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Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary TimeReading 1 GN 9:1-13
God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them:
“Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.
Dread fear of you shall come upon all the animals of the earth
and all the birds of the air,
upon all the creatures that move about on the ground
and all the fishes of the sea;
into your power they are delivered.
Every creature that is alive shall be yours to eat;
I give them all to you as I did the green plants.
Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat.
For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting:
from every animal I will demand it,
and from one man in regard to his fellow man
I will demand an accounting for human life.
If anyone sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
For in the image of God
has man been made.
Be fertile, then, and multiply;
abound on earth and subdue it.”
God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
and with every living creature that was with you:
all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals
that were with you and came out of the ark.
I will establish my covenant with you,
that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed
by the waters of a flood;
there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth.”
R. (20b) From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence,
That the name of the LORD may be declared in Zion,
and his praise, in Jerusalem,
When the peoples gather together,
and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
February 2, 2017
PRESIDENT RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE
Office of the President Republic of the Philippines Malacanang Palace, Manila
Dear President Duterte,
Greetings from the officers and members of Doctors for Life, Philippines, a national organization of Filipino doctors dedicated to promoting the protection of human life in all stages and conditions, especially the most vulnerable. We also promote respect for the rights of patients to autonomy and informed decision based on correct, truthful, and factual information as required by PHILHEALTH.
We share your desire to promote the health and welfare of all Filipinos, and particularly the poor, many of them living in abject poverty. We write at this time because we are concerned by some of the developments regarding the Reproductive Health Law ( RA 10354). There are a number of violations of the Constitution and of Existing laws in the original form which has been pointed out by the Supreme Court. One of the most serious being respect for the right to life from conception or fertilization… RA 10354 provides that drugs and devices that prevent implantation are prohibited, yet the Dept of Health continues to use and promote these. These birth control pills including the injectables and IUDs can prevent births by preventing implantation thus resulting to chemical abortion of newly-conceived human being. RA 10354 requires the Food and Drug administration ( FDA) to make a list of all these drugs based on available scientific data and public hearing but to this day that has not been done. This is in relation to the scientific data of the reality of “escape ovulation” inspite of taking the PILL This is the reason for the TRO imposed by the Supreme Court. Please take note that America eventually legalized abortion because the major argument of the RH lawyers was the fact that Pills and IUD are abortifacients so why was abortion illegal?
Other major concerns are its proven serious side effects such as premature high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, increased risk of developing Stroke and most of all breast Cancer. These have all been proven by large scale meta-analysis of research studies done in many parts of the world. Please take note that the TOP Three cause of death in our country are Heart diseases, Diseases of the Vascular System and Cancer ( Breast Cancer among women). Maternal death related to pregnancy is not even in the top ten causes of death.
No birth control drug or device work 100 % therefore inspite of its widespread promotion including among the young “unwanted pregnancy” have been rising because of failure rate which is highest with the condom.
We applaud the steps your administration is taking to improve government hospitals and provide them basic equipments. Many government hospitals may have new buildings but lack basic facilities like ECG, Chest Xray, incubator for premature babies, etc because once they
broke down there is great difficulty to repair or maintain them. There are no free simple medicines like antibiotics, fluids for hydration for the common ailments of children. Sick children are just given prescriptions which oftentimes parents cannot buy, but health centers are teeming with contraceptives which women get without genuine informed decision.
What we need are good prenatal care, well equipped hospitals with facilities to help mothers with complicated pregnancies ( which is not common) and a good blood bank. These should be close to lying in facilities in the provinces so the mothers can be attended to when the need arise.
The population control movement actually started in the early 1900 by Margaret Sanger.
We invite you to take note of her background, ideology and affiliations. Both Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio will not be very pleased.
Many Economist and demographers have long busted overpopulation as a myth. All of the Group of 8 powerful nations in the World who listened to this are now in experiencing demographic winter. That is why they are in need of workers and immigrants to sustain their economy. As demographer Julian Simon expound, “It is not slower population growth that brings prosperity but rather it is prosperity that slows population growth!” The best way to exit poverty is education and correct appropriation of resources and we are glad you have great interest in delivering basic services especially for the poor.
Our national fertility rate has fallen from eight children per Filipina to less than three within a little more than half a century. There is no sound reason to believe this trend will not continue, with or without contraceptives, because it is primarily a result of rural to urban migration, and educational and employment opportunities for women not contraception which inevitably includes abortion. Various researchers have already shown this.. The greater danger is that it will proceed to below-replacement levels, as it already has in most of the world. Among our neighbours the first to recognize that was Singapore. Japan, South Korea and Thailand have also realized this fact, and lately China realized its repercussion. Its population has grown too old to sustain the transition to a fully-developed status. An aging population brought about by below-replacement fertility also affects the social security programs which can become unsustainable, as many countries in Asia and Europe have realized. We should not make the same mistake.
We humbly request therefore, that these considerations be studied carefully. We need to do independent research and not rely on data provided by groups with vested interest on population control. (We invite you to review kissengerreport2004.pdf )
Enclosed herewith is a longer and detailed dissertation which we hope and pray your staff and other responsible agencies can review and research on independently.
DOLORES OCTAVIANO, MD, FPCP, FPSEM
Chair, Committee on Advocacy
Head Section of Endocrinology
St. Paul’s Hospital, Iloilo
REYNALDO J. ECHAVEZ, M.D
Co Chair Committee on Advocacy Former Governor Philippine Medical Asstn.
Professor of Medicine & Bioethics UST FMS
Advisory Board Professor of Medicine & Bioethics UST FMS
ORESTES MONZON, MD, FPCR
Philippine Heart Center
LIGAYA ACOSTA, PhD
Human Life Intl, Asia & Oceania
ELEANOR B. PALABYAB,MD, FPOGS
Assoc. Prof Davao Medical School
BENITO V. SUNGA, M.D,FPCS, FPUA
VP for Luzon St. Louie University, Baguio
RENE C. BULLECER, MD
Vice Pres for Visayas
AIDS FREE PHIL, CEBU
HERESE BORROMEO- LUMICAO MD, FPSMS, DPPS
VP for Mindanao
Servwide, Cagayan De Oro
The Cardinal’s talk was part of the continuing WYD-themed retreats held in Krakow, “Fire for us and the whole world”, reported Niedziela, the biggest Catholic weekly in Poland and Central-Eastern Europe, produced by the Archdiocese of Czestochowa.
Already in its fourth edition, the retreat on Feb. 11 focused on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Manila Archbishop shared about the “Gift of Fortitude”, in which he gave witness to the courage of the profession of faith of Christians in an era of numerous persecutions all over the world.
People in the Philippines and around the world can still watch the video of the event via Youtube.
Ewa Korbut, retreat volunteer, said the retreat had “a ‘little more feel’ of the World Youth Day because our speaker – who comes from the other end of the world- was also present at the festival of young people in Krakow and, more specifically, at the Mercy Center, where the catechesis in English was held.”
Other speakers of the event included Mateusz Ochman, Tomasz Adamski, and Monika Rybczyńska.
Every WYD: an encounter with Jesus
“Every celebration of the World Youth Day is actually an encounter with Jesus. Jesus, who speaks not only through the Pope, but also though the events of life, especially in the lives of other young people,” Tagle was recalled saying during WYD in Krakow.
“Carry the flame of your faith and ignite with it other flames, so that human hearts will beat to the rhythm of the Heart of Christ, which is ‘a flaming fire of love’,” said Krakow Archbishop, Cardinal Dziwisz, during the WYD opening Mass on July 26, 2016.
Filipinos in Poland avidly followed the event with Tagle according to Ronaldo Farrales, an IT consultant living with his family in Warsaw.
Filipino priest, Fr. Herbie Canete, R.C.J., of the Rogationist Community in Krakow, said that he and other priests also heard confessions during the retreat.
Aside from being a Doctor of Theology, Tagle is known to be heavily involved in charity work and the support of persecuted Christians as the head of Caritas Internationalis, not to mention his being the archbishop of a city that hosted the 10th WYD, one that still boasts the highest number of attendees during the closing Mass. (Fr. Mickey Cardenas/CBCP News)
Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR
Along the Way
As the death toll of the government’s war on drugs reach over seven thousand after just seven months, one of the questions frequently asked is: “why are many priests silent?” Day after day, the mass media report and show images of extra-judicial killings of suspected users and pushers perpetrated by police and by death squads. Yet, many if not most of the members of the clergy – with a few exceptions – remain silent even as the CBCP came out with several pastoral letters the latest of which was supposed to be read in churches all over the Philippines last Sunday (Feb. 5). So, how can the silence of many priests be explained?
Based on my own personal observation and from what I have heard, there are many reasons for this. For many priests who view their priesthood in exclusively sacramental or cultic terms, speaking out or denouncing evil perpetrated by those in power is not part of the priestly ministry. They think their sole duty is to say Mass and administer the sacraments. They regard their ministry as purely spiritual and reject any involvement in the temporal sphere – especially on issues that they think are political in nature. So the extra-judicial killings, the abuses, corruption and criminality within the government and the police are not their concern. After all, there is separation between Church and State.
There are priests who are not aware of these killings, the abuse of power and the injustices. They live in their own world of comfort and luxury—within the ambit of the church and the rectory. They do not know and do not care about what’s happening around them. They are far from their poor flock. They are blind and deaf to the suffering and evil around them. So naturally they are dumb—they cannot and do not speak out.
There are priests who support these killings or turn a blind eye. They think that this acceptable for the common good. This is the only way to solve the problem of drug addiction. Our country needs a strong leader who can save our country. They believe that he has the political will to bring about change in our land – to bring peace, to eradicate poverty, eliminate corruption and protect the environment. That is why they campaigned and voted for the president and continue to support him. They were even proud to show pictures of their iron fist salute (complete with baller) on Facebook. These priests are often annoyed and angry when the CBCP comes up with pastoral letters that they judge as critical of the present government. They believe in the official reports that those killed fought back and the government has nothing to do with the death squads.
There are priests who are afraid that if they speak out, the president will hit back—below the belt—and expose the sexual abuses of the clergy and be called hypocrites. Others are afraid that they could be in the hit list of the death squads and martyred if they speak out.
So there many reasons why most priests are silent. Perhaps, these could be the same reasons why many religious and lay-faithful are also silent.
If this continues, the bodies will continue to pile up and reach over 70,000 victims after six years. The other problems—such as poverty and corruption will not be addressed. As the recent CBCP letter reminds us: “to consent and keep silent in front of evil is to be an accomplice to it.”
Let us pray that someday the priests who are silent will be able to see the evil around them, find their voice and have the courage to exercise their prophetic ministry—to form the moral conscience of their flock so that they may recognize and denounce the manifestation of evil and the culture of death and to announce the Gospel of life and freedom. Let us pray they may become good shepherds, ready to offer their lives for the flock. Reading and disseminating the CBCP pastoral letter to the faithful is a good start but more is required.
MANILA, Feb. 15, 2017— A Catholic Church official admitted the adverse reaction from Malacañang and its allies against the Catholic bishops’ recent pastoral letter on drug-related deaths was something they didn’t expect.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president, said the letter was issued to serve as their “contribution to a perceived social problem” and “was not intended to bring down” the Duterte administration.
“Unfortunately, it was taken in that context. It was taken negatively,” Villegas said on Feb. 13 at a forum organized by broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“I was hoping for a position that would say ‘let’s dialogue’ because in this day and age, there is nothing that we cannot do if we dialogue and work together. So I was hoping for that,” he said.
Malacañang has criticized the bishops after Church leaders deplored the government’s war on drugs for supposedly creating a “reign of terror” among the poor.
The pastoral statement also aired the bishops’ concern over the rising number of drug-related killings.
Presidential Spokesperson Sec. Ernesto Abella, however, said the bishops are “out of touch” with the reality and the sentiments of the people.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez even described the bishops as “a bunch of shameless hypocrites” who have “no moral ascendancy to judge what is right and wrong”.
‘To the people of God’
Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa also scored the CBCP statement and went further by saying he can “talk to God” without the bishops.
The prelate noted that the CBCP statement did not make any reference to Malacañang because they wanted to take the killings as a moral issue.
“The letter is addressed ‘to the people of God’. So even if the government does not act on it, we are hoping that other members of the people of God would act on it positively,” he added.
“And then maybe the government, being a listening government, would listen to the direction the people has taken and join the other sectors of society,” he also said. (Roy Lagarde / CBCPNews)
MANILA, Feb. 15, 2017 — The multi-million illegal gambling racket called “jueteng” should not be legalized but rather, be completely eliminated, a Catholic prelate said.
Anti-gambling crusader Archbishop Oscar Cruz said the negative ethical and sociological impact of legalized gambling outweighs its advantages.
“Eliminate jueteng, please? It’s a game of chance!” said Cruz, founder of the Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Jueteng.
Campaign vs illegal gambling
“Tell me a gambler whom you will trust. Tell me a gambler whom you will clap your hands to. Gambling is vice and for vice you don’t clap your hands to but the virtue you do,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has recently ordered law enforcers to intensify the government’s campaign against illegal gambling.
Before this, however, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office has expanded the operations of small town lottery (STL) from only 18 to to 56 areas nationwide.
Aside from being the government’s “weapon” against illegal gambling, the state-run lottery operator said the expanded STL operations could also increase the agency’s revenues to Php 27 billion this year.
The archbishop warned STL has long been used by its operators as a cover for jueteng.
He expressed concern that the expansion of STL would merely result in the further proliferation of jueteng.
“The STL is used by jueteng people to deceive bettors because they use the STL identification cards,” said Cruz.
“And in two hands they have STL and jueteng. People bet more on jueteng than STL because they usually have at least three draws a day,” he added.
Cruz also lamented that jueteng continues to flourish even in public schools, luring more children to illegal gambling.
“Instead of the child using their money to buy food, they are betting on jueteng. It’s very disappointing! I felt bad that it’s something very normal to gamble,” he said. (CBCPNews)
VATICAN, Feb. 14, 2017– In his preface for a book written by a survivor of clerical sex abuse, Pope Francis once again lamented the “monstrosity” of the act, calling the author, Daniel Pittet, courageous for his willingness to forgive his abuser and to share his story with the world.
“For those who have been victims of a pedophile it is difficult to talk about what they have been through and describe the trauma that still persist after many years,” the Pope said in the preface, published earlier this month.
Because of this, “Daniel Pittet’s testimony is necessary, treasured and courageous.”
In his 240-page book, titled “I forgive you, father: surviving a broken childhood,” Pittet shares the story of his difficult childhood, during which he and his siblings were shuffled around different foster homes after their parents’ separation before eventually meeting the friar who would abuse him.
At the age of nine, Pittet was lured by a Capuchin friar into the convent attached to his parish, where he would from that day be raped on a weekly basis for four years, with those around him in denial.
Pittet’s book details not only the tragic suffering he endured, but also the long path he has taken to forgiveness, culminating in the civil and ecclesial recognition of his abusers crimes, and his own ability to move forward in building a family and a professional career.
Not only is the book unique for the author of its preface, but another unprecedented quality is the fact that it ends with an interview conducted with the friar who abused Pittet, marking one of the rare occasions when a pedophile speak publicly.
In his preface, Pope Francis thanked Pitett for sharing his story, “because testimony like his break down the wall of silence that covered scandals and suffering, shedding light on a terrible dark area in the life of the Church.”
These type of testimonies, he said, “open the way to a just mending and to the grace of reconciliation, helping pedophiles to become aware of the terrible consequences of their actions.”
Francis said he had originally met Pittet at the Vatican during the Year for Consecrated Life in 2015, and that the author had wanted to give heavy promotion to a book called “To love is to give everything,” which was a collection of the testimonies of priests, religious and consecrated men and women.
At the time, “I could not have imagined that this enthusiastic and passionate Christian man had been the victim of abuse by a priest,” Francis said, adding that “yet this is what he told me, and his suffering struck me very much.”
In hearing Pittet’s story, the Pope said he saw once again both “the tremendous damage caused by sexual abuse” and the “long and painful journey that awaits the victims.”
“I am happy that others can read his testimony today and discover how far evil can enter the heart of a servant of the Church,” he said, asking how a priest committed to serving Christ and his Church “cause so much harm.”
“How can someone who devoted their life to lead children to God, end up instead to devour them in what I called ‘a diabolical sacrifice’ that destroys both the victim and the life of the Church?”
Francis noted that some victims of abuse have committed suicide. “These deaths weigh on my heart, on my conscience and that of the whole Church,” he said, and, addressing their families, said “I offer my feelings of love and pain and humbly, I ask forgiveness.”
Clerical sex abuse “is an absolute monstrosity, a horrible sin, radically against everything that Christ has taught us,” the Pope said, and pointed to his June 4, 2016, motu proprio “Like a loving mother.”
In the document, in which the Pope deemed that negligence on the part of a bishop in handling cases of abuse is enough to oust him from office, it was stressed that the Church “must take care and protect with special love the weak and the helpless” with the tenderness of a mother.
“We have stated that it is our duty to be extremely strict with the priests who betray their mission, and with their hierarchy, bishops or cardinals, who might protect them, as has happened in the past,” Francis saod.
However, the Pope noted that despite the various trials Pitted endured as a child, he also “met another face of the Church, and this allowed him to not lose hope in men and in God.”
“(Pittet) tells us of the power of prayer that he has never abandoned, and that has comforted him in the darkest hours,” he said, pointing to the fact that the author chose to meet his “tormentor” 44 years later, wanting “to look into the eyes of the man who has hurt him in the depths of his soul.”
Instead of condemning the friar, Pittet “lent him his hand,” Francis said, noting that “the wounded child is now a standing man, fragile but standing.”
Pointing to a line written by Pittet in the book, the Pope said he was impressed by the author’s declaration that “many people fail to understand the fact that I do not hate him. I have forgiven him and I built my life on that forgiveness.”
Francis closed his preface saying that he prays for Pittet and “for all those who, like him, were wounded in their innocence, may God lift them and heal them, and give us all his forgiveness and mercy.” (Elise Harris/CNA)
VATICAN, Feb. 14, 2017– A special invitation to visit Egypt was delivered to Pope Francis by Coptic Catholic bishops during their ad limina visit Feb. 6, during which they also gave a report on the state of the Church in their country.
“It was a formal invitation put in written form, that followed other invitations to Egypt,” Bishop Emmanuel Bishay of Luxor told CNA.
The Pope has also received an invitation to visit Egypt from the country’s president and from the Grand Imam of al Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, who occupies a prestigious place in the Sunni Muslim world.
It is widely speculated that the Pope might go to South Sudan in November. There is a possibility he could use the occasion for a longer trip, with a stop in Egypt.
Bishop Bishay was one of the bishops who took part in the meeting with the Pope. The bishop, who is a former official at the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, described the meeting as “marvelous.”
“Previously, ad limina visits included a papal speech that gave the highlights of the situation of the country and provided recommendations. But now there are no more speeches, and each of us was invited to freely speak about the situation in his diocese,” Bishop Bishay recounted.
He said the Pope welcomed Egypt’s Catholic bishops.
“It reminded me of that passage of the Gospel when Jesus sent the apostles to make disciples, and, when they are back, asks them to tell their experience,” the bishop said.
Bishop Bishay said that the bishops, beyond the particular issues of each diocese, talked about the fruits of the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy and about the daily life of the Church in Egypt.
The Pope “encouraged us to carry on our mission in the Church and at the service of Egyptian society, with a particular reference to education and dialogue,” the bishop reported.
In the Coptic Eparchy of Luxor, education is a major concern.
“We established two catechetical institutes, one in Luxor and one in Aswan, and classes are attended by about 250 people. We launched a vocational year last Dec. 8, placing it under the Virgin Mary’s protection,” he said.
Already there are five boys discerning a vocation who could begin seminary next year.
Terrorism is another concern for the Church in Egypt.
“Egyptians are very attentive, as they know that terrorism aims at undermining the unity of our country as well as our shared life with Muslims brothers,” Bishop Bishay said.
Despite incidents in which many churches were burned by extremists, “no reaction against the Muslim community came from the Catholic Church,” the bishop reported.
The government of Egypt understands the issue and helps restore the destroyed churches. Christmas 2014 also marked a new outreach from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who visited a Coptic Orthodox cathedral.
“For the first time ever a president of the Republic of Egypt spent the Christmas night at Mass,” Bishop Bishay said.
Egyptian society was also profoundly shocked by the beheading in Libya of 20 Orthodox Coptic faithful and a companion by Islamic State militants in February 2015.
“On one hand, this wound does not only affect the Egyptian society, but the whole world. What has happened is part of a war that is fed by the instrumentalization of religions,” the bishop said, denouncing efforts to kill in the name of God.
On the other hand, he continued, “the example of the Coptic martyrs gave strength and courage to all of us. Instead of creating divisions within the country, the message of the martyrs bore more unity. So much that people do not speak about the shedding of Christian blood, but about the shedding of Egyptian blood.”
Despite apparent improvements, Christians still have some difficulties in getting permission to build new churches. Bishop Bishay is truly optimistic. He pointed to the passage of new legislation that regulates the construction and the restoration of churches as well as the right to have places of worship where none have been built.
“We look forward to having this bill be fully understood and applied,” the bishop said.
Coptic Christians are composed of Catholics and Oriental Orthodox. Ecumenical dialogue is going on at a good pace, the bishop reported.
“We are living at a time of a positive momentum, as Patriarch Tawadros pushes a lot for Christian unity,” he said. “Back in 2013, he spent one week in Rome, and met with Pope Francis May 10. Ever since, on May 10 there is a festival of Catholics and Orthodox together. There is still a long path to go, but we are walking the path for sure.” (Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA)
VATICAN, Feb. 13, 2017-– In the wake of several contentious events surrounding the Vatican recently, Pope Francis’ advisory board in his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia affirmed their support of the Pope and his work.
On behalf of the group, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga greeted Pope Francis at the start of the councils of cardinal’s Feb. 13 meeting.
He thanked the Pope for his Christmas address to the Roman Curia Dec. 22, and acknowledging “his encouragement and direction for the work of the council,” a Vatican communique stated.
“In relation to recent events, the Council of Cardinals expresses its full support of the work of the Pope, while ensuring full adhesion and support to his person and his Magisterium,” it added.
The statement comes just over one week after posters criticizing the Pope were plastered on walls of the city center of Rome Feb. 4.
Depicting a dour looking Pope Francis, they read: “Ah Francis, you’ve taken over congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals…but where’s your mercy?”
After hearing about the posters, the Pope himself was reportedly unfazed. According to Italian news agency ANSA, Pope Francis received the news of the posters with “serenity and detachment.”
The brief phrase included on the posters was written in the Roman dialect, and indicates the culprit is someone who comes from more conservative sectors of the Church, many of whom have been in sharp disagreement with the Pope regarding his decisions and ongoing reform of the curia, which he is doing with the help of the Council of Cardinals.
Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the council, also called “the Council of Nine,” serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor Bonus, the 1988 apostolic constitution of St. John Paul II that regulates the competencies and work of the Roman Curia.
The anti-Francis posters clearly referenced several contentious issues from his pontificate, such as the letter written to him by four cardinals in September asking for clarification on five points – called “dubia” – in Amoris Laetitia. The letter was subsequently published in November, after the Pope did not respond.
Another recent one was the Pope’s request at the end of January for the Order of Malta’s former Grand Master, Matthew Festing, to resign while ousted Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager be reinstated.
The cardinals’ council is currently holding their 18th session at the Vatican Feb. 13-15 for what is their usual three days of meetings with Pope Francis. A session is generally held every few months.
Their last session was held Dec. 12-14, and focused on synodality and the Church’s “missionary drive” forming the basis of the discussion on how reform of the curia’s various departments will move forward.
Discussion largely centered around the role of the Secretary of State and the Congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fides), for Bishops, and for Oriental Churches.
In the past, the council has also emphasized the need for greater harmonization and simplification in the curia. (Hannah Brockhaus/CNA)
VATICAN, Feb. 10, 2017– The Vatican has issued an updated version of their charter for healthcare workers, removing question marks from modern ethical concerns such as euthanasia and the creation of human-animal chimeras by offering a clear set of guidelines.
In the past 20 years “there have been two to situations, two events” that have made the production of a new healthcare charter necessary, Professor Antonio Gioacchino Spagnolo told CNA Feb. 6.
The first, he said, is “scientific progress. In these 20 years there has been a lot of scientific progress in the field of the beginning of life as well as in the phase of the end of life, in the context of living.”
But alongside advancements in science the Church’s Magisterium has also produced several texts dealing with new and current issues, offering an authoritative take on how they should be handled.
The charter, he said, “encompasses a sort of collection of the various positions there have been, the various pronouncements, keeping the progress of bio-medicine in mind.”
Spagnolo, director of the Institute of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, spoke to journalists at the Feb. 6 presentation of the new charter, and played a key role in drafting the new text.
A first edition of the charter was published in 1994, but in the wake of broad scientific advancements and various updates in the Church’s Magisterium, the Holy See Monday rolled out the new version of the charter for healthcare workers.
Released to coincide with the annual World Day of the Sick celebrations taking place in Lourdes, the updated charter includes all magisterial documents published since 1994 and will be sent to bishops’ conferences around the world.
At roughly 150 pages including the index, the charter is structured much like the old edition, and is divided into three parts: Procreation, Life, and Death.
The section on procreation covers everything from contraception, IVF, and the scientific use of embryos, including freezing them, as well as newer topics such as the mixing of human and animal gametes, the gestation of human embryos in animal or artificial wombs, cloning, asexual reproduction, and parthenogenesis.
In the “Life” section, topics covered are “all of the health events that are in some way connected to living,” Spagnolo said, including vaccinations, preventative care, drug testing, transplants, abortion, anencephalic fetuses, as well as gene therapy and regenerative medicine.
The social part of the charter also covers areas specifically linked to poverty, such as access to medicines and the availability of new technologies in developing countries or countries that are politically and economically unstable. Rare and “neglected” diseases are also covered in the new text.
In his comments to CNA, Spagnolo commented on recent cases the new, updated charter would cover, including the creation of human-pig “chimeras,” as well as the case of an elderly woman with dementia who was held down by her family during a euthanasia procedure.
The first case refers to the recent high-level scientific research project that culminated in the creation of chimeras, or organisms made from two different species.
While the project initially began by conducting the experiment on rats and mice, at the end of January it culminated with the human-pig mix, marking the first time a case had been reported in which human stem cells had begun to grow inside another species.
In the experiment, which appeared in the scientific journal “Cell,” researchers from various institutes, including Stanford and the Salk Institute in California, injected pig embryos with human stem cells when there were just a few days old and monitored their development for 28 days to see if more human cells would be generated.
Human cells inside a number of the embryos had begun to develop into specialized tissue precursors, however, the success rate of the human cells was overall low, with the majority failing to produce human cells.
Commenting on the case, Spagnolo said this type of “hybridization between human and animal cells” was primarily done to garner more scientific information. “It’s important” that this research is done, he said, but cautioned that we can’t be “indifferent” to how the information is used.
If a scientist decides to mingle human cells with those of another species in order to create some sort of hybrid being, “this is of course something that can’t be accepted because in some way it means using the generation of a life as an instrument to reach one’s own ends.”
However, if it’s done for a purpose other than generating alternate beings, such as growing human organs for transplant, Spagnolo said this would be acceptable.
One thing that’s already being proposed, he said, is the possibility of xenografts, i.e. tissue grafts or organ transplants from a donor that is a different species than the recipient.
The idea of doing this, Spagnolo said, is to “inoculate” pigs with human cells, allowing the organs of the pig to receive human antigens, “so when a transplant were done with a liver or heart from the pig inside a (human being), there wouldn’t be the rejection that there is normally doing it with other species.”
Spagnolo said that using the hybrid cells for organ or tissue transplant “is acceptable because to transfer a human cell to a pig doesn’t mean creating a life.”
Rather, it allows the pig “to have a genetic patrimony similar to that of a human being to then be able to use the organs to help people,” he said, emphasizing the fact that it’s not pig cells being injected into human beings, but vice versa.
So to make a good, informed decision involves first of all seeing “what type of experiments” are being done, deciding from that “whether it’s acceptable or not,” then looking at what “one intends to produce, what are the objectives one intends to reach.”
Pointing to another touchy scientific case that came up recently when an elderly woman in her 80s was held down by her relatives as her doctors euthanized her, Spagnolo said this is the type of murky water which “advanced statements” or living wills wade into in countries where euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal.
The woman, who lived in the Netherlands, had dementia and had reportedly expressed a desire for euthanasia when “the time was right” at an earlier date, but had not done so recently.
When the woman began exhibiting “fear and anger” and was sometimes found to be wandering the halls of her nursing home, the senior doctor at the home determined that the woman’s condition meant the time was right, and put a sleep-inducing drug into her coffee so he could administer the lethal injection.
The woman was not consulted, and woke up as the doctor was trying to give the injection. When she fought the procedure, her family members were asked to hold her down while the injection was completed.
“When medicine no longer does what it should” because in a living will someone expresses their desire for assisted suicide, “this statement completely alters the doctor-patient relationship,” Spagnolo said.
He pointed to a bill that is currently on the table in Italy that would effectively legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, requiring doctors to act on the advanced statements of their patients in this regard, and prohibiting them from conscientious objection.
This bill, as well as the case of the woman in the Netherlands, illustrates “the difficulty of advance statements,” Spagnolo said, explaining that if someone makes an advance statement and later decides against it, “the fact of having said it before is used and is done (by) drugging the patient.”
While the doctor-patient relationship is always key element of the discussion, Spagnolo noted that various studies have been conducted showing a doctor’s behavior toward patients differs based on whether or not the patient has an advanced statement, specifically on euthanasia.
“This disparity should be avoided. The doctor should always act the same way when the person is concerned,” he said.
So with the new charter, all healthcare workers will now have a point of reference for some of these sticky scenarios, he said.
“They can know that some things must be done, they are obligatory. Others, however, are only possibilities.
In this sense, “the will of the patient is very important, not in the perspective of ‘anticipating’ death, but in the perspective of knowing whether or not to accept and support certain interventions the doctor can do, but which the patient might think unsuitable.” (Elise Harris/CNA)
Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary TimeReading 1 GN 8:6-13, 20-22
At the end of forty days Noah opened the hatch he had made in the ark,
and he sent out a raven,
to see if the waters had lessened on the earth.
It flew back and forth until the waters dried off from the earth.
Then he sent out a dove,
to see if the waters had lessened on the earth.
But the dove could find no place to alight and perch,
and it returned to him in the ark,
for there was water all over the earth.
Putting out his hand, he caught the dove
and drew it back to him inside the ark.
He waited seven days more and again sent the dove out from the ark.
In the evening the dove came back to him,
and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf!
So Noah knew that the waters had lessened on the earth.
He waited still another seven days
and then released the dove once more;
and this time it did not come back.
In the six hundred and first year of Noah’s life,
in the first month, on the first day of the month,
the water began to dry up on the earth.
Noah then removed the covering of the ark
and saw that the surface of the ground was drying up.
Noah built an altar to the LORD,
and choosing from every clean animal and every clean bird,
he offered burnt offerings on the altar.
When the LORD smelled the sweet odor, he said to himself:
“Never again will I doom the earth because of man
since the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start;
nor will I ever again strike down all living beings, as I have done.
As long as the earth lasts,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
Summer and winter,
and day and night
shall not cease.”
R. (17a) To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to his call.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida,
people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.
Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked,
“Do you see anything?”
Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”
Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly;
his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.
Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”
MANILA, Feb. 14, 2017–Bishop Honest Ongtioco of Cubao has urged his flock to stand together and rally against extrajudicial killings and the death penalty.
In a video message, he urged the diocese’s different parishes, schools, religious congregations and organizations to “come out” and join the “Walk for Life” at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila on Feb. 18.
“We cannot remain silent when extrajudicial killings rampage in our streets, when death penalties again being revived, and when the unborn remains unprotected,” Ongtioco said.
He reiterated that since “life is gift from our Creator,” people are God’s stewards called to care for the life given them.
“It is therefore our task to uphold and protect it. It is therefore imperative that we oppose everything that is anti-life,” said Ongtioco.
“Let us come together for life, for peace, for God and for our country,” he added.
Various lay Church organizations are expected to take the streets on Saturday to show their rejection of the wave of summary killings and attempts to revive the capital punishment in the country.
Organized by the Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas, its president, Zenaida Capistrano, the prayer rally is one of the opportunities for lay people to show that they care for others, especially the poor.
“We have all the chances to do what is expected of us. Let us express to the government our real sentiments. Let us go out and tell them that we are against this culture of death,” she said.
Capistrano also said those planning to attend are encouraged to bring their own slogan-bearing placards, banners, as well as white and yellow flaglets and ribbons to echo their call for the protection of life. (CBCPNews)
The international pilgrimage image of the Our Lady of Fatima arrives at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral as part of its worldwide tour to mark the 100 years of the Marian apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, February 9, 2017. The statue will travel to parishes, schools, and other venues along the tour in Cebu before being brought to Taiwan on Feb. 15. (Sammy Navaja/CBCPNews)
Memorial of Saints Cyril, Monk, and Methodius, BishopReading 1 GN 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10
When the LORD saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth,
and how no desire that his heart conceived
was ever anything but evil,
he regretted that he had made man on the earth,
and his heart was grieved.
So the LORD said:
“I will wipe out from the earth the men whom I have created,
and not only the men,
but also the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air,
for I am sorry that I made them.”
But Noah found favor with the LORD.
Then the LORD said to Noah:
“Go into the ark, you and all your household,
for you alone in this age have I found to be truly just.
Of every clean animal, take with you seven pairs,
a male and its mate;
and of the unclean animals, one pair,
a male and its mate;
likewise, of every clean bird of the air, seven pairs,
a male and a female,
and of all the unclean birds, one pair,
a male and a female.
Thus you will keep their issue alive over all the earth.
Seven days from now I will bring rain down on the earth
for forty days and forty nights,
and so I will wipe out from the surface of the earth
every moving creature that I have made.”
Noah did just as the LORD had commanded him.
As soon as the seven days were over,
the waters of the flood came upon the earth.
R. (11b) The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord;
and my Father will love him
and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.”
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
MANILA, Feb. 13, 2017— Caritas Manila has launched an appeal to help victims of the earthquake in Surigao City, Surigao del Norte and other areas in Mindanao.
The social action arm of the Manila archdiocese said that more food aid and temporary shelter are needed for those left homeless.
“Their most immediate needs include clean water, food, clothes and hygiene items,” according to Caritas Manila.
“Caritas Manila once again appeal prayers and help we can offer to alleviate their sufferings through our donations in cash and in kind,” it said.
The death toll from Surigao City’s devastating 6.7 magnitude earthquake last Friday has risen to eight and left more than two hundred injured.
In Surigao City alone, more than 1,400 houses were reported damaged by the quake which also affected at least 11 towns.
Although the power supply has been restored to most areas in Surigao, the water supply in the city is still a problem.
Cash donations can be made online through http://ushare.unionbankph.com/caritas/or through deposits at the following accounts: Banco De Oro savings account number 5600-45905; Bank of the Philippine Islands savings account number 3063-5357-01; and Metrobank savings account number 175-3-17506954-3.
Caritas Manila also has the following dollar accounts for donations: Bank of the Philippine Islands savings account number 3064-0033-55 with SWIFT code BOPIPHMM; Philippine National Bank savings account number 10-856-660002-5 with SWIFT code PNBMPHMM.
Donations can be also coursed through Cebuana Lhuillier free of charge or dropped off at the Caritas Manila office at 2002 Jesus St., Pandacan, Manila or at the Radio Veritas office at the corner of West Avenue and Edsa, Quezon City.
Donors are requested to fax a copy of the deposit slip at (02)5639306 or email a scanned copy to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, with the donor’s name and complete address. (CBCPNews)
TACLOBAN City, Feb. 13, 2017 – In the light of Education Secretary Leonor Briones’ objection to the distribution of condoms to highschool students, church-based organization continuously oppose the Department of Health (DOH)’s distribution of free condoms because of three reasons that show why it is not the solution to HIV and teen pregnancies.
Engr. Albert San Gabriel, coordinator of the Family and Life Apostolate (FALA) and pastoral counselor of Sto. Niño Church in this city since 2004, disclosed in an interview the danger of exposing senior high school students, who are technically minors, to the use of condom.
San Gabriel, who is also a member of Human Life International in the Philippines cited three reasons for his fear.
“First, they do not know how to use it correctly; second, according to (Dr. CM) Roland’s latex study the condom has microscopic hole through which the human immunodeficiency virus can permeate; and third, since the young generations of today easily become curious with new discoveries, this will drive them to try it,” he speculated.
Fr. Raymund Sotto, spiritual director of FALA and St. Rafael the Archangel Parish priest, said, “Giving condom to schools is not the solution to the increasing issue on HIV and early pregnancy.”
The priest suggested the “ABC” method to counter the increasing HIV cases as well as teen pregnancies.
“Educate the students on the ABC method, A-abstinence from sex outside marriage, B=be faithful to one another and C-conversion of heart to the value of love and sacredness of sex as a gift of God in marriage,” explained Sotto.
For Bataan Bishop Ruperto Santos, the distribution of condoms is hardly the solution to these youth issues.
“Selling or giving condoms to the youngsters is a terrible practice,” said the prelate. “We cannot correct a mistake by making another mistake.”
Parental consent needed
Recently, Briones decided against supporting the DOH’s distribution of free condoms as a means to curb the increasing number of HIV/AIDS cases among the youth.
Briones’ move came after the DepEd legal team’s analysis of the Supreme Court ruling on the Reproductive Law and President Rodrigo Duterte’s executive order on Reproductive Health programs.
Securing parental consent on issues like this was one factor that prompted the DepEd to back off.
“We analyzed what our role is in this program because these children are minors. Parental consent is needed in this issue,” she said. (Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros / CBCP News)
PASIG City, Feb. 13, 2017 – The “kilig level” in social media skyrocketed over the week when a national fast-food chain released a series of video ads timed for Valentine’s Day, leading a university professor and human resource specialist to stress that more than “kilig” or romantic thrill, true love is about fidelity and sacrifice.
“Kilig”, a Filipino term that was recently added to the new words list of the Oxford English Dictionary, refers to the feeling of excitement due to various romantic situations.
Not just ‘kilig’
But “kilig” alone cannot bring a person to live out the fullest meaning of being a relationship, said Maria Victoria Q. Caparas, an Associate Professor of the University of Asia & the Pacific (UA&P), who came out with the book “Time Hangs by a Thread”, which is about the real story of a woman who, after getting separated and divorced, still remained faithful to her marriage vows.
“Through the years, I have observed the rapid increase in the number of separated couples. I realized that my lack of personal encounter and depth of insight into what women in this situation go through would make any friendly advice that I may give be perceived as either naïve or pedantic,” she explained, noting why Maruja Moragas’ story is relevant to the times.
Caparas collaborated with Moragas in July 2011 in the Women’s Lobby Network in Spain, which focused on programs on women in leadership.
Helping Filipino wives and mothers
The book, which is a translation of the personal account of Moragas, particularly presents what the author herself called “the mother of all crises” (separation and divorce), how she escaped from the vicious cycle of love and hate, and successfully moved on as a single mother and career woman while still remaining faithful to her spouse.
“I thought that Maruja’s life story could help women suffering from similar circumstances and overcome the damage wreaked by moral suffering,” said Caparas.
Need of role models, resources
According to the author, the book came about as a reaction to the available literature on women.
Caparas shared: “Earlier, I was looking for books on women and the family but, to my dismay, I only found books about mistresses… I thought that we could be lacking in role models of women who suffered from separations and need to pro-actively face adversities with head held up high.”
“Maruja’s story was the first book I read about the joys and sorrows of a divorced woman who viewed her situation from the perspective of her Christian convictions and upbringing.”
“This book opened my eyes to a new set of realities as my acquaintances and friends consist mostly of married couples who stay together,” Caparas admitted.
About the book
“Time Hangs by a Thread” is available at the UA&P bookstore. For orders in Makati and Las Piñas, interested parties may contact Virna Rose at 09178484762 or (02) 5028945; for Eastwood and Taguig, they may contact Nicole at 09163413366, and for all other places, contact 09988528584.
DOñA REMEDIOS TRINIDAD, Bulacan, Feb. 13, 2017 – During a Mass in honor of this town’s patroness, Our Lady of Lourdes, a priest called on families to go back to the habit of praying together.
Msgr. Pablo Legaspi Jr., P.C., Chancellor of the Diocese of Malolos emphasized the importance of praying the rosary and vespers everyday together as a family.
These good traditions, he explained, have become the “seeds of love in our families and the reasons that motivate us to value our faith.”
Many families in crisis
“Praying as a family always reminds us to love God and allow them (the family) to remain intact,” said the priest during a Mass concelebrated by parish priest Fr. Nap Baltazar, Fr. Joshua Panganiban, and Fr. Robert Laad on Feb. 11, Saturday.
The national problem of drugs and criminality, he said, is “rooted in our family life, in our community.”
“Sadly, many of our families nowadays are not united in faith and love,” noted Legaspi.
Linking this to the reason for the festivities, Legaspi said the faithful of Doña Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan should not forget Our Lady of Lourdes’ message during these trying times.
“The apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes exemplifies her deep concern to mankind,” he said in his homily. “Mary will not cease, in different instances, to lead the people to God and, more so, to bestow us comfort and healing.”
Urged to pray the rosary
Meanwhile, in an interview, Baltazar pointed to a significant detail in the Marian apparition in Lourdes, France on Thursday, Feb. 11, 1858 when a woman wearing blue and white first appeared before “a meek and an innocent” 14-year-old girl named Bernadette in a grotto called Massabielle.
According to the priest, Bernadette immediately fell to her knees and joined her in praying when she saw the mysterious woman make the sign of the cross with a rosary.
“This event signifies how Our Lady of Lourdes is urging mankind to pray the rosary,” explained Baltazar.
Some young members of the Dumagat tribe also performed a thanksgiving ritual at the church patio after the Eucharistic celebration. The festivities continued until evening with a program where the DRTenios showcased their talents. (Myraine Carluen Policarpio / CBCP News)
Fr. Roy Cimagala
“Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” (1 Cor 9,16) This was the cry of St. Paul conveying his burning desire to transmit the Good News to the early Christians.
It’s a cry that also has to spring in each one of us, Christian believers, who now participate in the abiding function of preaching and teaching the word of God according to our personal circumstances.
This is the challenge we have today. How do we craft a new approach, style or strategy for the continuing need of evangelization these days? How do we keep them adapted to the new sensibilities of the men and women of today? How do we make Christ alive in the new technologies?
It’s quite clear that people nowadays are a different breed from, say, those of two decades ago. In fact, given the fast pace of technological development, the fragmentation of society into different levels, sectors and niches has also accelerated. We now have to contend with a greater variety of people, not only in number but also in complicatedness.
Even within families and clans, these differences have multiplied and can be sharp and radical. Those staying or who have grown up in the States or in Europe, for example, definitely have different ways from those who remain in the province.
We can even see these sharp differences, much more than the usual, among cousins and brothers and sisters. Differences in attitudes, language, fashion, manners, reactions and opinions within relatively small circles of people have ballooned.
We need to be sensitive to these differences if we are to be effective in evangelizing. This, obviously, is an old challenge, felt right during the apostolic times and even way before that. It’s going to be an abiding one. We just have to be ready for it.
For sure, the Holy Spirit continues to animate the Church and inspire certain people, giving them the relevant charism, so that the Church’s vital activity of evangelization continues. But all of us have to do our part.
First, we need to sharpen and intensify our awareness of our duty to evangelize. This task involves all of us. We cannot keep on living only for our own interests. We have to be men for others. And that can happen when we go all the way to doing the task of evangelization, among many others.
Christ needs to be made alive, because as image and likeness of God, we happen to have the capacity to shut him off or shut him up. Yes, that’s the sad and painful reality.
The problem with how to make Christ alive among ourselves today centers on how to make our preachers and evangelizers—from the clergy down to the religious and committed lay faithful—credible.
That’s really a tall order. With all the scandals besmirching our ecclesiastics nowadays, even the most basic requirement for credibility is already blown away. This is not to mention the fact that many of these official preachers have spotty doctrinal orthodoxy. We really need a first-class miracle here.
The world today is so deep into worldly wisdom that it can easily detect whether our preachers and evangelizers are just smart and clever worldlings like themselves or are something else who bring some mysterious, if not sacred message, that’s worth listening to.
Of course, the sector of the uninitiated, unchurched, ignorant and confused, not to mention, the polluted and corrupted, those already immunized from religion, is vast and extensive, and is growing fast. How to contain it, and more, how to convert and transform it requires nothing less than a till-death face-off.
WASHINGTON D.C., Feb 11, 2017–After President Donald Trump pushed for the creation of safe zones for refugees in the Middle East, advocates and humanitarian aid groups are divided over whether the policy will work.
“We think it’s within the United States’ national security interests to support the creation of safe zones to at least stop the exodus of people leaving Syria and move that conflict more toward a resolution which is favorable to Christians,” Phillippe Nassif, executive director of the group In Defense of Christians, told CNA of Trump’s proposal.
However, Bill O’Keefe, vice president of government relations and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services, said that “the Syrian conflict is such a hornet’s nest of proxy wars, and to think that in the midst of that a safe zone will be safe indefinitely is just unlikely.”
President Trump was expected to call for the establishment of safe zones in the Middle East in his recent executive order that halted U.S. refugee admissions, but that policy was left out of the final draft of the order.
Nevertheless, Trump has reportedly discussed setting up safe zones in Syria and Yemen with regional leaders, the King of Saudi Arabia and King Abdullah II of Jordan.
“Safe zones” would be areas set up in the war-torn countries for various innocent persons displaced by the conflict to live in security as they wait to return home.
They would require “troops on the ground and a no-fly zone” to maintain security, Nassif explained. They wouldn’t exclusively be set up in rural areas, but could be placed on fertile land or in urban areas to provide economic incentives for the population and even return displaced persons to their homes.
The Syrian conflict between President Bashar al-Assad and rebel factions has lasted for almost six years with the death toll in the hundreds of thousands. It has created the world’s largest refugee crisis, with around five million refugees having fled the country and over six million displaced persons living within the country’s borders.
One million registered refugees live in neighboring Lebanon – with about half a million unregistered refugees, Nassif told CNA – and many have also fled to Turkey, Jordan, and Europe as well.
This has created an unsustainable refugee situation, Nassif argued, one that threatens to destabilize the region around Syria and spread the conflict to those countries as well.
“We’re really concerned about Lebanon,” he said of the country, where an estimated one in four persons is a refugee.
“It is a perfect example of a country where Christians and Muslims co-exist in the region. There’s a Christian president in the country, but we’re very worried that this huge burden on the state and economic and a security burden is not alleviated any time soon, that Lebanon will have its own problems and potential collapse.”
Safe zones, he argued, would stem the flow of refugees from Syria by giving them a temporary secure place to reside. It would ease the burden on neighboring countries that shelter refugees, and would keep Syrians relatively close to their homes to one day return there.
However, Catholic Relief Services expressed that they are “circumspect” on the U.S. establishing safe zones in Syria and Yemen, while still praising the Trump administration for their “interest” in caring for the most vulnerable populations in Syria.
“Once you declare a safe zone, you’re responsible for keeping the people inside safe for as long as necessary,” Bill O’Keefe told CNA, adding that they “can be extremely expensive and difficult to sustain.”
With so many regional actors like Turkey and Iran involved in the Syrian conflict and waging “proxy wars” there, people inside safe zones could still be at high risk of bombings and attacks, he said.
Placing so many refugees in one place could make these vulnerable populations even more of a target to terror groups and entities that want to kill them, he added.
“When you concentrate the innocent and the vulnerable together, they can become more of a target and even if there’s a sincere effort at providing a security umbrella, you have a lot of vulnerable people concentrated in a very defined area, and for those who want to harm those people, in some ways it’s actually easier,” he said.
And if they are set up for an indefinite period of time, safe zones may not be a lasting solution for families who just want to live a “normal life.”
If the conflict does not end, the zones may instead be dead-ends “where families can’t earn a living, where children can’t go to school,” he said, and the situation “doesn’t prepare them to rebuild their society and to go back and play a productive role in wherever they are.”
Rather, the U.S. should put its energy into pursuing peace at the local and regional levels in Syria and the Middle East, he insisted.
“We certainly urge our government to expend the last ounce of diplomatic energy on working with the parties to the conflict” as well as the “regional and global actors that are, in one way or another, engaged in various proxy battles” in Syria, O’Keefe said.
“Adequate humanitarian assistance” must also be provided to displaced persons in Syria and neighboring countries, he insisted.
However, although safe zones may be risky they are still preferable to the current situation on the ground for many embattled religious and ethnic minorities, Nassif said.
“It’s basically a free-for-all in Syria. And it’s total chaos on the ground. All of these minorities are being targeted left and right by everybody and they’re being scapegoated,” he said, noting the “exodus” of Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, and Alowites from the country.
“The longer the conflict goes in Syria, the more likely Christians are going to just be continuing to leave at the rate they’ve been leaving from the country,” he said. (CNA)