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US aid to Iraqi Christians, Yazidis on fast track via Catholic Relief Services

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2018 / 04:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States Agency for International Development has announced it is investing $10 million into coalitions led by Catholic Relief Services and Heartland Alliance to help rebuild Christian and other minority communities in Iraq who suffered genocide under the Islamic State.

“In Iraq, although the coalition has largely driven ISIS from the battlefield, much of Northern Iraq now faces the daunting task of repairing broken infrastructure and rebuilding a shattered social fabric,” said USAID Administrator Mark Green as he announced the funding at the Interaction Forum in Washington, D.C., June 14.

The announcement came one week after reports that Vice President Mike Pence was “incensed” over the “bureaucratic delays” in delivering aid promised to the Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq.

The United States government will stop using “slow, ineffective and wasteful United Nations programs and to instead distribute assistance through USAID in order to provide faster and more direct aid to Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq,” according to the vice president’s press secretary.

Pence has directed Green to travel to Baghdad and Erbil in the coming weeks to “report back with an immediate comprehensive assessment addressing any issues that could delay the process of aid distribution.”

Kevin Hartigan, Catholic Relief Services’ regional director for Europe and the Middle East, told CNA that “We are grateful for this new funding that provides greater assistance for Christians and other religious minorities returning to northern Iraq.”

“It will allow Catholic Relief Services to continue and expand the projects we began in 2014, working with Caritas Iraq to provide critical assistance to Christians, Yazidis and many other Iraqis of various faiths who had been displaced by violence and are now returning to their homes,” he continued.

Since 2014, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Iraq have served more than 300,000 Iraqis affected by the conflict through their offices in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul, Dohuk, and Erbil.

CRS will use the most recent funds to “assist the Catholic Church of Iraq to help all war-affected families with the provision of shelter, emergency assistance and education and trauma healing for children,” said Hartigan.

Iraq’s Christian population was devastated by the Islamic State in 2014. Two thirds of the approximately 1.5 million Christians who formerly inhabited Iraq either fled or were forced out by the violence, according to In Defence of Christians.

“ISIS fighters used most of the 45 churches in the old city for shelter, target practice, and torture and, in the case of the Dominican church, as a place to hang their victims from inside the bell tower,” wrote Father Benedict Kiely after visiting Mosul last month.

Iraqi military forces regained control of Mosul from the Islamic State in July 2017; yet only ten Christian families have returned to Mosul’s old city, which had more than 3,000 Christian families in 2014, according to Father Kiely.

“Across the Nineveh Plain, where Christians trace their roots back to the time of the Apostles, many Christians have returned nonetheless,” noted Kiely.

Archbishop Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil said earlier this year that Christians are “scourged, wounded, but still there.”

Pope donates to volcano relief efforts in Guatemala

Vatican City, Jun 19, 2018 / 04:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following the largest volcanic eruption in Guatemala in four decades, Pope Francis has sent $100,000 to assist in the emergency relief efforts being carried out in the central American nation.

The sum, which was characterized as an initial contribution, is intended as “an immediate expression of the feeling of spiritual closeness and paternal encouragement on the part of the Holy Father,” a June 19 press release stated.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development is responsible for the distribution of the funds, which will be given to the dioceses most affected by the volcanic eruption for assistance to people and the territory.

“The contribution, which accompanies prayer in support of the beloved Guatemalan population, is part of the aid that is being activated throughout the Catholic Church and which, in addition to various bishops’ conferences, involves numerous charitable organizations,” the release stated.

Guatemala’s disaster agency announced Sunday that search efforts would be permanently suspended in the towns of San Miguel Los Lotes and El Rodeo in the Escuintla municipality, because the zone is “uninhabitable and high risk.”

Search and rescue efforts followed the unexpected June 3 eruption of the “Volcan de Fuego,” or “Volcano of Fire,” one of Guatemala’s most active volcanoes. At least 110 people have died from fallen ash and dirt and 197 are still missing, according to a June 17 statement from disaster agency CONRED.

In a June 5 telegram to Guatemala’s apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Nicolas Henry Marie Denis Thevenin, Pope Francis said he was “deeply distressed in hearing the sad news of the violent eruption” which so far “has caused numerous victims and enormous material damage which has affected a significant number of the area’s inhabitants.”

The pope expressed his support for the families “who weep for the loss of their loved ones,” and for the wounded and those who are working in relief efforts, asking that God would grant them “the gifts of solidarity, spiritual serenity and Christian hope.”

Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Escuintla have been active in providing emergency assistance for the displaced, including hot food, water, and other necessities. Three area Catholic Churches have also opened their doors to shelter victims. More than 1 million people have been affected by the eruption.

The three church shelters are located in Escuintla, Guatemala, near ground-zero for the volcano, whose eruption spewed ash clouds nearly 33,000 feet into the air. The Escuintla district, along with Chimaltenango and Sacatepéquez, are among the areas most affected by the blast, according to CRS.

As assisted suicide law is reinstated, critics say Californians 'deserve better'

Sacramento, Calif., Jun 19, 2018 / 04:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A California judge has reinstated the state’s assisted suicide law, making it legal for terminally ill patients to end their lives while a court case is resolved – a move some critics say targets the vulnerable.

“Assisted suicide limits choice for vulnerable people such as the terminally ill, elderly, individuals with disabilities, and anyone who relies on health insurance to cover treatment,” said Kristen Hanson, the community relations advocate for Patients’ Rights Action Fund.

“It creates perverse economic incentives for insurance companies to deny coverage and deprive patients of lifesaving treatment when lethal drugs are so much cheaper,” Hanson told CNA.

On Friday, the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside, CA issued a stay putting the End of Life Option back into effect. The decision gives opponents until July 2 to file objections.

The law allows patients who have a terminal diagnosis of six months or less to receive fatal drugs prescribed by a doctor.

Last month, the law had been declared unconstitutional by Superior Judge Daniel Ottolia of Riverside County, who said the legislation was “adopted illegally” since it was passed during a legislative session limited to issues other than assisted suicide. 

Attorney General Xavier Becerra appealed Ottolia’s ruling in May, and fought over the past weeks to reinstate the assisted suicide law.

Becerra applauded the state appeals court’s decision, saying it “provides some relief to California patients, their families and doctors who have been living in uncertainty while facing difficult health decisions,” according to the LA Times.

However, patients’ rights activist Matt Valliere called the legislation a distraction from providing real health care to patients.

“The California experience is that assisted suicide is controversial and a distraction,” said Valliere, executive director for Patients’ Rights Action Fund, in a June 18 statement.

“Instead of assisted suicide we ought to focus on delivering real healthcare and treatment choices for patients facing serious disease,” Valliere continued.

The End of Life Option took effect in California in 2016 in the wake of the controversial case of Brittany Maynard, who in 2014 traveled from California to Oregon to obtain lethal drugs to end her life after a terminal brain cancer diagnosis. Within the first six months of legalizing assisted suicide in California, more than 100 people ended their lives.

Physician-assisted suicide is legal by law in the District of Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, and Colorado; and in Montana through a state supreme court ruling. It will become legal in Hawaii next year. A bill to legalize assisted suicide is under consideration in Indiana.

“In other states where assisted suicide has been legalized, we’ve seen some of the consequences: suicide contagion, doctors making mistakes in their prognoses, and clinically depressed people receiving assisted suicide drugs,” Hanson said.

“The people of California deserve better access to palliative care and hospice services, not assisted suicide.”

 

Relic of St Clement found in trash settles into Westminster Cathedral

London, England, Jun 19, 2018 / 03:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A relic discovered last year by a U.K. waste management company found a home Tuesday in London's Westminster Cathedral.

“Choosing an appropriate resting place was very important to us,” said Enviro Waste Owner James Rubin in a statement on the company's website. “Therefore, we think Westminster Cathedral is the best and safest place for the bone due to its importance to the church and to ensure that it won’t get lost again!”

Rubin presented the relic to Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff at the cathedral's Lady Chapel June 19. Archbishop Stack is chair of the English and Welsh bishops' patrimony committee.

The relic will be displayed in the Treasures of Westminster Cathedral Exhibition.

The bone fragment is encased in a wax-sealed case and includes an inscription that it is “from the bones of St. Clement, Pope and Martyr.”

St. Clement was a first-century Christian thought to have been a disciple of Sts. Peter and Paul.

It is believed that St. Clement converted from Judaism to Catholicism, and may have shared in some of the missionary journeys of St. Peter or St. Paul, and assisted them in running the Church at the local level.

Around the year 90, he was raised to the position of Pope, following Peter, Linus, and Cletus. His writings reveal much about the early Church, but little about his own life.

According to one account, he died in exile during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, who purportedly banished Clement to Crimea and had him killed in retaliation for evangelizing the local people, around the year 100. He is among the saints mentioned in the Roman Canon.

In 868, the Greek missionary St. Cyril claimed to have recovered St. Clement's bones.

Enviro Waste conducted public research before deciding what to do with the relic. They posted about it on their website blog in April, requesting input from viewers.

“650+ suggestions and over 9,000 visits to the page” later, the updated post said, they decided that the Westminster Cathedral in London should have it.

The relic's owner has said it was stolen from his car when it was broken into, and agreed to loan it permanently to Westminster Cathedral.

Vice Chair of the patrimony committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Sophie Andreae was the one who reached out to Enviro Waste, requesting the relic’s placement be in the cathedral.

She explained to the BBC why relics are important to Catholics.

“Catholics feel that they have not just a link with a very holy person from the past, but also a link with the divine,” Andreae said.

'Pro-life is Pro-love' – Conference aims to empower women

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 19, 2018 / 02:09 pm (CNA).- This month, hundreds of women will attend a pro-life conference aimed at empowering women through a uniquely pro-life approach.

“At this event by women and for women, we are coming together to proclaim that women’s empowerment cannot be attained by the oppression of other human beings,” read a statement on the Pro-Life Women’s Conference website.

“We are reclaiming the narrative of women’s empowerment; we are reclaiming our voice as the grassroots of the pro-life movement,” the statement continued, inviting women to join the conference for “three days of powerful presentations, fellowship, friendship, and fun.”

The conference, with the theme “Pro-life is Pro-love,” will take place in St. Louis, Missouri from June 22-24 at the St. Charles Convention Center. The event will include keynote speakers, breakout sessions and panel discussions.

Speakers will include Serrin M. Foster, president of the Women Deserve Better campaign; Pat Layton, author, speaker and life coach; and Abby Johnson, founder of the abortion healing ministry And Then There Were None.

The topics of discussion include pregnancy loss, self-care, post-abortion healing, and fertility, and will aim to highlight the dignity of women through a pro-life lens.

In addition to Mass, meals and social opportunities, the conference is also hosting an art contest, which will explore the inherent worth of human beings, placing a particular focus on the dignity, beauty and strength of women. 

This year’s event will be the third pro-life women’s conference. A 2017 event took place in Orlando, Florida, and a 2016 event was held in Dallas, Texas, drawing over 500 women. Registration for the 2018 pro-life conference is currently open.