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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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US Navy changes course, allows attendance at religious services with coronavirus precautions

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 16:30

Denver Newsroom, Jul 10, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).-  

After reports that sailors and their families could be barred from attending church services, the U.S Navy has clarified that its personnel may attend indoor religious services, provided that religious services take approved measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services has welcomed the change.

“The revision of the U.S. Navy’s orders to allow for the participation by Navy personnel in indoor religious services, provided that the appropriate guidelines are met, is most welcome,” Broglio told CNA July 10. “The change recognizes that worship is a part of the exercise of religious liberty and helps to ensure the readiness of the forces who defend us.”

“It is clear that the Catholic Church has taken to heart the CDC measures and organized the celebration of the sacraments in ways that ensure the safety of participants, good order, and the dignity of the rites. I am sure that other religious groups will do the same,” the archbishop said.

“I am grateful to the Department of the Navy and everyone else who contributed to this timely revision.”

In late March, the Navy imposed restrictions on attending off-base religious services.

Gregory Slavonic, acting assistant secretary of defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said on Wednesday that Navy orders should not “restrict attendance at places of worship where attendees are able to appropriately apply COVID-19 transmission mitigation measures, specifically social distancing and use of face covering.“

The new guidance came late Wednesday in a memo from Slavonic to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday, the news website Military.com reports.

Capt. Sarah Self-Kyler, public affairs officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said all service members assigned to Navy units “must continue to follow force health protection protocols, such as maintaining social distance and use of face coverings, should they choose to participate in religious services or visit places of worship.”

U.S. Air Force Major Daniel Schultz, who is currently assigned to a Navy command, on June 29 sought a religious accommodation. Schultz, who leads worship at his church, said a new order allowed house parties and protests but banned attendance at indoor church services.

Mike Berry, general counsel for the First Liberty Institute, had sent a letter on behalf of Schultz. He told Fox News the change was a “major victory” for the Constitution and religious freedom.

“This memo means tens of thousands of our brave service members will be able to safely and freely exercise their religious beliefs,” he said.

U.S. Reps. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. Had written to U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper objecting to the Navy's policy.

Collins welcomed the new clarification but called for further changes.

"For too long, the Pentagon has turned a blind eye as our military leaders have completely disregarded their obligation to protect the religious freedom of its service members," Collins said Thursday. "I look forward to sitting down with Secretary Esper and leaders at the Department of Defense to further discuss how we can protect religious freedom across all branches of our military.”

On July 5, Broglio criticized the orders and lamented that they also discouraged “civilian personnel, including families” from attending indoor church services.

Broglio called the Navy’s original order “particularly odious to Catholics,” because, he said, frequently there is no longer a Catholic program on naval installations due to budgetary constraints, or many installation chapels simply are still closed.

“Participation in the Sunday Eucharist is life blood for Catholics. It is the source and summit of our lives and allows us to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord,” he said.

Given the great efforts of Catholic churches to adjust seating, the reception of Holy Communion, and the liturgy to avoid contagion, Broglio had said, “I wonder why the Navy has decided to prohibit the faithful from something which even the Commander in Chief has called an essential service.”

Broglio's archdiocese serves some 1.8 million Catholics worldwide, including service members, civilian federal employees, and their families. About 25% of the military is Catholic, though only 6% of military chaplains are. There are under 500 ordained priests doing ministry work for the archdiocese, about 184 of whom are active-duty chaplains who are also commissioned officers.

While some news reports have highlighted dangers of contagion at religious services, other experts have emphasized that religious services are no more dangerous than similar events that take precautions recommended by health authorities.

A recent New York Times report linked religious facilities to more than 650 cases of Covid-19 infections contracted at nearly 40 churches and religious events since the epidemic arrived in the U.S. However, these make up a minuscule percentage of the more than 3.1 million confirmed cases in the country.

 

Catholic Charities serves families facing food insecurity in DC

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 16:00

Washington D.C., Jul 10, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- In the shadow of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington distributed food to families in need Friday, as the nation’s capital continues to battle the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today we provided food to hundreds of people who have been impacted by the pandemic,” Joe Dempsey, director of special projects for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA. 

“This shows that this crisis is still very much affecting the D.C. area, and it continues to hit struggling families the hardest. But we are committed to meeting our clients’ needs for as long as this situation lasts,” said Dempsey. 

The distribution was held in the parking lot in front of the basilica, a Washington landmark and the largest church in North America. In addition to the 500 grocery boxes, Catholic Charities also distributed boxes that contained a hot meal for a family of four. 

DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who represents the district’s Ward 5, where the basilica is located, praised Catholic Charities for their work in feeding the hungry. 

“Here in Ward 5 we have the second highest number of COVID-19 positive cases in the District,” Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie told CNA on Friday. 

“A large number of our businesses have had to close temporarily, leaving many of our residents without employment. Catholic Charities has been committed to serving some of our most vulnerable residents in the District and I am immensely appreciative of their continued service during this difficult time,” he added. 

According to research done by Northwestern University, Black and Hispanic families are particularly struggling with food insecurity in the wake of the economic shutdown caused by the pandemic. Approximately 40% of Black and Hispanic families say that they are having trouble feeding their children. 

Ward 5 is approximately 56% Black, and about 11% of the ward’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. About 16% of the residents in Ward 5 live below the poverty line. 

These numbers are a stark increase compared to previous years. In 2018, which was the last time a national survey was held concerning food insecurity, 25% of Black households with children and 17% of Hispanic households with children said that they were food insecure. Those figures are now 39% and 37%, respectively. 

For white households with children, 22% report food insecurity, which researchers say is more than double the previous figure prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist and the director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, told POLITICO that these numbers are “uncharted territory.” 

“We’ve never seen food insecurity rates double, or nearly triple--and the persistent race gaps are just appalling,” she said.

US sanctions Chinese officials over abuses of Uyghurs in Xinjiang

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 14:10

CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 12:10 pm (CNA).- The Trump administration announced Thursday that it is putting travel and asset sanctions on several senior officials of the Chinese Communist Party for their role in the mass internment of Uyghurs.

An estimated 1 million Uyghurs, members of a Muslim ethnoreligious group, have been detained in re-education camps in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Inside the camps they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.

“The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, snd attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced July 9.

“The United States is taking action today against the horrific and systematic abuses in Xinjiang and calls on all nations who share our concerns about the CCP’s attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms to join us in condemning this behavior,” he added.

Chen Quanguo, Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang, and two other party officials of the region, Zhu Hailun and Wang Mingshan, as well as their immediate family members, will be unable to attain visas to enter the US.

Other CCP officals “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the unjust detention or abuse of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang” are also being sanctioned with visa restrictions.

Chen, Zhu, Wang, and Huo Liujun, a former police official in Xinjiang, are being sanctioned by the US Treasury Department, as is the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.

Their assets and entities in the US are blocked, and US persons may not do business with them.

“The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world,” commented Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

Chen is also a member of the Politburo, a group of 25 who oversee the CCP, and he was Communist Party Secretary of Tibet from 2011-16. He is the highest-ranking Chinese official to have been sanctioned by the US.

Nury Turkel, a Uyghur human rights advocates who is a commissioner at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, had told CNA June 24 that the commission “is disappointed that the U.S. government has not yet enacted targeted sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the mass detention of Uyghur and other Muslims.”

President Donald Trump had on June 17 signed legislation that would impose financial and visa sanctions on individuals complicit in abuses in Xinjiang. The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act directs the president to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, one of several laws authorizing the president to sanction human rights abusers.

The statements explaining the new sanctions from both the State and Treasury Departments referred to the Magnitsky Act.

The Chinese government has defended its policy of mass detention and re-education as an appropriate measure against terrorism.

The government at one time denied the camps even existed, but has since shifted to defending its actions as a reasonable response to a national security threat.

Government officials from the region said in July 2019 that the area's re-education camps for Muslims have been successful, with most of those held having been reintegrated into Chinese society.

Uyghurs can be arrested and detained under vague anti-terrorism laws. Violence in the region escalated in the 1990s and again in 2008.

The US Commerce Department in October 2019 added 28 Chinese organizations to a blacklist barring them from buying products from US companies, saying they cooperate in the detention and repression of the Uyghurs.

A 2019 document from a Xinjiang county leaked to western media earlier this year gave violation of birth control policies as the most common reason for the “re-education” of some 3,000 Uyghurs, often alongside other reasons.

Last week an AP investigation found a systematic campaign by the CCP of pregnancy checks and forced abortions, sterilizations, and implantations of IUDs on Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

The birth rate in the region plunged by 24% in 2019, the AP said, and in certain parts of the province birth rates had fallen by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018. 

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