News Roundup

European Council establishes religious freedom envoy

The European Council has announced the establishment of a new position for an envoy tasked with addressing growing religious freedom restrictions internationally. The first person to become the special envoy for religious freedom outside the EU will be Slovak politician Ján Figel, a former EU Commissioner. The religious freedom lobby group ADF International welcomed the announcement, stating that “with the growing persecution of religious minorities throughout the world, the European Union must act beyond political statements and resolutions.”


Ireland urged to lead calls for UN to declare Islamic State actions ‘genocide’

Ireland should use its political influence to have Islamic State actions against Christians and other minorities declared genocide at the United Nations, a leading TD has said. Fianna Fáil foreign affairs spokesperson Brendan Smith told The Irish Catholic that Ireland could take a lead in having the UN refer Islamic State actions referred to the International Criminal Court, in turn compelling signatory countries to take responsibility in preventing and punishing the genocidal attacks. “Such a declaration should be made now,” Deputy Smith said.


Hopes raised of tenders for Catholic schools in 2017

There are hopes that some of a proposed nine new post-primary schools for 2017 will be entrusted to Catholic patrons. Eilis Humphreys, Education Officer with Le Chéile, a Catholic schools trust, told The Irish Catholic newspaper that the body is “considering” tenders for one or more schools among the forthcoming raft but cautioned that no final decision has been made yet. Le Chéile last gained responsibility for a Catholic secondary school in 2014. Chéile Secondary School Tyrrelstown was Ireland’s first new Catholic secondary school in 30 years.


‘Highly religious Catholics happier in life’ – US study

Catholics in the United States who are highly religious report being “very happy” with their lives, according to a new study. Conducted by the Pew Research Centre, the study, ‘Religion in Everyday Life’, found that the 31% of Catholics who pray daily and attend religious services at least once a week – defined as ‘highly religious – reported greater satisfaction in their lives than those falling outside the definition. The study also found that while “both attendance at religious services and prayer frequency have declined in recent years among the US public as a whole…among Catholics and others who are affiliated with a religion, levels of worship attendance and personal prayer have both been steady since 2007”.


Italian Cardinal warns against same-sex adoptions

An Italian Cardinal has warned that same-sex adoption must not be allowed to resurface in Italy after controversial elements of a civil unions bill were removed by parliamentarians ahead of a vote this month. Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference said: “The adoption provision has been torn up and we all hope that it does not come back in another way because it would be hypocrisy”, adding, “Putting other unions on the same level as marriage weakens the family. A family is formed by marriage between a man and a woman and it is the foundation of civil society.”


US abortion facilities ‘dying’ amid terminations decrease

The rate of closures of abortion facilities in the United States has led one abortion activist to state, “we are a dying breed”. The comment came from Shauna Heckert, the executive director of Women’s Health Specialists of California in response to a decreasing demand for abortion services across America, with records showing a drop from 1.21 million terminations to 1.06 million between 2008 and 2015.


Three-year-olds referred for transsexual treatment

Britain’s national broadcaster has found evidence that children as young as three years are being referred for transsexual treatment. According to the BBC, 167 pre-school children have, in the last 12 months, gained referrals to the Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. The revelation has led to warnings from the Christian Institute that young lives will be ruined “because their parents and doctors who should have known better told them they needed to transition gender when they were just going through a childhood phase.”


Government to face UN questions on abortion

The Irish Government will face questions from UN member states in Geneva next week on the issue of this country’s protection for the unborn. According to a list of advance questions already offered from States via the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ireland will be pressed on what steps the Government might take to deal with the nation’s “restrictive abortion regime” and whether it is envisaged that “an expert group on abortion matters which can contribute to a coherent legal framework including the provision of adequate services” might be established.


HSE funded six overseas ‘sex-change’ operations in 2015

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has paid for 59 sex-change operations at facilities abroad in total with six of these occurring in the last year, according to figures gained under the Freedom of Information Act. With no facility in Ireland currently offering such operations, the HSE availed of the Treatment Abroad Scheme to assist persons seeking gender alterations. The cost of the operations by this means has amounted to €1.8 million.



Palestinian President urges protection for Middle East Christians

The Palestinian President Abu Mazen has said it is “a duty and a mission” for Arabs to protect the Christian presence in the Middle East. Delivering a message to Christians, the President said he recognised that Christians are now under severe threat in a manner that threatens pluralism and religious freedom and said he remained committed to the permanent place for Christians in the Holy Land. He called on all Palestinians to counter any act that served to weaken that presence.


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