Austin, Texas, May 25, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church in Texas will work to promote more foster parenting, following the state legislature’s approval of strong legal protections for religious adoption and foster care agencies.

“Now Catholics can join other people of good will and serve Texas’ children in good faith,” said Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.

This fall, the bishops’ conference has said, it will work with diocesan offices on a campaign to encourage Catholic families to be foster parents.

“Most Catholic Charities in the state had withdrawn from serving foster children,” the bishops’ conference said May 22. “The new law removes a significant barrier to Catholics serving children in the foster care system and will trigger greater recruitment efforts by Catholic parishes and ministries.”

The bill, called the Freedom to Serve Children Act, could protect the ability of organizations and individuals in Texas’ foster care system who have sincerely held religious beliefs to remove themselves from actions that would directly violate their faith.

It has multiple applications. It could allow groups opposed to abortion to avoid helping a minor obtain an abortion. It could allow groups that believe children should be placed only with a married adoptive mother and father to provide foster services without facing lawsuits from same-sex couples.

The bill passed the Texas Senate May 22 on a 21-10 vote. Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville joined Republicans to support the bill, saying it would help add more private adoption agencies to Texas’ system: “It’s about increasing capacity, it’s about providing homes for kids.”

The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign the bill.

The Texas House of Representatives had passed the bill by a 93-49 vote on May 10, largely along party lines.

Private foster care and adoption agencies receive about 25 percent of child placement funding in the state, the Associated Press reports. Some groups had suspended services for fear of discrimination lawsuits.

In other states and the District of Columbia, long-serving Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down by laws against sexual orientation discrimination or new state funding rules that would have required them to place children with same-sex couples.

A Texas Department of Family and Protective Services report indicates that 314 children slept in state offices, hotels, shelters and other temporary housing between Sept. 1 and March 31, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

The bill drew opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBT activist groups like the Human Rights Campaign.

Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, charged that the bill would “prioritize discrimination over the best interest of kids in the child welfare system.”

Critics voiced concern the bill would allow foster parents to prevent children from being vaccinated. Some critics objected to protecting foster parents’ abilities to limit children’s access to contraceptives and abortion.

South Dakota passed a similar bill in March, but no other states currently have similar legislation.

Rome, Italy, May 24, 2017 / 12:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As Chinese Catholics celebrate the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, Cardinal Joseph Zen has asked for prayers on behalf of Christians in the country, who often face difficulty and even persecution for their faith.

“In the history of the Church, Our Lady, Help of Christians always came to help the Church in difficulty,” Cardinal Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, told CNA in an interview, adding that this help has always been particularly strong when attached to the rosary.

Noting how the Church is celebrating the centenary year of the apparitions in Fatima, he noted that in her appearances there Mary “came to ask for prayer.”

“Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady, Help of Christians, they are really interested, concerned or maybe even worried about the situation of the Church, especially in the places where there is no freedom of religion,” he said.

“So please intensify your prayer – this is only thing we can do, and the only thing most useful and efficacious.”

Cardinal Zen, 85, is one of the most prominent Catholic voices in China, and is outspoken when it comes to the country and it’s Christian population.

He spoke ahead of the May 24 feast of Mary, Help of Christians, who is highly venerated among Chinese Catholics. Sheshan Basilica in Shanghai is dedicated to her, where she is also known as Our Lady of Sheshan.

Cardinal Zen recalled that in a letter to Chinese Catholics in 2007, Benedict XVI “composed a wonderful prayer” to Our Lady of Sheshan, suggesting that May 24 could become her permanent feast, and asking that it be a day of prayer dedicated to the Church in China.

In his letter, Benedict said the day is “an occasion for the Catholics of the whole world to be united in prayer with the Church which is in China.”

As the feast is celebrated, then, Cardinal Zen voiced his hope that Catholics throughout the world would pray for Christians in China, who often face persecution for their beliefs while living in an atheistic culture.

When it comes to Vatican relations with China, ever since the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, the Holy See has had a reduced diplomatic presence in Beijing, with the nunciature being moved to Taiwan in 1951.

China-Vatican relations have been cool ever since, but with some apparent thaws. After Benedict XVI’s letter in 2007, a series of bishops’ appointments approved both by the Chinese government and the Holy See took place.

The Church in China, however, is still in a difficult situation. The government of the Chinese People’s Republic never recognized the Holy See’s authority to appoint bishops. Instead, it established the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (PA), which is a sort of ecclesiastical hierarchy officially recognized by the Chinese authorities.

In his letter, Benedict said the PA was “incompatible with Catholic doctrine,” since in their assemblies, held every few years, both legitimate and illegitimate bishops were treated equally by the PA, particularly regarding the sacraments.

For this reason, Chinese bishops recognized by the Holy See entered a clandestine state, thus giving life to the so called “underground Church” that is not recognized by the government.

But despite the hiccups that still exist, the Vatican has been working diligently to come to an agreement with the Chinese government, particularly regarding the appointment of bishops.

Talks with China are currently centered on bishop appointments, but as of now haven’t touched the possibility of establishing diplomatic ties.

The deal currently on the table would essentially allow the government to pick a list candidates for the episcopacy and propose them the names to the Pope for approval or denial.

For Cardinal Zen, the danger of this that it leaves open the possibility that the Pope will either be forced to approve a “bad bishop,” or his denial could be vetoed by the Chinese government.

Whereas currently the Vatican sends a list of potential candidates to China to approve or deny, in the new deal it would be the clergy who elect candidates, and the Pope giving the final word on people who may or may not be government stooges.

Cardinal Zen said that while accurate information on the deal is hard to find, at the moment “it seems to be stopped,” which in his opinion is good news, because “the whole initiative starts from the government of China and the Holy Father has only the last word. But the last word may not be enough.”

Right now in China “there is no freedom, so people cannot speak out, and those who speak out, it means they have too good of a relationship with the government,” he said, adding that those vocally in favor “seem to hope in this agreement which may confirm their situation of privilege.”

“So I try to tell the people that no deal is better than a bad deal,” he said. “They should really consider the real good of the Church and not just to have an agreement at any cost.”

His recent comments echoed those he made to CNA earlier this year.

Cardinal Zen said he would “never criticize the Pope,” and that what he wants above all is for “everybody to be rational.”

“But I hope the people around the Pope stop giving him bad advice, because the Pope really needs to know the reality, and the reality is that there is no freedom, the reality is that we cannot see any goodwill on the part of Beijing government,” he said. “They are still controlling the Church and they want to control it even more.”

ALPHARETTA, Ga., May 22, 2017 /Christian Newswire/ — Personhood Alliance Founder Daniel Becker announced the release of a compendium of pro-life essays from within the Personhood arm of the pro-life movement. “As we move toward the third decade of the 21st century, Christians concerned with defending the right to life face daunting new challenges. To protect fellow humans against emerging threats, we must re-examine the effectiveness of our most fundamental strategies and return to a faith-filled Christ-centric biblical worldview basis for our policy and strategies,” said Becker.

Personhood the Tree of Life: The biblical path to pro-life victory in the 21st Century has been commended by a diverse group of pro-life leaders from around the world.

The Forward is written by Bishop David D. Kagan, of Bismarck, ND, who said, “Personhood the Tree of Life seeks to influence public opinion and public policy . . . they [the contributors] have, by their faith-based example, demonstrated a model of pro-life victory in the 21st Century. I commend them for their faithfulness.”

George Grant, evangelical author of Grand Illusions: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood, asks “Why is personhood such a pivotal issue? As this important book demonstrates, whenever the principles of human dignity and sanctity of life are questioned, the rule of law is automatically thrown into very real jeopardy. No one, then, is absolutely secure, because absoluteness is removed from our legal vocabulary. When the right to life is abrogated for at least some citizens, all the liberties of all the citizens are at risk. Suddenly, arbitrariness, relativism, and randomness have entered into the legal equation. This, then, is the pivotal issue of our age.”

Tony Sperandeo is an international Jewish author and minister at Kehilat HaMaayan, Israel. He is the Chairman of Be’ad Chaim, the Israeli movement for the protection of the unborn child. A long-time advocate of biblical personhood, he says, “Personhood has to be protected. You have been created for a purpose. Well done and thank you Personhood® for again ‘blowing the shofar’ and giving us a clear call to action.”

John-Henry Westin, founder of the largest pro-life website in the world, LifeSiteNews.com, said, “Ever wonder why there can be no compromise or exception possible for the right to life for preborn children? This new book edited by Daniel Becker comprehensively and persuasively answers that question and many more. Full protection for the life of children in the womb is the only legitimate goal of the pro-life movement and Personhood lays out a path steering clear of unethical concessions to the culture of death.”

These essays serve as a critical contribution to the conversation among individuals and organizations who, as diverse as they may be, are unified on the biblical principles of the sanctity of human life and human dignity for all those created in the image of God-without exception and without compromise.

To order the book see tkspublications.com or go to personhood.org.