throughout his life, consisting of more persecution, humiliation, accusations, slanders, trials, and condemnations than one can imagine,” he said.

He said many people will focus on Pio’s intense life of penance and characterize him as a dark and medieval. However, he said the saint is better labeled as “a man of hope.”

“Throughout his life, in the midst of the most difficult trials, he always looked to the future with a spirit of optimism, faith, and love,” said Allegri.

The saint was born in 1887 to farmers Grazio Mario Forgione and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio. During his childhood, Pio was known for his zealous spirituality, and, when he was 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in Morcone.

World War I broke out in 1914 and Pio was drafted into the 10th Company of the Italian Medical Corps. He was released shortly thereafter due to medical reasons. In 1916, he moved to the Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary located in San Giovanni Rotondo.

Many miracles and extraordinary sufferings have been attributed to Pio’s life. Beside experiencing bilocation and levitation, he also had the stigmata – a miraculous exhibition of the wounds of Christ – and underwent physical attacks from the devil.

In his recent reflection, Allegri pointed to the words of Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, archbishop emeritus of Genoa, who highlighted Christ’s redemptive suffering as essential to the faith. In times when this is misunderstood, Siri said God will send men like Padre Pio.

“With the stigmata which he bore throughout his life and with the other physical and moral sufferings he endured, Padre Pio calls our attention to the body of Christ as a means of salvation,” Siri told Allegri in an interview for “Man with Hope.”

“In our time the temptation to forget about the reality of the body of Christ is enormous. And God has sent us this man with the task of calling us back to the truth.”

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‘Secret preacher’ of Dachau concentration camp beatified

Limburg, Germany, Sep 19, 2019 / 12:06 pm (CNA).- The ‘secret preacher of block 17’ who witnessed to Christ in a Nazi concentration camp was beatified this week in Limburg, Germany.

Blessed Father Richard Henkes was a German Pallottine priest denounced by the Nazis for his outspoken preaching. He died in Dachau concentration camp in 1945 while caring for prisoners sick with typhus.

“The real reformers of the Church are the blessed and the saints,” said Cardinal Kurt Koch at Henkes’ beatification on Sept. 19. “For we can only achieve the utmost externally, in structural terms, when we are also prepared to strive to achieve our utmost internally, in faith.”

“Love is not without sacrifice,” Koch said. “The Christian martyrdom is only real if it is realized as the supreme act of love for God and for one’s brothers and sisters.”

From the pulpit and the classroom, Fr. Henkes spoke out against the Nazi ideology and condemned the regime’s crimes against human dignity, focusing one homily on their killing of the disabled. Henkes was first denounced in 1937 for one of his homilies, for which he had to stand trial.

In the following years of World War II, Henkes was interrogated and threatened by the Gestapo again and again as he continued to work as a youth chaplain and retreat master.

“In the face of this neo-pagan ideology, Father Henkes surmised that wherever God is reduced to insignificance and pushed out of the public eye, man is also reduced to insignificance,” Koch said.

“Only when God is exalted through us human beings, when we do what Mary did in the Magnificat – Magnificat anima mea: Let God be exalted through my soul – wherever that takes place, there man is not reduced to insignificance, but is given a share in the greatness of God’s love,” the cardinal said.

Fr. Henkes was finally arrested by the Gestapo in May 1943 because of the content of one of his homilies in Branitz. He was then imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp, where he lived in the priests’ barracks, did compulsory labor, and secretly studied Czech with the future archbishop of Prague, Servant of God Cardinal Josef Beran.

Henkes had begun studying the Czech language before his imprisonment, and said that he hoped to continue serving the Czech people as a priest after the war. He secretly preached in block 17 of Dachau, where there were many Czech people.

In late 1944, a typhus epidemic overtook block 17. Fr. Henkes volunteered to be locked up with the sick prisoners, so that he could continue to minister to them and care for the dying.

He described the situation in Dachau in a letter smuggled out of the camp through a middleman: “People are dying in masses because they are completely starving. There are only skeletons. A gruesome picture. I have been vaccinated against typhus fever and I hope that the Lord God protects me … However, one thinks of how this will end up here. We can do nothing, we can only rely on the Lord God.”

After eight weeks in the quarantined barracks, Fr. Henkes became infected with typhus. He died within a week, on Feb. 22, 1945. Allied forces liberated Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945.

Shortly after the end of World War II, Catholics in the Czech Republic began calling for Henkes’ cause for sainthood to be opened.

Last Sunday, Henkes joined the ranks of the saints and beatified priests and religious who died witnessing to Christ amid the inhumanity and horror of the Nazi concentration camps. This includes not only St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who both were killed in Auschwitz, but also Henkes’ fellow prisoners in the priest barracks of Dachau, several of whom have already been beatified.

More than 2,500 Catholic priests and seminarians were imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime, of which 1,034 died in the camp.

Blessed Michal Kozal — a Polish bishop killed by lethal injection in Dachau in 1943 — was beatified by St. John Paul II in Warsaw in 1987.

Blessed Karl Leisner was secretly ordained a priest while imprisoned in Dachau in 1944 by a French bishop also held within the concentration camp. (Bishop Gabriel Piguet was able to obtain clandestine authorization from Leisner’s bishop before the ordination.) Leisner died of tuberculosis shortly after celebrating his first Mass.

Fr. Leisner was beatified, along with Fr. Provost Lichtenberg, by St. John Paul II during his visit to Berlin in 1996.

Blessed Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig, who also died in Dachau while caring for sick prisoners infected with typhus in 1945, was beatified in Germany in 2016. Fr. Unzeitig wrote in a letter from the concentration camp: “God’s almighty grace helps us overcome obstacles … love doubles our strength, makes us inventive, makes us feel content and inwardly free. If people would only realize what God has in store for those who love him!”

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Robert Bellarmine, the saint who defended the Church with charity

Rome, Italy, Sep 17, 2019 / 03:18 pm (CNA).- St. Robert Bellarmine, whose feast is celebrated Sept. 17 on the General Roman Calendar, was a Jesuit and a cardinal who used his incredible intellect to defend Catholic teaching, largely through responses t… […]

Marx says German ‘synod’ will proceed despite Vatican objections

Munich, Germany, Sep 16, 2019 / 11:45 am (CNA).- The head of the German bishops’ conference told Vatican officials last week that addressing controversial theological topics during the German bishops’ proposed “binding synodal path&rd… […]

Vatican: German synod plans ‘not ecclesiologically valid’

Vatican City, Sep 12, 2019 / 01:18 pm (CNA).- In a letter sent to German bishops last week, the Vatican has said that plans for a binding Church synod in Germany are “not ecclesiologically valid.”  Plans for a “binding synodal p… […]

EU official: Release of Asia Bibi shows promise for religious freedom

Budapest, Hungary, Sep 12, 2019 / 12:02 am (CNA).- A European Union official who played a role in working for the release of Pakistani death row inmate Asia Bibi said the outcome shows the potential of international cooperation to promote religious fre… […]