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After teacher beheaded, some in France turn to Fr. Jacques Hamel

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 02:13 pm (CNA).-  

Religious leaders gathered at a memorial to slain French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel Sunday, following the beheading of a Paris school teacher in an Islamist terror attack.

Catholic Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen was joined by representatives of Muslim, Jewish, and other Christian communities Oct. 18 at the memorial near the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, where Hamel was murdered by Islamists in 2016.

They laid a wreath in honor of Samuel Paty, who was killed Oct. 16 in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb of Paris. The religious leaders then observed a minute’s silence.

In a statement, members of the interfaith committee of Rouen said they had gathered “to express their shock and utmost condemnation of the murder.”

“God cannot ask to kill,” they said, alluding to reports that the perpetrator, Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, attacked Paty after the teacher showed his class a cartoon depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Eyewitnesses said that Anzorov shouted “Allahu akbar” -- Arabic for “God is great” -- as he murdered Paty near the middle school where he taught. The 18-year-old Russian national of Chechen origin was shot dead by police shortly after the murder.

The religious leaders said that they committed themselves, “each according to their tradition, to guide their community, to educate the youth, so that they build a true fraternity with all where dialogue replaces violence.”

 

Le Comité interconfessionnel de Rouen a déposé aujourd'hui une gerbe en hommage à Samuel Paty devant la stèle érigée en mémoire du Père Jacques Hamel, à Saint-Étienne du Rouvray. Ses membres ont ensuite observé une longue minute de silence en mémoire de l'enseignant assassiné. pic.twitter.com/CNCuNcY4qA

— Diocèse de Rouen - Eglise catholique (@DioceseRouen) October 18, 2020  

In a separate statement Oct. 17, Lebrun -- who was Hamel’s bishop -- extended the condolences of Catholics in Rouen diocese to Paty’s family.

“May the murderer and those who feed fanaticism find light in an authentic encounter with God. God never wants death, not even that of the wicked. He wants humanity to turn away from evil to rediscover its vocation to love,” the bishop said in a statement cosigned with two other Catholic officials.

Other French bishops joined Lebrun in lamenting Paty’s murder.

Bishop Éric Aumonier of Versailles, the diocese that includes Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, said Oct. 16 that the killing “shakes us, like all citizens attached to the values of freedom, equality and fraternity.”

“We carry him in our prayers, with his family, colleagues, students, and all those who are deeply wounded by this appalling act,” Aumonier said in a joint statement with Versailles auxiliary Bishop Bruno Valentin.

Hamel was killed by supporters of the Islamic State while offering Mass July 26, 2016. The Rouen diocese began a preliminary inquiry into the priest’s sainthood cause the same year, after Pope Francis waived the traditional five-year waiting period.

 

 

 

UK court to review Down Syndrome abortion law

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The High Court of England and Wales has agreed to hear a challenge to the country’s abortion law, which allows children with Down syndrome to be aborted until birth, as discriminatory towards people diagnosed with the condition. 

The application, which was filed by Heidi Crowter, a woman with Down syndrome, and Máire Lea-Wilson, mother of 16-month-old son Aiden, who has Down syndrome, was granted on October 17. 

Lawyer Paul Conrathe, who represents Crowter and Lea-Wilson, called it a “hugely significant moment.” 

“The Court has recognized it is arguable that the State is acting unlawfully towards babies with Down’s Syndrome by allowing them to be aborted up to birth,” said Coranthe in a statement released on Saturday. 

Now, said Coranthe, the government has to “prepare its detailed evidence” saying that allowing abortion until birth for babies with Down syndrome is not discriminatory, which the court will review.

He stated that he expected the trial will happen “early next year.” 

Abortion is legal in the United Kingdom until the 24th week of pregnancy, except for when continuing the pregnancy is dangerous to the physical or mental health of the mother, as well as in cases where the baby will "suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped."

Lea-Wilson’s son Aiden was not diagnosed with Down syndrome until the 34th week of his gestation. He was born two weeks later, at 36 weeks and three days gestation. She said that she was offered the option to abort Aiden three times after he was diagnosed. 

“During this time of great vulnerability, I was told that my child would not be able to live independently, might not be able to walk or talk, would suffer through surgeries to correct his intestinal issues and possible congenital heart defects, that there was a high chance of stillbirth, and that he would make our lives so much more challenging,” she said in a statement published by Sky News. 

Lea-Wilson said being repeatedly offered an abortion gave her the sense that Down syndrome “must be very, very bad indeed.”

Instead, she said, her son is “a delight” and has exceeded her expectations, but she remains concerned about his future, and cannot trust that he will be treated equally under U.K. law. 

“We live in a society that proclaims that we want to empower those with disabilities, and that regardless of your background, you deserve a fair and equal chance at life,” she said. 

“This law, which allows abortion up until birth, is outdated, and we can do so much better than this.”

Report: Secret audio recording shows key figures discussing Vatican’s London property deal

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- An Italian newspaper claimed Monday that it had gained access to a secret audio recording of a meeting between three central figures in the Vatican’s controversial London property deal.

In a report published Oct. 19, the Corriere della Sera newspaper said it had heard “extensive excerpts” from a meeting between Gianluigi Torzi, Fabrizio Tirabassi, and Enrico Crasso on Dec. 19, 2018. 

The report, which includes the audio file, said the three men can be heard discussing the deal which is now at the center of a criminal investigation by the Vatican judiciary. 

CNA has not independently verified the authenticity of the recording, which the newspaper said was “at times incomprehensible.”

Corriere della Sera said the meeting took place in a private room at the five-star Bulgari Hotel in Milan, two weeks after the Vatican Secretariat of State reached a deal to end its relationship with the Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione and take full ownership of a building on London’s Sloane Avenue.

According to the newspaper, Tirabassi, a lay official at the Secretariat of State who oversaw investments, can be heard in the recording thanking Torzi, an Italian broker, for his help in securing the deal.

Tirabassi then allegedly tried to persuade Torzi to part with a thousand voting shares belonging to Gutt SA, Torzi’s Luxembourg-based company that took over the building at 60 Sloane Avenue and meant to act as a pass through between Mincione and the Vatican.

Corriere della Sera claimed that Tirabassi warned Torzi of the possibility that “everything will be centralized” at the Vatican amid financial reforms, weakening the discretionary authority of the Secretariat of State over investments. 

“This is not good for you,” he allegedly told Torzi.

Torzi then reportedly pushed to be paid up to 10 million euros. The newspaper added that Torzi said that he needed help regarding the purchase of a real estate bond using Vatican funds. 

“Tomorrow if you don’t buy Augusto I’m in the [expletive],” he allegedly said, insisting on an eight million euro investment. 

The newspaper reported that during an animated discussion that followed, Crasso, a longtime investment manager for the Vatican, tried to mediate. It claimed that he suggested a pay-off for Torzi of between six and 10 million, established by a contract. 

The Corriere della Sera said that the meeting ended without an agreement, but that Torzi received 15 million euros from the Secretariat of State in May 2019. 

On June 5, Vatican officials arrested Torzi for his role in the London property deal, charging him with “extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and money laundering.” 

Torzi was granted bail on June 15, following questioning about the sale and purchase of the building at 60 Sloane Avenue.

Tirabassi was one of five Vatican employees suspended in October 2019, following a raid conducted by Vatican gendarmes, who seized computers and documents related to financial dealings at the department.

CNA has previously reported that Tirabassi was appointed a director of a company owned by Torzi while the businessman was finalizing the Vatican’s purchase of the London property.

According to corporate filings, Tirabassi, who was responsible for managing financial investments for the secretariat, was appointed a director of Gutt SA, the Luxembourg company owned by Torzi and used to transfer ownership of the building between Mincione and the Vatican.

Filings for Gutt SA with the Luxembourg Registre de Commerce et des Sociétés show that Tirabassi was appointed a director on Nov. 23, 2018 and removed by a filing sent on Dec. 27. At the time of his appointment as director, Tirabassi’s business address was listed as the Secretariat of State in Vatican City.

In May this year, CNA asked Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin if he was aware of the appointment, and whether he considered it appropriate for an official at the secretariat to accept such a position. CNA also asked if officials at the secretariat are generally permitted to accept such positions.

Parolin told CNA at the time that it would not be appropriate for him to respond, “especially taking into account the ongoing legal proceedings.” 

Earlier this month, Crasso defended his stewardship of Church funds controlled by the Secretariat of State, saying that the investments he had made were “no secret.”

Colorado's Catholic dioceses pay $6.6 million in abuse settlements

Denver, Colo., Oct 19, 2020 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- An independent reparation and reconciliation program for the three dioceses in Colorado announced Friday that $6.68 million had been paid to 73 victims of clerical abuse who were minors at the time the abuse occurred.

The program is administered by Camille Biros and Kenneth Feinberg, independent from control by the Church, and is monitored by an independent board, the Independent Oversight Committee.

The IOC said Oct. 16 that “The administrators and the IOC have received positive feedback from program participants. Many survivors (and their attorneys) have commended the option to seek compensation in a non-adversarial forum independent from the Dioceses and without regard for the statute of limitations.”

The program was accounced in October 2019, and the claims process has now closed.

During the process, 98 claims were made, of which 81 were determined to be eligible for compensation.

The $6.68 million has been paid to 73 victims. Of the remaining eight, one is being paid; four have not yet responded to the compensation offer, and three are awaiting law enforcement notification by the claimants.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said Oct. 16 told the victims who participated in the program, “I have met with all of you who requested a meeting in which I could offer an apology to you in person, and will meet with anyone else should you desire to do so. I know others have chosen a different path for healing and I, of course, respect your wishes. Please know, on behalf of myself and the Church, I am deeply sorry for the pain and hurt that was caused by the abuse you suffered.”

“I remain steadfastly committed to meeting with any survivor who desires to meet with me and doing everything I can so that the problems of the past never repeat themselves. I know that money cannot fully heal the wounds you suffered, but hope that those of you who came forward felt heard, acknowledged, and that the reparations offer a measure of justice and access to resources,” he added.

The archbishop told any victims who have not come forward that the archdiocese “can help you find other resources that will provide the assistance you need.”

The program followed the release of a report issued after a seven-month investigation conducted by a former U.S. Attorney, Bob Troyer. Colorado’s bishops and the state’s attorney general decided mutually to support the investigation, which was funded by an anonymous donor.

That October 2019 report found that 43 diocesan priests since 1950 had been credibly accused of sexually abusing at least 166 children in the state.

Archbishop Aquila noted that “some substantiated allegations in the Program were made against priests not previously identified” in the October 2019 report, and said that “the identity of priests who were accused of wrongdoing in the Program process where those allegations were deemed substantiated … will be included in an addendum.”

Troyer will prepare that report as well, which is expected to be released nexth month.

“None of the survivors who participated in the Program reported abuse in the last 20 years – meaning
that the abuse alleged in the Program, like that set out in the Special Master’s original report, involves
incidents that occurred decades ago,” the archbishop added.

Nearly 70% of victims identified in the October 2019 were abused in the 1960s and 1970s, and the most recent acts of clerical sexual abuse documented in the report took place in 1998, when a now incarcerated and laicized Denver priest sexually abused a teenage boy.

The IOC said the most recent time frame of abuse in the report or the IRRP process is 1999.

Archbishop Aquila stated that “this independent program and the independent review conducted by the dioceses in Colorado in cooperation with the Attorney General have put a spotlight on a horrifying chapter in our history, but it has also shown that the steps we have taken over the past 30 years – including our training and empowerment of thousands of faithful parishioners and volunteers across the Archdiocese – have been effective. Most of all, it has taught us to be open and care for victims of abuse as they deem best, and to always be vigilant to make sure the Church is a safe place.”

Appeals court uphold Kentucky abortion regulations

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- A federal appeals court upheld abortion regulations in the state of Kentucky on Friday. The three-judge panel on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that abortion providers failed to prove that a 1998 Kentucky abortion law, and its 2017 update, would result in the closure of all abortion facilities in the state.

Abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, had challenged the 1998 state law requiring abortion facilities to have a transfer agreement with local hospitals in case of medical complications that could arise from abortions. The facilities also had to have an agreement in place for ambulance transport.

In 2017, the state imposed stricter regulations, including that a transfer agreement be with a state-licensed acute care hospital within a certain distance of the abortion facility. It also included a 90-day window for facilities to apply for a waiver to show that they could not get a transfer agreement despite having exhausted all options to do so.

Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky challenged the regulations, saying they would result in the  closure of all abortion facilities in state. A federal district court sided with them, before the Sixth Circuit reversed that decision in part on Friday.

The plaintiffs, EMW, “have failed to make a clear showing that both of their abortion facilities would close” because of the laws, Judge Joan Larsen stated in her opinion, joined by Judge Chad Readler.

The law was rooted in the state’s interest in protecting public health, the judges said, noting that “we cannot say that laws requiring abortion facilities to have transfer and transport agreements with a local hospital are not reasonably related to a legitimate government end.”

Earlier this year, in the case of June Medical Services, the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law requiring doctors at abortion facilities to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

However, the judges wrote on Friday, Chief Justice John Roberts’ concurrence in the ruling allowed state regulations of abortion to stand if they satisfied two requirements: that they are “‘reasonably related’ to a legitimate state interest,” and that they not put a “substantial obstacle” in the way of a woman obtaining an abortion.

The state law was in the interest of public health, and it allowed facilities to apply for a waiver if they could not satisfy the requirements of the law but had made a good-faith effort to do so, the judges said. 

In the June decision, Chief Justice Roberts said that the Court’s 2016 ruling against a Texas law on admitting privileges, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt—upon which the majority of justices relied in the June Medical case as precedent—was wrongly decided.

However, Roberts applied the legal principle of stare decisis to argue that the 2016 case was settled and the court’s ruling needed to be applied to Louisiana’s abortion law.

In Chile, archbishop condemns arson attacks that destroyed Catholic churches

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 10:18 am (CNA).-  

The Archbishop of Santiago de Chile condemned arson attacks that destroyed two Chilean churches Sunday, and called on Catholics to carry out acts of reparation for the attacks.

 

?VIDEO | On Sunday, Oct. 18, groups of hooded protesters entered two of the oldest churches in #Chile’s capital city, setting fire to the St. Francis Borgia Church and to the Church of the Assumption.
Read more: https://t.co/OMQIpeZHlT#Catholic pic.twitter.com/l4reQ5rS99

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) October 19, 2020  

On Oct. 18, groups of hooded protesters entered two churches in Chile’s capital city, setting fire to the St. Francis Borgia Church, which is the church of the country’s national police force, and to the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Both churches are among the oldest in Santiago.

 

¿Y a esto le llaman progresismo?
No son buenos días en Chile.pic.twitter.com/3suwk6RQZr

— Doña PiIy (@dona_pily) October 19, 2020  

The spire of the Church of the Assumption collapsed as the church burned, drawing cheers from demonstrators protesting outside the building. The interior of the St. Francis Borgia Church was gutted by the fire, and both buildings may be beyond repair.

The attacks came as demonstrators across the country called for a constitution, and marked the one year anniversary of large anti-government protests that took place across Chile last year, during which riots destroyed supermarkets and other businesses, and reportedly caused more than 30 deaths.

The demonstrations began last October in Santiago over a now-suspended increase in subway fares. Other regions joined in the protests, expanding their grievances to inequality and the cost of healthcare.

A number of churches across Chile have been attacked and looted amid the demonstrations in the country.

Rioters have previously set fires inside St. Francis Borgia Church; in January the church suffered heavy damage after fires were set and demonstrators blocked firefighters trying to access the Church.

In a statement published late Sunday, Archbishop Celestino Aós condemned the attacks.

“Violence is evil, and whoever sows violence reaps destruction, pain and death. Let us never justify any violence,” for political or social purposes, the archbishop said.

"The poor are the most affected" by these acts of vandalism, the archbishop said, as he expressed solidarity with parishioners from both churches destroyed by the fires.

Aós called on Catholics not to lose faith or hope, because "love is stronger."

“Let us not justify the unjustifiable. God does not want violence. We will come together to do acts of penance and reparation as a believing community,” he said.

 

A version of this report was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Blessed Carlo Acutis’ tomb closes after extended time of public veneration

Rome Newsroom, Oct 19, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The glass that has allowed pilgrims to view Blessed Carlo Acutis will be permanently covered Monday as the official multi-week celebration of the Italian teen’s beatification in Assisi comes to an end. 

Bishop Marcello Semeraro, the new prefect for the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will offer the Mass to mark the closing of his tomb on the evening of Oct. 19.

Though covered, Acutis’ tomb will remain in the Church of St. Mary Major’s Sanctuary of Spoliation in Assisi, where visitors will be able to pray before the tomb for years to come.

Thousands of people have already visited the final resting place of the young computer programmer and gamer, according to the Diocese of Assisi. The diocese announced last week its decision to extend the period of public veneration which began on Oct. 1 until Oct. 19.

Photos released after the opening of Acutis’ tomb on Oct. 1 caused some confusion online as to whether he might have been found to be incorrupt, which led the bishop of Assisi, Domenico Sorrentino, to clarify that the boy’s body, though intact, “was found in the normal state of transformation typical of the cadaveric condition.”

Pilgrims who stood in line outside the church in the weeks before and after Acutis’ Oct. 10 beatification were able to see a young person on the path to sainthood who lies in repose in jeans and a pair of Nike tennis shoes.

Sorrentino said in his homily at a Mass at the tomb Oct. 17 that Acutis, like St. Francis of Assisi, was “capable of speaking the language of young people, which is the language of originality, of authenticity.”

“Carlo and Francis want to speak to young people in their language to say that they are joyful, happy, original, but on the right path, which is the way of Jesus. We must therefore ensure that this language of theirs reaches young people,” he added.

In a Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Acutis became the first millennial to be beatified

Growing up in Milan in the 1990s and early 2000s, he played video games and taught himself C++ and other computer programming languages. But many have testified that the center of the teen’s life was his strong devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

From a young age, Acutis expressed a special love for God, even though his parents weren’t especially devout. As he grew older, he started attending daily Mass, often making Holy Hours before or after Mass, and went to confession weekly.

He built websites to inform others about Eucharistic miracles and Marian apparitions around the world. On his site, he told people, “the more often we receive the Eucharist, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.”

Acutis died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15. He offered his sufferings for Pope Benedict XVI and for the Church, saying: “I offer all the suffering I will have to suffer for the Lord, for the pope, and the Church.”

Judge denies Brooklyn diocese injunction against NY coronavirus restrictions

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- A federal court ruled against the Diocese of Brooklyn on Friday in its case against new coronavirus restrictions which impose local limits on Mass attendance.

The diocese had sued the state of New York on Oct. 8 over new public health restrictions that limited the size of gatherings in certain “hot spots” around the state, or localities where the new coronavirus has been spreading. Certain churches in Brooklyn and Queens were effectively limited to holding 10 or 25 people for indoor Masses, under the new rules.

On Friday, a federal judge for the Eastern District of New York denied the diocese’s motion to halt the implementation of the restrictions. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn said he was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling and is considering an appeal.

The diocese had argued that religious institutions had been wrongly singled out as “non essential,” and held churches to a higher standard of restrictions compared to other venues, including retail outlets. 

 

"Despite this loss," DiMarzio said, "we will continue to press our leaders for policies that consider the individual circumstances of houses of worship."

"We will also continue to advocate for places of worship to be classified as essential, for there is nothing more necessary today than a community of believers, united in prayer, asking the Lord to end this pandemic."

In his opinion on Friday, Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that the state did not unlawfully single out religion for its restrictions, noting that its rules applied to other non-religious gatherings as well. New York also presented sufficient evidence to show that its decision was based on scientific and epidemiological considerations, he said.

If the court ruled in favor of the diocese and religious gatherings subsequently resulted in spreading the virus, Garaufis said, such a scenario would result in “avoidable death” and “overwhelming” damage; conversely, if the court sided wrongly with the state, it would bring a less grave consequence: “severely curtailed in-person ceremonies.”

Bishop DiMarzio, however, said that it was “a shame our parishioners in the red zones cannot return to Mass when the judge acknowledged we have done everything right.”

In a previous interview with CNA, Bishop DiMarzio said that the diocese had worked with public health officials to reopen churches safely in July; safety measures such as mask mandates and social distancing had been enforced, and churches were open only at 25% capacity.

“The proof of our compliance is the fact that we have not had any COVID outbreaks or significant cases in either our churches or schools,” he said on Friday in a written statement.

Despite refusing an injunction, Judge Garaufis praised the diocese on Friday for having “been an exemplar of community leadership” that “at each step…has been ahead of the curve, enforcing stricter safety protocols than the State required at the given moment.”

The new state rules established a color-code system for the severity of virus outbreaks within various localities; “red” zones represented the worst outbreaks and thus merited the strictest limits, while “orange” zones represented the next level of outbreak.

Churches in “red” zones are limited to 25% capacity or ten people, whichever number is smaller; churches in “orange” zones are limited to 33% capacity or 25 people, whichever number is smaller. Bishop DiMarzio told CNA that churches in the diocese are large and have been safely accommodating people at 25% capacity for months without a known outbreak.

Following the ruling, churches in the “red” zones will be closed, Bishop DiMarzio said, as the 10-person limit is “extremely difficult to implement because we never want to turn away worshippers.”

The state’s new rules affected religious and social gatherings and “non-essential” businesses such as gyms, barber shops, and hair salons, but some businesses including grocery stores were labeled “essential” and were not subject to the restrictions.

The rules presented a double-standard, DiMarzio told CNA on Friday before the court issued its ruling, arguing that religious gatherings are “essential” and should only be subject to reasonable health restrictions--such as the safety measures already enforced by churches for months.

“We are relegated to the sidelines, religion,” he said. “Religion is the problem of society, [according to] the way people think today.”

“In the past, you would think the non-profit sector, religion, was a pillar of the society along with the business community and with the government," said DiMarzio. 

"This was what held society together. Now, that kind of a thesis of how society works is long since gone, unfortunately,” he said.

Welsh government accused of seeing Catholic schools as a ‘problem’

CNA Staff, Oct 19, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- The Welsh government appears to see Catholic schools as a “problem,” a Church education adviser said Monday as officials press ahead with plans for a radical shake-up of religious education.  

Angela Keller, Wales Adviser of the Catholic Education Service (CES), made the comment in an Oct. 19 press statement after giving evidence against the changes to a Welsh parliamentary committee.  

She said: “It’s hurtful that the Welsh government appears to see Catholic schools as the problem because we teach Catholic RE. The Welsh government needs to start trusting Catholic schools and the professionals who work extremely hard in them.” 

The authorities are moving forward with plans to rename Religious Education as “Religion, Values and Ethics” in a new curriculum, despite widespread opposition.

Catholic educators argue that the new proposals would place additional legal burdens on Catholic schools, obliging them to teach an additional secular RE curriculum. 

They say that under the new plans, a non-Catholic parent could demand secular RE for their child in a Catholic school, but a Catholic parent could not ask for Catholic RE to be provided in a secular school.

Appearing before the children, young people, and education committee via video link Oct. 15, Keller said that the Welsh government risked “losing the trust of the Catholic community” if it insisted on changes to RE to Catholic schools. 

Speaking after the evidence session, she said: “Everyone giving evidence represented either a state partner or a member of the RE profession, and each one of us said the Welsh government was going in the wrong direction.”

Ahead of Keller’s appearance, the CES sent a hard-hitting written submission to the committee, which is scrutinizing the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill.

The CES criticized the government for failing to adjust the timetable for the bill despite the pressures on schools resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

It said: “Trust in the legislative process has certainly been damaged by the lack of engagement and involvement so far of the state’s partners in delivering education to the nation.” 

“Repeated assurances over a number of years that Catholic schools’ ability to continue to teach Catholic RE would not be threatened have been undermined by the contents of the bill.”

The CES also accused the government of ignoring an “unprecedented letter of concern” signed in June by all 84 headteachers of Catholic schools in Wales.

The letter, addressed to Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, said: “In seeking to enforce so-called ‘neutral values’ curriculum, which we would argue is impractical and undesirable for today’s Welsh society, the risk is that the government is moving towards a homogeneous education system which will no longer recognize the importance of allowing children to pursue a deep knowledge and spiritual understanding of faith.” 

It added: “We would seek your reassurance that it is not the government’s intention to damage the distinctive Catholic nature of our schools.” 

The CES submission also warned the government that it risked undermining the role of parents as primary educators of their children if it removed parents’ right to withdraw their children from both RE and Relationship and Sex Education.

It said: “The removal the right of withdrawal is an erosion of parental rights and represents a regressive step in the trust and relationship between parents and the state, and parents and schools.”

The CES also expressed concern that the proposal could pave the way for future infringements of religious freedom.

It said that a clause in the new bill “means that the Welsh government could specify content and teaching of Catholic RE for pupils above the age of 14. The Welsh government could require pupils in Catholic schools to engage in courses of study which do not meet the requirements of the denominational religious authority (in our case the diocesan bishop).”

“The Welsh government will be able to introduce these requirements by regulation, which means that the changes would be made without the opportunity for appropriate scrutiny and opportunity for challenge.”

Vatican asks UN to eliminate the risks of satellite collisions in outer space

Rome Newsroom, Oct 19, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- With more and more satellites orbiting the Earth, measures need to be taken to prevent collisions in outer space that give rise to dangerous “space debris,” a Holy See representative has warned the United Nations.

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia said Friday that preventative measures within a “globally-agreed framework” were needed to protect outer space due to the “massive increase in use and dependence” on satellites.

“Despite the unending outward dimension of the space environment, the region just above us is actually becoming relatively crowded and subject to increasing commercial activities,” Caccia, the apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said Oct. 16.

“So many satellites are being launched to provide internet access today, for example, that astronomers are finding that these risk obscuring the study of stars,” the archbishop noted.

The Holy See representative said that it was in the clear interest of all countries to establish “the so-called ‘rules of the road’ to eliminate the risks of satellite collisions.”

There have been roughly 2,200 satellites launched into the Earth’s orbit since 1957. Collisions among those satellites have created debris. There are tens of thousands of pieces of  “space junk” larger than four inches currently in orbit and millions more of smaller size.

The BBC recently reported that two pieces of space junk -- a defunct Russian satellite and a discarded part of a Chinese rocket segment -- narrowly avoided collision. 

“Satellites have become integrally linked to life here on Earth, assisting navigation, supporting global communications, helping forecast the weather, including the tracking of hurricanes and typhoons, and monitoring the global environment,” Caccia said.

“The loss of satellites that provide global positioning services, for example, would have a dramatically negative impact on human life.”

The International Astronautical Federation said in a statement last week that “substantive debris remediation efforts (i.e., operations) have been nearly non-existent to date,” adding that this was in part because “the urgency for debris remediation has not been expressed in a multi-national forum.”

Archbishop Caccia told the UN member states: “Preventing the generation of space debris does not concern only the peaceful uses of outer space. It also must encompass the equally problematic space debris left by military activities.”

He said that the UN must work to preserve the “universal character of outer space, increasing their common interests in it for the benefit of every person regardless of earthly nationality.”

Recently a number of satellites orbiting Earth have been launched by SpaceX, a private company owned by Elon Musk, rather than by individual states. The company has 400 to 500 satellites in orbit with the goal of creating a network of 12,000 satellites.

The U.S. government launched an initiative earlier this year with the “Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources” executive order, which aims to work toward mining the moon for its resources. 

The apostolic nuncio proposed that international organizations or consortia could launch satellites, rather than single countries or companies, and that activities that exploit resources in space could be limited to these multilateral organizations.

Caccia concluded by quoting Pope Francis’ recent address to the UN General Assembly: “It is our duty to rethink the future of our common home and our common project. A complex task lies before us, one that requires a frank and coherent dialogue aimed at strengthening multilateralism and cooperation between states. Let us make good use of this institution in order to transform the challenge that lies before us into an opportunity to build together.”