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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.

Vatican turns off fountains to conserve water for drought-hit Rome

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2017 / 07:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the city of Rome and much of Italy experiences a severe drought, the Vatican has turned off its fountains in an effort to preserve water and show solidarity with the city, which may be forced to ration water to about 1 million of the city’s residents.

As far as is known, this is the first time the Vatican has been forced to turn off its some 100 fountains, “so this is an exception,” Greg Burke, Director of the Holy See Press Office, told Reuters TV.

The water that comes into the Vatican is from the same sources as the water to the city of Rome, he said. “This is the Vatican's way of living solidarity with Rome, trying to help Rome get through this crisis.”

A prolonged heatwave in southern Europe and two years of well-below-average rainfall have caused a severe drought in Rome and the surrounding areas.

The two large fountains in St. Peter’s Square – Baroque masterpieces by 17th-century sculptors Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini – were turned off Monday. All 100 fountains will be turned off gradually over the next few days, including those in the Vatican Gardens.

“This decision is very much in line with the Pope’s thinking on ecology: you can’t waste and sometimes you have to be willing to make a sacrifice,” Burke said.

“We have very beautiful gardens in the Vatican. They might not be as green this year, but we'll survive.”

The decision to turn off the fountains is in line with Pope Francis’ commitment to the environment and concern for the protection of “our common home” that he laid out in his 2015 encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si.”

To preserve water, the city of Rome has turned off its drinking fountains and has also begun to turn off or lower the flow of many of its historic fountains. A ban on drawing water from the drought-hit Lake Bracciano, which lies about 25 miles from the city and supplies at least part of its water, will go into effect July 28.

Following this ban, the city may be forced to ration the water supply in up to eight hour intervals to around half of its 3 million residents.

In southern Italy and Greece, temperatures well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit combined with strong winds have caused forest fires leading to the closure of popular tourist sites, such as Mount Vesuvius near Naples, which had 23 wildfires on its slopes earlier this month.

Wildfires near the Calampiso seaside resort west of Palermo, the capital of Sicily, caused more than 700 tourists to be evacuated by boat July 12.

A Vatican seminar on water in February highlighted the complex challenges faced around the world in making the basic human right to water a reality for all people, including under environmental factors such as drought.

Pope Francis addressed participants in the seminar Feb. 24, reaffirming that water is indeed a basic human right.

“Our right to water is also a duty to water,” he said. “Our right to water gives rise to an inseparable duty. We are obliged to proclaim this essential human right and to defend it – as we have done – but we also need to work concretely to bring about political and juridical commitments in this regard.”

“God the Creator does not abandon us in our efforts to provide access to clean drinking water to each and to all,” he continued.

“With the ‘little’ we have, we will be helping to make our common home a more livable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity.”

These nuns offer their blindness for the salvation of the world

Santiago, Chile, Jul 25, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- This Aug. 15 will mark 90 years since the Sacramentine Sisters of Don Orione were founded to offer something very particular for the salvation of the world: their blindness.

They are a community of blind nuns consecrated to perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and wear a distinctive white habit, a red scapular, and a white Host embroidered on the chest.

“I intend to offer with this new branch of the religious family, as a flower before the throne of the Blessed Virgin, so that she herself, with her blessed hands, offer it to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament,” Saint Luigi Orione told them when he founded the order in Italy Aug. 15, 1927.

This branch of the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity (LMSC) has as its mission, according to its constitutions, to offer to God “the privation of sight for those who do not know the truth yet so that they may come to God, the light of the world.”

In addition they seek to support with Eucharistic Adoration and sacrifice “the apostolic action of the LMSC and the Sons of Divine Providence,” the two congregations founded by Saint Luigi Orione.

The congregation is present in Italy, Spain, the Philippines, Kenya, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

They have been in Chile since 1943 and currently there are three sisters there: Sr. María Luz Ojeda, Sr. Elizabeth Sepúlveda, and Sr. María Pía Urbina, who is on mission in the Philippines at the moment.

These sisters attend computer classes to be able to bring before the Blessed Sacrament the numerous petitions they receive from many faithful through their Facebook account, where they offer to pray for each intention they receive.

Sr. María Luz Ojeda had an accident when she was a child which left her with severe vision problems which gradually increased until at 30 years of age she completely lost her sight.

“Sometimes I personally thank God, since because of this I was able to enter the congregation. Before the Blessed Sacrament I often tell the Lord: 'this is my means of helping you save souls,' and I'm happy,” Sr. María Luz told CNA.

The religious sister explained that “every day in our prayer and Adoration we present to the Lord the poverty, sufferings, and sorrows of humanity.”

“Perhaps what I am going to say may seem like I'm claiming too much  but I am going to have this to present to the Lord on the day he calls me, that I helped him save souls,” Sr. María Luz said.

The sisters dedicate each day of the week for a special intention: Mondays for the sick, Tuesday for young people, Wednesdays for peace, Thursdays for vocations, Fridays for the elderly, Saturdays for children, and Sundays for families.

A year after his murder, Fr. Jacques Hamel remembered

Rome, Italy, Jul 25, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One year after the brutal killing of Fr. Jacques Hamel, French bishops recalled the beautiful example of the man who lived out every day in simple faithfulness, rooted in the love of Christ.

Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille wrote in a statement Monday that Fr. Jacques Hamel, who was murdered by Islamist extremists while celebrating Mass, was, in the words of his sister, Roseline: “above all a man among men.”

“It was this man among men who was killed. It was this man among men, this priest, that has become a symbol of a life lived with each other, for each other, a life of daily fidelity, a life rooted in the love of the One who has made each one of us out of love: Christ.”

“Such a life becomes a model and an encouragement for all,” he said.

The 85-year-old parish priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, was killed while celebrating Mass July 26, 2016 after two armed gunmen stormed his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy.

The assailants entered the church and took the priest and four others hostage. Local law enforcement reported that the priest’s throat was slit in the attack, and that both of the hostage takers were shot dead by police. The attackers were identified as Islamist extremists.

Pope Francis issued a statement at the time decrying the “absurd violence.” He later said during a Mass in September 2016 at the Vatican in honor of Fr. Hamel that the slain priest “is blessed now,” according to Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen who was there.

July 26 will mark one year since the assassination of Fr. Hamel, Archbishop Pontier said. “It was one of those unthinkable events that leaves one speechless and becomes a great testimony, a lesson for all.”

“The Christian community, and far beyond it, French society remembers,” he continued. We do not want to forget his family, his relatives, the other victims, his parish, bruised in their deep affection and human ties.”

In the statement, the archbishop also evoked the upcoming Feast of the Assumption, which is celebrated on August 15. This feast, he said, “which brings us together in the middle of the summer,” is a day reserved especially for the French to pray for their country.

“I invite you to pray for France. Let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, to raise up many men and women who live their ordinary lives for others and with others. Let the fraternity longed for become a reality. May it inspire our personal choices and the choice of those who exercise responsibilities, of whatever kind.”

To commemorate the day of his death, the Diocese of Rouen, where Fr. Hamel was a priest, plans to hold a special Mass July 26 at the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, at the same hour as the Mass he was celebrating when killed.

After the Mass, the community of the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray will erect a stone in memory of Fr. Hamel and in promotion of peace and fraternity.

In the evening they will hold evening prayer in the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Bonsecours in Rouen, followed by a time of prayer at the tomb of Fr. Hamel.

Fr. Hamel’s sister, Roseline, spoke about her brother April 22 during testimony on modern-day martyrs during a special liturgy said by Pope Francis in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Rome’s Tiber Island.

Speaking to the congregation, Roseline said that in his old age Fr. Hamel had been fragile, but “he was also strong. Strong in his faith in Christ, strong in his love for the Gospel and for people, whoever it was, and – I am certain – also for his killers.”

His death, she said, “is in line with the life of a priest, which was one of a life given: a life offered to the Lord, when he said ‘yes’ at the moment of his ordination, a life of service to the Gospel, a life given for the church and her people, above all the poorest.

She pointed to the “paradox” that while alive her brother never wanted to be “at the center,” but that after his death, “has given a testimony for the entire world, the greatness of which we cannot measure.”

After her brother died, Roseline said the reaction of the community was strong. Rather than wanting revenge, there was a desire for “love and forgiveness,” she said, explaining that even Muslims who wanted to show solidarity with Christians came to visit the parish for Sunday Masses in a show of support.

Despite her loss, Roseline said “it’s a great comfort to see how many new encounters, how much solidarity, how much love have been generated by the witness of Jacques,” and prayed that his sacrifice would “bring fruits, so that the men and women of our time can find the path to living together in peace.”

As Senate health care vote nears, will pro-life provisions be included?

Washington D.C., Jul 25, 2017 / 12:08 am (Church Pop).- As the Senate prepares to vote later today to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, pro-life leaders are working to ensure pro-life language is included in the final version of the bill voted on.

“There is no reason for private non-governmental organizations, like Planned Parenthood, to receive millions of dollars every year in taxpayer money. I will keep working with my colleagues to include pro-life provisions in the healthcare bill because abortion is not healthcare,” Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) said.

The Senate is set to vote Tuesday on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, although it has not been announced which replacement bill will ultimately be voted on.

However, there are concerns that the final legislation voted on in the Senate will not include pro-life provisions.

On Friday, the Senate Parliamentarian sent out a guidance stating the pro-life provisions in the bill – stripping Planned Parenthood of Medicaid reimbursements for one year and prohibiting any tax credits from paying for insurance that includes abortion coverage – could be removed short of 60 votes.

Senate Republicans do not have the 60 votes usually required to move a bill to the floor for a vote, but they had planned to pass a bill under the process of reconciliation, where legislation pertaining to the budget can be passed with a simple majority of votes.

The Parliamentarian, however, advised on Friday that the pro-life provisions violated the “Byrd Rule,” which prevents language not pertaining to the budget from being included in a bill passed through the reconciliation process.

However, the language stripping Planned Parenthood of federal funds reportedly can be adjusted and re-inserted into the legislation voted on Tuesday. The language preventing federal funding of plans covering abortions, however, may still be blocked from a vote.

The 2016 Republican Party platform states that “we will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.”

“The news from the parliamentarian was another dip in the roller coaster ride,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, told the Washington Post on Sunday. “We have been reassured the problem can be fixed, so are in a tentative support mode still.”

The most recent Senate health care proposal, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would reduce spending on Medicaid and put a cap on Medicaid payments to states based on their population. Federal subsidies for coverage would also be reduced, and the penalties imposed on people who are without health insurance, along with the employer insurance mandate, would be done away with.

Scored by the Congressional Budget Office, it was determined to reduce the deficit by $420 billion over a decade, but would increase the number of uninsured by 22 million.

However, some have cautioned that the CBO scores are “flawed” as they consider only government actions while ignoring the private sector. Thus, if a government requirement for persons to have health insurance – the individual mandate – were to be repealed, that would be considered by the CBO for scoring, but not the effect of incentives for persons to buy insurance like tax credits and health savings accounts.

Critics have pointed to the nearly identical scoring of both a simple repeal of the ACA, which judged by the CBO to result in 22 million more uninsured persons, and the House-passed American Health Care Act, a repeal-and-replace bill, which was also determined to result in 23 million more uninsured.

Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, meanwhile said that the first version of the Senate bill was “unacceptable” and that the revised version did not contain enough improvements to change that determination.

Regarding the first version of the bill, he said in June that “it is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written.”

“At a time when tax cuts that would seem to benefit the wealthy and increases in other areas of federal spending, such as defense, are being contemplated, placing a ‘per capita cap’ on medical coverage for the poor is unconscionable,” he said of the proposed per capita caps in Medicaid funding to states.

Regarding the repeal of the individual mandate, and its replacement with a penalty for going more than 63 days without coverage, he said that “many people are forced to use their resources to address immediate needs,” and that the penalty “will leave these individuals and families without coverage when they need it most.”

And the bill would also result in higher premiums and less relief for some of those who need it most, he said. “In many places, older and lower-income people will pay more than under current law because of decreased levels of tax credit support and higher premiums.”

When the revised plan was released, Bishop Dewane said in a July 13 statement that it was still unacceptable and that “more is needed to honor our moral obligation to our brothers and sisters living in poverty and to ensure that essential protections for the unborn remain in the bill."

Last week, short of the needed votes to pass the bill through the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ultimately announced that a vote would occur to repeal and replace the ACA.

However, the Senate on Tuesday will reportedly vote on a “motion to proceed” on the House bill, the AHCA, and then would attach amendments to repeal and replace the ACA.

These amendments would include language from the 2015 repeal bill and a version of the Senate’s recent health care proposal. That language would reportedly not include the protections against taxpayer funding of insurance plans with abortions.

On July 21, Bishop Dewane said that the Senate would need an acceptable health care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act if they voted to repeal the ACA.

He said that “in the face of difficulties passing these proposals, the appropriate response is not to create greater uncertainty, especially for those who can bear it least, by repealing the ACA without a replacement.”

“Yet,” he said, “reform is still needed to address the ACA's moral deficiencies and challenges with long-term sustainability.” The bishops had previously said that funding of abortion coverage in plans offered on the exchanges, as well as lack of coverage for immigrants, were among their concerns with the Affordable Care Act and their reasons for ultimately not supporting its passage.

How a college mission trip inspired a coffee business

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Jul 24, 2017 / 05:11 pm (CNA).- When Matt Hohler was in college in 2010, he was a reluctant Catholic - and not a coffee drinker. 

That year, his mom gave him a trip to a college Catholic conference as a Christmas gift. It was a conference with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, which annually draws several thousands of college students seeking to know more about their faith. 

Hohler was not thrilled. 

“I remember being a bit sour about it,” he told CNA. “I remember thinking I don’t really wanna go, I thought it wasn’t cool.” 

But he went anyway, had a great time, and came back with a pull on his heart to go on a FOCUS mission trip to Honduras, “even though I remember not even knowing where Honduras was at the time,” he recalled. 

He signed up for the trip, and the week he spent with FOCUS teaching catechesis in Honduras “was mind-bending to say the least.” 

What struck him most was the Honduras people’s extreme generosity amidst the experience of extreme poverty. 

“They just gave everything they had, and they had nothing,” Hohler said.

That fascination with Honduras and desire to help those in need continued to grow, and eventually Hohler returned for a year to volunteer as an English teacher, a job he found through a connection from the trip. 

That year, he came home for Christmas break and was hanging out at grandma’s house before the rest of the family arrived.  

While they waited, Hohler’s grandmother pulled him into a hallway, where there had been a statue of the Virgin Mary for as long as Hohler could remember. 

“She said, ‘There have been times in our lives where I swear we didn’t have enough money, and we put money under the statue of Mary, and we’d come back and there would be more money than before,’” Hohler recalled. 

She told him to always remember to put God first, and handed her grandson $1,000 with simple instructions: “Go do something good with it.” 

When he returned to Honduras, the search for that “something good” led Hohler to Sr. Maria, a Catholic nun who has dedicated her life to serving her community near Lake Yojoa, Honduras. Her nutrition-focused organization, Casa de Angeles, provides 100+ children at risk of malnutrition with lunches every day throughout the school year. 

As Hohler spent time with Sr. Maria and the children, he realized that many of the kids’ impoverished families were coffee farmers, who were still making insufficient wages despite promises of markups after their coffee gained labels like “organic” and “fair-trade.” (He also started to drink, and love, coffee.)

Hohler, along with like-minded friend Robert Durrette, decided to do what they could to get a fairer wage for small-scale coffee farmers in Central and South America. And that’s how coffee start-up Levanta Coffee began. 

Taken from the Spanish reflexive verb “levantarse,” Levanta means to wake up, but it can also mean to rise up. 

“By waking up each morning with a cup of Levanta Coffee, you’re giving hard-working coffee farmers from Honduras and Peru the opportunity to lift themselves up economically,” the businesses’ Kickstarter page explains. 

The business model of Levanta cuts out nearly all of the middlemen involved in the process of most coffee sales – including fair trade coffee – that takes away from the profits that actually end up in farmers’ hands. 

“We too used to think that ‘Fair Trade’ was the best way to support small scale farmers. We sipped our coffee believing we were helping farmers like Daniel and Rosa earn a good living. Problem is, that just wasn't true,” Hohler and Durette explain on their Kickstarter. 

“‘Fair trade’ offers 20 cents more per pound of coffee, but very little of that extra money actually makes it back to small-scale farmers. Although they had been promised higher prices and better returns on their hard work, many coffee farmers are still struggling to put food on the table. In the best-case scenario, farmers might get a few hundred extra dollars per year. This translates into an income of $2,000-$4,000 a year for the average farmer who is often providing for a family of 4-6 people,” they noted. 

The Levanta model will provide a 50 percent higher payment that will end up directly in the hands of the small-scale coffee farmers in both Honduras and Peru, where the pair has launched their startup. 

“Essentially what we’re doing is taking a page out of what a lot of humanitarian aid is doing now, in terms of direct transfers. Rather than investing in aid in terms of professionals or food, or whatever it be, a lot of studies have found that just by giving them more cash and allowing them to make their own decisions, it’s actually allowing for more and more development,” Hohler explained.

In exchange, Levanta Coffee asks their farmers to share their personal stories with coffee drinkers around the world. 

Co-founder Robert Durrette said he believes “the stories of the farmers we have partnered with is crucial to sparking change in the coffee industry. You will learn about their hardships and struggles, but also their successes – all while we deliver you better coffee.”

“It gives you the opportunity to look at the coffee you drink in a more personal way, and you’ll know exactly how this is being impactful,” Hohler said. “We’ll be following up year after year, making sure it’s the right model, being really transparent and really inviting people into this story so they can experience it.” 

The pair launched their Kickstarter on July 18th, and have already seen great results, with $32,348 of their $35,000 goal having been raised at the time this article was written. If they make their stretch goal of $50,000, they can partner with a third coffee producer. 

It hasn’t always been easy – Hohler said he was questioned by several well-meaning friends and family about when he would “get a real job.” But he’s stuck to his decision, saying that he feels it’s a call from God to put his faith into action. 

“The thing I wanted to do with my faith was to show it through action, and be an example of my faith in the way that I live, creating good in the way I live my life rather than telling someone what they should be doing,” he said. 

“Evangelization through action is what I wanted to do.” 

Learn more about Levanta Coffee, and the coffee farmers involved, on their Kickstarter page or by following them on Instagram or Facebook.

Francis prays for Charlie Gard, as his parents end legal battle

Vatican City, Jul 24, 2017 / 04:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a US neurologist determined that an experimental therapy could no longer potentially be of aid to a British baby born with a disabling medical condition, his parents have given up a legal challenge to take him to the US for the treatment.

British and European courts had sided with English hospital officials who sought to bar Charlie Gard's parents from seeking treatment overseas.

Greg Burke, the Holy See press officer, said July 24 that “Pope Francis is praying for Charlie and his parents and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering. The Holy Father asks that we join in prayer that they may find God’s consolation and love.”

Charlie Gard, aged 11 months, is believed to suffer from a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness. The disorder is believed to affect fewer than 20 children worldwide. Charlie has been in intensive care since October 2016. He has suffered significant brain damage due to the disease and is currently fed through a tube. He breathes with an artificial ventilator and is unable to move.

His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, had wanted to keep him on life support and transport him to the United States in order to try an experimental treatment. They raised more than $1.6 million to help seek his treatment in the US.

However, their decision was challenged in court by hospitals and an attorney appointed to represent Charlie. The parents appealed a High Court decision, and their appeal to the U.K.’s Supreme Court was rejected.

The efforts to keep Charlie's parents from seeking overseas treatment were based on deep ethical errors, a Catholic expert in medical ethics told CNA earlier this year. Dr. Melissa Moschella said the hospital's effort represented a “quality of life” ethic that says human life is valuable only if it meets certain capacities, and that it is moreover a violation of parental rights.

A neurologist in the US, Dr. Michio Hirano, had been willing to offer Gard nucleoside bypass therapy, while acknowledging it would not necessarily heal him. But after seeing a new MRI scan this week, Hirano declined to offer the therapy.

According to the Guardian, Connie said, “All our efforts are for [Charlie], we only want to give him a chance at life. There’s one simple reason for Charlie’s muscular deterioration [and] that was time,” noting the lengthy decisions from the courts of London which restricted Charlie from the U.S. treatment.

The representative for Charlie’s parents, Grant Armstrong said, “For Charlie, it’s too late, time has run out, irreversible muscular damage has been done and the treatment can no longer be a success.”

The child's life support is expected to be pulled in the next few days.

His parents now wish to establish a charity to research and combat mitochondrial depletion syndrome.

UK porn sites to ban access for users under 18 years old

London, England, Jul 24, 2017 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As part of an increasing government crackdown on internet pornography, U.K. porn sites will soon require users to provide proof of being at least 18 years old.

The proposal to move all pornographic websites behind an age-verification wall is slated to take place in April 2018 as part of the Digital Economy Act, promoted by parliament member Matt Hancock.

While details of the ban are still under discussion, the proposal could require credit card details for porn access, as U.K. consumers generally have to be 18 years of age or older to own a card. The age-verification software will likely be similar to gambling websites, and failure to comply could lead to heavy fines for porn sites.  

In her customary opening-of-parliament speech in 2016, Queen Elizabeth II referenced the bill, which also aims to reduce email spam and telemarketing calls for citizens as well as promote the testing and use of driverless cars in the U.K.

Supporters of the legislation say that one in five children in the country aged 11-17 had been exposed to pornographic images online that had shocked or upset them, the BBC reported.

While the proposal has drawn criticism for potentially being both a threat to personal privacy and an ultimately ineffective move, its proponents call it a crucial step in the right direction.

“Protecting children from exposure, including accidental exposure, to adult content is incredibly important, given the effect it can have on young people,” said Will Gardner, chief executive of internet safety charity Childnet, according to the Telegraph.

“Steps like this help restrict access,” he said.

Archbishop Gomez calls on Congress to pass Dream Act

Los Angeles, Calif., Jul 24, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Too many young people are threatened with deportation because their parents brought them to the U.S. without documentation, and Congress needs to pass the Dream Act to help them, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has said.

The proposed legislation “would permanently lift the threat of deportation that right now hangs over the heads of more than one million young people who were brought to this country illegally or are living in the homes of undocumented parents,” Archbishop Gomez said July 21.

“We are talking about people who have grown up in this country since they were young children. America is all they know,” he said. They are presently in “limbo”, without any legal status even as they work, go to college, and serve in the armed forces.

“It is long past time for us to welcome these young immigrants as citizens and give them the opportunities they need to flourish and to help our country grow. A just and compassionate society cannot continue to punish innocent children for the mistakes of their parents.”

The archbishop spoke the day after the introduction of the Dream Act of 2017 by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The bill would grant permanent legal status to over 1 million young people who arrived in the U.S. before they turned 18, provided they meet certain criteria. These criteria include enrolling in college, joining the military, or finding jobs. Applicants must have lived in the U.S. for four years. Its name derives from the acronym Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.

The proposal would make permanent the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was implemented by executive order in 2012 by President Barack Obama, who cited lack of action from Congress.

Archbishop Gomez emphasized the situation of those who would benefit from the legislation.

“Under this legislation, these young men and women would now have the chance to earn permanent residency status and eventually to seek citizenship in our country,” he said. “This is the right thing to do and the compassionate thing to do.”

“In my experience, these are good kids who want to use their lives to make a difference in our country. These young men and women want to share the American dream,” he continued. “They exemplify what is best about the immigrant spirit that makes our country exceptional.”

Archbishop Gomez pledged his support and that of the Catholic community in Los Angeles, praying that leaders in Washington would enact the bill quickly. He prayed that the legislation would mark the start of “a more comprehensive reform” of the U.S. immigration system that protects national borders, that “enables us to welcome newcomers who have the character and skills our country needs to grow” and that provides “a compassionate solution” for the undocumented who are “forced to live in the shadows of our society.”

The attorneys general of 20 states urged President Donald Trump to maintain the DACA program. In a July 21 letter to the president, they said it represents a “success story” for the more than 750,000 people registered for it.

Registration for the program requires the submission of an application, passing a background check, and applying for a work permit. The attorneys general said recipients of DACA status benefit from a 42 percent boost in hourly wages, which gives them purchasing power that benefits everyone.

Rescinding DACA would have “severe” consequences both for the hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries, their families, their employers, and their schools. If the program ends, the attorneys general said, there would be lost tax revenue and billions in turnover costs for businesses. They said DACA has helped young people report crime to police without fear of deportation.

The attorneys general cited “a number of troubling incidents” that raise concerns over whether Department of Homeland Security agents are adhering to DACA guidelines and to public assurances from the Trump administration that individuals eligible for DACA are not being targeted.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had been a vocal critic of DACA. White House officials suggested the president would not support the act, the Washington Post reports. At the same time the president recently told reporters aboard Air Force One that ending DACA is “a decision that’s very, very hard to make.”

A version of the Dream Act was first introduced in 2001 but has never passed both chambers in the same session. One version passed the House of Representatives in 2010 and passed the Senate in 2013 as part of a larger immigration bill.

In a June 29 letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, attorneys general from Texas and nine other states demanded the Trump administration end the DACA policy. The letter threatened to amend a lawsuit against another deportation deferral program in order to target the policy, Politico reports.

Nation's capital remembers former US Opus Dei head

Washington D.C., Jul 24, 2017 / 11:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic figures from Washington, D.C. are remembering the legacy of Fr. Arne Panula, former U.S. vicar of Opus Dei, and a beloved leader, mentor and friend of many throughout the city.

“Father Arne Panula is greatly identified with our Archdiocesan Catholic Information Center where he carried out a quiet, effective, evangelizing ministry that touched many including a large number of young professionals,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl Washington D.C. in a statement to CNA.  

“Both his erudition and spirituality were inviting qualities that helped so many others come to a deeper knowledge and love of the Lord. His priestly presence will be greatly missed.”

Cardinal Wuerl presided over Fr. Panula’s funeral Mass on Saturday, July 22 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Fr. Panula passed away at his Washington, D. C. home on July 19, 2017 after a long battle with cancer.

Born in Duluth, Minn., Fr. Panula graduated from Harvard University in 1967, before traveling to Rome to study Theology. While there, he lived with St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of the personal prelature Opus Dei.

Fr. Panula was ordained a priest in 1973 before serving as chaplain of The Heights School in Washington, D.C. He later served as the U.S. vicar of Opus Dei from 1998-2002.

Starting in 2007, Fr. Panula became the director of the Catholic Information Center in downtown Washington, D.C. The center includes a bookstore and chapel, offering Mass, adoration, confession and spiritual direction, as well as talks from Catholic speakers.

Under Fr. Panula’s guidance, in 2013 the center began offering an educational fellowship, the Leonine Forum, to help young professionals learn more about the Church’s Social Teaching and service.

Members of Washington D.C.’s Catholic community remembered the priest for his influence in their lives. The Embassy of Poland also mourned his death, linking to his obituary and posting a picture of Fr. Panula giving an opening blessing at an event.

Chad Pecknold, theology professor at The Catholic University of America and leader of several Leonine Forum sessions, remembered the priest on Twitter: “Fr. Arne Panula died today. A hero of the Faith, I'm proud to have called him friend & Father. May God's perpetual light shine upon him. RIP.”

Leonine Fellow and communications professional Elise Italiano commented on social media that Fr. Panula “treated Washington elite, the homeless at his doorstep, and many in between with equal dignity and compassion.”

Another Leonine Fellow, Catherine Szeltner, host of EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, recalled that “Fr. Arne Panula was a man whose eyes were piercing – but his kindness – even more so. It was an honor to know you. Requiem aeternam.”

George Weigel, biographer of Pope John Paul II and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, noted that Fr. Panula served as a spiritual director to many from all walks of life, many of whom had colorful and difficult journeys to the faith.

Weigel, who is a frequent speaker at the Catholic Information Center, said that Fr. Panula helped turn the center into a “vibrant” source of authentic Catholic life and evangelization amid a city associated more with House of Cards than the House of the Lord.

“He was a man deeply in love with the gift of the priesthood, who was, I would also say, completely unclerical. He fully understood that sanctity is not limited to the sanctuary, that everyone is called by baptism to be a saint and he helped people do that,” Weigel added.

“He was really one of the most remarkable priests I have met.”