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Assisted suicide legislation advances in Australia's Victoria state

Melbourne, Australia, Oct 18, 2017 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- American-inspired legislation to legalize assisted suicide has advanced in the Australian state of Victoria, leading critics to worry that it abandons the vulnerable.

On Oct. 18, Ministers of Parliament in Victoria voted to advance the bill by a 49-37 vote. It will face consideration by the full body before being advanced to the Legislative Council, the upper house.

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill is based on similar laws in the U.S. It allows adults who are terminally ill and mentally competent to ask their doctor to prescribe a drug that will end their lives, the U.K.-based news site Politics Home reports. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews had introduced the bill.

A parliamentary inquiry found that one terminally ill Victorian was taking his or her own life every week.

Critics of the bill questioned a lack of detail about what lethal drugs will be used. They said there is not a requirement for a psychological assessment to determine whether the patient suffers depression, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports. They also cited the risk that the elderly will be coerced into committing suicide.

Backers of the bill said it would only affect a small number of people who suffer terminal illnesses. They objected that palliative care cannot deal with all pain. They also claim the bill has among the most stringent safeguards in the world.

Catholics, including Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, and leaders from several Christian denominations joined together to sign a letter protesting the proposal, charging that euthanasia and assisted suicide “represent the abandonment of those who are in greatest need of our care and support.” The letter appeared July 31 in The Herald Sun newspaper.

In April, the local Catholic bishops said the proposal was based on “misplaced compassion.”

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are the opposite of care and represent the abandonment of the sick and the suffering, of older and dying persons,” they said in a pastoral letter. They also invoked the commandment “You Shall Not Kill” and cited the situation in countries like Holland where there are pressures on the elderly to commit suicide.

The effort to legalize assisted suicide in Victoria has been debated for more than a year. In June 2016, a parliamentary committee recommended legalizing voluntary euthanasia.

At the time, some physicians criticized the move. They charged that some lawmakers had naïve expectations and overestimated the speed and painlessness of a euthanasia death.

They warned that the legalization risked diminishing palliative care, which they said was already underused and underfunded.

A proposal similar to the Victorian bill will be debated in New South Wales in November.


Philippines mourns Cardinal Vidal, who leaves a legacy of service

Cebu, Philippines, Oct 18, 2017 / 01:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, who was Archbishop of Cebu from 1982 to 2010 and a leading Catholic figure in the fall of Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, died Wednesday at the age of 86.

Pope Francis praised the cardinal’s “untiring and devoted service to the Church” and his “constant advocacy of dialogue and peace for all the people in the Philippines.”

“I commend his soul to the infinite love and mercy of our heavenly Father,” he said in an Oct. 18 telegram, voicing condolences to Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu and the clergy, religious, and laity of the archdiocese.

In the early 1980s Vidal became vice-president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. He served as the conference’s president from 1985 to 1987. With Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila, he took a lead role in what has become known as the People’s Power Revolution.

He issued a famous letter denouncing the results of the country’s February 1986 snap elections that gave a slim victory to longtime ruler President Ferdinand Marcos over his challenger Corazon Aquino. The elections were denounced for widespread fraud. After widespread non-violent protests, Marcos would leave office to live in exile.

During another period of political tensions in 2001, Cardinal Vidal urged then-president Joseph Estrada to resign amid allegations of corruption, ABS-CBN News reports. The cardinal later convinced Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to pardon Estrada after he was convicted.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato remembered Vidal as “a true servant-leader, rather than a ‘prince’.” He said the late cardinal left a legacy of outstanding character, CBCP News reports.

The cardinal showed humility and had a low-profile style, according to Quevedo. He was approachable and was able to listen to opposing views. He showed prudence in political issues, charity towards those considered “enemies,” and “courage” in presenting the Catholic bishops’ position ahead of the People Power Revolution.

The future cardinal was born Feb. 6, 1931 in Mogpoc, a city in the central island province of Marinduque. He studied for the priesthood at the minor seminary of the Most Holy Rosary, later named for Our Lady of Carmel. He also studied at the seminary of San Carlo.

Bishop Alfredo Maria Aranda Obviar of Lucena, who has been named a Servant of God, ordained him a priest in March 1956. Bishop Obviar named Vidal spiritual director of the local seminary of Mount Carmel, which the priest later served as superior.

In September 1971 he was named Coadjutor Bishop of Malolos, a diocese in the Central Luzon province of Bulacan. He did not succeed as ordinary of Malolos, however, as in August 1973 he was named Archbishop of Lipa in the province of Batangas. In April 1981 he was named Coadjutor Archbishop of Cebu, whose archbishop at the time was Cardinal Julio Rosales. He succeeded Cardinal Rosales in August 1982. He was named a cardinal by St. John Paul II in 1985.

Msgr. Joseph Tan, a spokesman for the Cebu archdiocese, said Vidal had become seriously ill and was admitted to hospital Oct. 11. He said the cause of death was infection leading to septic shock.

He asked for prayers for the cardinal’s soul.

A wake for the cardinal has begun at Cebu’s cathedral. On Oct. 21 his body will be brought to the St. Pedro Calungsod Shrine, inside the compound of the archbishop’s residence.

His funeral will take place Oct. 26 at 9 a.m. in the cathedral. He will be laid to rest in the mausoleum at the back of the cathedral’s sacristry.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Philippines bishops’ conference, praised the cardinal’s legacy.

“Cardinal Vidal cannot die,” Villegas said. “He who has always shared in the dying and rising of the Lord daily in his priestly life cannot die. He now joins the immortal ones who served the Lord faithfully here on earth. His wisdom and his humility, his love for priests and his devotion to the Virgin Mary must live on in us whom he has left behind.”

“Rest well Eminence,” said the archbishop. “Pray for us in the Father’s House.”

Kidnapped priest in Nigeria released, doing well

Benin City, Nigeria, Oct 18, 2017 / 10:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Maurizio Pallù, an Italian missionary who was kidnapped in southern Nigeria last week, was freed Tuesday.

He was freed late in the evening of Oct. 17, according to authorities, and is doing well.

“The devil is cowardly, he wants to make us afraid but he has chosen the wrong way because we are poor men, that have fear, but are sustained by the grace of God,” Fr. Pallù told Vatican Radio Oct. 18.

Noting that it was actually the second time he’s been kidnapped in Nigeria, Pallù said that it was more difficult this time, but he saw “the miracles that the Lord did, just great miracles that the Lord did to keep us alive.”

“It means that the Lord has a big plan in this country because the devil is attacking with great force to destroy the work of God in this nation.”

Pallù, 63, is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way. He has served as a missionary in Nigeria for three years. He and two companions were kidnapped Oct. 12 by armed men near Benin City.

According to Vatican Insider, the kidnapping was carried out by a group of criminals who robbed the priest and others while they were travelling from Calabar to Benin City by car.

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano told Radio Capital Wednesday that Pallù had been freed and is doing well. “We await him in Italy soon,” he said according to Italian news agency ANSA.

They had the intercession of the saints and of the Blessed Virgin Mary over these last few days, Pallù said, pointing out that both times he’s been kidnapped, it has been on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.  

The first took place Oct. 13, 2016. He was released after only an hour and a half.

This time, he was taken captive on the eve of Oct. 13 and kept in the woods along with a Nigerian student and brother for five days.

According to Vatican Insider, Pallù had called his mother on Sunday night to tell her he was well and would be released soon. Pallù's mother, Laura Pallù, made the phone call public during a prayer vigil for her son's release in parish of Santa Lucia La Sala in northern Florence.

The priest said he has been asked to return to Italy for the time being, though he would like to stay in Nigeria if he can.

The devil “is keeping millions of people slaves here with lies, cowardice and corruption,” he said, “and when they allow me to return I will return here very happy and offer my poor person for the evangelization of Nigeria.”  

Fr. Pallù is a native of Florence. As a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, he was a lay missionary for 11 years in various countries. In 1998, he entered the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Rome.

After serving as a chaplain in two parishes in Rome, he was sent to Holland, where he was a pastor in the Diocese of Haarlem. From there, he was sent to the Archdiocese of Abuja.

Several other priests have recently been kidnapped from the Nigerian state of Edo, where Benin City is located, and one has been killed.

England's Buckfast Abbey to celebrate 1,000 years of foundation

Plymouth, England, Oct 18, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In 2018 one of England's historic monasteries will celebrate the millennium year of its foundation, offering a prime example of the contribution of monastic life to society amid an increasingly fast-paced world.

For the Benedictine monks who inhabit Buckfast Abbey in Devon, reaching such a significant anniversary means “we are the inheritors of a great tradition,” Abbot David Charlesworth told CNA.

“Place matters for Benedictines, so the fact that we are in a place that has been established for many centuries before we came is important.”

Not only to Benedictine monks take the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, they also make an additional vow of stability, meaning that when they are assigned to a monastery, they stay there. While they might travel or even spend time in other monasteries, they will always be attached to the original, as an individual would be to their family home.

Charlesworth, who served as Abbot at Buckfast from 1992-1999, and was re-elected in 2009, said that in general, human beings “like the idea of roots.”

The concept of monasticism is ultimately rooted in the Gospel and expressed through the Rule of St Benedict, he said, but it is also rooted “in place, in a place, and it is from there, out of that place, that we then live our Baptismal vocation expressed through our monastic vocation.”

When it comes to living this vocation in modern times, the millennium landmark “helps to sort of galvanize our approach as to what we're doing for the future,” Charlesworth said. This, he added, encompasses “what we're doing personally, what we're doing as a community, and what we're doing as members of the Church of the Southwest of England.”

The abbot spoke to CNA about the millennium anniversary during a sit-down interview inside one of the two main guest houses at Buckfast Abbey, located in Buckfastleigh, about 25 miles northeast of Plymouth.

The abbey was founded in 1018 during the reign of King Cnut and entrusted to care of the Benedictines.

The monks who inhabited the monastery followed the “Regularis Concordia” rule, which was drafted in Winchester around the year 970 for all Benedictine monasteries in an effort to re-establish, in a sense, monastic life.

Just over 100 years later, in 1147, Buckfast became a Cistercian monastery. The Order was founded in 1098 by a group of monks seeking to live a simpler life in more strict observance of the Benedictine Rule.

Under the Cistercians Buckfast thrived, exporting wool to Italy by the 14th century. By the 15th century, the monastery had in essence become a wealthy landowner, while continuing to run an almshouse and school, and support local parishes in the area.

But in 1539 was shut down by the commissioners of King Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries in a bid to confiscate the wealth of the country's religious institutes during the English Reformation.

The monastery was immediately vacated, stripped and left to decay. During the more than 300 years that Buckfast was without monks, the monastery changed hands four times, eventually landing in those of Dr. James Gale in 1872, who decided to sell the property, but wanted it to go back to a religious community.

Just six weeks after putting an advertisement in the paper, Buckfast was purchased by monks, who moved in shortly after, bringing a close to the 343 year gap in monastic presence at the abbey.

That first group of monks who returned to Buckfast were Benedictines who had been exiled from France and had made their way to Ireland. They moved to Buckfast in 1882 after acquiring the abbey, and began the process of restoring the property.

As the work was being carried out, the ruins to the original Cistercian design from the 1100s were discovered, and the monastery was constructed in its modern form from the ancient layout. The abbey was consecrated in 1932, with the final stone of the large bell tower being laid in 1937.

Now in 2017, the monastery is again a thriving presence in Devon. Not only does Buckfast represent a silent spiritual hub for tourists or visitors who want to get away for a day of prayer, but it also boasts of several other major activities available for people throughout the area.

The Buckfast monks essentially serve as the board of trustees for the St. Mary's grade school that sits on their property, and the abbey hosts a center for evangelization called the School of the Annunciation, which was established as a response to Church's call for a new evangelization.

The school offers formation to adults from all walks of life, and it also holds the status of a Catholic Institute for Higher Learning, providing distance-learning opportunities for students to obtain Master's Degrees in Catechesis and Evangelization, validated by the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.
Buckfast also has a large conference center where they host various congresses and retreats throughout the year, including for non-Catholic groups.

The monastery also offers two refurbished guest houses for pilgrims and tourists to stay. They also have private houses available to rent if people want a longer get-away.

Buckfast also has a cafeteria and an adoration chapel open to visitors. Monks also offer pilgrims the opportunity to pray Vespers with them every evening.

The abbey is known throughout the UK for a tonic wine they brew called Buckfast Tonic Wine. Originally brewed for medicinal purposes, the wine is controversial in some areas of the UK due to its unique recipe, which contains high amounts of alcohol infused with high levels of caffeine.

Reminiscent of the monastery's early centuries, Buckfast, which is strategically placed beside the River Dart that runs through the area, also generates their own power with a water turbine that provides enough energy not only for their own grounds, but for locals in the nearby area who want to purchase it for their own homes and neighborhoods.

Another means of income for the monastery is renting grazing ground for local farmers.

Several acres of land had been purchased for Buckfast when it was established in order to preserve the silence of the monastery and ensure that the monks were truly removed with few distractions. However, since the swath of land owned by Buckfast largely serves as a buffer-of-sorts from the outside world, they rent out certain patches to local farmers who need fresh grazing land.

And while Buckfast can't quite claim to be celebrating 1,000 years of having monks on the property, the millennium anniversary of the monastery's foundation is recognized as a monumental event not only for the abbey, but the entire region.

Preparations for the anniversary have been underway for 10 years. According to Charlesworth, “not only do we reassess the physical environment of the monastery, but we reassess our spiritual lives as well.”

“Everything is integrated, it's an integrated system,” he said, noting that while the monks themselves have had retreats and meditations to reflect on, the structure of the monastery itself has also been cleaned and renovated, from the base of the Church floor to the top of the bell tower.

Paintings depicting the history and reconstruction of the monastery have also been produced, and vestments woven in honor of the upcoming anniversary. Exhibits on Buckfast and monasticism are also set to be unveiled, and study workshops are scheduled exploring the role of Christian monasticism both in the past and in the present.

The famous image of Our Lady of Buckfast that greets visitors as they approach the monastery was also redone. Crafted by a local artist with her neighbor and her neighbor's baby as models, the statue depicts a smiling Mary holding a smiling infant Christ in a relaxed pose on her hip.

Based on the medieval original, which was destroyed during the sacking of the monastery in the 1500s, the statue, according to Charlesworth, is meant to depict “the joy of motherhood.”

“You don't typically see statues like that,” with Mary's soft but full smile, and her relaxed pose, he said, explaining that when he initially commissioned the statue in 2012, “I specifically asked that be emphasized...the smiling motherly face of Mary and child.”

When pilgrims arrive, he explained, they see Christ “smiling and looking at them as a child – because he was a child – and there is Mary looking at her Son in the joy of motherhood.”

Various liturgical events are also set to take place, with three major Masses scheduled throughout the year. The first will take place on the May 24 feast of Our Lady of Buckfast, which will mark the diocesan celebration.

The bishops of England, Wales, and Scotland will all be invited to the Mass. Parish priests and representatives of parishes in the area will also be invited.

The next major liturgical event will be the singing of Vespers by the abbey choir on the July 11 feast of St. Benedict. Members of both civil society and the Church of England will be invited for a civic and ecumenical celebration of the anniversary.

Another Mass will be offered on the Aug. 25 feast of the Dedication of the Abbey, which will be more of a community celebration for the abbey parish staff and their families.

On Oct. 27 a Votive Mass will be offered for the Oct. 27 feast of Saints Simon and Jude, which will be celebrated by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, Gregory Polan of Conception Abbey in Missouri, who will come in from Rome for the celebration.

The Mass will primarily be for the monks and nuns of the Benedictine family, particularly those from France and in Germany, since the first monks to re-settle Buckfast in the 19th century were French and German.

With around 120 employees on staff and 3-400,000 visitors a year, Buckfast is far from a small presence in the area. However, there are only 15 monks, including Abbot Charlesworth, who live in the enclosed monastery of the abbey.

But according to Charlesworth, “the vitality of a monastic community witness does not depend so much on the age or number of members as on their manner of living the monastic life.”

Going into the future, he hopes Buckfast Abbey is able to offer a concrete service based on “Christ-centered hospitality” to the mission of the Church as a whole, but specifically the pilgrims who come.

“The monastic life itself is our way of participating in the mission of Christ and his Church,” the abbot said, adding that it offers both the Church and the world “a strong clear sign of the very nature of the Christian life.”

Though the monks are enclosed, that doesn't mean they are inactive or that their presence isn't felt, he said, because if lived properly through a life of prayer and asceticism, monastic life “assumes an evangelical importance, being the attitude and behavior which demonstrates our faith at the point of contact with each other and the world.”

“To witness the contentment and pleasure that others experience here is a great joy,” he said, noting that for many of Buckfast's visitors, the monastery is a place “where they are uplifted and find peace,” which in itself is “an important source of encouragement.”

This opportunity for peace, joy and renewal is a primary way to evangelize, particularly amid a busy and often hectic rhythm, he said.

Evangelization, he said, “should seek to orientate our human freedom towards God, who is the source of truth, goodness and beauty.”

Because of this, a life of prayer is also a mode of evangelization, he said, explaining that “the Spirit given to us in prayer and the sacraments encourages us to spread the Good News of Jesus in word and deed” to the community, and to visitors.

“For us, the three-fold mission of liturgy, hospitality and evangelization helps us to express our commitment, through our monastic calling to the life of the Gospel,” Charlesworth said, stressing that “we do not have to work away from the monastery to bear witness to Jesus.”

“Within the monastic enclosure, if we are willing to cooperate with each other and collaborate with those who share our vision, we have the resources to bring hope and joy to those in need.”

Pope taps Joliet auxiliary to head Evansville diocese

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2017 / 05:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, the Vatican announced that Joseph M. Siegel, until now auxiliary bishop of Joliet, Illinois, will be taking the reins in the diocese of Evansville, Indiana, which has been vacant for several months.

Siegel's appointment was announced in an Oct. 18 communique from the Vatican, and comes just four months after the previous Bishop of Evansville, Charles C. Thompson, was reassigned to Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

The youngest of nine children, Seigel was born in Lockport Township July 18, 1963, and attended Catholic school.

After graduating from St. Charles Borromeo High School, he entered the local seminary where he completed his college education, and was eventually sent to study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

He completed his theological studies there, also taking courses at the Pontifical Gregorian and Angelicum Universities.

Siegel was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Joliet March 4, 1988, and assigned to the St. Isidore Parish in Bloomingdale. While serving at the parish, he completed a Licentiate degree in Sacred Theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein.

Other parish assignments the bishop held include St. Mary Immaculate in Plainfield, St. Mary Nativity in Joliet and the Cathedral of St. Raymond, where he also served as the diocesan Master of Ceremonies. In 2004, Siegel was named pastor of Visitation Parish in Elmhurst.

He served as a member of the diocese's Presbyteral Council for nine years, including three as chairman, and was also appointed to the diocesan Board of Consultors. He also held the role of director of the Continuing Formation for Priests and was a member of the diocesan Vocation Board, the Priest Personnel Board and was the Dean of Eastern Will County.

Within the Catholic Conference of Illinois, Siegel served as a priest-representative on the Executive Committee and was also chairman of the Catholics for Life Department. During the diocesan celebration of the Year of the Eucharist and Eucharistic Congress in Joliet, he chaired the Steering Committee.

Siegel was also a member of the Bishops’ Respect Life Advisory Board, and is a fourth degree Knight of Columbus and a member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

He was named auxiliary bishop of Joliet by Benedict XVI in 2009, and received his episcopal ordination in January 2010.

A year later, in December 2010, the bishop was named Apostolic Administrator of Joliet when the previous bishop, J. Peter Sartain, was reassigned to the Archdiocese of Seattle. When Joliet's current bishop, R. Daniel Conlon, was appointed in 2011, Siegel was named the diocese's Vicar General.

In addition to English, the bishop also speaks Spanish and Italian.