Pope: evangelisation is "essential"
Pope Francis' message for World Mission Day, which falls on 20 October, has been released. That day will bring to a close the Year of Faith initiated by Benedict XVI.
In his message, Francis calls faith "God's precious gift" and says that it is "not reserved for a few but offered with generosity".
He commented on an obstacle to evangelisation that comes from the idea that "proclaiming the truth of the Gospel means an assault on freedom".
Quoting Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi, he said: "It would be ... an error to impose something on the consciences of our brethren. But to propose to their consciences the truth of the Gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ, with complete clarity and with total respect for free options which it presents ... is a tribute to this freedom."
The Pope also mentioned in his message those who "experience difficulty in openly professing their faith and in enjoying the legal right to practise it in a worthy manner".
He continued: "They are our brothers and sisters, courageous witnesses - even more numerous than the martyrs of the early centuries - who endure with apostolic perseverance many contemporary forms of persecution. Quite a few also risk their lives to remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ. I wish to reaffirm my closeness in prayer to individuals, families and communities who suffer violence and intolerance, and I repeat to them the consoling words of Jesus: 'Take courage, I have overcome the world'."
Zenit News Agency
US survey: Catholics' moral confusion
Only 13% of US Catholics – and 12% of Americans – believe that in vitro fertilisation is morally wrong, according to a recent survey. 33% of Americans judge the procedure morally acceptable, while 46% say that it is not a moral issue.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had earlier set out the immorality of in vitro fertilisation in its instructions Donum Vitae (1987) and Dignitas Personae (2008).
The survey also found that 49% of Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong, while 15% say it is morally acceptable and 23% say it is not a moral issue. 64% of Hispanic Catholics and 53% of white Catholics surveyed said that abortion is morally wrong, although among "white Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week," the figure rises to 74%.
22% of Americans – and 24% of Catholics – said they believe that embryonic stem cell research, which involves the destruction of human embryos, is morally wrong. In addition, 21% of Catholics said that they believe that adult stem-cell research is morally wrong, despite Church pronouncements that it is morally licit.
Catholic World News
Pro-life petition in Europe
A citizen-led initiative in Europe is nearing the one million signatures needed to prompt a discussion on human life and push for an end to funding of abortion and embryo-destroying research.
The initiative, called "One of Us," seeks to protect the "dignity, the right to life and the integrity of every human being" at all stages of development.
It asks the European Union "to end the financing of activities which presuppose the destruction of human embryos, in particular in the areas of research, development aid and public health."
The petition was introduced as a European citizens' initiative, a participative democracy project in which the people can submit legislative proposals to the European parliament if they can generate one million signatures from citizens within a year.
The campaign has been met with widespread support throughout Europe, gaining the endorsement of 40 pro-life leaders, politicians, scholars and doctors from across the continent.
In addition, it has received the support of numerous Catholic bishops and two consecutive Popes.
"I greet the Movement for Life and wish it success on the 'One of Us' initiative so that Europe might always be a place where every human being's dignity is safeguarded," said Benedict XVI in February, during one of his last public appearances. Pope Francis has also supported the initiative, asking pro-life activists to sign the petition during Italy's March for Life in May.
If the petition gains enough votes and the European Commission respects its own rules regarding citizens' initiatives, the "European Parliament will be forced to schedule a debate on the issue of life at conception," One of Us explains.
The group's goal is to enact a ban on the funding of embryo-destroying research and abortions, as well as achieve a greater cultural awareness of the importance of respecting human life from conception.
Even if the proposed legislation never becomes law, the organisers are optimistic, saying that it "could be a starting point of a new Europe-wide mobilisation of the pro-life movement."
Catholic News Agency
No Communion for pro-abortion politicians
The adjunct secretary of the Bishops' Conference of Bolivia, Archbishop José Fuentes, said that government officials who support abortion should not receive Holy Communion. Such individuals, he said, are not acting consistent with their faith and with the teachings of the Gospel and the Church. In July 2013, four government ministers announced their support for the legalisation of abortion.
In an interview, Bishop Fuentes was asked about these ministers. He responded that "they can act in conscience, but they should not approach during Communion to receive the Body of Christ."
"The person who aborts or who encourages another to abort, as well as health care workers who participate in an abortion and lawmakers, commit a sin before God, because they make themselves the owners of life, and the only owner of life for us is God.
"For a Catholic, for a believer, that is something that is not at our disposal, and therefore if as a legislator, a judge or whatever, I support an abortion law, I am separating myself from the Church, I cannot receive Communion unless I show my repentance."
Bishop Fuentes concluded by emphasising the importance of reconciliation for those who have had an abortion.
Catholic News Agency
Egyptian violence: not Muslim vs Christian
A spokesman for the Catholic bishops of Egypt has reiterated that the conflict in that country is not Muslim vs Christian violence, but a war against terrorism.
Fr Rafic Greiche told the Fides news agency on 19 August that 58 churches and Christian institutions had been attacked and set on fire in Egypt in the previous few days. "Out of 58 churches attacked, 14 are Catholic. The rest belong to the Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant communities."
Fr Greiche noted that the attacks against the churches "took place all over the country, but are concentrated especially in the areas of Al Minya and Assiut, because it is there that we find the headquarters of the jihadists, responsible for this violence."
He added: "It should be emphasised that Muslims who live in the vicinity of the affected churches have helped men and women religious to put out the fires of the religious buildings. This is not a civil war between Christians and Muslims. It is not a civil war but a war against terrorism. And the majority of the population is against terrorism and religious extremism."
Zenit News Agency
Pakistan Archbishop praises Pope Francis
Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, President of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan, has called Pope's Francis' humility "a valuable source of inspiration" during a recent meeting with professionals, managers and political leaders in Pakistan.
"If you really want to become agents of transformation and social change, I suggest you keep your eyes on Pope Francis," he said.
In his message, the Archbishop mentioned Pope Francis as a model, particularly due to his humility: "He is working in an excellent way for change. He chose the name Francis referring to St Francis of Assisi, a saint who is loved not only by Christians but also by Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists for his works of peace."
The Archbishop was speaking during a recent seminar at the Institute Notre Dame of Karachi, entitled "Social transformation and change", which was organised by the Catholic association "Jesus Youth Pakistan".
The goal of the seminar was to help leaders in the field of business, politics and education in promoting effective change in society that focuses on the dignity of human beings.
Zenit News Agency
Concerns over Quebec's anti-religious proposal
Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper has questioned the motives behind Quebec's proposed Charter of Values that would ban religious symbols in public workplaces.
In late August, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois' government announced plans for controversial legislation that would ban "conspicuous" religious symbols worn by public employees at work. The "Charter of Quebec Values" would forbid employees in courts, law-enforcement, schools, hospitals, and daycares from wearing items such as turbans, hijabs, kippas and crucifixes.
"What divides Quebeckers is not diversity. It is the absence of clear rules so that we can move onward in harmony," said Marois. "To recognise secularism as a Quebec value is to take cognisance of the evolution of a people which, for the past half century, has become increasingly secular and has taken the confessional character out of its institutions," she said.
The Charter, set to be revealed in September, is the latest move against public expression of religious beliefs by a Canadian province that has become increasingly hostile to religious believers.
Catholic schools have been forbidden to teach Catholic courses on religion and morality. Government-funded daycares have been gutted of anything religious, and religious leaders have been barred from visiting them. And private citizens have been fined for holding religious ceremonies in public buildings.
Nigerian religious leaders call for harmony
Speaking at an interfaith youth seminar at Abuja National Mosque, Nigeria's leading Catholic prelate emphasised that religious believers must work for peace.
The Islamist terrorist movement Boko Haram has claimed an estimated 4,000 lives in northern Nigeria since its founding in 2001.
"The great value in every religion and in every human society is to go beyond coexistence and to work for cooperation and solidarity," said Cardinal John Onaiyekan. "All of us who in Nigeria take religion seriously, have to work for religious harmony, peaceful coexistence and solidarity. Only in this way is religion not a curse but a blessing that comes from God."
Alhaji Karshi, chief imam of a mosque in Nigeria's capital, according to a news report, "Also used the occasion to warn politicians not to interpret the scriptures to suit their political ambitions as the consequences could be disastrous. He emphasised that anyone who destroyed lives and property in the name of protecting Islam is not a true Muslim."
Catholic World News
New leader for Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese
Pope Francis has named Bishop Christopher Prowse of Sale as the seventh Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn. He will be installed in St Christopher's Cathedral on 19 November. Bishop Prowse has been the Bishop of Sale since mid-2009.
Ordained to the priesthood in August 1980, he served in a number of parishes around Melbourne before he was ordained an Auxiliary Bishop in May 2003.
He was elected to the permanent committee of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in May this year and chairs the Bishops' Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Relations.
The Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese had been without a bishop since Archbishop Mark Coleridge was moved to Brisbane in April 2012.
Bishop Prowse said there was nothing unusual about the length of time taken to fill the position in the archdiocese. "There's always a consultation period going on, people asked of their opinion, and then of course there's been a change of Pontiffs in the meantime, maybe that slowed it down a little," he said. "But in any rate, the position has been made and I'm absolutely delighted to be the new incoming Bishop."