Sunday, February 26, 2017

February - Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Almighty and beneficent God! who didst impose upon our mother Eve, in punishment for her sin, that she should give birth to her children in pain:

I offer to Thee all the pains which I have thus suffered in atonement for my sins, and thank Thee, that I have safely brought a child into the world, whom I now offer to Thee, according to the example of the Mother of Thine only-begotten Son, for Thy holy service, whom I shall zealously endeavor to educate for Thy honor.

Give me but this grace through the intercession and merits of this most blessed Mother.

Bless me and my child, and grant, that we may here live in accordance with Thy divine will, and receive eternal salvation.

Through Christ, our Lord.


Congo Catholics targeted by violence

Congo bishopsSeveral religious communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were subjected to violent attacks last weekend.

“The Catholic Church is being deliberately targeted, in order to destroy its mission of peace and reconciliation,” said Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo.

Cardinal Monsengwo is angry. 

In a message published on Sunday, the Archbishop of Kinshasa, capital of the DRC, said he strongly condemned the violent attacks on a parish and a major seminary.

“Along with all bishops, we denounce these acts of violence, which are likely to plunge our country further into unspeakable chaos.”

The Cardinal seldom expresses his opinions, which makes his statement all the more powerful.

The first attack, on Saturday, was the ransacking of the major Seminary of Malole of Kananga, in central Kasai, a province in the centre of the country.

“They systematically broke down the doors to different rooms and destroyed everything inside. They entered the teachers' rooms and burned their belongings," Fr Richard Kitenge, the Seminary Rector, told Agence France-Presse.

The men responsible for this violence belong to a militia operating in the name of a traditional chief, Kamwina Nsapu. The group uses many child-soldiers.

The second act of violence on the same weekend was the attack on a parish in Kinshasa by about a dozen men. 

Before Mass, the furniture of Saint Dominic's Church was broken, the altar was vandalised and the tabernacle desecrated. A community of nuns not far from the parish was also attacked.

"The police arrived too late ... We are all in shock," said Fr Julien Wato, the Dominican priest of the Kinshasa church.

Although he said he was not afraid for his own safety, he spoke about the tense mood in the Congolese capital.

"In the street, it's not unusual to hear threats against the Church."

Banker accused of using Vatican to rig markets

Image result for Giampietro NattinoMagistrates in Italy have frozen millions of euros worth of assets of an Italian banker who is believed to have used the Vatican bank for market manipulation.

The financial crimes police announced that they had executed the magistrates' orders, sequestering 2.5 million euros ($3.4 million) in buildings, stocks and land belonging to Giampietro Nattino, head of Banca Finnat Euramerica SpA.

Magistrates accuse him of market manipulation and providing false information to Consob, Italy's stock regulator.

Nattino said in a statement that the frozen assets belonged to him personally and not to his bank, and that he would co-operate with investigators.

Shares in his private bank fell 3.6 percent before recovering some of that loss.

In their statement on Tuesday, police said Nattino had used the "cover" of the Vatican financial institutions to carry out "a complex stock operation which resulted in criminal behaviour regarding market manipulation".

The police statement said Nattino had employed "misleading and false" methods to "substantially alter" the price of shares in his bank.

Mumbai diocese proposes Lenten 'carbon fast

Carbon FastThe Archdiocese of Bombay has asked Catholics to observe a "carbon fast" during the season of Lent to create awareness about global warming and the importance of a sustainable lifestyle.

Bishop Allwyn D'Silva, head of the Archdiocesan Office for Environment, said the carbon fast will encourage people to examine their daily actions and its effect on the environment.

"The parish can decide what they want to do. This [carbon fast] can be done along with other fasts. All know that the world is affected by climate change," Bishop D'Silva said.

As parish priest of the five-centuries-old St John the Baptist Church in the Mumbai suburb of Thane, Bishop D'Silva had set up a rain-water harvesting system, a solar energy plant and a waste recycling system in the church compound. He promoted the use of energy efficient LED lights and fans that used less electricity.

He said for the carbon fast people could try to reduce their consumption of electricity, use less water and avoid use of plastic.

Brian Pereira, a member of St John the Evangelist Church, Marol, where the carbon fast will be observed on April 7, said that he had several ideas for the day. "I can switch off the television and spend the time in some activity to help the environment, or I can forgo the luxury of my car and use a bicycle," he said.

In the US, the Michigan Interfaith Power and Light group has also proposed a similar initiative, as has the Anglican Communion Environmental Network in previous years.

Leader begged brother to face charges

The provincial of the Hospitaller Order of St John of God dropped to his knees and begged a brother to face child sex abuse charges in New Zealand.

Nevertheless, the order still paid to take the extradition battle as far as Australia's highest court.

Brother Timothy Graham told the royal commission that he believes his predecessor as provincial should not have funded the three-year extradition fight.

The issue caused great controversy, Brother Graham told the commission on Wednesday.

"The provincial at the time virtually got on his knees and begged the individual to go to New Zealand to speak to the police but his independent legal advice was not to do that," he said.
"It would have been better if the individual had done as the provincial asked and gone to New Zealand and spoke to the police."

Brother Graham said his now deceased predecessor should not have funded the extradition battle.

"In hindsight I think it would have been better for the provincial at the time not to have done that."

University of Sydney law professor Patrick Parkinson has criticised the lengths the St John of God order went to resist the extradition of two of its members to face charges in New Zealand, even seeking special leave to appeal to the High Court.

"It is unimaginable that an Australian bank, for example, would fight to resist the extradition of one of its managers to New Zealand on fraud charges," Professor Parkinson said in a statement to the commission.

The beginning of the Bergoglio era

Bergoglio’s red hat marked the start of the Francis eraSixteen years ago this week was one of those threshold moments in the life of the Church, when Buenos Aires Archbishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was made a cardinal by St John Paul II.

It was important, of course, for him, the moment he "launched" into the universal Church after decades of relative obscurity. 

But it was equally important for the regional Church that now, arguably, is the dynamic reference point for the universal Church.

It was the moment when Europe lost its dominant place in the college of cardinals. 

The Europeans were still the largest single block of electors (65), but they were outnumbered for the first time by non-Europeans. 

And of those, the Latin Americans were by far the biggest block - 27 red hats following the February 2001 consistory, while North America, Africa and Asia had 13 each, and Oceania four.

Many of those Latin-American cardinals are now major players in the Francis pontificate, to the point where it's possible to talk of a "class of 2001".

Two of the members of the pope's council of cardinals (the "C9") are from that class: its chair, Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, and Francisco Javier Errázuriz of Santiago de Chile. 

Then there's Claudio Hummes, the emeritus archbishop of São Paolo, Brazil - the one who whispered "don't forget the poor" to Bergoglio on the afternoon of his election as pope - who heads the Brazilian bishops' mission to Amazonia, and remains a Francis confidant.

The other Brazilian of that class of 2001, Gerardo Majella Agnelo of Bahia, was president of Brazil's bishops' conference at the same time that Bergoglio headed the Argentine bishops' conference.

One could go on: Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima, Peru, is today one of the cardinals in Francis's Council for the Economy, although not a natural Francis ally; Julio Terrazas Sandóval, the Bolivian cardinal who died in 2015, and who was close to Francis; and of course Bergoglio's great friend in Rome, the Argentine head of the Vatican library, Jorge María Mejía, who played a crucial role in getting the Jesuit made a bishop in 1992 in the teeth of the opposition at the time of the secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

Mejía, who had a heart attack the day Francis was elected, died in Rome in 2014, having lived to see the change of era.

Melbourne nun becomes UN Global Action Co-ordinator

Mercy Sister Angela Reed is about to take up an important appointment at the United Nations as Global Action Co-ordinator in the field of human trafficking.

Sr Angela, whose brother is Fr Brendan Reed of the Melbourne parish of Balwyn and Deepdene, comes to her international role after many year with the Sisters of Mercy, first as teacher before moving into theological studies, where she developed a particular interest in homelessness.

After extensive hands-on work in refuges such as the former Regina Caeli facility in Melbourne, Sr Angela came into contact not just with homeless women, but with victims of family violence and, ultimately, women who were in Australia as a result of human trafficking, mostly duped into coming here for purposes of prostitution.

Additionally, Sr Angela spent some considerable time in the Philippines researching the lives and fate of some 40 women who had been victims of trafficking, most of them in their own homeland.

Furthering her interest in and knowledge of human trafficking, Sr Angela completed a doctorate on the subject and, for the last 12 months, has lived and worked with the Mercys in New York.

At the United Nations, Mercy International has special consultative status, and Sr Angela has already been involved in many forums, workshops and high level representations, both with the UN as well as the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

From March 1, Sr Angela will assume the title of Global Action Co-ordinator at the UN, a role she was happy to speak about to the Communications Director for the Melbourne Archdiocese, Shane Healy.

Sri Lankan pilgrims die when boat capsizes

Boat capsizesEleven Catholic pilgrims died when their overcrowded boat capsized on Sunday in southwestern Sri Lanka as they travelled to a procession in honour of Our Lady of Good Voyage.

The tragedy took place off the coast near Katukurunda as the vessel was taking part in a procession in the sea on the Day of Our Lady of Good Voyage, protectress of fishermen.

Attempts by people on other boats to rescue the passengers were unsuccessful. Three children were among the dead.

As in other years, hundreds of people, Catholics but also Buddhists, joined in the fishermen's celebrations.

After Mass in the Church of Saint Lazarus in Beruwela, around 60kms south of Colombo, the faithful set sail on 20 boats, including one with the statue of Our Lady (Sindathri Deva Maatha Feast) decorated for the occasion.

Witnesses told police that "the boat capsized as it was turning. It was not equipped for the trip and lacked minimum safety conditions."

Although it could carry at most 25-30 passengers, witnesses said that "more than 40 people were on board, but no one knows for sure the exact number."

One survivor told AsiaNews that "the tradition of gathering on boats to ask the Virgin for protection ahead of the fishing season is well established. This year a priest, Fr Kennedy, came from Negombo parish. He co-celebrated Mass with the parish priest, Fr Chaminda Roshan."

The boat upturned as the blessing of the boats was still going on, after the third Hail Mary of the Rosary.

Pope slams 'populist' anti-refugee rhetoric

Refugees in the MediterraneanPope Francis has slammed "populist rhetoric" and "self-centeredness" by some countries towards asylum-seekers, Russia Today reports.

He said those who accept migrants should give them "a dignified welcome" and reject a policy of superimposing one culture over another.

Rejection of asylum-seekers is "rooted ultimately in self-centeredness and amplified by populist rhetoric," said Pope Francis, speaking to participants at the International Forum on Migration and Peace in Rome on Tuesday.

"What is needed is a change of attitude, to overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors."

The pontiff called for people to provide "a responsible and dignified welcome" to asylum seekers.

"Unfortunately, in the majority of cases this movement is forced, caused by conflict, natural disasters, persecution, climate change, violence, extreme poverty and inhumane living conditions," he said.

For those who "flee conflicts and terrible persecutions, often trapped within the grip of criminal organisations who have no scruples, we need to open accessible and secure humanitarian channels."

He added: "We are speaking about millions of migrant workers, male and female – and among these particularly men and women in irregular situations – of those exiled and seeking asylum, and of those who are victims of trafficking."

Pope Francis also called upon countries which take in asylum-seekers to help them integrate, without naming specific nations.

Jesus must be reinterpreted: Jesuit General

In an interview with a Swiss newspaper, the Jesuit Superior General, Venezuelan Arturo Sosa Abascal, said the words Jesus spoke were expressed in a language and setting that needed to be contextualised.

Fr Sosa who is said to be very close to Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was speaking to the Swiss vaticanista Giuseppe Rusconi for the blog Rossoporpora and for the "Giornale del Popolo" of Lugano.

Q: Cardinal Gerhard L. Műller, prefect of the Congregation for the doctrine of the faith, has said with regard to marriage that the words of Jesus are very clear and "no power in heaven and on earth, neither an angel nor the pope, neither a council nor a law of the bishops has the faculty to modify them."

A: So then, there would have to be a lot of reflection on what Jesus really said. At that time, no one had a recorder to take down his words. What is known is that the words of Jesus must be contextualised, they are expressed in a language, in a specific setting, they are addressed to someone in particular.

Q: But discernment is evaluation, it is choosing among different options. There is no longer an obligation to follow just one interpretation. 

A: No, the obligation is still there, but to follow the result of discernment.

Q: However, the final decision is based on a judgment relative to different hypotheses. So it also takes into consideration the hypothesis that the phrase "let man not put asunder" is not exactly as it appears. In short, it brings the word of Jesus into doubt.

A: Not the word of Jesus, but the word of Jesus as we have interpreted it. Discernment does not select among different hypotheses but listens to the Holy Spirit, who - as Jesus has promised - helps us to understand the signs of God's presence in human history.

SOUTH KOREA : The testimony of Fr Lee Tae-seok in South Sudanese school books life and missionary testimony of John Lee Tae-seok, a Catholic priest from South Korea, will be incorporated in the textbooks used in South Sudanese schools, which are set for publication in February 2018.
The missionary, a member of the Salesian Society of Saint John Bosco, provided medical aid to the war-torn country for a decade, until his death from cancer in 2010.

According to South Sudan’s Education Minister Deng Hoc Yai, the missionary’s life will be presented in one page in the social studies book for elementary schools, and in two pages in the civic education book for high schools.

This is the first time that South Sudanese textbooks include the story of a foreigner for his volunteer service in the country.

When he was in elementary school, Fr Lee saw a movie at his parish church about the life of Fr Damien, a Belgian missionary and apostle of the lepers in Molokai. At that moment, he felt a strong calling and decided to follow in Fr Damien’s footsteps.

After he graduated in medicine at the University of Inge, in South Korea, Fr Lee studied theology at the University of Gwangjoo and the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome.

He was ordained a priest in Seoul in 2001 and in the same year he decided to leave for Africa, inspired by the stories of a confrere.

He began his missionary work as an educator and doctor in the village of Tonj, Warap province, South Sudan.

As the only doctor in the area, Fr Lee built a small clinic that treated about 300 patients a day. He provided vaccination for some 80 villages around Tonj and established a school where he taught mathematics and music.

Despite the ethnic and religious conflicts that devastated Sudan causing some two million deaths, Fr Lee brought relief to the suffering of anyone who needed his help.

His clinic treated Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and even fighters; for this reason, his village was spared from the fighting.

“We expect our new textbooks to let young generations know about Father Lee and what he did. I hope our students can learn his devotion and sacrifice for the poor and the weak,” South Sudan’s Education Minister said in an interview late last month.

Known and appreciated in his native country, Fr Lee’s life was featured in a Catholic biblical journal, and in a book titled Will You Be My Friend?

In April 2010, South Korea’s KBS TV network broadcast ‘Schweitzer of Sudan’, a movie dedicated to the late Fr Lee Tae-seok ". 

Another documentary film, ‘Don’t cry Tonj’ moved some 400,000 people.

IRAQ : Christians and Muslims on a peace march from Erbil to Alqōsh

Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako has launched a ‘Peace March’ on Palm Sunday "open to Christians and Muslims", which "will set off from Erbil and end in Alqōsh" in the Nineveh Plain.

People will be "on foot for one day" calling for an end to violence in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.
“I will lead the march,” the prelate said as he spoke to AsiaNews about his Church's intentions for upcoming start of Lent in the interest of peace, rapprochement and dialogue. The walk will provide a “great occasion for unity,” and represents a common front against the violence and bloodshed that have scarred the country and the region.

The Chaldean Church has consecrated 2017 as the ‘Year of Peace’. For the Chaldean primate, the period leading up to Easter offers a great opportunity to breathe new life into a journey of prayer and reflection, one that is open to Iraq’s Muslim community. "Peace,” Mar Sako said, “must be achieved by us (religious leaders) as well as politicians, through courageous initiatives and responsible decisions."

This is why, along with the peace march at the beginning of Holy Week, the Chaldean Patriarchate plans to organise "several meetings to celebrate the Via Crucis, using as stations, places in the Nineveh Plain, like Tall Usquf and Batnaya”, freed from Jihadi presence. This initiative is the result of co-operation with the diocese of Lyon, a show of the bond between Iraqi communities and Churches around the world during these years of suffering and persecution.

"During Lent we also want to collect aid and funds for Muslim refugees, asking our people to help people in need without distinction based on faith or ethnicity,” the prelate said.

In the coming weeks, His Beatitude will visit a Muslim refugee camp housing "people who fled Mosul" to escape the Islamic State (IS), in a sign of "Christian solidarity". [. . .] "However small,” he noted, “these symbolic gestures are part of our tradition. In the East, we use symbols a lot.”

In recent weeks, the Chaldean Patriarch visited several towns and villages liberated from Jihadi occupation in the past months.

"I celebrated Mass with 50 families in Tall Usquf, others came from Alqōsh to take part in the event," he said. The goal is "to bring home" everyone "before the end of the school year."

It is a "miracle" that the church in Tall Usquf was not damaged and that the houses have been largely spared. "There was some looting and stealing, but not the devastation seen in Qaraqosh and Batnaya, where there is up to 80 per cent of damage."

In these Chaldeans villages, "there is an atmosphere of enthusiasm and a desire to return – total joy, like on the eve of Easter of the resurrection, coming after darkness and violence. After the Mass, we raised a cross on a hill (pictured), a large cross, with candles, empty, as required by Chaldean tradition. It is a symbol of resurrection and locals came in droves to attend the service, pray, sing and clap."

"This is the fourth time I visit liberated villages in the plain,” the Chaldean primate said. “I find a different atmosphere, a normal life, clean and safer streets although landmines remain a problem in many areas of Nineveh".

In Mosul, where the army has now taken control of the airport after a four-hour battle with IS militias, "three families are back in the north-eastern sector of the city, but I could not visit them because the situation remains very dangerous."

Lent is a time of peace and Christians are duty-bound to renew their commitment to peace and reconciliation. They should not come under the influence "of a tribal mind-set that feeds on revenge".  

“There is no forgiveness when everyone tries to take the law into his own hands. It is up to us to open our eyes to the importance of peace, dialogue and coexistence."

“Something is moving in Iraq. [. . .] Finally, people are choosing to build bridges rather than put up barriers. Prominent politicians and religious leaders have spoken out against a sectarian mind-set, and speak openly in favour of the separation of state and religion, a civic regime that guarantees citizenship to all."

For this reason, Mar Sako appeals for conversion to regional and world leaders, to those who determine the fate of the region and the world with their decisions.

"I tell them to look inside their heart,” he said. “They have a huge responsibility, and should focus on human rights and everyone’s well-being, on being open and accountable, and on ensuring security in their territory but in a more humane manner and not at the expense of others.”

"Walls complicate things, and lead to even more violence,” the Chaldean primate explained. “For this reason, we must remove barriers from streets, walls from neighbourhoods, ghettos” from cities.

“We must talk, care for everyone’s welfare, and respect each other. This calls for total conversion of the heart. We must turn to the deepest values ​​of religion. Hence, Lent becomes an important moment for everyone to convert, for those who believe and those who do not believe."

INDIA : A law faculty at a Catholic college proposes an amendment to the Civil Code

Image result for Mar Gregorios College of Law in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
The Law Faculty at a Catholic college has proposed changes to the Indian civil code. Students at the Mar Gregorios College of Law in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, came up with a proposal as part of a national competition organised by the Law Commission of India.
The Law Commission released a questionnaire inviting the public to submit suggestions on one of the most discussed issues of recent times: a uniform Civil Code, in particular the rules governing marriage, divorce, inheritance, maintenance and adoption.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Paul Thelakat, director of Light of Truth and former spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Synod, stressed that "it is a simple student competition [. . .] It does not mean anything as far as the Catholic Church’s” position.

The latter is "concerned but no definite policy has been given. There will be debates on the issue at an academic level. Of course, people in the Church have given certain opinions on the topic.”

“As far as I am concerned there must be unity on the essentials in our country. Equality, fraternity and freedom are core values enshrined in the Constitution.”

The debate over a uniform civil code has been ongoing for months. Marriage law in India is very complex and governed by different rules.

The Constitution provides for different legal frameworks to protect the country’s various religious communities. Article 44 is one its "guiding principles" (but is not mandatory). It calls for a uniform civil code for India. However, the Constitution also leaves great leeway to each community.

Discussions are centred on this article and on greater protection for Muslim women. Islamic marriage is governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act 1937, a law passed under British colonial rule.

Adopted to ensure compliance with Islamic cultural tradition, it has provided justification for discriminatory practices. Women have repeatedly slammed as abusive verbal divorce (triple talaq), which is often done "at a distance" by text messages or mail.

According to Fr Thelakat, a "human approach and the respect for all citizens must prevail. The Catholic Church will support with enthusiasm any initiative to this effect."

In some contexts, the law is already uniform, particularly when it comes to criminal law, the clergyman noted. In this domain, "there are no distinctions of caste, religion, language or regional origin. Only in civil matters there is no uniformity."

However, such uniformity "cannot be reached through outside imposition by a State seeking to interfere in religious affairs and impose a tyranny of monologue. Uniformity is achieved only by bringing all affected communities to trust the dialogue."

"Our desire is that reform take place within the communities themselves, as a renewal and rethinking of themselves," he added.