Home » Archive by category 'International News'

Malta passes same-sex marriage

April 16th, 2014 Posted in International News Tags: , ,

By

VATICAN CITY — After a controversial vote in parliament April 14, Malta became the latest country to recognize same-sex unions as the legal equivalent of marriage, and to permit adoption by same-sex couples.

Shortly before the 37-0 vote, Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the former sex abuse investigator for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the Malta Independent newspaper that the civil unions bill had some good points, but was not in the best interests of children.

The opposition Nationalist Party, which supported the legalization of civil unions, abstained from the vote because of objections to permitting adoptions by same-sex couples.

Simon Busuttil, party leader, told the Maltese Daily Star that that four out of five Maltese oppose such adoptions and that “Malta is not prepared for such a step.”

In December, following a meeting with Pope Francis, Bishop Scicluna reported that the pope had been “shocked” when informed of the civil unions bill and forthcoming vote.

“We discussed many aspects … and when I raised the issue that’s worrying me as a bishop, the pope encouraged me to speak out,” Bishop Scicluna told the Times of Malta.

“The law puts civil unions on a par with marriage without recognizing the intrinsic and deep-seated distinction between the two types of relationships and their distinctive social roles,” Bishop Scicluna told the Malta Independent shortly before the parliamentary vote. Children adopted by same-sex couples may suffer “adverse effects,” he said.

When the final vote was announced, hundreds gathered in the main square of Valletta cheered. “Malta is now more liberal and more European, and has given equality to all its people,” said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of the Labor Party.

The island nation of fewer than half a million, where Catholicism is the official religion, legalized divorce three years ago but abortion remains illegal.

By Judith Harris

Priests on front line in Italy’s battle against Mafias

April 15th, 2014 Posted in International News Tags: , , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ dramatic appearance at a March prayer vigil with the families of Mafia victims, where he said he would plead on bended knee with Mafia bosses to “stop doing evil,” has highlighted the Catholic Church’s role in combatting Italian organized crime.

“Pope Francis awakens consciences. Many who were a long way from the church are now asking to be baptized,” said Father Luigi Ciotti, founder of the Italian anti-Mafia association Libera, which organized the March 21 vigil in Rome. “The pope brings a moral renewal that touc

Pope Francis bows his head as people read the names of Mafia victims during a prayer service at Rome’s Church of St. Gregory VII March 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

hes everyone. Every day I see the results.”

Although the Catholic Church has been “tepid and prudent” in the past, the pope’s praying with the families of Mafia victims has become a model for change, Father Ciotti told the Turin daily La Stampa. “His church is no longer closed and inward looking; it’s everyone’s home. Its doors are always open.”

Born in 1945, Father Ciotti was only 19 when he founded an association in Turin aimed at helping young people in financial and legal trouble. His work increasingly entailed dealing with drug use among youth. In the 1990s, the association evolved into Libera.

Like other priests with similar missions, Father Ciotti draws inspiration from the example of Blessed Pino Puglisi, the first modern Mafia martyr. Born in 1937 in Palermo, Sicily, Puglisi was killed by a Cosa Nostra hit man on his 56th birthday, Sept 15, 1993. Some 100,000 Sicilians gathered in Palermo May 25 for his beatification celebration, led by Palermo’s Cardinal Paolo Romeo, with Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi representing Pope Francis.

Other anti-mob priests have received serious threats, particularly in in the southern Campania region, where the local Mafia, known as the Camorra, controls the drug traffic and the massive illegal dumping of toxic waste.

At Marano, near Naples, shots were fired Feb. 28 into the automobile of Father Luigi Merola, whose foundation “A voce d’e creature” (The Voice of the Children) works with children in Naples’ Arenaccia slum, encouraging them to stay in school as a way to keep them from crime.

“I’ve lived with these threats for years,” Father Merola told the Catholic daily Avvenire. “I’ve gotten used to them.”

Don Tonino Palmese, 55, is a Salesian priest who represents Don Ciotti’s Libera association in Campania. He is slated to participate in a series of “Dialogues on the Mafias,” to take place between June and October at the University of Naples. The talks will be part of a UNESCO Culture Forum on the theme of the “Collective Identity as a Value of Humanity.” Among the topics will be how the various Mafias influence finance and economies worldwide.

The Sicilian Mafia and the Calabrian crime organization the “Ndrangheta” are also active in the north of Italy, where Msgr. Carlo Galli, a pastor in the region of Lombardy, has spearheaded a project called “Vedo, sento… parlo?” (I see, I hear… dare I speak?) to encourage witnesses to speak out.

“Mafia, ‘Ndrangheta, usury — these are words that have made headlines all over Lombardy,” Msgr, Galli told the Milan daily Il Giornale. “It’s omerta; people know and don’t say. Instead they must find the courage to speak out.”

— By Judith Harris

Comments Off

British government bans burning of fetuses to heat hospitals

By

Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — The British government has imposed an immediate ban on the incineration of miscarried and aborted babies after journalists found cases of hospitals burning fetuses to generate heat.

Dr. Dan Poulter, parliamentary undersecretary of state for health, issued statement last month that the burning of fetuses had been instantly prohibited following revelations by a team of investigative reporters working for the Channel 4 television program “Dispatches.”

The journalists used the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to make National Health Service trusts reveal how they had disposed of fetal remains in recent years. Read more »

Comments Off

Convent, Maronite village targets of vandals in Israel

By

Catholic News Service

JERSULALEM — A Catholic convent near Jerusalem and a largely Maronite village in Galilee were damaged in recent weeks as a two-year wave of vandalism directed at Christians and Muslims in Israel and the West Bank continued.

In late March, anti-Christian and anti-American graffiti was scrawled on the walls of the Deir Rafat convent, also known as Our Lady Queen of Palestine. The tires of cars at the monastery also were slashed.

On April 3, residents in the northern village of Jish, known as Gush Halav in Hebrew, awoke to find that the tires of about 40 vehicles had been slashed and graffiti was a painted on a wall saying that “Only goys (non-Jews) will be driven out of our land.”

Authorities said they believe the graffiti is a reference to calls for Jews to leave West Bank settlements and a halt to building additional Jewish settlements while U.S.-led Palestinian-Israel talks continue.

The village is home to about 3,000 mostly Maronite residents as well as Muslims.

Authorities said the “price tag” attacks likely were carried out by a group of hardline settlers who have opposed the talks.

The Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land condemned the vandalism at the convent. Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal visited the convent a day after the incident and called the acts “madness.” He also said he regretted that the planned May 24-26 visit of Pope Francis should be “marred in this way,” according to the Latin patriarchate website.

“But we, like the nuns, will continue to pray for these sick minds, so that the Lord takes away their ignorance and their narrowness of mind,” Patriarch Twal said. “However, we must not be silent and we will do everything to ensure that justice is done and that these vandals and fanatics are prosecuted.”

A group of Israelis calling themselves “Illuminating Tag,” founded to counter the vandals, later visited the convent to express their support for the sisters in residence and condemn the attack.

Maj. Gen. Zohar Dvir, northern district police chief, told reporters the attack was “a criminal, despicable phenomenon.”

Elias Elias, head of the Gush Halav Regional Council, said in an interview with a Galilee radio station that the vandalism was the first of its kind in Jish and that it created a bad feeling.

A month earlier in Gaza, a Catholic church was hit by vandals in a separate unrelated incident. The patriarchate website reported that an explosive device had gone off outside the Church of the Holy Family and graffiti was scrawled on the facade of the church.

Father Jorge Hernandez, a parish priest, extinguished the resulting fire. Damage was modest, but the incident “has deeply shaken the small Christian community,” the patriarchate said.

Community and religious leaders visited the parish following the attack in a show of “solidarity and sympathy,” said the posting. The patriarchate’s general administrator later celebrated Mass with parishioners on behalf of Patriarch Twal.

 

Comments Off

Pope honors slain Jesuit, pleads for peace in Syria — updated

April 7th, 2014 Posted in International News

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said the assassination of “my confrere,” a 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit in Syria,
“filled me with deep sadness and made me think again of all the people who suffer and are dying in that martyred country.”

Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt “arrived in Syria about 50 years ago” and “always did his best for everyone with graciousness and love, and so was loved and held in esteem by Christians and Muslims,” the pope said April 9 at the end of his weekly general audience.

Dutch Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt chats with civilians, urging them to be patient, in the besieged area of Homs, Syria, Jan. 29. The priest was assassinated there on April 7.. (CNS photo/Thaer Al Khalidiya, Reuters)

Father Van der Lugt had refused to leave war-torn Syria, instead staying in Homs to help the poor and homeless. He was beaten by unidentified armed men and killed April 7 with two bullets to the head, according to the Jesuits’ Middle East province.

“From my heart, I ask you all to join my prayer for peace in Syria and in the region,” Pope Francis said, “and I launch a heartfelt appeal to Syrian leaders and to the international community: Silence the weapons! Put an end to the violence. No more war. No more destruction.”

Father Van der Lugt, a psychotherapist, had worked in Syria since 1966 and had been offering shelter in his monastery to Muslims and Christians left homeless by the war, which began in March 2011.

In a statement, Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits, and the staff of the Jesuits’ headquarters expressed their sorrow “for the brutal assassination of a man who dedicated his life to the poorest and neediest, especially in Homs, and who did not want to abandon them even at times of great danger.”

“He always spoke of peace and reconciliation,” the statement said, “and he opened his doors to all those asking help without distinction of race or religion. ‘I don’t see Muslims or Christians,’ he used to say, ‘but only human beings. I am the only priest and the only foreigner in this place, but I don’t feel like a foreigner.’”

The Jesuits prayed that “his sacrifice would bring the fruit of peace and that it would be a further stimulus for silencing the weapons and setting aside hatred.”

Father Van der Lugt became known around the world after appealing for aid for the people of the besieged city of Homs in a video posted on YouTube in late January.

The United Nations supervised an evacuation of about 1,400 people from Homs in early February; arriving in Jordan, the refugees confirmed Father Van der Lugt’s accounts of people, especially young children, starving to death.

Speaking to Catholic News Service by telephone Feb. 6, the Jesuit had said: “There has been no food. People are hungry and waiting for help. No injured people have been allowed to leave. Families have been hoping to get out of the siege and out of the fighting between the two sides.”

“The wounded have not received proper treatment, so healing has been difficult. Newborns die very quickly because of a lack of milk,” he said. “There have been cases of death due to hunger and starvation.”

In Syria, Jesuit Refugee Service announced it would close for three days after Father Van der Lugt’s death.

“Father Frans was a beacon for all of us; he did not only preach about love and reconciliation but he lived it out every day,in humility and with compassion for all, until the very end,” said Father Peter Balleis, JRS International director.

 

Comments Off

Cardinal praises Philippines’ peace accord with Muslim rebels

By

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ newest cardinal was among 1,000 guests who witnessed the peace agreement between the government and the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.

Cotabato Cardinal Orlando Quevedo’s archdiocese in the southern island of Mindanao includes the main administrative camp for the rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. A number of ranking members of the front attended Oblate-run Notre Dame University, where the cardinal served as president. They have noted his long-standing empathy and understanding of the plight of the Muslims.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces take a break during a show of force inside Camp Darapanan in southern Philippines March 27. The Philippines and its largest Muslim rebel group signed a final peace pact, ending about 40 years of conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people in the country’s South. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Cardinal Quevedo told reporters on the sidelines March 27 that he admired the determination of negotiators for the rebels and the government and “also their wisdom because the Bangsamoro has finally achieved their own fundamental aspiration for self-determination.”

In a speech, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, called the pact “the grandest articulation of our aspirations.” He said it finally restored the identity, powers and resources of all residents of Muslim-majority Mindanao, called “Bangsamoro.”

“These three things, which have been ours since time immemorial, unjustly taken through colonization and occupation, are now returned to us,” Murad said at the ceremony on the grounds of the presidential palace in Manila.

For nearly 40 years, the Muslim rebels fought for the right to self-determination, engaging government troops in skirmishes and forcing millions of residents to flee their homes. Approximately 120,000 people were killed.

The pact, which officials call the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro” creates a self-governing region in Mindanao.

The region to be called Bangsamoro, a name coined by the rebels for all residents of Muslim-majority Mindanao, including Christians and indigenous peoples, will have a parliamentary form of government. It will be able to generate its own revenues, collect a significant portion of royalties from natural resources in the area and form its own law enforcement, among wide-ranging powers. The central government in Manila will maintain national defense, currency and postal services.

This new region will supersede an existing autonomous region that was born out of a 1990s peace pact between the government and a smaller Muslim rebel group. That region, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is the poorest part of the country, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino called it a “failed experiment.”

“The huge imbalance between Muslim Mindanao and the rest of the country served to breed resentment and consequently insurgency,” Aquino said at the signing. “When the Bangsamoro people felt that they had no redress within the system, they then tried to address their grievances from outside of the system. We must therefore give them a significant boost up, so that they can catch up.”

Officials say the economic problems that plague the region now are a long way from the Christian versus Muslim conflict that dominated the struggles in the southern Philippines during Spanish colonial times through the early part of the 20th century.

Still, Cardinal Quevedo acknowledged there was room for even better understanding on the part of Catholics in the region.

“I know that living together with Muslims, which has been part of my long life in Mindanao, is something I appreciate very much, when I used to have my Muslim students interact with me at the university,” said Cardinal Quevedo. “So at the grass-roots level, in the marketplace, be friends with one another. Pray for one another. Live together in the community, and all those biases and mistrust can be somehow significantly reduced.”

“Let’s pray for the success of this peace agreement that promises lasting and just peace in our region of Mindanao,” said Cardinal Quevedo.

In a statement, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the conference rejoiced “with our countrymen” over the signing. He urged the implementers of the agreement to pay special attention to “those who feel marginalized,” including smaller rebel factions not happy with the deal, and he pushed for development in the affected region.

“The promotion of total human development is long delayed. It cannot wait further. The people of Mindanao have been suffering for decades,” said Archbishop Villegas.

By Simone Orendain

 

Comments Off

Vatican accepts resignation of free-spending German bishop

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has accepted the resignation of a German bishop who was at the center of controversy over expenditures for his residence and a diocesan center.

Following a diocesan investigation, the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops studied the audit’s findings and accepted the resignation of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg. Auxiliary Bishop Manfred Grothe of Paderborn was appointed to serve as apostolic administrator of Limburg in the meantime, the Vatican announced March 26.

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst would be assigned, “at a suitable moment,” another unspecified assignment, the Vatican statement said.

Pope Francis called on the German clergy and faithful in the diocese to accept the Vatican’s decision “with meekness and to try to dedicate themselves to rebuilding a climate of charity and reconciliation,” the statement said.

The pope had authorized a leave of absence for the bishop in October after allegations of overspending and leading a lavish lifestyle.

“A situation has been created in which Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst currently cannot exercise his episcopal ministry,” the Vatican said last year in a written statement.

The bishop has been at the center of controversy over the remodeling and building project in Limburg, which was estimated to have cost about $40 million. Media dubbed Bishop Tebartz-van Elst the “luxury bishop” and “Bishop Bling.”

In early September, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, sent retired Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo to visit the diocese to promote peace between the bishop and some of the diocese’s priests concerned about the diocesan center project.

After the cardinal’s visit, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst agreed to publish figures about the construction project and cooperate with a commission established by the bishops’ conference to audit the project and examine how decisions were made. In most cases, church law requires consultation with a diocesan finance council before large sums of diocesan money can be spent.

In a separate controversy, the bishop agreed in November to pay a court-ordered fine of 20,000 euros rather than contest charges that he perjured himself before the Hamburg District Court. Hamburg prosecutors had charged him with lying to the court in a case involving the magazine Der Spiegel.

The bishop had sued over an article alleging that he had flown first class on a trip to India for charity work when he told a Der Spiegel reporter that he flew business class. Although the bishop denied that he said he flew business class, the reporter had a recording of his words.

 

Comments Off

Abuse survivor says new Vatican panel must achieve real change

By

Catholic News Service

DUBLIN — The lone clerical abuse survivor nominated by Pope Francis to sit on the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said the commission needs to achieve concrete change in order to “show other survivors that the church is going to get it right.”

Marie Collins, who was abused by a chaplain as a sick 13-year-old at Crumlin hospital in Dublin in the 1960s, told Catholic News Service that many survivors will be watching the new Vatican commission “with interest, but many will have written it off as merely a PR exercise.”

Irish abuse victim Marie Collins, left, who was assaulted as a 13-year-old by a hospital chaplain in her native Ireland, attends a 2012 vigil in Rome. Collins is the lone clerical abuse survivor nominated by Pope Francis to sit on the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

“Survivors will not be satisfied with more words or promises, they need to see real change,” she said.

Collins, who campaigns on behalf of abuse victims, said her priority is “a strong worldwide child protection policy which would include sanctions for any member of the church in a position of authority who ignored these rules.”

She added that too many bishops who have protected abusive priests have been allowed to remain in place undisciplined.

“I would like to see the way survivors and their families have been treated change. The concentration on often-abusive legalistic responses instead of caring for those hurt needs to end,” she said.

The cultural attitude within the church and laws that “categorized child abuse as a moral lapse rather than a criminal offense also have to be tackled,” she told CNS.

The Dubliner is seeking greater transparency because “the secrecy of the past led to enormous failures.”

The initial eight members of the commission will be free to decide what issues they are going to deal with, how they are going to work and who else will join the commission, Collins told CNS.

Though it is in its early stages, she said her understanding is that the commission will make its recommendations directly to Pope Francis and will not communicate through any Vatican departments.

Asked who else she would like to see on the new commission, she told CNS she would like to see Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin because he “is the template for how child protection should be handled at ground level,” and also Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who really “got it” when it came to addressing clerical sexual abuse.

Collins told CNS that she met another commission member, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, in 2011 as he led the Vatican investigation of the Archdiocese of Dublin and was “very impressed with his openness and his ability to listen.”

She also worked with another member of the commission, Baroness Sheila Hollins, during the Toward Healing Symposium at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 2012.

“I feel we worked very well together. She is very devoted to the cause of the vulnerable adult and has great expertise in this field. I am looking forward to working with Cardinal Sean and Baroness Hollins.”

However, Collins said she was “disappointed” listening to Pope Francis’ recent comments when he said no one has done more on the issue of child sexual abuse than the church, and yet the church is the only one to be attacked.

[“He seemed to miss the point that the huge anger directed at the Catholic Church has not been caused by the fact it had abusers in its ranks but by the unique situation whereby those in authority were willing to protect these men. This has been shown in inquiry after inquiry around the world,” she told CNS.

She said it was up to the new Vatican commission to change the pope’s mind on this.

Asked what it means to have a survivor on the commission, Collins said in the past there had been a fear of survivors and “an inability to handle their justified anger.”

At other times, survivors were seen as people who could be placated by words of apology but this “underestimated the damage done to lives and the hurt and anger and thirst for justice that so many survivors feel.”

“In this context it is a big step for the church to include a survivor on the commission, but a very necessary one,” she commented.

She has already been contacted by many survivors and survivor groups from various parts of the world. The majority responded positively, wanting her to take their particular concerns to the commission. She said some have suggested that she is a “token survivor” appointed just to give the church good public relations.

“I have remained a Catholic but not without much difficulty and struggle,” she told CNS. “There have been periods when practicing my faith has been impossible. I have tried to separate the institution of the church from the faith. My belief in God has never wavered. Being appointed to the commission has not changed anything in this regard.”

 

 

Comments Off

Aid agencies, artists work to help 2.5 million Syrian refugees, including children

By

Catholic News Service

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan — As Syria’s civil war hurtles into its fourth year, hopes of returning home soon seem far off for the 2.5 million refugees sheltering in neighboring countries, like Jordan. Syrians are soon expected to overtake Afghans as the largest refugee population in the world, according to the United Nations.

A boy cries as he stands amid rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo March 6. (CNS photo/Hosam Katan, Reuters)

Top U.N. officials warn that the grinding conflict will leave a generation of 5.5 million children in and outside Syria physically and emotionally scarred. But American street artist Samantha Robison is working hard to change that.

A Washington, D.C. native, Robison and her team of international artists paint alongside the refugee children, encouraging them to remain strong and positive in Jordan’s Zaatari camp.

Covered in splashes of paint in every color of the rainbow, Robison encourages a 9-year-old Syrian girl named Zeinab to express her future dreams through painting on a recycled tent tarp.

“I am drawing a bird flying in the air. To me, it represents the freedom we want,” the enthusiastic child said as she drew.

Peaceful demonstrations protesting the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted three years ago and were soon met by sniper fire from government troops before bursting into all-out civil war.

Robison said the young Syrian refugees at Zaatari remember the start of the conflict, but now look to the future.

“Yes, commemorate the three years, but also remember where they’ve come from and how much they’ve accomplished,” she said.

“Honor the human dignity and the next generation and the future of Syria. I think is where a lot of the energy needs to be focused,” she added, speaking of the children.

Zaatari is now the second-largest refugee camp in the world and Jordan’s fifth-largest city. Just more than half the 120,000 refugees there are under the age of 18.

Robison encourages the children to use their imaginations as they draw and paint and not to use well-known cartoon characters in their illustrations.

“What does your dream village look like? Draw yourself saying hello to children in other countries,” she urges them.

In the process, they magically transform dull canvas tents, metal trailers, schools and other facilities into colorful and creative works of art. Healing and hope come to the children and their families.

She encourages them to explore their creativity and have the space to just be children, something the civil war back home — full of bombings, the death of family members, and assaults — has robbed them of.

“Painting for these kids is fun and gives them a way to express themselves while putting them back in touch with themselves as children. It’s not about working or making ends meet,” said Leah O’Bryant, a Washington state artist working with Robison’s AptART organization in the camp.

“That’s something that kids take for granted in other places, but isn’t always possible here. They are expressing some intense emotions, but they are also just having fun. That’s one of the most important things that we do,” she said.

Syrian children along with women are among the most vulnerable of those fleeing the conflict, international aid workers say.

“The images on TV often show Syrian men fighting, but among the refugees, the heart of the story is women and children, who make up nearly 75 percent of the refugee population,” Caroline Brennan, Catholic Relief Services’ senior communications officer, told Catholic News Service March 17.

Brennan regularly visits CRS field work in Jordan and Lebanon. CRS, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency, aids 250,000 Syrian refugees across the Middle East region.

“Because they make up such a large percentage of the population, our services are predominantly supporting women and children, especially those in towns where the vast majority live as urban refugees, by providing for their basic needs for survival and health care,” Brennan said.

“Given the enormity of needs for women and children, we focus on education for children and counseling for mothers and children. Issues of trauma are so significant,” Brennan said.

She said CRS medical workers have observed that 45 percent of Syrian refugee children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and 60 percent from depression.

“Going to school helps children stay at their school level, have a place to go during the day and enables them to claim some semblance of childhood. Counseling is a big component of that, not only for those children, but their mothers. The mothers are caring not only for their children who are traumatized, but also making major decisions for their families in a way they were not necessarily making back home,” Brennan said.

A Syrian refugee mother who identified herself only as Reem said she struggles with her new role as the female head of her household.

“My husband divorced me recently, and my father died shortly afterward. I have to be strong and protect myself and my children. This is contrary to Middle Eastern culture,” the young woman emphasized.

Other Syrian female refugees say their husbands are also absent. They are either fighting back home or have been killed or abducted in the conflict.

“A glass might drop. It doesn’t even break, and the children are crying and shaking. Older children are wetting the mattress. The issues are severe,” Brennan said.

“The mothers are desperate to know how to care for children suffering from trauma when they have their own issues they are wrestling with. Our counselors are there to help,” she said.

 

Comments Off

Chinese bishop, who was imprisoned 20 years, dies at 96

By

HONG KONG — Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang of Shanghai, a prominent leader of China’s underground Catholic Community, died after a brief illness March 16 at his home. He was 96.

Bishop Fan, like many other Catholic leaders, served in prison after he and other priests were arrested in 1955 during a government crackdown. From 1958 to 1978, Bishop Fan was imprisoned in Qinghai province, where his job was to carry corpses in a cemetery, reported the Asian church news portal ucanews.com.

China’s estimated 10 million-12 million Catholics are divided between two communities: one that, for decades, remained underground because it did not accept compromises and political control after the Chinese communist takeover in the 1950s, and one that the Vatican has acknowledged accepted some compromises and political control in order to continue its existence. Both are faithful to the pope, and both have faced persecution from Chinese authorities.

Anthony Lam Sui-ki, senior researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Center in Hong Kong, said young priests, even those from the so-called open church community, often met with Bishop Fan before they were ordained. Shanghai has lost a “steadfast and persevering” leader in Bishop Fan, he said.

A Jesuit, Bishop Fan was ordained a priest in 1951. He refused to recognize the Chinese government-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association when it was established.

The Connecticut-based Kung Foundation said Bishop Fan was secretly ordained as coadjutor bishop of Shanghai in 1985 when Bishop Ignatius Kung Pin-mei remained incarcerated in a government jail. Bishop Kung died in 2000, and the foundation said Blessed John Paul named Bishop Fan his successor.

However, the late Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai, another Jesuit who spent 18 years in prison during the communist repression, was recognized by the government as bishop of Shanghai in 1989. He did not reconcile his status with the Vatican until early in the 21st century, according to information on the diocesan website.

Born Jan. 13, 1918, Bishop Fan was baptized a Catholic in 1932. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1938.

After his release from prison, Bishop Fan became a teacher. Later he was allowed to return to Shanghai.

Funeral arrangements were not finalized as of March 16 but will be limited to two days as outlined under Chinese law.

Lam told ucanews.com that bishops of the underground church likely will meet to suggest a successor to Pope Francis.

Meanwhile, the future of Shanghai Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who was ordained in 2012 with the approval of both Pope Benedict XVI and the Chinese government, remains uncertain. Bishop Ma said during his ordination Mass that he would no longer hold any position in the Catholic Patriot Association so that he could focus on pastoral work and evangelization. He was immediately placed under house arrest at Sheshan Seminary. The government also rescinded his appointment.

 

Comments Off
Marquee Powered By Know How Media.