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Iraqi minorities need more than material aid, cardinal says

August 14th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The one thing Iraqi church leaders and aid workers, foreign charities and governments cannot do for the displaced and terrorized people of northeastern Iraq is answer their question, “What will become of us?” said Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the pope’s envoy to the region.

“Alongside the material dimension, obviously there is the psychological dimension” of being forced from their homes, “uprooted from their normal lives, their culture and environment,” Cardinal Filoni told Vatican Radio Aug. 14 during a telephone interview from Irbil, Iraq.

A demonstrator marches with crutches outside the U.S. consulate in Irbil, Iraq, Aug. 11. The pope's envoy to the region, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, said people still do not know what will become of terrorized Christians. (CNS photo/ Sahar Mansour)

A demonstrator marches with crutches outside the U.S. consulate in Irbil, Iraq, Aug. 11. The pope’s envoy to the region, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, said people still do not know what will become of terrorized Christians. (CNS photo/ Sahar Mansour)

The cardinal, a former nuncio to Iraq and current prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, was visiting the region at the request of Pope Francis, who wanted to demonstrate his concern for tens of thousands of people — mainly Christians, Yezidis and other minorities — driven from their homes by the Islamic State terrorist group.

The Islamic State controls large areas of Syria and Iraq. Its militants captured Mosul in late July and Qaraqosh in early August, killing hundreds of people and forcing thousands of Christians, Yezidis and other religious and ethnic minorities from their homes.

The U.S. military began airstrikes against the Islamic State Aug. 8 as well as airdrops of food and water for Iraqi minorities who had been forced to flee. Cardinal Filoni estimated 160,000 people have been displaced; many of those who have found safety are in Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan province.

Cardinal Filoni told Vatican Radio he began his day Aug. 14 visiting the bishop’s house where “in the garden, in the church and in 23 other places — mostly parochial schools or the parish churches — thousands of people have found refuge.”

“Fortunately, it is not cold. In fact, it’s very warm, so people sleep outside at night. Others, especially those with children, find a place in one of the big halls,” he said.

Others are being hosted by families and a few have the resources to rent an apartment, he said.

Thanks to the local church, local families, international aid agencies and several foreign governments, the welcome for the displaced seems well organized, he said. “There is much generosity and much hard work.”

The cardinal said he spoke that morning with Masoud Barzani, the region’s president, who expressed his government’s willingness to welcome the displaced and who was deeply appreciative of Pope Francis’ public appeals to stop the killing and persecution.

“Unfortunately, it must be said that the situation, including from a military point of view, is still fluid,” he said. Local officials complain of difficulty getting the help they need to defend their territory and their people from the advance of the Islamic State militants.

 

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Catholic aid agencies try to ‘pick up the pieces’ in Gaza

August 14th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,

By

Catholic News Service

AMMAN, Jordan — A senior Catholic aid official said humanitarian agencies are “trying to pick up the pieces” of Gaza’s badly destroyed infrastructure, desperately hoping that the declared truce between Israel and the militant Hamas will hold.

“It’s difficult to explain the gravity of the situation,” said Sami El-Yousef, regional director of the Jerusalem office of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

A Palestinian man sits amid the ruins of destroyed homes in Gaza City Aug. 6. An Israeli Cabinet minister warned that Israel will respond if Hamas resumes fire after a temporary truce expires in the Gaza Strip. (CNS photo/Finbarr O'Reilly,

A Palestinian man sits amid the ruins of destroyed homes in Gaza City Aug. 6. An Israeli Cabinet minister warned that Israel will respond if Hamas resumes fire after a temporary truce expires in the Gaza Strip. (CNS photo/Finbarr O’Reilly,

El-Yousef told Catholic News Service in a phone interview that the initial cease-fire in early August allowed aid workers to get out for the first time in more than a month to assess the extent of the damage from intensive bombardment and shelling.

“We’re trying to pick up the pieces of the infrastructure, water, sanitation, electricity. Food and water supplies are running low, there is significant damage to the infrastructure, homes and other buildings,” he said. “It’s going to take a very, very long time before Gaza gets back on its own two feet.”

The CNEWA official said he and others are “clinging to the hope” the cease-fire “will hold and eventually we get to the root cause of all this mess. Otherwise, we will enter this cycle again and again.”

As the extent of the devastation wrought on the coastal strip emerges so, too, have some of the stories unfolded of both bittersweet miracles and tragedies.

El-Yousef said that, in March, CNEWA had just completed restoration of the Gaza City residence of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word, damaged in an earlier conflict. During the most recent conflict, the bedrooms were struck by shelling.

“But there was actually a miracle in the making,” he said. “Had the sisters been in the house at the time, they were evacuated a bit earlier, something very bad would have happened.”

Still, the nuns, the handicapped children in their care and Father Jorge Hernandez, the lone parish priest in Gaza, are all safe. Father Hernandez travels throughout the strip helping with aid distribution and carrying out pastoral visits, El-Yousef said.

Many others have been less fortunate.

El-Yousef recounted learning about the recent death of a nurse serving at the Anglican Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, the only Christian hospital in Gaza, which serves the entire community.

“She had been working for a long stretch and was released to go for a home rest for two days,” he said. “The day she went home her house was targeted by a missile. She, her mother-in-law and father-in-law were killed in the attack. Only her two young children survived. I felt awful to hear this news.”

El-Yousef said Jeries Ayyad, a Christian injured when a missile struck his house in July, was clinging to life after being transferred to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Jerusalem. Jeries had burns on approximately 90 percent of his body. He has had amputations to both of his legs and has had three strokes.

During the cease-fire, El-Yousef said CNEWA hoped to provide psychosocial support, particularly to children served by Gaza’s Christian institutions. The United Nations reports that some 373,000 Gazans are in need of psychosocial intervention because of the losses of immediate family members, homes, and traumatic events.

Immediately though, CNEWA’s focus will be to provide emergency medicines, medical supplies, and fuel for generators to the Al-Ahli hospital and to Middle East Council of Churches clinics.

“Gaza’s electricity supply is nearly gone so refueling for the generators is needed to ensure near uninterrupted power supply,” El-Yousef explained. CNEWA also is covering costs for medical treatment for conflict-related diseases.

Planning is underway to fix damages sustained by Christian institutions and some homes within Gaza’s Christian community.

Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem said the church was helping provide emergency items as well as some cash to help some families buy basic necessities, such as food.

“We need to inject a bit of hope into the hearts of the people,” Bishop Shomali said in a phone interview from Jerusalem.

“For one month, they haven’t slept because of the shelling and the bombing. They need to heal from their fatigue and stress,” he said.

Both Catholic officials expressed concern that with most of Gaza’s schools sheltering perhaps up to 400,000 people, children will be unable to start classes any time soon.

Some U.N. schools as well as the Holy Family Catholic School in Gaza City have also been partially damaged in the airstrikes. The school has helped host some displaced people who have lost homes.

“It’s been quite a challenge because they don’t have the official structures in place to deal with emergency situations,” El-Yousef explained.

Despite that, these Christian institutions have provided meals, clean water and hygiene kits, opening their doors to thousands, mainly Muslims, who do not have a safe place, he added.

“We are trying to help. But it’s small in a sea of needs,” the CNEWA official explained. “We are doing a lot, but the needs are so incredible. We keep at it.”

 

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Praying for those who take their own life — Priest who runs program for survivors of suicide discusses outdated notions of church teaching

By

Catholic News Service

After 35 years of providing counseling and a Catholic outreach to families with a loved one who died by suicide, Father Charles Rubey has consulted on more than his share of the resulting funerals or wakes.

Actor Robin Williams  was found dead Aug. 11 at his home in Northern California from an apparent suicide, the Marin County Sheriff's Office said. (CNS photo/ Lucas Jackson, Reuters)

Actor Robin Williams was found dead Aug. 11 at his home in Northern California from an apparent suicide, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office said. (CNS photo/ Lucas Jackson, Reuters)

The priest is the founder and director of a Chicago-based ministry called Compassionate Friends, which later evolved into Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide, or LOSS, an entity of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

He still bristles when he occasionally hears misinformation or outdated notions concerning suicide and church teaching.

“The church’s official teaching in the catechism still lists suicide as a sin but they do add that in most instances there are extenuating circumstances that could severely impair culpability,” said Father Rubey told Catholic News Service in a phone interview.

Twice recently he heard of someone suggesting to surviving families members that their loved one would be automatically deprived of eternal life as a result of completing suicide.

The incidents prompted the priest to draft an advisory memorandum for best practices in dealing with and discussing suicide situations in local parishes, and how best to minister to families already feeling the stigma of suicide and the mental illness that often attended the deceased.

“The church’s standing is to be pastoral to the survivors: They feel stigmatized anyway … and so we shouldn’t do anything more because it is a suicide, nor should we do anything less because it’s a suicide,” Father Rubey said. “We do the normal rites and burial, not treating the situation any differently.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that suicide “is seriously contrary to justice, hope, and charity. It is forbidden by the Fifth Commandment (and) contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. … Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.”

What the church no longer teaches is that suicide automatically condemns the deceased to damnation, while denying family members access to a Catholic funeral and burial privileges for their loved one.

The catechism notes that “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives.”

“By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The church prays for persons who have taken their own lives,” it states.

The Aug. 11 death of actor-comedian and Chicago native Robin Williams has reignited questions about suicide, now the 10th leading cause of death in America. It is thought to often be accompanied by factors such as mental or other illnesses, substance abuse, the pain of social disconnect and other underlying problems.

Father Rubey, whose LOSS program has counseled thousands of family members of the years, said he is saddened but understanding at hearing of William’s suicide and that he hopes people don’t think less of the actor as a result.

Williams, who was reportedly found dead by asphyxiation in his California home, was suffering from longtime bouts of depression and a history of substance abuse about which he spoke publicly and often with humor.

“Does it make sense to me? No, but I understand that he battled with this all his life and he got tired of the pain. I feel badly for the wife, and all of his fans,” Father Rubey said. “He died of an illness and that is the important part of it, just as a person might die from a car accident or from a cancer. But with mental illness they look like everyone else (on the outside) and it may not be apparent.”

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Bill Schmitz Jr., board president of the American Association of Suicidology, a Washington-based research and prevention nonprofit organization, said he grew up in Boulder, Colorado, not far from the house used in William’s “Mork & Mindy” TV sitcom, which aired in the late 1970s.

Fans were flocking to the house in the days following the actor’s death to pay their respects.

“My heart goes out to his family,” said Schmitz, a clinical psychologist with the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System. “This touches all of the entertainment industry, just as it can an entire church congregation (in other cases). I think Williams was really trying to find answers, and I would have loved the opportunity to sit with him.”

Schmitz said that faith communities can and do play an important role in offering support groups and local networks for surviving family members. Churches can be part of the social cohesion that keeps people from completing suicide in the first place.

“For a lot of people faith life is a buffer and protector against suicide; one of the key components I look at is a sense of belongingness and a sense of community, and church communities are a powerful buffer against suicide because they fill that need so well,” he said.

“Spiritual, physical and mental health are all interrelated and interdependent. A sense of belonging is more than just saying, ‘I attend services.’ It is really about that connection.”

Where there has been a suicide, Father Rubey urged survivors not to make it “the family secret,” and instead talk about it rationally just with any other tragedy, especially if there is a history of occurrence of suicide in a given family.

“Children have a right to know what is in their genes and it is part of the family history. It can be a very healthy learning experience: that this is not how you handle life’s problems,” the priest said.

When loved ones ask him the inevitable question: is my loved one in heaven? “That’s a common question people have. My response is always: ‘Sure they are.’”

Resources on suicide prevention, help for families 

The Aug. 11 death of actor-comedian and Chicago-native Robin Williams has reignited questions about suicide, which is now the 10th leading cause of death in America.

Counselors says it is often accompanied by factors such as mental or other illnesses, substance abuse, the pain of social disconnect and other underlying problems.

Here is a list of some organizations and their websites with resources on suicide prevention and help for families experiencing the death a loved one by suicide:

– Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide, or LOSS, an entity of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago: www.catholiccharities.net/GetHelp/OurServices/Counseling/Loss.aspx.

– National Catholic Partnership on Disability and its Council on Mental Illness, www.ncpd.org.

– American Association of Suicidology, www.suicidology.org.

– American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, www.afsp.org.

– Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, www.save.org.

– Jed Foundation, www.jedfoundation.org.

– National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention; http://actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org.

 

 

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Pope Francis tells Korean bishops to keep evangelization as primary mission

August 14th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

SEOUL, South Korea — Pope Francis warned South Korea’s Catholic bishops not to let their country’s “prosperous, yet increasingly secularized and materialistic society” distract the church from its essential duty to evangelize.

Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the southern half of the peninsula has risen from poverty to become the world’s 13th-largest economy, good fortune that Pope Francis said posed cultural and spiritual perils.

Pope Francis arrives for a meeting with the bishops of South Korea at the headquarters of the Korean bishops' conference in Seoul Aug. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis arrives for a meeting with the bishops of South Korea at the headquarters of the Korean bishops’ conference in Seoul Aug. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“In such circumstances, it is tempting for pastoral ministers to adopt not only effective models of management, planning and organization drawn from the business world, but also a lifestyle and mentality guided more by worldly criteria of success, and indeed power, than by the criteria which Jesus sets out in the Gospel,” the pope said Aug. 14 at the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea.

Pope Francis met with the bishops on the first day of a five-day trip to South Korea, his first pastoral visit to Asia. Earlier in the day, he met privately with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

The told the bishops the life and mission of the Korean church must be measured in the “clear light of the Gospel and its call to conversion to the person of Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis also celebrated what he described as the characteristic virtues of the church in Korea, including its tradition of lay leadership, starting with the 18th-century nobles who converted after reading Catholic books imported from China. He cited this history as an inspiring counter-example to a problem he has frequently criticized: an excessive deference by laypeople to bishops and priests.

The first Korean Christians “did not have the temptation of clericalism, they were able to go on alone” to the found the church, the pope said.

The pope said the 10,000 Koreans martyred for their faith in the 18th and 19th centuries now offer an inspiring example of Christian hope to a “world that, for all its material prosperity, is seeking something more, something greater, something authentic and fulfilling.”

“You and your brother priests offer this hope by your mystery of sanctification, which not only leads the faithful to the sources of grace in the liturgy and the sacraments, but also urges them to press forward in response to the upward call of God,” he said.

Pope Francis praised the “prophetic witness of the church in Korea (as) evident in its concern for the poor and in its programs of outreach, particularly to refugees and migrants and those living on the margins of society.”

But he warned against reducing charitable work to mere handouts, “while overlooking each individual’s need to grow as a person and to express in a worthy manner his or her own personality, creativity and culture,” a need he said can only be served by “social, occupational and educational promotion.”

Charity, the pope suggested, is also a powerful form of evangelization, especially among the young: “I am convinced that if the face of the church is first and foremost a face of love, more and more young people will be drawn to the heart of Jesus ever aflame with divine love in the communion of his mystical body.”

 

 

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Pope Francis arrives in South Korea, calls for peace, democracy and social justice

By

Catholic News Service

SEOUL, South Korea — Starting his first visit to Asia, Pope Francis urged South Korean political and civic leaders to seek peace on their divided peninsula and strengthen their nation’s commitment to democracy and social justice.

“Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice,” the pope said Aug. 14 in a speech at Seoul’s Blue House, the official residence of President Park Geun-hye.

Addressing some 200 government officials, Pope Francis noted that the country, divided between North and South since the end of the Korean War in 1953, “has long suffered because of a lack of peace,” and he praised

“efforts being made in favor of reconciliation and stability.”

Pope Francis arrives with South Korean President Park Geun-hye for a welcoming ceremony in the garden of the Blue House in Seoul Aug. 14. The pope will beatify Korean martyrs and participate in the sixth Asian Youth Day during his five-day visit to South Korea. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis arrives with South Korean President Park Geun-hye for a welcoming ceremony in the garden of the Blue House in Seoul Aug. 14. The pope will beatify Korean martyrs and participate in the sixth Asian Youth Day during his five-day visit to South Korea. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Introducing the pope before his speech, President Park said the war “still casts a shadow” over Korea, “dividing not only the country but so many families.”

Tensions with communist North Korea have risen markedly in recent years, especially over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear arms. Less than an hour before the pope’s plane landed in Seoul, North Korea fired three short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan in the latest of a large number of missile tests it began launching in March.

Pyongyang had already refused the church’s request to send a delegation of Catholics to the South for the pope’s visit.

“Korea’s quest for peace is a cause close to our hearts, for it affects the stability of the entire area and indeed of our whole war-weary world,” the pope said.

Speaking in English in public for first time as pope, he told diplomats in the audience, who included envoys of other Asian countries, that they faced the “perennial challenge of breaking down the walls of distrust and hatred by promoting a culture of reconciliation and solidarity.”

That task, he said, “demands that we not forget past injustices but overcome them through forgiveness, tolerance and cooperation.”

Pope Francis practiced some diplomacy of his own earlier in the day. As his plane entered Chinese airspace, the first time any papal flight had passed over the country, he sent a telegram of prayers and greetings to China’s President Xi Jinping.

The Vatican and the Chinese government have struggled over issues of religious freedom, including the pope’s right to appoint bishops, and have not had diplomatic relations since shortly after China’s 1949 communist revolution.

In a statement faxed to news agencies, China’s foreign ministry acknowledged the pope’s telegram and said its government is willing to work with the Vatican to improve bilateral relations.

The pope’s gesture was undercut by Korean press reports that Chinese authorities had arrested young people planning to attend an Asian Youth Day event with Pope Francis. A spokesman for the South Korean committee organizing the papal visit confirmed that some Chinese had been unable to travel to Korea.

“Maybe it’s because of the Chinese local situation or some complicated situation in China,” Father Heo Young-yeop told reporters Aug. 14, but said he would not say more out of “fear for the safety” of the Chinese youths in Korea after they return to China.

In his speech to the South Korean authorities, the pope noted some of their country’s domestic problems, including “political divisions, economic inequities and concerns about the responsible stewardship of the natural environment.”

Addressing such challenges, he said, requires that the “voice of every member of society be heard, and that a spirit of open communication, dialogue and cooperation be fostered.” He also expressed hope for the strengthening of Korean democracy, which replaced authoritarian rule in the late 1980s after a popular movement in which Catholics played a prominent role.

The pope urged the leaders to show special concern for the “poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice, not only by meeting their immediate needs but also by assisting them in their human and cultural advancement.”

He said South Korea, the world’s 13th-largest economy, should be a “leader also in the globalization of solidarity which is so necessary today: one which looks to the integral development of every member of our human family.”

President Park met Pope Francis’ plane in the morning at a military air base south of Seoul. Both of them voiced hopes that the pope’s Aug. 14-18 visit would help promote reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

Also greeting the pope’s plane were family members of some of the 300 people killed in the April sinking of the Sewol ferry.

“My heart aches for you,” the pope told them. “I remember the victims.”

Other relatives were demonstrating during the pope’s visit, demanding that the government appoint an independent investigation of the disaster.

In the afternoon, the president welcomed the pope to the Blue House, named for the color of the tiles on its roof, where the two leaders reviewed an honor guard before meeting in private with a few advisers. In the customary exchange of gifts, Pope Francis presented President Park with a panoramic map of Rome, one of only 300 copies engraved and printed by hand to mark the jubilee year 2000.

President Park gave the pope a piece of embroidered fabric as an example of traditional Korean craftsmanship.

 

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‘Let’s Be Cops’ impersonates a comedy

By

Catholic News Service

The buddy movie “Let’s Be Cops” implicitly honors police work.

But this weak comedy’s combination of a farfetched premise, an obscenity-laden script and ill-advised forays into gross-out as well as kinky humor will fail to lighten the spirits of those few mature viewers for whom it can be considered somewhat acceptable.

Damon Wayans Jr., left, and Jake Johnson star in a scene from the movie "Let’s Be Cops." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/courtesy Twentieth Century Fox)

Damon Wayans Jr., left, and Jake Johnson star in a scene from the movie “Let’s Be Cops.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/courtesy Twentieth Century Fox)

The slackness is apparent from the start. Mistakenly believing that their college reunion is a costume affair, down-on-their-luck Los Angeles roommates Ryan (Jake Johnson) and Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.) show up for it dressed as policemen.

Noticing on their way home that their uniforms have suddenly make them magnets for the ladies, and that the passing citizenry obey their commands, the pals decide to carry on with their impersonation as a practical joke. The fact that Justin’s career as a video-game designer has stalled and that ex-football star Ryan, long ago sidelined by an injury, is essentially unemployed leaves the boys plenty of time to play dress up.

Things take a potentially deadly turn, however, when the two faux Po-Po cross Albanian-born crime lord, and neighborhood menace, Mossi (James D’Arcy). This move not only puts their lives in jeopardy, it also endangers Justin’s waitress girlfriend Josie (Nina Dobrev) and Officer Segars (Rob Riggle), a real cop who has fallen for Ryan and Justin’s act.

Friendship is put to the test as Ryan, who has gained a new lease on life via their masquerade, thwarts Justin’s sensible efforts to bring the whole business to a screeching halt.

Justin’s patience is further tried by two incidental characters. The first is a stark naked perp he and Ryan encounter while aiding Segars on the scene of a nighttime break-in. Crazed as well as inexplicably underdressed, the hefty would-be thief tackles Justin in such a way as to end up with his crotch in Justin’s face.

Then there’s the drug-addled nymphomaniac with whom Justin and Ryan cross paths when they commandeer her apartment as a vantage-point from which to surveil Mossi’s base of operations. Her repeated advances draw Ryan’s excited interest, but only succeed in annoying Justin.

Most of the running time is devoted to more seemly material. But the barrage of F- and S-bombs almost never falls silent.

The safest response to “Let’s Be Cops?” Let’s not and say we did.

The film contains much action violence with occasional gore, strong sexual content, including full male nudity and many bedroom-themed jokes, drug use, at least one instance of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language and a vulgar gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

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Missouri parishioners pray for healing after violent protests follow shooting of teen

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FERGUSON, Mo. — Against the backdrop of demonstrations and unrest, some of it violent, that has followed the Aug. 9 killing of an unarmed black teenager by police in Ferguson, members of a local Catholic parish did perhaps the only thing they could; they prayed.

As police and protesters stood in an uneasy truce Aug. 11 close to a burned-out convenience store and businesses looted in an earlier demonstration, two miles away members of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish prayed the rosary.

Parishioners from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Ferguson, Mo., hold a prayer vigil for peace Aug. 11. Protests and riots in the neighborhoods of Ferguson have followed the Aug. 9 shooting and killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

Parishioners from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Ferguson, Mo., hold a prayer vigil for peace Aug. 11. Protests and riots in the neighborhoods of Ferguson have followed the Aug. 9 shooting and killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

“As a community, we needed to come together in prayer,” said parishioner Cathy Cunningham, who described the community as “very sad.”

“We just have to put it in Jesus’ hands, and he will heal us,” she told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper.

Led by their pastor, Father Robert Rosebrough, about 100 people gathered to pray the rosary at the parish’s Our Lady of Lourdes grotto.

Since the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the community is demanding answers. Emotions run deep in the biracial community of Ferguson, 11 miles from downtown St. Louis.

The shooting has been met with protests and some violence, like the night of Aug. 10 when some local businesses were looted and the QuikTrip convenience store was set on fire, after a vigil that drew a few thousand people.

The next day was void of that violence but the scene remained tense. Police cars and officers in riot gear filled the parking lot of the burned-out store. Meanwhile, protesters held signs in front of the former store and crowds gathered in the middle of the street and alongside it as cars inched through with horns honking.

Bystanders hooted and hollered, most shouting in protest and many raising their arms in surrender, the gesture they say Brown was making as he was shot to death by a Ferguson police officer. Officials say Brown, who was unarmed, resisted arrested and struggled for the officer’s gun, then was shot as he fled.

According to an AP story, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has instructed attorneys in the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division to monitor developments.

Cunningham was among four women from Blessed Teresa who hatched the rosary idea. They were driving home Aug. 10 from an event at St. Joseph Parish in Manchester.

“In the car, Cathy Cunningham said the community needs to heal; that’s basically how it happened,” said Dorothy Frese, one of the four. “We had to do something. It just got rolling.”

Another in the group, Jeanne Baer, who is the parish’s pastoral associate, bounced the idea off Father Rosebrough, who was immediately onboard.

The parish’s youth ministry director, Jeff Finnegan, suggested the grotto for a venue. An email blast to parishioners and notices on social media and the parish website spread the word.

On cue, just before the service, the sky opened and drenched all with rain. “Baptismal waters,” Father Rosebrough called it.

The rain stopped for the 30-minute service, which featured parishioner Jeff Mazdra’s singing and guitar playing.

Father Rosebrough chose the luminous mysteries for the rosary, added by St. John Paul II in 2002. They also are known as the mysteries of light.

Earlier that day, as he walked along the avenue past boarded-up businesses damaged by the previous night’s violence, the priest said, he kept coming back to the luminous mysteries.

“It seemed like it was right on target. It calls us to do something,” he said. On that walk he also stopped briefly at “ground zero,” the QuikTrip, and “just quietly blessed the place.”

“People have invested money there, people got injured last night, and people don’t realize that employees there are now out of a job for several months. I just asked the Lord to help them heal,” Father Rosebrough said.

Healing will come in time, after an investigation into the shooting of Brown and also an examination of the deeper issues that precipitated the Aug. 10 violence. Now, though, the wounds are raw.

“We don’t have the answers,” Father Rosebrough said. “We just ask for his presence and consolation; that’s what people need.”

 — By Dave Luecking

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Pope Francis urges U.N. to end violence against religious minorities in Iraq

August 13th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis formally asked U.N. agencies and the entire international community “to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway” in northeastern Iraq.

In a letter signed Aug. 9, but released by the Vatican only after it had been delivered, Pope Francis told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon immediate action was needed “to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.”

An Iraqi Christian refugee holds a 12-day-old baby in Ankawa, Iraq, Aug. 7. Witnesses claim refugees are dying in the crowded camps. (CNS photo/Sahar Mansour

An Iraqi Christian refugee holds a 12-day-old baby in Ankawa, Iraq, Aug. 7. Witnesses claim refugees are dying in the crowded camps. (CNS photo/Sahar Mansour

The papal letter was sent after militants of the Islamic State terrorist organization had captured Mosul in late July and Qaraqosh in early August, killing hundreds of people and forcing tens of thousands of Christians, Yezidis and other religious and ethnic minorities from their homes.

The U.S. military began airstrikes against the Islamic state Aug. 8 as well as airdrops of food and water for Iraqi minorities who had been forced to flee.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Aug. 13 that Pope Francis was using language in line with the development in Catholic social teaching and international ethics on humanitarian intervention and the “obligation to protect” people facing widespread massacres and outright genocide.

He pointed to Pope Benedict XVI’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly in 2008: “Recognition of the unity of the human family, and attention to the innate dignity of every man and woman, today find renewed emphasis in the principle of the responsibility to protect. This has only recently been defined, but it was already present implicitly at the origins of the United Nations.”

If a nation cannot guarantee the protection of its citizens, Pope Benedict had said, “the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments.”

Father Lombardi said Pope Francis was not dictating the use of internationally sanctioned military power against the Islamic State or “giving specific operational indications — that is the responsibility of the international community to determine.”

Pope Francis, referring to the U.N.’s foundation immediately after the horrors of World War II, told Ban: “The tragic experiences of the 20th century, and the most basic understanding of human dignity, compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.”

“It is with a heavy and anguished heart that I have been following the dramatic events of these past few days in northern Iraq,” the pope told Ban.

Pope Francis noted that he had sent Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the former nuncio to Iraq and current prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to Iraq to express the church’s concern “for the intolerable suffering of those who only wish to live in peace, harmony and freedom in the land of their forefathers.” The cardinal arrived in Amman, Jordan, Aug. 12 and expected to reach Irbil, Iraq, Aug. 13, Father Lombardi said.

The presidents of 36 bishops’ conferences belonging to the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences sent a letter Aug. 12 to each member of the U.N. Security Council, calling for “decisions that would stop these acts of atrocity” in Iraq.

The purpose of the U.N. Security Council, the bishops said, is “to ensure international peace and security and to promote human rights,” something which requires real action and immediate decisions regarding Iraq.

 

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Vatican calls on Muslim leaders to condemn Islamic State’s ‘barbarity’

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Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY — The Vatican called on Muslim leaders to condemn the “barbarity” and unspeakable criminal acts of Islamic State militants in Iraq, saying a failure to do so would jeopardize the future of interreligious dialogue.

Lebanese Shiite and Sunni Muslim sheiks, along with Christians and Druze clerics, carry a banner during a July 24 sit-in in Beirut to express solidarity with the Iraqi Christians of Mosul and against Israel's military action in Gaza. The banner reads, "Together, against injustice and terrorism."  (CNS photo/Sharif Karim, Reuters)

Lebanese Shiite and Sunni Muslim sheiks, along with Christians and Druze clerics, carry a banner during a July 24 sit-in in Beirut to express solidarity with the Iraqi Christians of Mosul and against Israel’s military action in Gaza. The banner reads, “Together, against injustice and terrorism.” (CNS photo/Sharif Karim, Reuters)

“The plight of Christians, Yezidis and other religious and ethnic communities that are numeric minorities in Iraq demands a clear and courageous stance on the part of religious leaders, especially Muslims, those engaged in interfaith dialogue and everyone of goodwill,” said a statement from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue released by the Vatican Aug. 12. “All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and must denounce the invocation of religion to justify them,” the statement said. “Otherwise, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have? What credibility would remain to the interreligious dialogue patiently pursued in recent years?” The document noted that the “majority of Muslim religious and political institutions” have opposed the Islamic State’s avowed mission of restoring a caliphate, a sovereign Muslim state under Islamic law, to succeed the Ottoman Caliphate abolished after the founding of modern Turkey in 1923. The Vatican listed some of the “shameful practices” recently committed by the “jihadists” of the Islamic State, which the U.S. government has classified as a terrorist group. Among the practices cited: • “The execrable practice of beheading, crucifixion and hanging of corpses in public places.” • “The choice imposed on Christians and Yezidis between conversion to Islam, payment of tribute or exodus.” • “The abduction of girls and women belonging to the Yezidi and Christian communities as war booty.” • “The imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation,” or female genital mutilation. “No cause can justify such barbarity and certainly not a religion,” the document said. “Religious leaders also are called on to exercise their influence with the rulers for the cessation of these crimes, the punishment of those who commit them and the restoration of the rule of law throughout the country, ensuring the return home of the deported,” the Vatican said. “These same leaders should not fail to emphasize that the support, financing and arming of terrorism is morally reprehensible.”

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Ministry of Caring breaks ground for new affordable housing project

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Staff reporter

 

WILMINGTON – Nearly four years after announcing plans for a housing project for low-income senior citizens on Wilmington’s East Side, the Ministry of Caring broke ground Aug. 11 on Sacred Heart Village II. The latest addition to the Ministry’s network of facilities will provide desperately needed affordable housing when it opens next year, according to Brother Ronald Giannone, a Capuchin priest who is the executive director.

Brother Ronald Giannone, a Franciscan Capuchin priest, and other dignitaries brake ground Aug. 11 on Sacred Heart Village II on 10th Street in Wilmington. wwwDonBlakePhotography.

Brother Ronald Giannone, a Franciscan Capuchin priest (third from right), and other dignitaries brake ground Aug. 11 on Sacred Heart Village II on 10th Street in Wilmington. wwwDonBlakePhotography.

“If you go to any senior housing project, especially those that create affordable housing, the (waiting) list is an arm’s length long,” he said. “We have a hundred on our waiting list at Sacred Heart Village I on the west side.

“Believe me, the place will be full before we open the doors.”

Sacred Heart Village II will be located on 10th Street between Kirkwood and Spruce streets, near Howard High School. A large crowd attended the groundbreaking, including Gov. Jack Markell, U.S. Rep. John Carney, state and local elected officials, a representative from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, representatives of foundations that helped fund the project, and local residents.

Sacred Heart Village II is part of HUD’s Section 202 program, which provides housing for low-income seniors. Residents will be charged 30 percent of their income to live in one of the 26 units. HUD will pay the other 70 percent. The village is designed so that residents can “age in place,” with transportation and activities, a convenience store and café, recreational activities, off-street parking, security and access to other amenities.

“Projects like this … are really an anti-poverty housing success program,” Brother Ronald said. “Once the poor live in this house, they can live there the rest of their life. (Section 202) is one of the most successful programs.”

Brother Ronald said those on the waiting list for Sacred Heart Village I, located on North Monroe Street, will receive letters inviting them to apply for the new location, as will local residents.

Mark Reardon, past president of the Ministry of Caring’s board of directors, said at the groundbreaking that the project has been delayed since its approval in January 2011 by numerous financial, political and legal challenges, including a lawsuit that was intended to prevent it from being built. The lawsuit, filed by two area residents, was resolved in the Ministry of Caring’s favor by the state Supreme Court. All those challenges were reasons not to proceed, but “there was one good reason to build it. It was the right thing to do,” Reardon said.

In his remarks to the crowd, Brother Ronald said the village represents what can happen when parties get together with a single purpose. Sacred Heart Village II received funding or assistance from four levels of government – federal, state, county and city – and was aided by private foundations, dedicated Ministry of Caring employees and others committed to the mission, such as the lawyers who offered their services pro bono.

“God has heard our cry and will gather us together again as we dedicate this building next year,” he said.

HUD provided a grant of $4.2 million, while the Delaware State Housing Authority contributed $1.3 million. The city of Wilmington and New Castle County also awarded grants, and the Laffey McHugh Foundation, the Longwood Foundation, the JP Morgan Chase Foundation and the Welfare Foundation are supporting the project. The total cost of Sacred Heart Village is estimated at $7.1 million.

Markell took the opportunity to praise Brother Ronald, as did most of the speakers, for his commitment to the poor in Delaware. The Ministry of Caring, he said, transforms lives.

“You were the guiding light. You were the driver,” he told Brother Ronald.

With the number of people waiting for housing, coupled with the increasing older population, this may not be the last project for the Ministry of Caring, Brother Ronald said. “I think we need to build Sacred Heart Village III, IV, V and VI.”

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