Pope condemns Christian persecution

January 13, 2012 by  
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Persecuted ChristiansVatican, January 11, 2012: The pope tells ambassadors that religion should not be marginalized.Pope Benedict xvi spoke up for persecuted Christians around the world in a speech to ambassadors to the Vatican on January 9.

The theme of his speech was young people—how the world’s troubles affect them, and how to help them. He discussed “the grave and disturbing developments of the global economic and financial crisis” and the “agitation which has affected various regions, at times severely”—aka the “Arab Spring.”

The solution, he said, was education, noting that “the family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and states.”

The pope then forcefully condemned the global persecution of Christians, tying this into his theme by noting “it is clear that an effective educational program also calls for respect of religious freedom.”

“In many countries Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life; in other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes,” he said. “At times they are forced to leave the countries they have helped to build because of persistent tensions and policies which frequently relegate them to being second-class spectators of national life.”

He praised former Pakistani Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, who was shot after speaking out for persecuted Christians. He also condemned religiously motivated terrorism.

But he did not only speak about violent persecution. “In other parts of the world,” he said, “we see policies aimed at marginalizing the role of religion in the life of society ….” He made it clear that he believed Catholicism should play a public role in Europe, saying, “I am proud to recall … that the Christian vision of man was the true inspiration for the framers of Germany’s Basic Law, as indeed it was for the founders of a united Europe.”

He praised the European Court of Human Right’s decision to allow Italy’s state schools to display crosses. Indeed, he praised Italy’s relationship between church and state as a model for other nations.The speech shows the Catholic Church’s to be the defender of Christians around the world.
The pope’s speech clearly shows he expect Europe to fight the powers that are today persecuting Christians.

– thetrumpet

Fides publishes list of Church people killed in 2011

January 4, 2012 by  
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Marco Antonio DuraVatican, January 03, 2012: Releases names of murdered missionaries for 2011. Vatican news sources released the names of Catholic bishops, priests, religious and laity who were killed in 2011 for their faith. The FIDES news service noted the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who said on December 26 of that year, “As in ancient times, today the sincere adherence to the Gospel may require the sacrifice of life, and many Christians in various parts of the world are sometimes exposed to persecution and martyrdom”.

According to FIDES, in its annual documentation of the deaths of pastoral workers and others,  26 pastoral care workers were killed in 2011: one more than the previous year: 18 priests, 4 religious sisters, 4 lay people.

For the third consecutive year, the place most affected, with an extremely elevated number of pastoral workers killed is the Americas, bathed with the blood of 13 priests and 2 lay persons. Following is Africa, where 6 pastoral workers were killed: 2 priests, 3 religious sisters,1 lay person. Asia, where 2 priests, 1 religious sister, 1 lay person were killed. The least affected was Europe, where one priest was killed.
Some were victims of that violence, fighting it or being willing to help others with the small everyday problems, giving their own safety last priority. This year too, many were killed in attempted robbery or kidnapping which ended badly, caught in their homes by bandits in search of imaginary riches. Others were killed in the name of Christ by those opposing love with hatred, hope with despair, dialogue with violent opposition, the right to perpetrate abuse.

On the day of the liturgical feast of Proto-Martyr Stephen, December 26, Pope Benedict XVI recalled during the Angelus: “As in ancient times, today the sincere adherence to the Gospel may require the sacrifice of life and many Christians in various parts of the world are occasionally exposed to persecution and martyrdom. But, the Lord reminds us, “he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mt 10:22)”.

Although the biographical notes of these brothers and sisters killed are scant, they professed “a sincere adherence to the Gospel” not only in words, but with the testimony of their lives, in situations of suffering, poverty, tension, degradation, violence … without discrimination of race, caste, religion, with the sole aim of ensuring the Father’s love and promoting the human person, every man.

“The true imitation of Christ is love”, said Pope Benedict on December 26. And this was certainly the rule of life for Sister Angelina, who was killed in South Sudan by militants of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) while she was bringing medical aid to refugees; and also for Maria Elizabeth Macías Castro, of the Scalabrinian Lay Movement of Nuevo Laredo (Mexico) , who worked for a newspaper and was committed to assisting migrants, she was kidnapped and murdered by drug dealers;  even for Father Fausto Tentorio, Italian missionary of  PIME, priest in Mindanao (Southern Philippines), who devoted his life to the service of literacy and development of indigenous people; or even for the layman Rabindra Parichha, killed in Orissa in eastern India: former itinerant catechist was very involved in the legal field and a promoter of human rights.

Fides’ list  includes not only missionaries ad gentes in the strict sense, but all pastoral care workers who died violent deaths. The term “martyrs” is not used, since it is up to the Church to judge their possible merits and also because of the scarcity of available information in most of cases, with regard to their life and even the circumstances of their death. However, the beatification process has begun for 15 martyrs, including missionaries and lay catechists, killed in Laos, “in hatred of the Christian faith” between 1954 and 1970 : 5 Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), 5 members of the Society for Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP) and 5 lay Laotian catechists.

The provisional list compiled annually by Fides, which must therefore be added to the long list of many of whom there may never be news, ” who in every corner of the world suffer and even pay with their lives for their faith in Christ.” They are  the “cloud of unknown soldiers for  the great cause of God” – according to the words of Pope John Paul II – ranging from the Pakistan Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, the first Catholic to hold this office, committed to peaceful coexistence between the religious communities in his country, killed on March 3, to the young Nigerian who in Abuja, at the church of Saint Theresa, was working for the security service to protect worshippers on Christmas Day, killed by an attack by the Boko Haram Muslim religious sect along with other 35 people.

Overview of Continents

Americas

In North and South America 15 pastoral care workers were killed (13 priests and 2 lay people). They were killed in Colombia (7), Mexico (5), Brazil (1), Paraguay (1) and Nicaragua (1).

In Colombia 6 priests and 1 lay person were killed: Fr. Rafael Reátiga Rojas and Fr.Richard Armando Piffano Laguado  killed by gunshot by a murderer who was traveling with the two priests; Fr. Luis Carlos Orozco Cardona, killed by a young man who shot him among the crowd;Fr. Gustavo Garcia, Eudista, murdered in the street by a man who wanted to steal his mobile phone; Fr. Jose Reinel Restrepo Idárraga, killed by unknown persons while he was riding his motorcycle which was then stolen along with other objects belonging to the priest; Fr. GualbertoOviedo Arrieta, found covered with wounds and knifed to death, in the rectory of his parish. To the list of priests we also add a lay man Luis Eduardo Garcia, a member of the Social Pastoral, attacked by a group of guerrillas, kidnapped and then killed.

In Mexico, 4 priests died and 1 lay woman: Fr. Santos Sánchez Hernández, attacked by an intruder who entered his house, most likely to steal; Fr. Francisco Sanchez Duran, found in the church with wounds to the neck, perhaps in an attempt to stop a robbery in church; Fr. Salvador Ruiz Enciso, who was kidnapped and killed; Fr. Marco Antonio Duran Romero, killed in a gunfight between soldiers and an armed group. To the list we add Mary Elizabeth Macías Castro, of the Scalabrinian Lay Movement, who worked at a newspaper and in contact with migrants, kidnapped by a group of drug dealers and brutally killed.

In Brazil, Fr. Romeu Drago was killed in his home. His body was then brought to about 25 km from his home, where he was burned.
In Paraguay, Mgr.Julio Cesar Alvarez was killed. His body was found in his room, hand and foot bound, with injuries and scratches and strangled.
In Nicaragua, Fr. Marlon Ernesto Pupiro García was kidnapped and killed.

Africa

In Africa, 6 pastoral care workers were killed: 2 priests, 3 women religious, 1 lay person. The killings took place in Burundi (2) and DR Congo, Southern Sudan, Tunisia, Kenya.

In Tunisia Fr. Marek Rybinsk was killed, a Salesian missionary, whose body was found dead in a local Salesian school of Manouba. The Polish missionary had received death threats from Muslim extremists before his murder.

In Kenya Fr. Awuor Kiser was attacked in a suburb of the Kenyan capital. Shot in the chest with an edged weapon and died because of the serious the wounds.
In R.D. Congo Sister Jeanne Yegmane was killed in an ambush .

In South Sudan Sister Angelina died, while bringing medical aid to refugees.

In Burundi, during a robbery attempt Sister Lukrecija Mamica, of the “Sisters of Charity”, and Francesco Bazzani, a volunteer were killed.

Asia

In 2011 in Asia the deaths of 4 pastoral care workers were recorded: 2 priests, 3 religious sisters, 1 lay person. They died in: India (3) and the Philippines (1).

In India, the priest Fr. G. Amalan was killed in his room by a young man who escaped with a few rupees found in the home; the religious Sister Valsha John, working among the poor, the marginalized and tribal people, killed in her home, a catechist and lay activist RabindraParichha, kidnapped and killed.

In the Philippines, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, PIME missionary was killed, who had dedicated his life to the service of literacy and development of the indigenous known as lumads. He was killed while on his way to a priests’ meeting, two gunmen shot him in the head and back.

Europe

In Spain, Fr. Ricardo Munoz Juarez was killed by thieves who broke into his home.

Bigeoraphical Notes and Circumstances of Death 

Sister Jeanne Yegmane, Congolese, of the congregation of “Augustine” (Order of Saint Augustine) of Dungu (DR Congo), was killed in a street ambush on January 15, 2011. The assailants emerged unannounced from the forest and suddenly fired shots at passenger vehicles, killing Sister Yegmane. After having stopped the cars, the bandits kidnapped the passengers and before escaping, they set fire to the vehicles. After the end of her mandate as Superior, SisterYegmane had specialized in ophthalmology in Kinshasa. She was very committed to healing the sick and for months had been working hard to bring about the Ophtalmologique Siloe Centre inIsiro, intended to cover a catchment area of about 2 million people in the High Huel District.

On 17 January 2011 Sister Angelina was killed in South Sudan, a religious of the local institute of St. Augustine, age 37, of the diocese of Tombura-Yambio (South Sudan). The nun was killed by militants of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) while she was bringing medical aid to refugees in South Sudan. The crime is part of the long list of episodes of violence and clashes in different states between the army of Southern Sudan and rebel factions.

Fr. Rafael Reátiga Rojas, 35, pastor of the “Jesucristo Nuestra Paz” Cathedral, in the Diocese ofSoacha (suffragan of Bogotá, Colombia), and Fr. Richard Armando Piffano Laguado, 37, pastor of the church of “San Juan de la Cruz” Kennedy City, who were killed in Bogotá on Wednesday evening, January 26, 2011, on the southern outskirts of the great capital of Colombia. The assassin was traveling in the same car as the two priests: after he shot one in the head and the other in the chest, bringing on their instantaneous deaths, he alighted from the car and escaped. According to testimonies someone was waiting for him and helped him to escape.

Fr. Luis Carlos Orozco Cardona, 26, was seriously wounded in Rionegro (Antioquia), Colombia, on Saturday evening, on February 12, 2011. Among the crowd, an armed young man shot the priest, who was the vicar of the Cathedral in the Diocese of Sonson-Rionegro. Fr. Orozco, seriously wounded, was taken to hospital but despite doctors’ efforts he died in the early morning on February 13, 2011, while undergoing surgery. The capture of a minor was reported, perpetrator of the priest’s murder, and whose motives remain unknown. Fr. Orozco Cardona was ordained a priest the year before, February 26, 2010.

Fr. G. Amalan, 54, Secretary of the Episcopal Commission for the Family, in the Diocese ofPalayamkottai, in Tamil Nadu (southern India), was found dead in his room by the Vicar General of the diocese and the police on February 16, 2011. His body was naked, hands and feet bound, his neck had been broken. The killer is a young 24 year old man, who confessed and was arrested: having killed the priest, walked away with the few rupees that Fr. Amalan had on him.
See Fides 19/2/2011

Fr. Marek Rybinski, Salesian missionary (SDB) Polish, 33, was found dead on the morning of February 18, 2011 in a local Salesian school in Manouba (Tunis). Bishop Maroun Elias NimehLahham, Bishop of Tunis,describes the circumstances of Fr. Rybinsk’s death: Fr. Rybinsk had left the house around noon on February 17, leaving his car at the mission. The next day, February 18, his computer was found in his room turned on. Therfore it is believed that someone called him with an excuse to get him to leave the house, that person  kidnapped and then killed him the next day.

Fr. Romeu Drago was killed in his home in the city of Montes Claros (MG), Brazil, on February 19, 2011. His body was then brought to the area of Janaúba along the highway, about 25 km from his home, where he was burned. Several items from his home were stolen and even his car, the safe was found open. The priest, 56, was the head of the community of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in the Archdiocese of Montes Claros.
 

Fr. Santos Sánchez Hernández, parish priest of San Jose in Mecapalapa, Puebla (Mexico), was found dead in the rectory, murdered on the night between 21 and 22 February 2011. According to the written by the Bishop of Tuxpan, Bishop Juan Navarro Castellanos, someone entered the priest’s quarters, probably to steal, and once he was discovered, he attacked the priest with a machete, gravely injuring him and then finally killing him. Father Santos, 43, a native of the community of Pastoria in the town of Chicontepec, in Veracruz, he had arrived in this parish on 24 June 2010.
 

Bishop Julio Cesar Alvarez, 47, had been pastor of the Parish “Sagrado Corazón de Jesús” inVillarrica, 150 km from Asunción (Paraguay) for two years, was killed in his home in the early hours on April 14, 2011. In his room, where in the morning the lifeless body of the priest was found, he had been strangled, there were evident traces of a struggle. His hands and feet were bound, and there were several shots to the head, injuries and scratches. It is possible that the priest was the victim of a series of thefts that had occurred in the parishes of Villarrica in recent months. The previous day he had withdrawn a sum of money to buy a new car.

Fr. Francisco Sanchez Duran, 60, was killed at dawn on April 26, 2011, in the church ElPatrocinio in San José, in the area Educacion, in Coyoacán (south of Mexico City). His body was found around 9.30 am with wounds to the neck. The murder may have been the tragic conclusion of an attempted robbery in the church, as a result of the opposition of the priest to the thieves.

The Eudista priest Father Gustavo Garcia, 34, was assassinated in Bogota (Colombia) by an individual who attacked him to steal his mobile phone. The Congregation of Jesus and Mary -Eudisti, informed that Father Gustavo Garcia Bohórquez died on Thursday, May 12, 2011. He was waiting for the bus to go and look after a sick person and, while he was talking on the phone, a criminal who wanted to rob him seriously injured him with a knife. He was immediately taken to hospital, he was very serious and he died shortly after. He was involved with the Association “El Minuto de Dios”: he exercised his ministry of preaching with the groups of the same association, in parish communities and through mass media. He was chaplain of the UniversityMinuto de Dios, in  Bogota, and assistant to the youth communities of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Fr. Salvador Ruiz Enciso, a Mexican, had disappeared from the parish where he was pastor, dedicated to the “Divino Rostro de Jesus” in the city of Tijuana, in the north of Mexico, near the border with the United States. On Monday, May 23, 2011, the police found, in a neighborhood near Tijuana, a body with hands and feet tied, unrecognizable, which was submitted to the DNA. Later the Archbishop Romo Muñoz confirmed that it was the priest who had disappeared. FatherChavita, as he affectionately was called, was known to be a simple person and dedicated to his ministry. He became popular for having promoted the “Mass of the family”, during which he used some puppets, which he handled with dexterity, to explain the Gospel in an understandable way to children.

Fr. Ricardo Munoz Juarez, a retired military chaplain, who carried out his pastoral ministry at the Iglesia de la Caridad in Cartagena (Spain), was killed on June 3, 2011 by a blow to the head inflicted with a blunt object. The priest’s body was found in his home. The hypothesis is that some thieves entered the victim’s home, where the priest’s elderly and disabled sister also lived, and once they realized they had been discovered hit and killed Fr. Ricardo.

Fr. Marco Antonio Duran Romero, Mexican diocesan priest, 48, was killed in a gunfight between soldiers and an armed group in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, on the border with the United States. In the early afternoon of Friday, July 2, 2011, Father Marco Antonio was in his car, near the parish where he was the pastor, when he found himself in the middle of a gunfight. He was hit by a bullet, was taken to hospital, where, however, died shortly after.
See Fides 04/07/2011

On August 23, the lifeless body of Fr. Marlon Ernesto Pupiro Garcia, 40, was found. He was the  pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church in the town of La Concepcion, in Masaya(Nicaragua), he was missing since August 20. Every morning Fr. Marlon arrived in time to open the church. On the morning of August 20 not seeing him arrive, the sexton  walked along the road but did not find it. Three days later his body was found at km 16 of the Old State Road in the direction of Leon.
 

Fr. Jose Reinel Restrepo Idárraga, 36, was killed on 1 September 2011 on a road from Mistra in Bethlehem of Umbria, in the neighboring department of Risaralda (west of Colombia approximately 200 kilometers from Bogota). The priest,  pastor in Marmata, was riding a motorcycle when some strangers stopped him and shot him to death. The assailants escaped with the motorcycle (which later was found) and other objects belonging to the priest.
Fr. Gualberto Oviedo Arrieta, 34, pastor of Our Lady of Carmen in Capurganá in the Diocese ofApartadó (Colombia), in the early morning of September 12, 2011 was found covered with wounds and stabs, in the parish rectory. There were no acts of violence within the home and nothing was stolen. The murder took place just hours after the conclusion of the “Week of Peace”, which had mobilized schools, universities and Colombian institutions on this issue which is so important in the national context.

Maria Elizabeth Macías Castro, 39, known as Marisol, of the Scalabrinian Lay Movement (MLS) in Nuevo Laredo (Mexico), worked at a newspaper in Tamaulipas (Mexico). She was kidnapped on  Sept. 22, 2011 by a group of drug dealers in this border region. After two days of searching and dramatic silence, her lifeless body was found in a street of the city of Nuevo Laredo, terribly mutilated. Marisol was a member of the Central Committee of the Scalabrinian Lay Movement and worked at the Casa del Migrante in Nuevo Laredo. According to those who knew her, she was “a woman of great faith and commitment to justice.”

Fr. Awuor  Kisero, was attacked by four criminals on the evening of October 3, 2011, while he was in the district of Dandora, on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Fr. James was shot in the chest with a weapon. He was immediately taken to Kayole clinic, on the advice of the doctors he was then transferred to  Kenyatta National Hospital, but during transport to the hospital he died.

Luis Eduardo Garcia, lay member of the Social Pastoral, group leader of Popayan (Colombia), was murdered on the evening of Sunday, October 16, 2011, while he was going from Popayan to El Tambo (Cauca): he was intercepted by a group of guerrillas, was kidnapped and later killed. He worked in the project for  “Social and cultural reactivation”, sponsored by the National Secretariat of Social Pastoral, which assists people affected by the wave of cold weather which hit the country. He was also employed in the municipality of his hometown, El Tambo, for this project, where he was known for his dedication and commitment to the farmers, to his community and to the victims of this natural disaster.

Father Fausto Tentorio, Italian missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), pastor of Arakan Valley, on the big island of Mindanao (southern Philippines), he was killed on the morning of October 17, 2011, between 8.30 and 9, in front of his parish. The missionary  was on his way to a meeting with priests of the Diocese of Kidapawan, when he was attacked by two armed men who shot him cold-bloodedly to the head and back. He was taken to hospital, doctors only confirmed his death. Fr. Tentorio was working in the apostolate among the tribal people. He dedicated his life to the service of literacy and development of these indigenous known as lumads, especially the tribes of manobo. He created educational programs, helped to build water systems to provide drinking water to villages and fields, he launched training courses. Father Tentorio, had been living in the Philippines since 1978, worked in the Diocese of Kidapawan since 1980.

Sister Valsha John, 53, Indian, of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, was killed on the night of November 15, 2011 in her home in the village of Pachwara, Pakur district in the state ofJharhkand (northern India). The nun had been carrying out her pastoral work for 20 years, especially among the poor, the marginalized, the tribal people in the district of Pakur, in the diocese of Dumka. Fr. Nirmal Raj SJ, Provincial of the Jesuits in Dumka said: “Sister Valshalived with the poor, gave her Christian testimony, and preached the gospel, sharing their hardships and difficulties. She was next to the most marginalized tribal communities. She was mainly committed to defending indigenous people from the alienation of their land, carried out by the mining companies to extract coal. She paid this effort with her life”. The sister had been repeatedly threatened by criminals who had warned her not to oppose the work of some companies, but state authorities ignored her requests for help and they left her without protection.

Sister Lukrecija Mamica, Croatian, and Francesco Bazzani, Italian volunteer, were killed during an attempted robbery which occurred on the evening of November 27, 2011, when some criminals entered the house of the Sisters’  ” Sisters of Charity ” in Kiremba in north western Burundi, near the hospital where the great religious nun worked. Lukrecija Sister Lukrecija was killed cold bloodedly, while the volunteer and another nun, Sister Carla, were kidnapped by bandits who, soon after, fearing a confrontation with police, made them get out of the car andcold-bloodedly killed Francesco Bazzani. Sister Carla instead had the strength to react and, although wounded, she saved her life.

The catechist and Catholic activist Rabindra Parichha, 47, was killed in Orissa, state in east India. Parichha worked in Kandhamal district, the scene of the 2008 anti-Christian massacres and part of the diocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, but was killed while he was in Bhanjanagar, in the neighboring Diocese of Berhampur, always in Orissa. The murder took place between the evening of December 15, 2011 and the early morning hours of the 16th . The activist had been called by a neighbor on the phone and never returned  home. His wife and children looked for him and called the police, who on the morning of December 16 found the body. Parichha had his throat cut and stab wounds to the hands and stomach. Parichha, a former itinerant catechist in the parish of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Mondasoro (Kandhamal district), worked inOrissa Legal Aid Centre for three years, supported by Christian churches in Kandhamal, busy as a lawyer and human rights activist.

– fides

Pope for Caritas’ Unique Identity

June 1, 2011 by  
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Pope for Caritas' Unique IdentityVatican City, May 27 : Pope Benedict XVI has given his backing to the reorganization of the international Catholic charity Caritas, which will see the organization work more closely under Vatican guidance in a bid to enhance its Catholic identity. “Since Caritas Internationalis has a universal profile and is canonically a public juridical person, the Holy See is also responsible for following its activity and exercising oversight to ensure that its humanitarian and charitable activity, and the content of its documents, are completely in accord with the Apostolic See and the Church’s Magisterium,” the Pope told representatives of the organization at an audience in the Vatican May 27. This week has seen 165 national affiliates of Caritas gather in Rome for the organizations general assembly. It’s been a week of turbulence and change.  In his opening address to the Caritas general assembly on May 22, Cardinal Robert Sarah of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum – the Vatican body responsible for Caritas – hinted at concerns over the charity’s lack of Catholic identity. Interestingly, four of Cardinal Sarah’s key concerns were almost identically echoed by the Pope today.

Just as Cardinal Sarah said in his opening address for the charity’s general assembly, Pope Benedict stated today that “Caritas Internationalis differs from other social agencies in that it is ecclesial; it shares in the mission of the Church.” “This is what the Popes have always wanted and this is what your General Assembly is called forcefully to re-affirm,” the Pope said May 27. The way Caritas carries out its work is different from humanitarian or philanthropic organizations, the Pope continued. “For us Christians, God himself is the source of charity; and charity is understood not merely as generic benevolence but as self-giving, even to the sacrifice of one’s life for others in imitation of the example of Jesus Christ.” Pope Benedict built upon the importance of Caritas having a “transcendent foundation” that appreciates man’s eternal destiny, saying that without that solid mooring charities “risk falling prey to harmful ideologies.”

In May 22 remarks to CNA, Cardinal Sarah said that “the future will be very brilliant” for Caritas if it follows “the indication given by Pope Benedict XVI in ‘Deus Caritas Est.'” This was also the pole star for Caritas action offered by the Pope today. “In my first Encyclical, ‘Deus Caritas Est’, I reaffirmed how critical the witness of charity is for the Church in our day. Through such witness, seen in the daily lives of her members, the Church reaches out to millions of persons and makes it possible for them to recognize and sense the love of God, who is always close to every man and woman in need.” Yesterday Caritas elected the 56-year-old Frenchman, Michel Roy, as its new general secretary. He follows in the footsteps of Lesley-Anne Knight, who was prevented from running for re-appointment to her post by the Vatican earlier this year. Meanwhile, the charity’s governance is also being revamped to give Vatican officials more control over its work. Roy will now serve alongside Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga from Honduras who was re-elected for a second term as Caritas International’s president. Caritas International is a confederate of 165 relief and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide.

Pope Blesses Astronauts In Space

May 24, 2011 by  
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Pope Blesses Astronauts In 1st Papal Call To Space

Pope Blesses Astronauts In 1st Papal Call To Space

In a first ever papal call to space, Pope Benedict XVI blessed 12 astronauts circling the earth. “The space fliers are our representatives spearheading humanity’s exploration of new spaces and possibilities for our future,” the pope said on April 21 while sitting before a television set tuned to NASA’s live broadcast from orbit. The pontiff said he admired their courage, discipline and commitment.

The pope addressed the crews of the linked space shuttle Endeavour and International Space Station from the Vatican, making special mention of the U.S. commander’s wounded congresswoman wife and the recently deceased mother of one of the two Italian astronauts on board.

The historic communication – “extraordinary” in the pope’s words – took place just a couple of hours after the shuttle astronauts finished inspecting a small gash in Endeavour’s belly to ensure their safety when returning to Earth. It is the next-to-last flight in NASA’s 30-year shuttle programme.

“It must be obvious to you how we all live together on one Earth and how absurd it is that we fight and kill each one,” the pontiff said. The pope also asked the astronauts about the future of the planet and the environmental risks it faces, and wanted to know what their most important message would be for young people when they return home.

The conversation between the pope and the astronauts lasted for 18 minutes. The long-distance papal audience was arranged by the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA provided technical support from Mission Control in Houston.

Benedict XVI’s Address to Bishops of India

May 17, 2011 by  
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Benedict XVI's Address to Bishops of India

Benedict XVI's Address to Bishops of India

VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2011 – Benedict XVI focussed today on inculturation, persecution, inter-religious dialogue, apostolic mandate and fundamental human rights – when he received in audience, Latin rite bishops from North East India, who are in Rome for their five-yearly “ad limina” visit….

Dear Brother Bishops,

It gives me great joy to welcome you as you make your visit ad Limina Apostolorum during this Easter season. Through you I extend my greetings to all the faithful in your care, and I thank Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo for the gracious sentiments of communion with the Successor of Peter which he has expressed on your behalf.

The Risen Christ’s presence among his disciples was a source of deep consolation for them, confirming them in their faith and deepening their love for him; and at his Ascension, he commissioned them, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). This command impelled your own great patron Saint Thomas, the other Apostles and those who followed them, to preach the Gospel among the nations; and through the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments, the divine life of the Blessed Trinity has been passed on to many Christian souls.

Today, as in every age, the apostolic mandate finds its source and its central focus in the proclamation of the Incarnate Son of God, who is the fullness of divine revelation and “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). The Saviour of all creation, he is the bearer of Good News for all and the fulfilment of man’s deepest yearnings. The definitive revelation of God which comes to us in Jesus Christ and which believers throughout the world joyfully proclaim is expressed in a particular way in the sacred Scriptures and in the sacramental life of the Church. Christ’s saving power is also proclaimed in the lives of the saints who have wholeheartedly taken up the Gospel message and lived it faithfully among their brothers and sisters. Christian revelation, when accepted in freedom and by the working of God’s grace, transforms men and women from within and establishes a wonderful, redemptive relationship with God our heavenly Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit. This is the heart of the message we teach, this is the great gift we offer in charity to our neighbour: a share in the very life of God.

Within the Church, believers’ first steps along the way of Christ must always be accompanied by a sound catechesis that will allow them to flourish in faith, love and service. Some of you have told me of the challenges you face in this regard, and I support you in your commitment to provide quality formation in this area. Recognizing that catechesis is distinct from theological speculation, priests, religious and lay catechists need to know how to communicate with clarity and loving devotion the life-transforming beauty of Christian living and teaching, which will enable and enrich the encounter with Christ himself. This is especially true of the preparation of the faithful to meet our Lord in the sacraments.

In relation to the wider world, the Christian commitment to live and to bear witness to the Gospel offers distinct challenges in every time and place. This is certainly true of your country, which is home to various ancient religions, including Christianity. The Christian life in such societies always demands honesty and sincerity about one’s own beliefs, and respect for those of one’s neighbour. The presentation of the Gospel in such circumstances, therefore, involves the delicate process of inculturation. This is an undertaking which respects and maintains the uniqueness and integrity of the divine revelation given to the Church as her inheritance, while showing that it is intelligible and attractive to those to whom it is proposed. The process of inculturation requires that priests, religious and lay catechists carefully employ the languages and appropriate customs of the people they serve in presenting the Good News. As you strive to meet the challenging circumstances of proclaiming that message in the various cultural settings in which you find yourselves, you, my dear brother Bishops, are called to oversee this process with a fidelity to the deposit of faith which has been handed down to us to maintain and transmit. Combine that fidelity with sensitivity and creativity, so that you may give a convincing account of the hope that is within you (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

With regard to interreligious dialogue, I am aware of the challenging circumstances many of you face as you develop a dialogue with those of other religious beliefs, all the while encouraging an atmosphere of tolerant interaction. Your dialogue should be characterized by a constant regard for that which is true, in order to foster mutual respect while avoiding semblances of syncretism.

Moreover, as Indian Christians strive to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours of other beliefs, your prudent leadership will be crucial in the civil and moral task of working to safeguard the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of worship. As you know, these rights are based upon the common dignity of all human beings and are recognized throughout the concert of nations. The Catholic Church strives to promote these rights for all religions throughout the world. I encourage you, therefore, to work patiently to establish the common ground necessary for the harmonious enjoyment of these basic rights in your communities. Even if he encounters opposition, the Christian’s own charity and forbearance should serve to convince others of the rightness of religious tolerance, from which the followers of all religions stand to gain. My prayers accompany you as you continue to address this sensitive and important question.

My brothers in the Episcopacy, I am grateful for this opportunity to renew our bonds of communion. May Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, whose patient, personal service to her neighbour was motivated by the love of Christ, obtain for you an abundance of heavenly graces to ensure the spiritual fruitfulness of your pastoral work. I assure you and all whom you serve of a constant remembrance in my prayers, and I willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.