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IOC invites Vatican to take part in Winter Olympics ceremonies

February 2nd, 2018 Posted in International News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — For the first time, the International Olympic Committee has invited a Vatican delegation not only to take part in the opening ceremony of the Winter Games, but also to attend its general meeting as an official observer.

The delegation was to be led by Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture and head of its “Culture and Sport” section.

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Veterans get hero’s welcome after visit to war memorials in Washington

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Catholic News Service

MIAMI — Minnesota native and Key West retiree Raymond Blazevic stills vividly remembers being drafted into the U.S. Navy and joining 70,000 other recruits at a boot camp just south of the Canadian border during World War II.

He also remembers well serving in not only that war but two others — Vietnam and Korea, where he was captured after his plane crashed north of Kumsong, North Korea.

World War II veteran Carl Muscarello of All Saints Parish in Sunrise, Fla., and his guardian, Sandy Thomas, pose Oct. 29 in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington. (CNS photo/The Florida Catholic)

World War II veteran Carl Muscarello of All Saints Parish in Sunrise, Fla., and his guardian, Sandy Thomas, pose Oct. 29 in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington. (CNS photo/The Florida Catholic)

While his co-pilot was never accounted for, Blazevic was listed as missing in action and presumed dead in 1954. Later, he was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

“The most interesting thing was that was I was with all the senior officers and they finally forced a lot of them to make confessions,” said Blazevic, 91, a member of Mary, Star of the Sea Parish in Key West, adding, “It took two years of negotiations and we were released.”

A career soldier, he then served in Vietnam in the reconnaissance squadron and more maintenance positions, “working seven days a week while the college kids were revolting in the USA because they didn’t want to be drafted,” he told the Florida Catholic, Miami’s archdiocesan newspaper. “It didn’t bother me that we didn’t have a parade, and I had a lot of work and was keeping busy.”

Blazevic finally got something of a welcome parade in late October. He was among nearly 80 veterans of war to travel recently with Honors Flight South Florida, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to transport World War II veterans to Washington so they can visit war memorials dedicated to American men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Blazevic’s son-in-law, John McMahon of Key West, accompanied him on the trip after reading about the program in the local newspapers. The program is designed to make World War II a priority and continue with veterans from wars thereafter, and the recent trip included a number of South Florida Catholics from all three counties of the Miami Archdiocese, according to local organizer Stan Bostic.

Most of the veterans were accompanied by a family member or volunteer guardian and were met by a long line of cheering well-wishers at the Miami International Airport upon their return from the one-day visit.

“They lined people up in a snake through the airport so that these WWII veterans coming through this procession line can finally be welcomed home,” said Bostic, who is an original founding member of the local Honors Flight program and a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Kendall. Bostic also serves as national director of communications for Rick Case Automotive Group.

According to Honors Flight, the World War II generation, often referred to as “the Greatest Generation,” is dwindling quickly as a group, with one such veteran estimated to die every 90 seconds.

In Broward County, Sam DiTullo, a member of St. Stephen Parish in Pembroke Pines, also joined the Honors Flight delegation, accompanied by his son-in-law, Tom Pattison, who worked for the military as a civilian for 30 years. A native of Beacon, New York, DiTullo was 18 years old in 1994 when he served during World War II, entering the theater of war at the beaches of Normandy shortly after the famed invasion there.

“He had never been to Washington and never seen any of these memorials so it was really exciting,” said Pattison of his father-in-law. “It is not that we ignored our veterans back in those years it is simply that not everybody got a ticker-tape parade; people came back and went back to their jobs and to their girlfriends, so this is great,” he added. “I love the whole concept and was really excited to be a part of this.”

Carl Muscarello, a member of All Saints Parish in Sunrise, recalled being drafted at the height of World War II and being assigned to ship repair units based in the Pacific and in Staten Island, New York.

“If President Truman didn’t drop the bomb i might not be talking to you today,” Muscarello said, recalling his years of service. “WW II was a sad time for me; six of my brother’s friends were killed. I was 15 years old in Brooklyn when the war broke out and I remember running home to tell my mother that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. A lot of them did not come home, but i did my best. The only time i heard a gun go off when I was on a firing range.”

Muscarello, who was part of the Honors Flight trip, said he had been to see the war memorials previously but enjoyed meeting other vets. “One of the reasons was that I was invited to go was that many of the WWII vets are dying and they are having trouble filling up the flights since not many of us left.”

 

Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Airborne pope says he would consider going to war zone for peace

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Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM SEOUL, South Korea — Pope Francis said the use of force can be justified to stop “unjust aggressors” such as Islamic State militants in northeastern Iraq, but he declined to endorse U.S. military airstrikes against the militants and said such humanitarian interventions should not be decided on by any single country.

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard the papal flight from Seoul, South Korea, to Rome Aug. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard the papal flight from Seoul, South Korea, to Rome Aug. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope also said he was willing to travel to the war zone if necessary to stop the violence.

Pope Francis made his remarks Aug. 18 during an hourlong inflight news conference on his way back from South Korea.

In response to other questions, the pope acknowledged a need to lighten his work schedule for the sake of his health; said he might make a combined visit to the U.S. and Mexico in 2015; and explained why the Vatican is still studying whether the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero should be beatified as a martyr.

The pope’s words on Iraq came a week after his representative in Baghdad welcomed President Barack Obama’s decision to use military force against Islamic State positions.

Asked about the airstrikes Aug. 11, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican nuncio to Iraq, told Vatican Radio: “This is something that had to be done, otherwise (the Islamic State) could not be stopped.”

That statement surprised many because, since the pontificate of St. John Paul II, the Vatican has stressed that military interventions for humanitarian purposes should have the support of the international community.

When a reporter on the plane asked Pope Francis whether he approved of the airstrikes, he replied:

“In these cases where there is unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop’; I don’t say bomb, make war, stop him. The means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit, but we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest. A single nation cannot judge how to stop this, how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there arose the idea of the United Nations. That is where we should discuss: ‘Is there an unjust aggressor? It seems there is. How do we stop him?’ But only that, nothing more.”

The pope said his recent appeal to the U.N. to “take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway in Iraq” was one of a series of measures he had considered with Vatican officials, including his decision to send Cardinal Fernando Filoni to the region to meet with church and government officials and refugees.

“In the end we said, should it be necessary, when we get back from Korea I can go there,” he said. “At this moment it is not the best thing to do, but I am willing.”

Asked whether he was keeping an excessively busy schedule, the pope admitted that “one of my neuroses is that I am too attached to my habitat,” so he has not taken an out-of-town vacation since 1975.

The pope said he regularly takes the equivalent of a vacation, however, by taking it easier at home: “I change pace, I read things I like, I listen to music, I pray more, and that makes me rested.”

But he admitted his decision to call off a planned June 27 visit to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, one of several appointments he had canceled due to illness, came after “very demanding days. Now I should be a bit more prudent.”

The pope showed little concern for his longevity, however, predicting with a laugh that his pontificate would last “two or three years, and then to the house of the Father.”

In the meantime, to guard against the temptation of pride in his immense popularity, “I try to think of my sins, of my mistakes.”

Asked about other possible foreign travel, besides officially announced trips to Albania in September and Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January, Pope Francis said he had received invitations to Spain and Japan but that nothing had been decided yet.

The pope said he would gladly visit China “tomorrow,” even though the Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with Beijing since shortly after the China’s 1949 communist revolution. The two sides have struggled over issues of religious freedom, including the pope’s right to appoint bishops, and Chinese authorities have frequently arrested Catholics who reject government control of the church.

“We respect the Chinese people,” the pope said. “The church asks only the liberty to do its work, no other condition.”

Yet the pope made clear the church should not accept a rigid separation between religion and politics. On four of his five days in South Korea, he wore a yellow-ribbon pin commemorating the approximately 300 people killed in the April sinking of the Sewol ferry, a gesture some interpreted as support for demands by victims’ families that the government appoint an independent investigation of the disaster.

The pope recalled: “I took (the pin) out of solidarity with them, and after half a day, somebody came up to me and said, ‘You should take it off; you need to be neutral.’ I answered this way: ‘Listen, with human pain you can’t be neutral.’ That’s how I feel.”

The pope said he “would like” to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015. He also noted that Obama and the U.S. Congress have invited him to Washington, D.C., and that the secretary-general of the United Nations has invited him to New York.

“Maybe the three cities together, no?” he said, adding that he could also visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico on the same trip, “but it is not certain.”

Asked about the beatification cause of the late Archbishop Romero of San Salvador, an outspoken advocate for the poor who was killed in 1980 during his country’s civil war, the pope said theologians still need to clarify if he was killed because of his faith.“For me, Romero is a man of God,” the pope said. “But the process must go ahead, and God must give his sign. If he wants to do so, he will.”

Pope Francis also reported progress on a future encyclical on ecology, saying that Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, had delivered a first draft just a few days before the pope’s departure for South Korea.

The pope said the draft encyclical was about one third longer than his 50,000-word apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” but that it would be shortened by removing the more debatable scientific hypotheses or relegating them to footnotes.

“An encyclical like this, which must be magisterial, must rely only on certainties,” he said. “Because if the pope says the center of the universe is the earth, not the sun, he errs.”

 

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Pope tells Asians to witness to Christ in all aspects of life

By

Catholic News Service

SEOSAN, South Korea — Pope Francis told young Asian Catholic leaders to witness to Christ in everything they do.

Young women wait for Pope Francis to arrive to celebrate the closing Mass of the sixth Asian Youth Day at Haemi Castle in Haemi, South Korea, Aug. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Young women wait for Pope Francis to arrive to celebrate the closing Mass of the sixth Asian Youth Day at Haemi Castle in Haemi, South Korea, Aug. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

During his homily Aug. 17 on the muddy grounds of Haemi Fortress, Pope Francis urged more than 40,000 people, including young Catholic leaders from 22 Asian countries, to “reflect God’s love.” He reminded them it was their “right and duty to take part in the life of (their) societies.”

“Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life,” the pontiff said. He also urged them to discern “what is incompatible with your Catholic faith … and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt and lead to death.”

Young people are always choosing their social lives over other things, and this makes it complicated to “grow up in their faith also,” said Montira Hokjareon, a youth coordinator in Thailand’s Udon Thani diocese. She said it was especially hard for young Thai Catholics to practice their faith in a predominantly Buddhist country where less than half of 1 percent of the population is Catholic.

Hokjaroen, 34, was one of 20 participants who had lunch with Pope Francis Aug. 15. She told Catholic News Service it was good he nudged the youth leaders to evangelize, “because I think the people will learn (about) Jesus through us.”

Rain threatened the closing Mass for Asian Youth Day, which, unlike the massive international World Youth Day events, focuses more on youth leaders. At one point, the wind whipped off the pope’s cap.

Pope Francis emphasized the theme of this year’s gathering, “Asian Youth Wake Up, the Glory of the Martyrs Shines on You.”

“It’s no good when I see young people who sleep,” said the pontiff. “No. Wake up! Go! Go!”

Haemi Fortress was where thousands of Catholics were killed during a 100-year period in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 1700s laypeople formed the church based on Catholic writings that they got ahold of from China. The original founders pledged loyalty to God rather than the Korean king, which was socially unacceptable. The government pursued them for carrying out Catholic rites and baptisms, killing 10,000 faithful in the century beginning in 1791.

A day before the closing Mass, Pope Francis beatified 124 of the founders of the Korean Catholic Church, moving them a step closer to sainthood.

Michael Hwang of Seoul said being on these grounds was “exhausting emotionally,” because his ancestors were among those executed. But he said he was glad to be a part of Asian Youth Day because it brought him closer to other Catholics from Asia.

The pope said “to wake up and a lot of people can come together, and we could be like one nation,” said Hwang, a 17-year old high school student.

Hwang said his friends are not Catholic, “but I think Catholicism is a great thing and I can tell to my friends about how (being) Catholic is great, and this event will be a great background to teach or tell other people.”

Stephen Borja of Manila, Philippines, told CNS the founding of the church in Korea “is such a unique story, and it really touched me. How passionate they were about receiving the faith, standing up for it, even giving up their lives for it.”

Borja, 34, works with the youth commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. He said the pope’s words inspired him to show his faith to others, which is still a challenge in his predominantly Catholic country.

The three characteristics the pope identified for the church in Asia are “holier, more missionary and humbler,” he said. “Those are words I would carry with me and also with my work in the church.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass at an altar made up of 16 wooden crosses that locked together like wooden blocks and were decorated by the youth. Readings and intercessions were in Filipino, Indonesian, Korean and other languages.

“As young Christians, whether you are workers or students, whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the church, you are also a necessary and beloved part of the church’s present,” said the pope.

He told young Asian to build “a church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalized.”
— By Simone Orendain

 

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Pope Francis calls on Catholics to dialogue with China, other Asian societies

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Catholic News Service SEOUL, South Korea — Speaking at the execution site of anonymous Korean martyrs, Pope Francis told Catholic bishops and young laypeople from across Asia to evangelize their continent through dialogue and openness, even with others suspicious or intolerant of the church. But he also urged them to challenge aspects of their cultures incompatible with Christian values.

Pope Francis delivers the homily during the closing Mass of the sixth Asian Youth Day at Haemi Castle in Haemi, South Korea, Aug. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis delivers the homily during the closing Mass of the sixth Asian Youth Day at Haemi Castle in Haemi, South Korea, Aug. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope spoke Aug. 17 at Haemi Castle, about 60 miles south of Seoul, where thousands of Catholics were imprisoned and tortured during the 19th century, and at a nearby shrine commemorating those killed. It was the last full day of his visit to Korea, the first of his pontificate to Asia. “On this vast continent which is home to a great variety of cultures, the church is called to be versatile and creative in her witness to the Gospel through dialogue and openness to all,” Pope Francis told several hundred Asian bishops, leaders of the church in a region that is only 3 percent Catholic. The pope then offered an example of his desired approach. “In this spirit of openness to others, I earnestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all,” the pope said. His statement was most obviously an overture to China, which has not had formal relations with the Vatican since shortly after the country’s 1949 communist revolution. It was the latest of Pope Francis’ several diplomatic gestures to Beijing since the start of his trip to Korea. During the papal flight from Rome Aug. 14, he sent a telegram of prayers and greetings to China’s President Xi Jinping. Two days later, in a question-and-answer session with young people, the pope notably declined to answer a man from Hong Kong who asked how to help Catholics in China, where he said “control and oppression” were increasing as the church on the mainland grew. China requires Catholic communities to register with the government-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association, which has ordained bishops without the approval of the pope, and Chinese authorities have frequently arrested Catholics who reject government control. Speaking with reporters after the pope’s speech, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, noted that the Vatican does not have diplomatic relations with several Asian countries, including North Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Brunei and Bhutan. “This offer of the pope of dialogue is related to all these lands, and not just China, even if China is the biggest, as we know,” Father Lombardi said. In an off-the-cuff addition to his original text, Pope Francis evoked the attitude he hoped such countries would adopt to the church: “These Christians don’t come as conquerors, they don’t come to take away our identity. They bring us theirs, but want to travel with us.” “Some will ask for baptism, others will not, but we will always travel together,” the pope said. Fittingly, Pope Francis started the day by baptizing a Korean man, Lee Hojin, in a brief ceremony at the nunciature in Seoul where the pope has been staying. Lee, whose son was among more than 300 people killed in the April sinking of the Sewol ferry, met the pope Aug. 15 along with other family members and survivors of the disaster. He told the pope he had been preparing for two years to become a Catholic and now wanted the pope to baptize him. Lee took the baptismal name of Francis. The pope has shown special concern for the Sewol case; for three days in a row, in a remarkable departure from papal custom, he has worn a yellow-ribbon pin commemorating the victims. Pope Francis told the Asian bishops that dialogue required “empathy and sincere receptivity,” but also, as a “fundamental point of reference,” a clear sense of “our identity as Christians.” “If we are to speak freely, openly and fruitfully with others, we must be clear about who we are, what God has done for us, and what it is that he asks of us,” he said. The pope said Christian identity is constantly tempted by the “spirit of the world” in a number of ways, including relativism, which leads people to “forget that in a world of rapid and disorienting change, there is much that is unchanging, much that has its ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The pope returned to the theme of Christian identity, though without using the term, when he addressed more than 40,000 Asian Youth Day participants at the event’s closing Mass later in the day. “The Asian continent, imbued with rich philosophical and religious traditions, remains a great frontier for your testimony to Christ, the way, the truth and the life,” he said. “You have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies. Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life. “You see and love, from within, all that is beautiful, noble and true in your cultures and traditions. Yet as Christians, you also know that the Gospel has the power to purify, elevate and perfect this heritage,” he told the young people. “You can appreciate the many positive values of the diverse Asian cultures. You are also able to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith, what is contrary to the life of grace bestowed in baptism, and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt and lead to death.”

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