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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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Oakland bishop prays for victims, first responders in warehouse fire

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OAKLAND, Calif. — In response to the Dec. 2 fire that erupted in an Oakland warehouse, Bishop Michael J. Barber of Oakland said in a statement that his “prayers and thoughts are with all those who have died or are suffering from the tragic fire.”

A woman prays Dec. 5 at a makeshift memoria near the scene of a fatal warehouse fire in Oakland, Calif. The Dec. 2 blaze claimed the lives of at least 33 people. (CNS photo/Stephen Lam, Reuters)

A woman prays Dec. 5 at a makeshift memoria near the scene of a fatal warehouse fire in Oakland, Calif. The Dec. 2 blaze claimed the lives of at least 33 people. (CNS photo/Stephen Lam, Reuters)

“We also pray for the first responders, medical personnel and others who are aiding the victims and their loved ones. We will be remembering the deceased in our Masses this weekend throughout the Diocese of Oakland,” he said in a Dec. 3 statement.

As of Dec. 6, the death toll was 36 and officials said that no additional bodies have been recovered.

The fire started during a dance party at a warehouse that had been converted to artists’ studios and illegal living spaces, dubbed the Ghost Ship. The cause of the fire, reported to be the most lethal building fire in the U.S. in more than a decade, has not been determined.

“We owe it to the community and those who perished in this fire, and those who survived the fire to be methodical, to be thorough, and to take the amount of time it takes to be able to look at every piece of potential evidence,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, according to The Associated Press.

Hundreds attended a vigil Dec. 5 at Oakland’s Lake Merritt for those who died in the fire.

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Miami archdiocese prepares to help hurricane Matthew victims

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Catholic News Service

MIAMI — Like the rest of South Florida, the Archdiocese of Miami was carefully watching the path of Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm that began pounding Haiti and Cuba Oct. 4 and was expected to hit Florida’s Atlantic coastal area late Oct. 6.

Residents stand outside their homes Oct. 5 in Cite Soleil, a slum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew swept through the island nation. Rescue workers in Haiti are struggling to reach parts of the country cut off by Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Caribbean storm in nearly a decade. (CNS photo/courtesy Malteser International)

Residents stand outside their homes Oct. 5 in Cite Soleil, a slum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew swept through the island nation. Rescue workers in Haiti are struggling to reach parts of the country cut off by Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Caribbean storm in nearly a decade. (CNS photo/courtesy Malteser International)

Chief among the preparations was prayer. Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski asked all South Florida parishes to include prayers for those affected in their daily Masses in the days ahead.

About 1.5 million Floridians were already fleeing the coast to take shelter elsewhere.

The archdiocese also was preparing to provide aid to the Caribbean nations hardest hit by Matthew, especially Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and the Bahamas.

According to Deacon Richard Turcotte, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, the archdiocese established contact with Catholic Relief Services’ Caribbean representative, who is stationed in Honduras and has responsibility for Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti.

“CRS has prepositioned supplies in the Dominican Republic (tarps, hygiene and cooking kits) that can be moved to Cuba or Jamaica if needed,” Deacon Turcotte told the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Miami archdiocese.

Although the island avoided a direct hit, Jamaica experienced serious flooding caused by Matthew’s outer bands. Haiti, meanwhile, felt the full impact of the storm.

It left southwestern Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, in shambles after slamming into the country’s Caribbean coast Oct. 4. The cities of Les Cayes, on the southwest coast, and Jeremie, in the northwest, were said to be particularly hit hard by the strongest storm to strike the Caribbean region in a decade.

Haitian officials said at midday Oct. 6 that at least 108 people had been killed, and more casualties were expected.

In Miami, Father Reginald Jean-Mary, pastor of Notre Dame d’Haiti Mission in Little Haiti, has been in touch with Haiti’s Cardinal Chibly Langlois, who heads the Diocese of Les Cayes.

After striking Haiti and Cuba, the slow-moving storm continued on a northward path to batter the Bahamas. From there it was headed to the Florida coast.

“We have spoken with Archbishop (Patrick) Pinder of Nassau and representatives from the Archdiocese of Kingston, indicating to each that we are on standby to assist with post-storm recovery,” Deacon Turcotte added.

He said Catholic Charities also had communicated with a food supply wholesaler who could have rice, beans and cooking oils put on pallets and be ready to deliver to a freight forwarder by Oct. 7 or 8 to go to the islands.

Regarding Haiti, the immediate need is for cash donations to purchase water and nonperishable food items, as well as to aid in the cleanup.

All Miami archdiocesan aid would be funneled through church organizations such as Caritas Cuba; CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency; and Amor en Accion, a lay missionary group that works with Miami’s sister Diocese of Port-de-Paix in Haiti’s northwest region — the poorest in that nation.

Teresita Gonzalez, executive director of Amor en Accion, noted that because the Catholic Church is already present in every one of the affected nations, its agencies offer the best and most effective way of providing relief.

That is especially true in northwestern Haiti, where “there are no NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), only the church,” Gonzalez said.

As Matthew moved closer to South Florida, the archdiocesan Office of Building and Property also reminded pastors and those in charge of parish plants to review their hurricane preparedness plans.

Archdiocesan schools planned to follow the lead of public schools in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties on school closures.

The archdiocese also will notify local radio and television stations regarding school closings or relief efforts.

Rodriguez-Soto is editor of the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Both sides victimize innocent people in Gaza fighting, church leaders say

August 1st, 2014 Posted in International News Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The president of Caritas Internationalis suggested Israeli and Hamas leaders pick up a pair of binoculars so they could see that “most of your victims are innocent people.”

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, president of the Vatican-based umbrella organization for national Catholic charities, said peace is impossible without reconciliation, and reconciliation requires recognizing each other as human beings.

Sister Muna Totah, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, comforts Mansour Ghobon, 51, of Gaza at St. Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem July 30. Ghobon is one of 23 Gaza patients being treated at the hospital, which specializes in head- and chest-trauma wounds. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

Sister Muna Totah, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, comforts Mansour Ghobon, 51, of Gaza at St. Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem July 30. Ghobon is one of 23 Gaza patients being treated at the hospital, which specializes in head- and chest-trauma wounds. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

“Israel and Hamas, why do you keep pointing out the speck in the eye of your brother while missing the plank in your own eye?” the cardinal asked in a statement published July 31.

“As Caritas,” he said, “we pray for peace in the Holy Land. We pray for the Palestinian and Israeli families who have lost their children, mothers and fathers, and for those who have been killed. Our prayers are with the children who live in terror and whose mental scars will run deep long after this war is over.”

Despite the violence, the cardinal prayed that Palestinians and Israelis “will remain free to believe in a future of justice and peace.”

“This is the third war in five years between Israel and militants in Gaza,” the cardinal said. “In the intervening years, Palestinians in Gaza have lived a life where water is scarce, much of their food comes from humanitarian organizations and where the dignity of a job is beyond many people’s reach.”

On Aug. 1, shortly after what was to be a 72-hour cease-fire, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem said temporary halts in fighting obviously are good, but unless Israel changes its policies toward Gaza, the desperation of residents will continue to lead to violence.

“If conditions in Gaza remain that of a desperate land under siege, where the only things that grow are fear and frustration that spur hatred,” then a temporary cease-fire will have no lasting impact, he told Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

“It almost seems as if the point is to make Gaza a factory for desperate people who are easy to transform into extremists ready for anything,” the patriarch said.

The next step, he said, must be lifting the Israeli blockade of Gaza. “Even the tunnels” dug by Hamas and a primary target of Israel’s military action, “are a product of the embargo. If the siege ends, if roads are opened and the free movement of persons and products is permitted, if people are allowed to fish in the sea” along the Gaza coast, then “no one will need to dig tunnels.”

The patriarch did not say Hamas militants are innocent. In fact, he seemed to put part of the blame on them for the high percentage of victims who are children and women.

“Just think of the fact that of all the tunnels, Hamas never thought to build underground refuges for the people,” he said.

 

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