Tag Archives: Catholics

AFRICA/DR CONGO – The extension of Kabila’s mandate has the support of the United States

The San Silvestro’s agreement was mediated by Congolese Bishops. According to a statement by CENCO sent to Agenzia Fides, the Bishops asked Nikki Haley to “help the Congolese people complete the electoral process within a reasonable deadline and accepted by all parties involved; to obtain the effective observance of the Constitution and the full implementation of the agreement of 31 December 2016 from the politicians; to recommend the Electoral Commission the rapid publication of a realistic and accurate electoral calendar, which will allow for credible, transparent and peaceful elections; to ask the Head of State an explicit commitment not to present himself for the next elections; to obtain from the high authorities of the State, civil and military, the cessation of the repression of peaceful demonstrations and of serious violations of human rights, as well as respect of democratic principles; to encourage the government to continue to pursue the implementation of the political refor

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Kinshasa – Outgoing President Joseph Kabila has received some important international awards as the expiration of his mandate, as envisaged by the San Silvestro Agreement, signed on December 31, 2016, is due to expire. According to the agreements, Kabila was to step down by the end of 2017, the year in which the presidential elections were to be held which initially were scheduled in December 2016.
The new presidential elections will take place on December 23, 2018 as declared on November 5 by the Independent National Election Commission . The announcement of CENI in Kinshasa took place shortly after the visit of US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who had imposed an ultimatum on the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo: elections by 2018, otherwise financial support to the DRC would be cut.
“By proposing the expiration of 2018, Nikki Haley offered the Congolese authorities what they were expecting: a second year of power to President Kabila, whose second and last presidential mandate ended on 19 December 2016”, says a note sent to Agenzia Fides by the Peace Network for Congo. “If the 31 December 2016 agreement had already officially confirmed a first postponement of the elections in December 2017, Nikki Haley approved their second postponement to 2018. The US ambassador seems to have satisfied a part, the presidential majority, ignoring the second part, the opposition, who has asked Joseph Kabila to resign”.
The San Silvestro’s agreement was mediated by Congolese Bishops. According to a statement by CENCO sent to Agenzia Fides, the Bishops asked Nikki Haley to “help the Congolese people complete the electoral process within a reasonable deadline and accepted by all parties involved; to obtain the effective observance of the Constitution and the full implementation of the agreement of 31 December 2016 from the politicians; to recommend the Electoral Commission the rapid publication of a realistic and accurate electoral calendar, which will allow for credible, transparent and peaceful elections; to ask the Head of State an explicit commitment not to present himself for the next elections; to obtain from the high authorities of the State, civil and military, the cessation of the repression of peaceful demonstrations and of serious violations of human rights, as well as respect of democratic principles; to encourage the government to continue to pursue the implementation of the political reforms envisaged in the December 31, 2016 agreement, as they are an essential prerequisite for launching a peaceful electoral process; to make every effort to ensure that the panel of experts nominated at the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations has an operational power within the Electoral Commission”.
The extension, of more than two years, of Kabila’s presidential mandate has expired, creating strong tensions in the Country. Opposition and civil society have threatened to organize demonstrations to force the President to resign.

Pope Francis Says Death Penalty “Abases Human Dignity,” is “Contrary to the Gospel”

Signaling a strengthening of the Catholic Church’s official opposition to capital punishment, Pope Francis (pictured) marked the 25th anniversary of the Catholic Church’s promulgation of amendments to its Catechism by declaring the death penalty “contrary to the Gospel” and “an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity.” During Vatican ceremonies on October 11 commemorating the 1992 amendments, Pope Francis said that the death penalty is “inadmissible” under any circumstances and that the subject needed “a more adequate and coherent treatment” than it currently receives. The Catechism—the instructive text for Catholics around the world—currently permits “recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor,” but given modern crime prevention and incarceration practices, its says “the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.'” Pope Francis called capital punishment “an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person” and said that the approach to the issue by the Holy See has in the past been “more legalistic than Christian.” The pontiff said that Church doctrine is a “dynamic” process that “develops [and] grows” over time, and it is therefore necessary to reaffirm in the Catechism “that no matter how serious the crime that has been committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person.” In October 2014, Pope Francis referred to the present Catechism in calling for the abolition of the death penalty, saying “It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples’ lives from an unjust aggressor.” He repeated that call during an historic address before a joint session of the United States Congress in September 2015, and urged Catholic leaders around the world to take action to halt all executions during the Church’s “Holy Year of Mercy” in 2016. Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Fiorenza—a former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—said the pope’s remarks have “put to rest” any doubt as to whether the death penalty is permitted under Catholic doctrine. “This is Pope Francis’ magisterial teaching on this issue and as the faithful we have the responsibility to accept what the pope says,” said Fiorenza. Dianne Rust-Tierney, the executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said that the pope’s “moral clarity and leadership” are promising to proponents of abolition. “We’ve got to show people that there is a better way, that this is a fundamentally immoral practice,” she said. The pope’s revision “closes the loophole” that the Catechism had left open in the minds of some, according to Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network. “[H]e makes it very clear,” said Clifton, that Catholics “need to meet people where they are and move them toward mercy and away from vengeance.” 

(N. Winfield, “Pope: Catholic guide needs updating on death penalty issue,” Associated Press, October 11, 2017; K. Clarke, “Advocates for death penalty abolition encouraged by Pope Francis statement,” America Magazine, October 16, 2017; “Pope Francis: The dynamic word of God cannot be moth-balled,” Vatican Radio, October 11, 2017.) Read the English language translation of Pope Francis’s prepared remarks here. See Religion.

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AMERICA/UNITED STATES – Bishops on the end of DACA: “A decision that is reprehensible and heartbreaking”

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Washington – The US Episcopal Conference quickly responded to the Trump administration’s decision to put an end to a program implemented under President Barack Obama which aimed at protecting the so-called young “dreamers” from expulsion, defining the move as “reprehensible” and “heartbreaking”.
The program called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – DACA” had created a temporary shield for nearly 800,000 undocumented youngsters and young adults who had come to the United States as a child and who, thanks to the DACA program, managed to complete higher education and work legally.
Responding to the decision to put an end to the program, the Bishops wrote: “Today, our nation has done the opposite of how Scripture calls us to respond. It is a step back from the progress that we need to make as a country”.
The statement was signed by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president; Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gómez, USCCB vice president; Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees, and Travelers.
The Bishops said that the decision by the Trump administration announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a “heartbreaking moment in our history that shows the absence of mercy and goodwill, and a short-sighted vision for the future”.

ASIA/HOLY LAND – Bethlehem calling Lourdes: partnership between towns supports Palestinian Christians

Bethlehem – Lourdes and Bethlehem share a “common destiny”, because “without pilgrimages, Bethlehem, like Lourdes, would be a small forgotten village”. With these words charged with realism the mayoress of Lourdes, Madame Josette Bourdeu, connoted the special bond which unites the town where Jesus was born with the French village-shrine in the Pyrenees. Madame Bourdeu said this recently when she led a French delegation to visit the Holy Land and to sign a partnership between the two French and Palestinian municipalities, establishing concrete and active cooperation between the towns.

The agreement – according to the Official Communications media of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem – was completed on 1 March this year and aims particularly to create jobs in the field of tourism also through commerce of religious articles made by Palestinian Christian artisans. This form collaboration will help launch projects in the field of social economy, promoting the sale of Palestinian handicraft through the network of places of pilgrimage most visited by Christians all over the world including the shrines of Fatima, Czestochowa, Guadalupe and Aparecida. In 2012 the Marian Shrine of Lourdes adopted as its “official Rosary” beads carved from olive wood by a family in Bethlehem, and about 25,000 of them are sold every year. .

AMERICA/COSTA RICA – Bishops denounce: violence on children has doubled

San José – “Mercy or Violence?” is the title of a message issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica, at the end of a recent assembly: “With deep sorrow we present information supplied by the national Judicial Research Office – we read in the first lines of the report sent to Fides -: In 2015 our country registered 560 murders, the highest number in recent years according to the United Nations Organisation “. Although lower compared with neighbouring countries, ithe figure is nevertheless a cause of concern also because “a quarter of these crimes are connected with episodes of drug trafficking ” say the Bishops.
“Profoundly shocking, the numbers of acts violence on children, which have doubled in less than a decade . In 2014 the National Children’s Hospital assisted 2,400 children victims of violence, in 2015 the number rose to 3,100 “. The bishops denounce widespread domestic violence and gang bullying and aggression.
In this situation the Bishops’ Conference complains of scarce control regarding violence, recalling that the country chose to do without commitment by the army in order release more resources for social policies. They add: “Every form of injustice is an act of violence. In our country ihunger, lack of decent homes and medical care etc….are acts of violence on 317,660 families, over one million men women and children live in poverty, and for another 374,185 poverty is extreme”.
Prompted by Pope Francis’ call to give central place to mercy and reconciliation, the Bishops conclude : “We have in our hands the possibility of restoring to Costa Rica a society shining with peace and full respect for human life”.

AFRICA/EGYPT – Copt Organisation asks President al Sisi to grant an amnesty to Copt youths wrongly condemned for offending Islam

Cairo – Karim Kamal, founder of the Union General of Copts for the Motherland, has asked the President of Egypt Abdel Fattah al Sisi to intervene regarding the case of a group of Copt youths recently accused of verbally offending Islam and sentenced to five years in prison. Kamal urges Egypt’s Head of State to grant amnesty to the young men in question. But the request, made public in the Egyptian media, also expresses harsh criticism of the law on blasphemy and offence to religion, misused to persecute innocent people, while extremists and fomenters of religious hatred go unpunished.
The case in question in the appeal addressed to al Sisi involves four Copt students charged with offending the Islamic religion, by sharing in the Spring of 2015 a video-clip of a few seconds, recorded on a mobile phone, in which they mime the scene of the slitting of the throat of a Muslim in prayer, imitating the horrendous executions carried out by Jihadists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State . At the end of February the Egyptian court in Minya issued a heavy sentence to the young men: three will serve five years in prison, and the fourth, not yet eighteen years old, will be sent to a guarded residence for minor offenders. .

Mother of Murder Victim: “The Death Penalty Would Inflict Additional Pain on Us”

Duval County, Florida prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the 2013 murder of Shelby Farah (pictured), over the objections of Ms. Farah’s family. After unsuccessful attempts to persuade prosecutors to non-capitally resolve the case, Darlene Farah, Ms. Farah’s mother, publicly expressed her views in a recent column in TIME. Farah said, “I do not want my family to go through the years of trials and appeals that come with death-penalty cases.” Instead, she wants her family to be able to, “celebrate [Shelby’s] life, honor her memory and begin the lengthy healing process.” Darlene Farah says her daughter would not have wanted the death penalty to be sought on her behalf, and “more killing in no way honors my daughter’s memory or provides solace to my family.” Duval County is among the 2% of U.S. counties that are responsible for a majority of U.S. death sentences and is represented by a prosecutor’s office that has sent more people to death row since 2009 than any other prosecutor’s office in the state. Farah has asked prosecutors to accept the defense offer to plead guilty to all charges, but she says “[prosecutors’] desire for the death penalty in my daughter’s case seems so strong that they are ignoring the wishes of my family in their pursuit of it.” Farah said the use of the death penalty is impeding the healing process: “Death-penalty cases are incredibly complex and drawn-out. It’s been two and a half years since my daughter’s murder, and the trial hasn’t even started…[W]e can’t start to heal and move beyond the legal process, which never seems to end.” “I have seen my family torn apart since my daughter’s murder, and the idea of having to face the lengthy legal process associated with a death-penalty case is unbearable. We have endured enough pain and tragedy already.”

(D. Farah, “My Daughter’s Killer Should Not Get the Death Penalty,” TIME, February 19, 2016; L. Robbins, “Victim’s mother urges State Attorney Angela Corey to take death penalty off the table,” WTLV First Coast News, February 24, 2016; Image by Darlene Farah, via WOKV News.) See Victims and New Voices.

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AMERICA/VENEZUELA – Zika virus throughout Latin America

Caracas – The World Health Organization has launched a global alert on the spread of the zika virus. Currently, America is the most affected continent . In Venezuela, there are between 6 and 10 thousand symptomatic cases of the disease, to which are added 30 to 40% of asymptomatic cases. The Minister of Health has confirmed the state of alert and the monitoring of 4700 suspected cases.

STUDIES: Ohio Executions Reveal Vast Racial, Gender, and Geographic Inequities

“Ohio’s death penalty is plagued by vast inequities” grounded in race, gender, and geography, according to a new University of North Carolina study. UNC-Chapel Hill political science professor Frank Baumgartner examined the 53 executions Ohio has conducted since resuming capital punishment in the 1970s. His study found “quite significant” racial, gender, and geographic disparities in Ohio’s executions that, Baumgartner said, “undermine public confidence in the state’s ability to carry out the death penalty in a fair and impartial manner.” The data showed that Ohio was 6 times more likely to execute a prisoner convicted of killing a white female victim than if the victim was a black male. Although 43% of Ohio murder victims are white, 65% of Ohio executions involved the murder of white victims. Similarly, while only 27% of Ohio murder victims are female, 52% of all executions involved cases with female victims. The study also discovered significant geographic disparities in Ohio executions. More that half of the state’s executions were concentrated in just 4 counties, while more than 3/4 of Ohio counties have not produced any executions. Lake County had an execution rate that was 11 times the statewide average. Although the state’s three most populous counties (Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Hamilton) have similar murder rates, Hamilton’s .60 executions per 100 homicides was more than double the rate in Cuyahoga and nearly 9 times that in Franklin. Sharon L. Davies, Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University, said that the “race or gender of a victim, and the county of the crime, should not influence who is sentenced to die” and urged “Ohio citizens and lawmakers[to] review the findings of this important research.” (Click image to enlarge.)

(F. Baumgartner, “The Impact of Race, Gender, and Geography on Ohio Executions,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, January 28, 2016; A. Johnson, “Study finds racial, gender bias in Ohio executions,” The Columbus Dispatch, January 28, 2016.) See Studies and Arbitrariness.

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AMERICA/ARGENTINA – Dengue continues to spread: prevention and health monitoring

Posadas – The outbreak of dengue fever, that was proliferating in the Country, has been declared an epidemic and there is a greater spread of cases in various provinces. The infections started from Misiones province, where 36 cases were confirmed and about 800 considered suspect cases. Health services in Misiones are responding well, through actions of rapid rehydration for patients who have symptoms. According to the Ministry of Health, there are outbreaks of dengue in six locations in the province of Misiones and a total of 173 positive cases, plus others scattered in different cities for a total of 379 cases.
The Ministry has sent economic aid in the provinces where carriers of the virus have been identified and has strengthened the prevention campaign. In areas affected by dengue the health office is providing the distribution of insecticides and repellents for fumigation.