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At least 42 dead in cathedral attack in Central African Republic

Alindao, Central African Republic, Nov 16, 2018 / 04:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At least 42 people have died in an attack Thursday on the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Alindao, in the Central African Republic, according to local reports.

At least one priest was among those killed in the Nov. 15 attack. Some unofficial estimates have said the death toll could reach as high as 100. Many of the people killed were refugees sheltering at the Church.

The CAR has suffered violence since December 2012, when several bands of mainly Muslim rebel groups formed an alliance, taking the name Seleka, and seized power.

In reaction to the Seleka's attacks, some Central Africans formed self-defense groups called anti-balaka. Some of these groups, mainly composed of Christians, began attacking Muslims out of revenge, and the conflict took on a sectarian character.

According to reports from Aid to the Church in Need, ex-Seleka forces attacked the cathedral, reportedly in retaliation for a Muslim who was killed the day prior by anti-balaka.

The priest killed in the attack was vicar general of the diocese, Abbe Blaise Mada. Aid to the Church in Need added that some reports have said second priest, Father Celestine Ngoumbango, was also killed, but this has not been confirmed.

Houses in the neighborhood were also looted and burned.

Many Catholic churches in the country provide refuge to Muslims and Christians alike fleeing violence, included churches in the Diocese of Bangassou, some 140 miles to the east of Alindao, where several Catholic institutions have taken in displaced Muslims who face violence at the hand of anti-balaka.

Anti-balaka killed more than 100 Muslims in Bangassou in May 2017 before United Nations peacekeepers intervened, and since then the city's Petit Seminaire Saint Louis has been home to about 1,600 displaced Muslims. Another 2,000 Muslims have taken refuge at St. Peter Claver Cathedral in Bangassou.

The CAR held a general election in 2015-16 which installed a new government, but militant groups continue to terrorize local populations. Thousands of people have been killed in the violence, and at least a million have been displaced. At least half of Central Africans depend on humanitarian aid, the U.N. reports.

Pope Francis visited the CAR during his trip to Africa in 2015, and urged the country’s leaders to work for peace and reconciliation.

Three priests were killed in CAR this year prior to yesterday’s Cathedral attack.

Religious sisters in Cameroon released one day after kidnapping

Yaoundé, Cameroon, Nov 16, 2018 / 04:03 pm (CNA).- Three Franciscan sisters and 13 novices travelling from Bamenda to Shisong in Northwest Cameroon have been released, after they were captured by separatist fighters in the small village of Bamessing yesterday.

The hostage-takers were positively identified by an ecclesiastical source as the “Amba boys” - separatist fighters using hit-and-run tactics to engage the armed forces of the Republic of Cameroon in a guerilla warfare for the separation of English-speaking Cameroon from French-speaking Cameroon and the independence of the new nation they have named ‘Ambazonia.’

This nearly three-year conflict has led to several hundred deaths on both the militia and government forces sides, 300,000 refugees in Nigeria and more than 80,000 internally displaced persons in Cameroon.

The separatist fighters are known to dig up trenches on the main road leading from Bamenda, the capital city of the Northwest Region, to many other villages and towns surrounding it, mainly in a bid to prevent military transport and soldiers from reaching their hideouts.

The kidnappers held the religious sisters and their novices hostage in a remote bush overnight, as negotiations took place between an official of the Diocese of Kumbo and the hostage takers.

A source at the Diocese of Kumbo confirmed that the Amba boys had taken the sisters hostage because of what they perceived to be the support of the Church for a peace conference convened by Christian Cardinal Tumi.

The sisters and the novices were released unharmed on the afternoon of November 16. They were handed over to representatives of the Diocese of Kumbo. The conditions of their release were not clear.

Mexican bishops discussing commission to address abuse of minors

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 16, 2018 / 03:33 pm (ACI Prensa).- As part of their work at the 106th Plenary Assembly, the Mexican Bishops' Conference (CEM) is discussing and could approve a commission for the protection of minors, to deal with cases of sexual abuse in all the dioceses of the country.

The CEM Plenary Assembly is taking place Nov. 12-16 at Casa Lago, Cuautitlán Izcalli, a church facility on the outskirts of Mexico City.

At a Nov. 15 press conference, Bishop Alfonso Miranda, Secretary General of the CEM, noted that “the proposal for the creation of a commission for the protection of minors in the Catholic Church in Mexico will be presented this afternoon.”

This proposal for a commission, he explained, “is to make official what we are already doing in practice at the General Secretariat.”

However, he added, currently “there does not exist a body within the structure” of the Church in Mexico to address abuse accusations.

“It does not exist, rather each bishop in his diocese deals with this situation and this issue, but on the national level it hasn't yet existed.”

“What we intend is that there be a regulatory body which would oversee, which would serve in an advisory capacity to address not only “the issue of the bishop but also what they have to do with the victim, the perpetrators, with the regulations under Mexican law and also under canon law, in complete liaison with the Vatican, with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.”

He said that this body would also work in coordination with other bishops' conferences. “We want to be a step forward, we want to be proactive in such a crucial issue for the Catholic Church worldwide and also of course in Mexico.”

In February 2019, the presidents of national bishops’ conferences around the world will gather in Rome to meet with Pope Francis to address the issue of sexual abuse in the Church.

Bishop Miranda said the Mexican bishops will prepare “something more specific for the coming meeting in Rome which our new president of the CEM,” Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera of Monterrey, is scheduled to attend.

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

 

How will palliative care fare in Canada?

Edmonton, Canada, Nov 16, 2018 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A member for Canadian Physicians for Life says requiring provision of assisted suicide by Catholic hospitals and by hospices will have disastrous results for palliative care throughout the country.

Karol Boschung, a second year medical student at University of British Columbia, wrote an opinion piece in the Edmonton Journal Nov. 15 expressing concern for the effects of forcing out Catholic healthcare providers.

“Bullying Catholic health-care providers into compliance will not result in expanded access to medical care for all Canadians. If forced to perform procedures which compromise its morals, the Catholic Church may be pressed into withdrawing from the administration of organizations like Covenant Health,” she said.

Covenant Health is one of the major health care administers for Alberta, she said, noting the Catholic health service provides over one-third of palliative-care beds for this province.

According to Covenant Health’s figures in 2008, the organization had more than 8,800 staff across 11 sites. The report states that the budget for 2008 was $514 million, which helped served more than 2,300 beds.

“What might happen to these beds if the government found itself on the hook for purchasing these facilities?” she asked.

“Indeed, attempting to push the Catholic Church out of the administration of Covenant Health would reduce, not improve, access to palliative care and other essential services.”

Boschung spoke on the recent media attention around Doreen Nowicki, who had ALS and committed physician-assisted suicide in 2017. On Covenant Health property, Nowicki had been denied access to the exams to determine the patient’s eligibility for assisted suicide

While sympathizing with the struggle of ALS, Boschung said assisted suicide is not an intrinsic human right as argued by the ethicist Arthur Schafer, who supported Nowicki in a story last month by the CBC.

“We are talking about a fundamental human right, not a privilege to be bestowed at the discretion of a Catholic or religious bureaucrat,” Schafer told the CBC, noting that Covenant’s position was morally inexcusable.

Boschung said that since assisted suicide was decriminalized by the Supreme Court of Canada's Carter v Canada decision in 2015, assisted suicide “has gone from a criminal offence to a broadly-accepted practice — even a 'fundamental human right,' even though legally it is nothing of the sort.”

She added that pressure to provide assisted suicide has affected not only Catholic organizations.

“For example, the Delta Hospice Society, a secular hospice in B.C., was embroiled in controversy earlier this year when the local health authority attempted to bully them into making physician-assisted suicide available on their premises, despite strenuous objections by hospice founders and operators.”

“The operators correctly maintained that PAS was incompatible with the philosophy of hospice palliative care, and that to force them to provide this service was incompatible with the mission of the hospice itself,” Boschung wrote.

Boschung said enforcing PAS is a shorted-sighted solution – a move which will reduce palliative care to ensure the availability of assisted suicide.

“If we really care about the sick and dying, the last thing we need is an approach that leads to a reduction in the availability and diversity of end-of-life care,” she said.

“To push for such an outcome would be a triumph of ideology over practicality.”

Pope Francis calls restrictions to religious freedom a 'white martyrdom'

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2018 / 02:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- There is the bloody martyrdom of Christians killed for their faith, but also another “martyrdom” which takes place when religious freedom is unjustly limited, Pope Francis said Friday in an audience with a group which assists the Church in the Holy Land.

“It is in front of the whole world – which too often turns its gaze to the other side – the dramatic situation of Christians who are persecuted and killed in ever-increasing numbers,” the pope said Nov. 16 in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.

“In addition to their martyrdom in their blood,” he said, “there is also their ‘white martyrdom,’ such as that which occurs in democratic countries when freedom of religion is restricted.”

Pope Francis spoke with around 130 members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem on the final day of their Nov. 13-16 general assembly in Rome. The knighthood order provides financial support to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

To their material support, the pope urged them to unite prayer under the intercession of Our Lady of Palestine. “She is caring Mother and the Help of Christians, for whom she obtains strength and comfort from the Lord in sorrow,” he said.

Emphasizing that the order is not just a “philanthropic agency,” he called its members to “place the evangelical love of your neighbor as the final aim of your works, to witness everywhere the goodness and care with which God loves everyone.”

Since the order’s last general assembly in 2013, it has grown in number, in geography, in pilgrimages, and in the material assistance it has offered to the Church in the Holy Land, the pope noted, thanking the members for their support of the Holy Land.

“It is a good sign that your initiatives in the field of training and health care are open to all, regardless of the communities they belong to and the professed religion.”

“In this way you help to pave the way to the knowledge of Christian values, to the promotion of interreligious dialogue, mutual respect and mutual understanding,” he said, adding: “your contribution to the construction of the path... will lead, we all hope, to the achievement of peace throughout the region.”

Francis also noted the assembly’s agenda, which focused on the role of the local leaders, but underlined the importance of remembering that their main purpose is the spiritual growth of members – not the success of charitable initiatives which cannot be separated from “religious formation programs” for members.

So that members, called knights and ladies, may “strengthen their indispensable relationship with the Lord Jesus, especially in prayer, in the meditation of the Holy Scriptures and in the deepening of the doctrine of the church,” he said.

Leaders of the order of the Holy Sepulchre, he urged, have the task in particular of giving an example “of intense spiritual life and concrete adherence to the Lord.”

Francis closed the audience by asking for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Church in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East, “with her special intercession for those whose life and freedom are in danger.”