World News

Brothers face backlash over euthanasia

Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, bishops’ conference president (KURT DESPLENTER/AFP/Getty Images)

The Catholic bishops of Belgium have said they oppose euthanasia for mentally ill patients, saying such a step “attacks the very foundations of our civilisation”.

Their statement comes amid a wide backlash against a decision by the Belgian branch of the Brothers of Charity to allow euthanasia in its psychiatric hospitals.

The move was condemned by Brother René Stockman, the superior general of the order. He said he had made a formal request to the Brothers to reverse the decision and had contacted the Vatican about it.

He told Catholic News Service that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, was personally investigating the matter.

The bishops said: “We cannot agree that euthanasia [should be] practised on psychiatric patients who are not terminally ill.

“Our point of view does not mean that we want to leave the person in pain. The mental suffering may be immense and a person may find himself totally desperate and without any hope – but it is precisely in this situation that we must remain close to him and not abandon him.

“There is, in fact, a limit and a prohibition that have been in force for so long, since the origins of men living together,” they said. “If we touch it, we are attacking the very foundations of our civilisation.

“That’s the reason why we call for great restraint and continuing dialogue on these issues,” they said.

The bishops also expressed their “deep appreciation” for those who helped care for psychiatric patients. The Belgian Brothers of Charity run 15 psychiatric centres which care for more than 5,000 patients a year.


Ukrainians realise ‘dream’ of golden-domed church

After years of worshipping in cramped spaces, Ukrainian Greek Catholics in Odessa are celebrating their first purpose-built church.

The community used to worship in the basement of a Latin-rite Catholic church.

Later, in 2005, the community bought a private house and converted it into a small chapel. This served as the cathedral for the Odessa Exarchate, which covers the huge territory of southern Ukraine. But 10,000 Ukrainian Catholics lived in Odessa, and the chapel could only house 100 people.

Last month a new chapel was blessed on the outskirts of Odessa, built with funding from European aid agencies and Ukrainian Catholics in the US.

Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Mykhaylo Bubniy of Odessa said: “We dreamed of a golden-domed church. This is very important in our circumstances in Odessa, where we are often not considered as a ‘real’ Church. A dome is a sign.”

It had taken the community more than 12 years to gain legal approval to buy land for the chapel. The Orthodox hierarchy considers southern Ukraine part of its “canonical territory” and objects to the right of other communities to establish their structures there.


Retreat leader named vicar of Rome

Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, an auxiliary bishop in Rome, as his vicar for the city.

Archbishop De Donatis is a well-known spiritual director who led Pope Francis’s first Lenten retreat as pope. He will succeed Cardinal Agostino Vallini on June 29, the feast of Ss Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome. Archbishop De Donatis, appointed an auxiliary bishop in 2015, served as spiritual director of Rome’s major seminary.