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Church in Italy fights against imposition of gender ideology in schools

Rome, Italy, Jan 31, 2015 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The general secretary of the Italian bishops conference stressed on Friday that the attempt to introduce textbooks into the nation’s schools that present gender theory as a fact are an effort to turn biological data upside down.

Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano all’Jonio, general secretary of the Italian bishops conference, spoke following a meeting of the Italian Bishops Permanent Council, which took place Jan. 26-28.

On the bishops’ agenda were new regulations for  church buildings and the theme for the general assembly to be held in May, as well as some general issues, the most compelling of which was the introduction into Italian schools of texts supporting gender ideology.

Gender theory or ideology is the notion that one’s ‘gender’ is chosen and need not correspond with one’s biological sex.

In his opening address, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa underscored that the issue is pivotal, and mentioned Pope Francis’ concern over the ideological colonization of families, which he expressed twice during his trip to the Philippines earlier this month. Pope Francis lamented that foreign aid to developing countries is often tied to acceptance of gender theory, and called it a form a colonization.

Cardinal Bagnasco talked about the adoption of gender-oriented books in Italian primary schools, asking, “Have the books by the A.T. Beck Institute – captivatingly titled ‘Educating for diversity in school’ and inspired by gender theory – really disappeared from Italian schools?”

He then said the aim in spreading those books is that of “colonizing the minds of children, boys and girls, with a distorted anthropological vision, without having previously requested and obtained the  authorization of parents.”

Cardinal Bagnasco’s denouncement followed a lengthy struggle of parents’ associations in Italian schools.

Following the 2012 issuance of a “National Strategy for the prevention and contrast of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (2013-2015),” Italian schools have included sexual education plans that follow gender ideology.

Parents’ associations have taken a strong stance against these plans of sexual education, including opposition to the adoption of the book “Educating for diversity in school”, issued by the National Office of Anti-Racial Discrimination.

The books have been printed, but were not distributed following the large protests from parents’ associations.

In December, an initiative of CitizenGo gather almost 50,000 signatures asking the Italian Minister for Education to ban gender ideology in Italian schools.

“Currently, educational projects are often presented with the aim of ‘combating discrimination’,” reads the petition.

But “the generic topic of ‘non discrimination’ very often hides the negation of the natural sexual difference and its reduction to a cultural phenomenon; the freedom to identify as any gender, despite one’s biological sex; the equivalence of any form of union and of family; the justification of almost every sexual behavior.”

This year, Amnesty International has presented a “high school teachers’ handbook” titled “Schools active against homophobia and transphobia. LGBT rights, human rights.”

The handbook stresses that, as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child considers children able to express their own ideas and make decisions, “it is necessary to understand that LGBT persons’ rights are human rights,” and that if a school child “is wondering about his sexual orientation or gender identity,” then it is important to provide “positive images of the life of LGBT persons.”

The handbook also deals with gender theory, and explains to teachers “the difference between biological sex and gender.”

All of these issues have been widely discussed at the Italian Bishops Conference Permanent Council.
The final declaration of the Bishops Council stressed that this culture “does not preserve the family as the central cell of society,” but that it “denaturalizes the family,” and equates family “with any other affective link.”

Bishop Galantino called the “effort carried out with textbooks to propose gender theories to boys and girls as a matter of freedom” a “poisoned chalice.”

He added that “individual rights are legitimate, but they cannot be smuggled as the path that leads to the common good, which is based on other grounds.”

The bishops’ concerns echoed those observed by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, when he said Dec. 19, 2013 that “today one of the greatest problems (facing Catholic schools) is when large organizations want to impose gender ideology.”

How one Catholic school takes a hammer to the cycle of poverty

Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2015 / 05:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During Catholic Schools Week, the president of a small school in Washington, D.C. explained its humble origins, extraordinary mission, and its hopes for the future.

“We intentionally s…

Can Christians survive the ‘dirty games’ of Middle East politics?

Amman, Jordan, Jan 30, 2015 / 04:19 pm (CNA).- Christians have lived in the Middle East since the time of the apostles, but political machinations by world powers and other groups put these communities at risk of extinction, a Jordanian priest fears.

“Who are the main players in these ‘dirty games’? Behind the scenes?” Father Rifat Bader asked journalists at his church near Amman on Oct. 28. “I think many nations are involved in dirty games.”

“But the thing that I cannot understand really: Why do the Christians have to go out of the game?” he asked. “Why, we are part of our societies! So let us be considered as part of the game! Not out of it.”

Fr. Bader, the general director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media, is pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Latin Rite Catholic Church in the Jordanian capital.

The priest cited Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Sako’s September 2014 comments about “dirty political games” in the Middle East.

Fr. Bader noted that the early 20th century actions of Western powers in the region, such as the Sykes-Picot Agreement the United Kingdom and France secretly contracted during World War I to divide the territory of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the war. He predicted similar action in the Middle East in the 21st century.

“Now we have a new Sykes-Picot, with new divisions,” he said.

Fr. Bader was also sceptical of United States policy in the region. In his view, religious minorities “are not a real concern for the U.S. government.”

The aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 has been hard for many, particularly for Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities. Iraq’s Christian population declined from about 1.4 million people to only 400,000. The rapid expansion of the Islamic State group in 2014 only worsened their plight, as the group captured historically Christian towns and cities with large Christian populations such as Mosul, and imposed an extreme version of Islamic law.

The Islamic State’s rise has compounded the crisis in neighboring Syria, where a civil war continues to rage between the government of President Bashar Assad and several rebel coalitions, including the Islamic State. The political backers of the Islamic State are a topic of intense speculation in the region.

Fr. Bader said that the Islamic State was “fiercest” first against the Christians. “And then came the Yazidis, and then the Kurds,” he said, listing the militants’ other targets.

“The first part of this dirty game was against the Christians,” he said. “They didn’t have time to think.”

Fr. Bader’s church has hosted several dozen Iraqi Christian refugees who fled the Islamic State hours before its soldiers occupied their towns and cities. As of late October, they lived in a building converted to shelter them, with assistance from the Catholic humanitarian agency Caritas Jordan and the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services.

Many of the refugees are determined never to return.

“No, we will never go back,” Taif Hanna, an engineer from Mosul, told reporters. “ISIS tried to kill us.”

The militant group offered three choices: conversion to Islam, payment of a tax, or death.

“So we all fled Iraq,” Taif said.

“I will leave all my history there. Because of the terrorism,” lamented Taif’s father, Maan George Hanna. “We have no trust in the government or anything. Never, forever.”

While Fr. Bader praised the Jordanian monarchy’s actions to help Christians, he voiced strong concern that so many Christian refugees were leaving the Middle East entirely.

“When they leave Jordan, they leave the Middle East. This makes us more sad. We want to keep them in the Middle East, but we cannot,” he said, questioning why other Arab countries were not welcoming more Christians.

The priest also criticized aspects of the meeting of US presidnet Barack Obama with leading Christians of the Middle East, which was linked to the In Defense of Christians summit in September 2014.

In Fr. Bader’s view, the meeting neglected Christians and their patriarchs in the Holy Land itself.

He contended that the meeting depicted Islam as the only challenge to Christians in the Middle East and ignored the challenge posed to Christians by Israel.

According to the priest, some in the Holy Land suffer “as Christians” from the Israeli occupation and “the lack of religious freedom.”

Fr. Bader thought there was a double standard in how the U.S. government treats Palestine and Israel.

At the same time, he saw the need for “one Islamic voice in the Muslim and Arab world” to condemn the Islamic State’s actions.

The majority of Jordanians are against the Islamic State, and Fr. Bader said it is wrong to think that such a caliphate is good for all Muslims.

“They do not want such a form of a violent, cruel, massacr(ing) state.”

He added that many Muslims who do want a religious state at most want it to resemble the papacy: speaking on behalf of human beings and human rights, and not against them.

Fr. Bader praised Muslim assistance for Christian refugees. When Muslims heard Iraqi Christians were coming to stay, he reported, veiled Muslim women came to help them.

“Really that is a great image of Jordan.”

The country has taken in about 1.4 million Syrian refugees, increasing its population by about 20 percent. Despite the significant strain on national resources, the country appears to be politically stable.

“We thank God for the stability in Jordan, that we can at least have a safe country which hosts all these people from Syria and from Iraq,” Fr. Bader said.

“Before that, it was from Palestine.”

He said it is important to distinguish Arab countries in which Christians are persecuted, from countries in which they are not.

Fr. Bader had high praise for Jordan’s King Abdullah II. The priest noted the king’s remarks at the United Nations and at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative which emphasized Christians’ 2,000-year history in the Middle East and their past, present, and future role in Middle East societies.

“When the king says this, we are proud of what he is saying, because he is frank, and he is really always defending the Arabic Christians.”

The king has also been patron of a conference about the challenges facing Middle East Christians.

Fr. Bader also praised the Catholic Church’s support for many projects, noting that coordination teams of bishops come every year from the U.S. and from Europe.

“They come, they visit Gaza, they visit the hidden sufferings in Jordan and in Palestine.”

The Jordanian priest noted that Caritas Jordan helps both Muslims and Christians. Religious differences are not a barrier to aid and cooperation, the priest said.

However, Caritas Jordan is also facing a great burden in trying to aid the refugees.

“That’s why Caritas needs more help from the partners outside,” the priest said. “They have to help Caritas because we don’t foresee when this crisis will end.”

Fr. Bader stressed the importance of Arabic-language Catholic news, especially after the reaction to Benedict XVI’s 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany about the role of faith and reason in Christianity and Islam.

Media coverage focused on a passage in which the Pope cited a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who criticized Islam’s Prophet Mohammed. The media coverage at times provoked reactions that turned violent.

“Nobody could read the speech,” Fr. Bader said. “They were just attacking the Pope and the Church without reading the content of it.”

Woman bishop challenges future of Anglican-Catholic dialogue

London, England, Jan 30, 2015 / 03:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While the consecration of the Church of England’s first woman bishop presents significant challenges in bringing Catholics and Anglicans into “closer communion,” ecumenical leaders say the door to dialogue remains open.

The consecration of Libby Lane as an Anglican bishop earlier this month creates a “further challenge to a hope of organic reunion”, said David Moxon, another Anglican bishop, in a Jan. 29 interview with CNA, reiterating concerns expressed by Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham.

Moxon and Archbishop Longley are co-chairs of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), which aims to advance ecumenical relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

In a Jan. 27 interview with Vatican Radio, Archbishop Longley, acknowledging the challenges presented by Lane’s Anglican episcopal consecration, stressed that it “shouldn’t affect the way in which the dialogue is continued.”

The Birmingham archbishop’s confidence that dialogue will go on despite this latest development is “very important to us”, Moxon said.

On Jan. 26, Lane was consecrated in York Minster as the Anglican Bishop of Stockport. She is the first woman to be consecrated a bishop for the Church of England, after its general synod in Nov. 2014 voted to allow for women bishops.

However, Moxon acknowledged that not everyone in the Church of England is on board, with some people unable to recognize the authority of a woman bishop. In response, the Church of England general synod made provisions for those in this category, allowing them to operate under the authority of what is sometimes referred to as a “flying bishop”.

“People who don’t agree with the ordination of a woman as a bishop don’t have to come under her authority,” he said, nor do they “have to be licensed to the bishop who will ordain women to be bishop or to be priests.”

While Lane represents the first bishop consecrated for the Church of England, Moxon stressed that the existence of women priests and bishops within the Anglican Communion is not a new challenge in ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church.

As ARCIC prepares for its upcoming meeting in Rome in May, he said the decision to consecate Lane as bishop will be on the agenda, “but, it won’t be seen as a crisis. It will be seen as a challenge which we knew was already there.”

Over the last four decades, some of the 38 Anglican provinces have been electing to allow for the ordination of women and bishops. Included among them is Linda Nicholls, Anglican Bishop of Toronto and ARCIC member.

“The ordination itself is one step in a long process that began nearly forty years ago,” said Bishop Brian Farrell, L.C., secretary for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in a Jan. 29 email interview with CNA.

He said ARCIC “has continued in spite of this development, and has taken account of the challenge this new situation represents to our growing into closer communion.”

Members of the ecumenical organization “will have to face the whole question of our disagreement on the implications of the sacramental nature of ordained ministry”, he added.

“Nobody on either side underestimates the difficulties involved.”

The bishop went on to cite the Second Vatican Council’s recognition of the affinity between the Church and the Anglican Communion, noting their “many common traditions and structures.”

However, while “some parts” of the “shared Christian life and patrimony” between Anglicans and Catholics have grown stronger through dialogue, others have weakened.

This weakening, he explained, is largely due “to an acceptance by some parts of the Anglican Communion of the idea that important aspects of the Christian message and Christian living can change as a result of changed cultural attitudes”.

Bishop Farrell added that this challenge is also felt among some Catholics.

“Where we differ is in the way the Churches reach authoritative decisions about these matters. This is precisely the issue that ARCIC is discussing in the present phase of dialogue.”

One of the central aspects of the challenge presented by this latest development in dialogue lies in the fact that the Catholic Church is unable to change its teaching on the ordination of women as priests, much less as bishops.

In the 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, St. John Paul II wrote that “in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

Nonetheless, while Pope Francis and his predecessors have lauded the essential role of women in the Church, the debate among Catholics in certain circles over ordination of women continues to thrive.

“There is vast space in the Catholic Church for women to take on a greater leadership role,” Bishop Farrell said.

He went on to clarify that “specific debate about women’s ordination is based on a mistaken concept of ministry as ‘power’ in the Church.”

This errant understanding stems from the way “our whole tradition has tended to reinforce that idea in the way the priesthood has been presented and exercised,” he added.

“A truly profound conversion and reform in the way we think about the priestly ministry is needed.”

Lukewarm Christians who don’t love are ‘in grave danger,’ Pope warns

Vatican City, Jan 30, 2015 / 11:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily Friday Pope Francis encouraged Christians to remember the first time they felt the love of God, and warned that those who forget this moment risk becoming lukewarm and losing salvati…

Ghana priests shift focus to marriage prep, youth formation

Accra, Ghana, Jan 30, 2015 / 02:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A national gathering of hundreds of priests in Ghana have resolved to become more involved with their parishioners through marriage preparation, family counseling, and educational youth formation….

Coming soon to the Vatican: haircuts for Rome’s homeless

Vatican City, Jan 30, 2015 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican’s continued efforts to help the homeless of Rome have expanded beyond showers and bathrooms at St. Peter’s Square, with a barber shop set to open soon.

“Our primar…

Burma’s Bibles: encouraging love of Scripture among the laity

Yangon, Burma, Jan 29, 2015 / 06:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church in Burma is engaged in a series of biblical seminars to aid in catechesis and in drawing the laity to read and appreciate Sacred Scripture, heeding the call of the Second Vatican Counc…

Assisted living centers defeat HHS mandate in court

Denver, Colo., Jan 29, 2015 / 04:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal court has permanently barred the Obama administration from enforcing the federal contraception mandate against the group of Evangelical-owned senior citizen and assisted living centers….

Pope says palliums will be given to new archbishops at home – not Rome

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2015 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As a sign of “synodality” with local Churches, Pope Francis has decided that new metropolitan archbishops will officially be imposed with the pallium in their home diocese, rather than…

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