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WYD Unite event brings together youth from across the nation

Washington D.C., Jul 26, 2017 / 10:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On one of the hottest days of the year, more than 1,300 young people from around the country gathered together for WYD Unite, bringing together alumni of former World Youth Days as well as pilgrims from at least 52 Catholic dioceses around the nations.

They gathered for the all-day event at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, named for the Pope who in 1984 began the World Youth Day celebrations to bring together millions of young people from around the globe to share and grow in their Catholic faith. From their starting place in Rome, World Youth Days have traveled across the world to six continents, most recently in 2016 to Pope John Paul II’s homeland of Poland.

The smaller United States gathering focused upon the theme, “The Mighty Has Done Great Things for Me and Holy is His Name.” The gathering explored the radical “Yes” Mary gave at the Annunciation, as well as gratitude for how God has acted in our lives.

Throughout the day, pilgrims toured the exhibits of the National Shrine, and had opportunities for Reconciliation and spiritual direction. The day also featured performances by Tony Melendez and Audrey Assad. Melendez is a master guitarist who was born without arms, but learned to play guitar using his feet. Previously he has performed before Saint Pope John Paul II in 1987. Assad, a daughter of a Syrian Christian refugee, is an acclaimed musician and songwriter who also often speaks on behalf of persecuted Christians of the Middle East.

Childcare and children’s catechesis was provided both by the event and by the Sister Servants of the Lord.

The first keynote message of the day was given by Bishop-elect Nelson Perez, who will soon take over the Diocese of Cleveland. He reminded attendees that “God meets us where we are in our brokenness, lowliness.”

While encounter with Christ may inspire a person to be kind or compassionate or have a loving family, these traits are not a mark of a Christian themselves, he continued. Instead, the Christian holds to the truth that Jesus “moved, He rose from the dead, and He continues to move in us and through us and about us.”

Bishop-elect Perez also urged the young Christians present to embrace gratitude for all that God has given, and to view one’s life as not only a gift but a tool for God to use. He recalled a personal story of a young woman he had spoken to rudely. Three years later, the bishop said, as the same young woman lay on her deathbed, she told Bishop-elect Perez it was the closest she had ever felt to God.

“Never underestimate the power of God’s spirit working in you, through you and despite you, and most of the time unbeknownst to you and to me,” the bishop reflected.

Later, the participants attended Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., told attendees to bring their neighbors and peers “into the ongoing mission of the Church.” He warned the youth not to be discouraged by the threat of modern secularism, instead placing hope in and offering a witness of God’s love.

Returning in a procession to the Saint John Paul II Shrine, participants were joined by an image of “Our Lady Undoer of Knots,” which was present for the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and blessed by the Pope during his visit there.

A second keynote was then delivered by Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn.

Bishop Caggiano focused on the radical message of the Annunciation and Mary’s acceptance of God’s plan. “It was her ‘yes’ that allowed ourselves to come here, and her ‘yes’ that enabled us to say yes to her Son,” he said.

He challenged the young people to accept God’s love of them, but also noted that that acceptance of God’s love compels us to bring that love “to everyone you and I meet.”

“Life will give you a thousand reasons to doubt God’s love,” he warned the youth, but to be missionary disciples, Christians need to “say yes to the fact that Jesus is extending his hand to us in friendship.”

After the keynote, the night ended with Eucharistic Adoration and prayer, accompanied by music.

Bishop Paprocki explains Catholic teaching: Repentance is for everyone

Springfield, Ill., Jul 26, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A prominent media priest who criticized Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s restatement of norms regarding church funerals “gets a lot wrong,” the bishop said in a response noting the importance of repentance for everyone.

Bishop Paprocki explained his decree in a July 9 video on the Diocese of Springfield’s website. He reminded everyone with a ministry in the Church that “while being clear and direct about what the Church teaches, our pastoral ministry must always be respectful, compassionate and sensitive to all our brothers and sisters in faith, as was the ministry of Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd and our everlasting model for ministry,” the bishop said.

“People with same-sex attraction are welcome in our parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois as we repent our sins and pray for God to keep us in his grace,” he said.

On June 12 the Bishop of Springfield had issued an internal decree discussing same-sex marriage and pastoral issues in his diocese. The decree was leaked.

Father James Martin, S.J., an editor-at-large of America Magazine, had claimed on Twitter that the bishop’s diocesan norms regarding a ban on church funeral rites only focused on “LGBT people” and would not be applied to others living in public sin, such as a man and a woman in an irregular union, or private sin, such as users of birth control. Fr. Martin suggested such a focus constituted unjust discrimination.

Bishop Paprocki had said his decree was “totally consistent with Catholic teaching.” The decree was “a rather straightforward application of existing Catholic doctrine and canon law” in a new situation where same-sex couples are receiving a legal marital status in civil law, contrary to Catholic teaching.

“Father Martin gets a lot wrong in those tweets, since canon law prohibits ecclesiastical funeral rites only in cases of ‘manifest sinners’ which gives ‘public scandal,’ and something such as using birth control is a private matter that is usually not manifest or made public,” the bishop said.

Bishop Paprocki rejected the characterization of his decree as focusing on “LGBT people.” Rather, he said, it focused on “so-called same-sex marriage, which is a public legal status.”

“No one is ever denied the sacraments or Christian burial for simply having a homosexual orientation,” the bishop continued. “Even someone who had entered into a same-sex marriage can receive the sacraments and be given ecclesiastical funeral rites if they repent and renounce their marriage.”

The bishop said the priest-commentator missed the key phrase in the decree: the section saying that ecclesiastical funeral rites are to be denied to those in same-sex marriages “unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death.”

“This is a direct quote from canon 1184 of the Code of Canon Law, which is intended as a call to repentance,” Bishop Paprocki said.

He cited Christ's public proclamation in the Gospel of Mark: “This is the time of fulfilment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The bishop further explained the Church’s response to church burial rites.

“This does not mean that unrepentant manifest sinners will simply be refused or turned away,” he said. “Even in those cases where a public Mass of Christian Burial in church cannot be celebrated because the deceased person was unrepentant and there would be public scandal, the priest or deacon may conduct a private funeral service, for example, at the funeral home.”

Bishop Paprocki did find a point in the priest’s criticism.

“Father Martin’s tweets do raise an important point with regard to other situations of grave sin and the reception of Holy Communion. He is right that the Church’s teaching does not apply only to people in same-sex marriages,” he said.

Citing canon law, the bishop said everyone conscious of grave sin should not receive Holy Communion without first going to confession and receiving absolution. This is relevant to everyone who has committed a grave sin, whether it is sexual sin, missing Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation without grave cause, procuring an abortion, or having attempted remarriage after a divorce without obtaining a decree of nullity.

The bishop noted that a couple who agrees to live as brother and sister in an irregular union, if there is no public scandal, could receive Holy Communion after repenting, going to confession, and amending their lives. This similarly would apply to two men or two women who live chastely with each outher.

Bishop Paprocki’s decree drew significant media coverage.

“The fact that there would be such an outcry against this decree is quite astounding and shows how strong the LGBT lobby is both in the secular world as well as within the Church,” he said.

Citing Pope Francis’ comments against judgementalism, the bishop noted that the Pope had warned against any form of lobbies, including a “gay lobby.”

Burial rites were only one part of the June 12 decree, which concerned topics including the use of Catholic facilities and diocesan personnel in same-sex ceremonies, as well as the response to people in same-sex unions and to any children who live with such couples and are presented for the sacraments or Catholic education.

Cardinal Pell will plead not guilty to abuse charges in Australia

Vatican City, Jul 26, 2017 / 03:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a brief hearing in a court in Melbourne Wednesday morning, Cardinal George Pell said he will be pleading not guilty to charges of multiple counts of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Pell did not address the court, but his lawyer, Robert Richter, QC, told the Melbourne Magistrates Court July 26 that "for the avoidance of doubt...Cardinal Pell will plead not guilty to all charges, and will maintain the presumed innocence that he has."

In the less than 10-minute-long hearing, the judge, Magistrate Duncan Reynolds, read a prepared statement outlining the reason for the hearing and noted that it was purely administrative.

The senior prosecutor of the case, Andrew Tinney, SC, addressed a packed courtroom with a statement emphasizing the need for "fair and accurate reporting" by media.

Prosecutors have a deadline of Sept. 8 to prepare their brief of evidence, but Tinney indicated that it would likely be ready as early as late next week. The next step in the trial will be a preliminary hearing – called the committal mention – which is set for Oct. 6.

Wednesday’s hearing follows the announcement at the end of June that the police of Victoria, Australia were charging Cardinal Pell on multiple counts of past sexual abuse.

As the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy since 2013 and a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis, Cardinal Pell is the most senior Vatican official to ever be charged with abuse.

With the permission of Pope Francis, Cardinal Pell has taken leave from his responsibilities in the Vatican in order to return to Australia for the court proceedings.

Both walking in and out the hearing Wednesday, Pell was surrounded by a dozen policemen as media and victims of abuse and their supporters crowded around him. Cardinal Pell did not respond to questions from media.

Supporters of Cardinal Pell were also present outside of the courthouse.

Following the announcement of the charges, Pell held a news briefing with journalists June 29, maintaining his innocence and saying he takes leave from his position as the Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy in order "to clear my name."

"I am looking forward, finally, to having my day in court. I'm innocent of these charges, they are false," he said, adding that "the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me."

"News of these charges strengthens my resolve, and court proceedings now offer me the opportunity to clear my name and then return here, back to Rome, to work," he continued.

Pell was ordained in the diocese of Ballarat in 1966, where he served as a priest and later as a consulter to Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who oversaw the diocese from 1971-1997. He was appointed auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese of Melbourne in 1987, and was named archbishop in 1996.

In February 2016, the cardinal testified for the third time before Australia's Royal Commission regarding claims that surfaced in 2015 accusing him of moving “known pedophile” Gerald Ridsdale, of bribing a victim of the later-defrocked priest, and of ignoring a victim’s complaint.

Established in 2013, the Royal Commission is dedicated to investigating institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Despite having testified before the commission twice before on the same charges, Pell again offered to give his testimony, which he did via video conference from Rome.

Shortly before the hearing, abuse allegations surfaced accusing the cardinal of multiple counts of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1961, which he has continued to fervently deny.

Cardinal Pell has also been supported by the Vatican, which issued a June 29 communique from Holy See spokesman Greg Buke echoing Pell’s statement and affirming that Pope Francis had granted the cardinal an absence from his duties "so he can defend himself."

On behalf of the Holy See, Burke also voiced respect for the Australian justice system, which "will have to decide the merits of the questions raised."

However, at the same time, he said "it is important to recall that Card. Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors" and has cooperated with Australian authorities in the past, specifically with his depositions before the Royal Commission.

Moreover, the cardinal has been supportive of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and as a diocesan bishop in Australia, introduced systems and procedures "both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse."

Burke closed by noting that Cardinal Pell will no longer be attending public events while facing the charges.

These Chicago Catholics have a game plan for evangelization

Chicago, Ill., Jul 26, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Taking its cue from the recent and massive Convocation of Catholic Leaders in the U.S., one Chicago-based organization is partnering with parishes to form missionary disciples.

The convocation took place in Florida July 1-4, drawing several thousand participants. Aimed at equipping and invigorating Catholic leaders, the event addressed challenges that inhibit parishes from evangelization, especially the deflating attendance of parishioners in Catholic churches.

In a July 20 interview with CNA, president of L'Alto Catholic Institute Tim Glemkowski said “the way this New Evangelization is going to be accomplished is by forming each lay Catholic as a missionary disciple, for normative Catholicism to be heroic Catholicism.”

Established this year, L'Alto works closely with the parishes of Chicago to form disciples according to each community, taking into account the goals and people of each parish rather than imposing a generic formula without understanding specific needs.

Glemkowski said the organization's goal is to walk with parishes who long to develop this culture of discipleship but face obstacles or do not know where to begin. Developing disciples is a lifelong process, he said, adding L'Alto may give parishes a starting boost, and help chart a course during a church's beginning stages.

Additionally to working closely with parishes, the organization has developed three other initiatives: a school of prayer, a bi-weekly discipleship group for high school women, and a three-day parish event filled with the sacraments and geared toward a personal encounter with Jesus.

When asked about his reference to a quote by Pope Emeritus Benedict the XVI, stating that true conversion follows an encounter with Christ as a person and not just as an ethical solution, Glemkowski said the Christian faith must contain a personal encounter with Christ because “the reality is, though, that people will find it difficult to die for a detached notion.”

“Catholicism requires sacrifice, at times the ultimate sacrifice of the martyrs, but even just every day sacrifices that result from living according to a belief system that runs contrary to the world.”

At the convocation, the Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, Robert Barron, said that every era's crisis is met by a movement of the church, a movement which Glemkowski believes will arise from a commitment to the “New Evangelization” by the clergy, religious, and especially the lay people.

“It is not the role of the clergy alone to form disciples. It is the task of the entire Church, lay included.”

Glemkoswki said that indifference and relativism are major problems within our culture today, noting a lack meaning in hearts of people which is substituted by inadequate things.

“The human heart cannot live without meaning. Where meaning is not found, all kinds of strange substitutes take its place, and what we are seeing in the world are the strange reactions to billions of human hearts desperately craving a reason to live.”

Even within the Church, there are a number of Catholics who do not know its teachings and are not interested. He referenced a 2008 study by Pew Research Center that showed that less than 50 percent of Catholics believe religion contains a personal relationship with God. Additionally, he said about six Catholics leave the Church per every convert who comes into the Church, according to another study by Pew Research Center in 2015.

The decrease in numbers and zeal paints a picture of a church that hasn't been creating disciples to spread the message of the Gospel, Glemkoswki said. He also pointed towards the encounter of the faith as identified in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles – saying that this is not a reality for people at Catholic parishes today, leaving the guest or parishioner to wonder if it's even the same faith.

“Community, shared life, joy, apostolic zeal; these things should be the normative experience for Catholics, and often, our communities just don't measure up,” he said.

“I don't think when most people walk into your average Sunday liturgy, they feel like they're worshiping God with a multitude of saints.”

Glemkowski said this was a major concern for the convocation in Florida. In reference to Pope Francis' 2013 encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, the conference strongly recognized the need for developing missionary disciples to spread the Gospel within the culture.  

“To be a disciple means to adopt the yoke of Christ meaning you have an active and growing prayer life, you participate frequently in the life of the Church, and you are attempting to conform your every moment to His teachings through ascesis and purgation.”

However, creating discipleship is more than an ethical problem – and Catholicism is more than “an intellectual system with a moral code attached to it.”

He said he understands why the Church at times mistakenly pushes a stringent morality as a response to a perceived ethical laxity on the part of Catholics.

But the faith can't be sustained solely as an idea, or even as the sacrifice required in the Christian life and as seen in martyrs and saints, he said. Rather, it's sustained through the love of the person of Christ.

Glemkowski quoted Saint John Paul II, saying: “It is necessary to awaken again in believers a full relationship with Christ. Only from a personal relationship with Jesus can an effective evangelization develop.”

Migration and sustainable development – what's the link?

New York City, N.Y., Jul 26, 2017 / 12:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Why do people migrate in the first place? And what if there was a way we could address the international crisis better by going after the root problems?

A priest at the United Nations spoke of the connection between migration and sustainable development, calling on the international community to help make migrants' homelands safer and the immigration process more welcoming.

“All of us know that poverty and the lack of prospects for development frequently spur so many individuals and families to seek ways to survive in distant lands,” said Fr. Michael Czerny, the Undersecretary of the Section for Migrants and Refugees Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

“The profound linkages between migration and development can first be seen, sadly, in the absence or breakdown of many of the pillars of sustainable development that have compelled millions to go on the move,” he said, pointing to hunger, violence, and poverty as many of the reasons why citizens have been uprooted from their homes.

Fr. Czerny's words were addressed to the UN session titled “Contributions of migrants to all dimensions of sustainable development: the linkages between migration of development” on July 24 at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Throughout his address, Fr. Czerny underscored the importance of the “right to remain” in sustainable development, saying that it is the duty of the international community to help citizens remain in their homeland by promoting efforts to improve the conditions within these countries.

“That makes migration a choice, not a necessity,” he said.

He also encouraged efforts that would allow citizens to actively participate in the sustainable development of their own countries, so that local individuals could contribute their talents to rebuilding their own communities.

Additionally, Fr. Czerny believes that when individuals do leave their homelands, they must be welcomed and treated with dignity when they enter a new country.

“Migrants must first be received and treated as human beings, with dignity and full respect for their human rights, and protected against all forms of exploitation or from being permanently socially, economically or legally cast-away,” he said.

Fr. Czerny noted that the success of migrants hinges on “whether they are helped to transition from objects of emergency care to dignified subjects of their own development.”

Because of this, when countries do receive migrants they should make efforts to welcome, protect, promote and integrate them in their community, Fr. Czerny said.  But he also noted that this endeavor should not take away from other, on-going efforts to help those in need on a local level.  

“One way to do this is through the adoption of development and donor policies that set aside a percentage of the direct assistance provided to migrants and refugees for local infrastructure and for the benefit of local families and communities experiencing economic and social disadvantages,” he said.  

He also encouraged migrants themselves to adopt an attitude of openness, saying that they should “respect the values, traditions and laws of the community that takes them in.”

Fr. Czerny then quoted Pope Francis, who recently said that “the presence of so many brothers and sisters who experience the tragedy of immigration is an opportunity for human growth, encounter, and dialogue between cultures in view of the promotion of peace and fraternity among peoples.”

By encouraging sustainable development in countries, Fr. Czerny believes that the international community will not only boost the success of local economies, but also help citizens stay in their homelands and eventually make migration a choice – not an emergency.

“No one should ever be forced to leave his or her home due to lack of development or peace.

Vatican conference aims to build momentum for nuclear disarmament

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2017 / 08:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nuclear disarmament will be the focus of a Vatican conference this Nov. 10-11, following recent progress toward international bans on nuclear weapons.

Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi told CNA that “the Holy See is working to create a public opinion convinced that the world is safer without nuclear weapons, rather than with them.”

The archbishop is delegate secretary to the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which is working to organize the disarmament conference.

The Holy See has invited Antonio Gutierres, Secretary General of the United Nations, to address the conference. It is not reported whether he has accepted the invitation.

Archbishop Tomasi said that the conference is conceived as a follow-up to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, passed July 7 at the United Nations.

Until the treaty, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not explicitly banned by any international document.

The treaty passed with 122 votes in favor and one abstention, Singapore. However, 69 countries, namely all nuclear weapons states and all NATO members excepting the Netherlands, did not take part in the vote.

The U.N. decided to start negotiations for the treaty after a series of three conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. The first conference took place in Oslo, Norway in March 2013. The second was held in Nayarit, Mexico in February 2014.

The third conference, held in Vienna, Austria, Dec. 8-9, 2014, was the first meeting on nuclear weapons attended by some nuclear weapons states.

At the end of the Vienna conference, 127 states formally endorsed a humanitarian pledge, with 23 more voting to approve a resolution in its favor. The endorsing states said they were aware that the risk of nuclear weapons use and their “unacceptable consequences” are avoidable only “when all nuclear weapons have been eliminated.”

The pledge called on all nuclear powers to take concrete measures to reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons and remove them from deployment. It called on nuclear powers to diminish nuclear weapons’ role in their military doctrines and to make “rapid reductions of all types of nuclear weapons.”

Archbishop Tomasi, who attended the Vienna conference in his former position of Holy See Permanent Observer to the U.N. in Geneva, told CNA that the Vienna conference is “particularly important, because it underscores that just being in possession of nuclear weapons is already not ethical.”

The November 2017 conference at the Vatican aims to be another step on the path towards nuclear disarmament.

It would build on the conference to negotiate the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, which took place in New York in March 2017.

Pope Francis sent a message to that conference saying that the doctrine of nuclear deterrence has become ineffective against 21st century threats like terrorism, asymmetrical conflicts, environmental problems and poverty.

These threats, the Pope stressed, are “even greater when we consider the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that would follow from any use of nuclear weapons, with devastating, indiscriminate and uncontainable effects, over time and space.”

To Pope Francis, the elimination of nuclear weapons is both “a challenge and a humanitarian imperative.” The Pope also asked attendees to promote “reflection on an ethics of peace and multilateral and cooperative security that goes beyond the fear and isolationism that prevail in many debates today.”

As a permanent observer to the United Nations, the Holy See took part in the negotiations. It was granted the possibility to participate at procedural votes during the negotiations, a right that the Holy See usually does not use.

The Holy See is a founder and member state of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and has always praised the developments in nuclear technology while strongly opposing the development of such technology for military purposes.

This was evident in the May 3 remarks of Monsignor Janusz Urbanczyk, the Holy See’s representative to the IAEA.

Addressing the first meeting for the 2020 review conference of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, he stressed that “the Holy See cannot but lament the fact that the potential devastation caused by the use of nuclear weapons so clearly identified over 40 years ago has not been relegated to history.”

 

Charlie Gard raises questions of parents' rights, government limits

London, England, Jul 25, 2017 / 03:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For the past few months the world has watched closely as the parents of a gravely ill British infant fought an intense legal battle over whether or not his life was worth further treatment, which has raised crucial questions.

Among the most potent of these questions regards the ethics of a court stepping in and denying parents the right to seek a treatment which may benefit their child.

British and European courts had sided with officials from Great Ormond Street Hospital, who sought to bar Charlie Gard's parents from seeking treatment for their child overseas.

In comments to CNA July 25, Benjamin Harnwell, founder of the  Rome-based Dignitatis Humanae Institute, said he thought that “the hospital – and the courts – crossed a totalitarian line in refusing to hand the baby over to his parents at their request, so that they could seek further medical attention in the U.S., for which they had secured the funding.”

“I don’t think it’s ever appropriate” for a hospital or court to step in and “advocate” for a patient, especially in the case of a minor whose parents are involved, Harnwell added.

While the Church “certainly doesn't teach that people should be kept alive 'at all costs,'” he said “the question isn't so much about knowing ‘when to let go’ but about the moral responsibility of parents wanting to choose when to make that decision for themselves.”

Harnwell reflected that Church teaching says “the primary role of medicine is to heal, and then to alleviate suffering when being healed is no longer a possibility.”

Harnwell spoke after the parents of British infant Charlie Gard announced July 24 that they decided to end their court case seeking further treatment for the terminally-ill child.

Gard, 11 months, suffers from a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness and is believed to affect fewer than 20 children worldwide. He has been in intensive care since October 2016, and has suffered significant brain damage due to the disease; he is currently fed through a tube, requires a ventilator to breathe and is unable to move.

His case first garnered international attention when his parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, were denied the right to transfer him to other hospitals by U.K. courts, despite having raised funds for an experimental treatment from an American doctor. They appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, but were denied a hearing.

Judges argued that prolonging Charlie's life would inflict unnecessary suffering on the infant, and gave doctors at London's Great Ormond Hospital, where Charlie is being treated, permission to take him off life support without his parents' permission.

His life support was to be turned off at the end of June; however, the courts granted an extension so Charlie's parents could have more time with their son.

After international leaders including Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump voiced their support for Charlie and his parents, the courts allowed medical experts to conduct additional tests on the infant.

American neurologist Dr. Michio Hirano, who had been willing to offer Gard nucleoside bypass therapy, while acknowledging it would not necessarily heal him, traveled to London for the tests. However, after seeing a new MRI scan this week, Hirano declined to offer the therapy.

The child's life support is expected to be pulled in the next few days, just two weeks shy of his first birthday.

In a tearful statement after the announcement of their decision to drop their court case, Charlie's parents said, “this is one of the hardest things we will ever have to say and we are about to do the hardest thing that we will ever have to do, and that is to let our beautiful little Charlie go.”

“The American and Italian team were still willing to treat Charlie after his recent brain MRI and EEG performed last week, but there is one reason why treatment cannot now go ahead, and that is time,” they said.

“A whole lot of time has been wasted. We are now in July, and our poor boy has been left to lay in a hospital bed for months whilst lengthy court battles have been fought. Tragically, having had Charlie's medical notes reviewed by independent medical experts, we now know that had Charlie been given the treatment sooner, he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy.”

In addition to the devastating end to this story, Harnwell pointed to a larger debate society faces.

This, he said, is the debate on whether the state ought to be “the health care provider of last resort,” stepping in as a third party who gets to decide where it's limited resources will be spent.

Inevitably, under a socialized model “it will be the state that decides when to divert its limited resources to other patients it feels will benefit more.”

Harnwell stressed that while he didn't want to “make a political point out of other people’s terrible tragedy,” there is a “very real debate to be had” on the issue.

For Harnwell, Charlie Gard's case is a perfect illustration of the risks involved in allowing third parties “to assume the role of providing our own safety net.”

Socialized healthcare, he said, “offers a universal reach available (ostensibly) to all irrespective of means, but eventually rationing – decided by bureaucrats, and presumably backed up by the courts – will kick in at some point.”

However, while private healthcare is generally available only to those who can afford it, under this system “the customer is king,” Harnwell said, adding that while people generally have good reasons for choosing one or the other, “my own instinct is always to trust people to chose responsibly for themselves.”

The issue also touches on the debate surrounding the push for euthanasia and living wills currently taking place in several countries.

Fr Francesco Giordano, Director of Human Life International in Rome, related the Charlie Gard case to the euthanasia mentality, saying the problem with living wills is that “it basically takes away from the family the right to make decisions.”

In fact, in reality it “takes away the right of the individual, because when an individual in the case of the living will, the person might not be feeling sick at that time, but when they are sick that person might change his or her mind,” he said, noting that sadly, this is often not permitted.

“So basically what's happening is the rights of individuals, the rights of the family unit, are being taken away by the states. That's what we're seeing here, that's what's most concerning for all of us.”

Regardless of the ongoing debates, Harnwell stressed that most importantly right now, “Charlie's family is suffering unimaginably, and they need our prayers.”


Material from EWTN News Nightly was used in this report.

Catholics oppose buffer zone around Kentucky's last abortion clinic

Louisville, Ky., Jul 25, 2017 / 02:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life activists in the Archdiocese of Louisville have spoken out against a city ordinance which resulted in the creation of a temporary buffer zone outside Kentucky's only facility where abortions can be procured.

The 15-by-7.5 foot buffer zone outside the EMW Women’s Surgical Center was proposed last week and implemented on a temporary basis Friday. A federal judge is expected to rule today whether it will remain permanently.

The pro-life activists cite concerns that the ordinance would prevent women seeking abortions from obtaining all information necessary for a decision, as it would restrict the activities of sidewalk counselors.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville sent a statement to the July 19 Metro Council meeting that discussed the buffer zone before its implementation.

“I have always counseled that our pro-life efforts should be courageous, compassionate, and civil and that activities at abortion clinics be conducted in a prayerful, peaceful, and respectful manner that includes respect for just laws,” the archbishop said in his statement. He also noted their goal is to “support the mother and child whenever possible.”

His statement was read by Ed Harpring, who has been a sidewalk counselor for 33 years. Harpring detailed his “call to the sidewalk,” which he said came after seeing ultrasound images of his oldest daughter.

“I felt that God was asking me about the other children in the womb at that same age — who might not ever see the light of day, the children that are losing their lives to abortion,” he said, as reported by the archdiocesan newspaper The Record.

Harpring expressed concern that the buffer zone would impede his ability to inform women of their alternatives. He refers women seeking abortions to the pregnancy center A Women’s Choice, next door to EMW. The center’s resources include free ultrasounds, as well as financial, medical, mental, and spiritual help during pregnancy.

Patricia Horton, a director of Louisville Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, also spoke at the meeting. Horton’s group prays in front of clinics.

“I know that when I have important decisions to make if it’s buying a home, having a hip replacement surgery or dying my hair we all want information,” she said. “You cannot make good decisions without information.” She also expressed concerned at her group’s right to free expression being curtailed.

The buffer zone began as a temporary measure on Friday in anticipation of a meeting of Operation Save America (OSA), a fundamentalist group protesting abortion in the state this week. The U.S. Attorney’s office in the city had filed a motion three days prior to enforce the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which bars protestors from blocking those seeking to enter abortion clinics.

The order comes after 11 people from OSA were arrested outside the clinic in May for blocking the clinic’s entrance, according to the Courier-Journal.

“The Lord filled me with his peace and I knew I was obeying his will," said Eva Zastrow, one of those arrested, in speaking to the Courier-Journal. "I chose to sit in front of the doors, I'm not going to balk from the consequences. I'm not going to complain or regret it."

As a result of the arrests, a judge issued a temporary restraining order to keep those arrested and their affiliates away from the clinic entrance. That restraining order led to Friday’s buffer zone.

As part of its week of abortion protests in the city, OSA plans to set up a JumboTron downtown to display an abortion procedure.

Louisville is seen as a key location in the fight against abortion, as it is home to the last clinic in Kentucky that performs abortions. Other clinics have been shut down due to a law requiring that clinics have hospital admitting privileges.

Bomb set off at Mexican Bishops' Conference headquarters

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 25, 2017 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Unidentified persons set off an explosive today at the headquarters of the Mexican Bishops' Conference (CEM) in Mexico City. No one was injured, according to a conference spokesman.

A security camera video shared by Bishop Ramon Castro of Cuernavaca shows footage from inside the building of the moment the explosive went off outside the facilities.

“The headquarters of the Mexican Bishops' Conference has been attacked with a three cylinder explosive device,” Bishop Castro said.

“I believe this reflects the situation in Mexico,” he added.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="es" dir="ltr">La sede de la Conferencia Episcopal Mexicana ha sufrido un atentado con bomba molotv de 3 cilindros.Creo que eso refleja la situación de Mex <a href="https://t.co/YTtPq3HoBJ">pic.twitter.com/YTtPq3HoBJ</a></p>&mdash; Mons. Ramón Castro (@MonsRamonCastro) <a href="https://twitter.com/MonsRamonCastro/status/889872150546366464">July 25, 2017</a></blockquote>
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The conference’s press office director, Aramando Cavazos, explained in a statement that “today in the early hours of the morning, around 1:50 a.m., an unknown type of explosive device was placed at the main door of the CEM building.”

He indicated the explosion only caused “material damage to that door” and said that “no one outside or inside” was injured.

“The pertinent investigations are taking place, as apparently this is not the first case occurring in that area of Mexico City,” he said.

How can the Church promote peace in the Holy Land?

Jerusalem, Jul 25, 2017 / 11:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As conflict has erupted once again between Israelis and Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarchal Vicar said that the Catholic Church has a unique role to play in bringing about justice and peace.

“When two religious communities lay claim to the same area, we have a recipe for disaster, particular when members of the two communities are also involved in a political, territorial and historical conflict,” Fr. David M. Neuhaus told CNA July 24.

“The Church has a very special vocation in Israel/Palestine. Without power of any kind, the Church is free from playing political games and can be a voice that speaks out for truth, justice and peace.”

The Church has important assets “to contribute to building a reality of justice and peace instead of the war and violence that dominate,” he said.

The site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, where the al-Aqsa Mosque is located, was the scene of another round of violence last week when Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at the entrances of the mosque.

Palestinian objection to the metal detectors manifested in mass protests and escalated to include the killing of three Israelis at a Jewish settlement July 21. Four Palestinians were killed in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The controversial metal detectors were removed by Israeli security forces early Tuesday morning.

Fr. Neuhaus said that it can be very difficult to discern what is true and false in the conflict because each side has its own vision of what is happening.

“Why is it so difficult to find a solution to this conflict? Perhaps one part of the difficulty is that each one of the two sides believes in the total justice of its cause and is unwilling to listen with empathy to the other side,” he said.

In the face of these clashes, the Church’s political neutrality has an important role to play, stemming from two important assets, he emphasized.

“One is the Church's way of speaking, formulating words carefully, words that are built on truth, that teach respect and that promote justice and peace. This language is not diplomatic but rather language that works for reconciliation in the respect of truth.”

The second comes from the Church’s “vast network” of institutions, including schools, universities, hospitals, and homes for the elderly, orphans, the handicapped, and more, he said.

“In these institutions, the discourse of the Church is incarnated as the institutions serve one and all with no discrimination, showing that coexistence in mutual respect is not only possible but is the way forward that can open up the future, offering hope for the next generation.”

In the current controversy, Israel maintains it installed the metal detectors as a safety measure after three Arab Israeli gunmen smuggled homemade machine guns into the al-Aqsa Mosque July 14, shooting and killing two Israeli policemen.

Palestinians claim the metal detectors were a way for Israel to enact more control over access to the site, which is governed by a status quo arrangement which Israel has said it will maintain.

East Jerusalem has been occupied by Israel since its victory in 1967's Six-Day War.

Israelis seem to live in perpetual fear and Palestinians in unrelenting anger, Fr. Neuhaus said. “Unfortunately, those who speak the language of reason and understanding are unable to garner the support of the masses, who buy into the simplistic slogans of the dominant political elites.”

The political authority in Israel “repeats that it is not changing the status quo and insists on this particularly in front of the international community,” Fr. Neuhaus said.

But at the same time, there are radicals in Israel “who explicitly endorse a change in the status quo” and have been supported in instances by government ministries.

“The central problem is not restricting access to Al-Aqsa but rather the fear that the Israelis seek to replace Al-Aqsa with a Jewish Temple.”

“Any change to the status quo, however minor, is perceived as preparation for a hidden master plan that Palestinians (and the entire Muslim world) formulate as their worst nightmare. The Israelis are fully aware that this is the case as every threat to the status quo has erupted in similar violence in the past.”

Though the status quo for Christians and their holy places (like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) is less threatened, the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis only serves to worsen the political divide already present among Christians – split between those who are Arabs and thus form one with their Muslim brothers and sisters, and those integrated with the Jewish side.

“Nonetheless, Jewish extremists have manifested their refusal to coexist with Christians in the Holy Land through attacks on churches and other Christian holy sites,” Fr. Neuhaus explained.

Because Christians only make up 2-3 percent of the overall population, they are particularly vulnerable under the ongoing instability and violence, he continued, but “Christians are determined to struggle for full integration in their society, whether Palestinian or Israeli, demanding equal rights and mutual respect.”

“In times of conflict, the Christians are even more insistent in their prayers for peace.”

 

Miguel Perez Pichel contributed to this report.