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Biden reverses military ban on gender transitioning

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 25, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).- President Joe Biden on Monday revoked a ban on gender transitioning in the military, allowing troops to serve on the basis of their gender identity.

The White House on Monday announced that President Biden signed an executive order reversing certain Trump-era orders on transgender service in the military.


The previous orders had prohibited gender-transitioning by servicemembers while in the military, and barred acceptance of recruits with a current diagnosis of gender dysphoria.


“President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity,” a fact-sheet released by the White House stated on Monday.


Biden’s order prohibits certain military actions taken against servicemembers because of gender-transitioning, such as “involuntary separations, discharges, and denials of reenlistment or continuation of service.” The new order allows troops to “serve in their gender when transition is complete.”


Trump first announced the transgender military ban in 2017. In Jan., 2019, the Supreme Court upheld the ban, but in the next month the Defense Department announced a new policy allowing for people identifying as transgender to serve in the military, under certain exceptions.


Under the revised policy, soldiers identifying as transgender could not have already transitioned from their biological sex. Further, they could not undergo gender-transition surgery while serving, and could not have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. They had to serve under their biological sex.


In addition, military recruits with a history of gender dysphoria had to prove they had identified with their biological sex for three years and had not transitioned their gender.


A 2016 assessment by the RAND Corporation estimated around 2,450 transgender active military personnel out of approximately 1.3 million members.


In 2017, when former President Trump first announced the administration’s decision to ban gender transitioning in the military, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, said the decision was correct but did not fully address “the dignity of the human person” in emphasizing the practical consequences of the policy, such as military readiness, over the spiritual consequences.


The Church teaches that human beings are created “in the image and likeness of God,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio stated, emphasizing that “personal choices in life, whether regarding the protection of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage and the family, or the acceptance of a person’s God-created biology, should be made not solely for a penultimate reality on this earth but in anticipation of the ultimate reality of sharing in the very life of God in heaven.”


Biden has ‘developed’ approach to abortion, Sister Simone Campbell says

Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2021 / 10:35 am (CNA).- President Joe Biden has a “very developed approach” to abortion, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, said during a recent panel discussion hosted by the National Catholic Reporter.


Campbell, who also offered a prayer at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, said at the Jan. 21 discussion that the “political obsession” with the “criminialization of abortion” has broken the Church apart. 


Campbell said she hopes someone interviews Biden “about what he thinks” on the issue. 


“He has a very--I know from a conversation with him--he has a very developed approach to it [abortion],” Campbell said. “And for him, it hinges on religious liberty, and that he will not force his religious belief on the whole nation.” 


She added that many conservatives are concerned over religious freedom, and implied that Biden’s “religious liberty” case for legal abortion could serve as a bridge to those citizens.


“And the far-right is glomming onto this religious liberty argument,” she added. “Maybe there’s a way forward there, where we could find some understanding. So that would be my hope.” 



Montserrat Alvarado, vice president and executive director of Becket, told CNA that Biden’s treatment of the Little Sisters of the Poor will reveal how serious he is on respecting religious freedom. 


"The litmus test for whether President Biden is taking the intersection of abortion and religious liberty seriously is how he treats the Little Sisters of the Poor,” Alvarado told CNA.


“He will either give them an exemption or he will fight them in court, knowing full well that an exemption is the protection our laws and the Supreme Court have given Catholic nuns in this country,” Alvarado said. “We should know soon.” 


During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden said he would remove religious exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate that were granted by the Trump administration to objecting religious groups, including the Little Sisters of the Poor. If Biden follows through on that promise, it is expected that the sisters would once again have to return to court to push for a religious exemption.


Biden also supported taxpayer-funded abortion during his presidential campaign, pledging to reverse various prohibitions on federal funding of abortions, abortion providers, and groups promoting abortion. These policies include the Hyde Amendment, the Mexico City Policy, and the Protect Life Rule. The Biden administration is expected to repeal the Mexico City Policy later this week.


Campbell offered a prayer at the Democratic National Convention last year. Asked by CNA in August whether or not her social justice organization opposes legal abortion, Campbell replied, “That is not our issue. That is not it. It is above my pay grade.” 


“It’s not the issue that we work on. I’m a lawyer. I would have to study it more intensely than I have,” Campbell said at the time.

Vatican Secretary of State calls for synergy in fight against poverty and climate change

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).- The Vatican Secretary of State has called for a new model of development built on “the synergistic bond” between the fight against climate change and the struggle against poverty.

In a video message to the Climate Adaptation Summit taking place online Jan. 25-26, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that climate change is “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

“This is a moral and humanitarian imperative, especially since the greatest negative consequences of climate change often affect the most vulnerable: the poor and future generations,” the cardinal said.

“While the poor are the least responsible for global warming, they are the most likely to be affected, since they have the least adaptive capacity and often live in geographical areas which are particularly at risk.”

The Climate Adaptation Summit is a virtual international summit organized by the Netherlands aimed at outlining practical solutions for confronting climate change.

The summit’s list of speakers include French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and U.S. Special Climate Envoy John Kerry.

“On behalf of Pope Francis, I … wish to assure you of his closeness, support and encouragement in these days of intense effort for a fruitful outcome to this Climate Adaptation Summit,” Cardinal Parolin said in his video message.

The Vatican Secretary of State called for “stronger international cooperation committed to a low-carbon sustainable development” and an investment in “strengthening technologies and resilience and transferring them under fair conditions, particularly to the most vulnerable countries.”

“Complementarity mitigation and adaptation activities require coming up with a global and shared long-term strategy based on precise commitments, capable of defining and promoting a new model of development and built on the synergistic bond between the fight against climate change and  the struggle against poverty,” the cardinal said.

Parolin urged that there is “no alternative but to make every effort to implement a responsible, unprecedented collective response, intended to work together to build our common home.”

“May we make the response to climate change an opportunity for improving overall living conditions, health, transport, energy and security, and for creating new job opportunities,” he said.

“This task is difficult and complex, but we know that we have the freedom, intelligence and capacity to lead and direct technology and to put it at the service of another type of progress: one that is more human, social and integral.”

Pope Francis tells Latin American Ecclesial Assembly not to be elitist 

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis sent a video message Sunday to Latin American Church leaders organizing a “synodal” regional assembly, in which he asked them not to be ideological elites, but to remain close to the people of God.

“We have much to learn,” Pope Francis said in the video sent to the organizers of the first Ecclesial Assembly of the Church in Latin American and the Caribbean Jan. 24.

“This [will be] a meeting of the people of God: lay men and women, religious men and women, priests, bishops. All the people of God walking together: praying, speaking, thinking, discussing, and seeking the will of God,” the pope said.

The regional Ecclesial Assembly is scheduled to take place in Mexico City Nov. 21-28 with the theme: “We are all missionary disciples on the move.”

In his video message, Pope Francis said: “I want to accompany you with my prayers” ahead of the Ecclesial Assembly. He added that this assembly will be something distinctive from the previous regional meeting of the Latin American bishops’ conference (CELAM) in Aparecida, Brazil -- a conference in which he played a role as archbishop of Buenos Aires.

“May this Assembly not be an elite group separated from the holy, faithful people of God,” the pope said. “Together with the people. Do not forget it. We are all part of the people of God.”

“Out of the people of God an elite group crops up, an elite illumined by one ideology or another, but this is not the Church. The Church is found in the breaking of the bread. The Church gives herself to all, without exclusion.”

According to a press release from the Latin American bishops’ conference, the goal of the Ecclesial Assembly is to “contemplate the reality of our peoples and the deepening challenges of the continent” while “reviving pastoral commitment and seeking new paths with a synodal key.”

Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, Peru and president of the Latin American bishops’ conference took part in the launch of the Ecclesial Assembly, together with the president of the Brazilian bishops’ conference Bishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo and Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López of Monterrey, the president of the Mexican bishops’ conference.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, also participated in the virtual event. The launch culminated with a Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe presided over by the archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes.

Pope Francis said that prayer is essential in preparation for this assembly. He added: “The Lord is among us. May the Lord make himself heard.”


Polish Catholic Church’s ‘Day of Islam’ seeks to ‘overcome prejudices’

CNA Staff, Jan 25, 2021 / 02:00 am (CNA).- The Polish Catholic Church’s annual “Day of Islam” on Tuesday is an opportunity to overcome prejudices, a bishop who oversees Catholic-Muslim dialogue in the country has said.

Bishop Henryk Ciereszko said that the commemoration, on Jan. 26, would help “to overcome aversion and prejudices, to point out what unites Muslims and Christians.”

Ciereszko, the auxiliary bishop of Białystok and the Polish bishops’ delegate for Catholic-Muslim dialogue, noted that the motto for this year’s event is “Christians and Muslims: Protecting Places of Worship Together.”

“It emphasizes the importance and role of those places, the Catholic churches and Muslim mosques, where God is worshiped, prayers are recited, and an encounter with God is experienced,” he said.

The Day of Islam is traditionally celebrated after the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held on Jan. 18-25. This will be the 21st year that the Polish Church has marked the day, first commemorated in 2001. 

Muslims have lived continuously in Poland since the 14th century when Tatars settled in a territory that later became the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. For centuries, the Lipka Tatars’ cavalry regiments fought alongside Polish Catholics in wars. 

Today, there are an estimated 3,000 Tatars in Poland. The majority of the country’s Muslims are Sunnis from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

Estimates of the total number of Muslims vary widely, but they are believed to comprise roughly 0.1% of Poland’s 38 million population. 

This year’s Day of Islam will be observed online due to the coronavirus pandemic. The principal celebration will be livestreamed on Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. local time. 

The program will include the reading of greetings from Catholic and Muslim leaders, as well as passages from the Bible and the Koran. An imam and a bishop will each recite prayers for their respective communities. 

The meeting will continue with Catholics reciting the Our Father and a call by the bishop to offer a sign of peace. It will end with a prayer by the Muslim representative and a blessing by the bishop.