On 10 June 2016, News from France, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal and Ivory Coast on the following topics: the French Bishops in defense of Catholic Education; regrets of the Swiss episcopate after the adoption of the law on assisted reproduction; focus on the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Lætitia at the Plenary Assembly of the Swiss Bishops and by the Bishops of Burkina Faso; the reform of courses in Belgium; and President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa‘s veto on gestational surrogacy. • FRANCE / EDUCATION On June 9, at a press conference, the National Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem presented a reform plan for greater control over private schools that do not have a contract with the State and over home education. On the previous day, the Conference of Bishops of France had denounced the ‘‘attack on the very principle of the freedom of education" intended, in their view, by this reform of the regulations for the opening private educational institutions without a contract with the State. "The freedom of Education is in Danger," is the title given by Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux and President of the Episcopal Council for Catholic Education, to his statement, in which he expressed "his apprehension" and "his enormous reservations." For several decades, the prelate recalls, the Church has manifested her concern for the freedom of education. "Now—according to Cardinal Ricard—the new procedure prior to authorization would, in spite of the reassuring statements, constitute an attack on the very principle of this constitutional freedom, by putting conditions to the opening of schools. Although the Archbishop of Bordeaux recognizes that "the reasons for the planned reform deserve to be properly examined, particularly the fight against radicalization," he nevertheless considers that "this fight is necessary, but not at any price and certainly not at the price of the freedom of education."
• SWITZERLAND / ASSISTED REPRODUCTION The President of the Swiss Bishops‘ Conference, Msgr. Charles Morerod, regretted, on 5 June, the Swiss citizens‘ approval of the law on assisted procreation, after a vote which took place a few hours earlier. "The ‘yes‘ of the Swiss population to this law has consequences which we disapprove," he said in a statement available on the website of the Swiss Episcopal Conference. This law, continued Bishop Morerod, "is prejudicial to the full protection of the human being, from his origin to his end, from conception to natural death." The Swiss Bishops deplore, among other things, the introduction of extended pre-implantation diagnostics (DPI). In many cases, "embryos possibly infected with a disease, instead of receiving treatment, shall be eliminated," said the Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg in his statement, then recalling that "medical research, whose benefits we all know, is called to be creative and innovative so that it may discover the best ways to welcome every living being and heal diseases."
• SWITZERLAND / AMORIS LAETITIA The Swiss Bishops Conference (CVS) met from 6 to 8 June at the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln for its 312th Ordinary Assembly. Pope Francis‘ Apostolic Exhortation, which followed the Synod of Bishops on the family, occupies a large part of their final communiqué, published on 9 June, under the title "Amoris Lætitia: Guidance and Encouragement" for family pastoral ministry. The Bishops believe that "accompaniment, discernment and integration are central notions of particular importance in the implementation of the Exhortation." Therefore, during this assembly, the Bishops welcomed a couple representing the Teams of Our Lady, a community present in 78 countries, that gathers three or four couples in groups, together with a priest, once a month for mutual exchange. To support the implementation of Amoris Lætitia, the Bishops intend to organize a study day for themselves. In addition, they will mandate Catholic associations, responsible for the pastoral care of marriage and family at national and diocesan level, to carry out new projects.
• BELGIUM / EDUCATION Before 1 September, a citizenship course will be included in the official education curriculum, at the expense of philosophical courses, which will be reduced from two hours to one hour a week. Therefore, on 7 June, the country‘s Bishops felt compelled to address an open letter to the parents of children who take part in courses on the Catholic religion. The Bishops begin by stating that, with this reform, official education, the course on the Catholic religion remains a part of the curriculum, at the rate of one hour per week, and that in the free Catholic education the course on the Catholic religion is scheduled at a rate of two hours a week. Taking note of these decisions, the Catholic Bishops welcomed "the fact that the course on the Catholic religion continues being offered in the schools." In fact, say the Bishops, "deleting the course on the Catholic religion would limit religious beliefs to the private sphere, and this would represent an impoverishment for a democratic state."
• PORTUGAL / GESTATIONAL SURROGACY On 8 June, the French-speaking press and the pro-life movements widely spoke about the decision taken yesterday by the President of the Portuguese Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, to enact a law allowing assisted procreation for lesbian couples and single women, instead of vetoing the bill on gestational surrogacy. A Catholic involved in the life of the Church, the President referred, in his statement, to the recommendations of the National Council of ethics and the life sciences. In mid-May, the day after the adoption of the law by the deputies, the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel do Nascimento Clemente, clearly condemned the practice of surrogate motherhood as a "counter-current to civilization."
• IVORY COAST / AMORIS LAETITIA The members of the Bishops‘ Conference of Ivory Coast met in plenary assembly from 16 to 22 May in Yamoussoukro and have published a closing statement. In this document, made public on 3 June, the Bishops evoke numerous issues, including Pope Francis‘ Apostolic Exhortation, which follows the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family held in October 2015.