Friday, December 09, 2016

Crib At The Vatican

The Vatican is ready for a holy Christmas with solidarity in the mix. 

The Nativity scene is from Malta and the boat reflects that as well as the refugees crossing the Mediterranean.

Rubble from the Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia, destroyed by an earthquake, lies at the foot of the tree. 

Donations left at the Nativity scene will go toward rebuilding a church in the central Italian town.

The ornaments on the tree were decorated by children who are patients in the pediatric oncology wards of several Italian hospitals.

The Bishop who saved 200 Syrian lives from Islamic State

Extraordinary story of persistence and courageDeep inside Syria, a Bishop worked around the edges of international law to save the lives of more than 200 people from IS. 

It took more than a year, and videotaped killings of three captives, before all the rest were freed. 

The millions in ransom money came in dollar by dollar, euro by euro, from around the world. 

The donations, raised from church offerings, a Christmas concert, and the diaspora of Assyrian Christians on Facebook, landed in a bank account in Iraq. Its ultimate destination was Islamic State.

Paying ransoms is illegal in the United States and most of the West, and the idea of paying the militants is morally fraught, even for those who saw no alternative.

“You look at it from the moral side and I get it. If we give them money we’re just feeding into it, and they’re going to kill using that money,” said Aneki Nissan, who helped raise funds in Canada. But, he said, there were more than 200 lives at stake, “and to us, we’re such a small minority that we have to help each other.”

The Assyrian Christians were seized from the Khabur River valley in northern Syria, among the last holdouts of a dwindling minority that had been chased across the Middle East for generations.

They trace their heritage to the earliest days of Christianity, their Church of the East founded by the apostle known as Doubting Thomas. 

To this day, they speak a dialect of Aramaic, believed to be the native language of Jesus. 

But most also speak Arabic and some Kurdish, the languages of the neighbours who have long outnumbered them.

In a single night of horror on February 23, 2015, ISIS fighters attacked the Christian towns simultaneously, sweeping up scores of people and sending everyone from 35 towns and villages fleeing for their lives.

Vatican first: Holy See launches child protection website Vatican has launched a new website detailing its efforts to protect children from sexual abuse by clergy, including guidelines for verifying people's identities when recruiting clergy. 

It's the first time the Vatican is publishing the documents and resources in one place, including an email and phone number to contact its Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was established in 2013.

"It is very important to the Commission that we are as transparent as possible," project coordinator Emer McCarthy told CNN. "Our members want people to know that they are doing their level best to carry out the commission of the Holy Father."

"Much of the work of the Commission is listening, study and reflection, so there will not be day-to-day updates, but the website is the vehicle to let people know that we are here," she added.

The website includes a template for local churches around the world to use in establishing their own norms for protecting minors from clerical sex abuse.

McCarthy said the website aims to reach communities in Latin America, Africa and Asia, which have received less attention about child abuse than congregations in the United States and Europe have.

The guidelines include verifying people's identities when recruiting clergy, employees and volunteers for Church activities, and vetting them for criminal records.

The website also recommends "full information sharing" when priests are seeking to transfer from one diocese to another.

Get the transition right first: Chaplain queries job program

Australian-defence-forceA chaplain to the Brisbane ex-services community has questioned the effectiveness of a new government program pitched at encouraging businesses to employ former defence force personnel. 

Last month, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull launched the Veterans’ Employment Initiative, which would automatically give military veterans a job interview, if they have the right skills, training, and experience.

So far, 15 of Australia’s biggest employers have signed up for the program, under which businesses would be encouraged to partner with ex-service organisations to develop strategies for boosting veteran employment.

But Brisbane Deacon Gary Stone has questioned whether the new program would really hit the mark. “If anything is needed it is better transitional arrangements to train and prepare to re-engage in civilian life,” Deacon Stone said.

About 5500 men and women leave the military ranks each year but of that number 1000 personnel are medically discharged and are considered “vulnerable.”

Australian sainthood push: Sr Mary Glowrey exhumed

Sr Mary Glowrey tending to the sick in IndiaA push to have a second Australian elevated to sainthood has moved a step forward after doctor and humanita­rian Sr Mary Glowrey was exhu­med from her grave in Bangalore, India.

Sr Mary has been return­ed to Guntur, where she carried out most of her work with India’s poorest before her death 60 years ago.

The exhumation is seen as a critical path to canonisation of one of Victoria’s early female doctors, held in high regard by both the Church and the medical profession.

Sr Mary graduated from the University of Melbourne with a bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery in 1910. As an undergraduate she started her service of the marginalised and vulnerable, visiting slums in Fitzroy, Colling­wood, and Richmond to care for women and their babies.

“Her sisters, Lucy and Eliza, had to keep replenishing Mary’s blankets and clothes as she was always giving them to someone more needy,” Catholic Wom­en’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga spokeswoman Robyn Fahy said.

The Church started the process for Sr Mary Glowrey’s sainthood three years ago. The legacy of her efforts between 1920 and 1956 live on.

In 1943 she established the Catholic Health Association of India, which has grown into India’s biggest healthcare network, supporting more than 3500 institutions and providing care for more than 21 million people each year.

She was the first woman to be granted a medical residency in New Zealand as no positions were available for women who graduated in Australia.

Despite her religion, she considered herself a doctor first and maintained a strong link to the University of Melbourne.

Ms Fahy said Mary, who was born at Birregurra, left her thriving medical career in Victoria in 1920 to join the Cong­regation of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

The doctor was prompted into mission work after reading a pamphlet about the appalling death rate of babies in India.

She received a special dispensation from Pope Pius XI to practice medicine and became the first nun-doctor missionary.

For Bartholomew, religions play a fundamental role in creating communion between peoples Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I received the St Nicholas Ecumenical Prize in the Basilica of St Nicholas, Bari (Italy).

The prize is awarded by the Apulian Theological Faculty (Facoltà Teologica Pugliese) to eminent Catholic and Orthodox individuals who promote Christian unity.
In his address, the patriarch said that religions have an important role "in creating, establishing and consolidating the principle of communion for mutual collaboration and understanding, pushing away the fundamentalisms that are found in all societies and religions". The goal in doing this is to create a new relationship between peoples.

In a telegram, Pope Francis called the award a "significant acknowledgment" and a "sign of gratitude" for the services rendered by Bartholomew "to promote an ever greater communion among all believers in Christ."

In the message, addressed to the Archbishop of Bari-Bitonto, Francesco Cacucci, the Pope joins "spiritually dear brother Bartholomew in the veneration of the Holy Bishop of Myra Nicholas, whose relics have been preserved in Bari for almost a thousand years, entrusting to the intercession of this Pastor so loved in the East and the West the ‘common prayer’ for the desired goal of full Christian unity."

In accepting the award, Bartholomew said that "we welcome it as a prophetic sign of unity of all the Holy Churches of God, whose theological journey between our Churches and the love, respect and collaboration are one of the fundamental traits."

In his speech, the patriarch went on to highlight the "relational" aspect of the "communal experience" with Christ.

This "means participating together in the divine nature through the grace given to us by God in all aspects of Christian life: blessings, trials and tribulations, consolation, support, solidarity, fraternity.

“It means sharing faith, sharing spirituality, praying for each other; it means concretely realising this communion of our lives and put it into practice; it means experiencing communion in dialogue, peace and unity."

More staff changes at Lambeth Palace

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has announced the imminent arrival of two new senior staff members at Lambeth Palace. 

The Revd Dr Will Adam is to be the Archbishop’s ecumenical adviser while Ruth Mawhinney is to become the new head of media relations. 

Veteran journalist Jonathan Petre had previously been announced as the new head of media relations, but withdrew his acceptance of the post and will remain as religion correspondent with the Mail on Sunday.
Dr Adam’s new role is a combined post: he will also serve as the ecumenical officer for the Church of England’s Council of Christian Unity (CCU).

“I am delighted that Will Adam will be bringing his considerable experience and expertise to this post,” Archbishop Justin said. “His understanding of both national and international ecumenism will be a real asset to the work at Lambeth and at CCU. There are wonderful opportunities in ecumenism in these times, and we must always strive to be obedient to Jesus’ desire that his Church ‘may be one.’”

Speaking of Ruth Mawhinney’s appointment, the archbishop said: “I am delighted that Ruth will be joining our communications team at Lambeth Palace. As an experienced journalist and practicing Christian, she will understand the unique and guiding role that faith can play in both personal and professional life.”

Dr Adam has extensive ecumenical experience. He was a Church of England member of the Joint Implementation Group – a co-ordinating body set up under the Anglican-Methodist Covenant; and a delegate to the World Council of Churches’ Assembly in Harare. He has previously worked as a diocesan ecumenical officer with responsibility for links between the diocese and a church of the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland – the Evangelical Church of Germany – which is linked with the Church of England through the Meissen Agreement. He is a member of the International Colloquium of Anglican and Roman Catholic Canon Lawyers and chair of his local Churches Together ecumenical group.

“I am delighted to be taking up this post,” Dr Adam said. “My commitment to the reconciliation of Christ's church goes back to my early student days. I am looking forward to supporting the Archbishop and the wider Church of England in ecumenical mission and ministry in the coming years.”

Ruth Mawhinney is currently the editor of the online news site Christian Today. She began her journalistic career on the Baptist Times before becoming deputy editor and then editor of Christianity magazine.

“I’m thrilled to be taking up this role and joining the excellent team at Lambeth Palace,” she said. “In this time of global uncertainty I believe Archbishop Justin Welby provides a much-needed voice of hope and reason. I'm also looking forward to using the skills gained in my years as a journalist and editor to help the archbishop communicate his three priorities of evangelism, prayer and reconciliation.”

C of E investment arm wins international awards

Image result for church commissionersThe Church Commissioners – the statutory investment body responsible for historic assets of the Church of England – has won three major prizes at the Investment & Pensions Europe (IPE) Awards for its ethical and responsible investment work. 

The awards – for Climate Related Risk Management; Environment, Social and Governance; and Real Estate – come on top of the two awards the Commissioners won in April at the Portfolio Institutional Awards. But it did not take the top award of Best European Pension Fund, for which it was shortlisted.
“We are thrilled with these awards,” the Commissioners’ head of responsible investment, Edward Mason, said. “They reflect our commitment to responsible investment, good governance and acting on climate change. There is still much work to be done, and of course in the long term the prize that really matters is meeting the two degree target agreed in Paris last year.

The Church Commissioners launched a comprehensive climate policy last year ahead of the COP21 climate change conference in Paris. That was one of the things recognised by the judges, along with its “pivotal focus” on shareholder resolutions and engagement; and ensuring the reduction of the portfolio’s carbon footprint through investment and divestment strategy. This lead to what the C of E said was “a near perfect score of 19.75 points out of a possible 20 for Climate Related Risk Management.”

The Commissioners hit the headlines this year after it garnered substantial support for a shareholder motion on climate change at ExxonMobil’s AGM.

The IPE Awards are presented at Europe’s largest annual gathering of pension funds and service providers. 

The Church Commissioners manage a £7 billion investment fund for the Church of England. 

Last year it distributed funds of £218.5 million, making it the third largest charitable giver in the UK; and the 14th largest internationally.

TURKEY - The Armenian Church appeals to the European Court for Human Rights against Turkey for the failure to return some properties of Sis

Aram I.JPGAram I, Armenian Apostolic Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, in Antelias, Lebanon, announced that the request for the return of the ancient residences and properties belonging to the Catholicosate and located in Sis, in Turkish territory, will be submitted to the European Court for Human Rights - based in Strasbourg - after the Constitutional Court of Turkey did not accept the request to discuss and resolve the dispute on the properties of Sis within the Turkish legal system .

"This - remarked Catholicos Aram I in the video message in which he announced the initiative - is the first legal action taken against Turkey after the Armenian Genocide of 1915, is the result of long and serious discussions, studies and consultations, and is based on international legal provisions, including the decisions of the Treaty of Lausanne of 1932, regarding the minorities living within the boundaries of the Turkish Republic".

The cause to obtain the restitution of the Catholicosate’s historic buildings located in the city of Sis, started by Catholicos Aram I in 2015, had not been taken into account neither by the Turkish Ministry of Justice nor by the Turkish Constitutional Court. Both Turkish institutions had not recognized any legal basis to the cause.

Sis, the ancient capital of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, corresponds to the current Turkish town of Kozan. The intention to appeal, in April 2015, had already been announced on several occasions by the Catholicos of Cilicia between September and October 2014. "We cannot remain apathetic with regards to the violated rights of our nation", said Aram on September 19, 2015 in Yerevan, on the occasion of the 5th Conference of the Armenian Diaspora. As already reported by Agenzia Fides (see Fides 01/10/2014), the Catholicos himself had predicted that, in the event that the Turkish institutions would take the matter into consideration, the appeal would be submitted to the European Court of Human Rights.

BURUNDI - "Only small steps towards reconciliation" Bishops complain

"We appreciate the steps taken and we thank those who have contributed" say the Bishops of Burundi in their Pastoral Letter published for the closing of the Holy Year of Mercy. 

"At the opening of the Jubilee Year we had hoped that this Year would be for Burundians an opportunity for reconciliation, so that contenders would sit down, and would tell the truth in a frank dialogue that would allow to solve the Country's problems, so Burundians can live in peace and security", says the message sent to Agenzia Fides.

"There are still so many brothers and sisters who are refugees outside the Country" the Bishops recall. "Although they have heard our appeal, they dare not come back because they do not feel safe. Isn’t there something to be corrected so that they feel safe?" says the message.

The Bishops complain that those who have remained in the country "are wary of each other, they are afraid to speak the truth out loud, there is no longer trust in one’s neighbor, just when it is time to say the truth and accept the truth that saves and reconciles".

The Burundian political crisis dates back to April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced the decision to present himself for a third term, in violation of the Constitution and of the Arusha Peace Accords. 

The re-election of Nkurunziza, in July of that year, worsened the situation with murders and disappearances of people linked to the opposition and the emergence of anti Nkurunziza guerrilla groups. 

The violence has so far caused 500 deaths and about 300,000 people have fled to neighboring Countries.

MEXICO - The number of migrants increases, Mgr. Lira invites everyone to work together to welcome them

"No doubt this phenomenon occurs more here on the border, where expulsions are on the rise along with the emigration of those who come from Central America, driven by insecurity or poverty in which these countries live", said His Exc. Mgr. Eugenio Andrés Lira Rugarcía, Bishop of Matamoros, before the increase of migrants at the border and in the border town. 

"The main challenge for the authorities in Matamoros is to have the necessary resources to meet the possible mass expulsions that could arise", he added.

The note sent to Fides reports that the Diocese of Matamoros is working hard with two houses for migrants and an information center. 

The Bishop stressed that the main challenge for the coming months is to check resources and spaces that are needed to accommodate the community of those expelled that could arrive in this border city. 

"We need more efforts, to work together with the authorities, everyone, civil society, religious organizations and others who want to help, seeking the well-being of migrants and their families", the statement concludes.

According to information from the local press, this border city is prepared to handle a considerable flow of people who will have to return to Mexico in the coming weeks.

CHILE - Cardinal Ezzati: "The Church's doors are open to welcome and share the wealth of different cultures"

On Sunday, December 4, a group of Haitian citizens received the sacrament of Confirmation in the parish of San Saturnino in Santiago del Chile, and on this occasion the Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, who presided the ceremony, defended the immigrants.

According to the note sent to Fides from a local source, last week a discussion on immigration policy in Chile took place. 

In this regard, the Cardinal said that "the Church of Santiago, through the Chilean Catholic Institute of Migration and many priests who accompany the many foreign brothers, lives a special experience, because the doors are open to welcome, integrate and share the wealth that these different cultures have".

During the ceremony, presided over by Cardinal Ezzati and the parish priest of San Saturnino, Father Juan Carlos Cortez, 15 Haitians received Confirmation, eight of whom were also baptized.

"The Lord comes into our lives in every moment of our existence, in a very special way for those brothers who are here to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. The Lord enters in their history for they are men and women of faith, when they open the doors to God", said Cardinal Ezzati.

According to the parish of San Saturnino, in the last two years more than 45,000 Haitian citizens arrived in Chile. Of these 450 have been welcomed into the community and participate in training activities (Spanish language courses), catechesis, social assistance, solidarity and workshops to learn a trade.

A survey published by a national newspaper reported that 85% of Chileans want the expulsion of immigrants with legal problems, and 75% consider it necessary to impose restrictions on immigration. 

The government initiated the political debate on the subject in recent days, in view of a revision of the immigration law.

Married 'bishop and vicar' from organisation founded by St Patrick transform home into 'church'

A married couple who describe themselves as a bishop and vicar are bringing religious devotion to new heights after they transformed their rented apartment into a church, according to Cork's Evening Echo.

Bishop Denis Dineen, founder of the Celtic Community Church in Ireland - an organisation originally founded by Saint Patrick, Saint Columba and other Celtic saints - is a Mallow-based organisation which describes itself as “a traditional Anglican Catholic denomination”.

He devised the idea with his wife Vicar Elena Aloysius. 

Now 72 years old, the Mallow resident found religion later in life and is hoping his faith will serve as a beacon to those in dire straits.

Vicar Aloysius from Switzerland, who joined the order four years ago at just 18 years old, described their unconventional north Cork abode.

“If you walk into our home it looks like a monastery,” she said. “The first thing you’ll see are holy pictures everywhere and a bible on the table.

“It’s effectively a mini church with an altar, flowers and statues. We have a couple of people who come to us regularly but a lot of our masses are streamed online as well. Over time we hope to build our community and eventually acquire a bigger chapel.”

She opened up about home life and the months leading up to their marriage last February.

“Our church is connected all over the world so it was suggested that I travel to Ireland in order for Bishop Denis and I to work together. My boss at the time didn’t believe I would make it a month. For most of the beginning we would just sit with a homeless person at the side of the street. Our lifestyle is very strict. We do the sacraments, pray, and don’t own any properties.

“Neither of us own a car because we feel it brings us away from the people. We meet so many people through public transport and get all kinds of reactions.” She recalled their “no-frills” wedding ceremony.
“We try to keep our lives very simple and get along very well. Bishop Denis and I had a civil ceremony for our wedding before blessing the rings at our own chapel. Our lives are not romantic. My main concentration is the priesthood as I’ve been living a vow of chastity since the age of 18 years old. As husband and wife we are good companions and do everything together. We definitely have a different relationship to most married couples.”

The couple favour helping the homeless over date nights. 

“We travel on foot armed with backpacks filled with sandwiches and soup. Much of our time is spent going to grocery stores and asking for things we can give to the poor. I’ve never gone out at night or been in a pub or club. Even in my teenage years I spent my free time serving at Mass.”

New humanitarian corridor between Italy and Ethiopia to open soon

A new humanitarian corridor between Italy and Ethiopia is to open soon. 

This time, the initiative sees the direct involvement of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), the Community of Sant’ Egidio, which is among the main endorsers of the humanitarian corridor initiative and two organisations linked to CEI, that work in the migration field: Migrantes and Caritas. 

They will play a key role in hosting refugees. A new protocol is to be signed very soon by all of these organisations, along with the ministries for interior and foreign affairs, based on the existing model for welcoming Syrian refugees coming from transit camps in Lebanon but with the additional participation of the Waldensian Church and the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy as well as the Community of Sant’Egidio. 

The ambitious aim is to establish a safe and legal corridor to allow the passage of at least 500 African refugees into Italy. Ethiopia is the African country bearing the brunt of the migration flow, as it takes in the highest number of refugees fleeing conflict, famine, persecution and environmental disasters. 

The country is home to four large refugee camps and the plan is to welcome people of three nationalities: Eritreans, Somalis and people from South Sudan. The situation in these countries is critical; naturally, once the protocol is agreed with the Italian government, a complex organisation phase will follow: fruitful communication and relationships will need to be established with Ethiopian authorities, the government, the police and with the Ethiopian agency that runs the refugee camps. 

A similar collaboration was established with Lebanon – where the domestic institutional framework was by no means simple – but in this case, the situation was even more complex given how fragile the institutions are and especially given the pressure from other humanitarian crises and the conflicts underway across the entire Sub-Saharan region. 

This is why contact has already been established with organisations and personnel present on the ground. The Italian Church has also played an important role in this and will be making a substantial economic contribution. After all, most of the migrants arriving in Italy hail from Eritrea and Somalia. 

Humanitarian corridors have also been consolidated with Lebanon. Another 100 refugees arrived in recent days, reaching a total of 500 people since the initiative was launched last December. Now it is Ethiopia’s turn and the process for opening a Moroccan route still needs to be completed. Meanwhile, humanitarian corridors are setting the example on an international level: the UN, the European Parliament and various countries look at the Italian model with keen interest. 

In fact, a similar initiative is about to be launched in France, with the Community of Sant’Egidio, Caritas France and the country’s evangelical churches; in this case too, the focus is on Lebanon, which also hosts a vast number of Syrian refugees (around 400,000 people). Interestingly, as the Community of Sant’Egidio explains, “the initiative is mustering consensus and an ever broader participation. Many associations, parishes and local entities want to take part, even individual families. This is a sign that the importance of the initiative has been understood.” 

On the other hand, the need to create legal humanitarian channels to manage the flow of refugees, with a view to putting an end to deaths at sea and exploitation by human traffickers, has been felt for some time now. The aim of the initiative is to combat the “trafficking” of people fleeing wars, “to make it possible for people in vulnerable conditions (as well as victims of persecution, torture and violence, there are families with children, elderly, sick and disable people) to legally enter Italian territory with a humanitarian visa and the chance to then apply for asylum”; This way refugees can enter Italy in a way that is safe for themselves and for everyone because in order for them to obtain a humanitarian visa, they will have to undergo all necessary checks by Italian authorities.

Vatican Investigated Sex Abuse Allegations Against Former Wyckoff Priest, Report Says

Vatican Investigated Sex Abuse Allegations Against Former Wyckoff Priest, Report SaysThe former priest of township parish was investigated on allegations that he molested a 16-year-old boy and suspended from ministry as a lay person in the mid-1980s. 

Rev. Kevin A. Gugliotta, 54, was investigated when he was a Boy Scout leader and engineer, but the Vatican ruled that canon law, church law, prevented him from being punished because he was not an ordained priest yet, a report by states. 

He became ordained in 1996.

Gugliotta was reinstated in December 2004 and served at five parishes, including St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Wyckoff and Immaculate Conception Church in Mahwah, before asking for a transfer this past summer, according to the report.

Gugliotta allegedly fondled the boy against his will and stalked him into adulthood, the report said.

Gugliotta is a nationally ranked poker player. 

He was arrested on dozens of child sexual abuse counts in October. 

He allegedly possessed and disseminated child pornography after authorities investigated someone uploading child pornography to an internet chat room in Lehigh Township, Pennsylvania, where Gugliotta has a residence.

Gugliotta remains incarcerated in Pennsylvania in lieu of $1 million bail.

Patriarch Kirill, Archbishop of Paris discuss erosion of Christian values in Europe

Image result for Patriarch Kirill Cardinal Andre Vingt-TroisPatriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, have discussed the problem of erosion of traditional Christian values in modern day Europe.
"We saw the face of Catholic France during protests against the law on child adoption by same-sex couples," Patriarch Kirill said at their meeting in the Catholic Archdiocese in Paris on Monday.
He expressed solidarity with the Roman Catholic Church on this issue and thanked the archbishop of Paris for the firm stance on the issue of same-sex "marriages". At the cardinal's exhortation, French Catholics actively protested against the law legalizing same-sex unions and their right to adopt children.

The Russian Church leader also thanked the cardinal for the support in the construction of the St. Trinity Cathedral and the Russian Cultural and Spiritual Center in the prestigious 7th arrondissement of the French capital on Branly Embankment, not far from the Eiffel Tower.

Cardinal Vingt-Trois congratulated Patriarch Kirill on the Cathedral's opening and consecration which was performed by the patriarch in front of hundreds of parishioners, representatives from well-known Russian emigre families and prominent artists.

"This is a testament to the good relations between our countries. The Cathedral is the symbol of these good relations," Cardinal Vingt-Trois said.