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Biden condemns forced sterilizations by China

CNA Staff, Jul 2, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden condemned China’s forced sterilizations of Uyghur women on Wednesday—nine years after he told a Chinese audience that he was “not second-guessing” the country’s one-child policy.

In a campaign press release on Wednesday, Biden decried the “unconscionable crimes against Chinese women” revealed in an Associated Press report on Monday. The AP investigation found a systematic campaign by the Chinese Communist Party of pregnancy checks and forced abortions, sterilizations, and implantations of IUDs on Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

In 2011, however, Biden himself was criticized by pro-lifers for telling a Chinese audience that he understood China’s one-child policy.

Speaking at Chengdu's Sichuan University in August of 2011, then-Vice President Biden brought up the demographic challenges in the U.S. of having fewer working-age citizens to support a greater number of retirees.

“But as I was talking to some of your leaders, you share a similar concern here in China,” Biden said.

“Your policy has been one which I fully understand – I’m not second-guessing – of one child per family,” he said. “The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.”

Human rights organizations have repeatedly reported that the one-child policy—since updated to become a two-child-per-family limit—is enforced by the Communist government through forced abortions and sterilizations of women who do not comply.

The Trump administration, beginning in 2017, stopped funding the UN’s population fund (UNFPA) because of its partnership with the Chinese government. The State Department said that “China's family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization.”

The U.S. had also pulled funding of the UNFPA in 2002 over China’s implementation of the one-child policy, but the Obama administration restored funding in 2009.

Biden, in 2011, was criticized by some Republicans for his deference to the policy. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House pro-life caucus, called the policy “cruel, inhumane and the most egregious systematic attack on women ever.”

In January, 2020, Smith warned that “the pervasive use of forced abortion and forced sterilization” was continuing in China, especially “against ethnic minorities, especially the Uyghurs, as a way of population control and as another manifestation of genocide.”

Monday’s AP report showed that many Uyghurs are sentenced to detention camps in the region for having too many children. Parents of three or more children are fined, jailed, or separated from their families, with police searching homes for hidden children.

On Thursday, Biden cited the AP report on the forced abortion and sterilization in Xinjiang to attack President Trump’s policy on China’s human rights abuses as “indefensible, marked by desperation for a failing trade deal.”

Trump has been criticized for not issuing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the human rights crisis in Xinjiang, where reports have shown that more than 1,300 detention camps have been set up for Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. Survivors of the camps have reported undergoing indoctrination, forced labor, torture, and other abuses.

Members of the Uyghur diaspora and survivors of the camps have said that Uyghurs and other minorities have been sterilized or forced to practice birth control. Two survivors of the camps, Mihrigul Tursun and Gulbahar Jelilova, have said they were administered or witnessed other women being administered unknown substances in the camps that stopped their menstruation.

The AP reported on Monday that the abuses were “far more widespread and systematic than previously known.” The birth rate in the region plunged by 24% in 2019, the AP said, and in certain parts of the province birth rates had fallen by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018.

Although Trump on June 17 signed legislation to impose sanctions on Chinese officials culpable in abuses committed against Uyghurs, sanctions have not been issued yet. Trump told Axios on June 19 that he hadn’t yet done so because “we were in the middle of a major trade deal.”

Nury Turkel, a Uyghur human rights advocates who is a commissioner at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told CNA that “there is no excuse for delaying action against China.”

Pope Francis appoints apostolic visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in US and Canada

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed an apostolic visitor Thursday for Ethiopian Catholics in the United States and Canada. 

The pope named Fr. Tesfaye Woldemariam Fesuh, a priest of the Archdiocese of Addis Ababa, July 2 as apostolic visitor of Ge’ez Rite Catholics in the two countries. 

The move follows the pope’s decision in January to appoint an apostolic visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in Europe.

In the Latin Rite Church, an apostolic visitor refers to officials who perform a short-term mission on behalf of the pope. But in the Eastern Catholic Churches, an apostolic visitor often has a long-term role supervising communities which do not yet have their own ordinary.

The Ethiopian Catholic Church is one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See. It has an estimated 71,000 members and is based in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, but also has diaspora communities in Europe, North America, and Australia.

Ge’ez is a Semitic language used in the liturgies of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, which follow the ancient Alexandrian Rite. 

Fesuh spent more than a decade in the United States, beginning in 2001. He served the Ethiopian faithful in Washington, DC, helping to bring together African Catholics in the city. 

He was a pastoral assistant at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington from 2007 to 2011.

In 2015, he returned to Ethiopia, where he now serves as chancellor of Addis Ababa archdiocese.

Earlier this year Pope Francis named Fr. Petros Berga, a priest of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam in the Netherlands, as apostolic visitor for Catholics of the Alexandrian Ge’ez Rite resident in Europe.

Berga, who was born in Ethiopia, was ordained in the Netherlands in 1998 after studying at the Catholic University of Utrecht. While serving as a pastor in Edam, a town in the northwest of the country, he dedicated himself to the pastoral care of Ethiopian Catholics. Returning to Ethiopia, he was appointed secretary of the local bishops’ conference.

Pope Francis offers condolences to Benedict XVI following his brother’s death

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2020 / 05:10 am (CNA).- Pope Francis offered his condolences to Benedict XVI Thursday following the death of his brother. 

In a letter to the pope emeritus dated July 2, the pope expressed his “heartfelt sympathy” after the death of Msgr. Georg Ratzinger July 1 at the age of 96.

“You were kind enough to be the first to tell me the news of the departure of your beloved brother Georg,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter released in both Italian and German by the Holy See Press Office. 

“In this hour of mourning I would like to express to you once again my heartfelt sympathy and my spiritual closeness.”

The letter continued: “I assure you of my prayers for the deceased, that the Lord of Life, in his goodness and mercy, may receive him into his heavenly homeland and grant him the reward prepared for the faithful servants of the Gospel.” 

“I also pray for you, Holiness, that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Father will strengthen you in Christian hope and console you in his divine love.”

Benedict XVI’s older brother died a little more than a week after the pope emeritus made a four-day trip to Regensburg, Germany, to be by his bedside. On each day of the visit the brothers celebrated Mass together, according to local Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer.

The brothers enjoyed a strong bond throughout their lives. They were ordained together on June 29, 1951, and remained in touch as their paths diverged, with Georg pursuing an interest in music and his younger brother developing a reputation as a leading theologian.

Georg served as a conductor of the Regensburger Domspatzen, the acclaimed cathedral choir of Regensburg. 

In 2011, he celebrated his 60th anniversary as a priest in Rome together with his brother.

The Diocese of Regensburg announced July 2 that a Pontifical Requiem Mass for Msgr. Ratzinger will take place at 10 a.m. local time Wednesday, July 8, at Regensburg Cathedral. It will be broadcast live on the diocesan website

Afterwards, Benedict’s brother will be laid to rest in the foundation grave of the Regensburger Domspatzen at the Lower Catholic Cemetery in Regensburg.

Regensburg diocese has invited Catholics worldwide to leave messages of condolences via its website.

Speaking after Benedict XVI’s visit to Germany, Voderholzer said: “One can only wish everyone such affection, such a fraternal togetherness, as witnessed in the relationship of the Ratzinger brothers. It lives on fidelity, trust, selflessness and a solid foundation: in the case of the Ratzinger brothers, this is the common, living faith in Christ, the Son of God.”

Catholic bishop: bill changes would leave UK with ‘most extreme abortion legislation in Europe’

CNA Staff, Jul 2, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- An English bishop has urged Catholics to resist a new push to strip away protections for unborn children that would “leave the U.K. with the most extreme abortion legislation in Europe.” 

Bishop John Sherrington issued the appeal July 1 as Members of Parliament sought to table amendments to a domestic abuse bill that he said would introduce “abortion on demand, for any reason, up until when a child is capable of being born alive.”

A group of MPs will seek to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which prohibit the administration of drugs or the use of instruments to cause a miscarriage.

Sherrington said: “This is being presented as decriminalizing abortion but it would, if carried, do far more than that. It would result in the introduction of abortion on demand, for any reason, up until when a child is capable of being born alive, with a ceiling of 28 weeks.”

“It would leave the U.K. with the most extreme abortion legislation in Europe, where in nearly all countries the time limit for abortion is 12 weeks. The majority of our fellow citizens would like to see the current 24-week limit reduced, not increased.”

Sherrington, the lead bishop for life issues of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, continued: “This amendment would also have the effect of removing the clauses in the Abortion Act 1967 which enable medical practitioners to exercise conscientious objection in relation to abortion. Furthermore, it would also remove the legal safeguards which currently protect women and children.” 

He urged Catholics to write to their MPs, via the website of the pro-life group Right to Life, urging them to oppose the amendment.

Right to Life has accused the abortion lobby, led by the U.K.’s largest abortion provider BPAS, of trying to “hijack” the Domestic Abuse Bill, which seeks to safeguard women and children who face abuse in their homes.

The charity said that the amendments would represent “the most extensive change to abortion legislation” since the practice was legalized in 1967, leaving England and Wales with “one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world.”

Pro-abortion campaigners have been active throughout the coronavirus crisis, which has had a devastating effect on the U.K., with 43,991 deaths from COVID-19 as of July 2 -- the third highest recorded figure in the world.

When the country entered lockdown in March, the government came under pressure to allow women to have early abortions at home without medical supervision. It approved the measure, then quickly rescinded it, before introducing again.

Sherrington, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Westminster, expressed shock at the government’s actions. 

He said: “These measures fundamentally change access to abortion in England and Wales for the foreseeable future. Whilst these are emergency times, these measures further endanger women who, for example, are rushed into decisions by abusive partners and act without any proper consultation.”

Last month official figures revealed that a record number of abortions took place in England and Wales in 2019.

The government reported June 11 that a total of 209,519 abortions took place last year, more than in any other year since 1967. 

Antonia Tully, director of campaigns at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: “We are looking at a national tragedy here. This appalling figure shows us that abortion is becoming more and more normalized.” 

Founder of Catholic Schoenstatt movement faces allegations of coercion

CNA Staff, Jul 1, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- A German historian says that recently opened Vatican archives include documents that suggest the German founder of the Schoenstatt ecclesial movement engaged in manipulative and coercive behavior among the sisters of the movement. But the Schoenstatt community says those allegations have long since been addressed.

According to German Catholic newspaper Die Tagepost, theologian and Church historian Alexandra von Teuffenbach has reviewed Vatican assessments of the Schoenstatt movement, which reportedly portray Fr. Josef Kentenich, founder of the movement, as manipulative and coercive.

The Holy See reportedly began to receive reports from alleged victims of the priest in the early 1950s, and dispatched an apostolic visitator, or Vatican observer, to assess the situation. According to von Teuffenbach, Kentenich was sent to the United States after that visitation, but no reforms of the community were subsequently enacted. 

“The church under Pius XII protected the abused woman and the Mary Sisters, who at that time, instead of obeying the official instructions of the church, preferred to follow a questionable figure, as clearly described in the files," Von Teuffenbach wrote.

Kentenich went to the U.S. in 1951, and was permitted to return to Germany in October 1965. He died three years later. A beatification process for the priest began in 1975.  

Additional details of the allegations against Kentenich are expected to be published Thursday.

In a statement Wednesday, Fr. Juan Pablo Catoggio, superior of the Schoenstatt movement, said that “during the 1950 ecclesiastical visitation to Schoenstatt, some individuals made accusations against the founder of Schoenstatt to the Vatican authorities, which led to the 14 year long exile of the founder. These issues were discussed and clarified during the process of beatification opened in 1975. Back then, all the documents and testimonies that were in any way pertinent where made available to the competent Church authorities.”

“If doubt regarding the moral integrity of the Schoenstatt founder would have remained, his exile would not have finished and the Vatican would have not published a nihil obstat to open his process of beatification,”  Catoggio added.

Kentenich was born in 1885 and ordained a priest in 1910. In 1914, he founded a new ecclesial movement in a chapel in Schoenstatt, Germany. The movement, which now includes priests, consecrated women, and lay involvement, is active in 42 countries, and focused on spiritual formation and Marian spirituality.