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Chicago cardinal bolsters programs to break city’s cycle of violence

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Catholic News Service

CHICAGO — Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich April 4 announced a new initiative to increase the work of anti-violence programs in parishes and schools and those run by Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, Catholic Charities and Kolbe House, the archdiocese’s jail ministry.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago holds a letter from Pope Francis to the people of Chicago during an April 4 news conference where he announced an anti-violence initiative to increase the capacity and reach of current programs of the Chicago Archdiocese that address the root causes of violence. Pictured at right is Drew Hines, director of the Peace Corner Youth Center.  (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago holds a letter from Pope Francis to the people of Chicago during an April 4 news conference where he announced an anti-violence initiative to increase the capacity and reach of current programs of the Chicago Archdiocese that address the root causes of violence. Pictured at right is Drew Hines, director of the Peace Corner Youth Center. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

The Chicago archdiocese also will seek out partnerships to increase programs that will help break the cycle of violence.

The cardinal announced the initiatives on the 49th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

With a $250,000 personal donation, Cardinal Cupich said the archdiocese will create the Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund that will provide funds for both new and existing neighborhood-based anti-violence programs. The money comes from donations he’s received to aid his personal charitable efforts.

In 2018, the archdiocese also will hold the first U.S. meeting of Scholas Occurrentes, a program active in 100 countries that brings young people together to meet and problem-solve. The gathering will involve young people from Cook and Lake counties.

The announcements came during a news conference at the Peace Corner Youth Center, which serves young people in Chicago’s violence-prone Austin neighborhood. As of April 5, 773 people were shot in Chicago in 2017 and there were 151 homicides, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Cardinal Cupich also invited people to join him on a Walk for Peace through the city’s Englewood neighborhood on Good Friday, April 14. Like Austin, Englewood is a neighborhood that sees frequent shootings and crime. During the walk, participants will take part in the Stations of the Cross and pause along the way to remember those who died by violence. Along the route, participants will read the names of those killed in Chicago since January.

The cardinal said he shared these plans with Pope Francis when he met him in Rome recently. Pope Francis was moved by the news and drafted a letter to the people of Chicago, which the cardinal read at the news conference.

“I assure you of my support for the commitment you and many other local leaders are making to promote nonviolence as a way of life and a path to people in Chicago,” the letter stated.

The pope said he will be praying for those who will participate in the Good Friday walk.

“As I make my own Way of the Cross in Rome that day, I will accompany you in prayer, as well as all those who walk with you and who have suffered violence in the city,” the letter said.

Cardinal Cupich’s announcement of new initiatives follows a yearlong process he initiated to learn about the scope of anti-violence programs already going on in the archdiocese.

While no program will completely eradicate violence from the city, the cardinal said, “just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something. It’s going to take one person at a time.”

During his process of learning about the efforts in the archdiocese, Cardinal Cupich said he heard of many ways parishes and groups want to respond but lack the funding to do more. The Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund is for them.

“I see this as seed money for these local initiatives,” he said. “There really is no niche fund to support their efforts.”

He stressed the need for partnerships in these efforts.

“I can’t do it alone. I need the help of others,” Cardinal Cupich said.

Duriga is editor of the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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Pope pleas on behalf of 250,000 Aleppo residents trapped without food, water

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As a brief cease-fire agreement failed and Syrian government forces returned to bombing Aleppo and fighting rebels in the city streets, Pope Francis made a forceful appeal for assistance for the thousands of innocent civilians trapped in the besieged city.

Medics inspect the damage outside a field hospital Sept. 27 after an airstrike in the rebel-held al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria. More than 200 airstrikes bombarded the city since Sept. 24, leaving more than100 civilians dead, with hundreds more injured, according to the head of the Syria Civil Defense group, a volunteer emergency medical service. (CNS photo/Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

Medics inspect the damage outside a field hospital Sept. 27 after an airstrike in the rebel-held al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria. More than 200 airstrikes bombarded the city since Sept. 24, leaving more than100 civilians dead, with hundreds more injured, according to the head of the Syria Civil Defense group, a volunteer emergency medical service. (CNS photo/Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

“I appeal to the consciences of those responsible for the bombardments,” Pope Francis said at the end of his weekly general audience Sept. 28. “They will have to account to God.”

Dozens of civilians were reportedly killed by the bombardments in late September and the U.N. World Food Program said it was “extremely concerned about the more than 250,000 people trapped in eastern Aleppo city who are cut off from food, water, medicine and other essential supplies.”

Pope Francis told people gathered for his general audience that his thoughts and prayers were going “to the beloved and martyred Syria. I continue to receive dramatic news about the fate of Aleppo’s population.”

Expressing his “profound pain and deep concern for what is happening in this already martyred city,” the pope told people that it is a place where death strikes “children, the elderly, the sick, young people, old people, everyone.”

“I renew my appeal that everyone make a commitment with all their strength to the protection of civilians as a mandatory and urgent obligation,” the pope said.

Pope Francis spoke as representatives of dozens of Catholic charitable organizations and leaders of Catholic communities in Syria and Iraq were arriving in Rome for a Sept. 29 meeting to coordinate Catholic emergency and humanitarian assistance to the victims of war, displaced people and refugees in the region.

Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso from the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which coordinates Catholic charitable giving, said the Catholic Church and Catholic charities have 12,000 workers trying to provide care for people in Syria, Iraq and neighboring countries.

“Just in Syria the victims of the war, according to U.N. data, already exceed 270,000,” he said. More than 8.7 million Syrians have been forced from their homes and some 3.4 million Iraqis are still displaced.

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