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Pope Francis asks prayers for victims of ‘perverse plague’ of trafficking

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Human trafficking is “brutal, savage and criminal,” Pope Francis said, but often it seems like people see it as a sad, but normal fact of life.

Dutch police search a Spanish truck at the border after nine immigrants were rescued from the freezer of the vehicle in early February in Hazeldonk, Netherlands. The truck driver was arrested as a suspect of human trafficking. (CNS photo/Marcel van Dorst - MaRicMedia, EPA)

Dutch police search a Spanish truck at the border after nine immigrants were rescued from the freezer of the vehicle in early February in Hazeldonk, Netherlands. The truck driver was arrested as a suspect of human trafficking. (CNS photo/Marcel van Dorst – MaRicMedia, EPA)

“I want to call everyone to make a commitment to seeing that this perverse plague, a modern form of slavery, is effectively countered,” the pope said July 30, the U.N.’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

After reciting the Angelus with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis asked them to join him in praying a “Hail Mary” so that Jesus’ mother would “support the victims of trafficking and convert the hearts of traffickers.”

In his main Angelus address, Pope Francis focused on the parables from the day’s Gospel reading: the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price.

Both parables involve “searching and sacrifice,” the pope said. Neither the person who found the treasure in the field nor the merchant who found the pearl would have made their discoveries if they were not looking for something, and both of them sell all they have to purchase their treasure.

The point of the parables, he said, is that “the kingdom of God is offered to all.It is a gift, a grace but it is not given on a silver platter. It requires dynamism; it involves seeking, walking, getting busy.”

Jesus is the hidden treasure, the pope said, and once people discover him they are called to put following him before all else.

“It’s not a matter of despising all else, but of subordinating it to Jesus, giving him first place,” the pope said. “A disciple of Christ is not one who is deprived of something essential, but one who has found much more, has found the full joy that only the Lord can give.”

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Catholics join pope in praying for victims of London attacks

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Catholics joined Pope Francis and the rest of the world in expressing sorrow for those killed and severely injured in the latest terrorist attacks in London the night of June 3.

“The vigil of Pentecost had barely begun when the world was burdened yet again, this time by the sinister attacks on innocent men and women in the heart of London,” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an early June 4 statement.

Flowers and messages lie behind police crime tape June 4 near London's Borough Market after an attack left seven people dead and dozens injured. (CNS/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

Flowers and messages lie behind police crime tape June 4 near London’s Borough Market after an attack left seven people dead and dozens injured. (CNS/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

“In such tragic hours, we implore the Holy Spirit to pour out his gift of comfort on those who grieve the loss of loved ones and on the dozens who were so tragically injured in this horrible attack,” he said. “At the same time, we see in the courage of the first responders the true and courageous spirit of our brothers and sisters, the people of Great Britain.”

After celebrating Mass on Pentecost, June 4, with an estimated 60,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis offered public prayers for the victims of the attacks in London that left seven people dead and 48 others injured.

“May the Holy Spirit grant peace to the whole world,” he said. “May He heal the wounds of war and of terrorism, which even last night in London struck innocent civilians. Let us pray for the victims and their families.”

In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo said U.S. Catholics joined in the pope’s prayers for the victims and survivors, and he added: “May God grant strength, wisdom and protection to the men and women who safeguard our families and may he convert the hearts of all who follow the path of evil extremism. Our solidarity in Christian hope and commitment to peace is a bond that cannot be broken.”

In New York, WABC-TV’s “Eyewitness News” reported that a college student from Brooklyn who attends Jesuit-run Boston College was at a pub with some of his classmates in London’s Borough Market when terrorists came in with long knives and started attacking people.

The attackers first mowed people down on the London Bridge in a white van, then left the van to go on a killing spree in Borough Market, according to news reports.

As others fled the pub scene or huddled in fear, Mark Kindschuh, 19, of Bay Ridge, stayed to help a man he saw fighting for his life, the TV station reported.

“All I could see was one man at the front on the ground with a pool of blood forming,” Kindschuh told WABC-TV. “You couldn’t really see it, because there was so much blood around his head, but I searched around with my hands, and it was on the back of his head.”

Kindschuh said he took his belt and wrapped it around the victim’s head to slow the bleeding, then shouted to the crowd asking if anyone was a doctor. He stayed with the victim and a short while later police entered the bar.

His father, Dr. Mark Kindschuh, who is director of Coney Island Hospital’s Emergency Department, told WABC he was proud that his son stayed with the injured man and showed such selflessness amid the panic.

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Pope Francis offers prayers for President Trump

January 20th, 2017 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: , ,

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis sent best wishes and prayers to incoming President Donald J. Trump shortly after he took the oath of office.

“I offer you my cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers that almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office,” the pope’s message said.

U.S Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump stand for the singing of the national anthem after Trump's swearing-in as the country's 45th president at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

U.S Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump stand for the singing of the national anthem after Trump’s swearing-in as the country’s 45th president at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

Saying that the human family faces “grave humanitarian crises” that demand “far-sighted and united political responses,” the pope said he would pray that Trump’s decisions “will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide.”

 The pope also said he hoped that America’s “stature” continued to be measured by “above all its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door.”

The message concluded with the pope saying he would ask God to grant the new president, his family and all Americans “peace, concord and every material and spiritual prosperity.”

 

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Bishop Jugis calls all to pray for peace, justice in Charlotte after nights of violence

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Catholic News Service

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After two nights of violence in Charlotte, Bishop Peter J. Jugis called on men, women and children in the Diocese of Charlotte to join him in prayers for peace and justice for all victims of violence and for law enforcement personnel who have been victims of “unjust violence.”

A man confronts riot police during Sept. 21 protests in Charlotte, N.C., after police fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott in the parking lot of an apartment complex. (CNS photo/Jason Miczek, Reuters) See CHARLOTTE-SHOOTING-REACT Sept. 22, 2016.

A man confronts riot police during Sept. 21 protests in Charlotte, N.C., after police fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott in the parking lot of an apartment complex. (CNS photo/Jason Miczek, Reuters) See CHARLOTTE-SHOOTING-REACT Sept. 22, 2016.

“Let us pray for all men and women of good will to be instruments of harmony and the always-shining light of Christ in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and public places,” the bishop said in a statement Sept. 22.

The protests late Sept. 20 and Sept. 21, with the crowds swelling at one point to 1,000 people, followed the fatal police shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, an African-American, outside an apartment complex the afternoon of Sept. 20.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said while they were trying to serve a warrant on another person in the area, Scott approached them from his parked car carrying a handgun and ignoring their calls to drop it.

In their statement, police said Officer Brentley Vinson, who also is an African-American, perceived an “imminent deadly threat” and shot Scott. Scott later died at a local hospital.

Family members insisted that Scott was unarmed and was reading a book while waiting in the parking lot to pick up his son from a nearly school bus stop. Police said they recovered a weapon from the scene, not a book.

Vinson has been placed on administrative leave while police conduct an investigation that includes eyewitness interviews and review of police video footage.

When Scott family members took to social media to criticize police the evening of Sept. 20, people began to gather at the site of the shooting. By 11 p.m., the protest had swelled to about 1,000 people.

When some protesters began throwing rocks and smashing the windows of several police cars, police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, but people continued to protest and block two roadways and, at one point, a nearby segment of Interstate 85, until early morning Sept. 21.

Police arrested one person. More than a dozen police officers were slightly injured in the melee. Local television video also showed a few people looting and burning the cargo of a semi-truck that had stopped on the Interstate.

Protests turned violent for a second night Sept. 21 in uptown Charlotte, about 10 miles away from the site of the fatal police shooting, with several people injured and several businesses vandalized and looted. One young man was shot in the head reportedly by another civilian. He was taken to the hospital and put on life support; he died Sept. 22.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police again used tear gas to try to clear the crowd, some of whom tried to block a section of Interstate 277 as they departed the protest area.

“My heart bleeds for what is going on right now,” said Gov. Pat McCrory, who declared a state of emergency late that night after a request from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney. The emergency notice triggered the North Carolina National Guard and the State Highway Patrol to assist local law enforcement in responding to the violence.

“Let’s pray for our city and let’s pray for peace,” added McCrory, who was Charlotte’s mayor from 1995 to 2009.

At a news conference Sept. 22, Putney said he would allow the family to view the footage, but it would not be released to the public.

At St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, just a few blocks from the scene of the police shooting and the protests there, about 150 people gathered Sept. 21 to pray for peace.

During the evening eucharistic adoration and benediction, Father Patrick Winslow, pastor, offered prayers for police and for people who have suffered injustice, as well as prayers for his neighborhood and the city of Charlotte.

“Last evening we were all taken by surprise when two events collided here in Charlotte — you could even say, in our own backyard,” Father Winslow said. “One, the national ongoing concern about racism in law enforcement and, two, the incident of an African-American man who lost his life in an altercation with local police.”

“In times such as these, it is good to recall that light shines in the darkness, and it must shine through you,” Father Winslow urged parishioners. “Knowing the genuine spirit of our parishioners, I am confident that you will embrace a path of peace, prayer and charity.”

History makes it clear, the priest said, that the light that vanquishes the darkness is not on the battlefield between nations or races, or “in the streets of Charlotte or any U.S. city.” “The true battlefield is within the human heart, within each of us,” he said.

“Injustice must be defeated” in the heart, the priest said. “This is where prejudice and unjust discrimination live. This is the place from which fear and darkness enter the world. And likewise, it is the place where it can be vanquished.”

He urged people to “storm and loot your hearts, not the streets, if you want true change for the good. Vanquish the enemy within and then you will truly help your neighbor.”

By Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor of the Catholic News Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte.

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South Carolina bishop asks for prayers for families affected by floods

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston asked for prayers for the families of those killed as well as for those whose homes were destroyed in what officials called a 1,000-year storm that brought extreme rains that deluged South Carolina.

Residents use a canoe to evacuate a home surrounded by floodwaters in Conway, S.C., Oct. 5. Torrential rainfall that South Carolina's governor called a once-in-a-millennium downpour triggered flooding in the state and caused at least 14 deaths in the Carolinas. (CNS photo/Randall Hill, Reuters)

Residents use a canoe to evacuate a home surrounded by floodwaters in Conway, S.C., Oct. 5. Torrential rainfall that South Carolina’s governor called a once-in-a-millennium downpour triggered flooding in the state and caused at least 14 deaths in the Carolinas. (CNS photo/Randall Hill, Reuters)

Authorities said at least 14 people died and media reported that rescuers have had to pluck hundreds from swamped cars and flooded houses. Some residents remained in danger Oct. 6 from residual effects of saturated grounds that can unearth weakened trees and collapse roads.

“We simply ask for prayers, especially for the families of those who lost their lives in this horrific ‎storm,” Bishop Guglielmone told The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Charleston Diocese. “Many people lost homes, cars and other possessions, but in time and with assistance these can be replaced. The strong spirit of our people in South Carolina and their lively faith will get us through this difficult time and will sustain us.”

State officials declared a state of emergency Oct. 1 as unprecedented rains and flash flood conditions raged throughout the state.

Bishop Guglielmone canceled the On Fire With Faith conference set for Oct. 2-3 in Simpsonville, 200 miles northwest of Charleston. Other diocesan events were postponed and rescheduled.

The National Weather Service reported that from Oct. 1 to Oct. 5, Charleston saw 23.61 inches of rain, while nearby Summerville, which also had significant flooding and evacuations, was inundated by 19.47 inches. Columbia Airport had 10.77 inches.

It was the dams in Columbia, however, that wrought more damage. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division reported that of 18 dams officials are closely monitoring, nine have breached or failed completely and one was intentionally breached to relieve pressure on it. The dams are part of the 70-mile network of lakes and streams that make up the Gills Creek Watershed.

The emergency management division also reported that several rivers remained above flood stage Oct. 6. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for some areas and a curfew was mandated by Charleston officials.

Msgr. Richard Harris, diocesan vicar general, is pastor of St. Joseph Church located near one of the flooded areas along Lake Katherine in Columbia. The church was without power and closed Oct. 4, so Masses were canceled.

He said he knew of 10 parishioners who had to be rescued by boat. “They have lost everything,” Msgr. Harris said.

One family had to put their children on their shoulders and carry them through chin-deep water, he added.

Tracy Bates, Catholic Mutual’s claims risk manager for the Diocese of Charleston, had nine reports of damage from parishes as of the morning of Oct. 6 and that calls continued to come in. St. Mary Our Lady of Hope in Summerton southeast of Charleston was flooded with about 8 inches of water and remained submerged Oct. 6.

Bates said water seeped into Blessed Sacrament School’s ground floor and the Carter-May Residence for assisted living also had water creep into its hallways. On the coastal peninsula, she received reports that Sacred Heart Church suffered flooding that submerged its basement boiler room, which houses the electrical system.

Other parishes that have reported flooding and water damage include the lower chapel at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston Catholic School, Neighborhood House outreach center, St. Jude Church in Sumter’s youth center building, the library at St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach, St. John the Beloved in Summerville, and the rectory at St. Mary Our Lady of Ransom in Georgetown.

Bates said crews have been in to dry out some of the structures as a first step.

“The longer the water sits, the worse the damage gets,” she said. “We also have to worry about mold.”

In addition to the bricks and mortar damage, the diocesan Office of Archives and Records Management was concerned about historically important items and put out a call to parishes to offer assistance with documents.

“We’re happy to consult with vendors, help develop records recovery plans, find temporary housing for records, or make on-site visits,” said Brian Fahey, archivist.

Bishop Guglielmone has sent a request to pastors asking them to take up a special collection within the next several weeks to help parishioners who lost their homes and churches that sustained damage.

By Deirdre C. Mays,  editor of The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston.

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Bishop Malooly asks for prayers for the success of pope’s visit to the United States

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Bishop Malooly is asking parishes in the Diocese of Wilmington to host Holy Hours for the success of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States next month. Read more »

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‘Black mass’ outcry leads to cancellation at Harvard, prayers

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A Harvard University student group’s plan to conduct a satanic ritual “black mass” May 12 on campus brought a public outcry, leading to its formal cancellation and an apparently impromptu off-campus version of the event, as well as a well-attended alternative Catholic holy hour.

Harvard University President Drew Faust, center, listens to remarks by Boston Auxiliary Bishop Arthur L. Kennedy during a May 12 holy hour at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, Mass. The service was held in reaction to plans for a satanic ritual “black mass” to take place in a pub on the Harvard campus. The student group organizing the satanic event ultimately cancelled it. (CNS photo/Gregory L. Tracy, Pilot)

The planned event had drawn wide criticism from religious leaders as well as students, alumni and faculty at Harvard. University President Drew Faust said earlier that she would attend the holy hour “to join others in reaffirming our respect for the Catholic faith at Harvard and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is not censorship, but reasoned discourse and robust dissent.”

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley told reporters May 12 that the archdiocese and the Catholic community took offense to the planned black mass but that “we have no way to prevent it other than to try and explain to people how evil this is,” he said.

The cardinal said one could find out why it offends Catholics simply by looking up the phrase “black mass” on Wikipedia.

“A black mass is a ritual performed as a sacrilegious parody of the Roman Catholic Mass,” the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry read.

“That says it all,” the cardinal said. He added that he was disappointed in Faust’s statement, saying he hoped she would ask the group not to perform the ritual on university property.

Faust’s statement called the club’s decision to sponsor such an enactment “abhorrent; it represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community. But she said she would not cancel or ban the black mass.

“The decision to proceed is and will remain theirs,” she said of the student group. Faust added, “It is deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event, well aware of the offense they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory.”

Harvard’s student newspaper, The Crimson, reported late May 12 that the Harvard Extension School Cultural Studies Club dropped its sponsorship of the re-enactment of the satanic ritual shortly before it was scheduled to take place in the on-campus Cambridge Queens Head Pub. The club first announced that afternoon that the event would be held off campus, then that it was canceled altogether.

The newspaper quoted an email from the club saying “misinterpretations about the nature of the event were harming perceptions about Harvard and adversely impacting the student community,” and led to the decision to move it off campus. The paper said negotiations with the alternative venue subsequently fell through. The 50 or so people who had gathered for the event then organized a scaled-down version at a nearby restaurant and lounge.

Meanwhile, The Pilot, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, reported that about 2,000 people attended a eucharistic procession to St. Paul’s Catholic Church and a holy hour organized by Catholics.

Father Michael E. Drea, the senior Catholic chaplain at Harvard, had condemned the event, saying it mocks the “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the center of our faith and worship.”

“As the university attempts to veil this ‘presentation’ under the guise of ‘academic freedom and expression,’ people of good will recognize it for what it truly is: an act of hatred and ridicule toward the Catholic Church and her faithful,” Father Drea said.

Faust’s statement said she would attend the holy hour “to join others in reaffirming our respect for the Catholic faith at Harvard and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is not censorship, but reasoned discourse and robust dissent.”

In a letter published May 12 in the Crimson, the Rev. Luther Zeigler, president of the Harvard chaplains, said: “We do not think the issue presented here is primarily one of academic freedom. Just because something may be permissible does not make it right or good. Whether or not these students are entitled to express themselves through the ceremony of a black mass as a matter of law or university policy is a distinct question from whether this is a healthy form of intellectual discourse or community life. We submit it is not.”

Rev. Zeigler, an Episcopal priest, added: “We urge the student organizers of the black mass to reconsider going forward with this event. If the event does go forward as planned, we would urge the rest of the community not to dignify it with your presence.”

The Harvard student group promoting the black mass, said to be an “inverted” re-enactment of the Catholic Mass, was working with the New York-based Satanic Temple, a group known for promoting controversy such as pushing to have a Satan statue built outside the Oklahoma Capitol.

While one of the concerns raised about the event was that participants would desecrate a consecrated host, Boston newspapers quoted representatives of the Satanic Temple saying it had not obtained one.

The Boston Globe said nearly 60,000 students, alumni and faculty members signed a petition opposed to holding the event on campus.

The Globe said the sponsoring club had said the event “was meant to be educational, not offensive.” The paper quoted a spokesperson for the group as asserting that many satanists are animal rights activists, vegetarians and artists with a strong sense of community.

 

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Supreme Court supports prayers at civic meetings

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled May 5 that prayers said before town council meetings in Greece, N.Y., do not violate the Constitution.

In their 5-4 decision, the judges noted a historical precedent to opening local legislative meetings with a prayer and stressed that the predominantly Christian nature of the prayers in the New York town were not coercive to those in attendance.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said the prayers delivered before public meetings in Greece, a suburb of Rochester, “evoked universal themes” such as “calling for a spirit of cooperation.”

He also noted the historical precedence of such prayers, pointing out that the U.S. House and Senate have official chaplains and a majority of the states have the practice of legislative prayer.

Kennedy wrote that the “inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers.”

He said that unless the prayers “over time denigrate, proselytize or betray an impermissible government purpose” they will “not likely establish a constitutional violation.” He also wrote that because the town had followed a policy of nondiscrimination it was not required by the Constitution to search beyond its borders for those who could offer non-Christian prayers in an attempt to provide balance.

Public prayers have been offered in Greece by local clergy members before town council meetings since 1999. In 2008, two residents sued the town arguing that the prayers violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Since the lawsuit, the town has made an effort to invite a variety of faith leaders to present these prayers but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 found the prayer practice unconstitutional and emphasized that the majority of the prayers were specifically Christian.

The appeals court said the Supreme Court’s 1983 ruling in Marsh v. Chambers, where it upheld the Nebraska Legislature’s practice of opening its legislative sessions with a prayer as part of a deeply embedded tradition, did not apply because the town council meetings in Greece are not just for elected officials but local residents.

In the Marsh ruling, Chief Justice Warren Burger described opening prayers as “part of the fabric of our society.” The ruling only prohibited prayers that would advance or disparage a particular religion.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing the dissent in the Greece v. Galloway case, said the case before the court differed from the Marsh ruling because “Greece’s town meetings involve participation by ordinary citizens, and the invocations given, directly to those citizens, were predominantly sectarian in content.”

The majority opinion May 5 relied on the Marsh decision, pointing to the historical precedence of opening legislative sessions with prayer and the reluctance of the government to supervise or censor such prayers.

John Vile, dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of the First Amendment, said all the justices were “respectful both of prayers in general and of religious diversity.”

He said the majority “appeared to recognize that undue scrutiny of prayers by public officials was more likely to lead to establishment issues than opening invitations to individuals from diverse denominations.”

Vile told Catholic News Service he found it interesting that none of the justices sought to overturn the Marsh decision nor did they stress the 1971 case, Lemon v. Kurtzman, in which the Supreme Court allowed prayer if it passed a three-pronged test: It has a secular purpose, its primary effect “neither advances nor inhibits religion,” and it does not excessively entangle government with religion.

He said if he were a town council member reading the Greece v. Galloway decision, he would make sure that participants offering ceremonial prayers be as religiously diverse as possible.

“If there is a synagogue or mosque in town, it would be wise to make sure” representatives from those faiths are included, he said.

 

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Pope asks prayers for kidnapped nuns, others abducted in Syria

December 4th, 2013 Posted in International News Tags: , , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis called on Catholics worldwide to pray for five Orthodox nuns who were kidnapped in Syria and for all people who have been abducted during the conflict there.

“Let’s keep praying and working together for peace,” he said in an appeal at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 4.

The pope invited everyone to pray for the nuns who “were forcibly taken away by armed men” Dec. 1.

“Let us pray for these sisters and for all people abducted because of the conflict underway,” he said before leading the crowd in praying the Hail Mary in Italian.

The kidnapping of the nuns from a Christian village near Damascus shocked Syria’s Christian community and filled many Christians with fear, said Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria.

Speaking to Vatican Radio Dec. 3, Bishop Audo said the latest information was that the superior and four of the nuns belonging to the Orthodox Monastery of Santa Tecla in Maaloula were kidnapped during the night Dec. 1 and taken to Yabrud, a city nearby.

“We have no more information,” he said.

Most media reports on the kidnapping, including by the government’s Sana news agency, speculated the kidnapping was the work of the Al Nusra Front, which the U.S. State Department defines as a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaida. Early reports said 12 nuns were kidnapped.

Bishop Audo told Vatican Radio, “Maaloula is an important symbol not only for Christians, but also for Muslims in Syria and throughout the Middle East, because it is known that people there still speak the Aramaic dialect, the language of Christ. That is one of the reason people are so struck” by the kidnapping of the sisters and the rebels’ capturing the town in early December.

As for the motive of the kidnapping, Bishop Audo said, “the first reason is the war.”

“As Christians, as the church in Syria, we don’t want to say this is a war against Christians because we want to be a presence for reconciliation and coexistence. That is our vocation. We don’t want to create provocations with the Muslims.”

However, he said, Christians feel more threatened now because the kidnapping has brought the war “to a sacred Christian place, one where for centuries nothing like this has happened.”

Maaloula is about 35 miles north of Damascus, the capital of Syria.

In Bkerke, Lebanon, the Council of Maronite Bishops condemned the kidnapping of the nuns.

“What do those who pray for peace in the Syrian conflict have to do with this?” the bishops asked.

They urged the international community to determine the nuns’ whereabouts and facilitate their return “to the sanctity of the monastery.” They also called for “the preservation of this sacred place, and houses of worship, and the protection of the dignity of every human being” and for “hard work to find political solutions” to the conflict in Syria.

Lebanese authorities say there are more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, equal to about one-quarter of Lebanon’s population.

 

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Prayer must include praise, thanks, pope says

December 15th, 2011 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Prayer should not center just on asking God to fulfill one’s hopes and desires, but must include praise, thanks and trust in God’s plan which may not match one’s own, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The way Jesus prayed to his Father “teaches us that in our own prayers, we must always trust in the Father’s will and strive to see all things in light of his mysterious plan of love,” he said during his weekly general audience Dec. 14.

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