Pope makes impassioned plea to Mafia members

March 25, 2014 by  
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pope francisRome, March 24, 2014: Surrounded by survivors of innocent people killed by the Mafia, Pope Francis made an emotional appeal to Italian gangsters to give up their lives of crime and avoid eternal damnation.

“Men and women of the Mafia, please change your lives, convert, stop doing evil,” the pope said at a prayer vigil March 21. “I ask on my knees and for your own good.

“This life you have now, it will not give you pleasure, it will not give you joy, it will not give you happiness,” the pope said. “The power, the money you have now from so many dirty deals, from so many Mafia crimes, blood-stained money, blood-stained power — you will not be able to take that with you to the other life.”

“There is still time not to end up in hell, which awaits you if you continue on this road,” Pope Francis said. “You had a papa and a mamma. Think of them, weep a little and convert.”

Every year since 1996, the Italian anti-Mafia group Libera has observed March 21, the first full day of spring, in memory of innocent victims of organized crime. According to the group, the approximately 700 people gathered with Pope Francis in a Rome church this year represented the families of an estimated 15,000 such victims across Italy.

In his greeting, Father Luigi Ciotti, founder of Libera, denounced the Mafia as the “assassin of hope” and recalled a range of its victims. The priest mentioned women caught up in human trafficking, people fallen ill owing to illegal disposal of toxic waste and even children, including Domenico Gabriele, an 11-year-old shot to death while playing soccer in 2009, and Nicola Campolongo, a 3-year old murdered in January, reportedly to avenge an unpaid drug debt.

Father Ciotti thanked the pope for coming, saying, “We thought we had found a father, we have also found a brother.”

The pope listened for about 45 minutes, head bowed and hands folded in prayer, as members of the congregation stepped up to the lectern and recited, in some cases with breaking voices, the names of people killed by the Mafia.

“Let us pray together to ask the strength to move ahead,” the pope said, “to be not discouraged but to continue to struggle against corruption.”

– catholic news service

The U in Jesus

March 21, 2014 by  
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Before U were thought of or time had begun,
God stuck U in the name of His Son..


And each time U pray, you’ll see it’s true,
You can’t spell out JesUs and not include U.
You’re a pretty big part of His wonderful name,
For U, He was born; that’s why He came.

Christ is Born

And His great love for U is the reason He died.
It even takes U to spell crUcified…


Isn’t it thrilling and splendidly grand
He rose from the dead, with U in His plan?


The stones split away, the gold trUmpet blew,
And this word resUrrection is spelled with a U.

When JesUs left earth at His Upward ascension,
He felt there was one thing He just had to mention.
“Go into the world and tell them it’s true
That I love them all – Just like I love U.”

jesus loves u

So many great people need him just like U,
Don’t they have a right to know JesUs too?

It all depends now on what U will do,
He’d like them to know,
But it all starts with U.


– fwd: jude dsouza

Somalia: Christians beheaded in Somalia. Daughters watch

March 21, 2014 by  
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al-shabaab-militantsAfrica, March 19, 2014: A mother of two and her cousin were publicly executed in Somalia after al-Shabaab militants found out they were Christians.

Sadia Ali Omar (41) and Osman Mohamoud Moge (35) were beheaded in Barawa in the Lower Shebelle Region on 4 March.

Residents were called to witness the executions, and Sadia’s two daughters, aged 8 and 15, were among those subjected to the
gruesome spectacle; the youngest cried out for someone to save her mother.

The girls have been left orphans as their father died after falling ill in 2011. Fearing for their safety, a family friend has
helped them to relocate to a different area.

One resident told Morning Star News that an al-Shabaab militant announced before the killings:
We know these two people are Christians who recently came back from Kenya. We want to wipe out any underground Christian living inside of mujahidin area.

Al-Shabaab, which is said to have spies throughout Somalia, became suspicious of Sadia and Osman because of their irregular
attendance at the mosque for Friday prayers.

Having lived in Christian-majority Kenya, the pair would have been treated with extra suspicion. Sadia returned to Somalia in
January 2013, having lived in Eastleigh on the outskirts of Nairobi for seven years. Osman, who helped take care of Sadia’s
daughters, came with her.

Kenya has been a leading force in military efforts to drive al-Shabaab out of Somalia, and the militants have retaliated with
deadly attacks on Kenyan soil, most notably the siege at theWestgate shopping centre in September 2013 in which dozens of non-
Muslims were killed.

Al-Shabaab is fighting to establish a radical Islamic state in East Africa, and despite having been driven out of most major
population centres in Somalia, it continues to control some rural areas in the centre and south, where it strictly implements
sharia law using stonings, amputations and floggings. It has been launching deadly assaults against government and military

The group is particularly hostile to Christianity and has vowed to rid Somalia of its tiny Christian presence. Al-Shabaab has
killed dozens of Christians since 2008, when it seized control of central and southern.

– barnabas team

Prisoners of conscience in Vietnam not allowed to go to Mass or even have a Bible

March 21, 2014 by  
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bible bannedVietnam, March 20, 2014: No health or spiritual care for 61 prisoners of conscience. No decent food and their human rights are not respected. Many of them are sick and in some cases their condition is serious. The cases of Lê Quŏc Quân and Maria Tạ Phong Tần.

They can not go to mass, have the spiritual comfort of a priest nor even a Bible.  This is the condition of 61 (data dating to 2013 ) prisoners “of conscience” in Vietnam, a situation that becomes even more unbearable during Lent, confirmed by a letter from a blogger.

Prison guards in Hanoi and Thanh Hoa province, in a clear violation of human rights and religious freedom will not allow the lawyer Lê Quốc Quân, or bloggers Maria Tạ Phong Tần and Paul Trần Minh Nhat receive a Bible from their relatives.

The latest denunciation of the situation is contained in a letter written by blogger Paul Trần Minh Nhật to the former Archbishop Nguyễn Văn Nhơn, who was also president of the Episcopal Conference of Vietnam. ” … We could not even attend Mass on Sundays, nor read the Bible. We had a great desire to receive the sacraments and spiritual support from a priest, but the prison heads forbid us this”.

The case of blogger Maria Tạ Phong Tần is of serous concern.  She was sentenced to 10 years in prison and is now imprisoned in Yên Dinh camp no. 5, Thanh Hoa province. It is renowned as one of the harshest labor camps.  She would like to have a Bible to hear the Word of God.  Her younger sister reports: “The guards used activist prisoners to beat my sister. They insulted my mother, though my mother died, setting herself on fire in front of the People’s Committee in Bac Lieu province, July 30, 2012 , to protest against this injustice”.

Currently prisoners of conscience are denied health care and spiritual care, they are denied decent food and their human rights are not respected. Many of them are sick and in some cases severely so. Miss T., a relative of a prisoner of conscience is called “crushed by the regime. The mother is dead, but still they will not leave her in peace. Perhaps they fear the truth and prisoners of conscience”. “It’s really horrible – reports the blogger Thanh Nghien – when someone offends the dead. This is the dirty work of prison guards and managers of local prisons. A while ago I was in jail and I know that the guards admire and fear the prisoners of consciousness”.

Why? Maybe because they don’t need permission to believe in God

– asianews

Pune Christians to vote on Maundy Thursday

March 21, 2014 by  
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District Collector Saurabh Rao

District Collector Saurabh Rao

Pune, March 20, 2014: Father Salvador Pinto, parish priest at City church, Nana Peth, said the district election office is yet to contact them.

Pune district will not change its polling date of April 17, Maundy Thursday, but arrangements will be made to ensure church services go undisturbed, District Collector Saurabh Rao said.

Christians fear that some Church-run schools in the premises of the churches selected as polling stations and their activities would affect the solemn services of Maundy Thursday that commemorates the establishment of Eucharist beginning the three-day long Easter services.

Six churches, including Church of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception (City church), St Joseph’s church, Ghorpuri, St Joseph’s church, Khadki, St Francis de sales church, Shaanwadi, St Anthony’s church at Model Colony and St Sebastian church at Daund, will be affected as schools on their premises will be polling centers.

Diago Almeida, president of the Catholic Association of Poona, has threatened to boycott the general elections if the date is not changed, while the Bishop of Poona, Rt Rev Thomas Dabre, has sent letters challenging the date that clashes with Maundy Thursday to the EC and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

“We have not got any reply yet. We do not think it is fair to hold elections on a day, which is most holy for us. This is the day when Jesus Christ called his disciples, washed their feet, sat with them for supper and gave the command of service. This is the core of the observance of our faith,” said Father Malcolm Sequeira, Vicar General, Diocese of Poona.

Rao said that his team has visited the schools and alternative arrangements will be made, such as putting up special barricades and separate entrance and exits. He said he spoke to the state Election Commissioner and it has been decided to make special arrangements which will not inconvenience the community or the polling process. “We will request the Bishop if they can postpone the mass timings to 6.30 pm or 7 pm,” Rao said.

Father Salvador Pinto, parish priest at City church, Nana Peth, said the district election office is yet to contact them. “There has been an extension in the timings of polling from 5 pm to 6 pm. How can we conduct the mass when there will be no time to prepare the seating arrangements?” he said, adding that they will take up the matter with the state EC again.

– indian express

Orissa: Hindu fundamentalists block Catholic church

March 21, 2014 by  
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persecution in OrissaOdisha, March 03, 2014: A group of radicals threaten a catechist and his father in the village of Gudrikia. The area suffered major damages in the 2008anti-Christian pogrom. Since then, the local Christian minority has been living in fear.

A group of Hindu fundamentalists yesterday blocked the construction of a Catholic chapel in the village of Gudrikia, in the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar (Kandhamal District, Orissa), this according to a local lawyer, Ramakant Parichha, who spoke about it to AsiaNews.

The incident renewed fears and tensions in the village, which was badly hit in theanti-Christian pogroms that shook Orissa in 2008.

The incident apparently occurred at around nine o’clock pm, when the attackers threatened a number of Catholics and carried away the stones they had brought to start the work.

According to local sources, the extremist group threatened Bhagawan Pradhan, 44, a catechist in the village, and his father Danardan Pradhan, 63.

The two Catholics said that they are “frightened” but still plan to file as soon as possible a complaint about what had happened.

During the 2008 anti-Christian pogrom, the village church and the shrine were destroyed.

On that occasion, Mathew Nayak, a young clergyman in the (Anglican) Church of North India who had come to visit his family, was burnt alive in the church where he had taken refuge.

Another local Christian, Lalita Digal, was taken away and murdered, her body never found.

Since then, Catholics and other Christians have been denied free access to local land and forest.

Hindu fundamentalists now farm the land where the church once stood. In November 2013, some Christian leaders went to the police to complain about it, but the latter refused to register their case.

In addition, each year radical groups organise Ram Navami celebrations (honouring the birth of Rama) near the shrine’s ruins.

– asianews

Suicide by wife of lecturer whose hand was chopped

March 21, 2014 by  
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T J JosephThiruvananthapuram, March 20, 2014: The wife of the Kerala college lecturer, whose hand was chopped off after he allegedly insulted the Prophet, was found dead in their house in Muvattupuzha.

Months after the lecturer, T J Joseph was attacked in 2010, the Catholic management of Newman College in Thodupuzha had suspended him from service and sources within the family said his wife Salomy was dejected by the Church’s reluctance to reinstate him as he was the sole breadwinner of the family.

Her body was found hanging on Wednesday.

Despite demands from the state government, civil society and the university that Joseph be reinstated, the Church management had taken no action.

After being removed from service, Joseph had said the management’s move had pained him more than the attack he had faced from alleged Popular Front of India activists.

Sources said Salomy took the extreme step after she realized that Joseph would not be reinstated before March 31, the day he was to retire from service. In that case, Joseph would naturally be denied any salary or benefit.

Advocate Ramkumar on Wednesday said the management had tried to delay Joseph’s reinstatement until his retirement and that a criminal case should be filed against the diocese of Kothamangalam and the college management.

– indian express

A pontificate that is stirring the hearts of all Christians

March 21, 2014 by  
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Pope FrancisRome, March 19, 2014: ‘Among Christians, unity is always greater than conflict” was the title the Vatican News Service gave the conclusion of the 47th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I had the unforgettable privilege of attending the second vespers office for this week at St Paul’s Outside the Walls Basilica in Rome, with about 4,000 people. I accompanied Pope Francis and the Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and many other denominational representatives.

Pope Francis said that “perfect union among brothers and sisters can only come from looking to the mind and heart of Christ, who cannot be divided, who wants to draw us to himself, to the sentiments of his heart … to his radical self-emptying for love of humanity. Christ alone can be the principle, the cause and the driving force for our unity.”

Unexpectedly, and unforgettably, the Pope took the Metropolitan and myself, alone, down to the tomb of St Paul which is in the centre of the basilica. He held us by the elbows as he beckoned us to approach the grave, and then he indicated that we should bow, which we did for some minutes, the three of us, in that sacred space. Then we continued with Vespers.

At the end he took the two of us with him again and we greeted all the other Church representatives. After we had recessed together he embraced and kissed the two of us with a holy kiss. These actions of his were said to be unprecedented in recent memory in that liturgy and left a deep impression on the two of us. Surely these dramatic demonstrations of unexpected love are at the heart of the quest for unity.

Pope Francis was also being real when he said: “We have all been damaged by these divisions. None of us wishes to be the cause of scandal. And we are all journeying together, fraternally, on the road toward unity, bringing about unity even as we walk. That unity comes from the Holy Spirit and brings us something unique which only the Holy Spirit can do, that is, reconciling our differences. The Lord waits for us all, accompanies us all, and is with us all on this path to unity.”

What else do we need to say to each other? This is our text. This is our goal, and this is the spirituality for our ecumenism, from the lips of someone who walks his own talk all the time, and invites us to do the same. Let us walk together now, in every way we can. That is what the Anglican Centre in Rome is all about.
In the ecumenical encyclical Ut Unum Sint (“That they may be one”) John Paul II laid out a breathtaking vision of the way the world could be with a reunited Church. This letter appeals to all Christians of good conscience to consider what unity might look like in the light of our diversity, and ask for help in re-creating what was lost from Christ’s own undivided presence on earth.

Christ is not divided, so the closer we come to Him, and live and move and have our being in Him, the closer we come to each other. We are called to increase the degrees of communion we already share from our common baptism into the life of the triune God.

I also find in Pope Francis the witness I need to be an ecumenical and justice-seeking Christian in the world today. He has quickly become the most iconic moral authority in the world today, Why? Because he represents in himself the cumulative wisdom, experience and missiology of a Franciscan and Jesuit Christian. This is what we need as a guide to Christian living in a pluralistic, hedonist and information technology-driven world. The Pope challenges us to move out of our sanctuaries and our computer-bordered worlds into the streets with common compassion and solidarity with the poorest of the poor.

He wants us to rediscover there true humanity in Christ. So this is no popularity strategy, it is not a charm offensive by the Roman Catholic Church. This is deep witness from the heart of the Gospel. This witness connects with so many because we are all made in the image of God, however marred or soiled that image may be, and the image within us from our own creation, recognises the spirit of Christ in Pope Francis. This is not a human achievement, but a work of the Holy Spirit in the Church Catholic.

Joy, mission, conversion, diversity, poor, inclusive, decentralise: these are the main words on the cover illustration from a recent copy of the Tablet, derived from Pope Francis’s latest missive to the Church and the world. These are the words he uses to speak of his faith, his hope and his love. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, also uses this kind of language and this kind of approach to being Christian in the world at this time. This synergy of spirit is surely God-given and a means of much grace. This is what God’s Incarnation is like: the “Word” made flesh, Love incarnate, looks and feels and sounds like this.

Joy is the most obvious sounding here, because God’s reign of righteousness and justice is coming in, is coming among us, is born again in us, and is taking flesh among us, nearer than heartbeat, closer than breathing. And this Word comes to us as we are, where we are, gracing us with an unexpected gift to our souls and lives, even (and especially) if we don’t feel like or think we deserve it. This word is coming to us through the Bishop of Rome in these days.

It has been said that it was by a joyful generosity that the Church captured the imagination of Europe in the first place. This is what we are hearing and seeing again in these days of this remarkably transformative pontificate, building on the work and the hope of so many who came before.
The Most Rev David Moxon is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome

– archbishop david moxon

God Knows

March 19, 2014 by  
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God Knows!


When you are tired and discouraged from fruitless efforts… God knows how hard you have tried.

When you’ve cried so long and your heart is in anguish... God has counted your tears.

If you feel that your life is on hold and time has passed you by… God is waiting with you.

When you’re lonely and your friends are too busy even for a phone call…God is by your side.

When you think you’ve tried everything and don’t know where to turn…God has a solution.

When nothing makes sense and you are confused or frustrated…God has the answer.


If suddenly your outlook is brighter and you find traces of hope…God has whispered to you.

When things are going well and you have much to be thankful for…God has blessed you.

When something joyful happens and you are filled with awe…God has smiled upon you.

When you have a purpose to fulfil and a dream to follow…God has opened your eyes and called you by name.

Remember that wherever you are or whatever you are facing…


Lift your Hands
– fwd: samuel machado

Belarus: Homeless shelter closed by authorities

March 19, 2014 by  
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belarusEurope, March 12, 2014: A homeless shelter run by a young Christian man in Belarus has been stripped of its legal status after what appears to be a campaign of official opposition to the charitable project.

Aleksei Shchedrov (29), a primary healthcare worker, turned his home in the village of Aleksandrovka, Grodno Region, into the shelter, and since it opened in December 2011, it has given refuge to around 100 homeless people.

He was charged in June 2013 for leading an unregistered religious organisation; the authorities took issue with a prayer room at the site, though Aleksei insisted that he was running a charity, not a religious organisation.

The case attracted wide publicity in Belarus, and the local media launched a smear campaign against the Christian.

He nevertheless managed to obtain registration for the shelter as a social care institution on 27 August, and the charges against him were dropped on 11 September.

But after a series of inspections by police and local officials, the centre was stripped of its legal status on 7 February. The 13 current residents could now end up back on the streets, and Aleksei may again face criminal charges.

Aleksei told Forum 18 that he faced daily pressure from the authorities and that the object of their visits seemed to be to find faults with the shelter, which comprises three houses, one of which is used as a canteen.

In January, a tax office official “threatened to impose such taxes that I wouldn’t be able to pay them”, Aleksei said.

Shortly afterwards, he was fined 39,000 Roubles (£2; US$4) for improper electric wires outside the house and a chimney without bricks on the exterior of the summer kitchen. He said that this was a “heavy burden” for the shelter, which spends this sum on bread for two weeks.

A “sanitary inspection” was the final nail in the coffin for the centre. It criticised the short distance between the shelter’s well and poultry shed, without even taking a water analysis; its findings were used by local police and officials to rescind the shelter’s legal registration.

They are pressuring Aleksei to register the centre under church auspices instead. Local church leader Yury Gritsko told Forum 18 that the authorities’ attitude would be different if the shelter had registration under his denomination, adding, “At the moment Aleksei is on his own and there’s nobody to defend him.”

However, it is not possible for a denomination to register with the state an organisation that does not have legal status and is run by an individual.

Aleksei is nevertheless continuing to care for the shelter’s residents and is optimistic about the centre’s future, saying, “A lot of people in Belarus know and support me.”

– barnabas team

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