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Prime suspect arrested in murder of Philippines priest

Manila, Philippines, Jun 15, 2018 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The primary suspect in the killing of Filipino priest Father Richmond Villaflor Nilo was found and taken into custody Thursday night.

According to media reports, the suspect, Adell Roll Milan, was identified by an altar boy who had been preparing to help Fr. Nilo celebrate Mass on June 10, when two unidentified gunmen shot Nilo four times through a window of Nuestra Senora de la Nieve Chapel in Zaragoza.

Nilo, 43, was the third priest of the Nueva Ecija province to be killed in the past six months. A parish priest in the northern Philippine Diocese of Cabanatuan, he was active in an apostolate for the deaf and mute. He also served as the financial administrator for the diocese.

Police said possible motives for the killing include a land dispute and the priest’s advocacy for rape victims.

Authorities announced the arrest the same day as Nilo’s funeral.


Pope Francis says exploiting women is a 'sin against God'

Vatican City, Jun 15, 2018 / 07:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his daily homily Friday, Pope Francis issued a scathing critique of the ways in which women are often exploited and mistreated - whether it be through a revealing television ad, or when getting a job is contingent on sexual favors.

He said there is a tendency in many environments to view women as “second class” or as an object of “waste,” and called the ways in which women are at times abused and enslaved “sins against God.”

The pope offered his June 15 daily Mass at the Vatican's Santa Marta residence as a prayer “for the women who are discarded, for the women who are used, for the girls who have to sell their own dignity to have a job.”

He took his cue from the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, in which Jesus said: “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” and “whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery.”

Women, he said, are “what is missing in every man in order to be the image and likeness of God.”

The “doctrine on women” introduced by Jesus in the Gospel, he said, “changed history,” because up to that moment, the woman was “second class...she couldn't even enjoy full freedom.”

“The woman before Jesus is one thing, the woman after Jesus is another. Jesus dignified woman and put her on the same level as man,” Francis said, stressing that “both are 'the image and likeness of God,' both; not men first and then women a bit lower, no, both.”

“And man without woman beside him – as a mother, sister, wife, colleague, friend – that man is not the image of God.”

In the Gospel a certain “desire” for women was alluded to, the pope said, explaining that this desire is not a bygone sentiment, but is something seen in everywhere in daily activities.

“In television programs, in magazines, in newspapers, they show the woman as an object of desire, of use,” he said, comparing the publications to a “supermarket.” In order to sell a certain type of tomato, he said, using food as an example, women become an object, and are “humiliated, without clothes.”

And the problem is not distant, but it happens “where we live.” It's enough to go to an office or a business and one will see that a woman is “the object of that disposable philosophy,” as if she were “waste material” and not a real person.

“This is a sin against God the creator,” the pope said, because “without her we men cannot be the image and likeness of God.”

Francis said there is currently “a fury against women, a terrible fury, even without saying it.”

“How many girls, in order to have a job, have to sell themselves as a disposable object? How many?” he asked, noting that this is not just a problem in faraway countries, but it happens “here in Rome.”

If one were to do a “night walk” in certain areas of Rome, he said, they would see that “many women, many migrants, and many non-migrants” are exploited as if they were in a marketplace. Men approach these women, he said, “not to say 'good evening,' but 'how much do you cost?'”

Pope Francis said it would do everyone good to look at these women and think about the fact that they are “slaves of this mindset of waste.”

“Everything happens here, in Rome, it happens in every city; anonymous women, women, we can say, without an expression because the shame covers her gaze, women who do not know how to laugh” and who often do not know the joy of being mothers, he said.

But even without going to these areas, in normal daily situations “there is this awful mentality” of viewing women as “a second class object.”

“We have to reflect better,” Francis said, because entertaining this mindset toward women means “we despise the image of God, who made man and woman together in his image and likeness.”

The pope closed his homily voicing hope that the day's Gospel passage would help Catholics to think more about “the market of women; yes, trafficking, exploitation, which we see,” but even in “the unseen market, what is done and not seen. The woman is trampled because she is a woman.”

He reminded Mass-goers that Jesus himself had a mother, and had “many women friends who followed him to help him in his ministry.” Jesus also found many women who were “despised, marginalized and discarded,” however, he raised them up with “tenderness,” and restored their dignity.

'Much-needed' initiative aims to protect churches from zoning discrimination

Washington D.C., Jun 15, 2018 / 06:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Protecting places of worship from zoning discrimination is the focus of a new initiative from the Department of Justice, announced earlier this week.  

The ‘Place to Worship’ initiative aims to increase awareness of religious institutions’ right to build, expand, buy or rent facilities.

These land-use provisions are already provided for in the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which protects religious institutions from discriminatory or unduly burdensome zoning practices. However, these rights have come under threat recently in several legal cases.

In a statement announcing the initiative, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the provisions protect not only the private act of worship, but the public exercise of religion provided for in the Constitution.

"Under the laws of this country, government cannot discriminate against people based on their religion - not in law enforcement, not in grant-making, not in hiring, and not in local zoning laws,” Sessions said. “President Trump is an unwavering defender of the right of free exercise, and under his leadership, the Department of Justice is standing up for the rights of all Americans. By raising awareness about our legal rights, the Place to Worship Initiative will help us bring more civil rights cases, win more cases, and prevent discrimination from happening in the first place."

Goals of the new initiative include raising awareness of these rights through community outreach events, educating municipal officials and religious organizations about RLUIPA’s requirements, and providing additional training and resources for federal prosecutors regarding these cases.

The DOJ also launched a new website containing additional information about RLUIPA for religious institutions and lawyers, as well as a complaint portal and Q&A section.

Non-profit legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has represented several religious clients in RLUIPA lawsuits, applauded the initiative for providing a “much-needed” focus on religious freedom.

“No city should use its zoning laws to engage in religious discrimination. Unfortunately, in the 18 years since Congress passed RLUIPA, local governments have done just that, blatantly disregarding the law,” ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries, said in a statement.

“For that reason, we commend the Department of Justice and the Trump administration for placing a much-needed focus on the freedoms churches and other religious groups have under this federal law,” he added.

Alongside the DOJ’s announcement on Tuesday, the Department added that it was filing a  lawsuit against the Borough of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, for the denial of zoning approval for an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in three separate instances.

In their statement, ADF also noted three specific RLUIPA cases in which they have recently been involved, including a lawsuit they filed earlier this month against the city of Monroe, North Carolina, for a zoning code that effectively bans At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church from holding worship services in its rented facilities.


Irish prime minister: Catholic hospitals will be required to perform abortions

Dublin, Ireland, Jun 15, 2018 / 03:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Publicly-funded hospitals in Ireland will be required to perform abortions, even if they are Catholic and morally opposed to the procedure, the nation’s prime minister announced this week.

A survey on, an online medical directory for Irish healthcare professionals, found that nearly 70 percent of general practitioners say they are unwilling to perform abortions.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar clarified to the Dáil (Irish Parliament) on Monday that individual medical professionals will be able to opt out of performing abortions, but entire hospitals will not be able to do so, now that abortion is being legalized in the country.  

“It will not, however, be possible for publicly-funded hospitals, no matter who their patron or owner is, to opt out of providing these necessary services, which will be legal in this state once this legislation is passed by the Dáil and Seanad (senate),” said Varadkar.

He went on to say that “hospitals like for example Holles Street, which is a Catholic voluntary ethos hospital, the Mater, St Vincent's and others will be required, and will be expected to, carry out any procedure that is legal in this state and that is the model we will follow.”

A “voluntary” hospital in Ireland is one supported by charitable contributions. Healthcare in Ireland is government-funded and free for citizens. Many publicly-funded hospitals have historic ties to the Catholic Church and operate under Catholic ethics.

Ireland voted last month to repeal the country’s Eighth Amendment, which recognized the rights of both mothers and their unborn babies. As a result, the government is now drafting legislation to formally legalize abortion through the 12th week of pregnancy.

Prior to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, abortion was only available in Ireland if the mother’s health was deemed to be at risk.

The Irish bishops, who opposed the legalization of abortion, have spoken out on the importance of conscience rights. They have voiced objections to a government proposal that would require doctors to refer patients for abortions.

“For healthcare professionals, the right of conscientious objection must be respected,” said the Irish bishops in a statement.

“It would be a great injustice to require doctors and nurses to participate, even by referral, in the provision of services which would be a serious violation of their conscience. This would only be ‘a way of pretending to respect freedom of conscience while actually requiring one person to cooperate in what he or she sincerely believes is the wrong-doing of another. Such a presumption is at variance with the right to conscientious objection.’”

Since last month’s referendum, Ireland has grappled with conscience rights for doctors and other medical professionals, as only about 20 percent of general practitioners in the country said they would be willing to perform abortions. The Irish government has suggested that it is “likely” that a list of doctors who are willing to perform abortions will be released to the public.

Pro Life Campaign Spokesperson Dr. Ruth Cullen said that the results of the survey suggest that the government is out of step with health care professionals in the country.

“It’s clear the Government haven’t thought this one through,” said Cullen in a statement published on the campaign’s website.

“They spent so much time packaging their abortion proposals as ‘healthcare’ that they’ve no response to doctors who take issue with their proposals other than to coerce these same doctors into facilitating abortion,” she said.


Pope: Migrants should be protected, especially children and families

Vatican City, Jun 15, 2018 / 12:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to a gathering of Mexican politicians and diplomats from the Holy See, Pope Francis said the fundamental rights and dignity of migrants must be protected, and “particular concern must be shown for migrant children and their families.”

In his June 14 message to the symposium, the pope said migration is not about numbers, but people, and “these persons, our brothers and sisters, need ongoing protection, independently of whatever migrant status they may have.”

He also urged greater protection for victims of human trafficking rings, and those who have been displaced due to conflicts, natural disasters and persecution.

“All of them hope that we will have the courage to tear down the wall of comfortable and silent complicity that worsens their helplessness,” he said, adding that “they are waiting for us to show them concern, compassion and devotion.”

Pope Francis' message was sent to participants in a June 14 symposium titled “II Holy See-Mexico Colloquium on international migration,” which was organized by the Vatican Secretariat of State's section for Relations with the States and the Mexican embassy to the Holy See.

The Pontifical Academy for the Sciences hosted the discussion, which was also supported by the migrants and refugees section of the Vatican dicastery for Integral Human Development.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin opened the discussion with a keynote speech in the morning. Other speakers included Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states; Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luis Videgaray Caso; former Mexican ambassador to Italy and current Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miguel Ruiz Cabañas Izquierdo; and current Mexican ambassador to the Holy See, Jaime del Arenal Fenochio.

Speakers highlighted the need to respect the right of people both to migrate and to stay in their own country, and to increase protection for immigrants at every stage of their journey. They also spoke of the need to identify and eliminate the root causes of forced migration, and urged nations to comply with the UN global compacts on migrants and refugees.

In his speech at the colloquium, Videgaray said both “dialogue and reflection” are needed in order to adequately respond to the migration issue, and he stressed the importance of keeping “the rights of migrants at the center of any political discussion.”

He noted a growth of nationalist sentiments in many countries, saying that a certain level of “anxiety and fear” is normal. However, “what is not advisable is that [there is] a new phenomenon which wants to label migrants as the origin of the problem,” he said, noting that many times there are social and cultural issues that prompt people to migrate in the first place.

“Migration is part of who we are,” Videgaray said, noting that Mexico itself receives many immigrants from Central America who either stay, or are in transit to the United States in order to avoid poverty and violence.

Videgaray urged greater protections for migrants at every stage of their journey. In this sense, Mexico's relationship with the United States “is increasingly more important,” he said, adding that Mexico is worried about increasing “anti-immigrant sentiments from Washington.”

“We are open to dialogue with North American authorities,” Videgaray said. Yet while Mexico respects the decision of each nation to determine their own policies, he said the government is concerned about the growing number of families who have been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, with children being taken from their parents.

In May the Trump administration rolled out a new “zero tolerance” policy on immigration which, among other things, has enforced the separation of migrant children from their parents who have been detained by border officials.

With the new crackdown, the number of unaccompanied minors at the border has jumped 20 percent, with an estimated 10,000 migrant children being held in more than 100 shelters, most of which are at near full capacity, according to a McClatchyDC report. The Trump administration is reportedly considering the construction of a “tent city” in Texas to hold immigrant children.

Late last year, the Trump administration announced that the U.S. was pulling out of the UN global compact on migration.

Pope Francis in his message stressed the importance of the compacts, which he said promote the fundamental values of “justice, solidarity and compassion.”

“In order to acknowledge and respond to the current migration situation, the assistance of the entire international community is needed, since its transnational dimension exceeds the capacities and resources of many States,” he said.

However, “this demands a change in mindset: we must move from considering others as threats to our comfort to valuing them as persons whose life experience and values can contribute greatly to the enrichment of our society.”

In comments to journalists, Cardinal Parolin echoed the sentiment, saying the general mentality on migration is “pitifully not the most positive.” Because of this, he stressed the need to change “the image of migration.”

This is the ultimate goal of the UN compacts, he said, adding that Trump's decision to pull out of the migration compact is “not good, because we have constantly repeated that the whole world has to participate in this.”

“It's a global phenomenon which needs the contribution of everyone, no one can [hold] back.”

Parolin's comments come as Italy is currently under fire for refusing to allow a boat carrying more than 600 migrants to dock, drawing international outcry. The boat, called The Aquarius, had rescued migrants from the Mediterranean Sea and been on its way to Sicily when new Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini blocked the ship's arrival.

The decision prompted a standoff between Italy and Malta as to who would take the passengers, with Spain eventually stepping in and allowing the boat to dock.

In comments to journalists, Parolin noted that the issue is complicated. He voiced confidence that Italy's “humanitarian sensitivity has not decreased,” but said, “I think that it’s important that there is a common response to this problem so that Italy is not left alone to face the problem of migration.”

He added that the Church is concerned about the increasing number of children who are separated from their parents. “Everything that signifies violations of the rights of people and of families are shared concerns with the Holy See,” he said, noting that the Church’s role is to advocate through dialogue in order to find workable solutions.