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Pope eager to meet Catholic, interreligious leaders in Bangladesh

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 06:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis sent a video greeting to the people of Bangladesh ahead of his Nov. 30-Dec. 2 visit to the country, saying he is looking forward to meeting everyone, especially Catholics and other religious leaders, and to bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“I want to meet the entire people,” he said. “In a special way, I cannot wait to meet the religious leaders in Ramna (Park).” Located in the central part of the capital city Dhaka, Ramna Park has a lake and trees and is considered one of the most beautiful areas of the city.

In the video, published Nov. 21, he also emphasized his wish to reaffirm the Catholic community of Bangladesh in “its faith and in its testimony of the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and calls us to open our hearts to others, especially the poor and needy.”

Francis also said that in his visit he comes as a “minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to proclaim his message of reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace.”

This is a time when we all, both believers and non-believers, are called to promote understanding and respect, and support each other as part of “one human family,” he said.    

The Pope's visit is the second leg of an apostolic trip to the countries of Burma – also known as Myanmar – and Bangladesh from Nov. 27 to Dec. 2.

He will arrive in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, from Burma on Nov. 30 in the afternoon. There will be a formal welcoming ceremony and then he will make a visit to the National Martyr's Memorial in Savar, about 22 miles north-west of the capital.

The National Martyr's Memorial in Savar is the national monument of Bangladesh. It stands in memory of all those who gave their lives in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which brought independence and separated Bangladesh from Pakistan.  

He will also visit the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, which honors the former Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahman, who was assassinated alongside his family in August 1975.

From there he will meet with the President of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid. Afterward he will deliver a speech in a meeting with governmental authorities, leaders of the civil society and with the diplomatic corps.

On Dec. 1, Francis will celebrate Mass and a priestly ordination at Suhrawardy Udyan Park. In the afternoon he will visit the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina and the cathedral.

Later he will give speeches in meetings with the bishops of Bangladesh and with interreligious leaders and an ecumenical group for peace.

In the morning on Dec. 2 he will make a private visit to the Mother Teresa House in the Tejgaon district of Dhaka.

Afterward he will meet and address priests, religious, consecrated, seminarians and novices in the Church of the Holy Rosary, which was built in the late 1600s and is the oldest church building still-standing in Dhaka. The Pope will visit the church and the parish cemetery during his visit.

Francis' final encounter of the trip will be with youth at the Notre Dame College of Dhaka, where he will deliver a speech before leaving for the airport and the official leaving ceremony before departing for Rome. He is expected to land back in Rome at about 11p.m. local time.

Dioceses of Nashville, Jefferson City get new bishops

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday the Vatican announced Pope Francis' appointment of Fr. Shawn McKnight as the next bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, and Msgr. Mark Spalding as the new leader of the Diocese of Nashville.

In a Nov. 21 statement coinciding with the Vatican announcement, Fr. Michael Johnston, who until now has served as Apostolic Administrator for the Nashville diocese, voiced his gratitude to both Pope Francis for the appointment, and to Msgr. Spalding himself for his “generosity” in accepting the role.

Spalding, Johnston said, “is a man filled with enthusiasm and excitement” for his new responsibilities, and is someone who has “a strong work ethic, a deep love for the Lord and his people, and a great desire to lead and serve.”

“He has already expressed such a keen interest in learning about the Diocese of Nashville, in listening to our needs and our hopes and dreams, and then discerning the direction the Holy Spirit wishes to take us,” Johnston said. “With God’s gift to him of this spirit of service and willingness to lead us, we are truly blessed.”

Spalding, 52, who until now has served the Archdiocese of Louisville as Vicar General and pastor of Holy Trinity parish and Holy Name parish, was born Jan. 13, 1965, in Lebanon, Ky.

After graduating from Bethlehem High School Bardstown, he entered St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and was ordained a priest Aug. 3, 1991, in the St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral of Bardstown.

Before his ordination, he studied from 1987-1991 at the American University in Louvain, Belgium, where he obtained a master degree in religious studies and a licentiate in canon law.  

Since then, he has served at a number of parish assignments, including associate pastor at St. Joseph and chaplain at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, associate pastor at St. Augustine in Lebanon, Ky., associate pastor at St. Margaret Mary in Louisville and pastor of Immaculate Conception in LaGrange.

Since 2011 he has served the Archdiocese of Louisville as Vicar General. His ordination and installation as Bishop of Nashville will take place Feb. 2, 2018, at Sagrado Corazon in the Catholic Pastoral Center on McGavock Pike.

In his comments on Msgr. Spalding's appointment, Johnston said Louisville would be losing a “fine priest,” but offered his assurance that the bishop-elect would be “loved and cared for” as he begins his new role.

Fr. McKnight, who was born in Wichita, Kan. In 1968, got a degree in biochemistry from the University of Dallas before entering seminary in 1990.

He carried out his seminary studies at the Pontifical “Josephinum” College in Columbus, Ohio, and was ordained a priest May 28, 1994, for the Diocese of Wichita.

The bishop-elect then obtained a licentiate and doctorate degree in sacramental theology from the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome and published several articles on relevant pastoral and sacramental themes, finishing his studies in 2001.

After his ordination, he served the diocese in various pastoral, teaching and diocesan roles, the most recent being pastor of the Church of the Magdalen Parish in Wichita.

From 2000-2005, McKnight served as Director of diocesan Divine Worship and was a diocesan consultant and a member of the Presbyteral Council. From 2005-2010 he was a faculty member at Saint Meinrad Seminary working in the formation of permanent deacons.

After, from 2010-2015, the bishop-elect served as Executive Director of the USCCB's Office for Clergy and Consecrated Life. In 2015, he was assigned to the Church of the Magdalen parish, where he has served until now.

Tips from a local: What Cardinal Bo recommends for Pope’s visit to Burma

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 05:00 am (CNA).- To prepare for Pope Francis’ trip to Burma, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the first and sole Burmese cardinal in the Church’s history, met with the Pontiff in a private audience Nov. 18.  The cardinal offered the Pope three recommendations for his upcoming trip.
 
Cardinal Bo told CNA that “the meeting lasted about 30 minutes,” and that the Pope took each of his recommendations under consideration.
 
What did Cardinal Bo recommend?
 
First, he asked the Pope not to use the term “Rohingya” in speeches during the trip. Cardinal Bo explained that “the term is controversial.” In the Bengali language it means “a person who comes from the State of Rakhine”, though it is frequently suggested, and a matter of widespread controversy, that Rohingya are “a separate ethnic identity.”  

“Extremists are trying to mobilize a population by using the word Rohingya, thus generating the risk of a possible new interreligious conflict,” the cardinal explained.

The term “Rohingya” often refers to Muslims from in the Rakhine State of Burma, who are not granted citizenship under Burmese law, and thus are stateless. The United Nations estimated that 582,000 Rohingya have fled Burma for Bangladesh. Pope Francis has made a number of appeals for the protection of the Rohingya.

Cardinal Bo said that the correct term is “Muslims of the Rakhine State.” He added that there are other minorities in Burmese territory who are enduring persecution and conflicts, among them the Kachin, Kahn, and Shahn people.  He said these ethnic minorities also face displacement, but the “media are weak in telling their story.”
 
Cardinal Bo’s second recommendation was to include in the Pope’s schedule a meeting with General Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Armed Forces.  Burma functioned as a military dictatorship for more than 50 years, until democratic reforms taking root in 2011.

 Despite newly emerging signs of democratic reform in Burma, also called Myanmar, the military still wields considerable political authority, including the appointment of cabinet ministers, and one-quarter of the nation’s legislature.
 
Although the Pope’s agenda has no meeting scheduled with the general, Cardinal Bo thinks it is important that a meeting take place. “For sixty years,” he said, “the Church has had no dialogue with the Army, while now a relationship has started, and we hope that the dialogue will improve.”
 
Cardinal Bo stressed that “an official meeting between the Pope and the general” would raise some issues, but there could be “a discreet private meeting,” because “neglecting the government during this trip could bring more tensions in future.” Cardinal Bo said that the Pope “would advise the general to work for peace, and have a greater respect for Burmese ethnic minority groups.”
 
Finally, the Archbishop of Yangon offered the Pope the opportunity to include a meeting with some Burmese leaders who promote interreligious dialogue.
 
He told CNA that the group of leaders is composed of “about 15 people, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims (including Muslims of the Rakhine State) and Hindus.” Cardinal Bo suggested the Pope include a meeting with them before one of the Masses the Pope will celebrate in the country. He told the Pope that “the group for the interreligious dialogue cannot be set aside, because this group could give a great contribution to build peace in the country.”
 
All of these suggestions are part of the Church’s effort to bridge communities in Burma. Although Catholics represent just one percent of population, they have become a sort of reference point for the other religions based in Burma, the cardinal said.
 
The cardinal shared with CNA that “Pope’s speeches will touch many issues: the situation of the Muslims of the Rakhine State, but also that of other minorities who are suffering.”
 
He added that “the Pope will speak about the need to work for peace,” but he will also mention the “equal use of natural resources” and environmental issues.
 
Burma is very rich in natural resources, including oil, gas, minerals, precious stones and gems, as well as  timber and forest products. Despite that, about one-quarter of population lives below the poverty line. The exploitation of timber and forests make urgent the need to tackle environmental issues.
 
Burma’s complicated political situation led Cardinal Bo to ask Western world that “there are in fact two government in Myanmar, and the military one is very powerful. The west was very judgmental and strongly criticized Aung san Suu Kyi [a democratic reformer who has been criticized regarding certain human rights issues], but people who criticize don’t know what it means to dialogue with the military.”
 
Cardinal Bo said that “the west should better understand and back Aung San Suu Kyi, as she is trying to do her best to improve the collaboration between the government and military forces.”

Vatican, China exchange art amid stall in hard diplomacy

China and the Vatican are planning a first-ever exchange of artworks for exhibits in China and the Vatican Museums, as the two states forge ahead with soft diplomacy amid a stalemate in negotiations to heal decades of diplomatic estrangement.

Where the revolution has led: An interview with Mary Eberstadt

Catholic author Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute, and the author of several best-selling books, including Adam and Eve After the Pill and How the West Really Lost God.

Before Bangladesh trip, pope calls for interreligious dialogue

Pope Francis said he would travel to Bangladesh to proclaim the Gospel message of "reconciliation, forgiveness and peace," and he said he was especially looking forward to a meeting with the nation's religious leaders.

John Paul II relic given to 2019 World Youth Day

At a Nov. 17 ceremony at the Polish Embassy to the Holy See, Ambassador Janusz Kotanski delivered a relic of Pope St. John Paul II to Panama’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Miroslava Rosas Vargas.  The relic is a gift from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz to the Church in Panama, as it prepares to host the 2019 World Youth Day.

English judge applauds man who stole drugs, killed suicidal father

London, England, Nov 21, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An English chemist charged with murder for the 2015 killing of his 85-year-old father, who wished to die, was freed on Friday by a judge who said, “Your acts of assistance were acts of pure compassion and mercy.”

Bipin Desai, 58, was also charged with assisted suicide and two counts of theft. Desai gave his father, Dhirajlal Desai, a smoothie laced with stolen morphine at his home in Surrey on Aug. 26, 2015. Desai soon after injected his father with insulin to speed the morphine's fatal action.

The judge ruled Nov. 17 that because Dhirajlal Desai wished to die, there was no basis for a murder conviction.

Dr. Anthony McCarthy of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children responded to the ruling asking, “Are we now to believe that the killing of an innocent and vulnerable human being who is 'tired of life'  is not to be regarded as any serious crime?”

Bipin Desai pleaded guilty to assisted suicide and the theft of the morphine and insulin from his employer. He was given a suspended nine-month jail sentence, and allowed to go free.

The judge, Justice Green, said that to convict Desai of murder would be “perverse and irrational … Your father had a solid and firm wish to die. For him, being assisted to die would be fulfilling his wish of going to heaven to see his wife and being put out of his misery.”

Green said the evidence “provides no support for the prosecution case, to the contrary it unequivocally supports the defence position that this is assisted suicide but not murder,” and that Desai had been “wrongfully accused of murder.”

According to Desai, his father had been asking to end his life after the 2003 death of his wife and the 2010 death of his dog. Desai's lawyer, Natasha Wong, said in court that “what we have is a man who wanted to die, not because he was terribly ill but, sadly, because he had just had enough of life.”

Though Desai also admitted to stealing the drugs used to kill his father, Green said that “the thefts are trivial and only form part of the fabric of the wider case. The owner of the pharmacy said in his evidence that you were an honest, respectful and decent man.”

“You are free to now go with your family and start the process of rebuilding your life,” he continued.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are both criminal offenses in England and Wales under the Suicide Act 1961, and are punishable by imprisonment.

A representative of the assisted suicide advocacy group Dignity in Dying said the case showed the need for “safe and compassionate” laws which decriminalized assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Peter Saunders of Care Not Killing responded that “This case underlines the need for better support for those caring for elderly and disabled relatives but does not mean the law should change.”

A bill to legalize assisted dying in England and Wales failed in Parliament in 2015 by a vote of 330-118.

The Suicide Act 1961 was challenged in High Court last month by a terminally ill man, Noel Conway, who wanted a doctor to be able to prescribe him a lethal dose. His case was dismissed.

In jurisdictions where assisted suicide or euthanasia are legal, the procedures usually require that the individual have a terminal illness and that the fatal drugs are prescribed by a doctor. In the handful of states in the U.S. which have legalized assisted suicide, the individual must have a terminal illness which would lead to death over the course of the next six months.

The Desai case could add to the growing list of assisted suicide abuses found around the world in which pressure is placed on individuals to kill themselves, or in which patients are held down against their wills during lethal injection.

Anthony McCarthy of SPUC said, “It is shocking that a High Court Judge in this country should speak with such approval of an adult son who 'sends his father to heaven'. Serious crimes can be 'well-motivated'  and indeed, mentally ill parents who kill their healthy children sometimes also talk of 'sending them to heaven'.”

“What now of any respect for laws and investigations which seek to protect the ineliminable value of all human lives, regardless of feelings of sadness and loss on the victim's part which may perhaps respond to loving care and professional help?”

Pope Francis: Ideological colonization a ‘blasphemy against God’

In his morning homily during his Mass at the Santa Marta residence on Vatican grounds, Pope Francis on Tuesday once again denounced what he calls "ideological colonization," by which he means affluent societies imposing their worldview and values on poorer nations and cultures as a condition of economic assistance.

'The good Lord has guided me well': 113-year-old nun reflects on blessings

Marseille, France, Nov 21, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At age 113, Sister André is one of the oldest religious sisters in the world.

According to French newspaper Le Parisien, Sister André is the oldest person in France. She told the newspaper that this “very much surprised me because I never even thought about it.”

Sister André, who is blind, currently resides in the Sainte-Catherine-Labouré retirement home for religious in Toulon, a city in southeast France near the Mediterranean.

She was born Lucille Randon on Feb. 11, 1904 in the town of Alès , about 140 miles northwest of Toulon.

The nun told the French daily La Croix that she grew up in a poor Protestant family. Her paternal grandfather was “a pastor, very strict. The services lasted forever and you had to follow the entire sermon without budging or falling asleep! So my parents no longer practiced their religion. But that troubled me.”

When she was 27, she converted to Catholicism. “I gradually progressed, following my Catholic faith,” she said.

During her youth, she worked as a teacher and governess for various families including the Peugeots, who founded and owned the French car manufacturer.

At age 40, she joined the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and took the name André in honor of her brother André, whom she said was like a parent to her.

After World War II began, the nun started working in a hospital in the town of Vichy in central France, taking care of the elderly and children.

“Some of them were orphans, some placed there by their parents because they were no longer able to feed them,” she recalled.

Sister André cared for children in that hospital for nearly 30 years, and said that “some of them have looked me up and still come to see me.”

In 2009, the nun moved into the Sainte-Catherine-Labouré retirement home in Toulon.

“I am really fortunate to be here, because I'm very well cared for here,” she said. “That's very reassuring at my age.”

“When my brothers died when I was 70, I thought that it would be my turn soon,” she said. But several decades later, she is still alive, and grateful for all the blessings God has continued to send her.

Sister André told La Croix that she worked until she was 104 years old. What she misses now is that she can no longer “read, write, draw, embroider and knit.” However, she said that she still enjoys experiencing the nice weather.

“The good Lord has guided me well,” she reflected.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.