March 2, 2016. News from France, Switzerland, Canada, Belgium, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast, about childhood, farmers, marriage, euthanasia, school and bishops.
• FRANCE / CHILDHOOD In France, on March 1st, the Parliament definitively adopted, a bill of the Senate destined to strengthen the protection of the child, in particular by further stabilizing the path of the children entrusted to the Childhood Social Service. On the Internet site of the French Catholic daily "La Croix", you can read an interview with Marc Chaban, educational director of the foundation "Action enfance", which unites various "villages" where children have been placed. According to him, this text "greatly" changes the way of thinking about child protection.
• FRANCE / FARMERS For the first time, a delegation of fifteen French bishops has visited the International Agriculture Fair, which is taking place in Paris from 27 February to 6 March. In this way—explains the French Bishops‘ Conference in a statement—, the Church in France wishes to express its proximity and its support to farmers, who quite often live in difficult situations, and more generally turn her attention once again to the rural world, as Msgr. Jean-Marc Eychenne, Bishop of Pamiers, a very rural diocese, pointed out in an interview to the local press.
• SWITZERLAND / MARRIAGE A referendum was held on February 28th, in Switzerland, on the initiative of the Swiss Christian Democratic Party, concerning the taxation of spouses, entitled "For the couple and the family—Against the penalization of marriage." The initiative was voted down by a small majority of 50.8% of the voters. Bet that as it may, the majority of the cantons accepted it and the Catholics were favorable. This initiative proposed, among other things, to stop the sharp increase in direct federal taxes that especially affect married couples, a proposal to which both parties adhered. However, the text also proposed to amend the Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation in order to define marriage as "lasting union, regulated by law between a man and a woman." The text was certainly rejected because of this proposal. In a statement published on February 29th, the Swiss Bishops‘ Conference expressed its regret over this result. The Bishops added, "nevertheless, the initiative has succeeded in highlighting the great value given to the family by the Swiss electorate. Despite their opposition to the initiative, many people have emphasized the primordial importance of the family for the present and the future of our society."
• CANADA / EUTHANASIA On February 25th, the Canadian Government‘s Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying released its report entitled "Medical Aid in Dying: A Patient-Centered Approach." The text recommends, among other things, that assisted suicide be accessible to people with a psychiatric illness, that psychological suffering is part of the criteria that give the right to assisted suicide, and that adolescents and perhaps even children—who might be considered as "mature minors"—have access to assisted suicide. The following day, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops reacted strongly in a statement, saying that the report‘s recommendations are an expression of the approach of a "throw-away" society. "Suicide is not part of health care. Killing the mentally and physically ill, whether young or aged, is contrary to caring for and loving one‘s brother and sister," the Bishops added.
• BELGIUM / SCHOOLS A group of about thirty Catholic religion teachers of the French Community met in the Jesuit center of formation La Louvière, on February 23rd. The program included reflection on their future after the introduction of citizenship classes. The Bishop of Tournai, Msgr. Guy Harpigny, contact person for the course in the Catholic religion, was present and listened to the teachers, worried that next year, in middle school, the duration of the religion course will be halved (one hour instead two), to the benefit of an educational course in philosophy and citizenship.
• DRC / BISHOPS A national conference on the family took place from 17 to 21 February at the Catholic Centre Nganda, in Kinshasa. The theme was "Marriage and Family in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Challenges and Prospects." This meeting organized by the National Episcopal Conference of Congo marked the end of the celebrations of the Year of the Family, which began in 2014 and concluded in 2016. It was also an occasion to take stock of the two Synod assemblies on the family. Here are the proposals of the participants.
• IVORY COAST / BISHOPS At the approach of the publication of Pope Francis‘ post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the family, the Catholic Bishops‘ Conference of Ivory Coast met in plenary assembly, from 18 to 24 January, in Daloa. A message was published at the conclusion, under the title "The family, a place of education for life and peace." The Bishops propose a reflection on the dignity and the current vicissitudes experienced by many families in Ivory Coast. The text also evokes the family‘s vocation and mission in God‘s plan. Finally, the Bishops call the family to assume its role in the education and forming of the human person.