1. Report: Key Unofficial Bishop in Vatican-China Deal Released. 

By Associated Press, March 28, 2018, 8:18 AM

A Catholic missionary news agency says an underground Chinese bishop who is a key player in a proposed Vatican-China deal over bishop nominations has been released.

AsiaNews says Mindong Bishop Vincenzo Guo Xijin was taken into police custody to prevent him from celebrating a Holy Week Mass. He was released Tuesday after a night in detention.

His removal came as the Vatican seeks to sign a deal with Beijing that would regularize relations between China’s underground and state-controlled Catholic churches, by having the Vatican recognize seven bishops not chosen by the pope and having Guo step aside.

Lu Kang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said he didn’t have any information about Guo’s detention but said the Chinese people enjoy religious freedom. Lu also said Beijing has worked hard to improve relations with the Vatican.


2. Christians see increase in persecution by Hindus. 

By Jason Overdorf, The Washington Times, March 28, 2018, Pg. A1

Religious clashes in the troubled northern Indian state of Jamma and Kashmir are nothing new, but the riot that broke in January targeted an unexpected group: Christians.

While most of the state’s problems pit an Islamist separatist movement against India’s Hindu majority, Christianity was at the heart of the violence this time as a mob of thousands interrupted a burial ceremony to seize the body of the deceased for a Hindu cremation.

Local Christians and international religious rights groups say anti-Christian incidents are on the rise, particularly since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party assumed power in 2014. They contend that the government’s failure to censure local leaders for inflammatory rhetoric and sectarian persecution has encouraged a culture of impunity for anti-minority violence — a charge the BJP denies.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India documented some 350 cases of violence and other forms of persecution against Christians last year. That is more than double the rate compared with the 140 annually before the BJP assumed power and the highest level of violence since an anti-Christian pogrom that resulted in dozens of rapes and killings and the burning of hundreds of churches in the state of Odisha in 2008, said EFI Executive Director Vijayesh Lal.

Almost 80 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people are Hindu. While just 14 percent of the population is Muslim, India boasts the world’s third-largest Muslim population. Christians make up about 2.3 percent of the population — nearly 30 million believers — and there are smaller communities of Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in its 2017 global survey rated India as one of a dozen Tier-2 countries for religious restrictions, behind countries of top concern such as China, North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia but on par with Cuba, Iraq and Turkey.


3. Physician-assisted suicide bill dies in Massachusetts. 

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, March 28, 2018, Pg. A8

Legislation to authorize physician-assisted suicide is dead in Massachusetts, after the proposal was sent to a study committee late last week, effectively ending the bill’s chance at enactment this session.

The aid-in-dying bills H1194 and S1225 would have given doctors the ability to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients who wish to die and are given a prognosis of six months or less to live.

Matt Valliere, executive director of Patients Rights Action Fund, which opposes assisted suicide, said the Legislature listened to doctors, disability rights activists and residents who came out against assisted suicide.

“Your voice was heard: Assisted suicide is not medical treatment,” Mr. Valliere said in a statement. “It is bad public policy that puts a great many at risk of deadly harm through mistakes, coercion and abuse.”

The natural death of the aid-in-dying bill comes as dozens of states across the country are considering similar legislation, including Hawaii, where the Democrat-controlled House passed a bill for legalizing the practice earlier this year.


4. Pope visits retired pontiff after doctored letter scandal. 

By Nicole Winfield, Crux, March 28, 2018

Pope Francis met Tuesday with Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI in the first known contact between the two, following a major gaffe by Francis’ communications chief over his misrepresentation of a letter from the retired pontiff.

The Vatican press office said Francis called on Benedict to bring him Easter greetings.

The meeting, however, came a week after Francis’ hand-picked communications czar, Monsignor Dario Vigano, was forced to resign over the so-called Lettergate scandal.

Vigano partially revealed the contents of a private letter from Benedict to make it seem as if he endorsed a new Vatican-published volume of 11 books about Francis’ theology, which Vigano had launched on the eve of Francis’ fifth anniversary as pope.


5. Pope Says Mafiosi ‘Carry Death’, Can’t Call Themselves Christian. 

By Reuters, March 28, 2018, 6:24 AM

Pope Francis on Wednesday told members of the Mafia in Italy, where many go to Church and worship openly, that they cannot call themselves Christians because they “carry death in their souls”.

Francis’ improvised words before tens of thousands of people at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square was his strongest attack on organized crime in nearly four years.

“So we don’t have to go far, let’s think about what happens right here at home (Italy),” he said while speaking generally about “fake Christians” who are corrupt while pretending to be righteous.

“(What about) the so-called Christian Mafiosi,” he said. “They have nothing at all in them that is Christian. They call themselves Christians but they carry death in their souls and inflict it on others.”

Many members of organized crime groups in Italy, such as Sicily’s Cosa Nostra and Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta, see themselves as part of a religious, cult-like group.


6. Ten Commandments still popular in America, regardless of religious affiliation.

By Christopher White, Crux, March 28, 2018

A new study has found that regardless of whether one is religiously affiliated or not, the Ten Commandments are still highly regarded as a code for moral living.

In a 2018 national study on “Honesty in the Digital Age in the U.S.” released on Wednesday found that more than 90 percent of respondents said that the commandments about murder, stealing, and lying are important principles to live by. In comparison, only 49 percent of respondents said that it was necessary to “keep the Sabbath Day holy.”

The study, produced by Deseret News and conducted online via YouGov, also offered a comparison to 2017 responses from the United Kingdom and found that while at least half of Americans think it is still important to live each of the Ten Commandments, only six of the ten are seen as still important in the U.K.

Across the board, each individual commandment received higher support among female respondents than males, with the prohibitions on stealing, murder, and adultery receiving the highest support.

While Evangelical Protestants polled the highest in terms of offering the most support for the Ten Commandments-with Mormons coming in a close second -U.S. Catholics were on par with the national average, ranking slightly above the national average on several specific commandments, including support for honoring the Sabbath day and the commandment not to have false idols.

Among Catholics, however, remembering to keep the Sabbath Day Holy – commonly known as “Sunday obligation” – received the lowest support among the Ten Commandments, with only 59 percent of respondents saying that it is important.

By contrast, 95 percent of Catholics responded that it was wrong to steal, 94 percent of Catholics said it was wrong to commit murder, and 90 percent of Catholics said it was important to heed the commandment to honor one’s father and mother.


7. Kentucky House passes bill restricting abortions. 

By Reuters, March 27, 2018, 4:45 PM

The Kentucky House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday to ban a common abortion procedure from the 11th week of pregnancy, in what would be one of the strictest abortion limits in the United States.

The bill, which was approved by the state Senate last week, will now go for approval to Governor Matt Bevin, a Republican who has described himself as “100 percent pro-life.”

The procedure covered by the legislation, known as dilation and evacuation, accounts for 16 percent of all abortions performed in Kentucky. It is primarily used for pregnancies in the second trimester. The new law makes an exception for medical emergencies.


8. Planned Parenthood Deletes Tweet Calling for Disney Abortion. 

By Associated Press, March 27, 2018, 10:15 PM

A Pennsylvania branch of Planned Parenthood says a tweet declaring the need for a Disney princess who’s had an abortion was not appropriate and the organization has taken it down.

An executive for Planned Parenthood Keystone says the group believes pop culture plays a “critical role” in educating the public and sparking “meaningful conversations about sexual and reproductive health issues and policies, including abortion.”

The since-removed tweet read: “We need a Disney princess who’s had an abortion. We need a Disney princess who’s pro-choice. We need a Disney princess who’s an undocumented immigrant. We need a Disney princess who’s actually a union worker. We need a Disney princess who’s tran.”