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Legal challenge to abortion law in Northern Ireland delayed

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Sep 21, 2018 / 01:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A legal challenge to the prosecution of a Northern Irish woman who allegedly procured abortifacient medication for her underage daughter which was to have begun Thursday has been adjourned.

Declan Morgan, Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, said Sept. 20 that “dealing with the case in the absence of understanding the Public Prosecution Service response to the Supreme Court would be entirely inappropriate.”

Abortion is legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother's life is at risk or if there is risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health. Abortion pills are illegal in Northern Ireland.

In June, the UK Supreme Court threw out a case challenging Northern Ireland's abortion law, saying the commission which brought the case does not have standing to do so. However, the judges also said the current law violates the European Convention on Human Rights by banning abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, and incest.

Morgan has delayed the hearing challenging the law, directing prosecutors to respond to the Supreme Court's indications within two weeks.

The woman faces two charges of unlawfully procuring and supplying the pills with intent to cause a miscarriage under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

She had purchased the pills online in July 2013 for her 15-year-old daughter.

Bernie Smyth, a spokesperson for the pro-life group Precious Life, said outside the Belfast court that “the importance of this case is to send a very clear message out to the people in Northern Ireland, to women in Northern Ireland who would feel maybe their only option is to purchase very dangerous illegal abortion pills and we are saying there is another way.”

“It is vitally important that we uphold the law here in Northern Ireland,” iNews reported Smyth as saying.

Elective abortion is legal in the rest of the United Kingdom up to 24 weeks, and Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.

Bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

In its June 2018 judgement, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that banning the abortion of unborn children with serious, but not fatal, abnormalities is compatible with the ECHR.

Northern Ireland's abortion law could be taken up by either the Northern Ireland Assembly or the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The Northern Ireland Assembly is currently suspended. The Democratic Unionist Party, the largest party, is opposed to changing the law. Sinn Féin, another prominent party in Northern Ireland, backs a liberalization of the abortion law.

British prime minister Theresa May has said abortion should be a devolved issue for Northern Ireland. But Labour MP Diana Johnson is expected to introduce next month into the British Parliament a bill to decriminalize abortion in Northern Ireland.

Catholic groups aid Philippines in wake of Typhoon Mangkut

Cebu, Philippines, Sep 21, 2018 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following a powerful typhoon that struck several Northern provinces in the Philippines late last week, Catholic relief groups are working to provide essential post-storm aid.

Typhoon Mangkut made landfall at Baggao in the province of Cagayan Sept. 14, bringing with it winds of 125 mph. At least 88 people have been killed and more than 60 are missing, according to Time.

UCA News reported that the typhoon has brought damage to 30 provinces across the Philippines and more than 264,000 people have been affected, including over 37,000 displaced individuals.

The most damaged regions are Cagayan Valley, a major source of the country’s corn and rice, and Benguet, a landlocked area known for its agriculture and mining. In some areas, residents have lost access to food, clean water, and other necessities.

Catholic Relief Services said an estimated 1.6 million farmers and fishermen have been affected, and up to 90 percent of the area’s corn and rice crops have been destroyed.

Due to landslides caused by the typhoon, many mountain communities remain isolated, and more damage is expected to be found as emergency teams gain access to these areas.

“We are having difficulty reaching distant barangays (villages) because of boulders, debris and landslides along the roads. The soil is still saturated and unsettled and we are concerned about additional landslides,” said Aprilynn Villamar, an emergency program officer with CRS.

“Some families in evacuation centers are not sure where they will go or how they will rebuild their houses. There are evacuees who are showing signs of shock. This is the most devastating thing they've ever experienced.”

Catholic Relief Services is sending water purification and storage kits to areas hit by the typhoon, and said shelter kits and cash assistance will follow shortly.

Caritas Internationalis has launched an appeal in Rome for financial relief efforts in the Philippines, saying, "After the storm has passed people will need help to restore their livelihoods.”

Pope's Baltics visit to honor those who sacrificed for freedom

Vilnius, Lithuania, Sep 21, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of his visit to the Baltic states Sept. 22-25, Pope Francis praised liberty and said his trip would honor those who have sacrificed for the freedom the countries now experience.

In a video message to the people of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia Sept. 20, Francis said freedom, “as we know, is a treasure that must be constantly preserved and handed down, as a precious heritage, to the new generations.”

His visit coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Baltic states, which were part of the Russian Empire until 1917 and gained independence in 1918.

They became part of Soviet Union in 1940-1941, endured Nazi domination in 1940-1944, and were returned to the Soviet Union in 1945. In 1991, they regained democratic independence, and have been members of NATO and the EU since 2004.

The pope said his visit “will honor all those whose sacrifices in the past have made possible the liberties of the present.”

“In times of darkness, violence and persecution, the flame of freedom is not extinguished, but inspires the hope of a future in which the dignity given by God to each person is respected and we all feel called to collaborate in the construction of a just and fraternal society,” he said.

Today a sense of solidarity and service to the common good is more important than ever, he continued, saying he hopes his visit will be a source of encouragement to people “inspired by the deepest spiritual and cultural values inherited from the past,” who are working to relieve suffering and promote peace and unity.

Pope Francis’ four-day visit to the Baltics will include the usual meetings with authorities, with priests and religious, and with youth. He will also celebrate three Masses, one in each country.

He will also pray a decade of the rosary in the chapel of the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, which contains an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of Mercy – an important shrine and place of pilgrimage in Lithuania.

In Latvia, he will stop to pray at the tomb of St. Meinhard in the now-Lutheran cathedral in Riga. And in Tallinn, Estonia, he will visit the cathedral where the first Estonian martyr, a Jesuit, was last seen alive.

He will participate in ecumenical prayer meetings in Latvia and with youth in Estonia, where there are only around 5,000 Catholics in a population of 1.3 million. About 16 percent of the population is Eastern Orthodox and about 10 percent are Lutheran. Around 54 percent identify as non-religious.  

In Latvia, Lutheranism accounts for about 34 percent of the population of just under 2 million and Catholics make up 25 percent, primarily in the eastern portion of the country.

He will travel by helicopter to the other side of Latvia, to the Marian shrine at Agrona, where he will celebrate Mass. He will also make stops at several markers of historical significance in the three countries.

Indian bishop accused of rape arrested

Kochi, India, Sep 21, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur was arrested by Kerala police Friday over allegations that he raped a nun repeatedly over the course of two years. The bishop denies the accusations.

The Sept. 21 arrest was made in Kochi after three days of interrogation. The bishop will be brought to court Saturday, the BBC reports.

Mulakkal, 54, wrote to the Vatican last week asking to be relieved of administration of his diocese; his request was granted, and Bishop Agnelo Gracias, an Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Bombay, was appointed apostolic administrator of Jullundur Sept. 20.

A nun, who is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, has said that Bishop Mulakkal raped her during his May 2014 visit to her convent in Kuravilangad, in Kerala. In a 72-page complaint to police, filed June 29, she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.

During his questioning by police, Bishop Mulakkal made several inconsistent statements, India Today reported.

According to India Today, the bishop claimed he did not stay at the Kuravilangad convent May 5, 2014, when the nun alleges she was first raped by him, but that he visited the convent, while he stayed the night at a convent in Muthalakodam.

“When police cross-checked this information with his driver and another nun who made entries of his visit in the register, they found that the bishop and his driver actually stayed in the Kuravilangad convent on the said day,” the Uttar Pradesh-based outlet reported.

A nun in the Muthalakodam convent denied he visited them, and data from the bishop's mobile phone indicated he was present at the Kuravilangad convent that night.

A group of seven nuns, most of them Missionaries of Jesus, began protesting state and Church inaction over the matter Sept. 8 in Kochi.

Bishop Mulakkal has claimed the allegations were made in retaliation against him because he has acted against the nun’s sexual misconduct, the bishop told UCA News. He said the nun was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin's husband.

Three more women have accused the bishop in recent days of sexual misconduct against them, but the Missionaries of Jesus' superior general maintains that the bishop is innocent. The congregation is based in the Jullundur diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal is its patron.

US nuncio to Encuentro: Missionaries must first know the joy of Christ

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A missionary disciple is one who has encountered Christ personally and is then able to bring him to others, Archbishop Christophe Pierre said Thursday at the National V Encuentro.  

Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, addressed approximately 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic and Latino background gathered for the summit in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20. The event is the culmination of four years of consultation and workshops at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels of the Church in the U.S.

This year, the National Encuentro’s theme is “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God.”

Pierre said he believes, as do Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, that one must first encounter the person of Christ before one can become a missionary.

“For (Pope Francis), the whole missionary endeavour begins with an encounter with Christ,” Pierre said.

“The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,” Pierre said, quoting the beginning of Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium. “Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”

Benedict also began his first encyclical reflecting on the personal encounter with Christ which every Christian must have, Pierre noted.

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction,” Pierre said, quoting Benedict’s 2005 encyclical Deus caritas est.

This joy of encountering Christ breathes life into the missionary, who is then able to go out and encounter God’s people, Pierre said.

A Church filled with “missionary impulse” is one that channels her “customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures...for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation,” Pierre noted, referencing Evangelii gaudium.

“Just as wind pushes against a sail and causes a boat to move upon the water, so too the Spirit of God pushes the whole Church to go forth into the world, attentive to the signs of the times and the needs of the people, jettisoning that which is obsolete,” Pierre said.

The missionary spirit which leads to a conversion of heart must be inspired by belief in the God and the Church, Pierre added.

“We have to believe in the Church, this is important today not to forget...believe in the Church who makes Christ incarnate in the culture and among the people,” he said.

This conversion of heart and a missionary spirit must happen within pastors and Church leaders as well, Pierre noted, as they listen to and learn from the different people whom they serve.

“People’s religious experiences, including those of the Latinos, are an authentic place of encounter with God,” he said. “Pastoral conversion means moving from mere conservation to a decidedly pastoral ministry. Pastoral and missionary conversion go hand in hand with a conversion of attitudes and a conversion of statues.”

A Church full of missionary spirit is one that accompanies people and remains united - in a word, a missionary Church has “synodality,” he said, something that can be seen incarnate in the mission of Encuentro.

“The Encuentro process has shown the effectiveness of synodality in the Church,” Pierre added. “Listening, speaking, participating by asking critical questions and discerning the path forward .if Communion is a sharing of the faithful in the mysteries of faith and mission of the church, synodality is a sign and fulfillment of communion.”

Another characteristic of a missionary Church is joy, Pierre said. It celebrates “even small victories in the work of evangelization” and is nourished by the Eucharist, the sacrament in which “Christ is among us, and the joy that he has won is preserved and shared.”

Finally, Pierre said, a missionary Church is one that is not afraid to go to the “peripheries”, both geographical and cultural, to encounter people and bring Christ to them.

“It is my sincere hope that as we gather for these days, we may be the church that Christ wants us to be,” Pierre concluded.

“With (Jesus) at the center of our lives, our conversations and our ministries, confident that with the Virgin of Guadalupe to accompany us and intercede for us, may we always move forward in hope, making known the joy of the Gospel.”