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Good Friday Holy Land collection moved to September due to coronavirus

Vatican City, Apr 2, 2020 / 06:40 am (CNA).- The Lenten Holy Land collection will be moved to September this year because of the suspension of public Masses in many places in the world due to the coronavirus, the Vatican stated Thursday.

The collection is usually taken up in churches during Good Friday services. Good Friday falls this year on April 10.

According to a press release from the Congregation for Eastern Churches April 2, for the year 2020, Pope Francis approved moving the collection to Sunday, Sept. 13, since many countries will not be holding public Good Friday services this year.

The Holy See has overseen the Church's annual collection for the Holy Land since 1974, when St. Pope Paul VI established Good Friday as the ordinary day for it to be taken up by parishes and bishops around the world.

The collection goes toward the maintenance and upkeep of the holy sites as well as supporting the lives of Christians in the Holy Land.  

"Christian communities in the Holy Land, also exposed to the risk of contagion and living in contexts that are often already very tested, benefit every year from the generous solidarity of the faithful from all over the world," the April 2 release stated.

The Holy Land collection, it continued, helps the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land and other jurisdictions to be "able to continue their evangelical presence, in addition to maintaining schools and the welfare structures open to all citizens for human education, peaceful coexistence, and care above all for the youngest and poorest."

The date of Sept. 13, 2020 was chosen for the collection because it is near the Sept. 14 feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the release said. The Exaltation of the Cross commemorates the discovery of the relic of the cross by St. Helen and "the beginning of public worship in Jerusalem with the construction of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre."

This will make the collection "a sign of hope and salvation rediscovered after the Passion," the statement said, adding that it is a sign of "solidarity with those who continue to live the Gospel of Jesus in the land where 'it all began.'"

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was closed in late March with no definite timeline for reopening. This is the first time in nearly 700 years the holy site, which houses the tomb of Christ and the site of the crucifixion, has closed for an extended time.

Authorities in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, closed the Church of the Nativity in early March after four cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in the town. The Church of the Nativity was built over the birthplace of Jesus Christ. All tourists were subsequently banned from entering Bethlehem.

According to The Times of Israel, as of April 1, the number of COVID-19 deaths in Israel was 26, with 6,092 confirmed cases.

 

‘We’re in unknown territory’: Uncertainty follows parish and diocesan employee layoffs 

Denver, Colo., Apr 2, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Dawne Mechlinski was a parish music minister for 41 years.

When she was 12 years old, when she was asked to be the organist at her parish in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. She agreed, and added organ lessons onto her piano lessons. After attending Westminster Choir College, she’s been a full-time director of music since 1988 in the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey.

Mechlinski, now 53, is the kind of parish music minister who sticks around - she’s only ever served at three different parishes, including her childhood parish. She’s been at her current parish, St. Mark's in Sea Girt, since 2006.

That is, until the coronavirus pandemic struck.

At first, Mechlinski said employees of the parish took their own social distancing and health precautions, but for the most part, “everything was normal. Then on the weekend of the 14th and 15th (of March), I had questions from parents of choir members.”

The parents were wondering if choir practice was continuing, and if so, what it would look like. Mechlinski, who directs four choirs, decided to cancel choir for the weekend. Instead she played the organ while one person sang for all four Masses.

Attendance was low, Mechlinski noted, as social distancing was already catching on throughout the United States, but the collection basket wasn’t hit too hard, as many parishioners have moved to online donations.

Later that week, on Thursday, March 19, Mechlinski played the organ again for a funeral Mass. That evening, she got the call.

"We've decided you're furloughed,” the parish business administrator told Mechlinski.

“I even had to question really what that meant,” she said. “I thought that was a military term, to be honest. I wasn't prepared. I actually thought she was calling to give me protocol, how we would be handling things, what would be going on down the road.”

“And the business administrator just said, ‘This is what everyone (in the diocese) is doing, this is how we'll handle it.’ She was reading me this letter. And that was it. She said, ‘You will be paid until tomorrow,’ which was Friday. I'm off on Wednesdays and Fridays, and that was it.”

Bishops across the United States have suspended public liturgies and closed church buildings in the past few weeks in response to state-issued public safety policies, and Catholic leaders have warned of an immediate revenue shortfall. Consequences of that shortfall include staff reductions, furloughs, and decreased hours.

The furlough came as a shock to Mechlinski, who noted that her parish is located in a “very affluent” area. Music ministry has been her life-long passion, it’s also her career: the primary source of income for a widowed mother to four children, two of whom still live at home and have significant medical needs.

Mechlinski said she tried to ask some clarifying questions, but as of now, things are “not real clear.” She’s unsure what will happen to her health insurance or her life insurance. She was told that her parish had not been paying into unemployment insurance, so she’s not sure what she qualifies for as far as any kind of aid right now.

“I am...a little alarmed that they don't have something in place for their employees as a protection,” she said. “I've asked for a letter of furlough explaining (the details) and I have yet to receive it. I've asked for it a couple of times just to have something permanent rather than a phone conversation.”

Linda Rosa, the business manager at St. Mark’s, told CNA that the parish had been in a deficit even before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“We weren't in the best shape to begin with. We were just trying to get out of it and all of a sudden, there's something that happens,” Rosa said. She said she has been in touch with employees and with the diocese as the parish has had to make difficult financial decisions to furlough or lay off employees.

Rosa added that as of April 1, no full-time employee of the parish had yet gone without pay. Rosa said Mechlinski was still receiving pay for any personal or sick time off that she had not yet used in the year, as were the other employees. She said Mechlinski and all other employees’ benefits will be covered by the parish for the duration of the pandemic.

“We're just continuing to pray for all those that have been affected,” Rosa said.

Rayanne Bennett, director of communications in the Diocese of Trenton, told CNA that furloughs were an “unfortunate necessity” due to the coronavirus pandemic, as the drop in donations at the parish level also affects the financial stability of the diocese.

Bennett said that the diocese will pay for the health insurance of all furloughed employees for three months “at minimum,” and has advised all furloughed staff to apply for unemployment benefits through new federal coronavirus benefits.  

“We are doing all that we can and will continue to give this our best effort. While there is great uncertainty at this time, it is our hope that we can restore our parishes, schools and diocesan operations to full staffing once the current emergency has passed,” Bennett said.

Mechlinski said she’s unsure of what comes next. She’s hoping that the terms of her furlough become more clear, and she plans to look into what federal aid she may qualify for. A friend of hers, who was recovering from coronavirus with his wife, set up a GoFundMe page to support her.

“He really stepped out and said, ‘Listen, I need to do something for you.’ So he put together a GoFundMe, which I thought was really sweet,” she said. “It's going to be the angels among us that are all going to help us to get through. The community that continues to lift everyone up, and whatever means of support that people find in their hearts is a blessing.”

Ministry is also a passion for Emily Davenport, 23, who served as a full-time missionary with LifeTeen last year in Georgia before moving to Sandusky, Ohio in September for a job as a youth minister.

The position had been vacant for about a year and a half, Davenport said, and she’s spent most of this year building a youth program back up from scratch.

But now, she’s back home in St. Louis, living with her parents and her 19 year-old seminarian brother, after she was laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“What we have been told is that we're laid off until Sunday Masses resume, so as far as we know, the plan and the hope is that we're all rehired,” Davenport said.

“But I also know that shortly before we got laid off, we were told nobody was going to get laid off. And so it's like everything feels very unpredictable,” she added.

Davenport said she doesn’t have hard feelings about being laid off, and that her pastor handled the situation well.

“Our pastor is fantastic, for the record,” she said. “He's a really wonderful man. He's really... trying very, very hard to be prudent for the future of the parish. And so almost as soon as public Masses were canceled, most of our parish staff was either laid off or (had) hours cut. He was an accountant before he was a priest, so he has a lot more managerial foresight than I think...a lot of pastors do.”

Davenport said when her pastor called to tell her the news, he explained to her how she could apply for unemployment benefits.

The parish is also covering Davenport’s health insurance for the pandemic at no cost to her, and because Davenport had been living in parish-provided housing, and has now moved back home with her parents, she doesn’t owe rent anywhere.

“I see them trying to do everything they can. It's just a sucky situation,” she said.

Fr. Monte Hoyles, the pastor of the Catholic Parishes of Sandusky, the tri-parish conglomerate where Davenport had worked, told CNA he hoped that he could bring his staff back as soon as possible.

“I mean, (laying off staff) is not something you want to do. Who would want to do that?” he said.

“But with very little money coming in and salaries to pay...until we can get back (to public Masses) this was the only way to ensure that we're able to continue what things we can do for right now,” Hoyles said, adding that the parishes are covering health insurance for all laid-off employees who qualified for it.

“I told my employees from the three parishes and also our cemeteries...I want to bring you back as absolutely soon as I possibly can,” Hoyles said.

Davenport said she feels blessed because she has her family as a safety net, and her dad’s job is pretty secure. But she still has bills to pay, and she doesn’t want to rely on her family for long.

“I was on ‘operation trying to be an independent adult’, but at least for now, I'm trying to take care of my cable bill, and the other things like...car insurance and my car payment,” she said.

“Maybe the bank will be able to let me wait a month or two before paying car payments, in the hope that my job would be back and I'd be able to just pick up where I left off,” she added.

She said she hopes to return to ministry, but that all depends on how things go in the near future with the Church and the pandemic.

“I know I'll be okay for a few months, but after those few months, I'd have to start finding other ways to take care of those bills.”

Cassandra Tkaczow is another Church employee facing a layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tkaczow was in her second year as an assistant campus minister at Alfred State and Alfred University in New York until March 18, when she was laid off.

“The students were on spring break when everything really started to explode here in New York state,” Tkaczow said. One of her students called her to explain that she wouldn’t be coming back for the semester, but the school’s official policy had not yet been decided.

A few days later, Alfred State College and Alfred University announced that the students would be allowed to come back to campus to collect their belongings, but that all classes would be taking place online.

At first, Tkaczow said, it seemed like she would be getting paid through the end of the semester, and she would just be moving her ministry online. Just days after that plan was discussed, she was laid off.

“Both of us (Tkaczow and her boss) had a suspicion, with the bankruptcy of the diocese in Buffalo that we would not be coming back for the next semester, but we didn't expect it to be this soon,” she said. The Diocese of Buffalo filed for bankruptcy last year due to sexual abuse lawsuits.

According to a statement from the Diocese of Buffalo provided to CNA, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated diocesan plans of financial reorganization.

“While we deeply regret the very personal impact that this process of realignment will have on dedicated employees of the Catholic Center, we must assess how best to deploy the resources of the Diocese in ways that reflect responsible stewardship and which offer the greatest benefit for our parishes,” Fr. Peter Kalaus, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the diocese, said in a statement.

“We anticipate that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will have a severe impact on parishes and exacerbate the financial challenges that the Diocese is already confronting. It is why we are accelerating our plans to better align the functions of the Catholic Center with the needs of our parishes,” he added.

According to the statement, 21 employees have been laid off or furloughed and 3 people moved from full-time to part-time. Health insurance will be covered by the diocese through April, after which time employees will either need to find different insurance or pay premiums directly to the diocese.

Tkaczow has since moved back home with her parents, who also live in New York. Like Davenport, her housing had been provided, and so rent is not a worry right now.

Tkaczow said while she understands from a financial standpoint why her position was eliminated, she feels bad for her students.
“I also couldn't help but think, how could they do this to the students? Because they just completely got rid of the campus ministry program, because of the bankruptcy. And with it being this early, how could they do that to them? How are they going to go forward in the coming semesters and years?”

For now, she’s been continuing to minister remotely to her students even without pay. She’s leading a rosary and social hour on Thursdays, and on Mondays she’s leading a Bible study.

While Tkaczow has a degree in computer science, she said her passion is for ministry, and while she may have to find another job to pay the bills for a time, “if God calls me to be in campus ministry or youth minister again, I would not hesitate in saying yes.”

The small parishes of St. Mary in Bloomfield, New Mexico and St Rose of Lima in Blanco New Mexico, in the Diocese of Gallup, have fared slightly better in the coronavirus fallout.

Fr. Josh Mayer, pastor of both parishes, told CNA that he expects to be able to pay his employees for the next six months or so, even if extreme social distancing measures for the pandemic continue.

“Our parishes are in a very blessed position to be able to take care of our staff for a while,” Mayer told CNA.

Mayer said due to canceled Masses, regular tithes to the parish are down to about a third of what they normally are. That could pick up slightly as more parishioners adjust to online donations, but for the most part, a lot of his parishioners haven’t taken to that in recent years, he said.

But the parish is still in a position to pay its staff for a while, and Mayer said he has plenty for them to do.

“I’ve got lots of projects I can give our people to do. Our maintenance guy has to come in and work on stuff here...even when buildings aren't being used, they need upkeep,” he said.

“And we're figuring out...how our parish kind of shifts some of our activities to different categories I guess. I mean a lot of stuff that we do with parishioners, we can still do. It just has to look really different,” he said.

Mayer said he was touched by the generosity of his financial manager, Sally Bales, who took a look at the books and the decreased donations and offered to donate her salary back to the parish for the time being so that other staff could remain on payroll.

“We’re just hoping that we can keep everybody employed in the meantime, so something like what Sally did is a huge boon for that,” he said.

“It definitely helps take care of the other parishioners or the other staff and helps ensure that we can keep them employed.”

Bales told CNA that because she and her husband are retired, she decided to donate her salary back for a while, to help younger staff members who are raising families and are relying on their jobs as their main source of income.

“The other staff members are younger, of course, than I am, and that's their sole income, so it's a lot harder picture for them than it is for me,” she said.

Bales, who manages the finances of both parishes, said that one of the parishes has a significantly higher percentage of online donations than the other.

“The parish that had more involvement online has not been as adversely affected as the one that people typically give cash at Sunday Mass,” she said.

“That's one thing I shared with Father, so that he can maybe encourage people to do more online giving. Our expenses don't change much whether we have Mass or not, and yet our donations are definitely volatile whether we have a physical gathering or not,” she added.

Some parishioners have been mailing in donations, Bales added, and staff have been calling people to encourage them to move to online giving, since “we don't really see an end when this is going to wrap up.”

Bales said she’s grateful that the parishes had some money set aside, so that they are not relying on the current week’s donations to pay staff salaries.

“As it happens, the parishes that I support have been very conservative and have some money set aside. It's not like we have to have the money this week to pay the next week salary, so that's wonderful,” she said.

Bales added that while she and her husband will miss her income from the parish for the time, they realize it isn’t something they need as much as other people on staff do.

“It's money. It would delay things we would want, but not things that we need. I think that's the difference,” she said.

“I think that actually, people that are retired or are in a better position to support the parish than the young employed people that are losing their jobs or having their time cut back,” she said. 

“And so I think it's a time for people that do have a regular income coming in to step up their donations. Usually, you think of someone on a fixed income is on the short end of the stick, but in this situation, we're really in a better position than someone who's currently earning their keep.”

Be like Mother Teresa during the coronavirus crisis, urges Pope Francis

Vatican City, Apr 2, 2020 / 03:45 am (CNA).- Mother Teresa's example should inspire us to seek out those whose suffering is hidden during the coronavirus crisis, Pope Francis said at his daily Mass on Thursday.

At the start of the Mass April 2, Pope Francis said he had seen a photograph in the newspaper of homeless people sleeping in a parking lot. He may have been referring to a widely circulated image of the homeless lying six feet apart at Cashman Center in Las Vegas March 29.

"These days of pain and sadness underline many hidden problems," he said. "In the newspaper today there is a photo which moves the heart: many homeless people from a city lying in a parking lot, under observation... There are many homeless people today."

"We ask St. Teresa of Calcutta to reawaken in us the sense of closeness to so many people who, in society, in normal life, are hidden but, like the homeless, in a moment of crisis, are pointed out in this way."

In his homily via livestream from Casa Santa Marta, the chapel in his Vatican City residence, Pope Francis reflected on God's covenant with Abraham in the Book of Genesis.

"The Lord has always remembered his covenant," he said. "The Lord never forgets. Yes, he forgets only in one case, when he forgives sins. After he has forgiven he loses the memory, he does not remember the sins. In other cases, God does not forget."

The pope highlighted three aspects of God's relationship with Abraham. First, God had chosen Abraham. Second, he had promised him an inheritance. Third, he had established a covenant with him.

"The election, the promise and the covenant are the three dimensions of the life of faith, the three dimensions of the Christian life," the pope said. "Each of us is an elect. No one chooses to be a Christian among all the possibilities that the religious 'market’ offers him, he is an elect."

"We are Christians because we have been elected. In this election there is a promise, there is a promise of hope, the sign is fruitfulness: 'Abraham will be father of a multitude of nations and ... you will be fruitful in faith. Your faith will flourish in works, in good works, in works of fruitfulness too, a fruitful faith. But you must – the third step – observe the covenant with me.' And the covenant is faithfulness, to be faithful. We have been elected. The Lord has given us a promise. Now he is asking us for a covenant, a covenant of faithfulness."

The pope then turned to the Gospel reading, John 8:51-59, in which Jesus says that Abraham rejoiced to think that he would see Jesus’ day.

"The Christian is a Christian not because he can show the faith of baptism: the baptismal faith is a certificate," the pope said. "You are a Christian if you say yes to the election that God has made of you, if you follow the promises that the Lord has made to you and if you live a covenant with the Lord: this is Christian life."

"The sins of the journey are always against these three dimensions: to not accept the election – and we 'elect' so many idols, so many things that are not of God; to not accept hope in the promise, to go, to look at the promises from afar, even many times, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, greeting them from afar and making the promises today with the little idols that we make; and forgetting the covenant, living without the covenant, as if we were without the covenant."

He concluded: "Fruitfulness is joy, that joy of Abraham who saw the day of Jesus and was full of joy. This is the revelation that the word of God gives us today about our Christian existence. That it is like that of our father: conscious of being elected, joyful of going towards a promise and faithful in fulfilling the covenant."

Faith in the time of COVID-19

These last few weeks have felt like a dream. It’s become so easy to lose track of what day it is, not only because our routines have … Read More

The post Faith in the time of COVID-19 appeared first on The Compass.

She sees the face of God in others

GREEN BAY — When Margaret Guzek reflects on her life, she talks about all the special people, those who have helped her family navigate through some tough … Read More

The post She sees the face of God in others appeared first on The Compass.

Sisters face pandemic head-on

ALLOUEZ — The coronavirus pandemic has heightened the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) at care facilities. In response, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc … Read More

The post Sisters face pandemic head-on appeared first on The Compass.

St. Francis of Paola

Catholics will remember St. Francis of Paola on April 2. The saint founded a religious order at a young age and sought to revive the practices of the earliest monks during a period of corruption in the Church. Francis was born in the Southern Italian region of Calabria during 1416. His parents, who maintained a strong devotion to St. Francis of Assisi, named their son after him. The boy's father and mother had little in the way of wealth, but they passed on a rich spiritual heritage to their son, with the hope that he would imitate his namesake.The young Francis showed signs of a remarkable spiritual life, following his parents' lead in accepting poverty as a path to holiness. When his father placed him in the care of a group of Franciscan friars to be educated at the age of 13, Francis made a personal decision to live strictly according to the rule of their religious order. After a year with the friars, Francis rejoined his parents as they made a pilgrimage to Assisi, Rome,  and the historic Franciscan church known as the Portiuncula. When the family returned to their hometown of Paola, Francis – at the age of only 15 – asked his parents' permission to live as a hermit, in the manner of the earliest desert fathers such as St. Anthony of Egypt. The young monk slept in a cave, and ate what he could gather in the wild, along with occasional offerings of food from his friends in the town. Within four years, two companions had joined him, and the townspeople assisted in building three individual cells for the hermits, as well as a chapel where  a priest would offer Mass. With approval from the local archbishop, this small group continued to grow into a larger religious order, without compromising the young founder's insistence on penitential and primitive living conditions. They were first known as the Hermits of St. Francis of Assisi, but later renamed the “Minimi� (or “Minims�), meaning “the least,� and signifying their commitment to humility.Francis and his monks were notable not only for their austere lifestyle, but also for their strict diet, which not only eliminated meat and fish, but also excluded eggs, dairy products, and other foods derived from animals. Abstinence from meat and other animal products became a “fourth vow� of his religious order, along with the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Francis instituted the continual, year-round observance of this diet in an effort to revive the tradition of fasting during Lent, which many Roman Catholics had ceased to practice by the 15th century.Ironically, Francis' pursuit of solitary communion with God attracted attention from a range of important figures, including several European kings and other nobility along with Popes and bishops. Some of these men regarded Francis as a spiritual leader in a corrupt age, while others may have been more interested in his gifts of prophecy and miraculous healing. Francis traveled to France at the request of Pope Sixtus IV, taking with him his nephew Nicholas, whom he had raised from the dead. There, the notoriously power-hungry King Louis XI was approaching the point of death himself, and hoped that Francis would perform a miracle and restore his health. Francis told the king bluntly that he should not fear the end of his earthly life, but the loss of eternal life. From that time, the hermit became a close spiritual adviser to the king. He discussed the reality of death and eternity with him, and urged him to surrender his heart and soul to God before it was too late.The king died in Francis' arms in 1483.Louis XI's son and successor, Charles VIII, maintained the monk as a close adviser, in spiritual and even political affairs. Nonetheless, Francis persisted in following the monastic rule he had developed while living in his hermitage outside of Paola. He continued as superior general of the Minim order, and founded new monasteries in France. Francis sensed that his death was approaching at the age of 91, and returned to living in complete solitude for three months to prepare himself. When he emerged, he gathered a group of the Minim brothers and gave them final instructions for the future of the order. He received Holy Communion for the last time and died on April 2, Good Friday of 1507.Pope Leo X canonized St. Francis of Paola 12 years after his death, in 1519. Although the Minim order lost many of its monasteries in the 18th century during the French Revolution, it continues to exist, primarily in Italy.

Dominican priest, microbiologist sees hope for possible coronavirus treatment

Manila, Philippines, Apr 1, 2020 / 09:35 pm (CNA).- In a recent blog post Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P., S.T.D, Ph.D., said he sees reason to hope that the drug hydroxychloroquine could be used to treat the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Austriaco is a professor of biology and theology at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. He is currently on lockdown in the Philippines with his mother during the coronavirus pandemic.

“As a molecular biologist, what is so exciting for me about this claim is that the clinical trial in France was pretty good, given the extreme circumstances,” Austriaco wrote.

“Yes, it was a small trial, but if you read the paper, it was rigorous for what it wanted to do, which is to be a pilot study. And it showed that HCQ significantly shortened the time for the patient to clear (the) virus from his or her system.”

Another independent study from a lab in China has shown that HCQ “can prevent viral reproduction in a test tube,” Austriaco added, which is said is hopeful from a microbiology perspective.

In an email to CNA, Fr. Austriaco noted that both HCQ and a related drug, CQ, have been used in humans to treat malaria “all over the world, including here in the Philippines.”

“They have also been used to treat autoimmune diseases like lupus. So we know that they are safe for most people,” he said. However, he added, the prescription drugs “should only be taken under the supervision of a physician...because for some people, they can trigger harmful heart conditions.”

While the FDA has approved HCQ for human use for certain diseases, Austriaco noted that it has not yet approved HCQ for use in the treatment of COVID-19, except for in very limited circumstances.

However, “if the ongoing clinical trial by WHO called SOLIDARITY shows that HCQ and CQ are effective in treating COVID-19, then the FDA will approve them for that use,” Austriaco told CNA.

In his blog post, Austriaco noted that he was also hopeful about HCQ because it is “very cheap and readily available: With a prescription, I could walk down the street to a Filipino pharmacy to buy a 200mg pill for PHP85 (which is the equivalent of $1.30). I know that they have it because I checked online. And this is in a random pharmacy in Manila! According to the study, taking three of these pills every day for six days would rid you of SARS-CoV2. And the side-effects for short-term use of HCQ are minimal. This for about $30.”


As for the possibility of a vaccine for coronavirus, Austriaco told CNA that vaccines “usually take 12-18 months to develop though we have accelerated development for the COVID-19 vaccine.”

“(T)he vaccine should hopefully be a one shot deal,” he added, as this coronavirus does not seem to mutate as quickly as the flu does, thus necessitating yearly vaccinations.

In his post, Austriaco wrote that on the whole, he is “optimistic” about the possible use of HCQ to treat coronavirus.

“Yes, there is minimal evidence but that is not unexpected in a pandemic. But the minimal evidence is actually pretty solid, given the practical limits of doing clinical trials in a global crisis,” he said.


“Yet, when both in vitro and in vivo studies converge, that is an optimistic sign. Especially when you have a mechanism of action that is reasonable and is in line with what we know about viral reproduction,” he added. “...I am going to pray that this will bear much fruit!”

“My primary hope is that we are utilizing the global power of human ingenuity and tenacity to fight this pandemic,” he added to CNA. “With God’s grace, we will prevail.”

 

Pro-life leaders: N Ireland legal abortion thwarts protection for vulnerable

CNA Staff, Apr 1, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- As the British Parliament's permissive abortion law takes effect in Northern Ireland, pro-life leaders strongly criticized the law, pointing to the coronavirus response as proof of the need to protect the lives of the most vulnerable.

“Every unborn baby matters regardless of age or ability, gender or background. He or she has the right to be protected in a community where everyone belongs and deserves our respect,” the Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland said March 31. “Every woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy matters too. She has a right to be cared for within a community where she is protected from any pressure to abort her baby.”

“As the number of deaths caused by Coronavirus continues to rise, news reporters frequently remind us that behind the statistics are real people. Their lives matter regardless of age or ability, gender or background,” said the bishops, noting the heavy government investment in treating patients and protecting medical staff.

“Against this background, we are saddened and dismayed at the Government’s decision to introduce extreme regulations for the delivery of abortion services in Northern Ireland,” they said, citing an “overwhelming will” among the people of the region to “protect the life of every human being.'

Previously, Northern Ireland’s laws only permitted abortion in cases where a woman’s life is at risk, or where there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health. Backers of the law said it had saved over 100,000 lives by avoiding the permissive law that took effect in other parts of the United Kingdom in 1967.

The new law and accompanying regulations took effect March 31. They mean no explicit legal protections for unborn children up to 12 weeks into pregnancy, compared to legal abortion allowed up to 24 weeks in other parts of the U.K. In some respects the law is more permissive than the rest of the U.K.

Doctors, registered nurses, and registered midwives may perform abortions under the rules. In situations where pregnancy is believed to risk a woman's physical or mental health, abortion is legal up to 24 weeks. There is no time limit where the pregnancy is deemed a risk to the life of the mother or in cases where the unborn child is deemed to have a fatal abnormality or a substantial risk of severe mental or physical impairment.

The Northern Ireland pro-life group Precious Life has focused on the responses to the government's late 2019 consultation on the new abortion law. About 79% of respondents voiced opposition to any abortion in Northern Ireland.

Bernadette Smyth, director of Precious Life, said, “thousands of pro-life people throughout Northern Ireland responded in total opposition to a change in the law.”

“Yet, we have seen this week, that the U.K. Government are willing to ignore the results of its own consultation because they are so bloodthirsty and devoted to destroying and killing human lives through abortion in Northern Ireland, even at a time of unprecedented national crisis,” Smyth continued. “People are outraged, upset and hugely frustrated that their democratic voice has been ignored.”

“It is horrifying to learn that one of the most permissive, extreme and inhumane abortion regimes in Europe will be introduced to Northern Ireland by the British Government,” she said. “This is in spite of the fact that our elected representatives returned to Stormont in January and at a time when the U.K. has been brought to its knees by the Coronavirus pandemic.”

“And right in the middle of a national crisis, when people in Northern Ireland and across the world are uniting under the shared understanding that all human life is precious and must be protected, the British Government are still intent on killing and destroying innocent and vulnerable human life in Northern Ireland,” she said.

The Catholic bishops too said the consultation process had been “utterly ignored.”

While Precious Life is circulating petitions asking legislators to repeal the abortion provisions, the bishops said members of the Northern Ireland assembly have some influence. However, their remarks suggested repeal would be very difficult.

Politicians and others opposed to the regulations should not “meekly acquiesce to their promulgation,” they said. Where the regulations exceed the 2019 Act of Parliament, legislators can repeal them.

The traditionally Protestant and pro-U.K. Democratic Unionist Party also criticized the new abortion law.

Paul Givan, DUP Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly said they were “the most extreme, radical, abortion laws anywhere in Europe.”

“It is a travesty that this has been allowed to happen,” he said, objecting that the laws were introduced despite the return of devolved government to Stormont.

While abortion is typically a devolved issue of local control, the British Parliament legislation was passed during an absence of a local government. The parties of the Northern Ireland Assembly could have blocked the law from taking effect, but failed to reach any governing agreement due to a dispute between the two leading governing parties, the DUP and the second-largest party, the nationalist Sinn Fein. The nationalist Social Democratic Labour Party also walked out of a final critical meeting.

Besides the Catholic bishops, leaders in the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and the Irish Council of Churches had called on the Northern Ireland Assembly to reconvene to block the abortion legislation.

The nationalist parties traditionally draw support from Northern Ireland's Catholics. Sinn Fein has turned towards backing legal abortion, while some SDLP leaders have made comments welcoming the changes.

Caoimhe Archibald, a Sinn Féin MLA, said it was “only right and proper that woman can access abortion services without having to travel, that they are free to be able to have healthcare in a modern and compassionate way”.

Among the nationalist critics of the new regime is Peadar Tóibín, leader of the new political party Aontú.

“The right to life is a human right. It is the most important human right that anyone of us have. With out the right to life no other human right can be guaranteed,” he said April 1.

“The current crisis has seen society radically change its behavior, to protect the lives of the most vulnerable. This is something that we in Aontú have always understood,” he said. Sometimes we all have to limit our personal choice and autonomy to protect the lives of others. The slogan 'my body, my choice' rings particularly hollow now when we realize that in reality we are all in this together.”

Tóibín cited the Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast's statement in response to the coronavirus pandemic that “Every Life Matters.”

“The hypocrisy is breathtaking,” he said. “The abortion law that Sinn Féin helped introduce will directly end thousands of live.”

Tóibín was deputy whip of Sinn Fein's delegation to the Republic of Ireland legislative body known as the Dail, and still holds a seat in that body. However, he was pushed out from the party over his support for the unborn and opposition to legal abortion. Like the nationalist party Sinn Fein, Aontú competes in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

He charged that the Westminster-based Parliament, Sinn Féin and the SDLP leadership had “forced abortion on demand into the north of Ireland against the wishes of the people.”

“I say forced, because every opinion poll in the north stated that the majority of men and women sought that the issue of abortion would be decided, not in London but in the north of Ireland. It was not just public opinion that held this view. Legally it was a devolved matter. It was for the elected representatives of the north to decide,” he said.

He objected that Sinn Féin had rejected its nationalist stand against British legislation in Ireland and had instead “openly lobbied for Westminster to legislate for abortion on demand in the north.”

“For the first time in 200 years of republicanism, its leadership went cap in hand to London and demanded that it legislate for Ireland over the heads and against the will of the people,” he charged.

Across all Ireland, pro-life advocates have voiced concern about possible changes to government policy to allow at-home abortions using abortion pills during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pressure to legalize abortion in Northern Ireland increased after a 2018 referendum effectively legalized abortion in the Republic of Ireland by a vote of over 66% in favor of removing constitutional protections recognizing the unborn baby's right to life as equal to the mother's.

The new law also requires the recognition of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Nautical ministry helps abused Filipino sailors amid coronavirus

Glasgow, Scotland, Apr 1, 2020 / 05:33 pm (CNA).- Last year, a maritime charity rescued a group of migrant workers from an abusive situation aboard a fishing vessel in Scotland. The men recently returned home, but the non-profit continues to provide aid in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

A Filipino crew worked upon Serenity, a ship owned by a Scottish fishing company, which hires a large portion of migrant workers from countries like the Philippines. The men were believed to be harassed for their nationality.

Apostleship of the Sea, or Stella Maris, helped remove the five Filipino crew members from the ship, assisted them with a safe house in Glasgow, and provided them with spiritual support. The abused sailors had been in their contracts between two and five months before they were removed from the boat in August 2019.

Skipper Gordon Hadden verbally harassed and discriminated against these members. The skipper admitted to striking one of the men, placing him in a headlock, and pushing him against the railings of the ship. He was fined £2,000 for harassment and an additional £1,000 for the assault.

The men then reached out to Stella Maris and were soon put in contact with Joe O’Donnell, a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Glasgow and a port chaplain for Stella Maris.

Martin Foley, the charity’s chief executive officer and European regional coordinator, told CNA that while the case was investigated by the police the men were visited regularly by O’Donnell for spiritual support.

“Our colleagues at the Fishermen’s Mission advised the men to disembark from the boat for their own safety and from there, the police were called and the guys were moved to a hotel and then transferred to a safe house in Glasgow and that’s when Deacon Joe got involved,” he said.

“Deacon Joe visited the men on a regular basis, praying with them, transporting them to Mass, organising excursions and generally providing as much hospitality as possible.”

The organization also administered financial assistance to the men’s families in the Philippines. Foley said, although the men had been rescued from an abusive situation, they were prohibited from accessing other work while the case was under investigation.

“One of the injustices of their situation was that they were legally barred from working whilst their case was being investigated. Yet the only reason they travelled to the UK in the first place was to work,” he said.

According to the Scottish Catholic Observer, one of the Filipino crewmen, who asked to remain anonymous, described the situation as very difficult but said “it would have been a lot worse if it hadn’t been for the support and assistance from Stella Maris.” He said the organization treated them like family.

“Deacon Joe has been there for each of us every step of the way … He made sure we were alright and has always been in touch to help with our worries,” he said.

“One of the highlights came when he arranged for Bishop John Keenan of Paisley to come and visit us. We would love to return to Scotland one day, and Stella Maris will always have a place in our hearts.”

After eight months in Scotland, the men have recently returned home, but they are now placed under quarantine.

Foley said the charity has a particularly important role to play during the coronavirus outbreak and emphasized difficulties faced by seafarers at this time. He said there have been numerous reports of sailors who have been denied shore leave and been confined to their vessels.

“This is a time of great uncertainty for seafarers, fishermen and their families. With over 90% of world trade being moved by ship, it is the People of the Sea that keep the global economy and supply chains functioning. Seafarers and fishermen should be counted among the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“In Manila … Stella Maris is providing free accommodation and food for 120 seafarers who are unable to leave Manila due to the lockdown situation there.”

He said the ministry has had to alter its ministerial duties as countries have increased COVID-19 prevention methods. He said, while the chaplains and volunteers have been barred from accessing the ship, the organization has had to provide spiritual support online and had welfare packages delivered to the boats.

“As we move towards Holy Week and the celebration of Easter – a time when we would normally transport seafarers to Mass or celebrate liturgies on board their ships - we consider it particularly important to provide seafarers and fishermen with spiritual support, including signposting to faith resources online,” he said.