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We suffered a victory!

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 08:00

Fr. Jerome R. Secillano, MPA
Collection Box


The overwhelming, high trust rating of the President seems to imply that Mr. Duterte is doing what is right for the country. Some, though, easily questioned the integrity of surveys and even downplayed their worth. But the President’s devoted supporters, particularly on social media all the more expressed firm support for him and claimed that his critics are the ones to blame for the problems besetting the country.

Well, the President has noble plans for the country. His intention to free the country from the drug problem and corruption is very admirable. I think, no one in his right mind would dare question such principled stance. Same with his intention to keep the West Philippine Sea, put an end to contractualization, increase the take home pay of soldiers and policemen, raise the Social Security System (SSS) pension, waive public school tuition fees, have our own independent foreign policies, put an end to armed rebellion, and many others. These are populist declarations, which we have already heard in the past, but his resolute political will to make these happen is what sets him apart from other leaders who came ahead of him.

But these are mere intentions, the implementation of which cannot be carried out so easily. The internal government systems and the political circumstances we have practically prevent the timely and immediate execution of what the President sees as needed by the country. No wonder, the President would occasionally quip about arrogating to himself the vast powers of the State to make decision-making a one-man act without the usual nitty-gritty of bureaucratic requirements. This also prompted Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to say that, “the Rodrigo Duterte during the campaign is not the same as the Rodrigo Duterte now that he is president”.

It’s easy to blame Diokno for what seems to be a stupid remark, but that is the truth. All policies needed to be studied. They cannot simply be formulated and then implemented at the behest of somebody without diligently studying both its impacts and externalities. In policy-making, externalities are the unintended results or effects of a policy. They are usually objectionable effects that should not simply be overlooked.

Hence, the two-thousand-peso promise for SSS pensioners, though believed to be practically beneficial, was decreased to one thousand because the former, according to studies, will be detrimental in the long run to all SSS stakeholders. This is also true for the promised bonuses for soldiers and policemen. The Department of Budget explained that it will be hard-pressed to look for funds for the staggering amount that will be spent for our Armed and Police Forces. The fulfillment of this promise, therefore, will have to wait a little longer than expected.

The country’s ownership claim of the West Philippine Sea also hit a snag despite the favorable ruling of the arbitral tribunal in The Hague. We do not know what’s keeping the government from asserting the country’s rights to it, but what stood out during the 2016 election campaign was the brave promise of a candidate to ride a jet ski to Panatag Shoal and plant the Philippine flag on its shore.

Lastly, we heard that the candidate who eventually won in the election is now playing footsie with his Chinese counterpart while howling at his critics that it is plain stupidity to go to war with China. But nobody, I guess, even expressed the slightest hint of waging war against China as we pursue our rights over the disputed territory. So, while the Chinese are fortifying their forces in the contested islands, the President is busy picking on his critics, especially the Church, and berating some bishops over the so-called extra judicial killings (EJKs) linked to the country’s drug problem.
Realistically, the drug problem cannot be eradicated in six months as the President has promised. Mexico and Colombia, countries known as havens of drug manufacturing and trafficking, continue until today to wage war against drugs to no avail.

The rampant killings as a result of this war on drugs seem to be a losing strategy. But, I still commend the President for at least exposing to the public the gravity of the drug problem and for addressing the involvement of politicians and hoodlums both in robes and in uniforms as either protectors or members of drug syndicates. But to rebuke the Church and hurl invectives at the bishops because they criticize EJKs is not only foul but also disdainful. Worse, the President’s accusations are supported merely by unfounded allegations from a book that contained at best “ecclesiastical rumors”.

When protesting against the rampant killings happening all over the country, the Church does not claim moral superiority over others. The Church’s criticism of EJKs stems not merely from the moral standpoint but from the legal perspective as well. Since when was murder legalized?

Critics should not expect the Church to preach support for murder. To do so means to go against the explicit command of God not to kill and to violate existing legal laws which our government itself enacted.

The Church does not condone criminals and the proliferation of drugs. Criminals should be punished and illegal drugs should be eradicated. But killing with impunity is not the way to solve the problem, rather, it exacerbates the problem.

The Church, in helping the government address the drug issue, formulated community-based programs that include, among others, psycho-spiritual counseling, retreats, catechetical instructions, livelihood training, sports, and other physical activities as well as other kinds of formation not only for drug dependents but also for their families. And contrary to the allegations of critics, the Church in fact, built several drug rehabilitation facilities that can be found in Masbate, Naga City, Cebu City, and Bulacan.

The Church is not the President’s enemy. It is actually helping the government address the problem in the way it can. It is unfair to even think that the Church would not want the President to succeed. The Church supports his best intentions, but will consistently go against strategies that are illegal, unethical, and immoral.

For many Filipinos, Mr. Duterte is their best chance to make life better. For them, the President’s unorthodox approach to issues is like a breath of fresh air that forebodes a bright future for the country.

Similarly, when Glasnost and Perestroika became the foundation of reforms in the now defunct Soviet Union, the Soviets were very ecstatic and hopeful. It was for them the beginning of change and an end to the repressive communist regimes. But it was too late for them to realize that the reform movement lacked the spirit it promised prompting Alexander Yakovlev, an ally of Mikhail Gorbachev, to say, “It seems to me that there is a lot of theatricality and exaggeration in this confusion of minds, this whirlwind of events, outburst of emotions and ambitions”. Simply put, the Soviet people felt that they practically “suffered a victory” in spite of reforms anchored on “socialism with a human face”.

Lest we forget, despite the good intentions of our present leadership, killing now seems to be the “new normal”, signs of authoritarianism are already apparent, disregard for basic human rights is now evident, and unfulfilled promises are now piling-up. They’re not good indicators of a promising future but they are possibly clues that under this administration, “change SCAMMING”!

Joyful at 25

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 08:00

Fr. Carmelo O. Diola
Spaces of Hope


It is difficult to contain my joy.

When I first met some Tokhang surrenderers of Barangay Subangdako in Mandaue City, they were unkempt and could not even look you in the eye, their eyes seemingly always downcast. They just mumbled their answers, in one to three incoherent words, whenever you asked them a question. Fear and suspicion were written on their faces. They were in a different world.

But that was Friday, Aug. 19, 2016 during our first Lectio Divina session with about 20 recovering addicts at the garden of Barangay Subangdako. Two Sundays later, on Aug. 28, we organized a family gathering of the surrenderees, which brought in about 90 of them. We offered them an opportunity to join a pathway to recovery–all of six months beginning with assessment and ending with reintegration. About 25 signed up, although our evening sessions ballooned to 50 or even 80 participants.

We decided to call the program “Labang” from “Lahat Bangon” a play on words mixing Tagalog (“Lahat Bangon” = “All rise up” or “All get involved”) and Cebuano (“Labang” = “to cross or pass over”). “Subangdako” seems to fit in nicely since it refers to “big river”. There is an exodus of sorts here.

Now on their sixth month of daily interventions from volunteer groups within and outside the barangay, the 25 “Labangers” are about to graduate from the program, all of them negative of drugs as their drug tests confirm. But more than that, they have found themselves and have found a larger family. After all, as one best-selling books on the war on drugs, Chasing the Scream, puts it: “The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connection.”

Labang” is a Community-Based Rehab Program (CBRP). The 25 clients now belong to a different world. They have rediscovered the joys of neatness and of taking care of themselves. They look at you straight in the eye and a wide grin is never far from them. When they talk, they let out a stream of coherent words. They will soon undergo training under TESDA and job opportunities beckon. They plan activities and manifest hope.

Yes, it is difficult to contain my joy.


Every Friday evening, my Dilaab team and I conduct a Lectio Divina for “Labangers”. On first Fridays, we celebrate Mass. During these sessions, we divide ourselves into small group to listen to life testimonies. Members of the small groups belong to the same sitio so as to correspond to nascent BECs. I asked two of my team members to share what stories have touched them most.

One is that of a jeepney driver who has been an addict for 20 years. He was familiar with all the distribution points of illegal drugs. Oftentimes, his wife would be searching for him since he would not go home. He joined Labang but without the intention of mending his ways even if, in his words, there would be “five Dutertes.” But he found himself changing as he underwent the modules, particularly Lectio Divina. His craving for drugs ceased and his new “addiction” is attending the activities of “Labang.” He attends the sessions even if this means some loss in income since his body and mind craves the interventions.

Another story is that of a husband who was an addict and a wife who was sober. He had given up on his responsibilities for the family. The wife had called him “demonyo”, and his children referred to him as “adik”. His wife found it hard to believe that he was taking his recovery seriously when he joined “Labang.” There was an instance when he asked his wife to accompany him to Sunday Mass and she refused since she did not believe him. But gradually, she saw him transform. At one time during the program, he experienced a “lapse”. Because of this, she resolved to accompany him even during the sessions of the rehab program. This gained her a deep appreciation of the program. For the first time, they shall be celebrating Feb.14 as husband and wife.

There is also a woman who had neglected her children due to drugs. They, in turn, developed the habit of living their lives as if she did not exist. They did not call her “Mama”. With the changes coming out of her “Labang” experience, the woman started to take care of herself and her family again. Her children have forgiven her and they now call her “Mama.”

Finally, there is the success story of a young man who had dropped out of school due to addiction. When he joined “Labang” he underwent an ALS (Alternative Learning System) module of the Department of Education. He found out he was good in mathematics and become the regional champion of ALA in mathematics.

While admittedly these are still stories in progress and that “once an addict always an addict” and that having a support group is vital for sustaining sobriety, as members of the 12-step support group for recovering addicts are quick to point out, these brave souls have discovered the true light in their lives through the holistic interventions they undergo. This is reason for joy.


The present pause in Tokhang is a welcome development. While I continue to maintain that even before the so-called vigilante killings, the drug culture was already the culture of death in the country, the conduct of the war on drugs was moving out of control. We seemed to be replacing drug addiction with another form of addiction – blood lust. This is a terrible blind spot among public officials and citizens who are advocating for a return to capital punishment. This is a short-cut to the culture of citizens lusting after blood yet with no clear gains in public order and security. Only the poor will suffer.

Operation Tokhang had resulted in a Yolanda-like scenario where all sectors are overwhelmed and looking for an adequate response. It is clear that working individually in responding to the aftermath of Tokhang, the State and the Church have reached dead-ends in their efforts. Collaboration is imperative. We need to come together bringing in and sharing our core competencies and resources.

Although this is just the first run, the first graduates of Labang show that CBRP is indeed possible when the barangay chairman and the parish priest come together and form the nucleus of an expanded UBAS (Ugnayan ng Barangay at mga Simbahan) at the grassroots level. The recent “ceasefire” in the war on drugs should provide us a breather to replicate Labang and other similar CBRPs.

Sadly, the focus of the funds that government is sourcing for its rehabilitation program for drug addicts is for the building of rehab centers. While centers are needed, it is sobering to think that, according to medical experts, only 10 percent at most of those who use drugs need to be rehabilitated in centers. In our case, only about 80 recovering addicts who were assessed needed a rehab center.

In addition, centers necessarily create artificial environments for clients since their families are not with them. When they finish their rehab, they need to be reintegrated into their community and when there is no support, relapse looms high. CBRP provides a more natural environment. Centers are also quite expensive, understandably so. In Manila, a center that charges Php30,000 monthly is already considered reasonable. In Labang, the out-of-pocket expenses, mostly on food, was about Php3,000.

Labang, anyone?

Europe will be ‘adrift’ if it loses Christian roots, faith leaders warn

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 09:59

PARIS, France, Mar 3, 2017–Catholic and Orthodox leaders in a joint statement urged Europeans to remember their Christian roots, and to return to them during this time of “widespread concern for (the) future” of Europe.

“…our societies are turning to their spiritual resources, to draw out means of responding to the situation that Europe is experiencing, and to trace the path ahead for a future full of hope and greater confidence,” the leaders said.

Screen grab from CNA

During the 5th European Catholic-Orthodox Forum, 12 delegates of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) met in Paris with 12 representatives of the Orthodox Churches in Europe last month to discuss the theme, “Europe in fear of the threat from fundamentalist terrorism, and the value of human person and religious freedom.’’

While governments guarantee the “fundamental rights of the human person,” many forces are currently at work that seek to marginalize or eliminate religion from the public square, the leaders said.

“We believe that Europe needs more than ever the breath of faith in Christ and the hope that it provides,” they said. “Christianity is a marker of identity that does not deny others their human rights, but seeks to cooperate with all for the realization of the common good.”

They focused in particular on the effects that terrorism and extreme secularization have on young people. Often, they noted, radicalized terrorists are distraught young people who see violence as an outlet, and as a way to exact revenge on non-believers and “infidels” whom they’ve been taught to see as “other.”

“Youth, however, is the time of hope and of building the future. We invite all young people to commit themselves to building a fraternal world that excludes no one,” they said.

“We do not hesitate to recall that our Churches themselves have undertaken just such a work to gain a deeper understanding of the word of God in the Scriptures not according to ‘the letter that kills’ but according to ‘the Spirit that gives life’ (2 Corinthians 3:6).”

They also noted the effect that some concepts of secularism are having on the young people of Europe, which have led “entire generations to a form of religious illiteracy which deprives citizens of the basic knowledge that is necessary for them to understand their own cultural heritage, as well as the cultural heritage of other traditions that are inspired by religion.”

Ignoring the religious heritage of Europe often leads, even if unintentionally, to discrimination and persecution within societies that claim to be open, they said.

“Cultural relativism, devoid of truth or moral good, cannot be established as dogma, because this actually leads to division between human beings.”

Addressing the large waves of migrants that Europe has experienced in the past few years, the leaders described welcoming the stranger as a Christian duty, and urged them to remember Abraham, whom Christians, Jews and Muslims have in common as a father in faith. They added that migrants in turn have a duty to peacefully integrate into their host countries, which must be united by a foundation that respects the religious and human rights of all people.

“Pluralistic societies are a real challenge for contemporary mankind, especially in Europe. Our long Christian tradition has taught us that the Gospel of Jesus has been able – and is still able – to bring men and women of every origin together in one single people of faith,” they said.

Ultimately, they said, in order for peace to prevail in Europe, the continent must be willing to engage in a dialogue with people of different faiths, and to return to its Christian roots, which provided Europe with “its universalist vision, its notion of the dignity of the human person and its moral principles.”

“If you are cut off from your roots, you will come adrift,” they said. “The emptiness within especially exposes the youngest people to the worst temptations. We firmly repeat that the Christian faith reconciles all the personal and social dimensions that are found in the human person.”

Head Knight of Columbus honored for aiding persecuted Christians

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 09:57
BELMONT N.C., Mar 1, 2017–Praising his “resolute defense of persecuted Christians,” an institute at Belmont Abbey College has awarded its Benedict Leadership Award to Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.

The Benedict Leadership Institute cited Anderson’s leading role in advocating protection for Christians facing genocide in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. The Knights of Columbus have raised more than $11 million for humanitarian relief for Christian refugees in the Middle East.

“This is an area of great concern to the Board, and it is our hope that your award will bring attention and relief to persecuted Christians and move the public to act more decisively in their behalf,” Conor Gallagher, executive director of the institute, told Anderson in a statement.

The award aims to recognize men and women whose achievement reflects the heroism and leadership of St. Benedict. Recipients will deliver a public address and will receive a $10,000 cash award.

Anderson’s award will be presented in a public ceremony at Belmont Abbey College March 24.

The Benedict Leadership Institute was founded in 2016 with the goals of developing Catholic leaders who can transform society in light of their faith. (CNA)

Local bishop: ‘The Madonna has not appeared in Medjugorje’

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 09:56

MOSTAR, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Feb 28, 2017–The bishop of the local Church where Medjugorje is located reiterated on Sunday his long-held belief that the alleged Marian apparitions at the site are false.

“The position of this Curia throughout this period has been clear and resolute: these are not true apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno wrote in a Feb. 26 statement on his diocesan website.

He referred to investigations into the authenticity of the supposed apparitions that began with the diocese in 1982, and which have continued to the present time at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The alleged apparitions originally began June 24, 1981, when six children in Medjugorje, a town in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, began to experience phenomena which they have claimed to be apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to these six “seers,” the apparitions contained a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.

These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their first occurrence, with three of the original six children – who are now young adults – continuing to receive apparitions every afternoon because not all of the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.

Since their beginning, the alleged apparitions have been a source of both controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the city for pilgrimage and prayer, and some claiming to have experienced miracles at the site, while many others claim the visions are non-credible.

The bishop holds the supposed apparitions to be nothing but a manipulation of the visionaries and the priests who work with them.

Bishop Peric, who was ordained a priest of the diocese which he now heads in 1969, emphasized his devotion to Mary, and his incredulity regarding the alleged apparitions in Medjugorje.

“During the course of my episcopal ministry, first as coadjutor (1992/93) and later as ordinary, with preaching and the publication of books, as well as with more than fifty Marian and Mariological articles, I have tried to present the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the incarnation and the work of the Son of God and Her Son, and her intercession for the whole Church, of which she is mother according to grace. At the same time I have highlighted, as was done by my predecessor of happy memory, Bishop Pavao Zanic, the non-authenticity of the apparitions, which by this time have reached the number of  47,000.”

The statement delves extensively in what Bishop Radic considers the ambiguousness of the apparition.

“The female figure who supposedly appeared in Medjugorje behaves in a manner completely different from the real Virgin Mother of God in the apparitions currently recognized as authentic by the Church: usually she does not speak first, she laughs in a strange way, before some questions she disappears and appears again, she obeys the ‘visionaries’ and the local pastor who make her come down from the hill into the church even against her will. She doesn’t know with certainty how many more times she will appear, she allows some of those present to step on her veil extended on the ground, and to touch her dress and her body. This is not the Virgin of the Gospels.”

The bishop also takes issue with the visionaries’ request for a “visible sign” from the Virgin and the promise from one the visionaries that there will be a sign at the top of the hill in the form of water.

“After almost four decades there is no sign whatsoever, nor water, just fantasies,” the bishop wrote.

The statement also makes detailed reference to the inconsistencies among the various visionaries regarding the purpose of the apparitions, as well as their duration.

“All the ‘visionaries’ but one agreed that the Virgin would appear for three more days … but she appeared to have changed her mind and still ‘appears’ for 37 years,” Bishop Radic said.

The statement mentions other irregularities, such as a strange trembling in the apparition, a false anniversary of the beginning of the apparition, inconsistencies in whether the apparition has a child, inexplicable silences, strange messages, discrepancies in dress, nervousness rather than peace among the seers, scandalous touching of the apparition, and intentional manipulation of the apparition.

“Considering everything that has been examined and studied by this diocesan Curia, including the investigation of the first seven days of the alleged apparitions, we can affirm in peace: the Madonna has not appeared in Medjugorje! This is the truth that we sustain, and we believe in the word of Jesus, according to which the truth will set us free.”

In April 1991, the bishops of the former Yugoslavia determined that “on the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

On the basis of those findings the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directed in October 2013 that clerics and the faithful “are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.”

In January 2014, a Vatican commission completed an investigation into the supposed apparitions’ doctrinal and disciplinary aspects, and was to have submitted its findings to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope Francis visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2015, but declined to stop at Medjugorje during his trip.

Earlier this month, Francis appointed Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warszawa-Praga as a delegate of the Holy See to look into the pastoral situation at Medjugorje. The Polish archbishop is to “suggest possible pastoral initiatives for the future” after acquiring a deeper knowledge of the local pastoral situation. (CNA)

Cardinal Bo warns of ‘environmental holocaust’

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 09:54

MANDALAY, Mar 3, 2017–Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon warned that greed is fueling the world’s ecological crisis while equating the destructive powers of climate change to that of nuclear weapons.

Screen grab from UCAN

“Today we face an environmental holocaust. It is a scary moment,” Cardinal Bo said in his keynote speech at the Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious (AMOR) forum in Yangon on Feb. 27.

Just over 130 men and women religious attended the forum held at St. Mary’s Cathedral compound Feb. 27-March 3.

“Climate change is an atom bomb waiting to explode,” he said.

The 69-year-old cardinal told the forum that greed has unleashed ecological terrorism upon the Earth while adding that the poor are the most affected.

“Who is dying? The poor are dying,” he said.

During his speech, Cardinal Bo cited Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato si’ and said that degradation to the environment was being caused by “economic terrorists and ecological terrorists.”

Overall, Cardinal Bo’s speech stressed the forum’s theme “Call for Global Ecological Conversion.”


At the forum, Sister Margaret Maung, president of the Catholic Religious Conference of Myanmar, said action is required to put in place policies that promote sustainability and protect the environment.

Sister Maung told ucanews.com that it was significant that once-isolated Myanmar held the international religious conference.

“It is a special privilege for us to exchanged the ideas about ecology and for each country will draw an action plan on preserving our mother Earth,” said Sister Maung.

One of the five objectives of the forum was to undergo in-depth biblico-theological reflection on the challenges posed by Laudato si’ and of the Papal Bull Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy) by which Pope Francis convoked the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

AMRO was founded in 1972 and was created to enable women religious leaders across Asia to meet every three years to exchange ideas. It is AMRO’s first meeting in Myanmar.

Impoverished Myanmar is considered the second most vulnerable nation to climate change. (UCAN)

Archbishop of Singapore: Lent, reconciliation with God to overcome the emptiness of life

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 09:52

SINGAPORE, Mar 3, 2017–The Archbishop of Singapore, William Goh, sent the faithful the traditional pastoral letter for Lent. Exhorting the faithful to question the “void that can not explain” in their lives, Msgr. Goh encourages them to seek reconciliation with God, to repentance and forgiveness. This, according to the archbishop, is the way to happiness and peace. The sense of loss that is felt in life is due to the “bad habits” that “destroy not only our health, but they take away our peace, joy and happiness.”

He lists some examples: “You’re living a double life. Are you living a life of sin, a life of infidelity, betrayal, dispute and negativity towards people. It depends on anger, envy, laziness and greed, as well as lust. You would like to free yourself from the sins that hold you back, but you do not have the strength to confess and start all over again. ”

“This is the best time to return to God and find peace,” because “all his children are called to God’s goodness.” According to Msgr. Goh, Jesus was sent to help us understand that, overcoming the temptations, we can live in God’s grace.

God wants us to know that we are forgiven, says the archbishop, because this knowledge is required to forgive others. “Receiving the full pardon presupposes that we confess our sins and explicitly acknowledge that we are sinners.”

“The result of contrition of heart and repentance is the reward of joy and peace” which manifests itself in prayer and rediscover the joy of faith in God’s life.

According to Msgr. Goh, the magnitude of Lent is in not walk alone: ​​”We need our brothers and Borelli to accompany us on the journey of faith.”

“How could we conduct our way except by using the ways of grace that are granted?”

The prelate lists what he considers the three pillars of Lent, “the prayer, almsgiving and penance”: the first, he said the archbishop, is a necessary tool to conversion; penance protect us from being slaves to sin; through almsgiving “we learn to open our hearts to the suffering of others and in the process, to meet the mercy that God wants to give us. The poor often reveals the face of God and gives us a joy that money can not buy. ”

In conclusion, Msgr. Goh said that “Lent is a period of grace” wrong corners, and exhorts the faithful to undertake “together in this journey of 40 days to the Promised Land.” (AsiaNews)

Egypt’s Christians are being driven out – will the world notice?

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 09:50

CAIRO, Egypt, Mar 2, 2017–A spike in attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt, spurred by a video threat from ISIS, has drawn the prayers and concern of advocates, who are urging global leaders to take notice.

“Americans need to know that one of the oldest Christian communities in the world is under threat from being completely pushed out of Egypt,” which would be disastrous both for Egypt and for Christianity itself, Philippe Nassif, executive director of the advocacy group In Defense of Christians, told CNA.

“We pray for those suffering terrorism and violence, for God to grant them peace and reassurance that they are not forgotten by Him or by all those who not only witness their plight but strive to advocate for them,” His Grace Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said Tuesday.

There have been 40 reported murders of Christians in Egypt in the last three months, Bishop Angaelos said in a recent statement, “culminating in the most recent murders of seven Christians in Al-Arish,” the largest city in the country’s Sinai region.

Twenty-nine were killed in a bombing at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo in December. The Islamic State took credit for the bombing and released a video threatening to target Christian “crusaders” in Egypt.

“Oh crusaders in Egypt, this attack that struck you in your temple is just the first with many more to come, God willing,” they said.

Since the video’s release, more Christians have been killed in Egypt and hundreds have reportedly fled their homes in the Sinai region in the north of the country after several murders there, the group In Defense of Christians claimed.

Many of these Sinai residents are “very poor,” Nassif said, and have fled to churches, Coptic charities, or to relatives’ homes.

Bishop Angaelos insisted that “the one common denominator is that these innocent children, women and men have had their lives brutally and tragically ended for no other reason except that they are Christians,” noting that written threats have been left in villages “urging Christians to ‘leave or die’.”

The current Egyptian government has condemned the attacks and in the past has pledged to protect embattled Christian minorities in the country, but Christians still suffer most in rural areas outside the capital of Cairo where the national government has lesser oversight.

“The security situation in Sinai itself has just deteriorated dramatically in the past year,” Nassif said, in the area with a “large Christian presence.”

“The ISIS affiliates in the Sinai are basically using a really poor economic situation, and they’re taking advantage of a very difficult geographic area” to target Christians, he said, many of whom have been killed “in lone wolf attacks” intended to instill fear in the rest of the Christian population and drive them out.

“Their goal is to really create real deep anxiety among all the Christians in Egypt, and to sow this sort of narrative that they were part of this sort of counter-coup against the Muslim Brotherhood,” he continued.

The Muslim Brotherhood had governed Egypt before they were ousted in a 2013 military coup. General Abdul Fattah el-Sisi became president months later after elections were held, and Christians have been blamed by insurgents as aiding his rise to power.

The international community must take notice of this persecution, which has “gone largely unnoticed,” Bishop Angaelos stressed.

“In our fast moving world that is filled with so much news of tragedy, war and death, it is all too easy for atrocities to become ‘incidents,’ and for individuals suffering them to become mere statistics, very quickly pushed aside by the next item of news,” he stated.

“In the eyes of the perpetrators they are a viable target, and in the eyes of the world they become a regrettable phenomenon; yet what is actually left behind are traumatized individuals, families and communities that have lost loved ones, living the reality of themselves being targeted.”

In Defense of Christians is asking the U.S. government to advocate that Egypt “prioritize the protection of the Coptic community.”

Catholics must not only pray for the victims of these attacks, but also for those in the government charged with protecting them, and for the perpetrators, Bishop Angaelos insisted.

“We also pray for those in positions of authority and influence that they may be advocates for all those entrusted into their care. Finally, and not of least importance we pray for those who perpetrate these crimes, that they once again become conscious of the true value of every life that appears to be dispensable in their eyes.” (CNA)

Bishop of Hong Kong: Lent, “walk with Jesus” by helping the poor and families

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 09:49
HONG KONG, Mar 2, 2017–For Lent, the bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal. John Tong, addressed to the faithful the traditional pastoral letter. On the occasion, he emphasized the role of the family and marriage, as a place of construction of the person and of growth in reciprocal communion. Citing Amoris Letitia Pope Francis, Cardinal urges to have mercy on the wounded by life. Mercy does not mean accepting injustice, but have a “prophetic” role, denouncing and correcting those situations that crush the lives of individuals and families. Card. Tong mentions among them the rise in property prices in Hong Kong, as well as the working hours too long.

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ and Borelli

These words of the Bible tell us that Lent is approaching and remind us to look at life as a pilgrimage. We are seekers in mind and spirit. This journey that begins in the heart leads us to seek God’s will in our lives.

A pilgrim is not a tourist. The goal of a pilgrimage surpasses what can offer us any place we visit. It is the experience to get closer to Christ – to dwell in God – so that we can carry out the mission that God has entrusted to us.

Recently, during the Christmas period, we celebrated the joy of God in our midst . During the 40 days of Lent we must go one step further and learn how to walk with Jesus, who is God incarnate.

Our journey of conversion this Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, March 1. The whole Church will revive its efforts with prayer, fasting, abstinence, sacrifice and works of mercy – to prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ.

To fulfill the pastoral orientation of the diocese of marriage care, family and life, this year the preparatory commission for Lent proposes the theme Sustaining the values of family and marriage with the love of God . It also promotes various activities regarding spirituality and charity.

As the Gospel of the first Sunday of Lent says, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4: 4). For this reason, learning to walk with Christ begins with listening to the Word of God.

The Magi followed the star to find the Holy Child born in the manger; King Herod commanded the priests and scribes to search in the Hebrew scriptures the place where the new king was to be born, so the same way, if we look closely and open ourselves with humility, we will discover that God is sending us messages and lighting through people and the events around us.

Reading the Bible will give nourishment to our spiritual life and our acts of charity.

Lent and the rich liturgies of Holy Week are designed to prepare the catechumens to receive the sacraments of initiation on Easter night. They will become the sons and daughters of God, and members of the Church.

When the whole Church walks with the catechumens in this journey of faith, the faithful will experience Christ in the liturgy and the sacraments.

Let Christ guide us to walk with a firm step on the path of life and to overcome all kinds of limits and evidence to arrive safely to our eternal home in Heaven.

The conversion of our hearts pushes us also to pay attention to those around us. If we are familiar with the Word of God, we will have the strength to meet the needs of others and become a Christian who walks with others.

In addition to defending the value of marriage, family and life, the Church should also follow the exhortation of Pope Francis, who says, “the work of the church resembles that of a” field hospital ( Amoris Laetitia , 291).

The Church must also walk with the children of God weak and wounded, reconstructing their faith and hope. I ask all the parishes, schools and diocesan organizations, especially those agencies that provide social services and to listen, to study carefully  Amoris Laetitia , the exhortation of Pope Francis, and follow his pastoral councils, accompanying every couple, every family, and even every suffering individual in dealing with their problems. We should help them through their crisis and to find the way to overcome the difficulties.

In the recent Jubilee of Mercy, we did experience the merciful love of God the Father face that helps us to find the strength to renew ourselves and move on. It is clear that, only relying on the mercy of God and collaborating with the grace of God, we can continue to grow and progress in faith.

May every member of our diocese to extend the spirit of mercy and reach every needy in society, assist the frail and the poor and to be generous in supporting the many fundraising activities during Lent, serving those who are hungry and thirsty.

I would like to remind everyone that being compassionate does not mean tolerating unjust behaviors and conditions. On the contrary, the mercy of God the Father requires us to take a prophetic role, condemning clearly what hurts life, marriage and the family.

Only a most upright and equitable social environment can ensure the common good and the happiness of people. Recent studies show that Hong Kong’s long working hours and exorbitant real estate prices are rising. Everything upsets a normal family life. We pray that all areas of the territory can work together to develop social institutions that make the good of families.

The family is where a person rests and feeds, and where life has a healthy growth. May the Word of God to be the center of every family, accompanying members on the path of their lives, as they work vigorously to promote home-communion and mutual trust. In families where there is warmth and love, everyone will want to go home.

The path of the tip life to our eternal home in Heaven. There is where it really lies eternity. Let us encourage one another, we follow in the footsteps of Christ and we live – from marriage and family – care, and mutual communion.

We are messengers of love, we respond promptly to the call of God and take part in the holy goal of building the Kingdom of Heaven.

May God grant you and your families peace and thanks!” (AsiaNews)