A legislative council member from the pro-Beijing New People’s Party has criticized a joint petition signed by 10 Catholic bishops, including Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller, that called for the immediate release of pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai. “The Catholic leaders’ call for Lai’s release is a striking example of religious power being commandeered for...
Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller is among a group of 10 Catholic leaders from around the world this week who called upon the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to release prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and Catholic Jimmy Lai, who has been imprisoned there for nearly three years. Noting the situation in...
Amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in the Holy Land, Pope Francis has called for a day of prayer and fasting on Friday, Oct. 27. At the end of his general audience on Oct. 18, Pope Francis said the 27th will be “a day of penance to which I invite sisters and brothers of the various...
Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2023 / 09:55 am (CNA).
The European Court of Human Rights ruled Jan. 17 that Russia violated the human rights of three homosexual couples because the government did not have any formal legal recognition of those unions under Russian law.
Two female homosexual couples and one male homosexual couple claimed Russia’s failure to recognize their request for homosexual marriages violated the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. One of the couples brought their claims to the court in 2010 and the other two brought their claims in 2014, while Russia was subject to the European Convention on Human Rights because of an international treaty. Although Russia backed out of the treaty on Sept. 16, 2022, the court ruled that it still had jurisdiction because the country was subject to the treaty when the claims were originally brought before the court.
The court ruled in the case of Fedotova v. Russia that Russia did not need to recognize homosexual marriage under the convention but that it needed to have some formal legal recognition of same-sex couples, such as civil unions, as long as the homosexual couples had similar legal rights to married couples.
According to the court, the Russian government argued that “it was necessary to preserve the traditional institutions of marriage and the family” because they are “fundamental values of Russian society that were protected by the Constitution.” The court ruled against that argument, claiming that the recognition of these unions would not jeopardize the rights of heterosexual couples.
“There is no basis for considering that affording legal recognition and protection to same-sex couples in a stable and committed relationship could in itself harm families constituted in the traditional way or compromise their future or integrity,” the court ruled.
“Indeed, the recognition of same-sex couples does not in any way prevent different-sex couples from marrying or founding a family corresponding to their conception of that term,” the court ruled. “More broadly, securing rights to same-sex couples does not in itself entail weakening the rights secured to other people or other couples. … The Court considers that the protection of the traditional family cannot justify the absence of any form of legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples in the present case.”
Although Russia does not have an explicit ban on homosexual marriage, according to the court, Article 1 of the Russian Family Code defines marriage as a “voluntary marital union between a man and a woman” and does not include any recognition of homosexual marriages. The court also noted that the form for a notice of marriage contains two fields, one for the man and one for the woman, which means the form’s structure prevents it from being used to marry homosexual couples. There is no alternative legal recognition of homosexual couples in Russia.
The homosexual couples sought €50,000 (more than $54,000) in damages, but the court stated that its common practice is to only award money to offset the costs and expenses incurred through the proceedings. Because the applicants did not submit any claims for those costs, the court did not award any monetary damages.
Homosexual unions are legally recognized in 21 of the 27 countries in the European Union and homosexual marriages are legally recognized in only 14 of them.
The consistent teaching of the Catholic Church is that marriage is between a man and a woman. As Pope Francis noted in Amoris Laetitia, quoting the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
Rome Newsroom, Feb 5, 2023 / 12:00 pm (CNA).
On his return flight from South Sudan on Sunday, Pope Francis said that God loves and accompanies people with same-sex attraction.
When asked by a journalist what the pope would say to families in Congo and South Sudan who reject their children because they are gay, Pope Francis responded that the catechism teaches that people with same-sex attraction should not be marginalized.
“People with homosexual tendencies are children of God. God loves them. God accompanies them,” the pope said during an in-flight press conference on his return from Juba on Feb. 5.
“To condemn someone like this is a sin. Criminalizing people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice,” he added.
In a first for a papal trip, Pope Francis was joined for the in-flight press conference by two other Christian leaders: his Anglican counterpart, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, who also took part in the “ecumenical pilgrimage of peace” in South Sudan Feb. 3-5.
Together the three Christian leaders answered questions and spoke about South Sudan’s peace process, the war in Ukraine, and mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Welby said that he “wholeheartedly agreed” with what Pope Francis said about the Congo that it is “not the playground of great powers.”
Greenshields added that in South Sudan’s peace process “actions speak louder than words.”
Pope Francis alone answered a question about tensions in the Catholic Church after the death of his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“I think Benedict’s death was instrumentalized by people who want to serve their own interests,” Francis said.
People who instrumentalize such a good and holy person, Francis added, are partisans and unethical.
Looking ahead at potential upcoming papal trips, Pope Francis said that he wants to go to India next year.
The 86-year-old pope confirmed that he also plans to travel to Marseille, France, in September to participate in a meeting of Mediterranean bishops and added that “there is a possibility from Marseille to fly to Mongolia.”
In his response to the question about the acceptance of people with same-sex attractions, Pope Francis noted that he has spoken on the topic multiple times during in-flight press conferences.
The pope reiterated what he said on his return flight from Brazil in 2013: “If a person with homosexual tendencies is a believer, seeks God, who am I to judge him? This is what I said on that trip.”
He added that during an in-flight press conference returning from Ireland in 2018 he said that parents should not kick out children with this orientation out of their homes.
Pope Francis noted that he recently spoke about the criminalization of homosexuality in an interview with the Associated Press and emphasized again that it is unjust.
“I want to say, I wish I had spoken as elegantly and clearly as the pope. I entirely agree with every word he said there,” Welby said.
“Over the next four days in the General Synod of the Church of England, this is our main topic of discussion, and I shall certainly quote the Holy Father,” he added.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, people with homosexual tendencies should be treated with respect, and unjust discrimination against them should be avoided, while “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can they be approved.”
Rome, Italy, Feb 5, 2023 / 11:35 am (CNA).
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s death was used by people in a self-serving way, Pope Francis said aboard the papal plane returning from South Sudan on Sunday.
“I think Benedict’s death was instrumentalized by people who want to serve their own interests,” he said during an in-flight press conference Feb. 5.
People who instrumentalize such a good and holy person, Francis added, are partisans and unethical.
There is a widespread tendency to make political parties out of theological positions, he said. “I leave it alone. These things will fall on their own, or if they don’t fall they will move on as has happened so many times in the history of the Church.”
Pope Francis’ comments were made aboard the papal plane from Juba, South Sudan, to Rome, at the end of a six-day trip that also included nearly four days in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In a papal first, the in-flight press conference included the participation of the pope’s Anglican counterpart, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields.
Welby and Greenshields had joined Pope Francis in South Sudan for an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace and reconciliation. The two Christian leaders responded to some, but not all, of the questions on the papal flight.
Near the end of the nearly hour-long press conference, Pope Francis was asked if his papal ministry had become more difficult since Benedict’s death in light of growing division in the Church.
Francis reiterated that he was able to speak about everything with Benedict, even to change his own mind.
“He was always by my side, supporting me. And if he had any difficulty he would tell me and we would talk and there was no problem,” the pope said.
He went on to describe a moment in which it appeared that someone may have wanted to pit Francis and the pope emeritus against each other.
Pope Francis recalled once referencing civil solidarity pact, a law in France that allows nontraditional civil unions between two people to receive certain benefits without all of the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage. Francis had suggested this type of partnership as a possible solution for homosexual couples for the purpose of “securing property.”
After Pope Francis had made these comments, “a person who thinks he is a great theologian, through a friend of Pope Benedict, went to him and made a complaint against me,” the pope said.
Benedict’s response was not to be “shocked,” the pope added, but to call together “four top theological cardinals” to explain the concept to him.
“And that’s how the story ended,” he said. “[This was] an anecdote to see how Benedict moved when there were complaints.”
Benedict XVI, he emphasized, “was not a bitter man.”
Pope Francis visited the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan Jan. 31-Feb. 5. Over the six days, he had moving meetings with local leaders, Catholics, and victims of war and conflict.
Denver, Colo., Feb 3, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA).
Authorities in the U.K. have dropped charges against a woman arrested for silent prayer in a “buffer zone” that bans pro-life advocacy outside an English abortion clinic.
However, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce says the charges still could be revived, leaving her in an ambitious legal situation.
“It can’t be right that I was arrested and made a criminal, only for praying in my head on a public street,” Vaughan-Spruce said in a Feb. 3 statement.
“So-called ‘buffer zone legislation’ will result in so many more people like me, doing good and legal activities like offering charitable support to women in crisis pregnancies, or simply praying in their heads, being treated like criminals and even facing court,” she added.
Vaughan-Spruce was arrested Dec. 6, 2022, in Birmingham, England, outside an abortion facility that was closed at the time.
Video footage of her arrest shows an officer asking her if she was praying, to which she answers: “I might be praying in my head.” You can watch the exchange in the video below.
Isabel Vaughan Spruce was standing near an abortion clinic in Birmingham.— David Atherton (@DaveAtherton20) December 23, 2022
Policeman: "are you praying?"
IVS: "I might be praying in my head"
Policeman: "you're under arrest"
This really is the ultimate thought crime. pic.twitter.com/ehZiTx0bMU
She was charged Dec. 15 with four counts of breaking Birmingham’s Public Space Protection Order around the abortion facility. The order is intended to stop antisocial behavior. The terms of the order include prayer under “protest,” which is banned within the “buffer zone” around the clinic. For standing still and praying silently inside a buffer zone, she was accused of “protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users.”
Vaughan-Spruce is the director of March for Life UK.
The Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charges in late January and Vaughan-Spruce did not have to appear in court, as previously scheduled. However, she can still be prosecuted if the charge is reinstated.
Her case has the support of ADF UK, a religious freedom legal group.
Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, said in a Feb. 1 statement that Vaughan-Spruce faces “significant legal uncertainty.” She aims to “obtain legal clarity on what, if any, liability she may incur in the future based on the charges laid against her.”
Vaughan-Spruce said she will pursue a verdict in court to clarify her legal situation.
“It’s important to me that I can continue my vital work in supporting women who’d like to avoid abortion if they only had some help,” she said. “In order to do so, it’s vital that I have clarity as to my legal status. Many of us need an answer as to whether it’s still lawful to pray silently in our own heads.”
“Isabel is right to request proper clarity as to the lawfulness of our actions,” Igunnubole said.
“It’s one thing for the authorities to humiliatingly search and arrest an individual simply for their thoughts,” the attorney said.
“It’s quite another to initially deem those thoughts to be sufficient evidence to justify charges, then discontinue those charges due to ‘insufficient evidence,’ and then to warn that further evidence relating to the already unclear charges may soon be forthcoming so as to restart the entire grueling process from the beginning,” he said.
“This is a clear instance of the process becoming the punishment, creating a chilling effect on free expression and freedom of thought, conscience, and belief,” the attorney added.
Several localities in England have implemented strict buffer zones, which some critics characterize as censorship zones. On the national level, the U.K. Parliament is expected to pass legislation to create buffer zones around abortion clinics. The House of Lords approved the proposed legislation, called Amendment 45, in a voice vote on Jan. 30.
Amendment 45, sponsored by Conservative peer Baroness Sugg of Coldharbour, would make it a crime to engage in activity that seeks to “influence” women who are seeking abortions or “any person’s decision to access, provide, or facilitate the provision of abortion services.”
It criminalizes “harassment, alarm, or distress to any person in connection with a decision to access, provide, or facilitate the provision of abortion services” within 150 meters, about 500 feet, of an abortion clinic.
Those convicted of violating the law could face an unlimited fine, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children reported.
The House of Lords rejected an amendment to investigate whether exclusion zones are justified and their possible denial of rights of association, conscience, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion. Amendment 54 replaces similar legislation in the House of Commons, which is expected to ratify the amendment.
Alithea Williams, public policy manager for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, lamented the passage of the bill.
“This is a black day for democracy and basic civil liberties,” she said Jan. 30. “Ordinary, peaceful citizens will now be branded criminals and subject to crippling financial penalties for the simple act of praying in public, and offering help to women in need.”
“Parliament has literally just criminalized compassion,” Williams said. “This is not just an outrageous assault on civil liberties, it removes a real lifeline for women. Many children are alive today because their mother received help and support from a compassionate pro-life person outside a clinic. Many women feel like they have to choose to have an abortion, and pro-life vigils give them options. Now their choices have been taken away.”
Williams cited Vaughan-Williams’ arrest and the arrest of Adam Smith-Connor, who faces fines after he prayed outside of an abortion clinic for his son who died in an abortion.
“Thoughtcrime is now very real in the U.K. It is very disappointing that peers ignored these warnings and voted for this extreme and cruel legislation,” Williams said.
Rome Newsroom, Feb 2, 2023 / 12:23 pm (CNA).
On the 27th World Day for Consecrated Life, Pope Francis recalled the special role religious brothers and sisters have in the Catholic Church.
“In the People of God, sent to bring the Gospel to all people, you consecrated men and women have a special role,” the pope said in a written message for Feb. 2.
This special role, he continued, stems “from the special gift you have received: a gift that gives your witness a special character and value, by the very fact that you are wholly dedicated to God and his kingdom, in poverty, virginity, and obedience.”
Pope Francis’ message was read at the beginning of a Mass for consecrated men and women in Rome’s St. Mary Major Basilica on Feb. 2.
Pope Francis usually celebrates a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the World Day for Consecrated Life but was unable to do so this year because the day fell in the middle of his Jan. 31–Feb. 5 trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
The Feb. 2 Mass in St. Mary Major was celebrated by the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Consecrated Life, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, who read the pope’s message to those present.
“When you hear this message from me, I will be on mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I know that I will be accompanied by your prayers,” the pope said. “In turn, I want to assure you of mine for the mission of each of you and your communities.”
“All of us together are members of the Church,” he continued, “and the Church is in mission from the first day, sent by the Risen Lord, and will be so until the last, by the power of his Spirit.”
The theme of the 2023 World Day for Consecrated Life is “Brothers and Sisters in Mission.”
The Catholic Church celebrates the World Day for Consecrated Life every year on Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas or the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The day of prayer was established by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
In his message, Pope Francis said the mission of consecrated men and women is enriched by the unique charisms of their communities, in addition to the fundamental gift they have each received.
“In their stupendous variety, [charisms] are all given for the edification of the Church and for its mission,” he said. “All charisms are for mission, and they are precisely so with the incalculable richness of their variety; so that the Church can witness and proclaim the Gospel to all and in every situation.”
He prayed that the Virgin Mary would obtain for consecrated men and women the grace to bring the light of Christ’s love to all people. He also entrusted them to Mary “Salus Populi Romani,” the title of a Byzantine Marian icon housed in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
In his homily at the Mass, Archbishop Carballo, who is a religious in the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, said “we want, especially on this day, to say our thanks to the Lord and, using the words of Mary, the consecrated woman par excellence, sing our Magnificat to him who is the Good, the All Good, the Supreme Good.”
God, he said, “has made us sharers in a beautiful inheritance and a mission no less beautiful: that of representing in us the historical form of the obedient, poor, and chaste Jesus.”
“Let a song of thanksgiving rise from our lips and from our hearts, today and always, because Jesus has bent over our littleness and has given us the grace to follow him in the various forms of consecrated life, despite our littleness,” he said.
CNA Newsroom, Feb 1, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).
A Belgian television station has rediscovered a 20-minute video in which Father Georges Lemaitre, considered the father of the Big Bang theory, explains what the origin of the universe may have been like.
Lemaitre was a Belgian astrophysicist known for being the first academic to propose the theory of the expansion of the universe from a massive explosion of what he called a “primordial atom” or “cosmic egg.”
Until now, only photographs of Lemaitre were preserved, the most popular being the one where he appears alongside Albert Einstein.
However, the VRT television station recently found a video in which the father of the Big Bang explains his theory.
Kathleen Bertrem of VRT’s archives mentioned in late December 2022 that finding this historic material was like “looking for a needle in a haystack” due to the company misclassifying its extensive files.
Nevertheless, the television channel found among its archives the tape of an interview in French that producer Jerome Verhaeghe conducted with Lemaitre on Feb. 14, 1964, and broadcast then.
Lemaitre explains the origin of the universe
Lemaitre points out in the interview that the expansion of the universe was not accepted at first because it made the idea of a creation necessary.
In the video, the astrophysicist explains that “before the theory of the expansion of the universe, some 40 years ago [in the 1920s], we expected the universe to be static, because nothing changes.”
“It was an idea that, a priori, basically applied to the entire universe,” the priest notes.
However, discovering expansion made the idea of a static universe “out of the question.”
The priest and astrophysicist also says that this led him to propose the Big Bang theory, describing it as the “primordial atom.”
“There is a very different beginning to the state of today’s universe, a beginning of multiplicity that can be described, as far as we can describe it, in the form of the disintegration of all matter in the form of atoms,” he states.
This expansion leads us to have “a universe, an expanding space full of plasma, with very energetic rays that go in all directions.”
Lemaitre called these rays “primeval fireworks,” which have been preserved in space “giving us a testimony of the first ages of the world.”
The Belgian priest emphasized that he tries to present his theory in scientific terms and that he has no interest in having his position thought to be a profession of his religious convictions.
The full video in French of the interview with Lemaitre can be seen on the VRT YouTube channel.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Rome Newsroom, Feb 1, 2023 / 11:25 am (CNA).
Archbishop Georg Gänswein celebrated Mass at the tomb of St. Peter on Tuesday to mark one month since the death of Pope Benedict XVI.
Gänswein, the pope emeritus’ longtime personal secretary, offered the Mass in the Vatican crypt close to Benedict’s tomb in the presence of a small group of people.
Benedict XVI died on Dec. 31 in the Vatican. He was buried in the crypt under St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 5 following the celebration of his funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square.
In his homily, Gänswein said Benedict, “one of the greatest and most influential theologians of all time on the Chair of Peter, put himself under the protection of a saint for whom there was no theology, only adoration.”
The saint was Benedict Joseph Labre, known as the “beggar saint,” whose feast day — April 16 — was also Benedict XVI’s birthday and baptismal day.
“What a surprise, what a mystery, what a humility, but also what a lesson,” Gänswein said.
According to the German archbishop, Benedict XVI’s spirituality echoes that of St. Benedict Joseph Labre.
Labre, and Benedict XVI, believed “one must have three hearts united in one: a heart for the love of God, a heart for zeal for one’s neighbor, and a heart that gives witness for the beauty of faith,” Gänswein said.
One difference between them, however, is that “theology opened the door to adoration” for Benedict XVI.
In a 2012 homily, Benedict XVI called St. Benedict Joseph Labre “one of the most unusual saints in the Church’s history.”
The 18th-century “pious mendicant pilgrim,” Benedict said, was “a rather unusual saint who begging, wandered from one shrine to another and wanted to do nothing other than to pray and thereby bear witness to what counts in this life: God.”
“He shows us that God alone suffices; that beyond anything in this world, beyond our needs and capacities, what matters, what is essential is to know God,” Benedict said on April 16, 2012.
Pope Benedict, according to Gänswein, saw his mission to be, if necessary, admonishing theologians and bishops to keep them out of dangerous theological currents and in the unity of the universal Church and the deposit of faith.
Benedict XVI knew there was a certain aversion to his pontificate because of this, the archbishop said. Benedict also endured a lot of criticism and insults because he did not think the life of the Church should be dealt with according to political or ecclesiastical expediency.
Instead of wanting to give orders, Benedict trusted in the “mild power of truth,” Gänswein said. “Was this naïve and out-of-touch idealism or the proper behavior for a priest, a bishop, a pope?”
The German archbishop also defended Benedict XVI against accusations that he sympathized with a certain ecclesiastical anti-Semitism of the past.
Benedict XVI considered anti-Semitism a stain on the Church and an attack on its very foundation, Gänswein said.
Father Federico Lombardi, former Vatican spokesman and president of the Ratzinger Foundation, concelebrated the Mass for Benedict XVI.
Sister Birgit Wansing, a close collaborator of Benedict, and the consecrated women who ran Benedict’s household at the Vatican and during his retirement at Mater Ecclesiae Monastery were also present at the Mass.