NEWS BRIEFS

– Tej Francis

PANAMA CITY, PANAMA

SMALL, WELL-FUNDED LGBT GROUP TO CHALLENGE CATHOLIC TEACHING AT WORLD YOUTH DAY

(CNA) A U.S.-based coalition of dissenting Catholics, whose backers include wealthy non-Catholic funders, is sending a small group of LGBT activists to World Youth Day in Panama to engage with media and pilgrims and to challenge Catholic teaching and practice they say is “harmful.”  The six pilgrims are backed by the Equally Blessed Coalition, currently composed of the groups Call to Action, Dignity USA and New Ways Ministry. The group Fortunate Families had belonged to the coalition for several years but left it in 2018.

This year’s World Youth Day, a major international Catholic young adult event, will take place in the Panama City area Jan. 22-27. It is expected to draw 3 million people, including 200,000 Panamanians, according to local papers. Pope Francis will take part in the events and celebrate a penitential liturgy with juvenile detention center detainees, a Way of the Cross with young people, a prayer vigil with youth, and a Mass for World Youth Day participants.

U.A.E

UAE MUSLIMS PREPARE WARM WELCOME FOR POPE

(The Tablet) Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia, has said the Pope’s coming visit to United Arab Emirates next month is being warmly anticipated by Muslims as well as Christians. Francis would be paying a visit to the “very heart of Islam” so to speak, Hinder said in a long interview in the January issue of Alle Welt, the quarterly magazine of the Austrian branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies, or Missio.

The Pope’s visit to a mosque and the interreligious dimension of the visit could be compared to St Francis of Assisi’s visit to the Egyptian Sultan 800 years ago, Hinder said. “St Francis reached out to the Sultan across entrenched fronts at the time, which led to a friendly visit. I think Pope Francis is going to set a sign, namely that we must build bridges even if we do not believe in the same things”, he added. Such encounters and setting such signs were most important as far as the Muslim world was concerned, “as Muslims react very positively to them”.

Francis is to arrive in Abu Dhabi on 3 February and take part in an international interreligious conference there the following day. On 5 February, the last day of his visit to the UAE, he would celebrate a public Mass in Abu Dhabi. The Arab population were “very open and enthusiastic about the visit and are proud that the Pope has chosen to visit the Arab Emirates of all places”, Hinder said.

WASHINGTON

BISHOPS EXPRESS DISMAY AT COURT RULING ENJOINING MORAL AND RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION TO HHS MANDATE

(USCCB media) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement: “Yesterday’s court ruling freezing these common-sense regulations leaves those with conscientious or religious objections to the HHS mandate out in the cold. In a free country, no one should be forced to facilitate or fund things like contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs and devices, which go against their core beliefs. We pray that this decision will be appealed and that future courts will respect the free exercise arguments of the Little Sisters of the Poor and so many others who simply seek the freedom to serve their neighbors without the threat of massive government fines hanging over their heads.”

In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a mandate under the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) that requires all employer health plans to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of any moral or religious objections. The ministries of institutions like Catholic schools, hospitals and charities—educating the young, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry— are not considered sufficiently religious to qualify for the Mandate’s narrow “religious exemption.” Not only will such institutions be forced to provide services that directly contradict the teachings of their faith, but—more alarmingly— the federal government is claiming the right to decide for religious institutions what constitutes their ministry.

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