Browsing News Entries

Pope Francis petitions Assad to protect weak and defenseless in Syria

Vatican City, Jul 22, 2019 / 04:52 am (CNA).- Pope Francis, with concern for the humanitarian crisis in bombarded Idlib, has called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to safeguard the weak and defenseless civil population in his country.

“The Holy Father asks the president to do everything possible to stop this humanitarian catastrophe, to safeguard the defenseless population, especially the weakest, in compliance with International Humanitarian Law,” Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told Vatican News July 22.

The pope’s appeal was made in a letter delivered to Assad July 22 by Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, during a meeting with the president in Damascus.

Also present at the meeting were the apostolic nuncio to Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari, and Fr. Nicola Riccardi, undersecretary of the Integral Human Development dicastery.

According to a statement by press office director Matteo Bruni, Francis’ letter makes particular reference to the situation of the civil population in Idlib.

Idlib, located on the Turkish border in northwestern Syria, is the last major rebel stronghold in the country. Since Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air cover, launched an offensive in late April, the city has seen intensive airstrikes and bombardment, resulting in the death of more than 2,000 people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands.

At least 19 people, including 16 civilians, were killed, and dozens injured, Monday in an airstrike on a market in Idlib. The strike followed one day after other air raids in the region killed 18.

“Pope Francis renews his appeal to protect the lives of civilians and preserve the main infrastructures, such as schools, hospitals and health facilities,” Parolin said. “Indeed what is happening is inhuman and cannot be accepted.”

Parolin said the pope’s letter to Assad encourages the president to show “goodwill” and to make an effort to find “viable solutions” to end a conflict which has lasted too long and taken a large number of innocent lives.
 
Pope Francis is worried about the stalled negotiation process, Parolin said, and urges the use of diplomacy, dialogue, and negotiation. He recalled a phrase of the pope repeated in the letter, that “war provokes war and violence provokes violence.”

According to Parolin, in his letter Francis gives several concrete examples of steps which should be taken, such as the creation of safe conditions for internally and externally displaced people to return home if desired, the release of prisoners, and access for families to information about loved ones.

The letter also addresses political prisoners, which Parolin said is a situation “particularly close at heart for Pope Francis.”

Citing a March 2018 report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Parolin said there are tens of thousands of people arbitrarily detained, sometimes in unofficial prisons where they may be tortured and executed.  

Pope Francis also sent a letter to Assad at the end of 2016, appealing for a peaceful resolution to hostilities and an end to extremism.

The Syrian civil war began in March 2011 with demonstrations against the nation's president, Bashar al-Assad. The war has claimed the lives of more than 500,000 people, and forced 5.6 million to become refugees. Another 6.6 million Syrians are believed to have been internally displaced by the violence.

The civil war is being fought among the Syrian regime and a number of rebel groups. The rebels include moderates, such as the Free Syrian Army; Islamists such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State; and Kurdish separatists.

 

Moon landing should inspire 'even greater goals,' Pope Francis urges

Vatican City, Jul 21, 2019 / 06:29 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Sunday recalled the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, encouraging Catholics to look to that great event for inspiration to overcome injustices and mistreatment of the weak.

“Fifty years ago yesterday man set foot on the moon, realizing an extraordinary dream,” the pope said July 21. “May the memory of that great step for humanity ignite the desire to progress together towards even greater goals: more dignity for the weak, more justice among peoples, more future for our common home.”

Pope Francis referenced the July 20 anniversary of the Apollo 11 spaceflight, the first to land humans on the moon, during his weekly Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.

In his message before the Angelus, he reflected on the day’s Gospel, when Jesus goes to visit Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus. In this Gospel, St. Luke tells readers that Martha was busy serving, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to listen to his words.

Jesus, in response to Martha’s complaint that Mary is not helping, says she “has chosen the better part.”

“Today’s Gospel reminds us that the wisdom of the heart lies precisely in knowing how to combine these two elements: contemplation and action,” Pope Francis said, adding that “Martha and Mary show us the way.”

Francis commented that Martha had a gift for hospitality and Jesus did not intend to condemn an attitude of service, “but rather the anxiety with which it is sometimes experienced.”

In fact, it is important to follow Martha’s example in working to create fraternity and welcome in one’s home and community, he underlined. But, he explained, when Jesus is there, “everything must be put aside because, when He comes to visit us in our lives, his presence and His word comes before everything.”

“In this scene of Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus, St. Luke shows the prayerful attitude of the believer, who knows how to stay in the presence of the Master to listen to him and be in harmony with Him,” the pope said.

To live a joyful life, the two attitudes must be associated, he continued. “On the one hand, ‘to stay at the feet’ of Jesus, to listen to him while he reveals the secret of everything to us; on the other hand, to be attentive and ready in hospitality, when He passes and knocks on our door, with the face of a friend who needs a moment of refreshment and fraternity.”

Pope Francis prayed that the Virgin Mary will intercede in granting the Church the grace to love and serve God and others “with the hands of Martha and the heart of Mary.”

The hunt for the remains of the first Filipino-born bishop

Rome, Italy, Jul 20, 2019 / 04:36 pm (CNA).- A little over 100 years ago, the Catholic Church’s first Filipino-born bishop died while on a visit to Rome. Now, a group of Filipino priests are on the hunt for his remains.

The search for Bishop Jorge Imperial Barlin’s bones began several years ago. Written records show he was buried in the Dominican mausoleum at the Campo Verano cemetery in 1909. But in the intervening time, the marker for the bishop’s tomb has been lost. Barlin was staying with Dominican brothers at the time of his death.

“Unfortunately, at the moment we cannot locate where he is buried,” Dominican Fr. Gerard Timoner told CNA.

Timoner, who was recently elected head of the Dominican Order, described himself as a “middle-man” in the process for finding Barlin. A Filipino, he is helping to serve as liaison between the Dominicans and the Filipino seminary in Rome.

At the time of his death, Barlin was leader of the Archdiocese of Nueva Caceras, which has asked permission, if Barlin’s remains is found, to bring them to the Philippines to be interred in the cathedral. The cemetery and the Dominicans have both given permission for this to take place.

The search is taking place, in part, because of an important anniversary in the life of the Church in the Philippines. The year 2021 will mark the 500th anniversary of Catholicism in the Philippines. The first Mass, and the first Baptism, took place in 1521.

Though Barlin is a significant figure for the Church in the Philippines, he is “not that well known, except in the region [he came from],” Timoner said, though “Jorge Barlin is very important because he was the first Filipino bishop.”

“And for many years, hundreds of years of evangelization, actually, the Philippines remained a missionary territory in the sense that there were no native clergy,” Timoner said, noting that “Barlin, as the first Filipino bishop, is the one who was able to, if you may call it this, surmount a kind of discrimination, because he was native.”

Barlin was ordained a priest in 1874 at the age of 28. Under Spanish colonization, Filipino priests were circumscribed to the lowest levels within the Church hierarchy and persecuted if they fought for reform. But Barlin was liked by Spanish Bishop Francisco Gainza, who protected the young priest, giving him positions of responsibility at the cathedral.

After Gainza died, Barlin was, for a time, assigned to smaller, isolated towns. But his spiritual and economic leadership were noticed by the new bishop, who named him vicar forane of the province of Sorsogon and parish priest of its capital town.

Under Barlin’s leadership, Sorsogon avoided the worst of the hostilities in the Philippine Revolution against Spain (and later the Philippine-American War).

But when the revolution did reach the region in 1898, the Spanish governor transferred his authority to Barlin before fleeing to Manila. As both religious and political leader, Barlin oversaw the peaceful transfer of political authority to the revolutionary government.

Nearly three years later, the priest again oversaw the peaceful transfer of the government to American forces when the Philippine revolutionaries were defeated. Under U.S. occupation, the political situation cooled.

After the capture of the president of the Philippine Republic in 1901, armed resistance to American colonists ended, but with an upsurge in Filipino nationalism, divisions arose in the Catholic Church.

Fr. Gregorio Aglipay, a revolutionary priest, severed ties with the Holy See, declaring the institution of the Philippine Independent Catholic Church. It is believed that in some provinces, nearly all the priests joined Aglipay in what is often referred to as the “Aglipay Church.”

Aglipay offered Barlin the highest ecclesiastical office in his new church, but the priest strongly rejected the offer. “Barlin, of course, remained steadfast,” Timoner said. He stayed faithful to the See of Peter.

The schismatic church then took over Catholic churches, defending the move as “peaceable occupation.” When an Aglipayan priest refused to vacate Fr. Barlin’s church, he brought the case to court, which ruled in his favor in 1904.

Barlin won again when the case was reheard by the Supreme Court two years later. The courts forced the schismatic clergy to vacate the buildings owned by the Catholic Church.

“Barlin’s role was crucial; otherwise if he had transferred, the [schismatic] church might have grown bigger than it is today,” Timoner said.

By this point, Barlin had become a bishop. He was named the 28th bishop of Nueva Caceres in December 1905 and consecrated in June 1906 in Manila at the age of 56. Just three years later, he fell ill while on his first ad limina visit to Rome, dying on Sept. 4, 1909.

In 2007, the Catholic bishops of the Philippines wrote a pastoral letter about Bishop Barlin, praising his “service to God and people.”

“When the temptation of power and prestige was offered him, he chose to remain faithful to his commitment. When such power was in his hands, he used the same responsibly always for the good of those he served,” they wrote.

Barlin chose Bonus miles Christi (“A good soldier of Christ”) for his episcopal motto. With his consecration, the bishops wrote, “it was the first time after three hundred years of Christianity in the Philippines that a Filipino was given such a dignity certainly, a milestone in the Philippine Church History, an event worth remembering and celebrating.”

Fla. McDonald's sued for denying employment to Hasidic Jew because of his beard

Orlando, Fla., Jul 20, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA).- An Orlando-area McDonald’s is being sued for denying employment to a man on account of his beard.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the lawsuit on the man’s behalf, said in their lawsuit that the McDonald’s manager told the man that "he could not hire him because doing so would violate McDonald's policies and the law," News 6 in Orlando reported.

According to the lawsuit, the man told the restaurant that he was a Hasidic Jew and that his religious beliefs prevented him from shaving his beard, but that he offered to wear a beard net instead. He was applying for the position of a maintenance worker at the restaurant in September 2016.

His employment was still denied. The EEOC filed a lawsuit with the Orlando McDonald’s July 17, three years after the incident. The man is asking for three years worth of back pay for the job in damages, News 6 reported.

Hasidic Judaism is an orthodox movement within Judaism in which men do not shave their beards, per instructions in the Torah. In the lawsuit, the EEOC argues that McDonald’s violated the man’s rights by declining his employment due to his religious beliefs.

In an interview with News 6, Rabbi David Kay with Congregation Ohev Shalom in Maitland, another Orlando suburb, explained that the beard was an “expression of faith” for Hasidic Jewish men, and that he considered the lawsuit to be a teaching moment on Jewish traditions.

"Anytime we have the opportunity to expand our awareness and understanding of how faith traditions express themselves, I think that’s a plus," Kay told News 6.

McDonald’s had not responded to News 6 requests for comment by press time. It is unclear why this lawsuit is being filed now instead of immediately after the incident occurred.

Lord Alton: Abortion law imposed on N Ireland by UK Parliament

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The British Parliament is imposing its will on the citizens of Northern Ireland by passing legislation decriminalizing abortion there, one Catholic lawmaker says.

“We know that the last vote to be held in the United Kingdom in any of the jurisdictions was in Northern Ireland, where they said they didn’t want these laws,” David Alton, Baron Alton of Liverpool, an independent member of the House of Lords and a Catholic, told CNA on Thursday.

“But they have been imposed by the metropolitan classes at Westminster, over and above the beliefs of the people of Northern Ireland.”

The Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016 successfully opposed legal abortion, but because the assembly is currently not functional due to a dispute between its two major political parties, the British Parliament has passed an Executive Formation bill meant to serve as a temporary legislative replacement. It will take effect if the Assembly is not functional by October 21. The legislation includes amendments legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill passed the UK House of Lords by a 182-37 vote, after passing the House of Commons the week prior. The House of Lords also included an amendment delaying the introduction of legal same-sex marriage until 2020.

In response, the Northern Ireland Catholic bishops’ conference condemned the legislation’s “unprecedented” use of authority to legalize abortion in the region.

Lord Alton spoke with CNA at a side event of the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, held at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. from July 15-19. The second annual gathering of religious and civic leaders from around the world featured discussions of religious persecution and how best to promote freedom of religion around the globe.

In his interview with CNA on Thursday, Lord Alton noted that the effort to legalize abortion in Northern Ireland is part of a broad “liberal intolerance” to impose secular values that “gets pretty close to being a form of persecution,” especially on end-of-life issues.

He noted the recent case of a disabled woman in the UK who was ordered by a judge to have a forced abortion, before an appeals court overruled the judge, as another example of this intolerance. The 2012 case of two Catholic midwives in Glasgow, who ultimately lost their legal battle against having to perform an abortion, “was a harbinger of worse to come,” he warned.

During July 10 debates by the House of Lords, Lord Alton said that the amendments on abortion and same-sex marriage were tantamount to the ideological colonization of Northern Ireland.

“To me, it feels more like ideology-driven colonialism of the worst kind,” he said, noting that “I have been contacted by people in Northern Ireland who are resolutely appalled by the way they feel they have been treated.”

“The unseemly haste” with which the bill was pushed through the UK Parliament is reminiscent of “emergency powers legislation” from the days before the Good Friday Agreement, and not “unionism,” Lord Alton said.

The legislation came after committees at the United Nations have called for the decriminalization of abortion, and for the UK government to change the law despite the principle of “devolution,” by which the Northern Ireland Assembly was given the power to legislate in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The UN Committee Against Torture recommended the decriminalization of abortion in Northern Ireland, in June, and in May, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women also called for the UK government to act to decriminalize abortion in the region.

“Regardless of what one thinks about abortion, there is no human right to abortion,” Lord Alton said in his remarks on July 10. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has 30 articles, none of which suggests that there is a human right to abortion.”

He noted that “100% of those voting to change its laws represented constituencies from outside Northern Ireland and 100% of Northern Ireland Members of Parliament who were present voted against it.”

“How can the British Parliament treat part of the United Kingdom with such utter contempt?” he asked.

 

Illinois to fund abortion clinics after Title X Protect Life Rule

Springfield, Ill., Jul 19, 2019 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- Illinois will provide state funding to abortion clinics and clinics that refer for abortions in the light of new changes to Title X rules, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday.

Earlier in the week, part of the “Protect Life Rule,” which created new eligibility guidelines for Title X family planning funds, went into effect.

“President Trump’s gag rule undermines women’s health care and threatens the providers that millions of women and girls rely on, and we will not let that stand in the state of Illinois,” said Pritzker in a July 18 statement. The state’s Department of Public Health will instead fund the 28 clinics in the state that received Title X funds and also refer for or provide abortions. The clinics were due to receive about $2.4 million in federal funds through the end of September, the current fiscal year.

Planned Parenthood locations in Illinois received 40 percent of the Title X funds distributed in the state, despite only operating 17 of the more than 70 clinics who received funds each year. Approximately 112,000 people in Illinois acquired birth control through Title X.

Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide currently receive about $60 million in federal funds annually from this program, more than 10 percent of the half-billion dollars in total federal funding it receives per year.

Shortly after the Protect Life Rule and Title X changes were announced in February, Planned Parenthood of Illinois announced that they had no plans to comply with the new rules.

“We will not violate our own medical ethics, and because of what the gag rule does, which blocks patients from getting accurate information about their care, we won’t accept the money,” Julie Lynn, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune at the time.

Lynn stated that Planned Parenthood of Illinois would adjust to ensure that their patients were still able to receive contraception, and forgo Title X funds.

Six days after the Protect Life Rule was finalized, Planned Parenthood of Illinois announced a new initiative, dubbed “Access Birth Control”, that would distribute contraception pills or devices, including IUDs, condoms, and Depo-Provera shots, free of charge to eligible persons.

On its website, Planned Parenthood of Illinois said that the program will run through January 2021, the end of President Donald Trump’s first presidential term, in apparent expectation of a victory for an opposition candidate more favorable to abortion.

The Department of Health and Human Services informed Title X fund recipients July 15 that they will no longer be permitted to refer mothers for abortion services, and must keep finances separate from facilities that provide abortions.

As of March 2020, abortion facilities will no longer be allowed to co-locate with clinics that receive Title X moneys. Clinics that provide “nondirective counseling” about abortion may still receive funds.

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.

Michigan considers two pro-life ballot initiatives

Lansing, Mich., Jul 19, 2019 / 02:26 pm (CNA).- The Michigan Catholic Conference is urging state residents to support a petition drive for an initiative to ban “dismemberment abortions” instead of a separate petition drive that seeks to ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

The two competing initiatives are backed by different groups. The dismemberment abortion ban is being conducted by a group called Michigan Values Life, while the heartbeat ban is supported by the Michigan Heartbeat Coalition. The Michigan Catholic Conference and Right to Life of Michigan are both supporting Michigan Values Life.

The ban on “dismemberment abortions” would make it a felony for a physician to perform a dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion, and the ballot initiative seeks to update the state’s existing ban on partial-birth abortions.

D&E abortions are typically done in the second trimester of pregnancy and involve the dismemberment of an unborn child.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has said she would veto any pro-life legislation. The ballot initiative push is a way for these bills to become law outside of her signature.

Presently, Michigan law prohibits all abortion. This law is not enforced due to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, but would go into back into effect if the decision were ever to be overturned. If the proposed heartbeat bill were to become law and Roe were to be overturned, it would actually liberalize existing Michigan abortion law and permit the abortion of infants prior to the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

“At worst, the heartbeat ban could be interpreted to create a conflict in the law and replace the 1931 ban, actually allowing abortions up until a baby’s heartbeat is detected,” said a fact sheet released by the Michigan Catholic Conference.

While it is not uncommon for pro-lifers to oppose heartbeat legislation due to the potential of expensive legal and constitutional challenges, this is relatively unusual as pro-life groups are opposing the heartbeat bill due to the existence of an even stronger piece of anti-abortion legislation.

Several states have passed “heartbeat bills,” and those bills have been signed into law. None of the bans have been allowed to actually go into effect due to legal challenges. “Heartbeat bills” will not be considered constitutional until the Supreme Court either overturns the Roe v. Wade decision or makes a different ruling on an abortion case.

Supporters of either petition drive must get approximately 350,000 signatures to force the legislature to vote on the legislation.

 

Ed. note: This story has been updated for clarity.

 

Vatican announces sanctions on disgraced Bishop Bransfield

Wheeling, W.V., Jul 19, 2019 / 01:57 pm (CNA).- Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, Bishop emeritus of Wheeling-Charleston, will no longer be allowed to participate in public Masses or live within his former diocese. He must “make personal amends” for the harm he brought to the diocese, Pope Francis announced in a communique released on Friday afternoon.

Bransfield is reported to have sexually harassed, assaulted, and coerced seminarians, priests, and other adults during his time as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston. He was also found to have given large cash gifts to high-ranking Church leaders, using diocesan funds.

The July 19 Vatican communique, which was published Friday on the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s website, was sent from the Apostolic Nuncio of the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre.

Bransfield’s resignation was accepted by Pope Francis on Sept. 13, 2018, five days after Bransfield reached the retirement age of 75.

When Pope Francis accepted Bransfield’s resignation, he appointed Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore as the apostolic administrator of the diocese. He also authorized Lori to start an investigation into the allegations made against the retired bishop, which at the time were described as financial abuses and the sexual harassment of adults.

A hotline for the investigation that was set up in September received more than three dozen calls during its first two weeks.
In March, Lori announced that he had restricted Bransfield’s ministry in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston as well as in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and that the Holy See would be conducting an additional evaluation of the investigation. That assessment was released on Friday.

“Pending the assessment of the findings of the Holy See, as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, I have directed that Bishop Bransfield is not authorized to exercise any priestly or episcopal ministry either within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston or within the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” Lori said in a March 11 press release.

The Holy See’s communique expands that restriction, and adds the additional prohibition on living within the diocese. Further, the Vatican wrote that Bransfield has “the obligation to make personal amends for some of the harm he caused.”

Per the release, “the nature and extent of the amends to be decided in consultation with the future Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston.”

After the investigation, Archbishop Lori confirmed that investigators had established a pattern of sexual malfeasance, and serious financial misconduct by Bransfield throughout his time as bishop.

“The investigative report determined that during his tenure as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, Bishop Bransfield engaged in a pattern of excessive and inappropriate spending,” Lori said, citing renovations to multiple residences and the misuse of Church funds “for personal benefit on such things as personal travel, dining, liquor, gifts and luxury items.”

Some bishops who received cash gifts from Bransfield pledged to return them.

English bishop: Let's be cautious responding to comatose girl's situation

London, England, Jul 19, 2019 / 11:05 am (CNA).- The English and Welsh bishops' representative on life issues urged Thursday that the public be reserved in judgement on the case of Tafida Raqeeb, a comatose five-year-old whose parents want her transferred to Italy for treatment after UK doctors ordered the removal of “life-sustaining treatment.”

Raqeeb has been in a coma since Feb. 9, after she suffered an arteriovenous malformation which resulted in a burst blood vessel in her brain.

The AVM triggered cardiac and respiratory arrest, as well as a traumatic brain injury. Doctors at the Royal London Hospital say there is no chance she will recover from her coma, and declared any further medical treatment futile.

Two doctors from the Gaslini Children’s Hospital in Genoa, Italy, however, disagree. They were able to examine Raqeeb via a video link July 12, and they agreed to care for her in Italy. They said they did not believe her to be brain dead.

Raqeeb's parents asked the High Court in London July 16 to allow her to leave the country.

Bishop John Sherrington, an auxiliary bishop of Westminster, said July 18 that “Difficult dilemmas have to be faced. In that process, I hope that all due weight will be given to the wishes of her parents, while also respecting the clinical judgement of the doctors caring for her. Those of us not in possession of all the relevant information might best be reserved in our judgement.”

“I trust that the doctors from the Gaslini Children’s Hospital in Genoa will be given time and opportunity to come to a well-informed view and to share their prognosis with their colleagues here in London,” Sherrington wrote.

“Such international cooperation is essential good practice in the care of tragically difficult lives.”

The bishop also offer prayers for strength for Raqeeb and her parents.

“The tragic illness and circumstances of little Tafida Raqeeb will touch everyone who hears of it. I hope it will also move them to pray, as it does me.”

He said: “I pray for this little girl that she and her parents are strengthened by the presence of God, by the mercy of God and by the support of all who know and love her.”

An online petition supported by the family requesting that Royal London Hospital allow Raqeeb to be transferred to Gaslini Children’s Hospital insists that the child should remain on life support.

“Following extensive brain surgery at King’s College hospital, doctors informed her parents that she was brain dead and to consider making preparations for her funeral,” reads the petition.

“A brain stem test indicated that Tafida did not meet the qualification of ‘brain death’ as she made gasping movements and therefore could not be removed from the ventilator.”

Since then, Raqeeb has remained on a ventilator at Royal London Hospital. According to the family, a neurologist has declared her to be in a “deep coma,” from which she is beginning to emerge. Her parents say she is able to open her eyes and move her limbs, as well as being able to swallow and react to pain.

Raqeeb's mother, Shelina Bergum, has said that doctors initially proposed giving her a tracheostomy and allowing her to return home, to continue recovery.

“The medical team have now changed their mind and want to withdraw ventilation to end her life,” Bergum wrote as part of a separate online petition organized by the family.

Tafida's case follows similar campaigns by parents in the cases of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans, who were both terminally ill children in NHS care. In 2017, doctors sought to remove Charlie Gard from his ventilator, despite his parents’ wishes to transfer him to a hospital in New York City. He died in hospice at the age of 11 months, after life support was removed.

Less than a year later, the parents of Alfie Evans also objected to NHS attempts to remove his ventilator, saying they wished to move him to a hospital in Italy. Evans' life support was eventually removed, and he survived for five days breathing on his own before dying just short of his second birthday.

South Asia floods: 'Everything is coming to a complete standstill'

Patna, India, Jul 19, 2019 / 10:44 am (CNA).- Catholic Relief Services is working with local partners to provide aid amid severe flooding and landslides in parts of India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, the group said Thursday.

“The most immediate need right now is clean water and food,” said Caroline Brennan, director of communications for CRS’ humanitarian response team, in a July 18 statement.

“With wells flooded, people aren’t able to access water that’s safe to drink, safe to bathe with, or safe to give to their livestock. Until the water recedes, people in the heavily affected areas are going to need ways of getting enough food to feed their families. Their livelihoods, especially for farmers, are also at risk,” she said.

Heavy rainfall, beginning over a week ago, has led to flooding and landslides that have cut off routes for emergency aid, CRS says, necessitating the use of boats to provide aid in some areas. The aid group UNICEF estimates that more than 12 million people, including about five million children have been affected.

Estimates of the number of casualties vary widely, with officials from various affected countries reporting at least 227 dead, according to CNN. UNICEF is reporting at least 93 children are among the dead.

At particular risk are an estimated 1 million Rohyngia Muslim refugees, who have fled persecution in Burma and are currently in camps in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, CRS reports, roads have been washed away, houses have collapsed and croplands have been submerged leaving more than 20,000 families in urgent need of support. More than 4.3 million people are in urgent need of support in one northeastern region of India alone, the group says.

Access to food is a major concern, as many croplands in the region have been underwater for more than six days, leading to fears that farmers may not be able to harvest.