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Articles are reproduced with thanks from the Archdiocesan website, unless otherwise stated.



Prayer vigil for Australians on death row

5 February 2015

By Catherine Sheehan, Media and Communications

This Saturday evening, 7 February, a prayer vigil will be held at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne, for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, two Australians currently facing the death penalty in Indonesia.

The two members of the so-called ‘Bali Nine’ drug-smuggling ring, arrested in 2005 and sentenced to death in 2006, are facing imminent execution via firing squad.

It was announced yesterday that the Denpasar District Court in Indonesia has refused the pair’s final appeal for clemency. It is expected their execution will take place within a month. (The Australian, 5 February 2015)

The prayer vigil has been organised by the Office for Justice and Peace, of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, in conjunction with Mercy Campaign, an online campaign which is petitioning for an end to the death penalty.

The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred as God has created all people in his image. Therefore the God-given dignity of each person must be respected (Catechism of the Catholic Church: 357, 1929). This inherent dignity is present at all stages of life from conception until natural death, and even when a person has committed a terrible crime.

The Church also emphasises the mercy of Jesus Christ who said ‘blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.’ (Matthew 5:7). Christ also said to those who wanted to stone to death a woman guilty of adultery, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ (John 8:7) The Church proclaims that justice must always be tempered with mercy.

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Pope recognises martyrdom of Archbishop Romero

4 February 2015

Catholic News Service

After decades of debate within the church, Pope Francis formally recognized that Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed ‘in hatred of the faith’ and not for purely political reasons.

Pope Francis signed the decree on Tuesday 3 February, recognising as martyrdom the assassination of Archbishop Romero in a San Salvador hospital chapel as he celebrated Mass on 24 March 1980.

The decree clears the way for the beatification of Archbishop Romero. The postulator or chief promoter of his sainthood cause, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, was scheduled to brief the press on Wednesday 4 February.

Archbishop Romero's sainthood cause was opened at the Vatican in 1993, but was delayed for years as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith studied his writings, amid wider debate over whether he had been killed for his faith or for taking political positions against the Salvadoran government and the death squads operating in his country.

As head of the San Salvadoran Archdiocese from 1977 until his death, Archbishop Romero's preaching grew increasingly strident in defence of the country's poor and oppressed.

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Royal Commission Releases Paper on Redress and Civil Litigation

30 January 2015

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse today released its 300-page paper on redress and civil litigation.

Chair of the Royal Commission, Hon Justice Peter McClellan AM, launched the consultation paper in Sydney.

The first part of the paper deals with equality issues amongst survivors. The paper also notes that any scheme would need to have three main elements:

• a direct personal response by the institution (if the survivors wishes), which would include an apology, an opportunity for the survivors to meet with a senior representative of the institution and an assurance as to steps taken to protect against future abuse
• access to therapeutic counselling and psychological care
• monetary payment

The paper also provides guidelines on principles for an effective direct personal response which the Commission has identified through its meetings with almost 3000 survivors.

The paper also notes three possible options for providing redress:

• institutional schemes
• a national scheme or
• separate state and territory schemes

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Nigeria Named World's Most Violent Persecutor of Christians

16 January 2015

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese

Nigeria has been named as the world's most violent persecutor of Christians. In 2014 Boko Haram's militant Islamic extremists massacred more than 2484 men, women and children of faith. This was followed last week by even more atrocities when it is believed, but as yet unconfirmed, that as many as 2000 were slaughtered by Boko Haram in a bloody attack on Baga, a city in Nigeria's north.

In a disturbing new report by Open Doors, the US-based international organisation that supports persecuted Christians worldwide, Nigeria tops the list of the most violent and dangerous nation for for Christians.

Although exact numbers of the dead in last week's horrific attack by Boko Haram are not yet known, satellite images of Baga and the nearby town of Baga Doron show complete devastation with Christian churches, schools, houses, clinics, hospitals and almost every building razed to the ground.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both published separate satellite images on their websites and describe the destruction as one of "catastrophic proportions" with more than 3700 structures estimated to have been destroyed.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan and Nigeria's notoriously corrupt government and army, which have done little to try to halt Boko Haram's murderous advance, dispute the number of those killed and claim no more than 150 died in the attack.

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Pope, religious leaders pledge to end slavery by 2020

4 December 2014

Catholic News Service

As Pope Francis and leaders of other churches and religions signed a declaration pledging to work together to help end modern slavery in the world by 2020, he urged governments, businesses and all people of good will to join forces against this ‘crime against humanity.’

Tens of millions of people are ‘in chains’ because of human trafficking and forced labor, and it is leading to their ‘dehumanization and humiliation,’ the pope said at the ceremony on Tuesday 2 December, the U.N. Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

Every human person is born with the same dignity and freedom, and any form of discrimination that does not respect this truth ‘is a crime and very often an abhorrent crime,’ the pope said.

Inspired by their religious beliefs and a desire ‘to take practical action,’ the pope and 11 leaders representing the Muslim, Jewish, Orthodox, Anglican, Buddhist and Hindu faiths made a united commitment to help eradicate slavery worldwide.

The leaders signed the joint declaration at the headquarters of Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican Gardens.

The signatories included: Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury; Rabbi David Rosen, international director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee; Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi, an influential Shiite scholar; and representatives signing on behalf of Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar University -- a leading Sunni Muslim institution in Cairo -- and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

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Lives worth living

3 December 2014

By Debra Vermeer

WITH a euthanasia bill tabled in the Federal Parliament, arguments on all sides of the debate are gathering steam, but there is one group of people who say they have more to fear than most from euthanasia legislation–those who are living with disability and battling a daily presumption from society that their lives are not worth living.

Greens Senator, Dr Richard Di Natale, earlier this year tabled the Exposure Draft Medical Services, Dying with Dignity Bill 2014, which was then referred to a Senate Inquiry.

Hearings for the inquiry took place in October.

Among those who appeared before the Senate Committee was Craig Wallace, Convenor of Lives Worth Living, a network of Australians with disability speaking about euthanasia and eugenics, not from a religious, ideological or pro-life position, but from a disability rights perspective.

Mr Wallace said there is a lack of clarity in the debate which raises questions over the interpretation of words such as ‘terminal’, ‘voluntary’ and ‘unacceptable suffering’ and leaves people living with disability open to being swept up in the fatal consequences of euthanasia legislation.

'It isn’t clear that people with disability would necessarily be excluded from that, Mr Wallace said.

Indeed, evidence from countries like Belgium and The Netherlands, shows that people with disability, but not a diagnosed terminal illness, have died under euthanasia laws.

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Caritas calls for end to sexual violence in Democratic Republic of the Congo

25 November 2014

Caritas Australia

On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Caritas Australia is releasing a new report on sexual violence and conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and calling for an end to impunity in this war on women.

The report Fearless Voices: speaking up for peace, equality and justice in the DRC documents the state of law, war and justice in the DRC highlighting the scourge of rape and sexual violence in a country known as the most dangerous place to be a women.

Through the first-hand accounts of women and girl survivors in the war-torn North Kivu Province, Fearless Voices calls for an end to systemic rape and violence perpetrated against women within a culture of silence, impunity and corruption.

The report comes just over a decade since the end of the Second Congo War and six years since thousands of Catholics joined Caritas Australia to break the silence on desecration and plunder in the DRC following the launch of the 2008 Forsaken Voices report.

Caritas Australia’s Program Coordinator for the DRC, Canberra-based, Lulu Mitshabu, says the new report highlights important progress towards peace, equality and justice in the DRC but captures the urgent need to end impunity for violence against the nation’s strongest agents for change.

‘My country has been ravaged by more than a century of exploitation and almost two decades of war. One of the greatest tragedies of this conflict is relentless, calculated and brutal violence against women and girls. In the DRC, it’s more dangerous to be a woman than a solider,’ says Ms. Mitshabu.

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Religious groups call on all parties to leave the equal opportunity laws alone

21 November 2014 

A coalition of religious groups has called upon all parties contesting the Victorian election to commit to maintaining Victoria’s current equal opportunity laws.

Religious leaders, including Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird, and representatives from the Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist and Coptic Orthodox faiths, have issued a statement urging parties to keep the current legislation.

‘The current equal opportunity Laws strike a fair balance between the right to equality, freedom of association and religious liberty,’ Archbishop Philip Freier, Archbishop of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, said.

Religious organisations provide educational, welfare and health services to Victorians of all faiths and of none.

These services remove a substantial burden from the taxpayer and are often provided at a higher standard than Government service because of the faith based commitment to the dignity of the human person held by employees.

‘Many people who work in religious schools, religious hospitals and aged care homes as well as in religious providers to the needy in our community, consider their role not just as an employee but as a type of religious vocation,’ Archbishop Denis Hart of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne said.

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