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Democratic Unionists lament introduction of elective abortion in N Ireland

CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2020 / 11:48 am (CNA).- Politicians of the Democratic Unionist Party, the leading pro-life party in Northern Ireland, along with other pro-life leaders, are lamenting that new laws permitting elective abortion in the region came into force Tuesday.

Paul Givan, a DUP member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, said March 31 that “here in Northern Ireland they have the most extreme, radical, abortion laws anywhere in Europe. It is a travesty that this has been allowed to happen.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster called it a “sad day."

Jim Allister, the Traditional Unionist Voice's sole member of the legislative assembly, said: “From today, what should be the safest place for an unborn, namely its mother’s womb, can become on a whim one of the most dangerous places - because we are going now to have utterly unfettered, uncontrolled abortion up to 12 weeks.”

The Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 also allow abortions up to 24 weeks “in cases where the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or girl, greater than the risk of terminating the pregnancy.”

Abortion access is permitted with no time limit in cases of severe fetal impairment and fatal fetal abnormalities.

Previously, abortion was legally permitted in the region only if the mother's life was at risk or if there was risk of long term or permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Both Lives Matter, a pro-life movement in the region, commented that “tragically, too many abortions happen because sadly women fear life and choose death. It is more important than ever before that those of us who recognise and value both lives in every pregnancy, offer better than abortion. Women and girls deserve access to all the practical, material and emotional services they need to choose life.”

Clare Bailey, the Green Party in Northern Ireland leader, welcomed the new regulation, saying that “access to abortion is a positive move.”

Sinn Féin has supported the liberalization of abortion law.

Northern Ireland's new law allows doctors, registered nurses, and registered midwives to perform abortions.

Though in England, Wales, and Scotland, two medical professionals must certify in all cases that there were lawful grounds for abortion, in Northern Ireland only one medical professional is needed for certification in elective abortions or in cases of immediate necessity where there is a risk to the life of the mother.

The lower threshold in Northern Ireland was adopted at least in part because “it is likely that there will be a more significant number of people raising conscientious objections than in other parts of the UK.”

Consientious objection is allowed for direct participation in abortion, but not for ancillary, administrative, or managerial tasks associated with the procedure, because that “would have consequences on a practical level and would therefore undermine the effective provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland.”

Buffer zones have not been set up around locations where abortions are procured, barring protest in the locations' immediate vicinity. The government has decided to wait and see what the situation will be, keeping the matter under review so it can “respond to any challenges as needed at the time.”

The new framework was adopted to implement Westminster's Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, which decriminalized abortion in Northern Ireland and placed a moratorium on abortion-related criminal prosecutions, and obliged the UK government to create legal access to abortion in the region by March 31.

It was passed while the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended, though the legislature resumed meeting in January.

Northern Ireland rejected the Abortion Act 1967, which legalized abortion in England, Wales, and Scotland, and bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

John Hayes, the Conservative MP for South Holland and The Deepings, said ahead of the regulations' introduction that the process was “overriding devolution.”

“It seems likely this will be interpreted as the UK Government imposing its will on a reluctant part of the Kingdom which is doubtless disdainfully regarded by Whitehall’s liberal elite as antediluvian,” he wrote earlier this month.

The amendment to the NI EF Act obliging the government to provide for legal abortion in Northern Ireland was introduced by Stella Creasy, a Labour MP who represents a London constituency.

In October 2019, the High Court in Belfast had ruled that the region's ban on the abortion of unborn children with fatal abnormalities violated the UK's human rights commitments.

Northern Irish women had been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.

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Britons rededicate England to the Blessed Virgin Mary

London, England, Mar 30, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- More than half a million people took part Sunday in the rededication of England to Our Lady Sunday, organizers have said.

The English bishops had originally asked Catholics to gather in churches and cathedrals for the rededication at noon March 29. They were forced to change their plans when the government imposed a lockdown across the country in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

They invited Catholics instead to follow the rededication ceremony live from their homes on the website of the Catholic National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady in Walsingham, Norfolk. So many logged on that the site crashed. Another website broadcasting the ceremony, churchservices.tv, also crashed. Organizers then asked viewers to follow the event on YouTube.

During the ceremony, Catholics recited an Act of Entrustment of England to Mary. The Act reaffirmed England’s status as the “Dowry of Mary”, a title dating back to at least the 14th century.

In a homily after the rededication, shrine rector Msgr John Armitage said: “When our bishops decided three years ago to undertake this rededication, they could never have foreseen the extent of our need at this time. Today we undertake this dedication in the ‘eye of the storm’.

“We have long pondered and treasured the words of Pope Leo XIII to an earlier generation of bishops: ‘When England returns to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England.’ In the hour of our need Our Blessed Mother has indeed returned to England.”

In a message before the ceremony, Pope Francis said he prayed that the rededication would “inspire all to persevere in the urgent task of sharing the joy of the Gospel with the men and women of our times".

"As they strive to bear witness to the beauty of our Catholic faith, to promote unity between Christians and to proffer the merciful love of Jesus to the poorest of our brothers and sisters," he urged them "to draw wisdom and strength from the example and intercession of the country’s many confessors and martyrs.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster and president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, posted a video of himself reciting the rededication prayers at home.

“Today is the day we rededicate ourselves to Our Blessed Lady,” he wrote on Twitter. “This act of dedication asks of us to make a gift of ourselves to her. We ask for her protection, her mantle of love cast over us and our nations.”

Before the coronavirus outbreak, 299 churches, schools and organizations had signed up on a rededication map on the official website. After the government imposed restrictions on public gatherings, more than 2,000 individuals added their markers to the map.

Organizers said that a total of 382,000 people took part in the ceremony via livestreams. They explained that when they took into account the data from the map sign-ups, this brought the figure over 500,000. They added that this was a conservative estimate, as EWTN Great Britain also livestreamed the ceremony via Facebook, YouTube and its website.

 

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UK government reverses policy yet again, will allow at-home medical abortions

CNA Staff, Mar 30, 2020 / 05:34 pm (CNA).- Amid the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) and strict social distancing orders in the United Kingdom, the UK government has announced that women will be allowed to perform medical abortions at home until the coronavirus crisis ends.

The announcement drew dismay from pro-life groups in the country, pointing out that medical abortions, procured with a pair of pills, are dangerous for women even when done after a fac-to-face consultation with a doctor.

“It is unconscionable that the Government is contradicting their stance, yet again, to allow women to be taking both stages of the medical abortion at home,” Liz Parsons, Director of Advocacy for the UK pro-life charity Life, said March 30.

“It is an absolute disgrace that the abortion lobby should take advantage of the terrible situation we find ourselves in, with Covid-19, to instigate the biggest change to the 1967 Abortion Act we’ve seen in years, without any public consultation.”

Women seeking medical abortions will be allowed to take both abortion pills— mifepristone and misoprostol— at home up to the tenth week of pregnancy, according to a government spokeperson. Doctors would mail the pills to the patient after consulting with them with by telephone or video link.

UK abortion law had previously mandated that abortions only be carried out in a hospital, by a specialist provider or at a licensed clinic, with the approval of two doctors.

The government’s decision to allow women to take both abortion pills at home will be limited to to two years or until the end of the coronavirus crisis, the spokesperson said Monday.

“These significant changes will make it nearly impossible to discover underlying mental health issues, coercion or abuse, leaving these women without the real help and support they desperately need,” Parsons continued.

“The baby in the womb is one of the most vulnerable human beings in our society. We urge the Government to listen to its own advice and continue to put vulnerable people first.”

A medical abortion, sometimes called a chemical abortion, is a two-step process that involves the ingestion of mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the progesterone hormone, inducing a miscarriage. Misoprostol is taken up to two days later, and induces labor.

Women in the UK are already allowed to take the second drug at home, after taking the first at a medical clinic and after obtaining the approval of two doctors, as required by law.

The newest legal changes come after U.K.’s Department for Health on March 23 announced that the country’s abortion laws were changing to allow women to complete a medical abortion at home, and then hours later retracted the announcement.

The change would have applied nationwide but only had practical effect in England. Home administering of medical abortions is already permitted under Scottish and Welsh law, The Week reports.

After the retraction, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the government has no plans to change abortion regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing ire from Members of Parliament and a number of pro-abortion medical groups in the UK.

The Mayo Clinic lists potential risks of medical abortion as including incomplete abortion, heavy and prolonged bleeding, infection, and fever, among other potential complications.

UK pro-abortion groups last week reiterated their support for telemedicine abortions. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists had been recommending a nationwide expansion of abortion drug accessibility through the use of telemedicine since before the COVID-19 outbreak, most recently during December 2019.

“This would have reduced pressure on an already overwhelmed health system, limited risk of coronavirus infection for women, their families and healthcare professionals, while ensuring safe and timely access to abortion care,” a Wednesday joint statement from the RCOG and the Royal College of Midwives reads.

“Inaction is reckless and risks the health and wellbeing of women and frontline [National Health Service] workers.”

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children UK, a pro-life group, launched a national and international campaign calling for abortions to be halted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This radical and most disturbing policy would...have placed more women at risk,” John Smeaton, Chief Executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children UK, said last week.

“The removal of any direct medical supervision overseeing the use of both abortion pills could have seen a rise of physical and physiological complications experienced by women.”

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During coronavirus, German cardinal opens seminary to feed homeless

CNA Staff, Mar 30, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne has opened the archdiocesan seminary to feed and shelter the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic. The seminary had been partly emptied due to renovation works and students were sent home and classes suspended in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The cardinal first announced the project on Sunday, March 29. “I have decided to open up our seminary for the homeless while our seminarians are gone due to the corona restriction,” Woelki said on Sunday.

“We want to offer warm meals and access to restrooms and showers to those who have nobody to turn to these days in Cologne.”

The seminary opened its ministry to the homeless on Monday, offering meals in a dining hall with 20 individual tables, so that those coming in could be served while still adhering to social distancing guidelines.

CNA Deutsch, Catholic News Agency’s German language sister organization, reported March 30 that food is being catered by the archdiocese’s general vicariate and that hygiene and safety standards are being overseen by Malteser, the medical organization of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

In addition to food, the seminary is providing access to showers to both men and women, with facilities open Saturdays to men between 11am and 1pm, and women between 1pm and 2pm. The archdiocese says that it expects to serve between 100-150 people.

Although homeless shelters remain open in the city, social distancing and other measures taken to halt the spread of coronavirus have added to ordinary difficulties faced by the homeless. In Cologne, Caritas have highlighted that those who rely on begging in the streets now have far fewer people whom they can ask for assistance.

"Many of the people on the street are just hungry and have not been able to wash for days," Woelki said on Monday.

The seminary is being partly staffed by volunteers from the archdiocesan youth center, as well as theology students from the schools in Cologne, Bonn and Sankt Augustin.

“Earlier today I had the chance to welcome the first 60 guests to our (temporarily) rededicated seminary,” Woelki said Monday via Twitter. “Many are in great need. But how inspiring it was to see the young volunteers and the sense of community.”

"Our congregations are not only worship congregations, but also always Caritas congregations, and every baptized Christian is not only called to worship and to profess faith, but also to charity," the cardinal said, adding that the Church’s call to service can never be suspended.

The archdiocese also announced Sunday that is providing medical treatment for six Italian coronavirus patients in need of intensive care. The patients were airlifted out of northern Italy, the region hardest-hit by the virus, by the German air force and the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Cardinal Woelki called the medical treatment “an act of charity and international solidarity” with the Italian people.

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During coronavirus, Rome’s homeless find refuge near the Vatican

Rome, Italy, Mar 28, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Along the edge of Bernini’s colonnade, the semi-circular rows of columns which wrap St. Peter’s Square in Rome, many homeless spend time during the day and sleep at night, as tourists and locals walk by.

But during the coronavirus pandemic, which has led Italian authorities to lock down the country, close St. Peter’s Square, and order everyone to stay home, where can those with nowhere to go find shelter?

There are an estimated 8,000 homeless in Rome, according to Massimiliano Signifredi, communications director for Sant’Egidio, a Catholic community and volunteer network based in Rome.

“Unfortunately, no one has thought of these people,” he told CNA. “These people are at risk, not only because of the virus, but because of isolation.”

Of those 8,000 homeless, he explained that around 3,000 will not be able to find room in shelters across the city, and instead choose “to live at the train stations and at places like St. Peter’s Square, which continues to be a place of refuge for those without a home.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, with the streets abandoned and bars and restaurants closed, “those who do not have a home find themselves in great difficulty,” Signifredi said. “Even to go to the bathroom is a problem without a house; and to wash your hands frequently, like we should, you cannot do if you are on the street.”

One state police officer who works near the Vatican, and who spoke to CNA on condition of anonymity, said one of the places where many homeless typically sleep at night – under the gallery of one of the nearby buildings – is now empty.

But the outer edge of Bernini’s colonnade still hosts many of its usual guests, though numbers are slightly reduced. “Some people really do not want to go; they prefer to stay outside,” the officer said, adding that the police cannot force anyone to go to a shelter against his or her wish.

Despite added risks, the services for homeless men and women near the Vatican have continued uninterrupted, including the papal charities-run showers and bathrooms, located under and between the right colonnade and a Vatican wall.

Now, volunteers take names in the morning of people wanting to use the facilities, and police use the lists to allow those people to enter the area, accessible only through the closed square.

Sant’Egidio and another Catholic charity, Caritas Roma, continuing to distribute food to people in need according to their usual schedules.

Access to a meal is especially difficult during the coronavirus lockdown, since there are no open restaurants giving out food at the end of the day and no one passing by to offer something or to give some money, Signifredi said.  

“For these people, we have not interrupted our delivery of food on the street, because we look for these people all year,” he explained. “We know where they are.”

Last November, the Vatican’s office of papal charities and Sant’Egidio together opened a new shelter and soup kitchen in a building facing the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

Palazzo Migliori has around 30 beds. Signifredi said previously people would enter the shelter at 7 pm, have dinner, sleep, and leave around 8:00 the next morning. Now, trying to help people stay off the streets even during the day, they have drastically extended these hours.

“So people stay inside their ‘home’ as much as possible,” he said.

Now the guests can enter the shelter at 4:30 pm, staying until the next day after lunch, only having to spend a few hours outside. They can also get all three meals at the soup kitchen.    

The Missionaries of Charity also have a center for homeless on Vatican property. One sister told CNA the community in Rome continues “to work and pray” during the coronavirus emergency.

“We continue doing what we are doing, according to the rules and regulations,” she said.

Signifredi said the principle worry of men and women living on the streets right now is “they will not find the necessary help to live, they will be more isolated.”

“They see that the [city’s streets are] empty and that there is no one to help. I can tell you that people are very grateful when we go to find them.”

He said though volunteers are wearing masks and gloves and maintaining one meter of distance between themselves and others, “a physical distance does not mean a human distance.”

“We should continue to communicate the fact that they are our friends… We cannot shake hands or give a hug, but we can continue to communicate our affection for a person.” Even with the mask on the eyes can show a smile, he stated.

The Sant’Egidio community is also sustained by prayer, Signifredi said, and is praying together every day through the internet. “Our online prayer helps us to resist in a moment of great difficulty, in which we lose our reference points, in which we suffer because we cannot pray together, because we cannot celebrate the Eucharist together.”

Prayer, he added, helps you “to not think that these are bad times and you can do nothing, but that really there is a horizon of hope.”

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Homeless in Madrid write letters of encouragement to coronavirus patients

CNA Staff, Mar 27, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- The residents of a homeless shelter in Madrid run by Diocesan Caritas have written letters of support to patients hospitalized with coronavirus at six hospitals in the region.

“Life puts us in difficult situations. You just have to stay calm and not lose faith, always after the dark tunnel comes the shining light, and even though it seems that we can’t find a way out, there’s always a solution. God can do anything,” says one of the letters of a shelter resident.

According to Madrid’s Diocesan Caritas, the residents empathize with the patients’ loneliness and fear and sent words of consolation for these difficult moments that many of them have gone through themselves.

In their letters, the homeless encourage the sick to leave “everything in God’s hands,” “He will sustain you and help you. Just trust in Him.” They also assure them of their support: “I know that all of us together we’re going to end this situation and everything is going to get better,” “Don’t fall back. Stay strong with dignity in the battle.”

The homeless being lodged at CEDIA 24 Horas are going through the coronavirus quarantine “like any other family,” and the shelter “is the home of those who at this time when they’re asking us to stay at home, have no home,” Diocesan Caritas said on their website.

Susana Hernández, who is in charge of projects at Diocesan Caritas to help the marginalized, said that “perhaps the most extreme measure that has been implemented is maintaining distance between people at a center where welcome and warmth are a sign, but we try to provide it with a surplus of smiles and gestures of encouragement.”

“At the beginning of the situation, we had an assembly with all the people housed at the center and explained to them all the measures that had to be taken with oneself and toward others and the measures that the center was also going to take to protect all of us. And every day a reminder is given on what to do and not to do,” she explained.

Like any other worker in contact with people, people working at CEDIA 24 Horas are at risk of infection and Hernandez stressed that while they regularly practice good hygiene at the center, at this time there is an even greater focus on it.

The state of emergency and accompanying measures have forced the cancellation of group and athletic activities as well as recreational outings they normally have at the center in order to give the people staying there a time to relax and relate to one other.

“We’re maintaining basic services, but we try to at least maintain the atmosphere of warmth and welcome. It’s hard sometimes to not be able to get together to do some activity for sharing, for mutual support, to do things that do us good and that we like, but in order to compensate we’re increasing how often we ask people individually ‘How are you doing? What can I do for you? Do you need something?’ Above all we try to make COVID-19 not separate us as people even though there’s two meters between us,” Hernandez said.

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Relics of St. Corona will be displayed in German cathedral, but after pandemic

CNA Staff, Mar 27, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- A German cathedral will publicly display the relics of St. Corona, an early Christian martyr, once the COVID-19 outbreak has ended in the country. 

The Catholic cathedral in the city of Aachen, western Germany, was already planning to display the reliquary of St. Corona before the global COVID-19--also known as the novel coronavirus--pandemic struck. The shrine was to be included in an exhibit on goldwork and gold craftsmanship, and has not been able to be viewed by the public for the past 25 years. 

The cathedral, commonly known as the Imperial Cathedral because it was used by the Emperor Charlemagne, has housed the relics since the year 997 AD.

A spokeswoman for the cathedral was quoted by Reuters saying that, due to the coincidence of the saint’s name and the subfamily of the virus that has infected thousands of people around the world, she expects there to be “more interest” in viewing the saint’s remains. 

“We have brought the shrine out a bit earlier than planned,” said the spokeswoman, Daniela Loevenich. 

It is not yet known when the public will be able visit and venerate the relics St. Corona - Germany has banned gatherings of more than two unrelated people in an attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19, which has killed nearly 200 people in the country. 

The saint’s name, Corona, comes from the Latin word for “crown.” She is also known as St. Stephanie, derived from the Greek word stephanos, which also means “crown.” The subfamily of viruses known as “coronaviruses” were named for their resemblance to crowns. 

St. Corona is believed to have been martyred as a 16-year old in the second century, but few details are known about her. Tradition holds that her martyrdom occurred after she, hearing that St. Vincent was being tortured for his Christian faith, confessed her own faith and was subsequently executed. 

The two saints share a feast day of May 14. 

Despite viral internet posts stating that St. Corona is the patron saint of epidemics, she is actually venerated as the patroness of treasure hunters and lumberjacks, the latter because of the tradition that she was martyred by being tied between two palm trees. 

St. Edmund and St. Roch are venerated as the patron saints of pandemics and the plague. 

St. Edmund was credited for saving the city of Toulouse from the plague in the early 17th century, and St. Roch was invoked many times in the centuries after his death for protection from plagues and other ailments.

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Croatian cardinal: ‘We don’t know God’s plans’ after earthquake and coronavirus

CNA Staff, Mar 27, 2020 / 01:00 am (CNA).- Catholic leaders in Croatia say they don’t know God’s plans, after a 5.2 magnitude earthquake rocked the Croatian capital of Zagreb the morning of March 22, causing dozens of injuries and at least one death. It was the strongest quake to hit the city in 140 years.

Among other buildings, the city’s cathedral was heavily damaged with part of its ceiling caving in.  The tip of a cathedral spire crashed through the roof of the archdiocesan building next door. The parliament building and a hospital run by the Sisters of Charity were also damaged.

When the quake struck, the city was in a partial lock down over the COVID-19 coronavirus. According to Reuters, Croatia has had 206 cases of the virus and one death. Residents who had been confined to their homes rushed to the streets to avoid getting hurt or killed.

The city’s archbishop, Cardinal Josip Bozanic, said that the Church does not know the plan of God in wake of the double catastrophe.

“There’s a lot to think about: the coronavirus and now the earthquake. We don’t know what God’s plan is,” the archbishop said in a recent interview.

Cardinal Bozanic, who also spoke with Croatian Catholic Radio and Croatian radio and television, expressed the “human closeness of the Christian bishops to all those who are suffering.”

“This earthquake is a challenge and a sign for all of us, but also a call to solidarity and closeness. I’m among those who don’t have a home these days. I couldn’t stay in (my residence) because it’s damaged. But we’re living in community,” the cardinal explained.

He and others who lived at the archdiocesan headquarters have moved into the seminary, which the seminarians had vacated due to the coronavirus.

The fact that public Masses had been suspended because of the coronavirus was a fortunate coincidence, the cardinal told ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian language news partner, March 25.

“The earthquake happened at 6:25 in the morning and the churches open at 6:00, including our cathedral, the Franciscan church and the Jesuit church where the whole floor collapsed. If it had occurred with the churches full, there certainly would have been victims.” Bozanic explained.

“Thanks be to God we were saved,’ he said, and added “we all have to show solidarity.”

The archbishop also stressed that now the priority is “to think about the families that remain without an apartment or house” and the “churches and parishes damaged in Zagreb and outside Zagreb.”

Bozanic emphasized that “God loves us very much, and for that reason we are called to  God’s closeness even in this difficult situation.” “The coronavirus pandemic is a challenge. We have to take it seriously and obey so we can help one another. To be more in solidarity, closer to one another,” he said.

“Priests are celebrating the Eucharist every day and people are called to spiritually connect with them.”

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Fr Julian Carron re-elected president of Communion and Liberation

CNA Staff, Mar 27, 2020 / 12:01 am (CNA).- Fr. Julian Carron has been re-elected president of Communion and Liberation for another six years. The Central Diaconia of the Catholic fraternal organization voted unanimously to re-elect Carron March 21.

The priest was first asked to help lead the movement by its founder, Fr. Luigi Giussani, in 2004, one year before Guissani’s death. Carron was elected president in 2005 and reconfirmed in the position for six years in 2014. His third term as president of Communion and Liberation will conclude in 2026.

The vote was carried out by secret ballot, according to the movement’s website. Nine members of the Diaconia were present at the movement’s headquarters in Milan and another 21 took part via video call from Italy and other parts of the world. One member was not able to participate.

Carron communicated his re-election in a letter to members of Communion and Liberation March 23, indicating that the vote had been scheduled the previous March, with the year spent in discussion of possible candidates for president.

“After thanking everyone for having put their faith in me once again, I accepted the responsibility with the same openness I have had in responding from the first moment that Fr. Giussani called me,” he wrote, “and with the sole desire of following and supporting the design of an Other.”

Carron said they decided not to postpone the election, despite the coronavirus emergency, because they determined it would not be good for the movement to be guided for too long by “a president acting under a provisional extension.”

“Having verified that the necessary legal, organizational, and logistical conditions were present, we decided to hold the meeting as scheduled,” Carron said.

Communion and Liberation is a Catholic movement originating in the 1950s with Italian priest Msgr. Luigi Giussani. The international group focuses on the actualization of man’s faith by living the Christian presence within community.

Carron, 70, is a Spanish theologian. He first met Giussani in the 1980s.

In his March 23 letter, he wrote that, “aware of my limitations, I desire to continue in service to the initiative of the One who is the true protagonist of what we live. None of us, in fact, would be capable of generating what we see happening among and around us.”

He added that everyone is “truly stupefied by all the richness of life, of the initiatives and newness happening right now, at a particularly challenging time, during an age when nihilism reigns all around us.”

“Specifically, in the dramatic circumstances we are passing through, it is particularly evident how the educational path in which we participate generates people who are capable of facing challenges without giving in to fear or nothingness,” Carron said.

The priest also asked for prayers that he will be docile to the will of God and that, through the intercession of Fr. Giussani, they all will remain faithful to the charisms given to them by the Holy Spirit.

Noting the economic difficulty caused by the COVID-19 health emergency, he appealed to members of Communion and Liberation to “to be very serious in considering the commitment each of you has made or intends to make” to the movement’s “common fund.”

“This will allow the Fraternity to address, to the extent possible, and keeping in mind all the factors at play, the various needs that are presented,” he wrote. “In these dramatic days, we all perceive the desire to come to the aid of the many people who are now or will soon be in great need.”

Fr. Carron also expressed his closeness to the fraternity’s members who are on the “frontlines” in fighting the coronavirus, such as doctors and nurses, and to those who are sick or whose loved ones have died.

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UK government to permit elective abortion in N Ireland up to 12 weeks

CNA Staff, Mar 26, 2020 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- The British government has published its legal framework for abortion services in Northern Ireland, which will come into force March 31. It allows for elective abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

“Our guiding principles for this framework are to uphold the protection of women and girls, the promotion of their health and safety, and the provision of clarity and certainty for the healthcare profession, while being responsive and sensitive to the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly being back up and running,” read a foreward to the framework written by Robin Walker, Minister of State for Northern Ireland.

The Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 also allow abortions up to 24 weeks “in cases where the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or girl, greater than the risk of terminating the pregnancy.”

Abortion access will be permitted with no time limit in cases of severe fetal impairment and fatal fetal abnormalities, i.e. when “there is a substantial risk that the condition of the fetus is such that the death of the fetus is likely before, during or shortly after birth; or if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental impairment as to be seriously disabled,” and when “there is a risk to the life of the woman or girl, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, or where necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or girl, including in cases of immediate necessity.”

Doctors, registered nurses, and registered midwives will be allowed to perform abortions. They will be able to do so at General Practitioners premises, and Health and Social Care clinics and hospitals. The Northern Ireland Health Minister will be able to approve further locations for medical abortions.

In elective abortions or in cases of immediate necessity where there is a risk to the life of the mother, only one medical professional is needed to certify that there are lawful grounds for abortion. For abortion on other grounds, two medical professionals must make the certification.

In England, Wales, and Scotland, two medical professionals must certify in all cases that there were lawful grounds for abortion. While consulting on the framework, the government noted that only one doctor's certification might be appropriate in Northern Ireland, “as it is likely that there will be a more significant number of people raising conscientious objections than in other parts of the UK. This could create practical difficulties, in particular delays in women accessing termination services, if two medical professionals … are required to certify the grounds for an abortion.”

Northern Ireland's conscientious objection provisions will mirror those of the Abortion Act 1967, which legalized abortion in England, Wales, and Scotland. Under the provisions, “no person shall be under any duty, whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement, to participate in any treatment authorised by the Regulations to which the person has a conscientious objection. The only exception will be where the participation in treatment is necessary to save the life or to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of a pregnant woman or girl.”

Conscientious objection will not be extended to “ancillary, administrative and managerial tasks that might be associated” with abortions.

The government wrote that “broadening the scope ‘beyond the participation in treatment’ would have consequences on a practical level and would therefore undermine the effective provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland. For example, fewer people providing ancillary services in relation to abortion could result in fewer appointments and longer waiting times, creating de facto barriers to access, and almost certainly adversely impacting the quality of care and standard of services. The Government is satisfied that the current scope of the conscientious objection provision in the Abortion Act 1967 works satisfactorily in practice, is human rights compliant, and is therefore appropriate to apply in Northern Ireland to the provision of abortion services.

Performing an illegal abortion will be a criminal offense punishable with a fine of up to GBP 5,000 ($6,070), and intentional failure to comply with certification and notification will be punishable with a fine of up to GBP 2,500 ($3,035). These will not apply to the mother, or anyone acting in good faith to save the mother's life or to prevent grave permanent injurty to her health.

Buffer zones will not be set up around locations where abortions are procured, barring protest in the locations' immediate vicinity. The government has decided to wait and see what the situation will be, keeping the matter under review so it can “respond to any challenges as needed at the time.”

The new framework was adopted to implement to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, which decriminalized abortion in Northern Ireland and placed a moratorium on abortion-related criminal prosecutions, and obliged the UK government to create legal access to abortion in the region by March 31.

It was passed while the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended, though the legislature resumed meeting in January.

Prior to the NI EF Act abortion was legally permitted in the region only if the mother's life was at risk or if there was risk of long term or permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Walker wrote in his foreword that despite the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly, “the Government remains under a legal duty under section 9 of NI EF Act, and that the government “understands the strength of feeling on this issue and we have always been clear that the best way of bringing forward reform in this area would have been for the Executive and Assembly to take this forward, in the best interests of Northern Ireland.”

The framework was adopted following a consultation in November and December 2019 which asked 15 questions regarding particularities of how legal abortion provision should be made in Northern Ireland. The consultation was based on a proposed framework.

More than 21,200 responses to the consultation were received. Of the responses, 79% “expressed a view registering their general opposition to any abortion provision in Northern Ireland beyond that which is currently permitted.”

“The Government appreciates the wide range of consultation responses received and we are extremely thankful to all individuals and organisations who took the time to respond,” Walker wrote. “We also recognise that there are a wide range views on these sensitive policy issues, which we have carefully considered and sought to ensure are appropriately reflected in the Government’s response to the consultation.”

He said that “in considering the consultation responses, we have sought to balance the range of views against our legal obligations, and taken pragmatic decisions informed by evidence, in order to bring forward a new legislative framework that will be operationally sound, that works best for Northern Ireland and that delivers on the Government’s duty.”

The government said it “particularly reflected” on the consultations provided by “respondents with experience or expertise in terms of operational workability and proper access to services on the ground in Northern Ireland.”

The adopted framework closely mirrors the proposed framework.

The 12 week limit for elective abortions was adopted “to allow access for victims of sexual crime (i.e. rape and incest)” and because, the government said, “introducing a framework which creates barriers to access is unlikely to reduce the rate of terminations, but would rather be likely to lead to women buying abortion pills online, unlawfully, with attendant health risks, rather than accessing safe services.”

Many of the provisions were adopted to be in line with existing law in England, Wales, and Scotland.

Carla Lockhart, a newly-elected MP for a Northern Irish constituency who is a member of the Democratic Unionist Party, said the adopted framework “ignores the devolution settlement and the overwhelming viewpoint of the Northern Ireland people.”

Northern Ireland rejected the Abortion Act 1967, and bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

The amendment to the NI EF Act obliging the government to provide for legal abortion in Northern Ireland was introduced by Stella Creasy, a Labour MP who represents a London constituency.

In October 2019, the High Court in Belfast had ruled that the region's ban on the abortion of unborn children with fatal abnormalities violated the UK's human rights commitments.

Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.