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Pray to play: Pope Francis starts a raffle for the poor, buy a chance for a ‘fully loaded’ Fiat

November 21st, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY —Like many Catholic parishes, the Vatican has turned to a raffle to raise money; the difference is, though, the prizes are items originally given as gifts to Pope Francis.

An employee of the Vatican Post Office shows a ticket of the pope's raffle at the Vatican Nov. 21. Pope Francis is raffling off objects he has received as gifts in order to raise money for the poor. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

An employee of the Vatican Post Office shows a ticket of the pope’s raffle at the Vatican Nov. 21. Pope Francis is raffling off objects he has received as gifts in order to raise money for the poor. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

For 10 euros, about $12.50, anyone can go to the Vatican post office or pharmacy and buy a chance to win a Fiat Panda 4×4, a small SUV “fully loaded” with every option available, the Vatican said. Tickets are not for sale on the Internet or anywhere outside Vatican City.

The raffle is being run by the Vatican City State governor’s office, and proceeds will be placed directly “at the disposition of the pope himself,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

First prize is the Fiat. The other main prizes include: a blue racing bike, an “orange bicycle with baskets,” a tandem bike, a small HD digital video camera, an espresso machine, a silver pen, a brown leather briefcase and an authentic Panama hat.

The tickets also say there will be “more than 30 consolation prizes.”

In the small print, it specifies that the winner of the Fiat will have to pay Italian value-added tax and automobile registration fees.

The winning tickets will be drawn Jan. 8, and the names of the winners will be published on the governor’s office website: www.vaticanstate.va. Winners will have 30 days to collect their prizes.

The raffle, Father Lombardi said, is “a response to Pope Francis’ appeal for new forms of solidarity with our neediest brothers and sisters, particularly with the approach of Christmas.”

 

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Millions could benefit from Obama’s new immigration policies

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Catholic News Service

HYATTSVILLE, Md. — The meeting room in the middle of Maryland’s most immigrant-dense ZIP code Nov. 20 was full of people who epitomize the problems President Barack Obama is trying to address with executive action.

A woman at CASA de Maryland's Multicultural Center in Hyattsville, Md., applauds Nov. 20 after hearing President Barack Obama's national address on immigration. The president extended deferral of deportations to parents of millions of U.S. citizens and legal residents. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

A woman at CASA de Maryland’s Multicultural Center in Hyattsville, Md., applauds Nov. 20 after hearing President Barack Obama’s national address on immigration. The president extended deferral of deportations to parents of millions of U.S. citizens and legal residents. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Families with roots in Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala — some with U.S. citizen children, some with one adult child who has legal permanent residency (a green card), and other adults who are in the country illegally — all watched the big screen as Obama announced his plans for allowing perhaps 40 percent of the 11 million people without legal immigration status to be temporarily protected from deportation.

The package of administrative actions, explained in more detail starting with an Obama appearance Nov. 21 in Nevada, includes reprioritizing who the government will target for deportation, cracking down primarily on dangerous criminals and new arrivals at the border.

“We’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security,” Obama said in his televised address from the White House. “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.”

Another component will change the approach in granting visas to foreign students in science and technology who want to remain in the U.S. after graduation, according to the White House.

The Justice Department also will change the Secure Communities program, under which local law enforcement agencies did immigration screening on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, leading to circumstances like what a senior administration official described as a “broken taillight arrest.”

In a background telephone briefing before the president’s announcement, the official said, “An arrest for a broken taillight alone is not going to trigger ICE pickup.”

That’s the sort of thing that Carlos Velasquez said is so helpful about the president’s actions.

Velasquez, attending the Hyattsville viewing party with other members of St. Camillus Church in nearby Silver Spring, where he is active in a variety of ministries, said he knows many, many families who will potentially benefit from the extension of deferred action to new segments of the population.

So happy the words tumbled out in a giddy mixture of English and Spanish, he said, “They’re going to be safe. Some people get to be no longer afraid they will be arrested and deported for just walking down the street or driving or going to work.”

The simple step of having a Social Security number will make it possible for some of his friends to finally buy homes, Velasquez said. They have the financial resources and pay taxes using an identification number from the Internal Revenue Service, he explained, but lacking a Social Security number is an obstacle to obtaining a mortgage.

Obama’s orders basically would expand upon the 2-year-old program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Immigrants, or DACA. Through it, more than half a million young adults and teens who came to the U.S. as minors have been promised they won’t be deported if they stay out of trouble.

In exchange for registering with the government, going through background checks and other requirements and paying fees, they received work permits and Social Security numbers. More than 600,000 people have applied for the program launched in summer 2012. Of that, 27,000 applications were rejected (and could perhaps be resubmitted) and about 16,000 have been denied. Others are in various stages of the approval process.

The new program would offer the same deal to parents of U.S. citizens or green card holders who have lived in here for at least five years, a potential pool of more than 4 million people, according to the White House. Both the parents-of-citizens program and DACA will now be good for three years, and renewable.

The program is expected to be up and running in the spring.

The administration officials said they estimate about 270,000 additional people will be eligible for DACA under new rules that drop the previous age limit of under-30 and roll forward the date by which applicants need to have arrived in the U.S. to 2010 from the original date of 2007.

Though the audience at the offices of CASA de Maryland, a community organizing service, was quiet throughout the 15-minute address, broadcast with simultaneous Spanish translation on Telemundo, the moments leading up to the president’s appearance were filled with cheerful chanting and applause as residents of the neighborhood stood to tell their stories.

“Si, se pudo!” they chanted, or “yes, we could,” or maybe “yes, he could.” That’s the past tense of the “si, se puede” or “yes, we can,” that has long been popular in rallying migrants to various causes.

Among those who were quick to applaud the president’s plans were, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration.

“We welcome any efforts … that protect individuals and protect and reunite families and vulnerable children,” said Bishop Elizondo in a statement from the USCCB.

Archbishop Kurtz quoted Pope Francis in saying every human being bears the image of Christ. “We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.”

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, also welcomed the package of executive actions, including plans to make it easier for immigrants who lack legal status to travel to their home countries without penalty.

Jeanne M. Atkinson, executive director CLINIC, said, “however, administrative relief is no substitute for legislative reform. We need a permanent fix to the immigration system that can only be achieved through bipartisan Congressional action.”

She added that the network has been gearing up to meet the need for legal advice the deferred action program will trigger. “We will be ready.”

 

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U.S. bishops welcome Obama’s action on undocumented immigrants

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WASHINGTON—The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, has welcomed the news that the Obama administration will defer deportations for many undocumented immigrants and their families.

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, wrote in a Nov. 20 statement that, “We have a long history of welcoming and aiding the poor, the outcast, the immigrant, and the disadvantaged. Each day, the Catholic Church in the United States, in her social service agencies, hospitals, schools, and parishes, witnesses the human consequences of the separation of families, when parents are deported from their children or spouses from each other.”

Bishop Elizondo said that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has “been on record asking the Administration to do everything within its legitimate authority to bring relief and justice to our immigrant brothers and sisters. As pastors, we welcome any efforts within these limits that protect individuals and protect and reunite families and vulnerable children.”

 

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, and president of the USCCB said, “There is an urgent pastoral need for a more humane view of immigrants and a legal process that respects each person’s dignity, protects human rights, and upholds the rule of law. As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, said so eloquently: ‘Every human being is a child of God. He or she bears the image of Christ. We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected, and loved.’”

 

Bishop Elizondo added, “I strongly urge Congress and the president to work together to enact permanent reforms to the nation’s immigration system for the best interests of the nation and the migrants who seek refuge here. We will continue to work with both parties to enact legislation that welcomes and protects immigrants and promotes a just and fair immigration policy.”

 

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Sainthood cause for a native of the Eastern Shore endorsed by U.S. bishops

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Catholic News Service

Two years ago, the U.S. bishops endorsed the sainthood cause of Dorothy Day, who was born an Episcopalian but later became a Catholic and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement that still flourishes today.

Father Paul Wattson, who co-founded the Society of the Atonement in Graymoor, N.Y., is pictured in an undated photo. The U.S. bishops Nov. 11 endorsed the sainthood cause of the onetime Episcopal priest who joined the Catholic Church more than a century ago along with the members of the Society of the Atonement. The bishops' support for his cause came on the second day of their annual fall general assembly in Baltimore. (CNS photo/courtesy Society of the Atonement, Graymoor)

Father Paul Wattson, who co-founded the Society of the Atonement in Graymoor, N.Y., is pictured in an undated photo. The U.S. bishops Nov. 11 endorsed the sainthood cause of the onetime Episcopal priest who joined the Catholic Church more than a century ago along with the members of the Society of the Atonement. The bishops’ support for his cause came on the second day of their annual fall general assembly in Baltimore. (CNS photo/courtesy Society of the Atonement, Graymoor)

This year, the bishops endorsed the cause of another former Episcopalian: Father Paul Wattson, who was ordained an Anglican priest but became a Catholic and whose legacy includes the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, observed each January.

Support for his cause came on a voice vote Nov. 11, the second day of the bishops’ annual fall general assembly in Baltimore.

Father Wattson was born Lewis Thomas Wattson on January 16, 1863, in Millington, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, now in the Diocese of Wilmington. His parents were Rev. Joseph Wattson and his wife Mary Electa Wattson.

Eleven years after he was ordained an Episcopal priest, Rev. Paul Wattson was in ministry in Omaha, Nebraska, in the spring of 1897 when he received a letter from a novice in an Episcopal convent in Albany, N.Y.

Lurana White, though, was not content at her convent. In the letter, she expressed her frustration in finding a religious community whose members publicly professed the vow of poverty and lived according to the Franciscan tradition. Rev. Wattson knew of no such community, but he responded to White his vision of establishing a religious community of his own.

Rev. Wattson and White, through their correspondence, concluded they shared a similar dream. When they met face to face in October 1898, they established the Society of the Atonement, with separate orders for men and for women: the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement.

The society’s members would live according to the Franciscan tradition, and have as its charism the promotion of Christian unity and mission.

White, who by this time was home in Warwick, N.Y., suggested as a home base for the society a relatively secluded spot in present-day Garrison, N.Y., that some people called Graymoor. Before the winter set in, White had settled into an old farmhouse on the land; there was also a small chapel on the property called St.-John’s-in-the-Wilderness.

Rev. Wattson lived in an old painted shack on the land, which he called the “Palace of Lady Poverty.”

They decided early on to take as their cause convincing Episcopalians to join the Catholic Church. This did not sit too well with the Episcopalians and Anglicans they knew. Rev. Wattson, who took the religious name Paul, found pulpits closed to him and donations drying up.

White, now known as Sister Lurana and later Mother Lurana, would take her fellow sisters with her to New York City to beg at subway turnstiles.

Things came to a head following a 1907 decision at the Episcopal Church’s convention to permit other Christian preachers to speak at Episcopal pulpits with the approval of the local bishop. Seeing how much more closely linked Anglicans were to Catholics than to other Christian denominations, Rev. Wattson and Mother Lurana decide to leave the Episcopal Church and become Catholics themselves.

In October 1909, they and a few companions were received into the Roman Catholic Church. It is believed to be the first time since the days of the Reformation the members of an entire religious community had become Roman Catholics on a corporate, rather than individual basis. Father Wattson was ordained a Catholic priest in 1910.

At first, they were as unpopular within the Catholic Church as they had been in the Episcopal Church. Many Catholics thought them to be “secret Protestants,” a label that took several years for them to overcome.

Father Wattson “really did reach out to people of other denominations at a time when it was not popular,” said Sister Nancy Conboy, who is minister general of the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement.

“I think his emphasis on Christian reconciliation and ecumenism in this day in age when there is so much so division could be a real catalyst for helping people to say we can we talk about what we have in common,” she told Catholic News Service in a phone interview in early November.

Despite suspicions about their ministry, Father Wattson and Mother Lurana’s projects took on new impetus.

The Lamp, a magazine devoted to Christian unity and mission, was published monthly for a much wider audience. The Union-That-Nothing-Be Lost, an organization which aided missionaries, grew larger and more enthusiastic. St. Christopher’s Inn, an expression of the Society of the Atonement’s commitment to Franciscan ideals, continued to receive thousands of homeless, needy men each year, providing them with hospitality in the spirit of St. Francis.

Father Wattson married a theological perspective with “very practical things,” said Father Jim Gardiner. A Franciscan Friar of the Atonement for more than 54 years, he oversees special projects at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington.

On one hand, Father Wattson very much wanted to see the “reunion of Rome and Canterbury,” the Anglican Church, Father Gardiner said, and at the same time he cared for wayfarers with St. Christopher’s Inn, emphasized the role of prayer and “took the Gospel very seriously.”

Father Wattson also co-founded the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and among other things organized Graymoor Press and the “Ave Maria Hour” on radio.

In 1903, Father Wattson started the annual Church Unity Octave, now known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is observed from Jan. 18, the feast of St. Peter’s Chair in Rome, to Jan. 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

Father Wattson wanted Christians to understand Christian unity as a realistic goal for churches and not some pie-in-the-sky dream. The Society for the Atonement now publishes a monthly journal called Ecumenical Trends, which collects speeches and documents written by ecumenists and interreligious figures worldwide.

Both the men’s and women’s branches of the society continued to grow through the Jazz Age and the Great Depression. Mother Lurana died in 1935, and Father Wattson in 1940.

 

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Pope Francis warns against ‘spirituality of ease’ that he calls a ‘state of sin’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians must guard against a “spirituality of ease” and putting up appearances, and respond to the constant call of Jesus to conversion, said Pope Francis.

Pope Francis prays during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov.19. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis prays during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov.19. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

The pope described the thinking behind a spirituality of ease: “I do things as I can, but I am at peace as long as no one comes to disturb me with strange things. I lack nothing. I go to Mass on Sundays. I pray sometimes. I feel good. I’m in the grace of God. I’m rich. I don’t need anything. I’m fine.”

But this spiritual state “is a state of sin,” he said in his homily Nov. 18 at morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Casa Santa Marta.

Reflecting on the day’s first reading, the pope said Jesus reprimands Christians who have a “lukewarm” spirit, calling them to “dress themselves” because “they are naked.”

Jesus also calls to conversion those Christians who are “putting up appearances.” These Christians believe they are living, but they are not, said the pope.

“The appearances they put up are their shroud; they are dead,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

The pope urged Christians to examine their faith life: “Am I among these Christians who put up appearances? Am I alive within? Do I have a spiritual life? Do I feel the Holy Spirit? Do I listen to the Holy Spirit?”

Some will answer, “but everything seems fine. I have nothing for which to reproach myself. I have a good family. People do not speak ill of me. I have everything I need. I was married in church. I’m in the grace of God. I’m calm,” he said. But these are “appearances. Christians of appearances, they are (spiritually) dead.”

The pope said Christians must seek to reinvigorate their interior lives and he urged them to convert “from appearances to reality, from tepidness to fervor.”

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel (Lk 19:1-10), the Pope said Zacchaeus, the tax collector, was “like many managers we know, corrupt, those who, instead of serving the people, exploit the people to serve themselves.”

Zacchaeus was neither tepid nor dead, he continued. “He was in a state of putrefaction, truly corrupt” but impelled by curiosity to see Jesus. The Holy Spirit sowed the seed of curiosity into Zacchaeus’ heart and, unrestrained by shame, he did something “a little ridiculous” to see Jesus; he climbed a tree. The pope said the Holy Spirit worked within Zacchaeus, who received the gift of joy upon accepting the Word of God in his heart, and promised to pay back four times the amount he had stolen.

“When conversion hits the pockets, then it is definite,” the pope said. “Christians at heart? Yes, everyone. Christians in spirit? Everyone. But Christians with pockets? Few, eh?” Despite Zacchaeus’ instant conversion, there were others who refused to convert and who criticized Jesus for entering his house, the pope continued.

The pope then offered a reflection on the importance of the Word of God in the life of the Christian. The Word, he said, “is able to change everything,” but “we do not always have the courage to believe in the Word of God, to receive this Word, which heals us interiorly.”

In the final weeks of the liturgical year, he said, the church is urging Christians to think very seriously about conversion and to recall the Word of God and to obey it, in order to move forward in the Christian life.

— By Laura Ieraci

 

 

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25 years later, the legacy of Jesuits murdered in El Salvador lives on

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Catholic News Service

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — The legacy of six murdered Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter lives on in El Salvador.

Jesuits from Central America and other parts of the world, along with hundreds of parishioners, commemorated the 25th anniversary of the murders. For demanding social justice in a country marked by abject poverty, and in the midst of a civil war, the six Jesuits were considered the left’s ideologues by the right-wing sectors of the country.

Salvadorans take part in a procession Nov. 15 at Central American University in San Salvador, El Salvador. The university commemorated the killing of six Jesuit priests and two women by the Salvadoran military 25 years ago. In Washington more than 1,600 people gathered to remember the lives of the eight martyrs during the annual Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice Nov. 15-17. (CNS photo/Oscar Rivera, EPA)

Salvadorans take part in a procession Nov. 15 at Central American University in San Salvador, El Salvador. The university commemorated the killing of six Jesuit priests and two women by the Salvadoran military 25 years ago. In Washington more than 1,600 people gathered to remember the lives of the eight martyrs during the annual Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice Nov. 15-17. (CNS photo/Oscar Rivera, EPA)

Twenty-five years later it is clear that the victims of the war in this country need justice; we also need more economic equality,” said Jesuit Father Rodolfo Cardenal, former vice rector of Central American University, site of the 1989 murders.

On Nov. 16, 1989, in the midst of the biggest offensive launched by the guerrillas of Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, a commando unit of the Salvadoran army killed Jesuit Fathers Ignacio Ellacuria, Ignacio Martin-Baro, Segundo Montes, Amando Lopez, Juan Ramon Moreno and Joaquin Lopez.

Elba Ramos, the cook and housekeeper, and her 16-year-old daughter, Celina Ramos, also were murdered.

The weeklong commemoration of their deaths included talks, cultural activities and radio and television programs, culminating Nov. 15 with a Mass celebrated by Jesuit Bishop Gonzalo de Villa Vasquez of Solola, Guatemala.

Father Rolando Alvarado Lopez, Jesuit provincial for Central America, said from the pulpit: “The spirit rested in our Jesuit martyrs and in hundreds of women and men, catechists, peasants, students and in all those martyrs who, by their actions, were trying to be like Jesus.”

The 1980-1992 Salvadoran civil war left an estimated 75,000 dead and 8,000 missing.

Ivette Escobar, a marketing student at Central American University, said the priests’ deaths were not in vain, and the legacy she has taken is to continue the struggle for the defense of the poorest in the country.

“They were an example of how one should pursue justice for others,” she said to Catholic News Service, while making a colorful rug with the faces of the murdered priests.

Delegations of communities that bear the name of some of the murdered priests also participated in the activities: for example, the “Comunidad Segundo Montes,” founded in November 1989 by Salvadorans who returned after fleeing to Honduras; they settled in the northern department of Morazan.

Father Montes was a prominent sociologist who, in the 1980s, began to study the phenomenon of migration and human rights. He was the founder of the university’s Human Rights Institute, the main center for free legal aid.

The “Cooperativa Martin-Baro” in Jayaque is another example of the martyrs’ heritage.

Father Martin-Baro taught social psychology and founded the university’s Public Opinion Institute, aware of the importance of measuring the mood and opinion of the population. In 1986 he was the first to conduct a survey that reflected the view of Salvadorans about the civil war, recalled Jeannette Aguilar, director of the institute.

“Twenty-five years have passed and it is still essential, the need for pollsters that have a rigorous and independent view of our society … Martin-Baro’s father picked up the voice of the people,” said Aguilar.

Father Ellacuria’s academic work was given to UNESCO’s Memory of the World program. The priest was a philosopher and proponent of liberation theology.

During this 25th anniversary year, the U.S.-based John Joseph Moakley Charitable Foundation donated $100,000 to Central American University to fund educational programs. The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities donated $34,000.

The Jesuits’ killers still have not been brought to justice.

In May 2011, a Spanish judge issued an international arrest warrant against nine Salvadoran officers accused of plotting to kill the Jesuits, five of whom were Spanish citizens by birth.

But El Salvador refused to extradite the defendants, arguing that the 1993 amnesty law did not allow it.

Human rights organizations have said that crimes against humanity should not be included in amnesty laws.

— By Edgardo Ayala

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Photo of the week: Syrian refugees part of regional crisis

November 20th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

BEIRUT, Lebanon —A Vatican official who just returned from a visit to Syria earlier this month said “the humanitarian situation is worse than I thought.”

 

Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, told U.S. journalists in Beirut Nov. 1 that he had seen “the concrete face of suffering” as a result of war.

 

A boy looks through a hole in a tent at Syria's Bab Al-Salam camp for displaced in Azaz, near the Turkish border, Nov. 19. (CNS photo/Hosam Katan,

A boy looks through a hole in a tent at Syria’s Bab Al-Salam camp for displaced in Azaz, near the Turkish border, Nov. 19. (CNS photo/Hosam Katan, Reuters)

He also said the humanitarian crisis in Iraq is tied to the crisis in Syria.

 

“We should begin to look at this crisis as one crisis,” he said. “We have people crossing borders,” so humanitarian agencies must look at the bigger picture, he said. His remarks echoed those of Christian aid officials who work in the region.

 

Msgr. Dal Toso, the second-highest official at Cor Unum, which coordinates Vatican charitable agencies, said Syria’s middle class has disappeared, but noted, “The whole population is a victim of this war.”

 

Syria, which had a population of 22 million people before violence began in 2011, has at least 10 million people who are refugees or who are displaced within their own country, according to U.N statistics. The effect of such a shift in demographics has driven up the cost of living, including rent, medicine and even school fees, Msgr. Dal Toso said.

 

Other countries also are feeling the strain of accepting refugees from Syria and Iraq. For instance Lebanon, a country about 70 percent of the size of Connecticut, has a population of 4 million people, with an additional 1.5 million refugees living within its borders. The refugees are considered guests in Lebanon; they pay rent and work for lower wages than Lebanese. Catholic aid officials working in Lebanon say the government is, in essence, subsidizing the refugees’ garbage collection and utilities, such as electricity, because in many cases the refugees tap into existing utilities.

 

Msgr. Dal Toso, said “the first priority is to stop the violence,” then negotiate a solution and deal with the humanitarian situation.

 

The Vatican official, who met with Syrian bishops in Damascus Oct. 28 and 29, said the Catholic Church in Syria was helping the whole population without regard to religion. This is an important way to illustrate that Christ is a bridge among peoples and “opens the heart of everyone,” he added.

 

He cited the work of priests and nuns and partner agencies such as Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency. The Pontifical Mission and Jesuit Refugee Service are among other agencies working in Syria and with refugees in neighboring countries.

 

“For me, the church is a very big player … it is well-accepted,” he said. He also emphasized that “this is not a religious war” but a political war with consequences for all people.

 

Msgr. Dal Toso said “people did not feel alone,” but felt like part of the larger church body. He said Pope Francis’ initiatives had been well received. The pope convened a day of prayer for Syria in September 2013. In early October he met with the region’s nuncios, and on Oct. 20 he briefed the world’s cardinals on the situation during a general consistory.

 

He said Syrians were making small contributions — $5 to $100 — to help their neighbors. “Even in these little contributions they say, ‘I’m there’” to help.

 

However, even though “life in Damascus is apparently very normal,” he said, using his hands to make quotation marks for emphasis on normal, “people are feeling this insecurity. They are trying to decide whether to remain in Syria or leave.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Latest ‘Hunger Games’ flick offers invigorating ride

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Catholic News Service

Positive values, including altruism, are highlighted in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1.”

Together with the absence from the film of most problematic content, a good deal of stylized combat aside, those upright ethics make this sequel a worry-free choice for the parents of targeted teens.

Patina Miller, Liam Hemsworth, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Lawrence and Elden Henson star in a scene from the movie "'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1." Catholic News Service classification, A-II -- adults and adolescents. Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Liam Hemsworth, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Lawrence and Elden Henson star in  the movie “‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.” Catholic News Service classification, A-II — adults and adolescents. Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

The third installment of a four-part series based on best-selling novels by Suzanne Collins, the movie also offers satisfying and occasionally stirring action played out against the backdrop of the same disordered futuristic society in which its predecessors were set.

For those who are new to Panem, the dystopian North American nation that serves as that setting, here’s the (raw) deal: A cosseted urban elite, led by President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland), rules oppressively over a group of outlying districts populated by downtrodden workers. Each year, some of the children of the underclass are compelled to participate in the brutal survival tournament of the title, from which normally only one victor emerges alive.

Having been subjected to the games twice, first in a normal round, later as part of an all-star version, franchise heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has become a celebrity, not least because she managed to subvert the rules of the contest on both occasions. Her latest act of defiance, showcased at the end of the last film, coincided with, and helped spark, the outbreak of a rebellion against Snow’s regime.

The opening of this chapter finds Katniss holed up in a huge bunker that serves as the headquarters of the uprising. It leaders, President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and former tourney supervisor-turned-rebel Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are intent on using Katniss as the inspiring symbol of their movement.

Though Katniss is initially reluctant to take on that role, exposure to the ruthless devastation Snow’s forces have inflicted on the area where she used to live convinces her to play her part. But things become complicated when her sweetheart, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), whom Snow is holding captive, becomes a tool in the president’s propaganda campaign aimed at stamping out the revolution.

As scripted by Peter Craig and Danny Strong, the romantic entanglements in director Francis Lawrence’s sci-fi adventure are so chaste that a single kiss between Katniss and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), the lad who pines for her, takes on great significance. And Gale, it turns out, is not only well behaved, but heroically selfless in the pursuit of Katniss’ welfare.

For those willing to buy into the mythos behind it all, the progress of the revolt in which Katniss finds herself caught up makes for an invigorating ride. As for unimpressed holdouts, they can pass the time monitoring the dialogue, in vain, for any hint of profanity or other verbal trespasses.

The film contains some bloodless but potentially disturbing violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

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Little acts of love, kindness and faith add up to holiness, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — All Christians are called to holiness and to take even little steps each day to be more loving and more Christ-like, Pope Francis said.

“Some think that holiness is closing your eyes and making the face of a plastic statue, but that’s not holiness,” the pope said Nov. 19 at his weekly general audience.

Members of the board of governors of the Anglican Center in Rome attend Pope Francis' general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 19. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Members of the board of governors of the Anglican Center in Rome attend Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 19. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Holiness is something much greater, much more profound than looking like an image on a holy card, he said. “It is living with love and offering your own Christian witness in your daily tasks.”

Pope Francis said “a great gift” of the Second Vatican Council was the recovery of the notion of “the church as communion,” a community formed by people who “have equal dignity and have the same vocation to holiness” by virtue of their baptism.

“To be saints, one does not necessarily have to be a bishop, priest or religious, no,” he said. “We are all called to become saints.”

“Many times we are tempted to think that holiness is reserved only for those who have the possibility of detaching themselves from ordinary concerns so they can dedicate themselves exclusively to prayer,” he said. “But that’s not true.”

Holiness, the pope said, is a gift God offers to everyone and a response to his grace. It is the result of hundreds of little steps and gestures each day. And they will be different for each person depending on the circumstances of one’s life.

Consecrated men and women become saints by living their vows with joy, he said. Married people become saints by loving and taking care of their husband or wife. Single Catholics become saints “doing their work with honesty and competence, and offering their time to serve their brothers and sisters.”

In a factory or an office, in the marketplace or in the home, he said, God communicates with the faithful and gives them the grace to be holy.

Parents and grandparents are taking a step toward holiness when they patiently listen to their children or grandchildren and when they enthusiastically teach them “to know and follow Jesus,” the pope said. “Holiness comes through the exercise of patience” with children, especially when you are tired, he added.

People who do volunteer work take a step toward holiness every time they demonstrate God’s love for and closeness to someone who is suffering, he said.

“On Sundays, going to Mass and receiving Communion, sometimes adding a good confession that cleans us up a bit, that is a step toward holiness,” the pope said.

“Be bearers of holiness. Always, in your home, on the streets, at work and in church,” he told the estimated 13,000 people at the audience. “Don’t be discouraged in following this path. God himself will give you grace.”

Pope Francis asked those at the audience to do a brief examination of conscience, asking themselves how well they respond to their vocation to holiness.

“When the Lord invites us to be holy,” the pope said, “he is not calling us to something heavy or sad, but the complete opposite: It’s an invitation to live and share his joy in every moment of our lives.”

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2014/documents/papa-francesco_20141119_udienza-generale_en.html.

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2014/documents/papa-francesco_20141119_udienza-generale_sp.html.

 

 

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Archmere grad earns Atlantic 10 academic honors

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John Mascioli, a graduate of Archmere Academy, has been named to the Atlantic 10 Conference cross country All-Academic Team, the league announced today. Mascioli is a sophomore at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

The All-Academic Team was selected based on performance in the classroom and on the trails. Runners must carry a grade-point average of 3.0 for their entire academic career. Mascioli finished 17th at the Atlantic 10 championships on Nov. 1 with an 8k time of 25:11.4 to help the Hawks to a third-place finish. As a freshman, he was named the conference’s Most Outstanding Rookie Performer.

The Wilmington native, a chemistry major, set new personal records in the 8.4k and 10k this season and was St. Joe’s consistent No. 3 runner this fall. The team will conclude its season this Saturday at the IC4A Championships in the Bronx, N.Y., at Van Cortlandt Park.

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