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Vatican and Palestinians discuss Church rights

VATICAN CITY (CNS): The Vatican and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) are continuing talks aimed at a formal agreement regulating and promoting the presence and activity of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian territories.

Vatican and PLO representatives met on January 28 at the headquarters of the Palestinian president in Ramallah, according to a statement released at the Vatican on January 30.

The talks were co-chaired by Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, the Vatican undersecretary for relations with states, and Ziad al-Bandak, the Palestinian presidential adviser for Christian relations.

The statement said the Palestinian side gave its response to a draft proposed earlier by the Vatican.

It said, “The talks took place in a positive atmosphere to strengthen further the special relations between the two sides. The delegations agreed to set up technical teams to follow up on the draft” in preparation for a larger meeting that will be held at the Vatican “in the near future.”

The talks are aimed at providing concrete details for implementing the Basic Agreement signed by the Vatican and the PLO in 2000 spelling out principles for guaranteeing Church rights and religious freedom in territories administered by the Palestinian Authority.


United Kingdom wants card-carrying Catholics

LONDON (CathNews): The faithful across the United Kingdom are being invited to carry a card showing that they are Catholic, with one million to be made available to 24 Catholic dioceses in this new initiative, a report on the Independent Catholic News says.

The size of a credit card, it features on one side, a space for the owner to sign, a statement that the carrier is a Catholic and a list of six things that Catholics are called to do.

There is also a sentence that reads: “In the event of an emergency, please call a Catholic priest.” The other side of the card has a quote from Blessed John Henry Newman, focussing on the call to serve and affirming that everyone has a mission.

Bishop Kieran Conry (Arundel and Brighton), chairperson of the Bishops’ Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis, said, “We all carry a variety of cards in our purses and wallets which reflect something of our identity and the things that are important to us.”

He said, “The faith card for Catholics aims to offer a daily reminder of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We can’t summarise the whole of our faith in bullet points, but we hope that the card simply inspires people to do, read and learn more.”

The card is free and will be distributed to diocesan offices during February and March. 


Council of Europe calls for ban on euthanasia

Strasbourg (CathNews): The Council of Europe has ruled that euthanasia and assisted suicide should be banned in every country across the continent, reports The Catholic Herald.

In a declaration that will have huge implications on human rights laws in its 47 member countries, the Strasbourg-based organisation announced that such practices “must always be prohibited.”

The move will represent a major setback to advocates of assisted dying in the United Kingdom (UK), Holland, Belgium and Switzerland.

The explicit condemnation of euthanasia was inserted into a non-binding resolution entitled, Protecting Human Rights and Dignity by Taking Into Account Previously Expressed Wishes of Patients.

The resolution had originally simply focussed on the human rights questions of advance directives, or living wills, but members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe argued that living wills, which became legal in the UK under the 2005 Mental Capacity Act, were inextricably connected with euthanasia.

They successfully moved an amendment forbidding euthanasia by 34 votes to 16 with six abstentions.


White House denies health-care mandate violates Catholic consciences 

Washington (CWNews): The White House has denied that requiring contraceptive coverage in health-care plans poses a threat to religious liberty in the United States of America (US). 

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters at a January 31 briefing that the new regulation does not give rise to any constitutional rights issues. 

“The administration believes that this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventative services,” he said.

Most of the Catholic bishops in the US have expressed public disagreement with the position of the administration of the president, Barack Obama, condemning the new mandate as an offense against religious freedom and the rights of conscience. 

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