Pope calls for protection of unborn, elderly
During an address to representatives from the Italian pro-life movement in April, Pope Francis reiterated the Church's love for human life, urging that it be protected, especially at its beginning stages, from conception, and at the end, with the elderly.
"We know it, human life is sacred and inviolable. Every civil right rests on the recognition of the first and fundamental right of life, which is not subordinated to any condition, either qualitative or economic and least of all ideological," he said.
The Pope repeated his warning from Evangelii Gaudium, that a "throwaway culture" is growing, spreading a disregard for life.
"One of the gravest risks to which our time is exposed is the divorce between economy and morality, between the possibilities offered by a market furnished with every technological novelty and the elementary norms of human nature, ever more neglected."
In such a context, "It is necessary to confirm the firmest opposition to every direct attempt against life, especially innocent and vulnerable life, and the unborn in the maternal womb is the innocent one par excellence."
As is often his style, the Holy Father illustrated his message with a personal story: "I recall that once, a long time ago, I had a conference with doctors. After the conference I greeted the doctors ...
"I was greeting the doctors, talking with them, and one called me aside. He had a package and he said to me: 'Father, I want to leave this with you. These are the instruments that I have used to cause abortion. I have found the Lord, I have repented, and I now fight for life.' He gave me all these instruments. Pray for this good man!"
Francis also reiterated his concern for the plight of the elderly: "I would also like to talk of grandparents, the other part of life! - because we must also take care of grandparents, because children and grandparents are the hope of a people."
Yet, he observed, in our throwaway culture, both children and grandparents are "thought of as material to be discarded."
Zenit News Agency
New English discernment house for vocations
Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, has announced plans for a house of discernment for potential priests, emphasising the need for "a renewed love for the priesthood".
"If we truly open our hearts in prayer within our families and parishes, I have no doubt this gift of new vocations will be given us," the bishop said in his homily during the 16 April Chrism Mass at St Anthony's Church in Manchester.
The new discernment house will be based at the Shrewsbury Cathedral and is set to open in September 2015.
Bishop Davies said the house would create "a community at the heart of our diocese where the vocation to priesthood can be actively discerned and supported." The house will offer a year-long program.
He told the congregation that Catholics must recognise their role in caring for "the supernatural environment of faith and love within which each new generation grows".
"Each of us has a part in making an environment where vocations can flourish," he said.
He noted with disappointment that some young people had told him they were discouraged from their vocation, not by "hostile influences" outside the Church, but by Catholics.
"This crisis of vocation is neither inexplicable nor irreversible," the bishop continued. He said prayer and a "renewed love for priestly vocation" were needed to resolve the dearth of vocations.
Radical abortion bill defeated in Colorado
Amid growing protests led in large part by the Catholic Church, the Colorado Senate on 16 April killed a controversial bill that could have banned all pro-life laws in the state.
"Lift up your hearts in gratitude to God," said Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila. "Blessings on everyone who prayed and contacted legislators! Stay involved!"
Originally introduced on 31 March, the controversial bill sought to ban all new pro-life laws and regulations, including requirements for pre-abortion ultrasounds and restrictions on the RU-486 abortion drug.
The legislation would have created a "fundamental right" to anything defined as "reproductive health care". It would have barred state agencies and local government from having any policy that "denies or interferes with an individual's reproductive health care decisions".
Opponents had argued that the bill was vaguely worded and could have had far-reaching effects. They said it could have affected laws requiring parental involvement or notification for a minor who is seeking an abortion, as well as conscience protection laws and requirements that only licensed physicians can perform abortions.
It could also have prevented abortion regulations aimed at protecting the health and safety of women and children, opponents said. The legislation could have affected government programs and facilities that pay for or promote childbirth without subsidising abortion, they warned. School health clinic policies and abstinence education policies could also have been impacted.
Archbishop Aquila helped lead opposition to the bill, calling together hundreds of people at a prayer vigil and assembly outside the state capitol on the afternoon of 15 April, when the measure was originally scheduled to be debated.
Opposition to the bill grew quickly and prompted many Coloradans to call their legislators.
Archbishop Aquila stressed the need for further action, noting the importance of voting and lay involvement in the political process.
"Too many times we have taken a back seat. Catholics, Christians and people of good will can no longer take a back seat. We are called to work for the good and for the true," he said at the prayer vigil.
The Colorado Catholic Conference released a statement on the evening of 16 April thanking everyone who prayed and spoke up about the legislation.
"It was your witness that made it possible to kill this horrible piece of legislation," the conference said. "It is because of your willingness to engage the public square that we were able to defeat SB 175."
Catholic News Agency
Good Friday an official holiday in Cuba
After granting temporary permission for Cubans to celebrate Good Friday in 2012 and 2013, the Cuban government has decided to grant a request made by Pope Benedict during his visit to the country in 2012 to make it a permanent official holiday.
Although the norm will not be in force until June, the Ministry of Work and Social Security issued a special resolution allowing Cubans to observe Good Friday this year on 18 April.
However, it said those who work in services such as sugar cane harvesting, shipping and receiving, transportation, health care, tourism and other services, would not be granted the holiday.
After Fidel Castro assumed power in Cuba in 1959, religious holidays and practices were outlawed.
Following John Paul II's visit to Cuba in 1998, religious processions and Christmas were reinstated .
The Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops announced on their website that state television would broadcast a passion play on Wednesday evening from Havana's Cathedral.
Catholic News Agency
Bishop Robinson announces his divorce
Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual bishop in the Anglican church, whose ordination split the church, is to divorce his male partner four years after being married.
Bishop Robinson made his announcement by email to the diocese of New Hampshire, from which he retired in 2013, and in an article posted online.
After theological training in the American Episcopal (Anglican) tradition, he was ordained in 1973. He had married Isabella McDaniel in 1972, and the couple later had two children.
In 1986, Robinson divorced his wife and announced publicly that he was homosexual. Two years later, he formed a relationship with Mark Andrew.
At the same time, he was appointed Executive Assistant to Bishop Douglas Theuner of New Hampshire, who had blessed his new relationship.
Robinson served Bishop Theuner for the next 17 years, and in 2003, was elected to succeed him.
His election was approved by the 2003 General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the United States. Robinson was consecrated in November 2003, in the presence of the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and six co-consecrating bishops.
The result was a schism in the Anglican church, with some Americans leaving to form the Anglican Church of North America, which claims 69 parishes and 10,000 parishioners.
There were also deep divisions at the Lambeth Conference, the decadal meeting of all Anglican bishops.
In 2008, after the law in New Hampshire was changed to allow civil unions, Bishop Robinson and his partner participated in a widely-publicised civil union ceremony, followed by a religious ceremony, at St Paul's Episcopal Church, Concord, New Hampshire.
Two years later, after "same sex marriage" was legalised in New Hampshire, Bishop Robinson married his partner.
Now, four years later, he has announced that he and his partner will divorce.
Bishop Robinson is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington DC, a centre closely aligned to the Obama Administration.
Joint Anglican-Catholic moral teaching statement
The Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the United States has released a document, "Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Seeking a Unified Moral Witness", that acknowledges "how differently our two communions structure and exercise authority, not only with respect to moral teaching but all forms of teaching. Our teachings do differ in content, specificity, and detail.
"The absence of an authoritative universal magisterium among the churches of the Anglican Communion marks a signal difference in the structure of teaching authority," the statement added.
"Without such a universal teaching authority it is difficult to state definitively the teaching Anglicans hold on many specific matters, beyond the governing documents and prayer book of each particular church.
In examining same-sex unions, the joint statement said that "the teaching of the Episcopal Church on same-sex sexuality may be said to accept an unresolved tension between primary textual authorities on the one hand and local councils (both General Convention and diocesan conventions) on the other".
"It is hard to see how our differences in moral theology and ecclesiology will be resolved, and it is not clear to many whether they should be," the authors of the statement said in their conclusion. "The ecumenical movement teaches that legitimate diversity has its place in the Church, and history demonstrates that this is true."
Catholic World News
Canadian Catholic teachers take part in gay pride parade
The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) is sending a delegation to participate in the WorldPride 2014 Parade in Toronto, prompting criticism from Cardinal Thomas Collins.
"I am always inspired by the thousands of Catholic teachers in classrooms throughout Ontario who know their Catholic faith, and whose faith shapes the loving way in which they care for their students, especially any who are facing personal struggles.
"OECTA, however, is not the Catholic teachers it is a union. Its competence is limited to collective bargaining, and the services any union provides to its members. When it goes beyond those areas, it can easily go wrong, as it has in the decision of the OECTA delegates to participate in this event. This decision shows that they and the OECTA leadership have an inadequate and mistaken understanding of their faith."
James Ryan, the president of the teachers' union, responded: "The bishops are not happy that we are in the parade. [Our involvement] is not an acceptance or an approval of some of the peripheral groups that might join that parade, such as the nudists or anything like that. We support the Church's teachings on chastity and we support the Church's teachings on all issues."
Catholic World News