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Open comment on Northern Ireland abortion clinic buffer zone bill ends soon, critics warn

null / Prostock-studio/Shutterstock.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Nov 9, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).

Peaceful sidewalk efforts to reach women considering an abortion are in peril if a proposed “draconian” Northern Ireland bill passes, pro-life advocates have warned, calling for concerned citizens to respond to the public comment period ending on Friday, Nov. 12.

“The purpose of the bill is to criminalize any pro-life activity around abortion centers in Northern Ireland,” the pro-life group Precious Life objected Nov. 9.

The public comment, formally known as a Call for Evidence, was not publicized by the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Committee for Health, and many pro-life advocates did not hear about the consultation, the group said. 

The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill requires “buffer zones” around abortion clinics. Protests would not be allowed in these zones. The proposal has progressed past the first legislative stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly. If passed, the law would bar not only harassment but also attempts to influence women seeking abortions or employees of abortion clinics.

“These 'Abortion Zones' will rob vulnerable women of an alternative to abortion,” Precious Life said in an action alert. “Pro-life groups have evidence of many women offered help and support outside abortion centers, who decided to keep their babies.” 

“The bill is draconian and oppressive, and totally discriminatory as it only targets and criminalizes pro-life people,” the group continued. “Simply holding a sign; distributing information leaflets; talking to a woman to offer her help, or even praying outside an abortion center will be ‘...punishable on conviction by fines...’ up to £2,500 (about $3,400).”

Patients and employees of abortion clinics are identified in the bill as “protected persons.” Offenses under the bill would include “influencing a protected person, whether directly or indirectly,” “preventing or impeding access by a protected person”, and “causing harassment, alarm or distress to a protected person.”

“Pro-life vigils are peaceful, and the police already have adequate powers to deal with any alleged activity that is against the law,” said Precious Life. The bill would violate freedom of assembly and expression, “fundamental human rights” under the Human Rights Act 1998.

There are two similar “safe zones” in England, enacted by local councils rather than higher-level legislatures. There, Precious Life said, costs to taxpayers have mounted through legal appeals against convictions. These estimated costs run from £150,000 to £250,000, about $200,000 to $340,000. The bill said the majority of similar legal expenses would be paid by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland.

“The Health Service in Northern Ireland is already in crisis due to lack of funding. Taxpayers’ money could be better spent on treating people who are on 10 year waiting lists for treatment, rather than adding more financial burdens to the Health Service by needlessly trying to set up and enforce ‘abortion zones’.”

Precious Life said pro-life advocates should make submissions to the assembly health committee in 'Word' format attached to an email and sent to: [email protected]

The assembly’s website said evidence should “address the specific clauses and schedules of the Bill.”

Clare Bailey, the Member of the Legislative Assembly who introduced the bill, claimed she faced verbal abuse and harassment while volunteering at a Belfast abortion clinic more than 10 years ago. She said she was “spat at.”

“I had holy water splashed on me, I was verbally abused, I had one young woman who was so distressed she ran into four lanes of oncoming traffic to escape the protestors,” she said. 

Michael Robinson, executive director of the British pro-life group Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said such harassment has been “extraordinarily rare.”

“The intimidation of women outside abortion facilities has been proven time and time again to be a lie, while the abuse that pro-lifers have suffered has not been subject to a review at all,” he said, citing a June assault on a pro-life advocate outside a Belfast abortion clinic. 

Proposals for buffer zones around abortion clinics in England and Wales were rejected by the then-British Home Secretary in September 2018, after finding that most abortion protests are peaceful and passive.

The British parliament legalized abortion in Northern Ireland in March 2020, taking advantage of a power sharing dispute between the leading political parties of the self-governing region. Previously, abortion was legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother’s life was imperiled or if there was a risk of long-term or permanent, serious damage to a woman’s mental or physical health.

The new regulations allow elective abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy; abortions up to 24 weeks in cases of risk to the mother's physical or mental health; and abortion without time limit in cases of severe fetal impairment or fatal fetal abnormality.

The region’s Catholic bishops have called the act “an unjust law,” one “which was imposed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland.”

The bishops added that we are “morally obliged, wherever possible, to do all we can to save the lives of unborn children, which could be lost through abortion, and to protect mothers from the pressures they might experience at the time of an unplanned pregnancy.”

Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State, issued a formal direction on July 22 requiring the Northern Ireland Executive and Department of Health to make abortion and post-abortion care available in the region by March 31, 2022. A High Court judge in Belfast recently ruled that Lewis had failed to comply with his duties as Secretary of State by not "expeditiously" making abortion available to women in Northern Ireland.

Cardinal Kasper: Synodal Way’s ‘original sin’ was to set aside evangelization

Cardinal Walter Kasper. / CNA/Bohumil Petrik.

Munich, Germany, Nov 9, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

An influential Catholic theologian has said that the German Synodal Way’s “original sin” was setting aside Pope Francis’ call to focus on evangelization.

Cardinal Walter Kasper has repeatedly expressed concern about the multi-year process bringing together Germany’s bishops and laypeople to discuss the way power is exercised in the Church, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women.

The former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity renewed his critique on Nov. 7 during an online study day organized by the Arbeitskreis Christliche Anthropologie (Christian Anthropology Working Group), reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

In June 2019, Pope Francis sent a 19-page letter to German Catholics urging them to focus on evangelization in the face of a “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.”

“It was the original sin of the Synodal Way that it put aside Pope Francis’ invitation to start from the basic mission of evangelization and thus in fact brought subordinate criteria to the fore,” Kasper said in his live-streamed talk.

“In purely formal terms, it has not abandoned the episcopate, but it has gutted it in its essence. On the whole, according to the synodal text, the bishop is not much different from a chairman of a supervisory board who is elected for a fixed term and can be voted out at any time.”

In his address, the 88-year-old German cardinal reflected on the role of the bishop within Catholic tradition, exploring which responsibilities a bishop can delegate.

Kasper asked whether the Synodal Way’s text on “Power and separation of powers in the Church” made the mistake of putting secondary matters such as “sociology, political science, and the humanities” in first place.

He noted that “today’s bishops are not new apostles; they exercise an apostolic ministry as successors.” The bishop’s mission to witness to and faithfully transmit the Gospel is not a temporary calling, he said.

He suggested that the Synodal Way was attempting to establish a kind of democratic check on power in the Church. He said that the Church could indeed learn from the democratic order, but only to the extent that its own order allows it.

Kasper noted that the early Church contained synodal elements. In the Acts of the Apostles, he observed, Christians came together to discern God’s will for the community.

But a synod should not be confused with a parliament where decisions are passed by a majority, he said. Instead, it should seek consensus, which is understood as a sign of the Holy Spirit.

“A synod should therefore not vote down and shoot down a minority without a serious exchange of arguments, as happened at the last meeting of the Synodal Way,” he commented.

“In doing so, the Synodal Way has made itself a farce of a synod.”

The most recent gathering of the Synodal Way took place in Frankfurt, southwestern Germany, on Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

The event was the second meeting of the Synodal Assembly, the supreme decision-making body of the Synodal Way.

The assembly consists of the German bishops, 69 members of the powerful lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), and representatives of other parts of the German Church.

The meeting ended abruptly following votes in favor of a text endorsing same-sex blessings and a discussion of whether the priesthood is necessary.

Kasper said in June that he was “very worried” about the direction of the Synodal Way, which is not a synod in the traditional sense but rather “a sui generis [unique] process,” according to the German Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

“I have not yet given up hope that the prayers of many faithful Catholics will help to steer the Synodal Way in Germany on Catholic tracks,” Kasper remarked.

In September, he praised a text presenting an alternative to the document dedicated to the way power is exercised in the Church endorsed by members of the Synodal Way.

In his address at the online study day, Kasper said that the root meaning of the word “hierarchy” pointed to the rule of the Holy Spirit, rather than that of hierarchs.

“Power does not emanate from the people, nor is the bishop master of the synod,” he said.

Christian leadership does not consist of commanding others, he added. Leaders are instead called “to inspire, to motivate, to exemplify the spirit of the Gospel.”

“At the diocesan level, the establishment of synodal structures is already possible today. In some dioceses there have been good approaches to this for a long time, without a Roman cock ever crowing,” he concluded.

“The Synodal Way should therefore concentrate on what is already possible and also necessary in Germany today, instead of dealing with projects that can only lead to new frustrations.”

Slovakia’s parliament debates pro-life bill

null / Liudmila Fadzeyeva/Shutterstock

Bratislava, Slovakia, Nov 9, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Slovakia’s parliament is debating a bill aiming to increase assistance to pregnant women and reduce the number of abortions in the country.

It is the fourth attempt to pass pro-life measures in as many years in the central European country where abortion is legal on request up to 12 weeks and later if a mother’s life is deemed to be in danger.

The draft law on assistance to pregnant women, introduced at the National Council of the Slovak Republic on Aug. 31, would extend the mandatory waiting period before an abortion, ban abortion advertising, and offer more financial support to new mothers.

The law, debated on Nov. 5, was introduced by members of parliament from the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) movement, led by Anna Záborská.

The draft text proposes extending the waiting period for women seeking an abortion from 48 hours to 96 hours “unless there is an immediate threat to women’s health.” But according to local media, Záborská is currently proposing a waiting period of 72 hours.

The National Council of the Slovak Republic, the national parliament of Slovakia, in Bratislava. Peter Zelizňák via Wikimedia (Public Domain).
The National Council of the Slovak Republic, the national parliament of Slovakia, in Bratislava. Peter Zelizňák via Wikimedia (Public Domain).

Pope Francis visited Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million people, 62% of whom are Catholics, on Sept. 12-15. During an in-flight press conference on his way back to Rome, the pope said: “Abortion is more than an issue. Abortion is murder.”

Supporters of abortion, including Amnesty International, have sharply criticized the draft law.

Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, wrote an Oct. 15 letter to lawmakers claiming that the bill “would bring the Slovak Republic into conflict with its international human rights obligations and put women’s health and reproductive rights at risk.”

The Slovakian parliament narrowly rejected a bill seeking to tighten restrictions on abortion in October 2020.

Anna Záborská. Foto-AG Gymnasium Melle via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).
Anna Záborská. Foto-AG Gymnasium Melle via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Writing on her Facebook page on Nov. 3, Záborská said: “A responsible decision is a decision based on facts. This is also what our bill brings.”

“Within a year, women will receive from the doctor not only information of a medical nature, but also what social, financial, psychological support they can receive if they deliver their child.”

“It’s not only about the mother choosing for her child’s life, but also about helping the mother to carry this decision.”

Poland’s Catholic Church to hold collection for migrants at Belarus border

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish Catholic bishops’ conference. / episkopat.pl.

Warsaw, Poland, Nov 9, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The Catholic Church in Poland will hold a collection this month for migrants facing deteriorating conditions on the country’s border with Belarus.

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference, appealed to Catholics to aid the thousands of migrants caught up in a “humanitarian catastrophe” at the roughly 250-mile border between the two countries.

“I turn to the faithful and all people of goodwill with a request for a nationwide fundraising — on Sunday, Nov. 21 in all churches and chapels, through Caritas Poland — for migrants from the Belarusian-Polish border,” Gądecki said in a homily at Mass at the Holy Cross Church in the Polish capital, Warsaw, on Nov. 5.

“The funds collected during the nationwide collection will be used to finance Caritas Poland’s aid activities in the border areas during the migration crisis and the process of long-term integration of refugees who decide to stay in Poland.”

Poland, a central European country with a population of 38 million, sent troops to secure the border with Belarus after a record number of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, crossed in the summer.

The Polish government, the European Union, and NATO have accused Belarus of helping migrants to gather at the border. The Belarusian government, led by President Alexander Lukashenko, denies the claim.

Polish officials argue that Belarus, a landlocked Eastern European country with a population of 9.5 million, is fomenting the crisis in response to sanctions imposed by the EU after Lukashenko declared victory in a disputed presidential election in August 2020.

The border crisis has also affected Latvia and Lithuania, both of which are EU member states neighboring Belarus.

Polish government spokesperson Piotr Muller said that up to 4,000 migrants were assembling near the country’s eastern frontier.

“We expect that there may be an escalation of this type of action on the Polish border in the near future, which will be of an armed nature,” he said.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Nov. 8 that the United States was concerned by the situation.

“The United States strongly condemns the Lukashenka regime’s political exploitation and coercion of vulnerable people, and the regime’s callous and inhumane facilitation of irregular migration flows across its borders,” he said.

“We call on the regime to immediately halt its campaign of orchestrating and coercing irregular migrant flows across its borders into Europe.”

Caritas Poland, the country’s largest charitable organization, has delivered packs to parishes near the border containing foil blankets, water, energy bars, and hand warmers. It is also operating a program called “Tents of Hope” in the border area.

Belarus refuses to readmit the migrants after they attempt to enter Poland, leaving them stranded. Several migrants have died of hypothermia as temperatures drop.

In his homily, Gądecki said: “Regardless of the circumstances of their arrival, they certainly need our spiritual and material support.”

The archbishop of Poznań, western Poland, underlined the need to support migrants at the border in an appeal issued on Nov. 8.

“The mission of the Church is first and foremost to preach the Gospel. Consequently, when help must be given to strangers, we must not shy away from it,” Gądecki wrote.

“Without prejudice to the security of the Republic [of Poland] and its citizens, those in need must be shown our solidarity. In the current situation, the message of the parable of the Good Samaritan sounds even more urgent and awaits a universal implementation, also in the eyes of migrants themselves.”

“Let us pray fervently for peace on the eastern border of Poland, for all the migrants residing there, for the people living there, for the state services, including the Border Guard and the army, for politicians, Poles, and Belarusians.”

Polish health ministry clarifies abortion law after death of 30-year-old mother

null / Chaikom/Shutterstock.

Warsaw, Poland, Nov 8, 2021 / 15:25 pm (CNA).

Poland’s Ministry of Health issued a statement Sunday clarifying that an abortion may be performed when the mother’s life is at risk. 

The statement comes after protests in several cities across the country after a lawyer suggested its abortion laws are to blame for the death of a 30-year-old woman who died when she was 22-weeks pregnant.

“In the event of a situation that threatens the life or health of a woman (e.g. suspected infection of the uterine cavity, hemorrhage, etc.), it is lawful to terminate the pregnancy immediately,” the statement says, referring to a law passed in 1993, which permitted abortions in cases of rape or incest; if the mother’s life or health was at risk; or fetal abnormality. 

In their Nov. 7 statement, the Ministry of Health said it “must be strongly emphasized that doctors must not be afraid of making obvious decisions based on their experience and available medical knowledge.”  

In October 2020, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortion of a child with fetal abnormalities was unconstitutional. The revision to the law went into effect Jan. 27, when the ruling was published in the country's Journal of Laws. 

The woman, known only as Izabela, died of sepsis Sept. 22 at a hospital in Pszczyna. Her fetus lacked amniotic fluid, and she experienced complications throughout her pregnancy, according to one report.  

The family’s lawyer, Jolanta Budzowska, argued that tighter restrictions on abortion in Poland since the October 2020 ruling resulted in doctors “waiting for the baby to die,” instead of performing an abortion.

“We express our sincere expressions of sympathy and regret to the family of the deceased patient,” said the management of the hospital in Pszczyna in a statement.

Silent protests against the ban on abortions were held in Krakow, Warsaw, and Gdansk Nov. 1, in response to the lawyers accusations. According to BBC, the hospital said its decisions were based on concern for the mother and child. 

The hospital in Pszczyna agreed to “full openness to cooperation with all competent authorities” during the investigation, and reported that the two doctors who were on duty during the patient’s care have been suspended while the situation undergoes review. 

When Poland’s current law went into effect in January 2021, the Constitutional Tribunal asserted that “an unborn child is, as a human being—a person who enjoys innate and inalienable dignity, a subject who has the right to life; and the legal system must, according to Article 38 of the Constitution, must guarantee due protection for this central good, without which this subjectivity would be deleted."

Prior to the ruling—which cannot be appealed—data from the Ministry of Health showed that the likelihood of Down syndrome accounted for 40% of abortions.

French Catholic bishops announce ‘vast program of renewal’ after abuse report

French bishops’ conference president Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort kneels in a sign of penance at Lourdes, Nov. 6, 2021. / Valentine Chapuis/AFP via Getty Images.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 8, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Catholic bishops in France announced Monday that they have agreed to “a vast program of renewal” of governance practices in response to a landmark report on clerical sex abuse.

Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French bishops’ conference, said Nov. 8 that the bishops had decided to “initiate a path of recognition and reparation opening for the victims the possibility of mediation and compensation.”

“All of the resolutions that we have voted on constitute a vast program of renewal of our governance practices at the level of the dioceses and at the level of the Church in France,” the archbishop of Reims said in an address broadcast live on French television.

Moulins-Beaufort made the announcement on the final day of the bishops’ plenary assembly in Lourdes, southwestern France, which took place Nov. 2-8.

During the week-long meeting, the bishops heard from multiple abuse victims and discussed the implications of an independent report estimating that hundreds of thousands of children were abused in the Catholic Church in France over the past 70 years.

The bishops knelt in an act of penance in Lourdes on Saturday in which an image of a weeping child was unveiled and an abuse survivor shared a testimony.

Moulins-Beaufort said in his speech that the bishops had recognized the Church’s “institutional responsibility” and had decided to implement reforms based on what they had learned from the 2,500-page report by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE).

“We did it above all because we felt God’s gaze on us, because we felt disgust and fear rise up in us as we realized what so many people had experienced and were experiencing in terms of suffering, even though they had the right to receive the light, the consolation, the hope of God,” the archbishop said.

Among the resolutions voted on by the French bishops was an agreement to sell off real estate and movable property of some Catholic dioceses as necessary to supplement a fund to compensate abuse victims.

The bishops also established working groups dedicated to supporting the Church’s efforts to address and prevent abuse.

“We have to seek the truth of the Church, of the Church of Jesus, in a renewed listening to the poor and the little ones, to those who are the victims or left behind in our collective life. For us today, we have to listen attentively to the victims in our Church,” Moulins-Beaufort said.

The CIASE report, published on Oct. 5, estimated that 216,000 children were abused by priests, deacons, monks, or nuns in France from 1950 to 2020.

It suggested that there were “between 2,900 and 3,200” abusers out of 115,000 clergy and other religious workers, which it noted “would imply a very high number of victims per aggressor.”

The study also said that “more than a third of sexual assaults within the Catholic Church were committed, not by clergy, monks or other religious workers, but by laypersons.”

Moulins-Beaufort said that the French bishops would submit the CIASE recommendations that concern the universal Church to Pope Francis for his consideration, after some small revisions.

“We decided together to ask the pope, since we are appointed by him, to come to our aid, sending someone he trusts to discuss with us the way we have treated and treat the victims and their aggressors,” the bishop said.

Pope Francis sent a letter to the French bishops last week in light of the plenary assembly, urging them to console victims and care for the “wounded and scandalized holy people of God.”

“As you weather the storm of shame and tragedy over the abuse of minors in the Church, I encourage you to carry your burden with faith and hope, and I carry it with you,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter published Nov. 3.

“I am sure that together, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you will find ways to honor and console the victims; to exhort all believers to penance and conversion of heart; to take all necessary measures to make the Church a safe house for all; to take care of the wounded and scandalized People of God; and finally, to take up the mission with joy, looking resolutely to the future.”

Polish Catholic bishop celebrates Mass on EWTN Germany’s 20th anniversary

Bishop Andrzej Siemieniewski celebrates Mass in the Chapel of St. Maximilian, Niepokalanów, Poland, Nov. 6, 2021. / Tomasz Piechnik/EWTN Poland.

Niepokalanów, Nov 8, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A Polish Catholic bishop celebrated a Mass on Saturday marking the 20th anniversary of EWTN Germany.

Bishop Andrzej Siemieniewski of Legnica, southwestern Poland, presided at the Mass on Nov. 6 in Niepokalanów, the site of a monastery founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe in 1927.

Tomasz Piechnik/EWTN Poland.
Tomasz Piechnik/EWTN Poland.

At the start of the Mass, in the Chapel of St. Maximilian, Fr. Mariusz Słowik, the guardian of Niepokalanów, gave Martin Rothweiler, managing director of EWTN Germany, relics of the Polish saint who died at Auschwitz concentration camp in 1941.

The relics will be housed in the EWTN chapel in Cologne, western Germany.

Tomasz Piechnik/EWTN Poland.
Tomasz Piechnik/EWTN Poland.

The nonprofit EWTN-TV was established in Germany in July 2000. The first German-language productions were aired in Europe in October of that year.

EWTN formally launched the German television channel EWTN katholisches TV on Nov. 6, 2011. More than 21 million households — around 44 million people — can now receive EWTN in German-speaking Europe.

Tomasz Piechnik/EWTN Poland.
Tomasz Piechnik/EWTN Poland.

Speaking after the Mass, attended by employees of EWTN Germany and EWTN Poland, Rothweiler said: “We have gathered today in this memorable place to thank God for 20 years of living in Germany, for 20 years of evangelizing ministry throughout German-speaking Europe.”

He noted that the Mass was an initiative of Fr. Piotr Wiśniowski, director of EWTN Poland, and was a special gift from Polish friends to EWTN Germany.

Martin Rothweiler. Tomasz Piechnik/EWTN Poland.
Martin Rothweiler. Tomasz Piechnik/EWTN Poland.

“This touched me and us deeply. The coronavirus pandemic kept us out for a long time. But today we are here,” he commented.

“What a symbolic, profound gesture and what an honor in this special place to receive the relic of St. Maximilian Kolbe, here in Niepokalanów, in the chapel that Fr. Kolbe himself built.”

Bishop Siemieniewski recalled that St. Maximilian helped to turn Niepokalanów monastery — also known as the City of the Immaculate — into a major Catholic publishing center.

He said that the Conventual Franciscan friar was regarded as a patron saint of the Catholic media.

“Why? Because he started from a very small thing, and he developed it by God’s grace to a big thing,” he explained.

“He did not wait for big beginnings. No, he started what was at his hand, a very, very small beginning.”

“And this is what we are expected to do in our life, starting from a small size of grace, praying to God that he develops it into something really blessed and big.”

Tomasz Piechnik/EWTN Poland.
Tomasz Piechnik/EWTN Poland.

Rajmund Kolbe was born in Zduńska Wola, central Poland, in 1894. As a child, he saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary holding two crowns. She offered him the crowns -- one of which was white, symbolizing purity, and the other red, indicating martyrdom -- and he accepted them.

Kolbe joined the Conventual Franciscans in 1910, taking the name Maximilian. While studying in Rome, he helped to found the Militia Immaculatae (Knights of the Immaculata), dedicated to promoting total consecration to Mary.

After returning to Poland following his priestly ordination, Kolbe founded the monthly devotional journal Rycerz Niepokalanej (Knight of the Immaculata). He also established the monastery at Niepokalanów, 25 miles west of the capital, Warsaw.

In the early 1930s, he founded monasteries in Japan and India. He was appointed guardian of Niepokalanów monastery in 1936, founding the station Radio Niepokalanów two years later.

Following the Nazi German occupation of Poland, Kolbe was sent to Auschwitz. At a roll call on July 29, 1941, guards selected 10 men to be starved to death as punishment after a prisoner escaped from the camp. When one of those chosen, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out in despair for his wife and children, Kolbe offered to take his place.

The 10 men were held in a bunker where they were deprived of food and water. According to witnesses, Kolbe led the condemned prisoners in prayer and singing hymns. After two weeks, he was the only man still alive. Kolbe was killed by an injection of phenol on Aug. 14, 1941.

He was beatified on Oct. 17, 1971, and canonized on Oct. 10, 1982, being recognized as a martyr of charity. Gajowniczek attended both ceremonies.

Rothweiler said: “In the face of this unspeakable suffering, isn’t it all the more wonderful that today, almost 80 years after a terrible war and inhumane Nazi rule, we are working together to evangelize, in EWTN Poland and in EWTN Germany?”

“We do this because we know that all reconciliation, all salvation, and all healing can only come from Christ.”

Benedict XVI marks 10th anniversary of Orthodox leader’s death

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, pictured in 2010. / Vatican Media.

Fribourg, Switzerland, Nov 8, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has paid tribute to an Orthodox leader on the 10th anniversary of his death.

In a letter dated Oct. 11, the retired German pope said it seemed “inconceivable” that a decade had passed since the death of Metropolitan Damaskinos Papandreou, the first Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Switzerland, in 2011.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that Benedict XVI made the comment in a message to a conference held in the metropolitan’s honor on Nov. 5 at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

Metropolitan Damaskinos, a bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, was born in Thermo, Greece, on Feb. 23, 1936. He was elected as the first metropolitan of Switzerland in 1982.

The author of numerous works on ecumenism, he served as the metropolitan bishop of Adrianople from 2003 until his death on Nov. 5, 2011, at the age of 75.

“That 10 years have already passed since the death of Metropolitan Damaskinos Papandreou of Switzerland is quite inconceivable to me,” the pope emeritus wrote in his message, addressed to Metropolitan Maximos of Switzerland and Professor Stefanos Athanasiou.

The letter was read out in a video message to the conference by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Swiss president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Benedict, who served as pope from 2005 to 2013, said it was “a very special gift of Providence” that shortly after he was appointed a professor at the University of Bonn, Germany, in 1959, two Orthodox archimandrites began studying at the university’s Catholic and Protestant theological faculties.

“This was something new and unexpected, because until then Orthodox students never studied at Catholic faculties, but exclusively at the Protestant and the so-called Christian Catholic (= Old Catholic) faculty in Bern [Switzerland],” he explained.

“Both archimandrites became friends of mine. Unfortunately, my friend Stylianos Harkianakis, who later became Metropolitan of Australia, subsequently took a rigorous position that cooled our friendship,” the 94-year-old wrote.

“The friendship with Metropolitan Damaskinos Papandreou grew all the more for me, and thus the sadness over his all-too-early death.”

“But the fruit of a lively inner relationship with Orthodoxy has remained and continues to grow in the friendship that unites me more and more with the Ecumenical Patriarch.”

Guernsey scraps proposal for discrimination law that could have led to Catholic schools' closure

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth. / null

Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, Nov 5, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic schools in Guernsey will be permitted to appoint only Catholics as head teachers following a vote on Nov. 3 rejecting a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance.

Leaders in Guernsey instead voted in favor of an amendment that would maintain the status quo on the island, meaning that a Catholic school can require its head teacher to be Catholics. 

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, whose territory includes Guernsey, said in a statement reported Friday that he was “very grateful” that local officials were cooperative in hearing the concerns of the diocese.

“This decision enables parents to confidently continue to choose Catholic schools for their children and to benefit from the legacy of partnership with the States of Guernsey which has been in place for 150 years,” said Egan.


Guernsey, an island in the English Channel, is a British Crown Dependency. Approximately 63,000 people live on the island, which has three Catholic churches. 

In October, it was announced that the States of Guernsey, the island’s parliament, would be considering a new policy titled “Discrimination Ordinance: Grounds of (i) Religion or Belief and (ii) Sexual Orientation” that would prohibit discrimination in hiring on the basis of religion, belief, or sexual orientation. 

Had the policy been passed by States of Guernsey, it would have gone into effect for “senior leadership positions in religious/faith schools” in 2026. 

In a show of ecumenism, leaders from the Methodist and Anglican ecclesial communities voiced their support for Catholic schools and their right to appoint Catholic leaders.

Tim Barker, Anglican Dean of Guernsey, along with Superintendent Minister of the Methodist Church Howard Stringer, sent an open letter to the deputies defending the “long-standing importance the Roman Catholic Church places on its schools and its commitment to high quality education for all.” 

“Central to that commitment is a profound belief that Catholic schools should be led by Catholics,” they said. 

While the two Protestant leaders were supportive of the concept of eliminating discrimination, they called for “appropriate and proportionate” exceptions to the proposals for groups such as churches and religious schools. 

“We simply urge you, and your fellow deputies, to recognise that, for the Roman Catholic Church, it is essential that the exception is extended ‘to allow religion or belief to be taken into account in the recruitment to senior leadership positions in religious schools’,” said Barker and Stringer. 

The Catholic Church has previously clashed with lawmakers in Guernsey over moves to introduce assisted suicide and liberalize abortion laws.

Pope Francis: Let Christ’s love shine through your care of the suffering

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Rome campus of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Nov. 5, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome, Italy, Nov 5, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday encouraged Catholics to let the love of Jesus, as demonstrated by his most Sacred Heart, speak through their care for the sick and suffering.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“How many words we say about God without letting love shine through. But love speaks for itself, it does not speak of itself,” Pope Francis said during a Nov. 5 Mass at a Catholic university hospital in Rome.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“We ask for the grace to be passionate about the person who suffers,” he said, “to be passionate about service, so that the Church, before having words to say, preserves a heart beating with love.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass outside Gemelli University Hospital, which is located on Rome’s highest hill, Monte Mario, and was ranked first among hospitals in Italy by Newsweek in 2021.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pope Francis spent 11 days at Gemelli Hospital in July following colon surgery. While recovering from the operation, he stayed in the same hospital room where John Paul II was treated during his pontificate.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

The live-streamed papal Mass on Nov. 5 marked the 60th anniversary of the university’s Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, which is based in Rome but is part of the Milan-founded Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

In his homily, Francis reflected on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for which the university is named. The first Friday of every month is also dedicated to devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“When we serve those who suffer, we console and gladden the Heart of Christ,” the pope said, recalling a passage in the Gospel of John, which recounts the moment a Roman soldier pierced Jesus’ side as he hung on the cross.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“The pierced side, from which blood and water flow, gives witness because we believe,” the pope said. “That is, St. John writes that in that moment the testimony takes place.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“The torn Heart of God is eloquent. It speaks without words, because it is mercy in its pure state, love that is wounded and gives life. It is God, with closeness, passion, and tenderness.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pope Francis said that closeness, compassion, and tenderness were all qualities Catholics could learn from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and were especially needed in Catholic healthcare.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“Let us encourage ourselves with this certainty, with God’s comfort,” he said. “And let us ask the Sacred Heart for the grace to be able to console in turn.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He also explained that the Sacred Heart is the icon of the Passion of Christ: “it shows us the visceral tenderness of God, his loving passion for us, and at the same time, surmounted by the cross and surrounded by thorns, it shows how much suffering our salvation has cost.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“What does this suggest?” he asked. “That, if we really want to love God, we must be passionate about mankind, about every man, especially the one who lives in the condition in which the Heart of Jesus was manifested: that is, pain, abandonment, rejection.”

“If we look at reality from the greatness of his Heart,” the pope encouraged, “the perspective changes, our knowledge of life changes because, as St. Paul reminded us, we know ‘the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding’ (Ephesians 3:19).”