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Mexican state passes pro-life education law

CNA Staff, May 26, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Mexican state legislature of Nuevo Leon passed an education reform bill May 21 to foster a “respect for life from conception to natural death” in students.

The law reflects the state constitution, which affirms that “the state recognizes, protects and defends the right to life that every human being has. From the moment of conception that life comes under the protection of the Law and is considered as having been born with regards to all corresponding legal effects until its natural death.”

The new bill also calls for the “inclusion, through the development of special training, programs for the employment of people with some kind of disability.”

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish languages news partner, state legislator Juan Carlos Leal, who introduced the education reform bill, said the law will “definitely have a big impact especially on the values of Mexican citizens.”

“We want to create a new generation of students that have values and respect, which unfortunately in Mexico, we have seen is being lost,” he explained.

The director of the ConParticipación platform, Marcial Padilla, stressed the importance of incorporating pro-life principles into constitutions and laws, inlcuding the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights or the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.

“The initiative to recognize the right to life in education will help young people, adolescents and children learn to appreciate human life,” Padilla said.

The pro-life leader said he is hopeful the reform bill will “help reduce suicide rates, reduce addictions and will also help young people understand that abortion is not an option. ”

Above all, students “will be able to know that abortion is always an attack on human life,” he said.

Fr. José Manuel Suazo Reyes, director of the communications office of the Archdiocese of Xalapa, welcomed the passage of the law in a May 24 letter on behalf of the archdiocese. 

In the letter, titled The Culture of Life Advances, Suazo said that “Mexico continues to cry out that it loves and wants life” and that “abortion is not the solution” for distressed mothers, and that it is essential that the government support the a broader culture of life in the country. 

“It’s important for the state to protect life, but it is also essential that it form citizens in respect and care for life,” the letter said. “This reform creates awareness in students of the dignity that every human life has, thus contributing to the reduction of discriminatory, aggressive and even criminal behavior, as is the case with abortion.”

The priest called the law “a very important step in the culture of life,” while noting that “thousands of children are aborted year after year in Mexico City, where killing babies up to 12 weeks gestation is permitted.”

While government officials “want to promote abortion on demand,” he said, wider efforts to promote the dignity of all human life were gaining support, including the recent ninth annual March for Life in the country on May 23 - held online this year due to the coronavirus - which, he said, attracted more that 500,000 participants on Facebook alone.

“These manifestations of the culture of life seek to put a stop to all these criminal initiatives throughout the country to promote abortion,” said Suazo. “Today more than ever life is threatened. We must protect ourselves from those anti-life mentalities that despise the lives of others.”

COVID relief efforts should remember the poor, bishop says

CNA Staff, May 26, 2020 / 03:52 pm (CNA).- As Congress considers additional COVID relief efforts in the coming weeks, it should focus especially on the needs of the poor and vulnerable, said the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“As Congress turns once more to considering additional relief related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus should be on those most in need - the poor, the vulnerable, and people on the margins - to offer them some hope and assistance in desperate circumstances,” said Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City in a May 22 statement.

As many states begin the process of reopening following widespread quarantine restrictions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, members of Congress have discussed the possibility of an additional COVID-19 relief bill, although details of a potential bill are not yet clear.

Since March, the U.S. bishops have advocated for bills that would help the poor and unemployed with food security, affordable health care, housing, and education. They have also pushed for assistance to migrants, protections for the unborn, efforts to address ethnic disparities in health outcomes, the well-being of the incarcerated, debt relief, and support for charities during the pandemic.

“Additional needs have emerged such as sufficient protective equipment for all essential workers, protection of familial well-being and integrity, additional research on the link between air pollution and coronavirus health outcomes, and the need to address disruptions to the food supply chain and its impact on farmers and farmworkers, food waste and public health,” Coakley said.

The archbishop welcomed the Vatican’s new commission on COVID-19, which was created by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The commission is made up of the dicastery’s prefect, Cardinal Peter Turkson; secretary, Mons. Bruno-Marie Duffé; and adjunct secretary, Fr. Augusto Zampini.

The Vatican COVID-19 Commission will analyze the virus’ potential socio-economic-cultural impact and propose appropriate solutions for the future. According to the dicastery’s website, it will focus on five major points: “acting now for the future; looking to the future with creativity; communicating hope; seeking common dialogue and reflections; and supporting to care.”

Coakley echoed the words of Pope Francis, who on Easter Sunday prayed for the gift of hope and encouraged solidarity in the face of this crisis.

“Let us proceed in this hope, asking the Lord for wisdom on how best to respond, drawing close to our brothers and sisters in need, and finding our peace in the Lord’s promise to be with us ‘until the end of the age,’” Coakley said.

 

Minnesota bishops: Death of black man in police custody a ‘tragedy’

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 26, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The Minnesota Catholic Conference on Tuesday called the death of a black man while he was in police custody a “tragedy,” and welcomed an investigation.

A video circulated online on Tuesday of a May 25 arrest in Minneapolis. In the video an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department can be seen kneeling on the neck of a man laying on the street as he is taken into custody. The man was later identified as George Floyd.

“I cannot breathe,” Floyd said multiple times, groaning as the knee of a police officer was on his neck. A second police officer stood by watching.

The video appears to skip several minutes to a later shot, where Floyd’s eyes appear closed and onlookers exclaim that he was not moving and shouted at the officers to “get off of his neck.”

According to the Minneapolis Police Department’s account of the arrest, officers had handcuffed Floyd and “noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.” They called for an ambulance, and Floyd was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center “where he died a short time later.”

The state’s Catholic conference, which speaks on behalf of the bishops of Minnesota’s six dioceses, called Floyd’s death “a tragedy” and welcomed an investigation.

“This is a tragedy. It is good that state and federal investigators are already looking into the incident to determine what happened,” stated Jason Adkins of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

“People need to feel safe in their communities and have trust in law enforcement, who should exercise their power in a spirit of service,” Adkins said. “If there was misconduct, hopefully justice will be done.”

According to the police department, officers had initially responded to a “forgery in progress” on the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South.

“Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence,” the department said.

When officers arrived on the scene, the department said that Floyd was ordered “to step from his car,” and physically resisted arrest once he got out of his car; the officers handcuffed him and then noted “he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”

Both the FBI and the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will be investigating the incident.

Minneapolis police authorities announced Tuesday afternoon that four officers were fired in response to the incident. There is not yet indication of whether the officers could face charges.

The mayor of St. Paul called the video “one of the most vile and heartbreaking images I’ve ever seen,” and that both officers “must be held fully accountable. This must stop now.”

 

This story is developing and has been updated.

Priest says water gun 'baptism' photo meant to be 'funny'

CNA Staff, May 26, 2020 / 12:55 pm (CNA).- The Tennessee priest in a now-viral photograph that seemed to depict a baptism by water gun has told parishioners that the photo was staged, and was meant to be funny.

“This is what Fr. Steve said about this: 1) The family had requested for him to do this pose as copied from several posts of priests circulating around the internet. He agreed because he thought it was funny. 2) The water in the water gun is not holy water and was squirted towards the dad and not the baby for humor impact,” explained Saint Mark Catholic Church of Manchester, Tennessee in a Facebook post Tuesday.

“Bottom line, it was meant to be for fun,” the parish post added.

The priest in the photo is Fr. Stephen Klasek, who is pastor of two parishes: St. Mark, and Saint Paul the Apostle in nearby Tullahoma. Klasek, a priest of the Diocese of Nashville, has been ordained 37 years.

The parish indicated it was posting to "clarify the photo that has gone viral as we have been receiving inquiries about it. It has garnered almost a million views in Twitter, has been in the news in several websites and memes. It had good and controversial comments.”

While Klasek’s photo was apparently staged, photos of a priest purporting to bless parishioners with a water gun in Detroit went viral earlier this month. Fr. Tim Pelc told Buzzfeed News he had shot parishioners with holy water in a water gun as something “for the kids of the parish.”

Klasek's photo spread like wildfire over social media this weekend. While some praised it, others criticized the photo, suggesting it seemed to make light of the solemnity of baptism or trivialize priestly ministry.

The Diocese of Nashville has not yet responded to questions from CNA regarding Klasek’s staged photo.

 

Chinese bishop who suffered years of forced labor dies at 98

Rome Newsroom, May 26, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- A Chinese underground bishop who was sentenced to 10 years of forced labor in the 1980s for bringing Catholics on pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan died this month at the age of 98.

Joseph Zhu Baoyu, bishop emeritus of Nanyang, made headlines in February for reportedly being the oldest person to recover from the coronavirus. Three months after his release from the hospital, Zhu died in his sleep on May 7 under the care of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

He was one of three elderly underground Chinese Catholic bishops remembered in a Holy See communiqué on May 23 following their deaths over the past six months. All three died over the age of 90 after lives that spanned some of the most tumultuous periods for the Catholic Church in China. 

Zhu was born in Pushan, Henan, in 1921, at a time of extraordinary growth of Christianity in China. This was also the year that the Chinese Communist Party was founded in Shanghai. 

After his father died, Zhu’s mother enrolled him in a Catholic orphanage in Jingang at the age of six. Two years later both he and his mother were baptized. Zhu enrolled in a minor seminary. During the Chinese Civil War, he moved to the regional seminary to study philosophy and theology in the Archdiocese of Kaifeng in 1946. 

However, he would not be ordained to the priesthood until after the Chinese Communist Revolution in 1949. In the years following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China many Catholics were arrested for refusing to comply with government campaigns to eliminate foreign influence and nationalize private schools.

Pope Pius XII highlighted this suffering in his encyclical Evangelii praecones in 1951.

“We have learned that many of the faithful and also nuns, missionaries, native priests and even bishops have been driven from their homes, despoiled of their possessions and languish in want as exiles or have been arrested, thrown into prison or into concentration camps, or sometimes cruelly done to death, because they were devoutly attached to their faith. Our heart is overwhelmed with grief when We think of the hardships, suffering and death of these our beloved children,” the pope wrote.

Zhu was ordained to the priesthood in 1957, the year before Mao Zedong launched the “Great Leap Forward,” a five-year collectivised farming plan that resulted in a famine that killed more than 20 million people between 1959 and 1962.

Seven years after his ordination, he was sentenced to three years of forced labor because of his faith. Upon his release in 1967, he conducted ministry in secret in his hometown.

Zhu was again sentenced to 10 years of forced labor as an “anti-revolutionary” in 1981 after he was arrested for taking Catholics on pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai, according to a Human Rights Watch report documenting hundreds of religious and political prisoners detained in China at the time. 

Upon his release in 1988, Zhu was allowed to resume parish ministry. Pope John Paul II appointed Zhu as coadjutor bishop of Nanyang in 1995, and he was ordained in secret on the feast of St. Joseph. In 2002 he became the ordinary underground bishop of Nanyang until he submitted his retirement to the pope in 2010.

Nanyang is Chinese city more than 10 million people. According to the Vatican statement, the Diocese of Nanyang has 20,000 Catholics and 20 priests. 

Zhu’s funeral was presided over by Bishop Peter Jin Lugang of Nanyang, the first underground bishop to be publicly accepted by the Chinese government following the September 2018 China-Holy See agreement on the appointment of bishops.

The Vatican communique also announced the deaths of underground bishops emeriti Joseph Ma Zhongmu and Andrew Jin Danyuan.

Andrew Jin Danyuan, underground bishop emeritus of Changzhi, died in November at the age of 90. After his ordination to the priesthood in Beijing in 1956, Jin was arrested and imprisoned for 13 years. 

Bishop Joseph Ma Zhongmu, who remained a part of China’s underground Church until his death at the age of 101 on March 23, was the first and only bishop of Mongolian ethnicity.

Born in a village in Inner Mongolia in 1919, Zhongmu studied in a Chinese minor seminary from 1935 to 1947, when he was ordained a priest during the Chinese Civil War.

Fr. Ma was sentenced to 10 years of forced labor in 1958 after refusing to join the then recently established Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. Upon his release, Ma was forced to work as a village laborer in a water management plant during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. He was unable to resume his priestly ministry until 1979 as China began to open under Deng Xiaoping.

Pope John Paul II appointed Ma to be bishop of Yinchuan in 1983, entrusting to him the pastoral care of Mongolian Catholics. 

As bishop, Ma translated the catechism and other Church documents into Mongolian, and in his retirement dedicated himself to translating the New Testament and Roman Missal as well.

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples sent Bishop Ma a pectoral cross in 2004 as a sign of recognition and communion. 

Ma’s funeral was offered on March 27 by Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu of Hohhot and two other priests. No others allowed in attendance due to the coronavirus restrictions.