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Former Manila street kids want pope to visit

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Catholic News Service

MANILA, Philippines — Father Matthieu Dauchez knows the children he works with are not the only poor people in the Philippines, but that has not stopped him from lobbying loudly and praying constantly that Pope Francis will stop by.

“We’re a drop in the ocean, but I hope he’ll see this drop,” Father Dauchez said Jan. 13. “Our drop is very well located.”

The advantage of the Blessed Charles de Foucauld Home for Girls is that it is across the street from the Manila cathedral where Pope Francis will meet with priests and religious Jan. 16. In addition to the 38 girls and young women who live there, another 150-170 young people from the Tulay Ng Kabataan centers for street children around Manila will be waiting for there for the pope.

Father Matthieu Dauchez, director of The Blessed Charles de Foucauld Home for Girls, poses with residents Jan. 13 in Manila, Philippines. Father Dauchez said there are between 6,000 to 10,000 street children in metro Manila. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

Father Matthieu Dauchez, director of The Blessed Charles de Foucauld Home for Girls, poses with residents Jan. 13 in Manila, Philippines. Father Dauchez said there are between 6,000 to 10,000 street children in metro Manila. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

Speaking in English, Jelly, a 17-year-old resident at the center near the cathedral, said she wrote Pope Francis a letter asking him to stop by because “I want to confess my sins and I want to hug him.”

“He is a representative of God,” she said in Filipino, before returning to English to say: “He’s a very humble person. He’s very kind and playful.”

Jelly, who was rescued from the streets less than seven years ago, is now in the 6th grade at a local elementary school. She’s playful, too, and rallies some of the younger girls for their favorite game: They send flip-flops slicing through the air trying to knock over the sardine can that held the protein portion of their day’s lunch. They also had rice.

Jelly picks up a man’s massive blue flip-flop and sends it sailing, nailing the can; she insists it is not cheating if one finds a bigger shoe to launch.

Since 1998, the TNK foundation has been ministering to street children and the children of the urban poor in metropolitan Manila, including those who work as scavengers on Manila’s massive waste dumpsite.

While UNICEF estimates there are as many as 500,000 “street children” in the Philippines, that figure is based on long hours spent on the streets; many of them either live with their families on the streets or are sent out to work and return home to their families at night.

The 14 Tulay Ng Kabataan residential centers are for “hard-core” street children, those who have been abandoned by their families or were forced to flee because of physical and sexual abuse; 6,000 to 10,000 of those children live in metropolitan Manila, said Father Dauchez, who came to the Philippines from France as a seminarian and was ordained in 2004 for the Archdiocese of Manila.

Foundation employees and volunteers, including social workers and psychologists, are out on the streets every day and every night, building relationships with the children and letting them know that there is a safe place where they can find a home.

Alexandra Chapeleau, the foundation’s communications manager, says getting the children to the residential centers is a long process. The children form tight-knit and tightly controlled groups on the street; the group becomes their safety net and the source of whatever sustenance they can find, often through stealing and prostitution.

When the children first leave the streets, they are welcomed into “drop-in centers,” where social workers and psychologists evaluate each individual and try to discover if they have any ties or the possibility of a re-establishing a tie with their families. When they have settled into more of what would be considered a normal life, they move to a residential center and begin attending public schools.

Among those rescued from the streets are children who are mentally challenged or have serious learning disabilities; Tulay Ng Kabataan operates three residences just for them.

In the centers, the children experience the luxury of loving care, an end to exploitation and help with their homework. But the facilities are basic: The girls sleep on plastic loungers usually found by a swimming pool. They each have their own closet and their weekly schedule of chores is taped to it. Each day of the week of the pope’s visit, Jelly has a different task: dishwashing; preparing the table for meals on two different days; helping to cook and clean the kitchen; laundry duty twice; and one entry that says “3Gs.” She explained that that is tidying up the garden and garage and taking out the garbage.

Her 15-year-old friends, Liway and Elisa, are in high school and arrive home later than Jelly does. But they are fully onboard with the dream of welcoming the pope to their home.

“Pope Francis is one who will bring hope and make our dreams possible,” Liway said.

Elisa added: “I hope he will be able to visit us at the center for girls because he is very important. He helps others.”

The foundation cares for the young people until they are ready to live autonomously, Chapeleau said. Some stay until they are in their early 20s if they are enrolled in a university or job-training program.

As one of the girls led nine others in saying a prayer of thanksgiving after lunch, Father Dauchez put obvious effort into being philosophical about Pope Francis’ packed schedule and the fact that TNK is not officially on it.

“What is important,” he said, “is not whether he visits here, but that Pope Francis is coming to the Philippines to visit the poorest of the poor.”

“But what do you think our chances are?” he asked.

 

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Bishops see signs of resilience in ‘open-air prison’ of Gaza

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Catholic News Service

BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Despite the immense destruction still evident in Gaza following the war there last summer, the resilience of the people gave hope to 16 bishops of the Holy Land Coordination during their visit to the Gaza Strip Jan. 11-12.

One boy’s words continued to resonate with Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The boy, who was the last student to speak to the bishops before they left Holy Family School in Gaza, told them he simply wanted dignity.

An unidentified bishop, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., and Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool, England, pray during a Jan. 12 Mass with other bishops from around the world at the Carmelite Monastery in Bethlehem, West Bank. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

An unidentified bishop, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., and Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool, England, pray during a Jan. 12 Mass with other bishops from around the world at the Carmelite Monastery in Bethlehem, West Bank. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

“What made a deep impression on me is that the people are not broken,” said Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, South Africa. “Their will is very strong. We saw this in the way they interacted with us and the fact that life is as back to as normal as possible. It signifies the strength of the human spirit.”

It took some of the bishops six hours to get through the Erez checkpoint into Gaza where they celebrated Mass, met with members of the Christian community and were briefed on the work of CRS, Caritas and the Pontifical Mission in Gaza.

The bishops also visited the Israeli border town of Sderot, which was among the Israeli towns that came under bombardment from Gaza during the war, before returning to Bethlehem.

“We shouldn’t make light of the Israeli perspective and we need to listen to it; it is truly a concern and before the walls of separation there were suicide bombings. We understand the fear, but that is not a long-term solution,” said Bishop Cantu. “The wall of separation is causing even more problems, even in the short term.”

Auxiliary Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham, England, noted that an Israeli they spoke with in Sderot remembered with fondness the time when Gazan workers were able to come to the city, and they had meals together.

Israel and Egypt instituted a border blockade of Gaza in 2007 following an internal struggle between two Palestinian factions — Hamas, which Israel, the United States and others consider a terrorist organization, and Fatah, when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip following their legislative election win in 2006.

As a result of the blockade, the bishops noted, Gaza residents are still struggling to repair or rebuild their homes when it is extremely difficult to obtain much-needed building supplies.

Tens of thousands of people are still living in their bombed out homes or under primitive conditions even during the recent cold spells, the bishops noted, calling Gaza an “open-air prison.” They emphasized the importance of showing solidarity for the people living in Gaza so they know they are not forgotten.

“The biggest need for the people of Gaza is freedom,” said Bishop Felix Gmur of Basel, Switzerland. “They do not feel free because there is no exchange of goods or (movement) of people.”

He noted the strength of the shrinking Gazan Christian community.

“They hold on. They keep being there,” Bishop Gmur said. “It makes me feel sad because they are not free; they are living in circumstances which are partially hostile because … there are some (Muslims) who would like them to be outside of Gaza.”

In the face of growing radicalization of Islam in the region as well as in Europe, it is up to religious leaders of all faiths, especially Christians, to uphold the banner of reconciliation, several bishops said.

Since 1998, the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has organized the annual meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land at the invitation of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.

Mandated by the Holy See, the Holy Land Coordination meets every January in the Holy Land, focusing on prayer, pilgrimage and persuasion with the aim of acting in solidarity with the Christian community there and sharing in the pastoral life of the local church as it experiences intense political and social-economic pressure.

 

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Third-ranked Sanford turns back No. 4 Vikings, 53-43

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Dialog reporter

 

HOCKESSIN – St. Elizabeth fell behind Sanford, 8-0, in the opening four minutes of Monday afternoon’s girls basketball matchup in Hockessin. The Vikings rallied to close the gap and managed to tie the game on five separate occasions in the third period, but the Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter to win, 53-43.

Defending state champion and third-ranked Sanford, playing its first home game since the season-opener on Dec. 6 vs. Appoquinimink, used the inside game of Chrishyanah Alston (21 points) and the shooting of Taylor Samuels (13) to earn the win. The Warriors also scored from distance, getting three three-point shots from Ayanna Thompson and two from eighth-grader Lauren Park-Lane. Read more »

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Pope Francis to Sri Lankans: Reconciliation means dialogue, ‘pursuit of truth’

By

Catholic News Service

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Arriving in Sri Lanka, a country recovering from two-and-a-half decades of ethnic and religious civil war, Pope Francis said reconciliation would require its people to explore their painful recent history and accept persistent differences within their multicultural society.

“The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth, not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity,” the pope said Jan. 13 at an arrival ceremony at Colombo’s international airport.

Pope Francis shakes hands with Hindu Kurukkal SivaSri T. Mahadeva after receiving a robe from him during a meeting with religious leaders at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jan. 13. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis shakes hands with Hindu Kurukkal SivaSri T. Mahadeva after receiving a robe from him during a meeting with religious leaders at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jan. 13. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis addressed his words to Sri Lanka’s new president, Maithripala Sirisena, who was elected Jan. 8 and sworn in the next day. During his campaign, Sirisena promised an independent investigation into war crimes allegedly committed during the 26-year struggle between government forces and rebels belonging to the country’s Tamil minority.

In his remarks to the pope, Sirisena noted that during the last papal visit, by St. John Paul II in 1995, “Sri Lanka was embroiled in annihilating terrorism, following the mayhem caused by the terrorists in the daily lives of the people,” a reference to the Tamil Tigers, finally defeated in 2009 by the military under Sirisena’s predecessor, President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The war divided Sri Lanka along religious as well as ethnic lines, since members of the Sinhalese majority are typically Buddhist, and Tamils for the most part Hindu. Catholics, who make up 7 percent of the country’s population, include members of both ethnic groups. Rajapaksa, who sought re-election Jan. 8, had his political base in the country’s Sinhalese-Buddhist majority. Sirisena enjoys more support among minorities.

“Sri Lanka for many years knew the horrors of civil strife and is now seeking to consolidate peace and to heal the scars of those years,” Pope Francis said, his voice hoarse and weary-sounding after the 10-hour flight from Rome. “I am convinced that the followers of the various religious traditions have an essential role to play in the delicate process of reconciliation and rebuilding which is taking place in this country.”

That afternoon, the pope met with local Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and other Christian leaders, telling them that efforts at “interreligious and ecumenical relations take on a particular significance and urgency in Sri Lanka,” as sources of “healing and unity” after years of “civil strife and violence.”

Again, he sounded a note of realism, stressing that dialogue could not eliminate cultural differences but would emphasize the need for their acceptance.

“For such dialogue and encounter to be effective, it must be grounded in a full and forthright presentation of our respective convictions. Certainly, such dialogue will accentuate how varied our beliefs, traditions and practices are. But if we are honest in presenting our convictions, we will be able to see more clearly what we hold in common,” the pope said. “Men and women do not have to forsake their identity, whether ethnic or religious, in order to live in harmony.”

The pope urged followers of different religions to cooperate in social service, providing for the “material and spiritual needs of the poor, the destitute” and thus “rebuild the moral foundations of society as a whole.”

At the interreligious meeting, held at a Colombo conference centers, a Hindu leader, speaking the Tamil language, voiced hopes for lasting peace and draped a saffron silk shawl over Pope Francis’ shoulders.

A representative of the local Muslim community condemned “terrorism, racism, extremism,” including recent killings by Islamist militants at a Paris newspaper and a military-run school in Pakistan.

A Buddhist monk, representing the faith of 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s population, noted the common dedication of great religions to the values of love, self-sacrifice and peace, as well as the common susceptibility of humanity to hatred and violence.

Pope Francis’ first day in Sri Lanka started when his plane from Rome landed at 9 a.m. He was greeted by traditional dancers and drummers, a 21-gun salute and a choir of teenagers who sang a song of welcome in English, the same language the pope and Sirisena used for their remarks. Girls in white dresses and boys in neckties and shorts waved gold-and-white Vatican flags. Nearby stood 40 elephants draped in colorful fabrics, a traditional gesture of honor for distinguished guests.

The pope’s entourage, led by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, wore white cassocks, keeping with the ecclesiastical custom in tropical climates. Temperatures were in the 80s in the bright sunshine.

The pope rode the 17-mile distance to the nuncio’s residence in an open-sided popemobile past crowds waving Vatican flags. A persistent breeze made it impossible for him to keep his zucchetto on for much of the ride. Because the pope made frequent stops to greet and bless individuals along the way, his ride took twice as long as expected, leading him to cancel a meeting with Sri Lanka’s bishops planned for early afternoon.

The day marked the start of Pope Francis’ second trip to Asia, following a visit to South Korea in August. He was scheduled to spend two full days in Sri Lanka, before flying to the Philippines Jan. 15.The highlights of the Sri Lanka leg were expected to be the Jan. 14 canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz as the country’s first saint and, later the same day, a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, which served as a sanctuary for refugees during the civil war.

 

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Franciscan in Black Catholic ministry named auxiliary bishop for New Orleans

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Pope Francis has named Franciscan Father Fernand “Ferd” Cheri III, a New Orleans native who is director of campus ministry at Quincy University in Illinois as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

The appointment was announced Jan. 12 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate Fernand "Ferd" Cheri III responds to reporters questions during a press conference in New Orleans Jan. 12. The appointment of the New Orleans native as auxiliary bishop of his home archdiocese was announced earlier in the day. (CNS photo/Frank J Methe, Clarion Herald)

Bishop-designate Fernand “Ferd” Cheri III responds to reporters questions during a press conference in New Orleans Jan. 12. The appointment of the New Orleans native as auxiliary bishop of his home archdiocese was announced earlier in the day. (CNS photo/Frank J Methe, Clarion Herald)

Bishop-designate Cheri, who turns 63 Jan. 28, has a background that includes extensive roles in black Catholic liturgy, music and spirituality, in addition to having served on the Franciscans’ provincial council and as their director of friar life.

He also is a board member of the National Black Catholic Congress and has been involved in activities including the NBCC gatherings, the U.S. bishops’ subcommittee on Black Catholic worship and the National Joint Conference of Black Religious Planning Committee.

He originally was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans May 20, 1978. He studied at Notre Dame University and at the Institute for Black Catholic Ministry at Xavier University, both in New Orleans.

During a news conference in New Orleans after his appointment was announced, Bishop-designate Cheri said he was surprised but thrilled that Pope Francis had appointed him as auxiliary bishop in the city where most of his family still lives. He said he is pleased that he will be working alongside Archbishop Gregory V. Aymond.

“I’d like to say first of all thank you to Pope Francis for appointing me to this position,” he said.

“It was a total surprise, but it was a wonderful moment to just be told that I was appointed auxiliary bishop,” added Bishop-designate Cheri. “I also want to thank Greg for accepting me in this position as well. I look forward to just working with the people of New Orleans again. I never left New Orleans. It’s always a part of me. Wherever I go, I bring New Orleans. It’s going to be great to be back in the city.”

Bishop-designate Cheri will be ordained bishop at a Mass March 23 at St. Louis Cathedral.

“He is very gifted in music and preaching and liturgy,” Archbishop Aymond said. “This is also a very significant moment, I think, for us as New Orleans (Catholics) — another hometown boy joining us again. But also a great gift from the African-American community to the church and to the archdiocese.”

As a diocesan priest for four years at four parishes in New Orleans and Marrero, Louisiana, Bishop-designate Cheri was involved in ministry in the black Catholic community. It was at that time that he began discernment in becoming a Franciscan.

“A lot of my support at that time was from the religious communities that were primarily staffing parishes in the black community of New Orleans,” he said.

“I got used to that. I said, ‘Well, if I’m getting support from them, I might as well be a religious.’ Being a diocesan priest for me was very lonely. I grew up with a family and bouncing things off of other people. I needed that support. I received a lot of that from the religious communities of New Orleans.”

He entered the novitiate for the Order of Friars Minor, in the Sacred Heart Province, based in St. Louis in 1992 and made his solemn profession as a Franciscan two years later. Since then he has served as a chaplain at Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago and as pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

He also served as a choir director and guidance counselor at Althoff Catholic High in Belleville, Ill., while part of a contingent that launched St. Benedict the Black Friary in East St. Louis, an outreach to the poor, African-American community.

Prior to beginning his position at Quincy University in 2011, he was director of campus ministry at Xavier University. In addition to his post at Quincy, he is vicar of Holy Cross Friary, located on the campus.

Bishop-designate Cheri said he organized teams of students from Quincy University to provide annual cleanup and repairs in New Orleans. Last year, 50 students made the mission trip.

Prior to beginning his position at Quincy University in 2011, he was director of campus ministry at Xavier University in New Orleans. In addition to his post at Quincy, he is vicar of Holy Cross Friary, located on the campus.

According to his biography on the NBCC website, he created youth gospel choirs in several places, began the Black Saints Celebrations for the Archdiocese of New Orleans and is convener and facilitator of Go Down Moses Retreats for African American Catholic Young Men.

The New Orleans archdiocese has had no auxiliary bishops since Bishop Shelton J. Fabre was named in 2013 to become bishop of Houma-Thibodaux. Auxiliary Bishop Dominic Carmon retired in 2006.

 

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At baptisms, pope asks prayers for impoverished moms who can’t feed their children

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As Pope Francis once again urged new moms not to be afraid to breast-feed in public, he reminded people to pray for the world’s mothers whose poverty means they are unable to provide enough food for their children.

“Let us pray and try to help these mothers,” he said during a Mass in the Sistine Chapel in which he baptized 33 babies on the feast of the baptism of the Lord, Jan. 11.

Pope Francis baptizes a newborn during a Mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Jan. 11. Pope Francis baptized 33 infants during the Mass and told the mothers to feel free to breast-feed them if they cried or were hungry. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis baptizes a newborn during a Mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Jan. 11. Pope Francis baptized 33 infants during the Mass and told the mothers to feel free to breast-feed them if they cried or were hungry. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The pope’s homily focused on the meaning of baptism and the reading from the Book of Isaiah about how, like a good mother and father, God wants to give his children nourishment that truly satisfies.

God did that by offering the nourishing word of Christ, the pope said.

Parents and relatives should offer their children the word of God by always carrying with them a pocket-sized copy of the Gospel and reading a short verse from it every day, he said.

“This will be an example for the children to see daddy, mommy, godparents, grandpa, grandma, aunts and uncles reading the word of God,” he said.

Amid the cries and squeals of infants, the pope repeated the same advice he gave the previous year, telling the mothers present that if their babies “are crying because of hunger, breast-feed them, don’t worry.”

“Let us thank the Lord for the gift of milk and let us pray for those moms, and there are many unfortunately, who are in no condition to feed their own children,” he said.

The pope asked that children be raised to understand “one cannot be Christian outside the church, one cannot follow Christ without the church because the church is mother and she lets us grow in Jesus Christ’s love.”

He also told everyone not to forget to pray to the Holy Spirit, who supplies the strength to keep going in life’s journey.

“Usually we pray to Jesus. When we pray the ‘Our Father’ we pray to the Father. But we don’t pray to the Holy Spirit too much,” he said.

Children need to grow in the midst of the Holy Trinity, and it is the Holy Spirit who “teaches us to keep the family going.”

Later, before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said the baptism of the Lord opened up the heavens to reunite people with God.

“Sin distances us from God and breaks the bond between heaven and earth,” he said.

But when Christ was baptized, the heavens were “torn open” and the Holy Spirit descended upon him, giving everyone “the possibility of encountering the Son of God and experiencing all his love and infinite mercy,” he said.

Christ is truly present and can be encountered in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and his face can be seen in the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and the refugee, Pope Francis said.

“There is so much need today for mercy,” he said, urging Catholics to be merciful and bring mercy to others. “Come on! We are living a time of mercy; this is a time of mercy.”

He also asked that people pay greater attention and listen to the Holy Spirit.

Otherwise, a Christian community that is “deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit, who is urging people to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth and society, will also become a Christian and a community that is mute and cannot speak and evangelize” about Christ, he said.

 

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Sri Lankans prepare for pope’s visit tomorrow

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Hours before Pope Francis was to arrive in Sri Lanka, people in Colombo were busy with final preparations.

While Sri Lankan and papal flags fluttered along the 20 miles of road from the international airport to downtown Colombo, giant posters of Pope Francis were put up around the city.

Father Jude Nicholas leads members of the choir during rehearsal at Galle Face Green Jan. 11 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka Jan. 13-15. (CNS photo/Anto Akkara)

Father Jude Nicholas leads members of the choir during rehearsal at Galle Face Green Jan. 11 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka Jan. 13-15. (CNS photo/Anto Akkara)

The Laccadive Sea sparkled in the background as hundreds of police officers kept close watch on the workers who put finishing touches on the giant altar stage at the Galle Face Green in Colombo, where the pope is expected to draw the largest crowd.

“This is a historic visit. We are trying our best to make it memorable,” Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka, told Catholic News Service Jan. 11. Pope Francis was to arrive in Colombo the morning of Jan. 13.

“This visit of Pope Francis is going to be historic. It will be a tremendous boost for the Catholic community as we are in the midst of several challenges,” the cardinal said.

“We will have our own saint with the canonization of Blessed Vaz, who founded the church once again when it was dying,” said Cardinal Ranjith, referring to the Oratorian priest who moved to Sri Lanka in 1687 and is known as the apostle of Sri Lanka.

Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Vaz Jan. 14 at Galle Face Green, the same place where St. John Paul II beatified him in 1995. A half a million people are expected for the Mass.

“The pope is coming to Sri Lanka after we have come out of a 30-year-old war and are in the process of seeking reconciliation. This process will be certainly helped by the papal visit,” Cardinal Ranjith.

After the canonization, Pope Francis will fly to the Marian shrine of Madhu, about 170 miles north of Colombo, where he will meet victims of the ethnic war after praying the rosary at the shrine.

Catholics fled following persecution of Catholics and Dutch Calvinists in the 1600s. Carrying the statue of Mary with them, some Catholics built the Madhu church that has become the biggest pilgrim center in Sri Lanka.

During the closing stage of the protracted war in 2008, the historic statue had to be removed from the shrine when it came under crossfire.

Reinforcing the theme of reconciliation, the vestments for the canonization Mass have been stitched and woven by war widows of Sri Lankan soldiers and Tamil rebels, said Father Tony Martin, deputy secretary-general of the bishops’ conference.

“The whole church of Sri Lanka is involved in the preparations. Each of the two dozen committees have bishops, priests and others from the dioceses,” Father Martin said.

Father L.G. Priyantha Silva, Colombo archdiocesan consultant for ecclesial art and architecture, said he designed the canonization altar in the historic architecture style of Kandy, from where Blessed Vaz carried out his re-evangelization of Sri Lanka.

“Most of our people will reach Madhu to see the pope,” Bishop Norbert Andradi of Anuradhapura said while standing near the choir rehearsing for the papal Mass on the green. “Compared to Colombo, Madhu is much closer (geographically) to our people.”

As he spoke, Bishop Joseph Fernando of Kandy was giving instructions to the choir members, drawn from several dioceses. The choir will sing in Sinhalese and Tamil languages as a sign of the county’s ethnic diversity and unity.

“I hope I will get a chance to see closely the pope, who is dear to all,” said H.R. Nirmali Jenifa, a Sunday school teacher and law student from a suburb of Colombo. “Everyone is speaking about his concern for the poor and the children.”

She said her parish has arranged half a dozen buses to transport parishioners to the canonization.

The Sri Lankan government has released hundreds of state buses to parishes to transport the Catholics to canonization; 20,000 security personnel will be deployed for crowd management.

“Even non-Christians are excited with the papal visit,” Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, media coordinator of the papal visit, told CNS. He said more than 500 Buddhist monks, Hindu and Muslim leaders and non-Catholic church officials will greet Pope Francis when he addresses an interreligious meeting his first evening in the country.

by Anto Akkara

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Manila cardinal’s day: Preparing for pope’s visit, being with the poor

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Catholic News Service

MANILA, Philippines — “Today I was thinking about the tenacity of the poor,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila as he and his guests rode past a polluted creek lined with the cardboard, plastic and tin shacks of people he describes as “informal settlers.”

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, blesses the lot of a housing project in Pasay City during a Jan. 11 ground-breaking ceremony. The building will house 67 of the families living along a creek and roughly 300 families already living in their own tiny apartments.(CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, blesses the lot of a housing project in Pasay City during a Jan. 11 ground-breaking ceremony. The building will house 67 of the families living along a creek and roughly 300 families already living in their own tiny apartments.(CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

He had just presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for a building that will house 67 of the families living along the creek, then celebrated a late-afternoon Mass for them and for the roughly 300 families already living in their own tiny apartments in neat, two-story cinderblock units built under the auspices of the St. Hannibal Empowerment Center.

As he arrived in a pedal cart to the building site, a lot vacant except for a huge pile of rubble, and as he left the Mass, the crowds pressed in. Police and community organizers had to form a cordon to get him to his car after Mass, but he still stopped to pose for selfies, smiling broadly and bringing the hands of the elderly to his forehead in a sign of respect.

The poor, he said, “are willing to wait. When life is easy, it’s easy to say I’m a hopeful person,” but the poor in the Malibay community of Pasay City on the outskirts of Manila had been living in shacks for decades. They spent three years working with the Rogationist Fathers on community education and community-building projects before they found, financed and purchased the plot of land that will be their new home.

Pope Francis was scheduled to arrive in Manila Jan.15, and the 57-year-old cardinal had a million details to handle, many of them dispatched with his lightning quick telephone text-messaging skills, but he immersed himself in the crowd at the ground-breaking ceremony and Mass Jan. 11.

It was just a couple hours in a day filled with appointments from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. He didn’t stop for lunch, although after the Mass in Pasay City and before heading to the next Mass, he did take a little piece of cake that was part of the sweet array offered to his guests by the sisters who staff his residence. He also popped a couple “pastillas de leche” into his mouth, trying to tempt his already sugar-buzzing guests.

When a comment was made that he seems much thinner than he did in October when he was one of the presidents of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, he said, “It’s no joke preparing for the Holy Father.”

Asked if his schedule would be any lighter the next day, he replied with a long, drawn out “no.” But despite all the meetings, he still had to find a way to spend a bit of time with his father, Manuel, because it was his dad’s 85th birthday. Although he knew it wasn’t quite right, he said he might have to ask his brother to bring his parents to Manila from their home in Imus, about 15 miles away.

His parents have not been unaffected by the planning for the papal trip. Cardinal Tagle said he has been hearing from all sorts of “long-lost friends” who were hoping to meet Pope Francis. “Some even go to my mother,” Milagros, asking for tickets to one of the papal events, he said.

The cardinal’s public Sunday began with him warmly welcoming a succession of journalists to his home, standing where TV crews told him to and answering their questions with ease. He posed for group and individual photos with almost all of them.

He talked about the papal trip, the morning earthquake that woke all his visitors, the Filipino people, Pope Francis’ personality, popular piety and the poor. He expressed concern about how he will deliver the gifts people have given him to give to the pope. They fill 14 boxes so far, he said, and the nuncio doesn’t want them stacked at the nunciature where the pope will sleep.

During a fast-paced and often funny conversation with Lino Rulli, host of the “The Catholic Guy” on SiriusXM, Cardinal Tagle said he is not nervous about the approaching papal visit. “I’m excited. I want to see how the pastor in him will react to the reality here.”

The pope, he said, practices what he preaches about going out to the world’s peripheries to meet, listen to and help the poor and excluded.

When you do that, the cardinal said, “you will learn something,” and he’s looking forward to seeing the pope’s face, watching his eyes, when he “receives the Gospel proclaimed to him by the poor.”

The theme came up again in an evening conversation before the last events of the day: a 7 p.m. Mass in a super-packed Santo Nino de Tondo Church and dinner afterward with the concelebrating priests, auxiliary bishop and the journalists who were treated as his honored guests.

The Filipino poor usually are “resigned, in a positive sense. They say, ‘We will try to succeed, but if not, God will take care of us,’” he said. Even if they cannot provide their children with a nice house, good schools and nutritious meals every day, they try to live honorably and ensure special events are celebrated. “If nothing else, they want to leave their children a good name and good memories. You hear that over and over from the poor.”

Cardinal Tagle said he did not know how to judge the accuracy of the predictions that 5 million people will attend the pope’s Mass Jan. 18 in Manila’s Rizal Park, but he knows a lot of the poorest Filipinos will be there.

“Many people believe that even if they cannot see the pope up close, if they are geographically present, it will bring a blessing. And their children and grandchildren can say they were there,” he said. Sacrificing to get to the park, waiting for hours and putting up with the crowds “is a bodily form of prayer, like fasting.”

Cardinal Tagle said that over and over again, his understanding of the Scriptures has taken on new depth from his experience with the poor and “their wisdom, their hope.” That’s what he wants to share with the pope.

 

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Pope to diplomats: False religion rejects God for violent ideology

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Highlighting some of the most urgent conflicts facing the world, Pope Francis said such strife and injustices were rooted in a culture of rejection that refuses to recognize God, to protect nature and to respect other human beings.

Pope Francis speaks during an audience with the Vatican diplomatic corps Jan. 12. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri pool via Reuters)

Pope Francis speaks during an audience with the Vatican diplomatic corps Jan. 12. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri pool via Reuters)

In a wide-ranging speech Jan. 12 to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, the pope urged the world’s governments and individuals to work “to end every form of fighting, hatred and violence, and to pursue reconciliation, peace and the defense of the transcendent dignity of the human person.”

He harshly condemned the “falsification of religion,” which seeks to justify violence in the name of God and called for “heartfelt conversion,” stressing that it was only a “sincere faith in God” that generates peace and dialogue.

The extremist terrorism in Syria and Iraq, he said, “is a consequence of the throwaway culture being applied to God.”

“Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext,” he said.

The pope appealed to the world community to take unanimous action “within the framework of international law” to not only protect victims, but to end the conflicts and restore harmony.

People have chosen to become slaves, he said, “whether to the latest fads, or to power, money or even deviant forms of religion” because their hearts have become “corrupt,” and they are “incapable of recognizing and doing good of pursuing peace.”

The pope’s annual speech looked both at signs of promise and areas of concern around the globe, including the recent slaughter of children in Pakistan, the “tragic slayings” in Paris, the “brutality” and kidnappings in Nigeria, and “the spread of fundamentalist terrorism in Syria and in Iraq.”

The world community must not remain indifferent to the expulsion of Christian minorities in the Middle East, he said, and leaders, especially Muslims, must “condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion which attempt to justify such acts of violence.”

Christians play “a fundamental role as artisans of peace, reconciliation and development” in their communities, and a “Middle East without Christians would be a marred and mutilated Middle East,” he said.

The past year also saw some success stories, the pope said, as he praised the recent rapprochement between the United States and Cuba, calling it “one example close to my heart of how dialogue can build bridges.”

He also highlighted his satisfaction that the United States was taking steps to shut down the Guantanamo detention facilities and thanked those countries that have shown a “generous willingness” to receive the detainees.

The pope’s 34-minute speech was an extension of his hallmark diagnosis of the world’s ills as being rooted in a “throwaway culture, which spares nothing and no one: nature, human beings, and God himself. It gives rise to a humanity filled with pain and constantly torn by tensions and conflicts of every sort.”

Linked to this throwaway culture, he said, is a “mentality of rejection” and enslavement, which spurs nothing but conflict in “bits and pieces” around the world and in communities.

The Christmas season offered an added opportunity to reflect on the “attitude we all share” of rejection — seeing others not as brothers and sisters, but as rivals, unworthy of attention or objects “to be bent to our will.”

The story of Christ is filled with moments of rejection, starting immediately with his birth as he, like many today, was “cast aside, left out in the cold, forced to be born in a stable since there was no room in the inn.”

Christ, like many refugees, was forced to live in exile to escape the slaughter of countless innocents, a tragedy repeated just a month ago in Pakistan, the pope said.

People continue to flee their homelands and many become victims to “unscrupulous and greedy thugs” who put people’s lives in danger with “cruel journeys” to supposed safety.

The pope made special mention of “the alarming fact” that many people who immigrate in “the Americas” are unaccompanied minors, who are even more at risk and are “in need of greater care, attention and protection.”

While many of these tragedies make media headlines, there are plenty of “hidden exiles” and victims who face rejection, even in one’s own home, he said, like the elderly, the sick, the disabled and the young, particularly as they face unemployment and a lack of opportunity.

The family is often seen as “disposable” in today’s individualistic and self-centered culture, he said, resulting in fragile unions and “a dramatic fall in birthrates.”

This selfish mentality affects legislation, too, he said, as it tends to benefit “various forms of cohabitation rather than adequately supporting the family for the welfare of society as a whole.”

The pope also harshly condemned the “horrendous crime, the crime of rape” as an extremely serious “offense against the dignity of women, who are not only violated in body, but also in spirit.”

Peace is not just a gift of God, he said, it is also a personal and social duty that demands “commitment and concern” from everyone.

He recalled how from the “ashes of that immense tragedy” of World War II, a renewed desired for peace and dialogue was born in the form of the United Nations, which marks its 70th anniversary this year.

People can agree to vow to change the future and never again turn to war, he said, citing Pope Paul VI’s speech to the U.N. in 1965.

While Pope Francis said he hoped there soon would be agreement over Iran’s use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, he added that the drafting of a new climate change agreement was especially urgent this year as well as an adoption of Sustainable Development Goals.

The pope noted he was set to leave later the same day for a visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. He said his second trip to Asia was “a sign of my interest and pastoral concern for the people of that vast continent.”

He emphasized how the Vatican was at the disposal of all governments to contribute to the common good, especially in seeing a resumption of talks between the “sister countries” of North and South Korea.

 

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‘Taken 3’ — Hero’s friends and relations still targeted for death

January 12th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Will audiences be taken with “Taken 3”? Probably not.

Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace star in a scene from the movie "Taken 3." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Twentieth Century Fox)

Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace star in a scene from the movie “Taken 3.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Twentieth Century Fox)

Though director Olivier Megaton tones down the intense violence that marked the previous films in this action series, his lackluster sequel fails to engage viewers sufficiently to make them care much about anyone on screen. That includes the franchise’s front man, Liam Neeson, who reprises his role as former covert agent Bryan Mills.

A veritable Job among retired cloak-and-dagger types, poor old Bryan seems destined never to be left in peace. The first installment in his saga saw his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) abducted by Albanians; the second found no-goodniks of the same ethnicity out to snatch his whole clan.

This time, it’s Russian mobsters doing the dirty work. As led by maniacal, excessively tattooed Afghan-insurrection veteran Oleg Malankov (Sam Spruell), moreover, these gangsters’ stock in trade turns out to be murder, not mere kidnapping.

Enter Bryan’s ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) just long enough to express dissatisfaction with her current hubby Stuart (Dougray Scott), and vague notions about a reunion with Bryan, before turning up with her throat slashed in circumstances that point to Bryan as the culprit. So much for a Taylor-Burton subplot.

In the time-honored tradition of framed-up fall guys, Bryan goes on the lam. He’s tracked by Detective Frank Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), the wily investigator assigned to Lenore’s case. Dotzler combines smarter-than-thou suspicions of Bryan’s innocence with rueful admiration for his adversary’s special-ops stylings.

Along with exonerating himself, Bryan is out to protect Kim from becoming Malankov’s next victim. That’s just as well because, as early scenes have revealed, but as Bryan has yet to learn, Kim, now a college student, is dodging bullets for two.

Kim’s situation eventually leads to a brief discussion of the choice she and her barely glimpsed boyfriend are facing. While it’s never made clear whether the decision at hand concerns marriage or the fate of the couple’s child, circumstances move in a morally acceptable direction.

Bryan himself, by contrast, moves at times in the manner of a human cyclone, recklessly endangering pursuing police as well as civilian bystanders in his efforts to evade capture. But then again, what’s a jackknifed truck, a runaway shipping container and a multi-vehicle pileup on the freeway when Bryan’s chance to prove he didn’t slit his beloved Lenore’s jugular is at stake?

The film contains considerable action violence with minimal gore, a premarital situation resulting in pregnancy, adult dialogue including a possible reference to abortion, a half-dozen uses of profanity as well as at least one rough and several crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

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