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Five dead in Brazilian cathedral shooting, cathedral priest asks for prayer

Campinas, Brazil, Dec 11, 2018 / 11:46 am (CNA).- A gunman killed at least four people people Tuesday, inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Conception in Campinas, Brazil. After opening fire inside the cathedral, the gunman took his own life.

The man entered the cathedral at the conclusion of a midday Mass on Dec. 11 and began firing, according to the Military Police of Campinas. In addition to those killed, at least four people were injured during the attack.

According to local fire department officials, the man was carrying two handguns, at least one of which was a .38 caliber revolver.

He reportedly committed suicide directly in front of the cathedral’s altar.

Father Amauri Thomazzi, who celebrated Tuesday’s 12:15 Mass in the cathedral, published a video on his Facebook page, in which he requested prayer.

“At the end of the Mass, a person came in firing and took lives. Nobody could do anything,” the priest said.

“To you, friends, I ask only that you pray for the [attacker]. He killed himself after the situation. He shot people and there were over 20 shots in here, then he killed himself. So we pray for him and for those who have been injured, there are some fatalities,” he said.

The names of the victims and the attacker have not yet been disclosed.

On its Facebook page, the Archdiocese of Campinas also urged Catholics to pray.

“A shooting left at least five people dead and four others injured in the early afternoon of Tuesday, inside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Campinas, in the city center, according to information from the fire department. The motive is not yet known,” the Facebook post said.

“The cathedral remains closed for the care of the victims and the investigation of the police. Once we have more information, we will make it available. We count on the prayers of all in this moment of deep pain,” the post concluded.

Major Paulo Monteiro of the Campinas Fire Department told reporters that the motive for the crime is not yet known and that at the moment the main concern is the care of the survivors.

The wounded were taken to local hospitals; their condition has not been disclosed.

“Let us ask Our Lady Immaculate to intercede for this cathedral, for these people and for these families,” Thomazzi urged.

This story was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Digital. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Sisters of St. Joseph will not defend embezzling LA sisters

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 11, 2018 / 08:52 am (CNA).- The two religious sisters accused of embezzling from a California Catholic school face a criminal investigation, and will not be defended by their religious community.

“The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has filed a criminal complaint with the Torrance, California Police Department against Sisters Mary Margaret Kreuper and Lana Chang for misappropriation of funds,” the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet confirmed in a statement released Tuesday.

“As a religious community we will not defend the actions of our Sisters. What happened is wrong. Our Sisters take full responsibility for the choices they made and are subject to the law.”

Krueper and Chang stand accused of diverting funds from St. James School, where both worked until this year, into personal accounts. They reportedly took nearly $500,000 over more than a decade, and were caught during an audit begun earlier this year. Krueper had been principal at the school and Chang a teacher; both are recently retired.

The sisters are suspected of using the money for gambling, trips to Las Vegas, and other personal expenses. Krueper has a P.O. Box and a prior address in Las Vegas, according to The Beach Reporter.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles told CNA Monday that it intended to file a criminal complaint in the matter, reversing Nov. 28 announcement that the matter would be handled internally. The archdiocese has not indicated why they changed their position.

In their Dec. 11 statement, the Sisters of St. Joseph said they are unable to confirm the precise amount taken until an investigation is complete.

“We intend to make restitution to St. James School as soon as a total is known,” the Sisters of St. Joseph said. “Justice demands this of us.”

The order also said that “canonical restrictions” have been imposed on Kreuper and Chang.

“The two Sisters are removed from their residence and placed in a religious house under the supervision of community leadership. They are also removed from all public ministry.”

The sisters have reportedly expressed remorse for their actions. Their religious congregation did the same.

“The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are concerned and saddened by this situation and regret any pain this has caused many in our Church, especially the families connected to St. James School. We hold the sorrow of our Sisters’ actions deep in our community hearts.”

Law enforcement officials have not yet indicated when charges could be filed against the sisters.

St. Damasus, Pope

Saint Damasus was born in Rome at the beginning of the fourth century. His father, a widower, had received Holy Orders there and served as parish priest in the church of St. Laurence.Damasus was archdeacon of the Roman Church in 355 when the Pope, Saint Liberius, was banished to Berda. Damases followed him into exile, but afterwards returned to Rome. On the death of Saint Liberius in 366, our Saint was chosen to succeed him, at the age of sixty-two. A certain Ursinus, jealous of his election and desiring for himself that high office, had himself proclaimed pope by his followers, inciting a revolt against Damasus in Rome, in which 137 people died. The holy Pope did not choose to resort to armed defense, but the Emperor Valentinian, to defend him, drove the usurper from Rome for a time. Later he returned, and finding accomplices for his evil intentions, accused the holy Pontiff of adultery. Saint Damasus took only such action as was becoming to the common father of the faithful. He assembled a synod of forty-four bishops, in which he justified himself so well that the calumniators were excommunicated and banished.Having freed the Church of this new schism, Saint Damasus turned his attention to the extirpation of Arianism in the West and of Apollinarianism in the East, and for this purpose convened several councils. He sent Saint Zenobius, later bishop of Florence, to Constantinople in 381 to console the faithful, cruelly persecuted by the Emperor Valens. He commanded Saint Jerome to prepare a correct Latin version of the Bible, since known as the Vulgate, and he ordered the Psalms to be sung accordingly. He rebuilt and adorned the Church of Saint Laurence, still called Saint Laurence in Damaso. He caused all the springs of the Vatican to be drained, which were inundating the tombs of the holy persons buried there, and he decorated the sepulchres of a great number of martyrs in the cemeteries, adorning them with epitaphs in verse. Before his death, he consecrated sixty-two bishops.Saint Damasus is praised by Theodoret as head of the famous doctors of divine grace of the Latin church. The General Council of Chalcedon calls him the "honor and glory of Rome." Having reigned for eighteen years and two months, he died on December 10, 384, when he was nearly eighty years old. In the eighth century, his relics were definitively placed in the church of Saint Laurence in Damaso, except for his head, which was conserved in the Basilica of Saint Peter.Source: The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Principal Saints, by Rev. Alban Butler.

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent

Reading 1 Is 40:1-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A voice says, "Cry out!"
I answer, "What shall I cry out?"
"All flesh is grass,
and all their glory like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.
So then, the people is the grass.
Though the grass withers and the flower wilts,
the word of our God stands forever."

Go up onto a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
Cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12, 13

R. (see Isaiah 40:10ab) The Lord our God comes with power.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name;
announce his salvation, day after day.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.
They shall exult before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The day of the Lord is near:
Behold, he comes to save us.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 18:12-14

Jesus said to his disciples:
"What is your opinion?
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost."
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Irish midwives and nurses join doctors in abortion bill protest

Dublin, Ireland, Dec 10, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- A pro-life association of nurses and midwives in the Republic of Ireland is joining a growing number of concerned voices who say that many Irish medical professionals are unwilling to take part in abortions, and that the country is ill-prepared to begin offering abortion services starting Jan. 1, 2019.

“As nurses and midwives we echo the concerns of obstetricians and gynaecologists in relation to the rush to introduce abortion provision...We are the unheard voices in the health service,” a Dec. 10 statement from the group Nurses & Midwives 4 Life Ireland reads.  

“We have not been consulted and we will be directly impacted by the new legislation. We are worried about the impact this bill will have and the safety of women when we have not had any guidance from our professional body or our union.”

The group is reacting to a bill in Ireland’s legislature to the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018, which would permit abortion services throughout the country. It passed the Irish House (Dáil Éireann) on Dec. 5 and is before the Senate (Seanad) for debate this week.

The bill was introduced after voters repealed the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution in a referendum vote in May. The amendment had established legal protection for the unborn, and paved the way for the country to legalize abortion.

The legislation, introduced by Irish Health Minister Simon Harris, would establish that abortions performed early in pregnancy would ordinarily be undertaken by general practitioners. It would require pro-life healthcare professionals to provide abortion referrals, though not to perform them.

Some 500 nurses and midwives have signed a petition calling on Harris to consult Nurses & Midwives 4 Life and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization, and to support freedom of conscience amendments for the new law.


At least 640 general practitioners in Ireland signed a petition in November objecting to the obligation of referring patients to other doctors for abortions. A March survey of Irish healthcare professionals found that that nearly 70 percent of general practitioners in Ireland are unwilling to perform abortions.

At the general meeting of the Irish College of General Practitioners last week, a group of GPs walked out in the middle of the meeting out in protest, saying the government had not listened to their concerns.

Some doctors have called for an “opt-in” rather than an “opt-out” system for doctors regarding abortion services. Harris has criticized the “opt-in” approach, which is supported by the National Association of General Practitioners. In June, the group of 2,000 practitioners unanimously voted in favor of the “opt-in” method.

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said Dec. 10 that “like any new service [abortion] is not going to be a case of just flicking a switch and one day there is no service and the next day it’s [100%] available.”

“It will have to be rolled out, it will have to be phased in, but we’re confident it will be available in January,” Varadkar was quoted as saying in The Independent.

“It may not be available in every single hospital and every single place, but the service will be available,” he said.

Varadkar stated in June that Catholic hospitals would not be allowed to opt out of performing abortions under the new law, though individual doctors would be.

Bishop Kevin Doran of the Diocese of Elphin on Dec. 10 urged doctors, nurses, teachers and pharmaceutical workers to resist the new law, and to disobey it if necessary, The Independent reports. Doran encouraged doctors, nurses and midwives who oppose abortion to unite in opposition to the proposed new laws.

In October the Irish bishops called the draft bill “an affront to conscience,” noting that although the bill allows doctors and nurses to opt out of performing abortions, it nonetheless requires them to refer refer the patient to a doctor or nurse who will perform the procedure.

The Irish bishops issued another statement last week that reaffirmed their stance, saying that the abortion bill cannot be supported in good conscience.

The bishops noted that the bill proposes abortions undertaken in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy will generally be chemically induced.

“This presumes that pharmacists, whether in hospitals or in private practice, will routinely stock and dispense drugs whose specific purpose is to end human life. No provision is made for pharmacists to opt out on the grounds of conscientious objection,” the bishops wrote.

 

In Canada, Catholic school district explains conduct code amid lawsuit

Calgary, Canada, Dec 10, 2018 / 05:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid continuing legal pressure against Catholic institutions in Canada, the Calgary Catholic School District faces a lawsuit from a former principal who has said she was pushed out due to discrimination on religious, marital, and anti-LGBT grounds.

School officials said they are committed to providing “welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments for all,” but did not comment on the complaints due to privacy concerns.

“Our school, and student groups within our school, address a number of diversity and justice issues – including issues associated with sexual orientation and gender identity,” Tania Van Brunt, a school district spokesperson, told the Canadian news station CTV Calgary.

“We do so in a comprehensive manner that involves the entire school community,” she continued. “We have many student groups that support safe and caring environments through their activities and demonstrate an understanding and respect for the sanctity of human life and respect for the human person which includes, but not limited to, ethnic and racial backgrounds, abilities or disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.”

Like the public schools, the Calgary Catholic School District is funded by the Alberta government. It follows Alberta requirements, with bishops responsible for monitoring the schools’ Catholic identity.
While the public schools were traditionally Protestant, they have secularized in recent generations.

Barb Hamilton, a longtime teacher and vice-principal in the school district, served as principal from 2015-2017 at St. Joseph Elementary Junior High School.

She has filed two human rights complaints charging that the school district refused her employment on the grounds of marital status, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation.

“Their perspective is I resigned and my perspective is I wasn’t given a choice,” Hamilton said. She has charged that staff in Catholic schools suffer from a sense of fear and there is an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach.

The school district’s employment contract of 2017, titled “A Catholic Leader’s Covenant,” includes objectives such as to know, serve and love God.

“Our evaluations, our leadership quality standards, is an element of Catholicism and faith, and that’s who we are,” Van Brunt told CTV. “In all of our contracts are professional growth plans.”

The expectations include weekly Sunday Mass attendance and “following and modelling to others, both in and out of school, a lifestyle and deportment in harmony with the practices and beliefs of the Catholic Church.”

After Hamilton left St. Joseph she returned to teaching but is now on leave from her position.

While she was principal, she filed an affidavit saying she was aware of 10 students in grades 8 and 9 at the school believed to self-identify as LGBTQ and had intentionally hurt themselves. Hamilton said this self-harm was believed to be a response to anti-LGBTQ insults or to family members who had said “they would go to hell if they were gay.”

She has said she didn’t see any changes from the school board after she sought help. She wanted to go public to help others facing similar situations, saying, “I don’t think silence contributes constructive solutions to the problem.”

Her allegations are part of an ongoing legal case concerning LGBT advocacy Gay-Straight Alliance student clubs in Alberta schools.

Macewan University professor Kris Wells said the Catholic schools’ contract is “so vague, almost as vague as to be meaningless without specific examples.”

“It’s a form of discrimination if you’re not applying this covenant equitably to everyone who violates it,” she said.

David Eggen, Minister of Education for Alberta, has not read the contract but said knows that such contracts do exist in the province, CTV reports. Faith-based schools are governed by the government’s mandatory curriculum and the School Act. If schools are compliant with that they are doing their job, he said.

However, in January 2016 Eggen announced new mandatory policies for all schools in the province requiring them to recognize a student’s right to self-identify their gender and gender expression. Schools must establishment Gay-Straight Alliances at any school where a student requests one, and school supervisory employees were advised to “anticipate, support and value staff diversity, including diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.”

The policy barring schools from informing parents if their child joins such a club presently faces a court challenge.

Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary, who retired in 2017, gave a critical reaction to the policies at the time of their release. He said they violated legal precedents such as a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that protected the rights of a Catholic school in Quebec to teach from a Catholic viewpoint.

The court ruling said that “to tell a Catholic school how to explain its faith undermines the liberty of the members of its community who have chosen to give effect to the collective dimension of their religious beliefs by participating in a denominational school.”

“(I)t amounts to requiring a Catholic institution to speak about Catholicism in terms defined by the state rather than by its own understanding of Catholicism,” the court continued in a decision that protected parents’ rights to transmit the Catholic faith to their children and to guide their religious upbringing.

Catholic or other Christian institutions have faced increasing legal and political pressures in Canada.

At Trinity Western University in British Columbia, foes of a conduct code took it to Canada’s Supreme Court, arguing its demand that students promise to abstain from sex or face expulsion. The court ruled that the conduct code was degrading. It is now optional to sign.

In June 2018 the Supreme Court ruled that law societies in the country could deny licensing to a proposed Christian law school at Trinity Western University because the school adheres to Biblical teaching on sexuality.

Requirements added to Canada’s summer jobs program earlier this year required participating organizations to support the government’s pro-abortion rights view and other views on controversial matters in order to receive public funding. While those requirements appeared to be dropped in new rules issued Dec. 7, these still drew criticism from various Christian and pro-life groups who worried they were too vague and could still create problems and exclude groups that previous rules did not.

Last year, a Saskatchewan judge ruled that Catholic schools in that province will not receive taxpayer funding for non-Catholic students, claiming that to do so would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the state’s duty of religious neutrality and equality rights. In June that decision was put on hold pending appeal.

LA archdiocese to press charges against sisters accused of embezzlement

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 10, 2018 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles will file a criminal complaint against religious sisters who have been accused of embezzling from a Catholic school at which they had worked for more than a decade.

Sr. Mary Margaret Kreuper, CSJ and Sr. Lana Chang, CSJ, who both retired this year from St. James Catholic School in Torrance, are alleged to have misappropriated nearly $500,000 from the school.

They are suspected of using the money for gambling, trips, and other personal expenses.

While the archdiocese initially said that it would not press charges in the case, an archdiocesan spokesman told CNA Monday afternoon that the archdiocese will become a “complaining party” in the case.

Kim Westerman, a spokesperson for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, told CNA Monday that canonical restrictions have been imposed on the sisters, and a formal canonical process “will be determined when the criminal aspect of the case is completed.”

Westerman told CNA that the sisters’ alleged embezzlement was not known before their retirements from the school was announced, and that the congregation has no record of either sister being accused of financial misconduct in the past.

In a Dec. 11 statement, the Sisters of St. Joseph announced that they would not defend the actions of Krueper and Chang.

"What happened is wrong. Our Sisters take full responsibility for the choices they made and are subject to the law.”

A Nov. 28 letter from St. James Parish pastor Msgr. Michael Meyers announced that after an internal investigation discovered the embezzlement, the sisters’ congregation “has agreed to arrange for full restitution for the benefit of the School of the funds that are found to have been misappropriated and is imposing appropriate penalties and sanctions on each of the Sisters in accordance with the policies of the Order.”

In his letter, Meyers wrote that “the Archdiocese does not wish to pursue criminal proceedings against the Sisters but instead plans to have the Archdiocese, the School and the Order address the situation internally through the investigation, restitution and sanctions on the Sisters.”

Despite the theft, “no student or program at St. James has suffered any loss of educational resources, opportunities, or innovations. In sum, the education of your children has not and will not be affected by these events,” Meyers wrote.

He added that the sisters felt “deep remorse” for their actions and asked for forgiveness.

Meyers told parents last week that the sisters' theft went undetected because they took money destined for a reserve fund, and did not immediately attract the attention of auditors and other officials.

St. James School's 2016 enrollment was 325 students, according to an archdiocesan directory.

Some parents at the school alleged that the sisters often took gambling trips to Las Vegas. Krueper has a P.O. Box and a prior address in Las Vegas, according to The Beach Reporter.

Marge Graf, an archdiocesan attorney, told St. James School parents that the sisters “had a pattern of going on trips, we do know they had a pattern of going to casinos, and the reality is, they used the account as their personal account,” The Beach Reporter noted.

The sisters are members of the Los Angeles Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cardondelet. Though they are commonly referred to as “nuns,” that term is reserved in the Church to consecrated women living in contemplative monasteries. Kreuper and Chang are more properly referred to as “religious sisters.”

Lori Barr, a former principal of St. Paul School in Santa Fe Springs, California, was sentenced in 2015 to 180 days in county jail for stealing $64,000 from the school, which is owned and operated by the Los Angeles archdiocese. Barr was discovered to have made charges on the school’s American Express card, making purchases from Disneyland, Tiffany & Co, United Airlines, and Victoria’s Secret, among others.

Barr paid restitution to the archdiocese before she was sentenced, and apologized to school and diocesan officials.

It has not yet been announced what charges Krueper and Chang will face.

 

This story is developing and has been updated.

Nineteen Algerian martyrs beatified

Oran, Algeria, Dec 10, 2018 / 03:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Pierre Claverie and his 18 companions, who were martyred in Algeria between 1994 and 1996, were beatified Saturday during a Mass in Oran.

AFP reported that some 1,200 people attended the Dec. 8 ceremony at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Cross. Among them were relatives and friends of the beatified. The beatification was celebrated by Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Blessed Claverie and his companions were killed during the Algerian Civil War by Islamists.

Archbishop Paul Desfarges of Algiers noted the “thousands of victims of the Algerian civil war,” calling them anonymous heroes.

“We did not want a beatification between Christians, because these brothers and sisters died among tens and tens of thousands of Algerian” Muslims, he stated.

Algeria's population is almost entirely Muslim.

Relatives of those beatified were received by Muslim dignitaries at the Ibn Badis Grand Mosque, where Mostapha Jaber, an imam, said, “We Muslims associate this event with much joy.”

“These Christian martyrs killed during this national tragedy ... had a good mission -- (they were) determined to spread peace.”

The pope had authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to recognize the martyrdoms in January.

Blessed Claverie was a French Algerian, and Bishop of Oran from 1981 until his Aug. 1, 1996 martyrdom.

His companions are: Brother Henri Vergès, Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond, Sister Esther Paniagua Alonso, Sister Caridad Álvarez Martín, Fr. Jean Chevillard, Fr. Alain Dieulangard, Fr. Charles Deckers, Fr. Christian Chessel, Sister Angèle-Marie Littlejohn, Sister Bibiane Leclercq, Sister Odette Prévost, Brother Luc Dochier, Brother Christian de Chergé, Brother Christophe Lebreton, Brother Michel Fleury, Brother Bruno Lemarchand, Brother Célestin Ringeard, and Brother Paul Favre-Miville.

The best known of Bl. Claverie's companions are the seven monks of Tibhirine, who were kidnapped from their Trappist priory in March 1996. They were kept as a bartering chip to procure the release of several imprisoned members of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, and were killed in May. Their story was dramatized in the 2010 French film Of Gods and Men, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.

After the death of the monks of Tibhirine, Claverie knew his life was in serious danger. A bomb exploded at the entrance of his chancery Aug. 1, 1996, killing him and an aide, Mohamed Bouchikhi.

In a pastoral letter last month, Bishop Desfarges called the beatification “a grace for our Church,” urging the local Church “to love as they did in the freedom that the Holy Spirit gives” because the martyrs “go before us on the path of witness that our Church is called to give in this land of Algeria, which from the first century has been watered with the blood of the martyrs.”

Archbishop Desfarges said that the martyrs' lives “were given to God and to the people to whom love had united them.” He encouraged the faithful to pray to them “asking for the grace of fidelity for our Church in its mission.”

Finally, the Archbishop of Algiers invited the faithful to live this “time of witnessing” through interreligious dialogue.

“The witness of the Catholic Church is not a witness against another's religion, but a witness that the love of Christ poured out in our hearts calls us to live a love for everyone, without distinction, even enemies,” he concluded.

US Supreme Court won't hear case of states defunding Planned Parenthood

Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2018 / 02:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The US Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from states which were seeking to terminate Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood, meaning that these contracts will remain.

Kansas and Louisiana had attempted to block Medicaid funds from being used for preventative care services provided by Planned Parenthood. A lower court ruled that this policy violated federal law, and the states were attempting to appeal this decision.

By deciding not to hear the case, the court has not cast a judgement on the questions contained in the appeals.

Only three judges – Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch – voted to grant certiorari. This is one short of the four needed.

Voting against certiorari were newly-confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

In his dissent, Thomas wrote that he thought his colleagues on the bench were trying to avoid any cases involving Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider. This case in particular did not involve abortion, but concerned other services provided by Planned Parenthood.

"What explains the court’s refusal to do its job here?” asked Thomas, adding, "I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named 'Planned Parenthood.'”

Thomas was furious with the court’s denial of certiorari, saying: “But these cases are not about abortion rights,” but rather “about private rights of action under the Medicaid Act.”

“Resolving the question presented here would not even affect Planned Parenthood’s ability to challenge the States’ decisions; it concerns only the rights of individual Medicaid patients to bring their own suits. Some tenuous connection to a politically fraught issue does not justify abdicating our judicial duty.”

Former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson told CNA that she did not agree with the court’s decision.

“States should have every right to divert funding away from the nation's largest abortion provider and towards health centers that provide true healthcare to patients, not one that promotes abortion above all else,” Johnson said.

She also pointed out that Planned Parenthood has done fewer and fewer preventative services in recent years. Between 2009 and 2016, the number of breast cancer screenings done by the organization dropped by 61 percent, she said.

"Other cancer screenings have dropped by 64 percent during the same time. And forget about prenatal services and adoption referrals. Those services are barely offered, if at all at some Planned Parenthoods,” added Johnson.

Johnson told CNA she believes states should instead fund federal qualified healthcare clinics, which “outnumber Planned Parenthood nearly 20-to-1 and sees ten times the number of patients that Planned Parenthood does every year.”

Pope Francis: Everyone must help promote human rights

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Everyone should, according to his or her specific gifts, fight to protect the fundamental rights of individuals, Pope Francis said Monday in a message to an international gathering on the topic.

“Each person is therefore called to contribute with courage and determination, in the specificity of their role, to the respect of the fundamental rights of every person,” the pope wrote Dec. 10.

“Especially [the rights] of those [who are] ‘invisible:’ of many who are hungry and thirsty, who are naked, sick, a stranger or imprisoned, who live on the margins of society or are discarded.”

“This need for justice and solidarity,” he pointed out, “has a special significance for us Christians, because the Gospel itself invites us to turn our gaze to the least of our brothers and sisters, to be moved to compassion and to concretely commit ourselves to alleviate their suffering.”

Pope Francis’ message was sent to the international conference “Human Rights in the Contemporary World: Achievements, Omissions, Negations,” taking place in Rome Dec. 10-11 at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Held on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the conference included a keynote by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, given Dec. 10, and panels by international experts in the field of human rights.

Also present at the conference were members of the Holy See’s diplomatic corps and representatives of the United Nations, Council of Europe, the bishops’ Justice and Peace commission, the academic world, and civil society.

“I wish, on this occasion,” the pope wrote, “to address a heartfelt appeal to those with institutional responsibilities, asking them to place human rights at the center of all policies, including those of development cooperation, even when this means going against the current.”

On the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “an in-depth reflection on the foundation and respect for human rights in the contemporary world seems opportune,” he said, adding that he hopes it will herald in a “renewed commitment to the defense of human dignity, with special attention to the most vulnerable members of the community.”

He noted that contemporary society continues to fall short of upholding and protecting the equal dignity of all human beings as it should, with many injustices continuing in the world today, including that of great disparity in wealth, with one part of society living “in opulence” and another “disowned, despised, or trampled.”

He listed, in particular, “the unborn children who are denied the right to come into the world,” “those who do not have access to the indispensable means for a dignified life,” those without access to education or just work, those forced into slavery or inhuman conditions, those subjected to torture “or who are denied the opportunity to redeem themselves,” and the victims of “forced disappearance” and their families.

“My thoughts,” he said, “also go to all those who live in a climate dominated by suspicion and contempt, which are the subject of acts of intolerance, discrimination and violence because of their racial, ethnic, national or religious affiliation.”

Pope Francis also recalled those who suffer violations of their fundamental rights due to armed conflicts “while unscrupulous merchants of death are enriched at the price of their brothers’ and sisters’ blood.”

“In the face of these serious phenomena, we are all called upon [to help],” he said.