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Taiwan president appeals to Pope Francis over China’s 'abuse of power'

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen has written to Pope Francis describing China’s aggression and persecution of religion as “obstacles to peace,” and detailing the Communist regime’s “abuses of power.”

“The crux of the issue is that China refuses to relinquish its desire to dominate Taiwan. It continues to undermine Taiwan's democracy, freedom, and human rights with threats of military force and the implementation of disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, and diplomatic maneuvers,” Tsai wrote in a letter to the pope published by her office Jan. 21.

Tsai sent the letter in response to Pope Francis’ message for the 2020 World Day of Peace, the pope’s annual letter sent to all foreign ministers around the world to mark the new year.

This year, the pope’s letter entitled: “Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion," called on “the conscience of humanity” to rise up in the face of “every desire for dominance and destruction.”

The newly reelected president of Taiwan, formally called the Republic of China, told Pope Francis of her desire to “peacefully resolve the differences across the Taiwan Strait.”

“I am in complete accord with your statement that walking the path of peace requires us to set aside every act of violence in thought, word and deed, whether against our neighbors or against God's creation,” Tsai said.

The president of Taiwan then detailed a list of China’s actions that she said constitute “abuses of power,” describing violence toward Hong Kong protesters, the recent controversy over an NBA coach voicing criticism of the Communist regime, and persecution of religious believers seeking to follow their conscience:

“Authorities dispatching armed police to fire tear gas and suppress and arrest people expressing the wish to pursue democracy and human rights; internet celebrities or athletes being threatened with termination of contracts or bans from competitions when they speak up in defense of freedom of speech; religious practitioners facing detention and persecution by public security officers when they, following their conscience, refuse to be coerced into signing documents to join an organization that violates their religious doctrines — all these constitute what you refer to in your message as abuses of power and reflect the notion of diversity as an obstacle. Indeed, they only serve to fuel conflict.”

Tsai quoted directly from Pope Francis’ peace message, which states: “War is fueled by a perversion of relationships, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuses of power, by fear of others and by seeing diversity as an obstacle.”

She also responded to the pope’s call to care for our common home in his encyclical Laudato Si by highlighting the Taiwanese government’s efforts to “transform Taiwan into a green energy development hub in Asia” through multiple green energy and sustainable water initiatives.

Taiwan’s first female president, Tsai was reelected on Jan. 11 with a campaign pledge to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty from Chinese control, as concerns grew among Taiwanese watching the Hong Kong protests in 2019.

The Chinese state media attempted to sway Taiwan’s presidential election with online disinformation campaigns attacking Tsai. China’s authoritarian leader, Xi Jinping, has threatened Taiwan, saying in 2019 that Chinese Communist Party reserves the right to use force to bring the democratic island under control.

The split between China and Taiwan dates back to 1949, following the communist military success in China’s civil war that led Chiang Kai-shek and the nationalist forces to retreat to the island. Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China, while the government on the mainland is the People’s Republic of China.

“I strongly identify with Your Holiness's magnanimous vision and appeal to all of humanity to renounce the desire to dominate others, show mutual respect, and learn to see one another as sons and daughters of God and as brothers and sisters, so as to break the spiral of vengeance,” Taiwan’s president wrote to Pope Francis.

“Many of the international conflicts today can be attributed to the desire to dominate others. When one party tries to impose its will on another, genuine dialogue becomes impossible,” she said.

The Holy See has recognized the Taiwanese government, the Republic of China, since 1942, and does not currently have formal diplomatic relations with the government of the People’s Republic of China, which consolidated control of the mainland at the conclusion of a civil war in 1949.

In 2018, Beijing and Vatican officials signed a provisional agreement on bishop appointments. The China-Vatican deal was intended to unify the underground Church and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

China has previously demanded that other countries end diplomatic recognition of Taiwan -- which it regards as a rebel province, not as a sovereign nation -- as a price for increased economic or political cooperation.

Vatican City is the only remaining country in Europe that recognizes Taiwan as a country. However, the nunciature in Taipei has not been led by a nuncio since Oct. 25, 1971, when the United Nations ceased to recognize the Taipei-based government as the government of China.

Taiwan’s government has repeatedly invited Pope Francis to visit Taiwan both before and after the Holy See’s provisional deal with China.

Tsai expressed her hope for “the continued growth of the Catholic Church” and said that the virtue of hope leads toward peace and overcoming adversity.

“I firmly believe that as long as people in Taiwan and around the world embrace hope and remain open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion and manipulation, true peace can be achieved,” Tsai wrote.

Pope Francis sent new year’s greetings to Asian nations during his Wednesday audience Jan. 22. Lunar New Year is the biggest annual holiday in East Asia in which millions travel to celebrate with family.

“I invite everyone to pray also for peace, for dialogue and for solidarity between nations: gifts that are ever more necessary for today's world,” Pope Francis said.

Pro-life group announces $52 million war chest for 2020 election

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 07:05 am (CNA).- A pro-life political group has announced its plans to support President Donald Trump and pro-life senatorial candidates in their 2020 election campaigns. The announcement comes after Planned Parenthood announced its own plans to spend an unprecedented amount during the 2020 elections.

The Susan B. Anthony List and Women Speak Out PAC, its partner super PAC, said Friday it has plans to spend $52 million in the 2020 election cycle. 

Mallory Quigley, national spokeswoman for the group, told CNA the amount is “the largest budget for any election cycle that we’ve ever had.”

News of the pro-life group’s campaign war chest followed an announcement last week that Planned Parenthood Votes will spend $45 million in a “We Decide 2020” campaign to support pro-abortion candidates at the presidential, congressional, and state levels—the largest election spending in Planned Parenthood’s history.

Spending by SBA List will focus on a strong “ground game” in battleground states. While the group will invest in digital media, mail and phone calls, it will prioritize door-knocking and face-to-face interaction, Quigley told CNA.

“The stakes are very high. We are up against a very well-funded opponent,” Quigley added. 

The $52 million budget of SBA List and Women Speak Out “still pales in comparison to the resources of the pro-abortion lobby and their allies,” she said.

“And so that’s why we prioritize face-to-face communication with voters, one-on-one conversations, and hopefully we will be successful.” 

The group plans a two-pronged strategy focused on turning out “unreliable pro-life voters” and reaching “persuadable voters” in swing states, by emphasizing the “radical” agenda of the pro-abortion lobby, according to a Jan. 16 memo released by SBA List’s national campaign director Tim Edson.

The group will hire state directors, regional field staff, and 100 to 200 pro-life canvassers “to expose the extremism of pro-abortion candidates, and identify the clear pro-life choice in the election, one door and one conversation at a time,” the memo says.

All candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination support taxpayer funding of abortions through a repeal of the Hyde Amendment. A majority of those candidates have said they would codify Roe v. Wade in federal law, appoint only pro-abortion judges, and push for over-the-counter availability of abortion pills. Some candidates have said they would support abortion access until birth.

Donor support of the efforts will come from pro-life activists around the country, Quigley said, and the campaign will target battleground states in the presidential election along with certain Senate races.

“The goal is very simple: re-elect the most pro-life president in our nation’s history, and safeguard the pro-life majority that we have in the U.S. Senate,” Quigley told CNA.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, SBA List’s president, chaired Trump’s pro-life coalition in 2016 after, months before, signing a letter with other women leaders urging Iowa Republicans in advance of the state’s caucus to “support anyone but Donald Trump.”

In September 2016, however, Trump the GOP nominee made specific promises to the pro-life movement including that he would nominate pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, sign a 20-week “pain-capable” abortion ban, defund Planned Parenthood, and codify the Hyde Amendment.

Although Trump has not signed a “pain-capable” bill—one has not cleared both chambers of Congress to reach his desk—he has appointed two justices to the Supreme Court and more than a quarter of federal appeals court judges. In addition, his administration has started stripping abortion providers or promoters, both in the U.S. and overseas, of federal funding.

“President Trump’s been the first president to have an impact on Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding,” Quigley said. “They gave up $60 million when he issued the Protect Life Rule concerning Title X.”

Key Senate races—among them, the re-election of Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and the race of John James in Michigan—will form most of the rest of the 2020 campaign by SBA List and Women Speak Out.

While pro-abortion Democrats currently hold a clear majority in the House—the group Democrats for Life in 2018 only endorsed two sitting members of the House—pro-lifers hold a slim majority in the Senate.

SBA List has already begun knocking on doors in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, where the organization has been active for multiple years, reaching 460,000 voters.

The group plans to expand its efforts to Iowa, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, battleground states where the organization says it “could reach four million voters before election day” with its war chest.

For House and state-level races, the group will try to assist in states where it is already active on other campaigns, Quigley said, but Senate races and the presidential election will be the main focus of attention and spending.

As far as whether resources will be devoted to any pro-life Democratic candidates, Quigley said “What we’ve announced today is what we’ve announced today. It’s our plan to re-elect the President and safeguard our pro-life majority in the U.S. Senate.”

In a Jan. 10 interview with CNA, Quigley highlighted the group’s 2018 support for Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), a pro-life eight-term Catholic congressman who faced a primary challenge centered on his pro-life commitment. SBA List said it had mobilized 70 canvassers to visit 17,000 “pro-life Democrat households” in Lipinski’s Illinois third district, and the group spent more than $100,000 supporting his 2018 candidacy. 

Earlier this month, SBA List told CNA that it would again support Lipinski’s campaign. 

Although Lipinski again faces a primary challenge from pro-abortion candidate Marie Newman, Quigley said Friday that SBA plans to help bundle funds for Lipinski, but not to spend money from its war chest on his campaign. 

Bundling is the practice of organizing candidate support from a network or donor pool.

Support for particular campaigns has not yet been announced because, with ten months until election day, “this is still very early,” Quigley said. “A lot of these Senate races, we’re still in the primary.”

Pope Francis: Christians can unite in welcoming migrants, each other

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2020 / 03:21 am (CNA).- Welcoming other Christians and showing hospitality to strangers, especially migrants, is an opportunity for unity and for sharing Christ’s love, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.

“Hospitality is important; it is also an important ecumenical virtue,” the pope said in the Pope Paul VI hall Jan. 22. “First of all, it means recognizing that other Christians are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

He explained that hospitality “it is not an act of one-way generosity, because when we host other Christians, we welcome them as a gift that is given to us.”

The first step in welcoming Christians of other traditions is showing them God’s love and welcoming what God has accomplished in their lives, Francis said.

According to the pope, “ecumenical hospitality requires willingness to listen to other Christians, paying attention to their personal stories of faith and the history of their community.” It also involves the desire to know other Christians’ experience of God.

Pope Francis’ catechesis focused on the theme of hospitality as part of the Church’s celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The pope will mark the end of the week with the praying of vespers Jan. 25 for the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes from a line in the 28th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles: “They treated us kindly.”

Acts 27 recounts the story of the storm and shipwreck of St. Paul and his companions as they attempted to travel to Italy by boat, eventually landing on the island of Malta.

The pope told the story, explaining that “the ship on which Paul travels is at the mercy of the elements.”

“For fourteen days, fourteen days, they have been at sea, drifting, and since neither the sun nor the stars are visible, the travelers feel disoriented, lost. Below them, the sea breaks violently against the ship and they fear that it will break under the force of the waves. From above they are lashed by the wind and rain,” he said.

“But Paul knows it is not so. Faith tells him that his life is in the hands of God,” he continued. “Therefore, Paul addresses his traveling companions and, inspired by faith, announces to them that God will not allow a hair of their head to be lost.”

The passengers all survive the ship’s rough landing on the coast of the island of Malta, where they are welcomed by the inhabitants.

“These people, foreign to them, are attentive to their needs. They light a fire to warm up, offer them shelter from rain and food. Even if they have not yet received the Good News of Christ, they manifest the love of God in concrete acts of kindness,” the pope said.

“The hospitality of the Maltese islanders is rewarded by the healing miracles God works through Paul,” he added, highlighting that if the Maltese people were a sign of God’s providence for St. Paul, he was also a witness of God’s merciful love for them.

Francis went on to note that the sea which shipwrecked Paul and his companions is the same sea men and women from around the world risk crossing to “escape violence, war, and poverty.”

Not only do migrants face the indifference and hostility of the desert or sea, he said, but they also risk exploitation by traffickers or being considered a threat by some government leaders: “Sometimes hospitality refuses them like a wave.”

He urged Christians to “work together to show migrants the love of God revealed by Jesus Christ” and to testify “that every person is precious to God and loved by him.”

The divisions among Christians “prevent us from being fully the sign of God’s love,” he stressed.

“Working together to live hospitality, especially towards those whose life is more vulnerable, will make all of us Christians – Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, all Christians – it will make us better human beings, better disciples and a more united Christian people. It will bring us closer to unity, which is God’s will for us.”

Mexican bishop: Migrant caravan should be ‘treated like brothers’

Tapachula, Mexico, Jan 22, 2020 / 12:40 am (CNA).- The bishop of the southern Mexican border town of Tapachula is calling for members of an incoming migrant caravan to be “treated as brothers” and welcomed by the faithful.

“We don’t know if the brothers that are coming in the caravan will be able to cross the border, reach Tapachula or even continue beyond our state of Chiapas, crossing our diocesan territory” said Bishop Jaime Calderón.

However, he said, it is the job of the faithful “to ensure that whether they’re passing through, or in a temporary or permanent stay in our diocesan territory, that the migrant brothers don’t incur more suffering than that which inherently accompanies a long, arduous, rugged, unsafe and violent journey.”

A migrant caravan left San Pedro Sulas in Honduras last week. According to media reports, the caravan consists of about 1,000 people hoping to make it to the United States.

After a 2018 caravan of thousands of Central American migrants crossed through Mexico and arrived at the southern U.S. border, the Trump administration put pressure on the Mexican government to stem the flow of migrants, threatening tariffs if they did not. Mexico then deployed thousands of National Guard troops to their southern border to reduce the passage of migrants.

In addition, the Trump administration last year introduced a new “Remain in Mexico” policy that requires asylum seekers - mainly families with children - to remain in border towns while their cases are processed by immigration courts, a procedure that may take years.

Nevertheless, many migrants from Central America – particularly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – continue seeking safety in the United States, as they flee nations marked by poverty and some of the highest rates of violence in the world.

At a Jan. 17 press conference, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that some 3,000 Central American migrants are currently seeking to enter Mexico at different points along its southern border.

According to the Mexican website Animal Político, Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior, Olga Sánchez Cordero, warned that “in no way do we have transit visas or even safe conduct passes” for the migrants.

Mexico, said Sánchez Cordero, “is not a country that gives safe conduct passes, it’s a country that opens its doors to people who want to enter and migrate to our country.”

However, she said that if the members of the caravan “wish to have some kind of immigration, refugee or asylum status [in Mexico], we will gladly attend to them.”

President López Obrador said there are more than 4,000 jobs available at the southern border, along with shelters and medical care.

Animal Político reported that Mexico’s National Migration Institute has received just over 1,000 migrants so far, and is reviewing their cases on an individual basis to see what opportunities they are eligible for, based on their specific conditions. The majority of applicants are expected to be sent back to their country of origin.

Bishop Calderón stressed that the Church takes the position “of the Good Samaritan that comes to the aid of those who have been beaten down by the violence of life and suffer the hardships of the journey in the effort to find better living conditions for themselves and their families.”

He asked Catholic individuals and parishes in his diocese “to ensure that these brother migrants are not lacking bread, that they’re not violated or assaulted on their passage through our diocese, that they don’t receive signs of rejection or contempt.”

The migrants should be welcomed, he said, so that they feel, “despite such adverse circumstances, that they travel among brothers and as brothers, not as strangers, nor adventurers, nor criminals, nor exiles, nor despised people.”

“God will reward the effort each person makes to see them, feel for them and treat them as brothers,” the bishop said. “In the same way we would like our undocumented countrymen to be treated in the United States.”

Trump administration considers travel bans on up to seven more countries

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- More travel bans and restrictions could be coming from the Trump administration, with up to seven countries targeted.

Citizens of Belarus, Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania could face more travel restrictions, as initially reported by the news site Politico. The restrictions could be announced Jan. 27, the third anniversary of the administration’s first travel bans.

The restrictions under consideration are not finalized and might not necessarily be a complete ban, but rather could apply only to certain government officials or certain types of visas, like business or visitor visas.

Some countries the Trump administration is considering for new travel restrictions have had good relations with the U.S. or have been the subjects of U.S. efforts to improve relations, Politico reports.

The administration has justified travel restrictions as an anti-terrorism measure, saying the travelers are not adequately vetted.

The original executive order was issued Jan. 27, 2017, prompting hundreds of demonstrators to gather at airports. The first order denied visas to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The order was modified and went through several court challenges. In its current form it restricts entry of some citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea. Chad was on the original list, but was removed.

Lawyers, advocates for Muslim immigrants, and other critics said the administration’s travel ban still constituted a “Muslim ban” since most of the countries under the ban are Muslim-majority.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the travel ban in June 2018, ruling that President Donald Trump was acting within the limits of his authority when he enacted the travel ban on nationals from seven countries.

At the time of the ruling, leaders of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee and religious freedom committee said the travel ban “targets Muslims for exclusion, which goes against our country's core principle of neutrality when it comes to people of faith.” The Supreme Court “failed to take into account the clear and unlawful targeting of a specific religious group by the government,” the bishops said.
 
Most possible additions to the list do not have travel restrictions. The Wall Street Journal said people from Eritrea, Nigeria, and Sudan on business or visitor visas appeared much more likely to overstay their permits.

This week White House spokesman Hogan Gidley did not confirm to Politico any details about expanded ban or travel restrictions, but said the original order “has been profoundly successful in protecting our country and raising the security baseline around the world.”

“While there are no new announcements at this time, common sense and national security both dictate that if a country wants to fully participate in U.S. immigration programs, they should also comply with all security and counter-terrorism measures — because we do not want to import terrorism or any other national security threat into the United States,” Gidley said.

Trump first proposed a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. after a string of terrorist attacks, including a December 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California that left 14 dead and 22 injured. The shooters were a married couple who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group shortly before the attack. One was a U.S. citizen and the other was a Pakistani national who moved to the U.S. on a fiancée visa.

His comments drew condemnation and concern from many who worried explicitly targeting migrants based on religion was wrong in itself and would enable U.S. laws and policies targeting other religious groups.

Opposition to death penalty growing among Republicans, activists say

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The number of Republican state lawmakers opposed to capital punishment is growing, a conservative group claims, as anti-death penalty activists look forward to continued momentum from the right on this issue in 2020. 

“The nation is down to only 25 states that still have an active death penalty system, of those, over a third have not used it in a decade or more,” Hannah Cox, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, told CNA in a statement. 

“We anticipate the downward trends to continue around capital punishment and expect to see more states join those that have repealed their systems over the next year.”

At the national level, the parties are divided on the issue.

The 2016 Republican Party platform stated that “The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled by its explicit mention in the Fifth Amendment,” and that “With the murder rate soaring in our great cities, we condemn the Supreme Court’s erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states.” 

Conversely, the 2016 Democratic Party platform called for the abolition of capital punishment, which was refered to as “arbitrary and unjust.” 

Despite the platform plank, Republican lawmakers seem relatively unafraid to introduce bills to repeal the practice. 

In the 2020 legislative season, five state legislatures are considering Republican-sponsored bills to overturn the death penalty: Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Washington. Last year, repeal bills were introduced with Republican sponsors in 10 states. That is a two-state increase from 2018. 

Out of the 10 states that considered bills to abolish the death penalty, one, in New Hampshire, passed, and went into effect in 2019. Another, in Wyoming, failed in the Senate.

New Hampshire repealed the death penalty for anyone who was convicted of capital murder after May 30, 2019. Although the bill was initially vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, it was overruled by a two-thirds majority in both of the state’s legislative chambers. 

In the veto vote, about 40% of the state’s Republican senators voted to overturn the death penalty. 

With New Hampshire overturning the death penalty, there are now no states in New England where capital punishment is legal. There is, however, one man on the Granite State’s death row: Michael “Stix” Addison was convicted in 2008 after murdering a police officer, Michael Biggs. Addison is still eligible for the death penalty, unless his sentence is commuted to life in prison. 

The last person executed in New Hampshire was executed in 1939. Several previous efforts in the 21st century to repeal the death penalty had failed. 

In Wyoming, the bill to repeal the death penalty died in the state Senate, which is composed of 27 Republicans and three Democrats. The bill’s main sponsor was Republican Sen. Brian Boner. 

The bill failed on a vote of 18-12. Wyoming has only executed one person since the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that the death penalty is a legal punishment. There is nobody presently on the state’s death row.

Don’t call a pro-life midwife, UK university said

London, England, Jan 21, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- An undergraduate student in a midwife program was barred from placement in a hospital, reportedly due to her pro-life beliefs. The decision was overturned last week, but free speech advocates say the case is troubling.

According to The Telegraph, Julia Rynkiewicz, a 24-year-old student at the University of Nottingham in the U.K., was blocked from entering her program’s hospital placement phase, after the university learned of her pro-life beliefs and her leadership in a pro-life student group.

Rynkiewicz underwent a “fitness to practice” hearing by the school last Monday.

While the university overturned its decision and will allow Rynkiewicz to continue as a midwife student, the investigation and temporary ban from the placement set her back a year in her studies.

Concerns were raised by school officials about Rynkiewicz’s fitness to practice as a midwife after they saw her tending a booth at a school fair in her position as president for Nottingham Students for Life (NSFL), an approved pro-life student group that supports life from conception to natural death.

Just days after the fair last September, Rynkiewicz said she received a letter from officials at her Midwifery School saying that a formal complaint had been filed against her due to her pro-life activities.

The complaint alleged that she had “provided reproductive health advice without the support of a registered midwife and...expressed personal beliefs regarding reproductive sexual health in the public domain (including the press and social media) to the effect that it may create the perception of an impact on patient care,” The Telegraph reported.

“I think it’s important to remember that being pro-life isn't incompatible with being a midwife,” Rynkiewicz, who is a Catholic, told The Telegraph.

The Abortion Act of 1967 in the UK allows for conscientious objection to abortions for healthcare providers.

Rynkiewicz said she is concerned about what her case could mean for freedom of speech on university campuses. “But (universities) should be a place where we can speak up about your beliefs and debate with people in a civilized way so I’m shocked that this happened,” she told The Telegraph.

Pro-life advocacy and legal groups spoke out on behalf of Rynkiewicz, arguing for her freedom of speech and right to conscientious objection.

“What has happened to Ms. Rynkiewicz is a flagrant violation of her moral and legal right to freedom of expression,” Mark Bhagwandin, senior education and media officer at pro-life group Life Charity, told The Telegraph.

Laurence Wilkinson, legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom International, told The Telegraph that this case “represents a very chilling prospect for freedom of speech on campus.”

“Despite the allegations being dismissed, the practical effect of this investigation is that Julia is now forced to graduate one year later than her classmates. It is to Julia’s credit that she remains absolutely committed to completing her training, caring for women and bringing life into the world,” he added.

“She is now considering her options, as no student should have to go through this kind of daunting process in the absence of clear and compelling reasons.”

Rynkiewicz told The Telegraph that she is demanding an apology from the school, and that she has filed a formal complaint about her case against the school. She added that she is seeking compensation for the stress and inconvenience caused to her, and that she is willing to take her case to court if necessary.

“It all felt a bit ridiculous and I have had to put my life on hold for a year and that’s been frustrating.  I have been suspended for almost four months as a result of not being able to attend my placement and been forced to take year-long interruption to my studies. I won’t be back until September and will now be graduating a year later than I wanted to,” she told The Telegraph.

“I would quite like an apology for everything they have put me through. I feel fine about it all now but I would still like them to apologize as a matter of justice. I suppose that they have realized they have done wrong and (I hope they) will change it so no one else has to go through what I have,” she said.

A spokesperson for the University of Nottingham told The Telegraph that it takes fitness to practice investigations seriously, “to ensure they can provide appropriate and professional advice and care to patients.”

The university added that it would be considering ways to help Rynkiewicz reconvene her studies without further delay.

“The student’s complaint will be carefully considered while their School is actively considering how they can recommence their studies without delay,” the school said.

 

Trump declares Jan. 22 'National Sanctity of Human Life Day'

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump declared Jan. 22 to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, in a proclamation signed Monday.

“On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, our Nation proudly and strongly reaffirms our commitment to protect the precious gift of life at every stage, from conception to natural death,” Trump wrote in the proclamation.

“Every person -- the born and unborn, the poor, the downcast, the disabled, the infirm, and the elderly -- has inherent value. Although each journey is different, no life is without worth or is inconsequential; the rights of all people must be defended,” the president added.

The landmark decision Roe v. Wade, which declared a constitutional right to abortion, was decided Jan. 22, 1973.

President Ronald Reagan declared Jan. 22, 1984 to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, and annually declared a similar day each year of his presidency. President George Bush did the same, as did President George W. Bush.

President Donald Trump declared a National Sanctity of Human Life Day in 2018 and 2019.

The president’s 2020 proclamation said that the U.S. “must remain steadfastly dedicated to the profound truth that all life is a gift from God, who endows every person with immeasurable worth and potential.”

“Countless Americans are tireless defenders of life and champions for the vulnerable among us. We are grateful for those who support women experiencing unexpected pregnancies, those who provide healing to women who have had abortions, and those who welcome children into their homes through foster care and adoption.”

“On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, we celebrate the wonderful gift of life and renew our resolve to build a culture where life is always revered,” the proclamation added.

The proclamation noted a decline in U.S. abortions and the abortion rate since 2007, and a decrease in teen pregnancies, which, Trump wrote, have contributed “to the lowest rate of abortions among adolescents since the legalization of abortion in 1973.”

“All Americans should celebrate this decline in the number and rate of abortions, which represents lives saved.  Still, there is more to be done, and, as President, I will continue to fight to protect the lives of the unborn,” Trump wrote.

The president also noted that his administration has introduced restrictions that impede recipients of federal Title X funds from providing abortions, along with conscience protections for healthcare workers and employers who object to contraceptive coverage in insurance plans.

“Additionally, I have called on the Congress to act to prohibit abortions of later-term babies who can feel pain,” the proclamation added.

Since 1973, nearly 45 million abortions in the U.S. have been reported to the CDC. Several state legislative efforts to restrict or prohibit abortion have been challenged in court in recent years, and some pro-life activists predict those judicial challenges could lead to a reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Trump has said he believes laws regarding abortion should be decided at the state level, and that while he believes there should be exceptions to prohibitions on abortion, he considers himself to be pro-life.

 

 

Legionaries of Christ to discuss handling of abuse at Rome meeting

Rome, Italy, Jan 21, 2020 / 03:48 pm (CNA).- The Legionaries of Christ on Jan. 20 opened its 2020 Ordinary General Chapter in Rome, which convenes every six years with the duty to elect the general government for the order and to address the most important matters related to the mission and identity of the congregation.

The opening of the general chapter comes a week after Pope Francis dismissed from the clerical state a Legionary priest, Fernando Martinez Suárez, for sexual abuse, and a month after an internal commission of the Legion published a report saying that since its founding in 1941, 33 priests of the congregation had committed sexual abuse of minors, victimizing 175 children.

One of the chapter fathers has already voluntarily decided not to participate in the chapter because of his connection to the now-laicized former priest and his alleged mishandling of abuse cases.

This will also be the first general chapter meeting since Pope Francis approved new constitutions for the troubled congregation in Nov. 2014, following an extraordinary general chapter earlier that year. At that meeting, the current general director, Father Eduardo Robles-Gi, received mandates to implement changes in the legionary formation process and to implement safe environment policies for the care and protection of minors.

In July 2014, Pope Francis appointed Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ to be pontifical advisor for the Legion.

In addition to assessing the last six years, the 2020 General Chapter will elect the new general director, six councilors, and a general administrator. Other topics of discussion will include the formation of seminarians, advances in support of victims of sexual abuse, and possible coverup, negligence or omission in relation to past abuse by Legionary priests.

A total of 66 Legionary priests with voice and vote will participate, 12 for the first time. They represent the congregation’s nine territories— Chile-Argentina, Brazil, North America, Spain, Western and Central Europe, Italy, Mexico, Monterrey, Columbia-Venezuela— and the delegation of Rome and the Holy Land.

One of the chapter fathers, Father Eloy Bedia Díez, announced Jan. 18 that because of his connection to the recently laicized Legionary priest, he would step aside and not participate in the general chapter. Bedia was territorial director of Mexico from 1992 to 2000 and oversaw personnel movements at that time. He has denied having any awareness of Martinez’s history.

Pope Francis on Jan. 13 dismissed Fernando Martínez Suárez, a priest of the Legionaries of Christ, from the clerical state after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found Martinez guilty of the sexual abuse of minors.

Martinez, 79, abused at least six girls, ages 6 to 11, between 1991 and 1993 when he directed the Cumbres Institute in Cancún.

He was also accused of other acts of abuse, including that of a boy between the ages of 4 and 6 at the Cumbres Lomas Institute in Mexico City in 1969.

The Legion released a statement on the matter of Martinez Jan. 20, saying that the former priest never exercised ministry in the North American territory.

“The Congregation will cooperate with an investigation, in coordination with the competent dicastery of the Holy See, in order to identify the persons responsible for negligence or coverup in this case,” the Legion said Jan. 20.

“We are ashamed of the abuses committed by Fernando Martinez Suárez, the Congregation’s negligence in handling past accusations, and the failure to give adequate attention to victims. We again ask the victims and their families for forgiveness,” the Legionaries of Christ in the Territory of Mexico said in a separate statement.

Martinez had himself been abused by Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, in Ontaneda and Rome in 1954, when Martinez was 15.

Maciel has been found to have abused at least 60 minors, lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children. The December report from the Legion found that nearly two-thirds of the 175 victims identified were either victims of Father Maciel, or were victims of his victims.

In 2006 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, removed Maciel from public ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The Vatican congregation decided not to subject him to a canonical process because of his advanced age.

In 2010, Pope Benedict appointed then-Archbishop Velasio de Paolis as the papal delegate to the Legion of Christ to oversee its reform. De Paolis, who died in 2017, has been accused of refusing to punish or even investigate Martinez or the superiors who covered up his crimes, according to reporting from the Associated Press.

No known sexual abuse in a minor seminary of the Legion has taken place since 2012, and its minor seminaries underwent reform in 2015.

Martinez will remain a member of the Legion of Christ. He had been ordained a priest in 1964.

Spanish group files hate crime complaint over anti-Church article

Madrid, Spain, Jan 21, 2020 / 02:58 pm (CNA).- The Association of Christian Lawyers in Spain filed a complaint last week with the Prosecutor's Office against the newly appointed director of the Institute for Women and Equal Opportunity, Beatriz Gimeno. The group says Gimeno committed a hate crime by authoring a 2013 article in Eldiario.es justifying the burning of churches.

Hundreds of churches were burned and priests were killed in Spain during the 1930s, as the Church faced a period of violent persecution.

Gimeno referenced church burnings in her article, saying, “In those countries where the Church (or churches) are on an equal footing with everyone else's freedoms, no one feels the need to burn them. But that's not our case. The deep loathing that many people feel here for the Catholic Church has been earned.”

“Here religion has never been a personal option that is lived freely and peacefully, but it has always been an imposition that falls upon us from above in all the structures of the State,” she said.

“The Church was an institution so hated by the working class, by the peasantry, by the majority of the intellectuals that, as soon as the spark was lit, people ran to burn churches.”

In the October 2013 article, entitled “The Church: a new twist,” Gimeno accused the Church of being an insatiable monster that seeks to dominate society and impose strict sexual rules, while failing to address problems of poverty and inequality.

“The Church in Spain has always been one of the main allies of economic power and an economic power in itself,” she said.

The president of Christian Lawyers, Polonia Castellanos, is confident the complaint will be successful, saying, “the Prosecutor's Office would have to act in view of the hate speech.”

Gimeno was president of the Spanish LGBT Federation from 2003 to 2007 and was in charge of equality advocacy for the left-wing populist Podemos party in the Madrid autonomous region.

She was named director of the Institute for Women and Equal Opportunity, a government post, by Equality Minister Irene Montero, also of the Podemos party, who in turn was recently appointed to her position by the newly formed left-wing coalition government.

The new coalition government was formed in Spain Jan. 7, with the Podemos party and the Spanish Socialist Workers Party signing on to a 10-point pre-agreement, a type of platform.

The Spanish bishops have expressed serious concern about the direction the new government will take the country.

When the announcement of the pre-agreement was made, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Valencia said that with it, “a cultural change is established, a way of thinking is imposed, with a vision of man intended to be spread to everyone - the approval of euthanasia, the extension of new rights, gender ideology, radical feminism, bringing up historical memories that foment hatred and aversion.”

In a Jan. 4, a few days before Pedro Sánchez of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party took office as Spain's new prime minister, the cardinal said in a letter that the country is in “a critical situation, a true emergency in face of the future.” He called all the faithful to pray for the country.

In a letter also published in early January, Bishop Ginés García Beltrán of Getafe also asked for prayers for the country and said that Spain had entered a “new political era.” The prelate said he had received numerous questions about whether the Spanish bishops were concerned.

Given the talking points “repeated in all the campaigns and government proposals about an exclusive secularism, or against religious freedom - which is not only to profess my faith, but to live according to it - the conception of man and life contrary to natural law, or the real defense of the poorest, without forgetting the role of churches and religions in a democratic society, we can say that there is expectant concern,” the bishop said.

However, he added, “if we're talking about worry as fear of (the Church being) insignificant or invisible, rejected or held in contempt, in my case, frankly, no.”

“The Church belongs to the Lord, and the barque will be weak and poor, but in the storm it becomes strong because the sail that drives it is the power of the Risen One," the bishop said.