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Updated: 1 hour 25 min ago

Duterte told: ‘Discipline out of love not anger’

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 11:07

TACLOBAN City, Feb. 28, 2017 – Comparing the country to a family, a priest stressed that even the discipline of righting wrongs, as in the case of the Duterte administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs, should be done “out of love not anger.”

“Like in a family, children could not be disciplined by corporal punishment and shouting at them but through love, forgiveness, patience, understanding and humility, and above all prayer,” said Fr. Erby Davy Lajara, parish priest of San Jose Parish in this city and spiritual director of the Council of Laity of the Archdiocese of Palo.

“If discipline will only be done by bragging and anger, we better not do anything because it will just complicate the whole thing,” he added.

Not revenge

The priest said discipline and change should be done out of love not of revenge or showmanship, noting “that we too are brothers and sisters, that we too are created in the image and likeness of God, thus we have to be respected, loved, forgiven, be helped in our struggle to be [a] better person.”

“We all have to be instrument of healing and forgiveness,” stressed Lajara, mentioning how in some instances family members themselves discriminate against their own erring family member.

Although Lajara expressed appreciation for what President Duterte is doing for the country, he called on the people to pray for him that he will be given proper guidance in governing the country.

War vs illegal gambling

He also said the government’s war on illegal gambling could likewise possibly end in killings like in the Duterte administration campaign against illegal drugs.

“Per experience, it could happen based on what had occurred, that is why we have to pray, help each other because changes like these could not be done by force,” he said.

He also stressed the need for the people to be proactive and not reactive in order to avoid the proliferation of vices in the country. (Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros / CBCP News)

Young Ilonggos stand for life

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 10:56

Joining the religious and other members of the laity, Iloilo students show their rejection of the “culture of death” by lighting candles, wearing white, and praying for the Philippines on Feb. 24, 2017 in Iloilo City. (Photo: John Belle Agramon)

Ready for Ash Wednesday

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 10:48

A priest blesses palm fronds being burned in time for Ash Wednesday at St. Joseph Parish, Las Piñas City on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. (Photo: Lorenzo Atienza)

Iloilo students at ‘Caravan for Life’ call for for love not violence

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 10:45

Iloilo students show their rejection of the “culture of death” by joining the “Caravan for Life” on Feb. 24, 2017 in Iloilo City. (Photo: John Belle Agramon)

JARO, Iloilo City, Feb. 28, 2017 – “As children of God, our mission is to be persons for and with others; this means love and compassion, not violence and vengeance, truth and honesty, not lies and decadence!”

These were the words Chelsea Lagon, an Ateneo de Iloilo student, gave in her speech at the Jaro Cathedral to express the collective sentiment of the young people of her province amid the current threats of the “culture of death” manifested in the extra-judicial killings (EJK), the planned return of the death penalty, and the attempts to implement the “anti-life” provisions of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law.

In a show of solidarity with the nation-wide clamor against the EJKs, the death penalty bill, and abortion, students from various schools of this province hit the streets on Feb. 24 to join other citizens for the “Caravan for Life”.

The “Caravan for Life” took off at the St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary, passed through the main thoroughfares of Iloilo City, and culminated at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles (Jaro Cathedral) for the closing rites.

In their respective speeches, Jaro Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, D.D., and Msgr. Meliton Oso, director of the Jaro Archdiocesan Social Action Center (JASAC), underlined the sacredness of human life and thus condemned the extra-judicial killings that, to date, has reached more than 7,000, and lambasted attempts in Congress to re-impose the death penalty.

A grave responsibility

A statement issued by the Jaro Archdiocesan Commission on Family and Life (ACFL) upheld the Christian teaching of God as the origin and end of all life and underlined the grave responsibility of every human person to care and defend it.

The statement contains a prayer composed for the occasion of the “Caravan for Life”, which reads:

“You have made it known to us and to the world that our lives are sacred and precious because they begin and end in You;

Accordingly, we are stewards of our lives and those of others and everything that You have entrusted to our care;

Merciful God, we ask for pardon and forgiveness for our negligence and our own failure and the failure of all people to respect and foster all forms of life in our country, the world and the universe.”

Students and faculty members of Ateneo de Iloilo-Santa Maria Catholic School gathered to protest the planned reimposition of the death penalty and the EJKs. (Photo: Herman Lagon)

Prayer vigil for life

In a related development, hundreds of students and faculty members of the Ateneo de Iloilo-Santa Maria Catholic School wore white shirts and lit candles on the night of Feb. 24, to also show support to the campaign for life.

The vigil, aptly held on the eve of the 31st anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolution, kicked off at the school gym with a lecture-discussion on human rights facilitated by representatives from Amnesty International. This was followed by a prayer service, led by the school chaplain Fr. Ruben Orbeta, SJ, culminating with the rosary, candle-lighting rites and community singing. (CBCPNews with reports from Herman Lagon and Lina Layson)

Laity told: Talk to lawmakers about death penalty

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 10:38

TACLOBAN City  – As the country continues to be polarized by national issues, a local priest deemed it necessary for the laity to be “conscienticized and to be pro-active rather than reactive”, particularly by approaching their lawmakers to let them know their anti-death penalty sentiments.

Fr. Erby Davy Lajara, parish priest of San Jose Parish in this city and spiritual director of the Council of Laity of the Archdiocese of Palo, said it would be best if the laity would approach their respective congressmen and lobby against the reimposition of capital punishment in the country.

This, he said, being the sentiment and hope of majority of their constituents.

More ‘conscienticized’

“Let us explore all possibility that we all help in eradicating all wrongdoings and that those who went meander will be able to be able to straighten up the lives again,” said Lajara, who was once a spiritual director of Family and Life Apostolate in the Archdiocese of Palo.

According to him, the pastoral letter recently issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on extra-judicial killings, corruption, abortion, and the death penalty could provide impetus for the Council of Laity in the archdiocese to be more concerned about such issues, noting its focus on “the spirituality of the members of the Council.”

“I am hoping that all us here in Palo, especially the Council of the Laity, will be active and ‘conscienticized’ and we do something for the good of all,” he said.

The Catholic Church hierarchy in the country has been campaigning hard against the reinstatement of the death penalty to the point of having a recent pastoral statement inspired by Ezekiel 18:32 read during Masses.

He added that at the moment, the Council of the Laity is focusing on coordinating with the different commissions and the basic ecclesial communities for advocacies and education, being its primary mandate.

Proper place, proper time

“It is not a matter of doing what is good because all of us are basically good but on doing good at the proper place and proper time,” explained Lajara.

Lajara suggested three things for the laity to do, especially for those who have fallen into vice, such as illegal drugs, but who could be led back to a good life.

“[First], we have to pray and offer our sacrifices for them; secondly, this is a process that involves the community, that we can show them our concern, understanding and patience making them realize that not because they have erred they will not anymore be given a chance; and thirdly this is a long process thus we should serve as instrument in order for them to change for the better,” he explained.

Bishop Conley: Mass deportations will not fix our immigration system

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 08:13

LINCOLN, Neb., Feb 27, 2017–Controversial immigration policies issued by United States President Donald Trump’s have thus far prompted numerous critiques from concerned U.S. Catholic bishops.

Screen grab from CNA

The most recent order, issued Feb. 20, directed officials to more aggressively find, arrest, and deport illegal immigrants, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.

In his most recent column, “Standing in Solidarity”, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln joined other bishops in their criticism of the order, saying it would do “very little to resolve the immigration problems in our country.”

“Nor will it meaningfully impact the security of our nation, or the safety of our citizens,” he said.

He noted that the previous administration also oversaw numerous deportations, which had little effect on the security of the nation.

“Mass deportation is a panacea: the appearance of an answer without really resolving anything,” he said.

In his column, Bishop Conley explained that the Catholic Church’s teaching on immigration is based on three principles: “(T)hat families have the right to migrate for economic opportunities, for freedom, or for safety; that nations have the right to security, to fixed borders and ordered policies for immigrants; that as an obligation of justice and mercy, nations who can receive immigrants without detriment to the welfare of their citizens should do so.”

Bishop Conley argued that the United States government “does not adequately address its citizens’ right to safety,” nor does it “adequately respect the natural right of families to migration.”

“In short, our immigration system is broken, and that broken system is the cause of serious injustice,” he wrote.

“Whatever the reason for it, our broken immigration system is an injustice to immigrants and to all Americans.  That injustice has tragic consequences in the lives of real families, who reflect the image of the Trinity.”

The state of Nebraska and its capital city of Lincoln, where Bishop Conley is based, are known for being particularly welcoming to refugees. Last year, Nebraska led the nation in resettling the most refugees per capita, according to federal government data. The state is a strong draw for refugees because of its stable economy and accessibility to jobs.

In 2016, Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska resettled 231 people (72 families), and placed 47 people in employment within three months of their arrival to the U.S. These refugees were primarily from the countries of Burma, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Afghanistan. Four of these countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Sudan – are Muslim-majority countries listed on the previous visa ban issued by President Trump.

Bishop Conley urged Catholics to remember that nearly 40 percent of Hispanics in the United States are Catholic, and that the Catholic Church in America is an immigrant Church. There was once a time in the history of the nation where Catholic immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Bohemia, Italy, and many other nations were similarly attacked, he said.

He urged the faithful to stand in solidarity with their fellow members of the Body of Christ when they are unfairly stereotyped as “thuggish criminals or economic liabilities,” and encouraged them to “expect better” policies from their government than mass deportations and extreme policies that hurt the vulnerable.

“I stand in solidarity with immigrant families living in fear of what might be coming for them. I stand in solidarity with American citizens, looking for real security, instead of political showmanship and rhetoric. I stand in solidarity with those politicians and law enforcement agents working to find fair and humane solutions to complex problems. I stand in solidarity with those living in poverty or danger, seeking some promise of safety, and opportunity for their children,” he wrote.

“As Catholics, we must continue to call for real, comprehensive, safe, and just immigration reform. But we cannot accept the panacea of mass detention and deportation. Americans, immigrants, and the Church should expect something better than that.”

President Trump is expected to issue a new executive order on immigration this week, after his first executive order on immigration was temporarily blocked by a federal judge Feb. 4. (CNA)

US bishops denounce rise in anti-Semitic attacks

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 08:11

WASHINGTON D.C., Feb 27, 2017–The U.S. bishops are responding with solidarity and concern for the Jewish community, following a surge in anti-Semitic actions in recent weeks.

“On behalf of the Bishops and people of the Catholic Church, as the Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, I want to express our deep sympathy, solidarity, and support to our Jewish brothers and sisters,” said Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanksi of Springfield in a press release.

“I wish to offer our deepest concern, as well as our unequivocal rejection of these hateful actions,” Bishop Rozanski continued.

On Feb. 20, more than 150 headstones were damaged in University City, Missouri at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. Just a week later, over 100 headstones were found similarly knocked over at the Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was “deeply saddened” by the vandalism at Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery, and called for “prayerful solidarity with the families of those whose final resting places have been disturbed.”

“As a community, we must speak out to condemn inflammatory messages and actions that serve only to divide, stigmatize, and incite prejudice,” the archbishop continued. “We must continually and loudly reject attempts to alienate and persecute the members of any religious tradition. Rather, as members of diverse faith and ethnic communities throughout the region, we must stand up for one another and improve the quality of life for everyone by building bridges of trust and understanding.”

No suspects have been named in either case, but the damage has reached hundreds of thousands of dollars.

More than 50 bomb threats targeting the Jewish community have also been reported across the country since the beginning of the year, including scares at Jewish community centers in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Milwaukee.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, violent anti-Semitic actions soared in 2015, and continued into 2016 with increased online anti-Semitic harassment.

Leaders and officials have denounced the surge in anti-Semitic actions, including words from President Donald Trump last week, who said the recent attacks on the Jewish community were “horrible and are a painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia also spoke out, saying that “hate is not permissible in Philadelphia,” and that the perpetrators “will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” according to the New York Times.

Echoing these sentiments, Bishop Rozanski promised that “the Catholic Church stands in love with the Jewish community in the current face of anti-Semitism.”

Quoting Pope Francis, he pointed to the dangers of the anti-Semitic attacks, linking them to acts of dehumanization, which is most notably seen in hatred towards neighbors.

However, the Springfield bishop also voiced hope that these attacks could be an opportunity for neighborly love to shine brightly.

“But here we also find an opportunity: that the light of the love of neighbor may illuminate the Earth with its stunning brightness like a lightning bolt in the dark; that it may wake us up and let true humanity burst through with authentic resistance, resilience and persistence.”

“I encourage everyone to remember their neighbor, to find the opportunities to be lights of resistance, resilience, and persistence during these contentious times, especially with all our brothers and sisters of faith.” (CNA)

Loving your neighbor means voting wisely, Northern Ireland bishops say

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 08:10

ARMAGH, Northern Ireland, Feb 27, 2017–Ahead of Northern Ireland’s assembly elections, the region’s Catholic bishops have reflected on situation facing voters and the importance of voting with well-formed consciences.

“Far from separating us from concern about society and its development, the Gospel commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself commits us ‘to work for the good of all people and of each person, because we are all really responsible for all’,” said the bishops, citing the Compendium on the Social Doctrine of the Church.

The Feb. 22 message was signed by Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland, and other leading Catholic bishops.

Northern Ireland’s Assembly elections will take place March 2. The vote for the region’s legislative body follows political controversies regarding overspending on a renewable energy heating program, which called into question the power sharing agreement between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein.

Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, resigned in protest Jan. 10 over allegations that First Minister Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party mishandled the project. The resignation triggered the elections.

In this climate, the bishops said, “the premature collapse of our political institutions is a serious matter for all of us.” Despite progress towards peace and prosperity in the 20 years since the pivotal Good Friday Agreement, they saw a return of “bitter language and tone of conflict” to political discourse.

They noted the sacrifices political leaders make, but also reflected on politicians’ duties “to help shape a healthy, positive and peaceful society in which there are ample, quality jobs, decent housing, comprehensive healthcare, and first-class education for all.”

Northern Ireland’s bishops encouraged voters to reflect on Catholic social teaching in their decisions.

They stressed the need to build a culture that loves and cares for others, especially the most vulnerable. They cited Pope Francis’ call for a “revolution of tenderness” that replaces hardened hearts with “a sensitivity and active concern to protect all and care for all.”

Noting pressures to introduce legal abortion in Northern Ireland, the bishops rejected a “throwaway culture” that treats human beings as disposable. They said the region’s laws should equally value the life of both mother and unborn child, and not “diminish our humanity by destroying another human life.” They warned against efforts to portray legal abortion as “limited,” as the procedure always intentionally takes the life of an innocent.

“Central to the good news that the Church proclaims is that the life of every person is sacred and inviolable, irrespective of the stage or state of that life,” they said. This is a fundamental principle that every other human right presumes.

The bishops lamented “disturbing levels” of child poverty, with almost 110,000 children in Northern Ireland living below the poverty line. The region has some of the highest levels of the numbers of working poor and the disabled, in addition to other features of income inequality.

The bishops said voters should prioritize “the systemic and comprehensive eradication” of childhood poverty and the provision of other social needs.

They advocated for a constructive political culture based on “a shared commitment to the common good” instead of the constitutional issues that have traditionally played a key role in Northern Irish politics.

Many Catholics have found it increasingly difficult to find a political party for which they can vote in good conscience. The bishops said that in the absence of clear alternatives, Catholics should “maximize the good” and limit any potential harm through their election choices.

Northern Ireland’s bishops stressed the importance of recognizing marriage as the union of one man and one woman. To recognize other relationships equally undercuts the importance of the biological bond and natural ties between parents and children.

They cited Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, which said same-sex unions are in no way similar to marriage and are not analogous to God’s plan for marriage and the family.

The bishops encouraged a welcoming attitude towards refugees who flee dangers including persecution, war, and natural disaster. They advocated an increase in the number of refugees resettled from Syria to Northern Ireland.

Similarly, the bishops voiced concern for the persecution of Christians abroad, as well as “subtle forms of exclusion and discrimination” against Christians in western democracies. They reported that local Christians have described a chilling effect in the region’s law and public policy that excludes church and faith groups from public funding or caricatures them in public debate because of their beliefs regarding marriage or their pro-life stand.

They noted the failure of the Northern Ireland Assembly to protect the right of a Catholic adoption agency to act in accord with its religion and voiced hope that this could change in the future.

They also rejected some views of “integrated” education that suggest Catholic schools do not contribute to reconciliation, tolerance, and understanding. In fact, the bishops contended, these schools have a Christian ethos that is “inclusive, welcoming and tolerant.” Some approaches to education reject parents’ rights to ensure a faith-based education for their children, and even cloak “a deep-seated hostility to the Catholic faith itself.”

Recommendations for voters also drew on Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for creation, Laudato si’, points out the challenges of environmental degradation and climate change. Northern Ireland’s bishops said caring for creation is good in itself and something owed to future generations.

They praised Northern Ireland’s leading role in the development of renewable energy technologies, and suggested the next Assembly should focus on further improving this aspect of the economy, while also encouraging protection for natural landscapes, fisheries, and other resources.

Further, the bishops noted the dangers of human trafficking and the “disturbing levels” of homelessness.

They noted the publication of an important report on historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland and acknowledged that both Church and society failed to protect the vulnerable.

“We apologize unreservedly to all those who suffered from their experience in Church-run institutions, and to their loved ones,” the bishops said, acknowledging the inadequacy of apology while urging the report’s recommendations against abuse be rapidly established.

The bishops concluded their statement with ten questions drawn from Catholic social teaching that voters should ask candidates.  (CNA)

Iraqi Christians erect large cross in area liberated from ISIS

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 08:04

MOSUL, Iraq, Feb 28, 2017–After years of darkness, hope has returned to Telekuf-Tesqopa. Located just 17 miles from Mosul, the village is rebuilding after being liberated from ISIS.

Screen grab from CNA

As a visible sign of the rebuilding, a giant cross was erected on a hill, marking the victory of the Christian faith against the darkness of the jihadists.

On Feb. 18, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, Louis Sako, visited the village, where he blessed the large cross and participated in the celebration of the first Mass after two and a half years in Saint George Church.

According to the website of the Patriarchate of Babylon, the authorities and officials of the region were present at the celebration.

In his homily, Patriarch Sako said that this event is “the first spark of light shining in all the cities of the Nineveh Plain since the darkness of ISIS, which lasted almost two and a half years.”

“This is our land and this is our home,” he told the faithful. He also said that now is the time to regain hope and for the people to return to their towns to begin a new stage of life.

The patriarch said that Christians will thus demonstrate to the world that the forces of darkness, which wreaked havoc and ravaged their land, are ephemeral and that the Church of Christ, although it suffers, is built upon rock.

When the Mass was over, everyone went out to a hill located on the outskirts of the city. There Patriarch Sako blessed the huge cross which was raised amid fireworks and with cries of “Victory! Victory! Victory!  For those who chose the faith and those who return!”

The Catholic Patriarch said that this cross will announce “to the world that this is our land, we were born here and we will die here. Our ancestors were buried in this pure land and we are going to remain to preserve them with all our might and for future generations.”

“It is a sincere and great call to return and rebuild. We are joined to our land, to our future on the land of our ancestors. Here we can be proud of our history and here we can obtain the granting of all our rights,” Patriarch Sako said.

Before the celebration of the Mass, a delegation came to Telekuf-Tesqopa to assess the state of damage and to thus ask for the support of international organizations for reconstruction. Saint George Church was cleaned by volunteers from the French aid organization SOS Chrétiens d’Orient. (SOS Christians of the East).

The placement of crosses has become a recurring gesture since the Iraqi Army began the offensive to recover the city of Mosul, the ISIS stronghold in Iraq.

In every village liberated on the Plain of Nineveh, Christians have made wooden crosses and have placed them on the roofs of churches and homes.

Muslims have also participated in these events. Last week, a group of Muslims youths joined those cleaning a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary located in east Mosul, liberated by the Iraqi Army.

This action is part of a campaign that seeks to remember the religious coexistence that was present in the city before the jihadists occupied it in 2014. (CNA)

North Korean diocese to celebrate 90th anniversary

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 08:03

PYONGYANG, Feb 27, 2017–North Korea’s Pyongyang Diocese will celebrate its 90th anniversary in March. The diocese was the cornerstone of evangelization efforts in the northern part of the Korean peninsula in the early 1900s.

Pyongyang Diocese, which is now administered from Seoul because religion is banned in the north, will celebrate the anniversary at Myeongdong Cathedral in the capital on March 18. There will also be a photo exhibition and photography book published.

The book, Photo Book of Pyongyang Diocese features photos collected from Paris Foreign Missions Society, Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Pontifical Urban University and more.

The anniversary Mass will be presided over by Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul who is also the apostolic administrator of Pyongyang Diocese. He will be joined by Archbishop Osvaldo Padilla and other prelates.

At Mass, a painting of 24 martyrs from Pyongyang Diocese will be shown. Among them is Bishop Francis Borgia Hong Yong-ho who was kidnapped in 1949 by North Korea’s communist regime and never seen again. He is among a total of 81 Korean martyrs whose beatification tribunal began on Feb. 22.

Pyongyang Diocese was carved from the Apostolic Vicariate of Seoul in 1927 and became a diocese in 1962. (UCAN)

Argentinian appointed provincial of Jesuit Japan Province

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 08:02
TOKYO, Feb 27, 2017–An Argentinian born priest has been appointed provincial of the Japan Province of the Society of Jesus.

Father Renzo De Luca SJ succeeds Father Yoshio Kajiyama SJ, and assumes office on March 1.

Born in born in Larroque, Entre Rios, Argentina in 1963, Father De Luca enters into his work as provincial with a long history of engagement not only with the Japan Province and in the context of its origins dating back to St. Francis Xavier, but also with the concrete issues facing the Jesuits around the world today.

During the juniorate stage of his formation, his superior was Father Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis. Father De Luca was sent to Japan in 1985, where he mastered Japanese sufficiently to do his philosophy studies in Tokyo.

During this time, he hosted Father Bergoglio when he visited the Argentinian scholastics in Japan in 1987.

After being ordained in 1996 at St. Ignatius Church, Tokyo, Father De Luca later became Superior of the Nagasaki community from 2001 to 2007 and in 2014 was appointed superior of the combined Fukuoka-Nagasaki community.

He has been curator of the 26 Martyrs Museum in Nagasaki since October 2004, after serving as assistant curator for seven years. (UCAN)

Christians of North Sinai fleeing the violence of the Islamic State

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 08:01

CAIRO, Feb 27, 2017–Tens of Coptic families have fled from Al Arich, the capital of the governorate of North Sinai after a series of attacks last week that killed seven Christians .

Already in 2014 the Islamic state had proclaimed the area “Wilayat Sinai” (Province of Sinai), located to the east of Egypt, with an area of ​​about 61 thousand square kilometers. The area is also one in which the security forces are fighting terrorists Daesh at least five years.

The situation has become untenable after a few days some Copts were murdered. Kamel Raouf, 40, was killed by gunfire, while her daughter Justina was decapitated and their home was burned. Saad Hakim, 65, was shot to death; before he died, his son, 40, was burnt alive in front of his eyes. Early last week, a 67-year-old doctor, a 45-year-old businessman and a teacher of 55 years were killed with a firearm. In just 10 days there have been seven deaths.

A church source estimates that the number of Copts fled from Al-Arich up to 1,000 people, or approximately 40 families, a total of 1,700 citizens Copts registered in the capital. From his part, the governor of North Sinai has decided to consider the Copts who are absent from school or work as if they were on leave.

The 40 fugitive families were accepted in part on the premises of a Protestant church in a town which lies on the banks of the Suez Canal. Clothes, furniture and other donations are coming continuously in the small church of Ismailya. Some families have reached the relatives in the capital of Cairo or Suez canal.

The plight of the Copts leads to skepticism. Only recently they have seen unfolding before the eyes of security funerals of the famous sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, author of several fatwas (religious edicts) against jihadists political power, the army, culture and the arts, tourism and of course Copts. For now, the Copts of Sinai have only one choice: to be killed – or burned alive – or flee. It is their turn to be the prey of the Islamic State, after the security forces who have lost thousands of men in their efforts to counter Islamic terrorism in this area. (AsiaNews)

Archbishop of Bangalore opens first family counseling

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 08:00

BANGALORE, Feb 24, 2017–Msgr. Bernard Moras, Archbishop of Bangalore (Karnataka), opened the first family planning clinics of the local Church. He explained that the initiative stems from “deep concern about the growing number of Catholics who choose to live together and underestimate the sanctity of the institution of marriage”.

The service offered by the archdiocese will also serve to rebuild family ties increasingly in crisis in the world today. The archbishop added: “Even after a long period of training, the priests may have the crisis and seek the support of a spiritual guide, or someone who can give them advice. Similarly, families may be in the same state of need “.

Specifically, 20 experts with professional training have gathered in the premises of Paalanaa Bhavana, the archdiocese’s pastoral center. For six months they have discussed and planned how to offer their skills to couples in crisis, helping the couple to reconcile.

According to Msgr. Moras, the clinic is the concrete answer to the Plenary Assembly of Catholic Bishops of India, recently met, who has decided to focus precisely on the resolution of family issues. “Also Pope Francesco – adds – in the Synod of Bishops on the 2015 family has stressed the need to protect families from disintegration and discord. As the Archdiocese feel the need to protect the sacrament of marriage and the family in a society that continues to change and tends to damage the family. “The most obvious consequence of family breakdown is the increase in causes of matrimonial annulment. This, according to the bishop, is also due to the shallowness of the pre-marriage courses. “Unfortunately – he concludes – often the nuns and priests are reluctant to provide in terms of sexual life or teachings appropriate guidelines or relationships between spouses. The current two-day course is not enough, if we consider all the challenges and difficulties that couples face in marriage.” (AsiaNews)

Sri Lankan Catholics oppose amending abortion laws

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 07:57

COLOMBO, Feb 24, 2017–Church officials have urged Catholics in Sri Lanka to voice their opposition to government plans to ease the island nation’s abortion laws.

In a country where abortion is currently illegal, except to save the life of the mother, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka said they were concerned about media reports that the government plans to water down related laws.

One such report by the Sri Lankan news portal Hiru News Feb. 1 stated that the country’s Justice Ministry is seeking to legalize abortion when a pregnancy is due to rape, incest, or when the female is under the age of 16, or when there is serious fetal impairment.

The Sri Lankan bishops’ conference said all Catholics should oppose such attempts and for Catholic politicians to block the move.

Bishop Valence Mendis of Chilaw, secretary general of the bishops’ conference, said he was first aware of moves to change laws mid last year.

“The entire Catholic bishops’ conference signed a letter expressing our opposition,” said Bishop Mendis in an official statement.

“We request that prayers be offered in expiation of this effort to legalize [abortion], even for cases of rape and incest,” the bishop said.

Father Ashok Priyantha Perera, director of the Family Apostolate in Chilaw Diocese, reiterated the Catholic Church’s opposition and urged Catholics to oppose the move.

“No one has the moral right to take away the life of another, it is a grave and mortal sin,” said Father Perera.

“We organize many awareness-raising programs at the parish level, in marriage preparation classes, special talks and sermons,” said the priest.

The Catholic Doctors’ Guild wrote to the Sri Lanka Medical Association on Feb. 19 about the proposed legislative changes.

“It is the fundamental cornerstone of any religion that the inviolability and protection of life is a crucial pivot on which many of the sacred beliefs and precepts of that religion rest,” they said in the letter.

“We appeal to use your good offices to point out to the authorities concerned that abortion is the taking of a life and that it violates the fundamental principle of the sacredness of life,” it continued.

An estimated 600 illegal abortions take place in Sri Lanka every day, said K.K. Karunathilake from the Social Science Unit of Kelaniya University, at a conference held at the Health Education Bureau in May.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” It teaches that “human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception” and that “from the first moment of existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” (UCAN)

Young Ilonggos stand for life

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 07:52

Joining the religious and other members of the laity, Iloilo students show their rejection of the “culture of death” by lighting candles, wearing white, and praying for the Philippines on Feb. 24, 2017 in Iloilo City. (Photo: John Belle Agramon)

Bishops condemn Abu’s beheading of German hostage

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 20:30

Abducted German national Jurgen Kantner in Abu Sayyaf video

MANILA – A Catholic prelate condemned the beheading of German national by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu on Sunday afternoon

Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz said the killing of Jurgen Kantner, 70, is a “sad moment for all people who respect and value life”.

“When does God’s justice fall upon them so that they may see the light? Are they really believers of one God or money is the one they adore?” Jumoad said.

The prelate said he hopes the military will go after the terrorist group and for the court “to enforce the teeth of the law”.

“We pray for the soul of the victim of the latest beheading,” Jumoad added.

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel called the act “inhuman” and called on the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The German was killed as the deadline set by the Abu Sayyaf for the P30 million ($600,000) ransom expired.

Kanter and his wife, Sabine Merz, were abducted from their yacht in waters off southern Philippines in November last year.

The dead body of Sabine Merz was later found on board the vessel off Sulu. She had gunshot wounds and bruises.

Chief presidential peace adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza said the government exhausted all efforts to save Kantner “but to no avail”.

“We grieve as we strongly condemn the barbaric beheading of yet another kidnap victim, German Juergen Gustav Kantner in Sulu,” Dureza said. “We condole with his family, friends and loved ones.”

“Terrorism has no place in a country like ours and we as a people must confront violent extremism every time it rears its ugly head.”

“Another precious life had been needlessly lost. There must be a stop to this killing of the innocent and the helpless,” he said.

Bishops condemn Abu’s beheading of German hostage

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 19:52

Abducted German national Jurgen Kantner in Abu Sayyaf video

MANILA, Feb. 27, 2017–A Catholic prelate condemned the beheading of German national by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu on Sunday afternoon

Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz said the killing of Jurgen Kantner, 70, is a “sad moment for all people who respect and value life”.

“When does God’s justice fall upon them so that they may see the light? Are they really believers of one God or money is the one they adore?” Jumoad said.

The prelate said he hopes the military will go after the terrorist group and for the court “to enforce the teeth of the law”.

“We pray for the soul of the victim of the latest beheading,” Jumoad added.

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel called the act “inhuman” and called on the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The German was killed as the deadline set by the Abu Sayyaf for the P30 million ($600,000) ransom expired.

Kanter and his wife, Sabine Merz, were abducted from their yacht in waters off southern Philippines in November last year.

The dead body of Sabine Merz was later found on board the vessel off Sulu. She had gunshot wounds and bruises.

Chief presidential peace adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza said the government exhausted all efforts to save Kantner “but to no avail”.

“We grieve as we strongly condemn the barbaric beheading of yet another kidnap victim, German Juergen Gustav Kantner in Sulu,” Dureza said. “We condole with his family, friends and loved ones.”

“Terrorism has no place in a country like ours and we as a people must confront violent extremism every time it rears its ugly head.”

“Another precious life had been needlessly lost. There must be a stop to this killing of the innocent and the helpless,” he said. (CBCPNews)

Iloilo archdiocese holds protest caravan vs killings, death penalty

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 19:45

Seminarians join the protest caravan against extrajudicial killings and the death penalty in five different areas in Iloilo and Guimaras provinces, Feb. 24, 2017. (Contributed photo)

MANILA, Feb. 27, 2017–The Jaro Archdiocesan Social Action Center (JSAC) held a protest caravan in Iloilo and Guimaras provinces on Friday to protest summary executions and the revival of the death penalty.

According to Msgr. Meliton Oso, JSAC director, said the caravan were simultaneously held in Guimaras, Iloilo City, central Iloilo, northern Iloilo, and southern Iloilo.

He said the activities included street dramas, distribution of printed materials, and the celebration of the Holy Mass.

“This is a challenge for everyone to be vigilant and to take a stand for the truth and the sacredness of life,” Oso said.

The JSAC also sent letters to seven lawmakers, asking them to speak out and condemn the more than 7,600 deaths linked to the ruthless anti-drug campaign of the Duterte administration.

“As our voice and representative in Congress, can we expect to hear you condemn in the strongest possible words the evil of EJK and argue intelligently about our vehement opposition to the reimposition of the death penalty,” part of the letter read.

It added that “deep root of the drug problem and criminality is the poverty of majority, the destruction of family, and corruption in society,” quoting an earlier statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

The letters were given to Guimaras Rep. Ma. Lucille Nava, Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas and Iloilo Representatives Oscar Garin Jr. (1st District), Arcadio Gorriceta (2nd District), Arthur Defensor Jr. (3rd District), Ferjenel Biron (4th District) and Raul Tupas (5th District).

The National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (Nassa) has been supporting various protests calling for an end to summary killings and for respect of the dignity of life.

Earlier, Nassa together with the other diocesan social action centers released a statement condemning the “morally unacceptable killing of drug traffickers without due process, even in the name of just cause.” (CBCPNews)

Humility is the first step to unity, Pope tells Catholics, Anglicans

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 18:38

VATICAN, Feb. 26, 2017-– During his Sunday visit to Rome’s Anglican parish of All Saints, Pope Francis voiced gratitude for the good relations Catholics and Anglicans now enjoy, and said that on the path toward full communion, humility has to be the point of departure.

“(Humility) is not only a beautiful virtue, but a question of identity,” the Pope said in his Feb. 26 visit to the Anglican parish of All Saints.

He noted that in evangelizing the Christians in Corinth, St. Paul had to “grapple” with the fact that relations with the community weren’t always good. But when faced the question of how to carry out the task despite ongoing tensions, “where does he begin? With humility.”

“Paul sees himself as a servant, proclaiming not himself but Christ Jesus the Lord. And he carries out this service, this ministry according to the mercy shown him,” he said, adding that this ministry is done “not on the basis of his ability, nor by relying on his own strength, but by trusting that God is watching over him and sustaining his weakness with mercy.”

To become humble, he said, “means drawing attention away from oneself, recognizing one’s dependence on God as a beggar of mercy: this is the starting point so that God may work in us.”

Francis then quoted a former president of the World Council of Churches, who described Christian evangelization as “a beggar telling another beggar where he can find bread.”

“I believe Saint Paul would approve,” he said, because “he grasped the fact that he was fed by mercy and that his priority was to share his bread with others: the joy of being loved by the Lord, and of loving him.”

Pope Francis spoke to a crowd of both Catholic and Anglican faithful during his Feb. 26 visit to the Anglican church of All Saints, which marked the first time a Roman Pontiff has set foot in an Anglican parish inside his own diocese of Rome.

This visit coincided with the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Anglican parish community in the heart of the Eternal City, and consisted of a short choral Evensong service, during which the Pope blessed and dedicated an icon of “St. Savior” commissioned for the occasion.

During the ceremony, the symbolic “twinning” of All Saints Anglican Church with the Catholic parish of “Ognissanti” – the only Catholic parish in Rome dedicated to All Saints – also took place, forming strong ecumenical ties between the two.

Ognissanti is the parish where Bl. Paul VI, on March 7, 1965, celebrated the first Mass in Italian following the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

After his arrival, Pope Francis was greeted by the church’s pastor, Rev. Johnathan Boardman, and Rev. Robert Innes, Bishop of the Church of England Diocese in Europe.

In his greeting, Innes thanked Pope Francis for his “global leadership, and for the particular inspiration you have been to those of us in the Anglican Communion,” particularly when it comes to the issues of the poor, migrants, refugees, and human trafficking.

“Within Europe and our diocese, you have challenged members of the European Union to rediscover their Christian heritage and values. Your published work speaks far beyond Rome in addressing difficult ethical issues that face us all,” he said.

Innes voiced his hope and prayer that the Pope’s visit would be “one more small step in further strengthening the unity between our churches and in celebrating the deep bonds of Anglican Roman Catholic friendship that we already enjoy.”

After singing Evensong, Pope Francis gave a homily, during which he noted that “a great deal has changed” both in Rome and in the world since the parish’s founding 200 years ago.

“In the course of these two centuries, much has also changed between Anglicans and Catholics,” he said, noting that while in the past the Churches viewed each other “with suspicion and hostility,” today we recognize one another as we truly are: brothers and sisters in Christ, through our common baptism.”

Francis pointed to the icon he blessed, noting that when looking at it, Jesus “to call out to us, to make an appeal to us: ‘Are you ready to leave everything from your past for me? Do you want to make my love known, my mercy?’”

“His gaze of divine mercy is the source of the whole Christian ministry,” the Pope said, and turned to the ministry of St. Paul, particularly in the community of Corinth.

As the Apostle’s letters show, he “did not always have an easy relationship” with the community in Corinth, the Pope said, noting that at one point there was even “a painful visit” during which “heated words” were exchanged in writing.

But by living his ministry in light of the mercy that he’s received, St. Paul “does not give up in the face of divisions, but devotes himself to reconciliation,” Francis observed, explaining that Christians of different confessions must have the same attitude.

“When we, the community of baptized Christians, find ourselves confronted with disagreements and turn towards the merciful face of Christ to overcome it, it is reassuring to know that we are doing as Saint Paul did in one of the very first Christian communities,” he said.

The Pope then noted how at perhaps the most difficult moment St. Paul had with the community in Corinth, the Apostle cancelled a trip he was planning to make, and renounced the gifts he would have received.

However, while there were certainly tensions in their relationship, “these did not have the final word,” Francis said, explaining that the two communities eventually reconciled and the Christians in Corinth eventually helped St. Paul in his ministry to the poor and needy.

“Solid communion grows and is built up when people work together for those in need,” he said, adding that “through a united witness to charity, the merciful face of Jesus is made visible in our city.”

Pope Francis then voiced his gratitude that after “centuries of mutual mistrust,” Catholics and Anglicans can now “recognize that the fruitful grace of Christ is at work also in others.”

“We thank the Lord that among Christians the desire has grown for greater closeness, which is manifested in our praying together and in our common witness to the Gospel, above all in our various forms of service,” he said.

Although the path to full communion can at times seem “slow and uncertain,” the Pope said the two communities ought to be encouraged by his visit to the Anglican parish and the joint prayer.

The visit, he said, “is a grace and also a responsibility: the responsibility of strengthening our ties, to the praise of Christ, in service of the Gospel and of this city.”

Francis closed his homily encouraging both Catholics and Anglicans to work together “to become ever more faithful disciples of Jesus, always more liberated from our respective prejudices from the past and ever more desirous to pray for and with others.”

After his homily, Pope Francis took three questions from the congregation on the state of Catholic-Anglican relations today, his approach to relations versus that of his direct predecessor Benedict XVI and what Catholics and Anglicans can learn from the “creativity” of Churches in the global south, specifically Africa and Asia.

In his answer to the first question, the Pope noted that despite a turbulent past, relations between Catholics and Anglicans today “are good. We see each other as brothers.” He added that monasteries and the communion of Saints are two particular “strengths” the Churches have in common.

He also stressed the importance of not taking certain moments of history out of context and using them as ammo to damage current relations, saying “a historic fact must be read in the hermeneutic of that moment, not in another hermeneutic.”

In the second question it was asked if Pope Francis, by emphasizing a strategy of “walking and working” together toward unity was perhaps the opposite of Benedict XVI, who at one point warned that collaboration in social action shouldn’t take priority over theological matters.

Francis responded to the question with a joke told to him by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, that while the different Churches work together on other things, the theologians “can go to an island” and have their discussions there.

Theological questions are important, he said, noting that there are “many things in which we still don’t agree.”

But having this discussion “can’t be done in a laboratory, it has to be done walking,” he said, explaining that “we are on a journey.”

It’s important to have these theological discussions, “but in the meantime we help each other” though acts of charity such as serving the poor, migrants and refugees, he said, adding that “you can’t have ecumenical dialogue that is stopped…you have to do it walking.”

When responding to the third question, Pope Francis noted that “young Churches” in Africa and Asia do have “a different vitality because they are different and they look for ways to express themselves differently.”

However, the “older Churches” in European countries, also have their own benefits, he said, noting that they have had time to “mature” and deepen in many things, including theological and ecumenical questions.

The Pope acknowledged that young Churches “have more creativity,” just as the European Church did when it began, and said there is “a strong need” for the two – old and young – to collaborate together.

As an example, he revealed that he is considering a trip to South Sudan sometime this year, and explained that the idea came from a recent visit the heads of three major Christian churches in the country to Rome.

In October Archbishop Paulino Luduku Loro of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba traveled to Rome alongside ev. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Archbishop of the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, and Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, to explain the dire situation of their country, and their joint collaboration in working to quell the effects of the crisis.

Pope Francis noted that during his Oct. 27, 2016,  meeting with the three, they invited him to come, but told him “don’t do it alone,” and requested that he make the trip alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Primate of the Anglican Communion.

He said the trip hasn’t been confirmed since situation on the ground is so risky, but assured that it’s “being studied,” because each of the Churches there “have the will to work for peace” together.

The Pope ended his answer to the question with the suggestion that, given the benefits of both the “old” and “young” Churches throughout the world, there be an exchange set up where priests from Europe travel to the “younger Churches” for a pastoral experience, rather than it always being the other way around.

“It would do us well,” he said, “You learn a lot.” (Elise Harris/CNA) 

Marriage prep should be more than just a few courses, Pope tells priests

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 18:36

Newly married couples meet Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 9, 2015. (L’Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN, Feb. 25, 2017-– On Saturday Pope Francis told a group of parish priests training on the new marriage annulment process to place strong emphasis on good preparation that isn’t limited to just a few courses, but extends even to the first few years after marriage.

“I ask myself how many of these youth who come to marriage preparation courses understand what ‘marriage,’ the sign of the union of Christ and the Church, means,” the Pope said Feb. 25.

“They say yes, but do they understand this? Do they have faith in this?” he asked, and voiced his conviction that “a true catechumenate is needed for the sacrament of marriage.”

Part of this formation process he said, means being thorough, not “to make preparation with two or three meetings and then go forward.”

During marriage prep, couples must be helped to understand “the profound meaning of the step that they are about to take.” This support must also continue through the celebration of marriage itself and even through the first years after, he said.

Marriage, he said, “is the icon of God, created for us by him, who is the perfect communion of the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The love of the Trinity and Christ’s love for his bride, the Church, must therefore be “the center of marriage catechesis and evangelization.”

Whether it’s through personal or communitarian encounters, and whether they are planned or spontaneous, “never tire of showing to all, especially to spouses, (the) great mystery” of God’s love, he said.

The Pope spoke to priests participating a formation course for the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Holy’s See’s main court, dedicated to the new marriage annulment process, which went into effect Dec. 10, 2016. Held in Rome, the course ran from Feb. 22-25, and was closed by an audience with the Pope.

The course follows a similar one held in March 2016, but which was directed specifically toward bishops.

In his speech, Francis said priests have a twofold responsibility when it comes to marital ministry: to always bear witness to the beauty of marriage, and to be a consistent support to couples, regardless of their marital status.

He noted that priests are often “the first interlocutors” of young couples who want to get married, and are also the first ones these couples go to when problems or crisis come up, including the request for an annulment of their marriage.

Faced with so many “complex situations” affecting families today, “no one knows better than you and is in contact with the reality of the social fabric in the area,” experiencing firsthand the complexity of various situations they encounter, including valid sacramental marriages; domestic partnerships; civil unions; failed marriages and families and youth, both happy and unhappy.

“For each person and each situation,” he said, “you are called to be travel companions in order to bear witness and to support.”

The Pope stressed that a priest’s first concern is that of “bearing witness to the grace of the sacrament of marriage and the primordial good of the family” by proclaiming that “marriage between a man and a woman is a sign of the spousal union between Christ and the Church.”

This witness is also shown when accompanying young couples on their journey “with care,” showing them how to live in times of “light and darkness, in moments of joy and those in fatigue,” always showing the beauty of marriage.

Francis told the priests that while bearing witness to the beauty of marriage, they must also care for and support “those who realize the fact that their marriage is not a true sacramental marriage and want to leave this situation.”

Because of the “delicate” nature of this type work, the Pope said priests must do it “in such a way that your faithful recognize you not so much as experts in bureaucratic actions or judicial norms, but as brothers who place themselves in an attitude of listening and understanding.”

He told them to imitate “the style” of the Gospel by meeting with and listening not only to engaged or married couples, but also youth who prefer to cohabitate rather than getting married.

People in these situations “are among the poor and little ones toward whom the Church, in the footsteps of her master and Lord, wants to be a mother who never abandons but who draws near and cares for them,” Francis said.

“Even these people are loved by the heart of Christ,” he said, telling priests to “have a gaze of tenderness and compassion toward them.”

This type of care and attention “is an essential part of your work in promoting and defending the sacrament of marriage,” the Pope said, adding that the parish is the place “par excellence” for the “salus animarum (salvation of souls).”

Pope Francis then pointed to a recent speech he gave to the Rota in which he told them to implement “a true catechumenate” of future spouses which covers all stages of the sacramental path, from the time of marriage preparation, the celebration of the sacrament and the first years immediately after.

“To you pastors, indispensable collaborators of the bishops, is primarily entrusted this catechumenate,” he said, and encouraged them to implement it “regardless of the difficulties you could encounter.”

Francis closed his speech by thanking the priests for their commitment to announcing “the Gospel of the family.”

He prayed that the Holy Spirit would help them “to be ministers of peace and consolation in the midst of the holy faithful people of God, especially the most fragile and those in need of your pastoral support.” (Elise Harris/CNA)

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