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Pope tells Belgian religious order to stop offering euthanasia to patients

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Catholic News Service

Pope Francis has given a Belgian religious order until the end of August to stop offering euthanasia to psychiatric patients.

Activists take part in an anti-euthanasia protest in 2014, in Brussels. Pope Francis has ordered the Brothers of Charity, who run psychiatric care centers in Belgium, to stop offering euthanasia to their patients. (CNS photo/Julien Warnand, EPA)

Activists take part in an anti-euthanasia protest in 2014, in Brussels. Pope Francis has ordered the Brothers of Charity, who run psychiatric care centers in Belgium, to stop offering euthanasia to their patients. (CNS photo/Julien Warnand, EPA)

Brother Rene Stockman, superior general of the order, said the pope gave his personal approval to a Vatican demand that the Brothers of Charity, which runs 15 centers for psychiatric patients across Belgium, must reverse its policy by the end of August.

Brothers who serve on the board of the Brothers of Charity Group, the organization that runs the centers, also must each sign a joint letter to their superior general declaring that they “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end.”

Brothers who refuse to sign will face sanctions under canon law, while the group can expect to face legal action and even expulsion from the church if it fails to change its policy.

The group, he added, must no longer consider euthanasia as a solution to human suffering under any circumstances.

The order, issued at the beginning of August, follows repeated requests for the group to drop its new policy of permitting doctors to perform the euthanasia of “nonterminal” mentally ill patients on its premises.

It also follows a joint investigation by the Vatican’s congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Brother Stockman, who had opposed the group’s euthanasia policy, said the ultimatum was devised by the two congregations and has the support of the pope.

“The Holy Father was formally informed about it and was also informed about the steps to be taken,” he said in an Aug. 8 email.

The ultimatum, he said, meant the group’s policies must be underpinned by a belief that “repect for human life is absolute.”

Brother Stockman said that if the group refused to bow to the ultimatum “then we will take juridical steps in order to force them to amend the text (of the new policy) and, if that is not possible, then we have to start the procedure to exclude the hospitals from the Brothers of Charity family and take away their Catholic identity.”

He said if any of the brothers refused to sign the letter upholding Catholic teaching against euthanasia, “then also we will start the correct procedure foreseen in canon law.”

The Belgian bishops and the nuncio to Belgium have been informed about the ultimatum, he added.

Brother Stockman, a psychiatric care specialist, had turned to the Vatican in the spring after the Brothers of Charity group rejected a formal request from him to reverse the new policy.

The group also snubbed the Belgian bishops by formally implementing its euthanasia policy in June, just weeks after the bishops declared they would not accept euthanasia in Catholic institutions.

The group has also ignored a statement of church teaching forbidding euthanasia. The statement, written and signed by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, former head of the doctrinal congregation, was sent to the Brothers of Charity Group members. A copy of the document has been obtained Catholic News Service.

Father Peter Joseph Triest, whose cause for beatification was opened in 2001, founded the Brothers of Charity in Ghent, Belgium, in 1807. Their charism is to serve the elderly and mentally ill.

Today, the group is considered the most important provider of mental health care services in the Flanders region of Belgium, where they serve 5,000 patients a year.

About 12 psychiatric patients in the care of the Brothers are believed to have asked for euthanasia over the past year, with two transferred elsewhere to receive the injections to end their lives.

The group first announced its euthanasia policy in March, saying it wished to harmonize the practices of the centers with the Belgian law on euthanasia passed in 2003, the year after the Netherlands became the first country to permit the practice since Nazi Germany.

Technically, euthanasia in Belgium remains an offense, with the law protecting doctors from prosecution only if they abide by specific criteria, but increasingly lethal injections are given to the disabled and mentally ill. Since 2014 “emancipated children” have also qualified for euthanasia.

The group’s change in policy came about a year after a private Catholic rest home in Diest, Belgium, was fined $6,600 for refusing the euthanasia of a 74-year-old woman suffering from lung cancer.

Catholic News Service has approached the Brothers of Charity Group for a comment.

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British baby Charlie Gard dies in hospice care

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Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — Charlie Gard, the British baby whose legal battle caught the attention of the world, died July 28, just over a week before his first birthday, his family announced.

Connie Yates, the baby’s mother, issued a brief statement saying: “Our beautiful little boy has gone, we are so proud of you Charlie.”

Charlie Gard, who was born in England with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome and was at the center of a legal battle that captured the world's attention, died July 28, just over a week before his first birthday. (CNS photo/family handout, courtesy Featureworld)

Charlie Gard, who was born in England with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome and was at the center of a legal battle that captured the world’s attention, died July 28, just over a week before his first birthday. (CNS photo/family handout, courtesy Featureworld)

Charlie, who would have turned 1 year old Aug. 4, had been transferred to a hospice for palliative care after Yates and his father, Chris Gard, said July 24 they had decided to drop their legal battle to pursue treatment overseas.

The couple wanted to take Charlie home to die, but a High Court judge decided it was in the child’s best interest to spend his final hours in the care of a hospice. He suffered from encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome.

The situation had caught the world’s attention, including the attention of Pope Francis. The day the parents dropped their legal battle, Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said the pope was “praying for Charlie and his parents and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering.”

“The Holy Father asks that we join in prayer that they may find God’s consolation and love,” Burke said.

Charlie’s parents, who live in London, had fought for eight months for medical help that might have saved the life of their son.

They raised 1.3 million pounds ($1.7 million) to take him abroad for treatment, but the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London had argued that Charlie was beyond help and that it was not in his best interests to be kept alive, triggering a protracted legal battle with the parents that led to interventions from U.S. President Donald Trump and from the pope.

At a news conference July 25 in Rome, Mariella Enoc, president of the Vatican children’s hospital, Bambino Gesu, said the hospital had partnered U.S. neurologist, Dr. Michio Hirano, to study Charlie’s case. In July, the hospital agreed with Hirano that the child’s illness had proceeded too far for treatment, which might or might not have worked six months earlier.

But “the plug was not pulled without having tried to respond to a legitimate request by the parents and without having examined fully the condition of the child and the opportunities offered by researchers on an international level,” the hospital said in a statement.

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Pope, others pray as parents of Charlie Gard end legal struggle

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Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — Pope Francis is praying for the parents of Charlie Gard after a U.S. doctor told them nothing could be done to help their son.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates announced in London’s High Court July 24 that they had ended their legal struggle to take their baby overseas for treatment after a U.S. neurologist, Dr. Michio Hirano, said he was no longer willing to offer Charlie experimental nucleoside therapy after he examined the results of a new MRI scan.

People attach a message for Charlie Gard and his parents to the railings outside the High Court in London July 24. Pope Francis is praying for the parents of Charlie Gard after a U.S. doctor told them nothing could be done to help their son, who suffers from encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. (CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

People attach a message for Charlie Gard and his parents to the railings outside the High Court in London July 24. Pope Francis is praying for the parents of Charlie Gard after a U.S. doctor told them nothing could be done to help their son, who suffers from encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. (CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

Their decision means that the child, who suffers from encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, will receive only palliative care and most likely will die before his first birthday Aug. 4.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said in a July 24 statement that Pope Francis, who had taken a personal interest in the case, “is praying for Charlie and his parents and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering.”

He said: “The Holy Father asks that we join in prayer that they may find God’s consolation and love.”

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales also issued a statement July 24 in which they expressed their “deepest sympathy and compassion” for Charlie and his parents.

“It is for Charlie, his parents and family that we all pray, hoping that they are able, as a family, to be given the support and the space to find peace in the days ahead,” the statement said.

“Their farewell to their tiny and precious baby touches the hearts of all who, like Pope Francis, have followed this sad and complex story. Charlie’s life will be lovingly cherished until its natural end,” the statement continued.

A July 24 statement from the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, a bioethical institute of the Catholic Church in the U.K. and Ireland, said it was now time “to remember the preciousness of the child at the heart of this case, and to allow his parents to be with him until he passes from this life.”

“If further treatment may no longer be worthwhile, Charlie’s life is inherently worthwhile, having the dignity and irreplaceability of every human life, and this will remain so even in the coming days,” it said.

Charlie’s parents, who live in London, had fought for eight months for medical help that might have saved the life of their son.

They raised 1.3 million pounds ($1.7 million) to take him abroad for treatment, but the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London had argued that Charlie was beyond help and that it was not in his best interests to be kept alive, triggering a protracted legal battle with the parents that led to interventions from U.S. President Donald Trump and from the pope.

“We are about to do the hardest thing that we’ll ever have to do, which is to let our beautiful little Charlie go,” the parents said in their statement to the court. “Put simply, this is about a sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy who was born with a rare disease, who had a real, genuine chance at life and a family who love him so very dearly, and that’s why we fought so hard for him.”

“Had Charlie been given the treatment sooner, he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy,” they said. “We have always believed that Charlie deserved a chance at life.”

“One thing that does give us the slightest bit of comfort is that we truly believe that Charlie may have been too special for this cruel world,” they continued.

Concluding the statement, the couple said: “Mummy and Daddy love you so much Charlie, we always have and we always will, and we are so sorry that we couldn’t save you. We had the chance but we weren’t allowed to give you that chance. Sweet dreams baby. Sleep tight our beautiful little boy.”

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Pope Francis decries ‘barbaric attack’ on concertgoers in Manchester – updated

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Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — Pope Francis decried the “barbaric attack” on concertgoers in Manchester, adding his voice to Catholic leaders dismayed at what British officials said was the deadliest case of terrorism since 2005.

In a telegram sent to English church officials on Pope Francis’ behalf, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope “was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life” after a suicide bomb killed at least 22 people and injured another 59 at Manchester Arena May 22. Many concertgoers at the Ariana Grande concert were teenagers, young adults and families.

Two women wrapped in thermal blankets stand near Manchester Arena in England where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing May 22. At least 22 people, including children, were killed and dozens wounded after an explosion at the concert venue. Authorities said it was Britain's deadliest case of terrorism since 2005. (CNS photo/Jon Super, Reuters)

Two women wrapped in thermal blankets stand near Manchester Arena in England where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing May 22. At least 22 people, including children, were killed and dozens wounded after an explosion at the concert venue. Authorities said it was Britain’s deadliest case of terrorism since 2005. (CNS photo/Jon Super, Reuters)

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The pope “expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence,” the telegram said, as “he commends the generous efforts of the emergency and security personnel and offers the assurance of his prayers for the injured, and for all who have died.”

“Mindful in a particular way of those children and young people who have lost their lives, and of their grieving families, Pope Francis invokes God’s blessings of peace, healing and strength upon the nation.”

In Britain, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and other Catholic leaders offered prayers for the victims of the attacks and their families.

“My shock and dismay at the horrendous killing of young and innocent people in the Manchester Arena last night is, I know, shared by all people of goodwill,” Cardinal Nichols said in a May 23 statement posted on the Westminster archdiocesan website. “I know, too, that Catholics and many others will be praying earnestly for those who have been killed, for the bereaved and for grieving loved ones.

“We pray in support of all those working so hard in response to this tragedy: the police and security forces, hospital staff, neighbors and friends and for all the people of Manchester. May God, in his mercy, strengthen and sustain us and keep us firmly united in the face of all evil.”

The terrorist attack took place within the Diocese of Salford, which incorporates most of Manchester and much of northwest England.

Bishop John Arnold of Salford offered a lunchtime Mass May 23 at St. Mary’s, a popular city-center church close to Manchester Arena.

In a statement the same day, he said: “The citizens of Manchester and the members of the Catholic community are united in condemning the attack on the crowds at the Manchester Arena.

“Such an attack can have no justification. I thank the emergency services for their prompt and speedy response which saved lives,” he continued. “We join in prayer for all those who have died and for the injured and their families and all affected by this tragedy. We must all commit ourselves to working together, in every way, to help the victims and their families and to build and strengthen our community solidarity.”

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, whose diocese covers southern parts of Manchester, wrote to his clergy, urging them to pray for the victims and their families.

“Let us also keep in our prayer the police and emergency services, together with all hospital staff and chaplains,” he said in his letter.

The bishop added: “Together with church and religious leaders in Greater Manchester, I ask the prayers of your parishioners for peace and solidarity in all our communities that the hate which inspires such indiscriminate violence may be overcome by that love which faith and prayer inspires in our hearts. I hope the days ahead, overshadowed by this atrocity, will lead us all to such prayer and active charity.”

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote Bishop Arnold to assure him of the prayers of Catholics in the United States.

“Words are not enough to convey the deep shock and sadness with which Catholics and all people of goodwill in the United States learned of the horrible attack which took place yesterday at England’s Manchester Arena,” said his letter, released May 23 in Washington. He mentioned “the unspeakable loss of life, terrible injuries, and untold trauma to families — especially to children.”

“Evil, as dense and dark as it is, never has the last word,” Cardinal DiNardo wrote. “As we prepare to celebrate the new dawn of Pentecost again, may the Easter words of the risen Christ, ‘Peace be with you,’ settle deep into the hearts of the citizens of your great country.”

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‘Conflict minerals’ — Demand for cellphone metals fuels war in Congo, priest says

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Catholic News Service

Global demand for metallic ores used in cellphones is thwarting efforts to end war and violence in Congo, said an African priest.

Any person who possesses a cellphone or other electronic device with components derived from such “conflict minerals” is benefiting from bloodshed, said Father Richard Muembo, rector of a Congolese seminary firebombed earlier this year. Read more »

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South Sudan bishops condemn atrocities, appeal for help to prevent famine

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Catholic News Service

South Sudan’s Catholic bishops asked for the world’s help to prevent mass starvation that threatens the lives of more than 5 million people.

A soldier walks past women carrying their belongings Feb. 11 near Bentiu, South Sudan. South Sudan's Catholic bishops have denounced government and rebel troops for attacking the civilian population and at times operating "scorched-earth" policies in defiance of international law. (CNS photo/Siegfried Modola, Reuters)

A soldier walks past women carrying their belongings Feb. 11 near Bentiu, South Sudan. South Sudan’s Catholic bishops have denounced government and rebel troops for attacking the civilian population and at times operating “scorched-earth” policies in defiance of international law. (CNS photo/Siegfried Modola, Reuters)

In a separate statement, they also said the looming famine was a man-made catastrophe. They denounced government and rebel troops for attacking the civilian population and at times operating “scorched-earth” policies in defiance of international law.

In a Feb. 23 appeal for humanitarian assistance, the bishops said farmers have fled lands without planting crops as civilians are targeted by both sides in the country’s increasingly bloody three-year civil war. Food shortages have been compounded by problems of unemployment, soaring inflation and poor rains, meaning that the country had now entered a critical time, the bishops said.

Citing government predictions, they estimated that about 4.9 million people would be facing famine by April and about 5.5 million people by July.

Among the most vulnerable are more than 3 million refugees and people internally displaced by fighting between the supporters of President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar.

“We anticipate difficult times ahead in 2017 as our people are likely to witness mass starvation by virtue of their multiple displacements, especially (because) the states that traditionally produced cereals in surplus will be missing the planting season, and that will, in turn, lead to further food insecurity in 2017,” the bishops said.

They called for “immediate and unconditional concrete intervention and action … before it is too late.”

In a message sent to churches around the world, the bishops asked Caritas Internationalis and the international community to press for “an immediate stop to the violence and (for) free movement of population.”

They also demanded safe access for aid agencies to reach people in remote areas and secure delivery of humanitarian aid to places where it was needed most urgently.

The bishops also collectively directly addressed the Catholics of the predominantly Christian country in a pastoral letter Feb. 23, telling them that any soldiers who killed, tortured and raped civilians were guilty of war crimes.

“There seems to be a perception that people in certain locations or from certain ethnic groups are with the other side, and thus they are targeted by armed forces,” the bishops said. “They are killed, raped, tortured, burned, beaten, looted, harassed, detained, displaced from their homes and prevented from harvesting their crops.”

“Some towns have become ghost towns, empty except for security forces and perhaps members of one faction or tribe,” they added. “Even when they have fled to our churches or to U.N. camps for protection, they are still harassed by security forces. Many have been forced to flee to neighboring countries for protection.”

The bishops said hatred had become so intense that the victims of such violence were being mutilated and burned even after they were killed.

“People have been herded into their houses, which were then set on fire to burn the occupants. Bodies have been dumped in sewage-filled septic tanks. There is a general lack of respect for human life,” the bishops said.

The church, they said, was increasingly being accused of taking sides in the conflict, but they stressed its neutrality.

“We are for all good things — peace, justice, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, dialogue, the rule of law, good governance — and we are against evil — violence, killing, rape, torture, looting, corruption, arbitrary detention, tribalism, discrimination, oppression — regardless of where they are and who is practicing them,” the bishops said.

They concluded their letter by expressing their joy at the prospect of a visit by Pope Francis to South Sudan in 2017, saying he was “deeply concerned” by the suffering in the country.

“It would draw the attention of the world to the situation here,” the bishops said.

On Feb. 22, Pope Francis used his general audience to appeal for food aid to Sudan, warning the international community that starvation might condemn to death “millions of people, including children.”

In a Feb. 23 statement emailed to Catholic News Service, Auxiliary Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham, England, said that “the world must wake up to this man-made humanitarian disaster.”

“The violence must stop and the international community must intervene,” said Bishop Kenney, a former president of Caritas Europa who has visited South Sudan on several occasions.

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Benedictine abbey in England displays St. Thomas More’s hair shirt

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Catholic News Service

BUCKFAST, England — The hair shirt worn by St. Thomas More as he contemplated a martyr’s death in the Tower of London has been enshrined for public veneration.

The folded garment made from goat’s hair was encased above an altar in Buckfast Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in southwest England.

St. Thomas, a former lord chancellor of England, wore the shirt while he was incarcerated in the Bell Tower of the Tower of London while awaiting execution for opposing the Protestant reforms of King Henry VIII.

He was beheaded July 6, 1535, after telling a crowd gathered on London’s Tower Hill that he was “always the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

An encasement of a hair shirt worn by St. Thomas More as he contemplated a martyr's death in the Tower of London, before his 1535 beheading, is on display at the altar of England's Buckfast Abbey Nov. 18 photo. (CNS photo/Luke Michael Davies, courtesy Buckfast Abbey Media Studios)

An encasement of a hair shirt worn by St. Thomas More as he contemplated a martyr’s death in the Tower of London, before his 1535 beheading, is on display at the altar of England’s Buckfast Abbey Nov. 18 photo. (CNS photo/Luke Michael Davies, courtesy Buckfast Abbey Media Studios)

Benedictine Abbot David Charlesworth told Catholic News Service Nov. 21 that the shirt had not been shown in public before.

He said that although the shirt was a secondary relic, he believed it was of greater significance than a body part, or primary relic, because it was directly linked to the religious convictions of the saint.

“What this relic represents is St. Thomas More’s faith,” Abbot Charlesworth said. “This relic says something about who Thomas More was as a Christian … it is a major relic. It is linked to his life of conversion and his identification with the sufferings of Christ.”

Abbot Charlesworth said St. Thomas was a man of conscience who was “standing up for freedom” against a tyranny that was trying to dictate to people what they could or could not think.

Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth, the diocese in which Buckfast is situated, said he hoped the shrine would become an international pilgrimage destination. He said there was a huge cult dedicated to St. Thomas in countries as diverse as Germany and South Korea.

The bishop noted that St. Thomas also had global significance as the patron of statesmen and politicians, a title bestowed on him by St. John Paul II in 2000, as well as patron saint of lawyers.

St. Thomas was a man who manifested “huge integrity” and faith at a time of crisis, Bishop O’Toole said. He “gives us a pattern of what individuals can do through personal integrity and through the living out of their faith in very concrete and practical ways.”

St. Thomas is recorded as wearing a hair shirt when he was testing a possible vocation to the monastic life at the London Charterhouse, a Carthusian monastery, when he was in his early 20s.

The rough uncomfortable cloth is meant to encourage self-control, to serve as a penance for past sins and to unite the wearer with the passion of Christ.

Although St. Thomas went on to marry and father four children, he continued to wear the shirt in private, sometimes beneath his robes of high office.

He gave up public office when King Henry asserted supremacy over the church in England so he could annul his marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon and wed Anne Boleyn, his mistress.

St. Thomas was condemned for high treason after he refused to take an oath attached to the Act of Succession, which recognized any children of the marriage of Henry and Anne to be rightful heirs to the throne.

The day before his execution, the saint gave his hair shirt to Margaret Giggs, his adopted daughter, and it remained in her family until 1626, when it was bequeathed to a community of exiled English Augustinian nuns in Louvain, Belgium.

The nuns later relocated to Devon and, when their priory closed in 1983, they handed the shirt to the Diocese of Plymouth.

In 2011, now-retired Bishop Christopher Budd of Plymouth asked the monks of Buckfast to put the shirt on display so it could be venerated by the public. In October, the shirt was placed in a sealed case in a side chapel in the abbey church.

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Dutch cardinal says papal encyclical on gender theory might be needed

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Catholic News Service

 

OXFORD, England (CNS) — The spread of gender theory is misleading so many Catholics that a high-level document may be required to correct the errors of the ideology, a Dutch cardinal said.

            Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht, Netherlands, said a papal encyclical or other magisterial document “might appear to be necessary” to counter the spread of the new theory that gender can be determined by personal choice rather than by biology. Read more »

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English cardinal apologizes for past practice of coercing unmarried mothers to give up babies

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Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — An English cardinal has apologized for the “hurt caused” to young unmarried mothers pressured by church agencies in the mid-20th century to surrender their children for adoption.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster expressed regret for the actions of the church in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when about 500,000 British women were encouraged to give up their babies for adoption.

“The practices of all adoption agencies reflected the social values at that time and were sometimes lacking in care and sensitivity,” Cardinal Nichols said.

He added: “We apologize for the hurt caused by agencies acting in the name of the Catholic Church.”

The statement from Cardinal Nichols comes at the conclusion of an ITV documentary, scheduled to be broadcast in the U.K. Nov. 9.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, is seen at the Vatican in this 2014 file photo. In a program to be aired on ITV, he apologized to unmarried women pressured by the church to hand over their children for adoption. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, is seen at the Vatican in this 2014 file photo. In a program to be aired on ITV, he apologized to unmarried women pressured by the church to hand over their children for adoption. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The film, “Britain’s Adoption Scandal: Breaking The Silence,” examines the experiences of women who were urged to give up their babies because they were unmarried.

According to ITV, some women were told that if they truly loved their children, they should hand them to the care of married couples.

Most of the adoption agencies involved were overseen by the Catholic Church and Church of England while the Salvation Army, a Christian charity, ran hostels for mothers and babies.

Lawyers acting for some of the mothers are calling upon the government to investigate the practice of adoption in the 30-year postwar period.

Carolynn Gallwey of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors told ITV: “These women were told not to speak about what had happened to them.

“But now they’re entitled to have their experiences recognized, and the only way to do that is through a public inquiry,” she said.

Adoption in the U.K. reached a peak in 1968 when 16,000 babies born to unmarried mothers were sent to new families.

The 1967 Abortion Act came into force that same year, and the rates of adoption declined sharply in subsequent years as abortion became more prevalent.

From March 2014 to March 2015, 430 children under the age of 12 months were adopted in the U.K.

The role of the church in adoptions in the 1950s was examined in the 2013 movie “Philomena,” which tells the true story of the search by Philomena Lee for her son some 50 years after nuns in Ireland persuaded her to give him up for adoption.

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English bishops condemn rise in attacks on foreigners after Brexit vote

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Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — Catholic bishops condemned a sharp rise in xenophobic and racist attacks following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said the “upsurge of racism, of hatred toward others is something we must not tolerate.”

“We have to say this is simply not acceptable in a humane society, and it should never be provoked or promoted,” he said.

Monika Cyrek, a Polish national who works in a grocery store that sells mostly Polish products, poses for a photograph June 18 in Walton-on-Thames, England. "If we're not wanted here, probably a lot of people will leave and try other places," said Cyrek. (CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

Monika Cyrek, a Polish national who works in a grocery store that sells mostly Polish products, poses for a photograph June 18 in Walton-on-Thames, England. “If we’re not wanted here, probably a lot of people will leave and try other places,” said Cyrek. (CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

The June 28 statement from Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, came a day after the National Police Chiefs’ Council revealed that of 85 complaints of hate crime were received between June 23, the day of the referendum on United Kingdom membership in the EU, and June 26.

The figure represented a 57 percent increase in such offenses in a similar period just a month earlier.

Xenophobic incidents included the vandalism of the buildings of a Polish social and cultural association in London and the verbal abuse of foreigners on a tram in Manchester, a film of which was sent to Channel 4 News June 28.

Far-right nationalists at a rally in Newcastle June 25 unfurled a banner that demanded: “Stop Immigration, Start Repatriation” and, on June 28, a German woman who has lived in Britain since the 1970s wept as she told LBC London radio that she was too scared to leave her house three days after dog excrement was thrown at her windows.

She said: “My neighbors told me that they don’t want me living in this road and that they are not friends with foreigners.”

“My friend … has a grandson who is 7 and who was beaten up because he has a foreign grandmother,” she added.

Britain has been a primary destination for many citizens of poorer EU countries, with annual net migration reaching 330,000 people a year. Many of the migrants to the U.K. are Catholics from Central Europe, Asia and Africa.

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said in a June 28 telephone interview that, in his diocese, there were “huge numbers of immigrants from Poland, Kerala (India), the Philippines and Nigeria.”

“I am extremely sad to think of violence against foreign people who are living here,” he said. “There is no justification whatsoever for that.

“Many of these immigrants are already beloved members of our communities. They have contributed to local life and organizations,” he said.

“Britain has always, through the centuries, been a country which has assimilated people from abroad, and they have taken on our values, and also they have made us proud because they have made a great success of it,” Bishop Egan said.

“Both materially and spiritually, the vast majority of people who are working here and in our diocese are making a wonderful contribution,” he added. “To think of violence against them is self-destructive. It is self-harm. We are harming ourselves as much as we are inflicting division and suffering on others.”

Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, the diocese based in Bristol, also issued a statement telling Catholics that it was important “to work for the common good and not create barriers of division and prejudice.”

“We should have a profound respect for one another, and this should be reflected in the way we speak and behave,” said the statement posted on the diocesan website June 27.

“We need to keep in mind the needs of all citizens, particularly those who may feel marginalized at this present moment, and continue to be a tolerant society, free of racial and religious prejudice,” he said.

Concerns over the phenomenon of mass migration, and the apparent inability of the U.K. to control its borders, had helped to fuel efforts to take Britain out of the EU in a referendum won by the “Leave” campaigners, with the public voting 52-48 percent to withdraw from the bloc.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had fought for the U.K. to remain inside the EU, announced his resignation June 24.

In the weeks before the referendum, national newspapers such as the Mail on Sunday had exposed how far-right nationalists, including neo-Nazis, had been actively campaigning on the Leave side.

Witold Sobkow, Poland’s ambassador to the U.K., expressed shock at the surge in xenophobic abuse.

Cameron told the House of Commons June 27 that such crimes must be stamped out. “We will not stand for hate crime or these kinds of attacks,” he said.

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