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Posted on 04/22/2018 23:59 PM (CNA Daily News)
Sacramento, Calif., Apr 22, 2018 / 04:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A proposed law in California could have a chilling effect on free speech, warn critics who fear that it could ban efforts to explain and promote Christian teaching on sexual morality.
“The broad reach of AB 2942 leaves even simple religious speech on same-sex attraction or activities open to legal action and impinges on the basic human right of freedom of religion,” said the California Catholic Conference in a statement.
Assembly Bill 2943, which passed through the California State Assembly on Thursday, would make any transaction relating to practice to change someone’s sexual orientation unlawful. The bill now will go to the California State Senate.
AB 2943 seeks to amend the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CRLA), a law that protects consumers from sellers who are mischaracterizing their product or service.
The bill would ban advertising or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts. It defines such efforts as “any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
The inclusion of “efforts to change behaviors” as a banned activity has led some critics to fear that the bill could be used to prohibit the promotion of Christian sexual morality - through books, counseling, or teaching.
The California Catholic Conference (CCC) has voiced opposition to the bill, and released a letter on its website urging Californians to contact their legislators to prevent it from becoming law.
The conference is concerned that the bill’s definitions are too broad, and seek to prevent adults from making decisions for themselves.
“AB 2943 would take something completely intangible - ‘sexual orientation change efforts’ – and add it to the CRLA,” the conference said.
Further, given that conversion therapy is already illegal for people under the age of 18 in the state, the California Catholic Conference questioned, “why would proponents wish to take away the freedom of adults to seek counselling” for issues regarding sexual orientation or behavior.
These concerns were echoed by Bill May of the Marriage Reality Movement, who told CNA that he feels the bill is “absurd” and inhibits the ability of people spreading “the Gospel’s universal call for repentance and changes in behavior.” May believes that if the bill were to become law, it could result in legal issues for preachers who discuss sexuality.
“Passage would lead to more harassment and possible legal challenges against preaching, literature, conferences and organizations that address sexual morality," said May.
Posted on 04/22/2018 12:29 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Apr 22, 2018 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis ordained 16 men to the priesthood, reminding them to be like Jesus the Good Shepherd in the way they serve the members of their spiritual flock and minister to those who are lost and searching for God.
“Always have before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to seek and save what was lost,” the pope said in a homily before the ordination of 16 priests during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica April 22.
“Conscious of having been chosen among men and elected in their favor to attend to the things of God, exercise in gladness and sincere charity the priestly work of Christ,” he continued, “solely intent on pleasing God and not yourselves or human beings, [or] other interests.”
The priestly ordination coincided with “Good Shepherd Sunday” and the 55th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
The new priests, who have been studying for the priesthood at different seminaries in the diocese of Rome, come from countries around the world, including Madagascar, Vietnam, Myanmar, Colombia, and San Salvador.
As in the past, for his homily Pope Francis used the “ritual homily” from the Italian edition of the “Pontificale Romano,” the Latin Catholic liturgical book containing rites performed by bishops, for the ordination of priests, adding a few of his own thoughts to the text.
Reflecting on the Sacrament of Penance in particular, Francis urged the men about to be ordained to “not get tired of being merciful. Think of your sins, your miseries that Jesus forgives. Be merciful.”
It is “through your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect,” he noted, “because it is joined to the sacrifice of Christ, which for your hands, in the name of the whole Church, is offered bloodlessly on the altar in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries.”
He pointed out to the 16 men that in their priestly ministries they will be participants “in the mission of Christ, the only Master,” and advised them to read and meditate tirelessly on the Word of God “to teach what you have learned in faith, to live what you have taught.”
“[May] your teaching, joy and support to the faithful of Christ be the fragrance of your life,” he continued, “that with word and example you can build the House of God which is the Church.”
Following Mass, Pope Francis led pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Regina Coeli, the traditional prayer for Easter.
In his message after the prayer, the pope drew attention to the current situation in Nicaragua, where there have been violent clashes between police and people participating in anti-government protests, resulting in at least 25 deaths, according to the Guardian.
“I express my closeness in prayer to that beloved country, and I join the Bishops in asking that all violence cease, [that they] avoid useless bloodshed and [that] open questions be resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility,” he said.
Francis also reflected briefly on the day’s Gospel, where Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep,” stating that the words of Jesus in this passage cannot be reduced to an emotional suggestion.
They have a concrete effect, he said: “Jesus heals through his being a shepherd who gives life. Jesus says to each one: ‘your life is so valuable to me, that to save it I offer all of myself.’”
Noting that Jesus also says, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me,” the pope said shows us that Jesus desires a personal relationship with each person, one which reflects “the same intimate relationship of love between Him and the Father.”
“He is attentive to each of us, knows our heart deeply: he knows our strengths and our faults, the projects we have achieved and the hopes that have been disappointed. But he accepts us as we are, he leads us with love,” he said, and in turn, “we are called to know Jesus.”
Posted on 04/22/2018 11:27 AM (CNA Daily News)
Belfast, Northern Ireland, Apr 22, 2018 / 04:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- What would have been unthinkable 100 years ago in Northern Ireland will likely soon become a reality - Catholics will outnumber Protestants.
Historically in Ireland, Catholics have desired independence for Ireland, while Protestants, who congregated in Northern Ireland, have wanted to maintain political ties to the United Kingdom.
This is still generally the case, though not without some significant exceptions on both sides. Still, the fact that Catholics may outnumber Protestants in the country by 2021 - 100 years after the country was founded - is remarkable.
Dr. Paul Nolan, who studies the social trends of Northern Ireland, told BBC News: "Three years from now we will end up, I think, in the ironic situation on the centenary of the state where we actually have a state that has a Catholic majority."
According to the last census in 2011, Protestants outnumbered Catholics in Northern Ireland by just three percent. More recent numbers show a Catholic majority in every age group of the population, except for those over 60. Among school-aged children, Catholics outnumber Protestants by a wide margin - 51 percent to 37 percent.
Nolan said that unionism - the political ideology of those in Northern Ireland who wish to maintain their political ties with the U.K. - is still possible, though unionists should be aware of this demographic shift.
Religious disputes have long been part of the history of Northern Ireland, notably “the Troubles”, which included violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants that lasted from the late ‘60s until 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was struck.
Last year, threats against Catholics in Northern Ireland have forced several families to flee their homes.
Mary Lou McDonald is president of the Sinn Féin party, which strongly supports nationalism, or an independent, united Ireland.
McDonald said she welcomed the discussion about what this shift in religious demographics could mean for Ireland.
“Of course unionists have to be at home in a new Ireland,” McDonald told the BBC. “So, yes, let's have the discussion.”
Posted on 04/21/2018 23:09 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A strong majority of the 430 men who are about to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood in the United States come from families where both parents were Catholic, and had several friends encouraging them in their vocation.
The findings were from the annual survey of new ordinands by CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate out of Georgetown University. Out of the 430 men to be ordained to the priesthood, 334 responded to the survey, including 252 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood and 78 ordinands to the religious priesthood.
While this year’s priesthood ordination class is slightly smaller than last year’s class of 590, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said the report provides “reasons for hope and areas for growth.”
"Although the overall number of ordinations to the Priesthood is lower this year, the information gathered from this survey and the generosity of those to be ordained continues to inform the important work of vocations ministry for the future,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, Chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said in a statement.
“It is essential that we continue to make the conscious effort to encourage young men to be open to hearing God's call in their life and assist them in the discernment process."
Encouragement from priests, parishioners and friends was a key factor in considering the priesthood for many of this year’s ordination class.
According to the survey, nearly nine in ten responding ordinands (86 percent) reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life - usually by a parish priest, friend, or another parishioner. On average, respondents said about four different people in their lives encouraged them to consider a vocation to the priesthood.
Father Ralph O'Donnell, Executive Director of the Secretariat for the USCCB, said that this was “one of the most encouraging statistics” from the report and that it should be a call to all the faithful to encourage vocations.
“This fact should enliven in the faithful a resolve to actively encourage the young people that they encounter to consider to what vocation God is calling them and to be generous in their response," he said in a statement.
The survey also found that most of the men being ordained this year were baptized Catholic as infants (90 percent) and that most also grew up in families where both parents were Catholic (83 percent). Slightly more than one-third of the respondents are also related to priests, the survey found.
This year’s class also included slightly more respondents who were born in the United States. In previous years, the average amount of foreign-born ordinands was around 30 percent, while only 25 percent of the 2018 ordination class is foreign-born. Of that 25 percent, the majority come from Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Colombia.
Many of the ordinands also had prior undergraduate school or work experiences before entering the seminary. The survey found that nearly half of all of this year’s class had completed an undergraduate degree before entering the seminary, with the most common areas of study being social science, theology, philosophy, business, or liberal arts. Two-thirds of the men also reported previous full-time work experience before entering the seminary.
Also included in the report were the ordinands’ answers to the prompt - “People might be surprised to know…”
Edgar Elamparo, of the Diocese of San Jose, responded with a story about going off to seminary.
“Before my family sent me off to the seminary, I saw my uncle in front of our house with tears in his eyes. I said, ‘Why are you crying?’ He replied, ‘When you were young, I asked you what would you want to become when you grow up? and you said, I want to become a priest, and now here, you are on your way to your dream.’”
Brett Garland of the Diocese of Columbus said he “preached at my twin brother's wedding just two months after I was ordained a deacon, and I will be the celebrant of my older brother's wedding this summer, just a month after I am ordained a priest. By living out their particular vocations, both of my brothers have encouraged me in my own vocation.”
This year’s survey was conducted between Jan. 29 - March 11 via email. The findings of the annual CARA survey are sent to the USCCB’s Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
Posted on 04/21/2018 16:35 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Apr 21, 2018 / 09:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis said that Christians are called to a mission of leading others to an encounter with Jesus Christ, in order that every person might grow in his or her individual call to holiness.
“The men and women of our time need to meet Jesus Christ: He is the path that leads to the Father; He is the Gospel of hope and love that enables us to go as far as giving ourselves,” the pope said April 21.
“It is a matter of carrying out an itinerary of holiness to respond courageously to the call of Jesus, each according to his own particular charism.”
Quoting from 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Pope Francis said: “For a Christian it is not possible to think of his mission on earth without understanding it as a path of holiness, because ‘this is in fact the will of God, your sanctification.’”
This is our mission, he continued. It requires responsibility and joy, generous availability, self-denial, and “trustful abandonment to the divine will.”
Pope Francis spoke about holiness during an encounter with pilgrims from the Italian dioceses of Bologna and Cesena-Sarsina in St. Peter’s Square. The pilgrimage to Rome followed Francis’ own visit to Bologna and Cesena in October 2017.
Quoting from his recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, the pope also spoke about the important role of the Eucharist in helping to transform Catholics “into a holy and missionary community.”
The Eucharist, he said, means “thanksgiving” and makes us feel the need for thanksgiving.
“It makes us understand that ‘we are more blessed in giving than in receiving’ (Acts 20:35), educates us to give primacy to love, and practice justice in its complete form, which is mercy; to know to give thanks always, even when we receive what is due to us.”
The pope encouraged Christians to proclaim the call to holiness in their communities, since it concerns “every baptized person and every condition of life.”
“In holiness consists the full realization of every aspiration of the human heart. It is a journey that starts from the baptismal font and leads up to Heaven and is carried out day by day by accepting the Gospel in concrete life,” he said.
Posted on 04/21/2018 14:52 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Apr 21, 2018 / 07:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis named five new consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, including three female academics and two priests.
The women are Dr. Linda Ghisoni, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University; Dr. Michelina Tenance, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; and Dr. Laetitia Calmeyn, lecturer of theology at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.
The other two new consultors are Fr. Sergio Paolo Bonanni, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Claretian Fr. Manuel Jesús Arroba Conde, dean of the Institutum Utriusque Iuris at the Pontifical Lateran University.
While a Vatican spokesman was unable to confirm whether laywomen have previously served as consultors, he did confirm for CNA that women have served as staff members at the dicastery.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the Vatican department responsible for protecting and promulgating the doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is headed by Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., and consultors include cardinals, bishops, priests, canon lawyers, and lay theologians.
One of its newest members, Dr. Linda Ghisoni, has held a position within the Vatican since November 2017, when Pope Francis appointed her a sub-secretary and the head of the section on laity, for the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life.
Ghisoni, 52, works as a judge at the First Instance Court of the Vicariate of Rome. In addition to teaching canon law at the Gregorian, she is a professor of law at Roma Tre University.
She is from the town of Cortemaggiore in the north of Italy and studied philosophy and theology at the Eberhard-Karls-University in Tübingen, Germany.
In 1999 she received a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and in 2002 she received the diploma of Rotary Attorney at the Studium rotale of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.
Since 1997 Ghisoni has held various positions at the Tribunals of First Instance and Appeal of the Vicariate of Rome, including Notary, Defender of the Bond, Auditor and Judge.
She has also served as Judicial Counselor at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota from 2002-2009, and Commissioner of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments for the Defense of the marital bond in causes for the dissolution of the marriage “ratum sed non consummatum” (ratified but not consummated).
Since November 2011, she has also worked at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. From 2013-2016, she collaborated with the former Pontifical Council for the Laity in the field of specialist laity studies in the Church. She is married and has two daughters.
Dr. Michelina Tenace, 63, is from San Marco, Italy and a consecrated woman. After studying philosophy in France, she received a degree in foreign literature from Sapienza University in Rome and a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University with a dissertation on Vladimir Soloviev.
She now teaches theology at the Gregorian University, including classes on spiritual theology, theological anthropology, the Council of Nicea, and Eastern Churches. She is also a staff member of the Ezio Aletti Study and Research Center, which supports Christian scholars and artists from Eastern Europe.
Tenace’s publications include numerous articles, as well as ten books, which have been translated into various languages. She was also named a member of the commission to study the female diaconate by Pope Francis in 2016.
Dr. Laetitia Calmeyn, 42, was born in Brussels in 1975 and became a consecrated virgin in the Archdiocese of Paris on June 23, 2013. She has worked as a palliative care nurse, a retreat organizer for youth, and a Catholic religion teacher, among other ministries.
Calmeyn received a bachelor’s degree in theology in 2002 from the Institute of Theological Studies in Brussels and a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Rome. Her dissertation was on theological principles and foundations of morality according to the work of Jesuit Fr. Albert Chapelle.
Since 2009 she has been a theology lecturer at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.
Posted on 04/21/2018 13:01 PM (CNA Daily News)
Chicago, Ill., Apr 21, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious leaders in Chicago are fighting to end a lawsuit filed by an atheist group that would impose upwards of $1 billion in taxes for churches around the nation.
The lawsuit, Gaylor v. Mnuchin, was filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The case aims to end the parsonage allowance, a federal tax provision used by religious establishments such as churches, mosques, and synagogues, which offers a housing allowance to help religious leaders live in the communities they serve.
Chris Butler, pastor of the south-side Chicago Embassy Church requested April 19 that a federal appeals court throw out the lawsuit on discriminatory grounds. Butler is joined by other ecclesial communities and Churches, including leaders from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia's Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America and Holy Cross Anglican Church.
“For the majority of churches, the pastors are like me and experience at some level the same problems that we’re trying to face in the community,” said Butler, according to a recent statement from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
“If you take away even a little bit, it can become a lot of trouble quickly.”
Butler serves a predominately African-American community where he ministers to at-risk youth and the homeless in his neighborhood. He also is involved with programs to decrease local crime.
According to the Becket Fund, which has been involved in the case since January 2017, ending the parsonage allowance would “discriminate against religious groups by treating them worse than many other secular employees who receive similar tax treatment,” and would also “harm poor communities by diverting scarce resources away from essential ministries.”
Ed Peecher, bishop of the Chicago Embassy Church, said a video released by Becket that “If I am here to pastor this community, if I am here to make an impact on this community, it has to be done in the context of a relationship and it’s hard to have a relationship over distance… there is no substitute for proximity. You have to be there.”
The parsonage allowance, which was enacted by Congress 64 years ago, allows tax exemptions for religious leaders similar to exceptions in place for teachers, business leaders, and military service members, among others.
For the past century, both Congress and the IRS have recognized the convenience-of-the-employer doctrine, which upholds that employees may exclude housing benefits from their income if the benefits contribute to the convenience of the employer. This doctrine has been applied to religious and non-religious groups alike, according to Becket’s opening brief at the federal appeals court April 19.
The Becket Fund believes that if the parsonage allowance is ended, then the IRS would be discriminating particularly against religious leaders, since other secular workers receive a similar exemption.
“The same group of atheists claimed it was unconstitutional to put Mother Teresa on a postage stamp, so it’s no surprise they’re trying to sic the IRS on churches,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at Becket.
“Treating ministers like other professionals isn’t an establishment of religion; it’s fair tax treatment.”
Posted on 04/20/2018 23:26 PM (CNA Daily News)
Madrid, Spain, Apr 20, 2018 / 04:26 pm (CNA).- In the Catholic Church, the spoken language is central to the liturgy: we recite the Nicene Creed as one, we praise the Lord with the Gloria that we sing, and we bow our heads to hear the blessing we receive at the end of Mass.
But there’s a different reality for hearing impaired and deaf Catholics around the world.
Father Sergio Buiza, the national director of the Spanish Conference of Catholic Bishops Deaf Ministry, said their goal is to “bring the Gospel to the maximum number of people,” including, of course, the deaf and hearing impaired, Europa news reported.
Fr. Buiza is just one of several priests who celebrates Mass in sign language at one of many Catholic churches in Spain. He celebrates a sign language Mass at the Santiago Cathedral in Bilboa, Spain each week.
There are around a million people in Spain affected by different levels of hearing loss. Some 1,250 of them attend Mass in sign language every week at one of the two dozen churches where they are held.
In the parishes where this pastoral care is provided, all types of services are offered: from Mass to catechesis, Bible study groups, wedding celebrations, and confessions.
However, Fr. Buiza explained, the biggest issue is that there is just one parish for the deaf per diocese, forcing those with hearing impairments to travel long distances each week.
“There are elderly people that come from a long way. In my diocese we celebrate the Eucharist in the cathedral every Saturday afternoon and they come from different towns by train and bus,” the priest from Bilbao said.
In 2015, the Spanish Catholic Bishops Conference announced a new initiative in collaboration with the ONCE Foundation to help the hearing impaired by installing magnetic induction loops, or hearing loops, in at least 12 churches across Spain.
Hearing loops are sound systems that transform the audio in a magnetic field that is picked up by hearing aids and Cochlear Implant processors. This will allow at least those with such devices to participate more fully in the Mass, but would not be of use to those who are fully deaf.
The Church in Spain has been working with the deaf for more than 50 years and has been doing so in a more coordinated fashion since the 1990s, when Deaf Ministry became part of the Bishops Conference.
In Spain, some 173 people - both priests and laity - are dedicated to the pastoral care of the deaf, many of whom are deaf or hearing impaired themselves.
This article was originally published Jan. 31, 2016.
Posted on 04/20/2018 20:55 PM (CNA Daily News)
Providence, R.I., Apr 20, 2018 / 01:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking out on political issues is not only a right, but a duty, for religious leaders, said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence in a recent interview.
“What we try and do is take the Gospel, the basis of our faith, and apply it to the issues of the day,” Bishop Tobin told the Providence Journal in an article published April 17.
“Now, some people will like it, some people won’t like it; some will agree, some will not. I think we have not just a right but the need to be involved in these public conversations.”
Bishop Tobin said that when he speaks about issues such as immigration and gun control, he draws criticism from conservatives, who say, “Stay out of it, it’s not your business.” When speaking about abortion or same-sex marriage, he said, he gets the same response from liberals.
“So sometimes I’m accused of being too conservative, and sometimes I’m accused of being a raging liberal.”
However, he said, it is important to preach the Gospel no matter how people respond.
One tool the bishop has been using to weigh in on political and moral debates is Twitter. In February, the prelate opened an account, @bishoptjt, which now has over 1,300 followers.
Because he alone controls the subject of his tweets, he said “there’s no filter there,” unlike his Facebook account which is managed by someone in his office.
“I thought, if the president can do it and the pope can do it, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be doing it,” he said.
Bishops Tobin uses his Twitter account to discuss both serious topics – such as liturgy and politics – and lighthearted, personal interests.
“I’ve done some devotional things, some spiritual things, and some liturgical things and some prayerful things,” the bishop said. “I’ve also put some things up about the Steelers and about my dog and about some political things and about the weather and April Fools Day.”
Posted on 04/20/2018 19:07 PM (CNA Daily News)
Lviv, Ukraine, Apr 20, 2018 / 12:07 pm (CNA).- War continues to ravage eastern Ukraine, where conflict erupted in April 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the violent actions of pro-Russian separatists.
Along with forcing at least 1.6 million people from their homes, the ongoing conflict has also resulted in the persecution of Protestant pastors and churches throughout the territories that are occupied by pro-Russian separatist groups. One such group is the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), which is located in Ukraine’s Luhansk region and declared independence in May 2014.
While the international community does not recognize the LNR as a legitimate state, this group’s totalitarian power is growing. During the last four years, the LNR has committed numerous acts of religious persecution against Protestant pastors and churches (as well as other pro-Ukrainian Churches) in the Luhansk region, including abduction, torture, and property confiscation. In fact, on March 27, 2018, the LNR raided the House of Prayer, a church in Stahanov, taking everything and leaving the church completely empty.
The following is a brief summary and analysis to create awareness about the LNR’s new religion law and appeal to the international community to create pressure on the LNR and support our brothers and sisters in Ukraine who are losing their freedom to worship and living in constant fear as they suffer for their faith.
For the last four years, Mission Eurasia has drawn the attention of the international community to the systematic religious freedom violations committed by the LNR in eastern Ukraine. And now these violations are considered a central part of the LNR’s legal framework.
According to a new law passed on Feb. 2, 2018 (#211-II “About Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”), the LNR is permitted to discriminate against any and all non-Orthodox religious communities. This law violates universal human rights, severely limits religious freedom, and threatens eastern Ukraine’s existing network of religious communities and organizations.
While the law itself is a new development, the LNR has been violating religious freedom rights in Ukraine’s Luhansk region since the spring of 2014. Rather than protecting the rights of pre- existing religious communities, the LNR follows Russia’s religion laws. Therefore, in line with Russia’s strict religious freedom legislation, all religious communities and organizations in Luhansk, other than those associated with the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (the Russian Orthodox Church has preferential status), must now prove their loyalty and re-register with the LNR.
The following points laid out in the LNR’s new religion law are particularly concerning for churches in Luhansk:
• All religious communities and organizations must re-register with the LNR within six months of the law’s inception in order to continue operating;
• The LNR will play an increasingly significant role in regulating religious communities and organizations, and in protecting the societal role of the Russian Orthodox Church;
• All registered religious communities and organizations are required to provide detailed reports on all of their activities on a regular basis;
• Religious communities and organizations must have juridical person status to be considered legitimate;
• Religious communities and organizations must have at least 30 members to register;
• Religious communities and organizations are prohibited from leading activities in private residences, which is particularly dangerous for the many home churches in Luhansk;
• There are many grounds on which the LNR can suspend the activities of religious communities and organizations, such as suspected espionage, extremism, and terrorism;
• Religious communities and organizations are required to coordinate the distribution of all religious materials, even among their own members, with the LNR;
• There are very strict regulations placed on all religious communities and organizations that receive financial support from foreign sources.
The Baptist Union of Ukraine asserts that, even if churches in Luhansk try to re-register with the LNR, they will not be able to meet all of the requirements laid out in the new religion law.
In response, Mission Eurasia and our partner churches in Luhansk urge the global Christian community prayerfully to support our brothers and sisters who are suffering in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine. We also implore international government leaders and human rights organizations to pressure the LNR to repeal the new law and restore religious freedom so that all religious communities in Luhansk and throughout Ukraine can worship freely.
At present, the pastors of many churches in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine are refusing to participate in the re-registration process required by the LNR’s new religion law. These courageous leaders need our support as they stand firm in the face of escalating religious persecution.
Dr. Mykhailo Cherenkov is executive field director of Mission Eurasia and an associate professor of philosophy at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. This piece was first published at Dr. Cherenkov's blog April 19, 2018. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Catholic News Agency.