Hundreds of Christians flee Egypt’s north sinai amid ISIS killing spree

February 26, 2017 by  
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Egypt, February 25, 2017: Hundreds of Christians in Egypt’s North Sinai province fled the area Friday after the Islamic State terror group killed seven Christians in just three weeks.

Reuters says one of its reporters saw at least 25 families from the Evangelical Church in Sinai in the city of Ismailia on the Suez Canal.

Church officials were quoted as saying that 100 of the roughly 160 families in North Sinai were fleeing. More than 200 students studying in el-Arish, the province’s capital, have also left.

“I am not going to wait for death,” Rami Mina, a Christian who fled, was quoted as saying. “I shut down my restaurant and got out of there. These people are ruthless.”

On Thursday, Kamel Youssef, a plumber, was shot to death in front of his wife and children in their home in el-Arish, according to ABC News. It was the seventh killing since Jan. 30.

Islamic State, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, recently released a video threatening Christians in the country. IS is also believed to be behind the bombing of a chapel adjoining Cairo’s St Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic pope, in December. At least 28 people were killed. Egypt’s IS affiliate is based in the Sinai Peninsula.

“Oh crusaders in Egypt, this attack that struck you in your temple is just the first with many more to come, God willing,” said a masked man in the video. The group claimed the same man blew himself up in the chapel.

A priest, who was not named and who also left el-Arish, was quoted as saying that the flight from the area in recent days is unprecedented in size. “You feel like this is all meant to force us to leave our homes. We became like refugees.”

“The scene here is really painful,” Mina Thabet, a researcher with the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, was quoted as saying. “This was a test to the government. It failed and its management of the crisis was terrible.”

Earlier this week, a Coptic Christian man was shot in the head while his son was burned alive in el-Arish. The father, 65-year-old Saad Hana, and his son, 45-year-old Medhat, were found by Egyptian security officials Wednesday, according to Al-Ahram.

In another attack on Jan. 30, Coptic Christian trader Wael Youssed Meland was shot and killed by masked men in his grocery shop in el-Arish, while on Feb. 12, a Coptic veterinarian named Bahgat William Zkhar was shot in his car just south of the city.

Two other Coptic Christians, Adel Shawky and Gamal Tawfiq Gares, were also shot and killed by masked assailants this month.

Copts make up only 10 percent of the nation’s 92 million population, and have often been victims of militants who have vandalized churches, Christian bookshops, orphanages and other buildings.

– christian post

Pope: There may be something Catholic, even outside the Catholic Church

October 1, 2012 by  
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Pope: There may be something Catholic, even outside the Catholic ChurchVatican, September 30, 2012:  Christians should not be jealous of the good that is done outside of the Catholic Church. Instead, the good that is done by the various ecclesial realities within the Church should be respected and appreciated. Using wealth “in solidarity and for the common good, ensuring equality and morality, at all levels.” Appeal for refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tomorrow the Pope returns to the Vatican.

“Just as one can find that which is not Catholic in the Catholic Church – that is, in the Church -, one can also find something that may be Catholic outside of the Catholic Church “: this quote from St. Augustine (On Baptism, Against the Donatists: PL 43 , VII, 39, 77) was at the center of reflection that Benedict XVI offered to pilgrims gathered today in the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo during the Angelus. The Pope – as he often does – was referring to the episode narrated in the Gospel of the Sunday Mass (Mark 9: 39-41): “a man, who was not the followers of Jesus had cast out demons in his name. The Apostle John, young and zealous, wants to stop him, but Jesus will not allow him. ”

“Jesus – continues the pope – is inspired by the opportunity to teach his disciples that God can bring about good and even miraculous things, even outside of their circle, and that one can cooperate with the Kingdom of God in several ways, even by offering a simple glass of water to a missionary (v. 41). ”

Thus Benedict XVI underlined the “ecumenical” teaching of Jesus in our time: “Church members should not feel jealous, but rejoice if someone from outside the community does well in the name of Christ, provided this is done with right intention and with respect “. At the same time, he insisted that often jealousy and the desire to block the action of someone also exist within the Church: “Even within the Church it – he added – it can sometimes happen that one can have difficulty in appreciating and recognizing, in a spirit of profound communion, the good things done by the various ecclesial realities. Instead we should all be able to always appreciate and respect each other, praising the Lord for the infinite ‘fantasy’ with which he acts in the Church and in the world. ”

The pope also commented on the second reading of today’s Mass, taken from the Letter of St. James, which concerns “the invective… against the dishonest rich, who put their trust in the riches accumulated by dint of abuse” (cf. Jas 5.1 to 6).

“The words of the Apostle James – said the pope – while they warn against the vain desire for material goods, are also a powerful call to use them in the perspective of solidarity and the common good, always acting with fairness and morality, at all levels “.

After the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI launched an appeal for the situation in Congo-Kinshasa, an African country with a large Catholic community, characterized by abundant natural resources, but also highly unstable in political and ethnic terms. In a series of recent developments, the UN has accused Rwanda of supporting guerrilla groups within the borders of Congo. “I follow with affection and concern – said the pope – the situation of the people in the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in these days the object of a high-level meeting at the United Nations. I am particularly close to refugees, to the women and children, who because of persistent armed clashes undergo suffering, violence and deep distress. I invoke God, for peace paths of dialogue, protection for these innocent people so that peace, based on justice, may soon be restored and for the restoration of fraternal coexistence for this sorely tried population, as well as the entire region. ”

The pope also bid farewell to the faithful at Castel Gandolfo, because tomorrow he returns to take up residency in the Vatican.

– asianews

Cardinal Gracias appointed Synod Father

September 19, 2012 by  
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Cardinal Oswald Gracias

Cardinal Oswald Gracias

Vatican City, September 19, 2012: Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, as one of the 34 Synod Fathers for the next month’s Bishops Synod in Rome.

Another Indian in the list is Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, prior general of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate congregation.

The 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops scheduled for October 7-28 will address the theme “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”

The Synod Fathers include 10 cardinals, one patriarch, 11 archbishops, eight bishops and four priests.

The other Asian in the list is Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle of Manila, Philippines.

The participants in the Synod of Bishops are called the Synod Fathers.

They include patriarchs, major archbishops, metropolitans of the Eastern Catholic Churches, bishops elected by the Eastern Catholic Churches, bishops elected by the Episcopal Conferences, ten representatives of clerical religious institutes, the heads of the departments of the Roman curia, and other representatives appointed by the Pope.

Pope Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops on September 15, 1965 in response to the desire of the participants of the Second Vatican Council to foster the spirit of collegiality they experienced at the council.

The Synod opens with the celebration of Mass and the hymn, Veni, Creator Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit).

The Synod sessions are closed to the public and the Synod Fathers are bound by secrecy about the proceedings and the votes.

If needed, the Commission for Information on the Synod holds press conferences about specific matters related to the Synod.

The last synod held four years ago addressed the theme, “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

– visnews

Pope Benedict XVI Takes Message of Tolerance to Lebanon

September 17, 2012 by  
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Pope Benedict XVI, standing next to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, waves to the crowd at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday. The pope urged peace during a time of great turmoil in the Middle East.

Pope Benedict XVI, standing next to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, waves to the crowd at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday. The pope urged peace during a time of great turmoil in the Middle East.

Lebanon, September 14, 2012: • Such revolutions, “there is always a danger of forgetting a fundamental aspect of liberty: tolerance for others and the fact that human liberty is always a shared liberty.” “We must do everything possible” to encourage tolerance and “reconciliation.”Pope

Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Lebanon on Friday with a message of tolerance that took on wider resonance as protests over an anti-Muslim video produced in the United States spread to about 20 countries.

Soon after the pope’s plane touched down in Beirut for his first visit to the region since 2009, protesters 50 miles away attacked American restaurant chains in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Soldiers opened fire on the protesters, killing one and wounding more than two dozen other people, officials said.

As the pope stepped onto the tarmac, looking tired and using a cane, he was welcomed by cheering crowds and children bearing flowers. Benedict, who has stumbled in the past when speaking of Islam, made no mention of the protests, instead praising Lebanon as an example of cooperation among faiths.

“Like me, you know that this equilibrium, which is presented everywhere as an example, is extremely delicate,” he said. “Sometimes it seems about to snap like a bow which is overstretched or submitted to pressures which are too often partisan.”

He added, “This is where real moderation and great wisdom are tested.”

The Vatican had played down security concerns, saying the pope would be warmly welcomed for his three-day visit to Lebanon, where more than 30 percent of the population is Christian and posters bearing his likeness lined the highway. On his plane en route to Lebanon, Benedict told reporters, “Nobody has advised me to cancel this voyage,” according to an informal transcript provided by the Italian daily La Stampa. “I never thought of it,” he said, “because I know that the more complicated a situation becomes, the more necessary it is to send this signal of fraternity, encouragement and solidarity.”

In keeping with Benedict’s longstanding plan for the trip, the message appeared to be aimed principally to bolster Christians in the region, an ancient community whose numbers have dwindled in recent decades because of wars, occupations and discrimination.

At a meeting with religious leaders at St. Paul’s Basilica outside Beirut on Friday evening, the pope signed a Vatican document on the state of Christians in the region.

“A Middle East without Christians, or with only a few Christians, would no longer be the Middle East,” Benedict said in the document, “The Church in the Middle East,” which is the product of a meeting of bishops at the Vatican in 2010.

Benedict said that Christians in the Middle East should be allowed “full citizenship” and not considered “second-class citizens or believers,” adding that their steady decline in the region was leading to “human, cultural, and religious impoverishment.”

The pope also focused on the war in Syria, a deepening civil conflict that has left thousands of people dead and poses a growing threat to regional stability. Adding emphasis to his previous calls for an end to the violence, he called for a halt to arms imports by both sides in the conflict.

“The importing of arms cannot continue,” the pope said. “Instead of importing arms, which is a grave sin, one should import ideas of peace, creativity, find solutions for accepting everyone in his otherness.”

Those comments, which seemed aimed at the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the growing number of militias fighting to topple him, also served as a sharp rebuke to regional powers, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which continue to funnel arms into Syria.

The pope also spoke for the first time about the wave of uprisings that have transformed the region since his last visit. “I would say it’s a positive thing: it’s the desire for more democracy, more liberty, more cooperation and a renewed Arab identity,” Benedict said.

But he also added that amid such revolutions, “there is always a danger of forgetting a fundamental aspect of liberty: tolerance for others and the fact that human liberty is always a shared liberty.” He added, “We must do everything possible” to encourage tolerance and “reconciliation.”

In a dark moment in his papacy in 2006, Benedict angered Muslims when on a visit to Germany he quoted a Byzantine emperor who called Islam “evil and inhuman.” In response, Muslims demonstrated around the world, and an Italian nun was killed in Somalia. The pope later apologized.

This week, amid the spreading unrest over the anti-Muslim video, the Vatican has walked a fine line to prevent causing similar offense. On Wednesday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement that focused on the video, saying that “unjustified offense and provocations” against Muslims produce “sometimes tragic results” that yield “unacceptable violence.” The statement came after news emerged of the death ofJ. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, but before the United States confirmed it.

On Thursday, Father Lombardi issued a statement denouncing the ambassador’s death, saying that it called “for the firmest possible condemnation on the part of the Holy See.”

“Nothing, in fact, can justify the activity of terrorist organizations and homicidal violence,” the statement said.
But by Friday evening, the spokesman sought to distance the pope from the growing controversy and any comment that could cause distress. “The visit,” Father Lombardi said, “is a message in itself.”

Kareem Fahim reported from Beirut, and Rachel Donadio from Rome and Vatican City. Hania Mourtada and Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

– reuters

Pope: Prayer & communion with Jesus gives strength to face persecution

May 4, 2012 by  
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Vatican City, May 02, 2012: Benedict XVI speaks of the witness and the prayer of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Our prayer must be the contemplation of Jesus as “Lord of our, of my daily existence.” In Him “we may be able to turn to God with the trust and abandonment of children who turn to a Father who loves us infinitely.”

Nourished by Scripture and communion with Jesus and his Church, prayer enables one to face life’s difficulties and even persecution. This is the teaching that comes from “the witness and prayer” of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, which Benedict XVI today offered 40 thousand people in St. Peter’s Square for the general audience.

Stephen, “one of the seven chosen for the service of charity”, the Pope recalled, was brought to court, before the Sanhedrin, accused of having said that Jesus would destroy the temple of Jerusalem, and subverted the customs handed down by Moses. Jesus had actually spoken of the destruction of the temple, which he would rebuild in three days, but “he was speaking of his body.”

“Stephen’s discourse before the court, the longest of the Acts of the Apostles develops from this prophecy of Jesus, who is the new temple, who inaugurates the new cult and replaces the ancient sacrifices with the offering of himself on Cross. Stephen wants to show how unfounded the accusation made against him of having subverted the Law of Moses and illustrates his vision of the history of salvation, the covenant between God and man. He thus re-reads the biblical narrative, the itinerary contained in the Holy Scripture, to show that it leads to the “place” the ultimate presence of God, which is Jesus Christ, especially His Passion, Death and Resurrection. In this perspective, Stephen also reads his being a disciple of Jesus, following him to martyrdom. ”

His meditation on Sacred Scripture allows Stephen to understand his present reality. “In his speech Stephen begins with the call of Abraham, a pilgrim to the land indicated by God and which was only a promise; he then passes to Joseph sold by his brothers, but assisted and freed by God, to arrive at Moses, who becomes an instrument of God to free his people, but who also on several occasions encounters the rejection of his own people. In these events narrated in Sacred Scripture, which Stephen religiously listens to, God, who never tires of encountering man despite often finding stubborn opposition, always emerges.”

“In all this he sees a foreshadowing of the story of Jesus, the Son of God made flesh, who – like the ancient Fathers – encounters obstacles, rejection and death.” In his meditation on the action of God in salvation history, Stephen highlights the perennial temptation to reject God and his action and says that “Jesus is the Just announced by the prophets; in Jesus, God himself is present in such a unique and definitive way: Jesus is the true place of worship.”

Stephen, therefore, does not deny the importance of the temple, “but stresses that God does not dwell in houses made by human hands. The new temple in which God dwells is his Son, who took on human flesh, it is the humanity of Christ, the Risen One who gathers the people and unites them in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood.”

“The life and discourse of Stephen is suddenly interrupted by his stoning, but his very martyrdom is the fulfillment of his life and his message: he becomes one with Christ.” Before he died, he asks for Jesus to receive his spirit, and like Jesus asks God “not to hold this sin” against those who stoned him.

The testimony of St. Stephen offers us some indications to our prayer and our lives. The first is that St. Stephen drew the strength to face his persecutors to the point of the gift of himself “from his relationship with God” and “meditation on the history of salvation, from seeing the action of God, which in Jesus Christ came to the summit.” So “our prayer must be nourished by listening to the Word of God.”

The second is that the martyr “sees foreshadowed, in the history of the relationship of love between God and man, the figure and mission of Jesus He – the Son of God – is a temple” not made with human hands ” where the presence of God the Father came so close as to take on our flesh to bring us to God, to open up the gates of Heaven to us. Our prayer, then, must be the contemplation of Jesus at the right hand of God, of Jesus as Lord of our, of my daily, existence. In him, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we too can turn to God – concluded the Pope – with the trust and abandonment of children who turn to a Father who loves them infinitely “.

– asianews

Vatican orders drastic reforms of Women’s Religious

April 20, 2012 by  
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USA, April 19, 2012: The Vatican has called for reform amid a doctrinal “crisis” within the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), appointing Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead renewal efforts.

The appointment was made as the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith revealed the findings of its multi-year doctrinal assessment of the women’s conference, which has more than 1,500 members throughout the country.

The assessment document explained, “It is clear that greater emphasis needs to be placed both on the relationship of the LCWR with the Conference of Bishops, and on the need to provide a sound doctrinal foundation in the faith of the Church.”

The assessment, initiated in 2008 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was carried out by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, a member of the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee.

Among the key findings were serious theological and doctrinal errors in presentations at the conference’s annual assemblies in recent years.

Several of the addresses depicted a vision of religious life that is incompatible with the faith of the Church, the assessment found. Some attempted to justify dissent from Church doctrine and showed “scant regard for the role of the magisterium.”

The document cited one address about religious sisters “moving beyond the Church” and even beyond Jesus. Such positions — which constitute “a rejection of faith” and “serious source of scandal” — often go unchallenged by the LCWR, it said.


Indian Chaplaincy’s Palm Saturday in Holy Land

April 3, 2012 by  
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Indian Chaplaincy's Palm Saturday in Holy LandIndian Community in Israel celebrated   the PALM SATURDAY today (31st March 2012) at Bethphage, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.  It   was a colourful and a joyful a spectacular demonstration of their faith in Jesus Christ   acknowledging him as their Saviour and the Lord and King of the universe and their lives.  They were very proud to rejoice and to recall and to re-enact the Gospel event that took place at very spot in that village called Bethpage on the Mount of Olives two thousand years ago.    As Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Pascua , he  entered  this  village which is in between Bethany  and   the Mount of Olives, at the side of the city of  Jerusalem,  he  sat on a donkey  and the  people of the village run out to spread their cloaks and Olive branches  on the road shouting “Hosanna to son of David”,  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”  etc.(Mark11:1-10).   As the they were celebrating  this important historical  event at the beginning of the Holy Week, the Indian Community experienced  themselves as  the New Israel  who came to thank God for  Jesus of Nazareth  and to celebrate  his kingship all over the universe.

The Palms & Olive leaves were blessed by His Paternity V.Rev. Fr.Pier battista Pizzaballa ofm, The Custos of the Holy Land. After Reading the Gospel,  he  preached a brief homely, in that he appreciated  the valuable Christian presence of Indian Community in the Holy Land and he  pointed  out the great pre-village and god-given opportunities  of this Community to celebrate the  this feast of the Palm Sunday,  and other feasts and the events of  the Gospel on the  very spot it all occurred at  the time of Jesus. His Paternity urged them to be a Model Community of Faith-living Community for other Christian communities who live in the Holy Land   and encouraged their evangelical Christian presence among the brothers and sisters of other faiths in the state of Israel.

The CSFThe procession of nearly a thousand Indians of men and women and little infants with their young mothers,  went through the streets of Mount of olives to Gethsemane  in the traditional routes of the Palm Sunday,  singing  hymns in Konkani, Kanada, Malayalam and English and shouting “Hosanna” etc.,  When they reached the Basilica of Agony (also known as the Basilica of  All Nations) at Gethsemane, they stood on the steps of Basilica facing the Golden Gate of old City of Jerusalem, through which the Messiah (Jesus)  entered the City of Jerusalem, they sang hymns of praise and thanks giving in a loud voice at times shouting   “Hosanna in the Highest”.  They all entered the Basilica to celebrate the Holy Eucharist of the Passion Sunday. The Holy Mass was presided over by Rev.Fr.Praveen H. D’souza OFM, the Assistant pastor of the Indian Chaplaincy and a Student at the Franciscan Biblical Institute in Jerusalem, and concelebrated by Guest Priest Rev.Fr.Vinod Wilfred Mascarenhas OFM Cap.  The director of the Social Welfare Centre of Capuchins in Mangalore. The Indian Chaplaincy which cares for the Pastoral needs of the Indian Community in the Holy Land organized this procession on Palm Saturday as vast majority of its members are migrant-workers in Israel and get their week off only on Sabbath (Saturday-Day of Rest) Thus these migrant Christian community opens up a new reality of Pastoral Care and dimensions of Christian presence in the Holy Land.

Reported by  Fr.Jayaseelan  OFM  
Photos by Jossy and Jessy Pinto  

The CSF Intercessors would be praying for you (our collaborators & partners) this holy week


Pope’s message for 27th World Youth Day *Holy Father asks Cuban president for Good Friday holiday

March 29, 2012 by  
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Vatican City, March 27, 2012: “Rejoice in the Lord always”, a verse from St. Paul’s Letter the Philippians, is the theme chosen by the Holy Father for twenty-seventh World Youth Day, which is to be celebrated in dioceses throughout the world on Palm Sunday. Extracts from the English-language version of the message are given below.

“This year’s World Youth Day theme comes from St. Paul’s exhortation in his Letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always”. Joy is at the heart of Christian experience. At each World Youth Day we experience immense joy, the joy of communion, the joy of being Christian, the joy of faith. This is one of the marks of these gatherings. We can see the great attraction that joy exercises. In a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty and reliability of the Christian faith. The Church’s vocation is to bring joy to the world. … In these difficult times, so many young people all around you need to hear that the Christian message is a message of joy and hope!”

1. Our hearts are made for joy

“A yearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and woman. … This is particularly true for you, because youth is … a time of openness to the future and of great longing for happiness, friendship, sharing and truth, a time when we are moved by high ideals and make great plans. … Yet each day we also face any number of difficulties. Deep down we also worry about the future; we begin to wonder if the full and lasting joy for which we long might be an illusion and an escape from reality. … How can we distinguish things that give real and lasting joy from immediate and illusory pleasures? How can we find true joy in life, a joy that endures and does not forsake us at moments of difficulty?”

2. God is the source of true joy

“Whatever brings us true joy, whether the small joys of each day or the greatest joys in life, has its source in God, even if this does not seem immediately obvious. This is because God is a communion of eternal love, He is infinite joy that does not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God loves and who love Him. … God wants us to share in His own divine and eternal joy, and He helps us to see that the deepest meaning and value of our lives lie in being accepted, welcomed and loved by Him. Whereas we sometimes find it hard to accept others, God offers us an unconditional acceptance which enables us to say: “I am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God”.

“God’s infinite love for each of us is fully seen in Jesus Christ. The joy we are searching for is to be found in Him. … The cause of all this joy is the closeness of God Who became one of us. … Christ is the One Who lives and Who overcame evil, sin and death. He is present among us as the Risen One and He will remain with us until the end of the world. Evil does not have the last word in our lives; rather, faith in Christ the Saviour tells us that God’s love is victorious”.

3. Preserving Christian joy in our hearts

“The discovery and preservation of spiritual joy is the fruit of an encounter with the Lord. Jesus asks us to follow Him and to stake our whole life on Him. … Joy is the fruit of faith. … Learn to see how God is working in your lives. … Turn your eyes to Him often. He gave His life for you on the cross because He loves you. Contemplation of this great love brings a hope and joy to our hearts that nothing can destroy”.

“To seek the Lord and find Him in our lives also means accepting His word. … God’s word reveals the wonders that He has accomplished throughout human history. … The liturgy is a special place where the Church expresses the joy which she receives from the Lord and transmits it to the world. Each Sunday at Mass the Christian community celebrates the central mystery of salvation, which is the death and resurrection of Christ”.

4. The joy of love

“Joy is intimately linked to love. They are inseparable gifts of the Holy Spirit. Love gives rise to joy, and joy is a form of love. … To love means to be steadfast, reliable and faithful to commitments. … If we are to experience the joy of love, we must also be generous. We cannot be content to give the minimum. We need to be fully committed in life and to pay particular attention to those in need. The world needs men and women who are competent and generous, willing to be at the service of the common good. … Find ways to help make society more just and humane wherever you happen to be. … I would like to mention one particular joy. It is the joy we feel when we respond to the vocation to give our whole life to the Lord. … Do not be afraid if Christ is calling you to the religious, monastic or missionary life or to the priesthood. Be assured that He fills with joy all those who respond to His invitation. … In the same way, God gives great joy to men and women who give themselves totally to one another in marriage in order to build a family. … A third element that will lead you to the joy of love … is allowing fraternal love to grow in your lives and in those of your communities”.

5. The joy of conversion

“Experiencing real joy also means recognising the temptations that lead us away from it. Our present-day culture often pressures us to seek immediate goals, achievements and pleasures. It fosters fickleness more than perseverance, hard work and fidelity to commitments. … Experience teaches us that possessions do not ensure happiness”.

“God wants us to be happy. That is why He gave us specific directions for the journey of life: the Commandments. If we observe them, we will find the path to life and happiness. At first glance, they might seem to be a list of prohibitions and an obstacle to our freedom. But if we study them more closely, we see in the light of Christ’s message that the Commandments are a set of essential and valuable rules leading to a happy life in accordance with God’s plan. … At times the path of the Christian life is not easy, and being faithful to the Lord’s love presents obstacles; occasionally we fall. Yet God in His mercy never abandons us; He always offers us the possibility of returning to him. … Have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation! It is the Sacrament of joy rediscovered”.

6. Joy at times of trial

“In the end, though, we might still wonder in our hearts whether it is really possible to live joyfully amid all life’s trials, especially those which are most tragic and mysterious. … We can find an answer in some of the experiences of young people like yourselves who have found in Christ the light that can give strength and hope even in difficult situations.

“Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati experienced many trials during his short life. … When Blessed John Paul II presented Blessed Pier Giorgio as a model for young people, he described him as “a young person with infectious joy, the joy that overcame many difficulties in his life”. Closer to us in time is Chiara Badano, who was recently beatified. She experienced how pain could be transfigured by love and mysteriously steeped in joy. … Authentic Christians are never despairing or sad, not even when faced with difficult trials. They show that Christian joy is not a flight from reality, but a supernatural power that helps us to deal with the challenges of daily life”.

7. Witnesses of joy

“To conclude I would encourage you to be missionaries of joy. We cannot be happy if others are not. … Go and tell other young people about your joy at finding the precious treasure which is Jesus Himself. We cannot keep the joy of faith to ourselves. If we are to keep it, we must give it away”.

“Christianity is sometimes depicted as a way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy. But this is far from the truth. Christians are men and women who are truly happy because they know that they are not alone. They know that God is always holding them in His hands. It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring. If the way Christians live at times appears dull and boring, you should be the first to show the joyful and happy side of faith. The Gospel is the “good news” that God loves us and that each of us is important to Him. Show the world that this is true!”

– vis

Holy Father asks Cuban president for Good Friday holiday


Vatican City, March 27, 2012: Having completed his visit to the Shrine of “Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre”, the Holy Father was taken to the airport of Santiago de Cuba where he boarded a flight for the nation’s capital city Havana.

The Pope arrived at Jose Marti airport at midday local time (7 p.m. in Rome), where he was welcomed by Raul Castro, president of Cuba, who had not been scheduled to be present; by Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of San Cristobal de La Habana, by the local authorities and by hundreds of children holding white and yellow flowers.

After having had lunch at the apostolic nunciature, Benedict XVI travelled by car to the Palacio de la Revolucion where he paid a courtesy visit to President Raul Castro. Since 1965 the building complex known as Palacio de la Revolucion has been home to the Council of State, the Office of the President, the Council of Ministers and the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.

Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. described the meeting between the two men as “long, cordial and serene”. Their discussions, he said, had focused on the condition of the Cuban people, including humanitarian issues and the Church’s expectations in her service of the common good. The Pope also made a specific request for Good Friday to be re-established as a holiday.

At the end of their meeting the Pope and President Castro exchanged gifts. Benedict XVI gave the Cuban leader a facsimile of Ptolemy’s “Geography”, and the president gave him a bronze reproduction of “Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre”. The Holy Father then returned to the apostolic nunciature where he dined with Cuban bishops.

– vis

Indian Chaplaincy’s Celebrations of Holy Week – 2012 in the Holy Land *The church is not a political party but…

March 28, 2012 by  
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Venue: JERUSALEM: Shrine of Palms, Bethpage to Basilica of the Agony, Gethsemane 

8.15  am     Arrival to the Shrine of Palms, Bet-phage  
8.45  am     Reading of the Gospel
9.00  am     Blessing of the Palms by His Paternity V.Rev. Fr.Custos of the Holy Land 
              Followed by the Solemn Procession towards Mount of Olives Palm Sunday Routes

Entering the Basilica of Agony through the main entrance. 
10.00 am     Holy Eucharist of the Passion in the Basilica of the Agony, Gethsemane, Jerusalem
12.00 am     Conclusion of the Celebrations

PARTICIPANTS:  More than 1000 from Haifa, Tel Aviv, Herzylia,  Nof Yam, Jerusalem

7.00 pm     Celebration of the Paschal Meal of our Lord Jesus Christ,
            The ceremony of the Washing of the feet and sharing of the bread
8.30 pm     Solemn   Procession of the Blessed Sacrament & Adoration

06.04.2012  GOOD  FRIDAY
9.30 am     Arrival to Cenacle, Mount Zion
9.45 am     Introducing the Passion of our Lord: 
                      Pre-experience of the passion in the Last Supper       
10.00am   Way of the Cross: Meditation on the Stations of the Cross
            First Station Caenaculam  
            II.  Galli Canthu
            III. Entrance of the City of David
            IV.  Eastern Wall Corner
            V.   Monument of Absalom
10.30 am    Other stations in and around the Kedron Valley, Gethsemane, Jerusalem
11.00 am    Celebration of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ  in Konkani
12.30 pm    Veneration of the Crucifix  
                Liturgy of the WORD OF GOD
        Liturgy of BAPTISM AND BAPTISM OF INFANTS: Aaron & Gloria 
               Liturgy of the EUCHARIST & Communion
Joy of the Glorious Resurrection of our L.J.C. : SHARING OF GREETINGS AND SWEETS            

10.00 am   Solemn Mass at St.Joseph’s Latin Parish Hall in Haifa
Malayalam Speaking Faithful

Palm Saturday
9.00  am  Solemn Procession with Palms from Bethfage 
10.00 am Mass at  Gethsemane Garden

Holy Thursday:
In the evening celebrations of Paschal Meal of the Lord at St.Peter’s  Church, Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv

Holy Friday:
10.30am   Celebration of the Passion of the Lord  at Gethsemane Garden
1.00pm    Way of the Cross at Via Dolorosa

Holy Saturday:
10.00am   Celebration of the Pascha  at the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate Church at  4th Station, Jerusalem(Oriental Rite)
9.00 pm   Easter Vigil at St.Peter’s Church   Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv (Latin Rite)

– fr. jayaseelan ofm

The church is not a political party but…


Vatican City, 24 March 2012: Yesterday morning, before boarding his flight for Mexico, Benedict XVI was greeted at Rome’s Fiumicino airport by Mario Monti, prime minister of Italy. Later, during the course of the journey, the Holy Father participated in the traditional in-flight press conference with the more than seventy journalists accompanying him on the plane. He answered questions on a wide range of subjects, from drug trafficking and violence in Mexico to the social situation in Cuba and new evangelisation on the Latin American continent.

The Pope noted that his journey was taking him in the footsteps of John Paul II, who had made five visits to Mexico and one to Cuba, and that he hoped to continue the work begun by his predecessor. “I share the joys and hopes, but also the suffering and difficulties” of the Mexican people, he said. “I am going to bring encouragement but also to learn, to bring comfort in faith, hope and love; a commitment to goodness and to the struggle against evil. Let us hope that the Lord will help us”.

A Mexican journalist pointed out that great social inequalities persist in Latin America and that the at times the Catholic Church is not sufficiently encouraged to intervene in this field. “The Church must of course ask if she does enough for social justice on that great continent”, the Pope replied. “It is a question of conscience which we must always pose ourselves. … What must the Church do? What can she not do? What must she not do? The Church is not a political power, she is not a party but a moral entity, a moral power. … I reiterate what I have already said. The Church’s first concern is to educate minds in both individual and public ethics, thus creating the necessary sense of responsibility. Here perhaps there are some shortcomings. In Latin America, as elsewhere, no small number of Catholics show a kind of schizophrenia between individual and public morals. … We must educate people to overcome this schizophrenia, educate them not only in … individual morality, but also in public morality. This we must seek to do with the social doctrine of the Church because, of course, such public morality must be a reasonable morality, shared and shareable by non believers.

Another journalist recalled the words used by John Paul II on his trip to Cuba, “may Cuba open to the world and, and may the world open to Cuba”, and noted that many defenders of human rights had spoken out in anticipation of Benedict XVI’s visit to the island.

The Pope reiterated the continuity of his ideas with the words of John Paul II “which are still highly relevant”. The visit marked, he said, “the beginning of a journey of collaboration and constructive dialogue, a long journey which requires patience but which is moving forward. It is clear today that Marxist ideology as it was conceived no longer responds to reality. … In order to build a new society new models must be discovered, patiently and constructively. In this process, which requires patience but also firmness, we wish to make our contribution in a spirit of dialogue, in order to avoid traumas and facilitate the way to a fraternal and just society for all people. Obviously, the Church is always on the side of freedom, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. … The faithful can also contribute to the progress of this journey”.

Finally the Holy Father responded to a question about new evangelisation in Latin America, in the light of the Aparecida Conference.

“The path of new evangelisation began with Vatican Council II. This was the fundamental intention of Blessed John XXIII, it was also emphasised by John Paul II and its importance in a world undergoing such great changes has become even more evident. The Gospel must be expressed in new ways. … There is a condition which exists throughout the world: secularisation, the absence of God, the difficulty of seeing Him as a reality which concerns us. … It is today, in the context of modern day rationality, that we can rediscover God as a fundamental guide for life, the fundamental hope for life, the foundation of the values upon which our society rests. … I think it is very important to announce a God Who responds to our reason. … However, we also have to take account of concrete reality. It is important to bear in mind that, in Latin America as a whole, religion is a question not of reason but of the heart. … Yet this intuition of the heart must be linked to the rationality of faith, and to the profundity of faith that goes beyond reason. We must not lose the heart, but unite heart and reason, … only in this way is the human being complete”.

– vis

Iran church threatened with bombing if… *Vatican Nuncio: Syrian Church must not stand & watch

March 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Asia, Church, Iran, newsletter-world, Persecution, Vatican, World

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Armenian Church in TehranIran, March 19, 2012: Another church in Tehran has been ordered to stop holding services in the Iranian national language on Fridays, and has been threatened with a bomb attack if it does not comply.

Officers of the Islamic Court served the notice, which came into effect as of Friday 24 February, to the Armenian Anglican Church in the country’s capital. They threatened that if the order is ignored, the church building will be bombed “as happens in Iraq every day”.

It comes after two other Tehran churches, Emmanuel Protestant Church and St Peter Evangelical Church, were also ordered to stop holding services in Farsi on Fridays.

Friday is the main weekend-day in Iran, so it is easier for people to attend a church service on this day than Sunday, which is a work day.

The Armenian Anglican Church was one of the few established churches in Iran that was still allowed to hold Persian language services.

A report by Farsi Christian News Network said:

It now seems likely that the Islamic authorities have imagined that with this new restriction they will somehow hold back the rapid, and evidently extremely worrying, spread of Christianity amongst the people under their yoke.

In a further attempt by the authorities to clamp down on the rapidly growing Iranian Church, they have permanently shut discipleship classes for new Christians run for decades by the Tehran Central Assembly of God Church on Saturdays.

Security agents have been rounding up Christians in a sweep of arrests across the country since Christmas.

– barnabas team

Vatican Nuncio: Syrian Church must not stand & watch


Syria Prayer Greek CatholicVatican-Syria, March 16, 2012: In an interview with AsiaNews, Mgr. Mario Zenari, for the past three years nuncio in Damascus, described all the elements that make up the tangled skein of Syria. The deep division between Sunnis and Alawites (Shiites) and the growing hatred. The too fearful Christians must commit themselves to building a society where there is respect for man and his rights, equality for women, equality among all citizens, freedom of religion and of conscience. Being in Syria is a mission. At Homs a priest talks with the rebels and with the army to provide aid to the poor, to save the lives of the inhabitants, to bury the dead that nobody wants to touch. In a year of violence at least 800-900 children have been killed. The majority were shot in the streets by unknown snipers. Syria is changing and there’s no turning back.

“This is the Christians’ hour”; there has begun “a new historical process in Syria” from which it will never turn back and “Christians cannot miss this rendezvous with history”: Msgr. Mario Zenari, for three years now the Vatican nuncio in Damascus, speaks almost excitedly as he recalls the Christians’ missionary efforts of Christians, which is to be “like sheep among wolves”, but with an identity and a task. Precisely because in Syria the gap between the different components of society is widening more and more, he sees an urgent need for Christians to come out into society and build bridges of reconciliation, defending the values typical of the Church’s social doctrine: human dignity, rejection of violence, equality between men and women, fundamental freedoms, freedom of conscience and religion, the separation between religion and state.  “It is urgent”, he said, “to go out into the open, on the attack, and not to sit back and watch.” Mgr. Zenari, 66, tells stories of ordinary heroism of some priests who have remained in Homs during this months’ bombing and violence. While sharing in the mourning for the tragedy of the Belgian children killed in a car accident in Switzerland, he reminds us that in Syria 800-900 children have already been killed, mostly shot “in the head and the heart” by strangers: “Their murder is an atrocity” and it is necessary that the international community ensure “justice for these children.” Here is the full interview which Mgr. Zenari gave via telephone to AsiaNews.

Your Excellency, what is it like is to be in Syria at this moment?

My heart is sad. This is the fourth spring that I’ve lived in Damascus and this year I still haven’t seen spring arrive. They’re expecting the fruits of Kofi Annan’s mission, but there are fears that the parties will say “Yes, but …”,   where the “but” is more important than the “yes”. Instead it is urgent that both parties make a tremendous effort.  The distances between them have become huge and are widening every day. For this reason it’s necessary for both parties to jump through hoops to rebuild the dialogue. A reversal is necessary, a conversion… The climate is so deteriorated that a fair amount of heroism is needed, perhaps a bit more from one particular side. Hopefully the help of the international community will bear fruit, so it will make them make great gestures, but it’s a bit difficult.

Before, the international community accused only the regular army. Now Annan has called for an end to the violence from both sides;  Britain hopes for a peaceful solution; France is doubtful about sending weapons to the rebels…

Yes, this is true. The request has to come from 360 degrees, from all sides. Maybe at the beginning the media exaggerated about only one of the sides. But both parties are called upon to make gestures of goodwill and put an end to violence. At first, perhaps driven by enthusiasm for the Arab spring in other regions, the riots were seen in a very idealistic manner; and then going forward, we saw many other aspects come into play. To date, Syria is a tangled skein, and there are many elements to watch.

Could you list these elements?

Initially there were demonstrations for more democracy, more respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, with peaceful demonstrations that were suppressed. But then so many factors were added: first, the fact that 75% of the society here is composed of Sunnis; then, that it is governed by 12% of the population who are the Alawites.  This tension between Sunnis and Alawites today is decisive, without forgetting the other aspects. History will assess how the relationship between Sunnis and Shiites has gone (the Alawites are somehow linked to the Shiite world).

There is also an attempt to internationalize the conflict.

We are neighbors with Iraq, with Israel, with Lebanon; and we’re not far from Iran… and so in Syria ingredients come in from all sides and complicate the mess.

There is a risk that the international community use Syria as a chessboard for its interests: the West, Saudi Arabia and Qatar against Iran; Israel against Hezbollah; Turkey against Syria … But the needs of the Syrian people are forgotten.

There are various readings. There is the simplistic one of the regime which claims that a foreign conspiracy is present. It’s impossible to evaluate fully how much is true and how much is propaganda.

The Syrian Christians, 10% of the population, seem caught in the crossfire.

For me there is a place for Christians and they cannot afford to miss this appointment with this new historical process. There is no doubt that Syria is changing: a new process has begun and there’s no going back. Where should the Christians place themselves? I would answer based on the Psalms, a wisdom that is at least 2500 years old. And one Psalm says:  Do not lean on a falling wall [Ps 61 (62), 4]. And neither should a man stand by, gazing out the window. Christians are in society and must roll up their sleeves. In the past there have been faithful who have made a glorious contribution in the field of culture, art, politics: one of the founders of the Baath Party was a Christian. Woe, therefore, if they miss this appointment. What’s more, Christians start off with an advantage. The Pope, a few months ago, at the Syrian ambassador’s presentation of credentials [June 9, 2011], pointed out that there are exemplary relations between Christians and Muslims. The Christians in Syria also have a good elite: cultural figures, academics, lawyers, presidents of hospitals… It’s time to live out our task and make our contribution, reclaiming our dignity and our identity, based on the Gospel and the social doctrine of the Church: human dignity, rejection of violence, equality between men and women, fundamental freedoms, freedom of conscience and religion, the separation between religion and state, etc… It is urgent to go out in the open, on the attack, and not to sit back and watch.

Three years ago I presented my credentials to President Assad. And I was impressed that for following 15 minutes during the personal interview, the president continued to speak of the importance that Christians have for Syrian society. He truly admired the Christian components in the country. In this phase of transformation, one cannot look back and think about some protection from the outside: we must work for a rule of law, in which all citizens are equal, have the same rights and duties.

Another thing I noticed is that at every level Christians serve as a bridge. In many mixed villages, Alawites and Christians live in peace, Sunnis and Christians the same, Druze and Christians live in harmony… In these times, with the conflict, sometimes there has been friction and confrontation, but until now, no church has ever suffered even a scratch. In any case, we Christians can have a function of reconciliation among all the groups living in the country. The idea is going around that the fate of Christians in Syria is likely to be similar to what happened in Iraq. But Syria is not Iraq, and it’s not even Egypt: it has its own characteristics, with a tradition of good tolerance.

The Gospel tells us: I send you out as sheep among wolves. And the wolves are not only in Damascus but also in Frankfurt, New York, London, Paris …. only somewhat more subtle and refined. Being in the midst of wolves is part of our mission and we need not fear. The Gospel also says: “Do not be afraid.”

I have continually before my eyes outstanding examples of this mission. In these days Homs is hell. Everyday I phone three priests who have remained there. As we speak, we hear gunfire because the Christian quarter is between in the crossfire. One of them is remarkable for what he is able to do: he talks to the rebels to halt the violence, asking them permission to let pass the trucks with food aid for the poor. On the other hand, from the other side, he asks the army not to shoot, in order not to hit the neighborhoods where there are still inhabitants, or sacred buildings. And he serves as a bridge, like a sheep among wolves. Several days ago there were the bodies of three soldiers in front of the cathedral. They had been there for 10 days. No one dared to recover them because there was the risk of being killed. So he went to the rebels and asked for clemency for these bodies. The rebels at first were angry, shouting: “What do we care for these pigs?” But he said: “No, after we are dead we are not pigs, we are all equal.” And he managed to get them to listen:  they loaded the bodies onto a truck and dumped them onto a piece of road where it was easier for their fellow soldiers to recover them.

The Church can do a lot, on a practical, charitable level, and with our choices, focusing on the defense of the human person, above party lines. We must give attention to the hungry, the wounded, the dead… So many people have been killed and no one knows by whom. We must go out, denounce, give our testimony in favor of the human person.

These days the world has been impressed by the tragedy of that bus that crashed in a tunnel in Switzerland. 22 Belgian children died and the emotion that it aroused is understandable. Here in Syria, until 2 weeks ago, according to the UN there have been 7500 killed, but now we are up to 9500. Of these, at least 500 are children! This means that out of every 15 deaths, one was a child. Some of them died crushed by the rubble caused by bombs, but the majority died in the street and not because they stumbled or fell, no: they were shot in the heart or the head with bullets. I hope that the international community can do something to ensure justice for these children. It is good and fitting to be moved over 22 children, but here there are 800-900 who have died. It is urgent to denounce these crimes. Human life is sacred, that of those who wear the military uniform, like that of the rebels, but even more so that of children. Their murder is an atrocity.

The road Syria is on is long, difficult and painful, like that of a river: it may deviate, go right or left, but it reaches the sea. The Synod for the Middle East prompted the bishops and the faithful to witness to the faith and work together to build the city of man along with the others. The Church must speak its position, meet, comfort, clean up these disfigured faces. Being in this country is a mission.

What can we Catholics do in the rest of the world? The Custody of the Holy Land, for example, has launched a campaign to help the Christians of Syria…

We must begin by thanking you for your generosity and solidarity, which is much needed. I hope that with Caritas and other institutions we can alleviate all the suffering in the country. It is also necessary try to understand the situation of the Christians. It’s one thing is to reason at a table, and another thing to get carried away by sentiment. We must understand even the feelings and listen.

What worries me most is the growing hatred in society. For now it isn’t manifest, but it’s burning. The bullets that the two groups are exchanging are only the tip of the iceberg. We are walking on embers that can ignite at any time. For our part, we Christians witness to charity. It’s the Christians’ moment, we must act and go on the offensive in defense of the human person: it is important not to miss this historic moment.

– asianews

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