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Monday, March 31, 2014

St. Stephen of Mar Saba - Venerable Stephen of St Sava Monastery

Monday, March 31, 2014
St. Stephen of Mar Saba - Venerable Stephen of St Sava Monastery
(d. 794)

A "do not disturb" sign helped today's saint find holiness and peace.
Stephen of Mar Saba was the nephew of St. John Damascene, who introduced the young boy to monastic life beginning at age 10. When he reached 24, Stephen served the community in a variety of ways, including guest master. After some time he asked permission to live a hermit's life. The answer from the abbot was yes and no: Stephen could follow his preferred lifestyle during the week, but on weekends he was to offer his skills as a counselor. Stephen placed a note on the door of his cell: "Forgive me, Fathers, in the name of the Lord, but please do not disturb me except on Saturdays and Sundays."
Despite his calling to prayer and quiet, Stephen displayed uncanny skills with people and was a valued spiritual guide.
His biographer and disciple wrote about Stephen: "Whatever help, spiritual or material, he was asked to give, he gave. He received and honored all with the same kindness. He possessed nothing and lacked nothing. In total poverty he possessed all things."
Stephen died in 794.

Venerable Stephen of St Sava Monastery

Saint Stephen of St Sava’s Monastery, the nephew of St John of Damascus (December 4), was born in the year 725. When he was ten years old he entered the Lavra of St Sava the Sanctified (December 5) and was tonsured as a monk. He spent his whole life at this monastery, sometimes going out into the desert to live in solitude and devote himself to spiritual struggles.
St Stephen’s holy life was so pleasing to God that he was given the gifts of
wonderworking and clairvoyance. He also healed the sick, cast out devils, and was able to discern the thoughts of those who came to him for counsel. He fell asleep in the Lord in the year 794, foretelling in advance the day of his death. The Life of St Stephen was compiled by his disciple Leontius.
Today’s saint should not be confused with the other St Stephen of St Sava’s Monastery who is commemorated on October 28.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Moscow slams Ukrainian Catholics for "meddling"

Moscow Patriarchate slams Ukrainian Catholic 'Uniates' for "meddling" in politics and taking a pro-West stance
Nina Achmatova

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Moscow Patriarchate strongly condemned the Greek-Catholic (Uniate) Church in Ukraine for "meddling" in politics, in the current crisis in the country. For its part, Russia continues to accuse the Ukraine of "religious intolerance," a charge the latter sharply rejects, noting instead how all religious denominations have come together to oppose violence and express support for Europe.
For Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and his predecessor, Lubomyr Husar, took a "very clear position from the beginning of the civil conflict, which grew unfortunately into an armed bloody conflict".
In his view, the Uniates not only advocated integration with Europe, "but even called for Western countries to intervene more decisively in the situation in Ukraine."
Speaking on The Church and the world, a programme on the Russia-24 TV channelHilarion also noted that "Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and [. . .] Filaret (Denisenko) even went to the United States, [. . .] to the State Department and asked for US intervention in Ukrainian affairs."
Excommunicated by the Moscow Patriarchate, Filaret is the head of the breakaway Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate.
In early February, Archbishop Shevchuk spoke before the US Congress. On that occasion, he said that the Ukraine situation transcended politics and asked for US mediation to resolve the crisis.
Conversely, for Hilarion, the Greek-Catholic Church is a major obstacle in relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Holy See.
The Orthodox, he said, have always perceived the Uniates in a very negative light, "as a special project by the Catholic Church," because "they dress like Orthodox, follow Orthodox rituals, but are in fact Catholic," which gives them and the Vatican a certain leeway.
When he asked a Catholic official for an explanation about the show of support from the Greek-Catholic Church for the breakaway Orthodox Church, the only answer Hilarion said he got was "We do not control them."
For his part, Shevchuk, who recently met with Pope Francis, bemoans the disappearances of people in Ukraine, who were "abducted and tortured" by the Berkut, the special police in the government of ousted president Yanukovych.
Moscow and Kyiv also continue to trade barbs over religion. The Ukrainian Ministry of Culture has rejected Russian accusations of "religious intolerance" with regards to alleged threats and seizure of parishes that are under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.
According to the ministry's Religious Affairs Department, no such actions have taken place. On the contrary, during protests at Maiden (Independence) Square, "all the churches, including the Ukrainian Orthodox Church," came out to defend the people and show their support for a pro-European orientation in the country's development.
Likewise, Kyiv has denied claims by the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian government that the country is in a civil war.
Instead, Russia continues to be under diplomatic pressure to avoid a wider Ukrainian crisis, following its annexation of the Crimea.
In fact, US President Barack Obama is in Brussels for a summit with EU leaders Barroso and Van Rompuy to discuss possible new sanctions.

Sr. Cristina Scuccia: PURITY AND PASSION

Singing the Song

"Why was there a sexual revolution? Because Christians stopped singing the Song of Songs."

- Christopher West

Sr. Cristina Scuccia is an Ursuline nun from Sicily. She is also a powerhouse vocalist and contestant on Italy's version of The Voice, a clever musical talent show where judges judge solely by what their ears are picking up. In this case, they picked a consecrated woman in full habit.

So passion meets purity. And this seeming contradiction is the exact kind of cultural contraband the media loves to feed off of. A nun belting out an Alicia Keyes tune on stage? Scandalous. Does the Vatican know about this?

What's sad is the age we live in which thinks that passion and purity are polar opposites. Watching Sr. Cristina sing her heart out (and boy she does) is really the purest of passions and the possible sign of an authentic and integrated self.

There is something powerful about witnessing this kind of purified passion, one striped of all pretense and pomp. It shoots straight up and hits the clouds, leaving a tiny place through which graces can fall down. During Sr. Cristina's performance on The Voice, one hit Italian rapper J-Ax right in the eyes. As Sister brought her notes to a climactic close, it was clear he was visibly and perhaps spiritually moved.

Perhaps her witness to the integration of passion and purity will begin a healing for him? Maybe the impressions he's always had of nuns, priests, Catholics, and Church in general have been of prohibition and prudery? Well, may this be the beginning of the end of that way of thinking. She chose him as her voice coach. And something tells me that this little sister knows something about how grace works.

"Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but "by attraction".

- Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel, 15

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mary's humility shows the path to salvation

Mary's humility shows the path to salvation, Pope says on feast of Annunciation

CWN - March 25, 2014
Preaching at Mass on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, Pope Francis said that the obedience of the Virgin Mary untied the knot caused by the disobedience of Adam.

Adam's sin was the result of pride, the Pope told his congregation at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, and Mary shows a complete absence of that fault. The challenge for the faithful, he said, is to battle against pride.

The liturgy for the feast day, the Pope remarked, guides us "along the road of recovery," encouraging "obedience and meekness regarding the Word of God."

"Salvation cannot be bought or sold," the Pope said. "It's a gift. It's given to us, it's free. We can't be saved through ourselves: Salvation is a totally free gift." In order to receive that gift we must be prepared to accept it, recognizing that it is given freely through no merit of our own.

The appropriate response—especially on this feast day—is one of simple and humble thanks, the Pope said. "And let's say: 'Thank you. Thank you, Lord, because today you told us that you have given us salvation."

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Monday, March 24, 2014

World Vision: Why We're Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages

World Vision: Why We're Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages
Image: Courtesy of World Vision U.S.
President Richard Stearns

[Update: Added comments from board members and Russell Moore.]

World Vision's American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman.

Abstinence outside of marriage remains a rule. But a policy change announced Monday [March 24] will now permit gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed at one of America's largest Christian charities.

In an exclusive interview, World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns explained to Christianity Today the rationale behind changing this "condition of employment," whether financial or legal pressures were involved, and whether other Christian organizations with faith-based hiring rules should follow World Vision's lead.

Stearns asserts that the "very narrow policy change" should be viewed by others as "symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity." He even hopes it will inspire unity elsewhere among Christians.

[Editor's note: All subsequent references to "World Vision" refer to its U.S. branch only, not its international umbrella organization.]

In short, World Vision hopes to dodge the division currently "tearing churches apart" over same-sex relationships by solidifying its long-held philosophy as a parachurch organization: to defer to churches and denominations on theological issues, so that it can focus on uniting Christians around serving the poor.

Given that more churches and states are now permitting same-sex marriages (including World Vision's home state of Washington), the issue will join divorce/remarriage, baptism, and female pastors among the theological issues that the massive relief and development organization sits out on the sidelines.

World Vision's board was not unanimous, acknowledged Stearns, but was "overwhelmingly in favor" of the change.

"Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues," he said. "It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage."

Stearns took pains to emphasize what World Vision is not communicating by the policy change.

"It's easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there," he said. "This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support."

"We're not caving to some kind of pressure. We're not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us," said Stearns. "This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We're an operational arm of the global church, we're not a theological arm of the church.

"This is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more."

Yet the decision is still likely to be regarded as noteworthy by other evangelical ministries. Aside from World Vision's influential size—it took in more than a billion dollars in revenue last year, serves an estimated 100 million people in 100 countries, and ranks among America's top 10 charities overall—World Vision also recently fought for the right of Christian organizations to hire and fire based on faith statements all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court—and won. It also opposed a 2012 attempt by USAID to "strongly encourage" faith-based contractors to stop discriminating against gays and lesbians in order to receive federal funds.

In other words, other Christian organizations look to World Vision for leadership on defending faith hiring practices. Stearns acknowledges this, but wants observers to understand why World Vision is voluntarily changing its own policy.

Stearns said World Vision has never asked about sexual orientation when interviewing job candidates. Instead, the organization screens employees for their Christian faith, asking if they can affirm the Apostles' Creed or World Vision's Trinitarian statement of faith.

Yet World Vision has long had a Christian conduct policy for employees that "holds a very high bar for all manner of conduct," said Stearns. Regarding sexuality activity, World Vision has required abstinence for all single employees, and fidelity for all married employees.

However, World Vision now has staff from more than 50 denominations—a handful of which have sanctioned same-sex marriages or unions in recent years, including the United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Meanwhile, same-sex marriage is now legal in 17 states plus the District of Columbia, and federal judges have struck down bans in five other states (Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, and—most recently—Michigan) as well as required Kentucky to recognize such marriages performed in other states. (All six rulings are stayed until the appeals process is complete.)

Stearns said World Vision's board has faced a new question in recent years: "What do we do about someone who applies for a job at World Vision who is in a legal same-sex marriage that may have been sanctioned and performed by their church? Do we deny them employment?

"Under our old conduct policy, that would have been a violation," said Stearns. "The new policy will not exclude someone from employment if they are in a legal same-sex marriage."

Stearns said the new policy reflects World Vision's parachurch and multi-denominational nature.

"Denominations disagree on many, many things: on divorce and remarriage, modes of baptism, women in leadership roles in the church, beliefs on evolution, etc.," he said. "So our practice has always been to defer to the authority and autonomy of local churches and denominational bodies on matters of doctrine that go beyond the Apostles' Creed and our statement of faith. We unite around our [Trinitarian beliefs], and we have always deferred to the local church on these other matters."

The reason the prohibition existed in the first place? "It's kind of a historical issue," said Stearns. "Same-sex marriage has only been a huge issue in the church in the last decade or so. There used to be much more unity among churches on this issue, and that's changed."

And the change has been painful to watch. "It's been heartbreaking to watch this issue rip through the church," he said. "It's tearing churches apart, tearing denominations apart, tearing Christian colleges apart, and even tearing families apart. Our board felt we cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue. We've got to focus on our mission. We are determined to find unity in our diversity."

Highlighting the church/parachurch distinction: Board member and pastor John Crosby, who led his Minnesota megachurch to split off (along with other churches) from the Presbyterian Church (USA) after the denomination dropped a celibacy requirement for gay clergy in 2011. Crosby was interim leader of the new Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians until June 2012. At a conference that laid the foundation of the breakaway denomination, he stated, "We have tried to create such a big tent trying to make everybody happy theologically. I fear the tent has collapsed without a center."

However, as a World Vision board member, Crosby didn't have a problem voting for the policy change. "It's a matter of trying to decide what the core mission of the organization is," he said.

Crosby, who leads Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, Minnesota, told CT that the decision was about making sure that World Vision is focusing on its mission to eliminate poverty worldwide. World Vision stretches across countless cultural and theological divides in a hundred countries, and so the issue of theology and how to interpret Scripture should be left to the local church, he said.

"Many of us support World Vision specifically because of its Christian identity. While there are many other good relief organizations, it's the faith component of World Vision that makes it distinctive for us," said Crosby. "[But] how can we represent ourselves as a Christian organization in such a diverse world? That's what we're trying to work through on a daily basis."

Board member and seminary professor Soong-Chan Rah told CT the decision to leave theology to others "honors the church as a whole." "It is not a statement in a particular direction, but it is trying acknowledge the proper relationship between the church and the parachurch," he said. "If there is something we can learn from [this], it is the value of having conversations and commitment to prayer, over not just this particular issue but all controversial issues that divide the church."

Stearns was adamant the change will not impact World Vision's identity or work in the field. "World Vision is committed to our Christian identity. We are absolutely resolute about every employee being followers of Jesus Christ. We are not wavering on that," he said.

"This is also not about compromising the authority of Scripture," said Stearns. "People can say, 'Scripture is very clear on this issue,' and my answer is, 'Well ask all the theologians and denominations that disagree with that statement.' The church is divided on this issue. And we are not the local church. We are an operational organization uniting Christians around a common mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ."

In recent years, World Vision and other evangelical organizations that partner with Uncle Sam to deliver humanitarian aid overseas voiced concern over USAID attempts to "strongly encourage" all contractors to develop anti-discrimination policies covering sexual orientation or risk losing federal funding.

"Concerns over government funding had no impact on this decision," said Stearns, noting that World Vision caps federal funding at 35 percent of its cash revenues. "We fought for the whole Christian community, reminding USAID that faith-based organizations have a religious exemption and are not required to follow government hiring guidelines.

"If the U.S. government ever requires us to give up our religious hiring rights in exchange for grants, we would walk away from U.S. grants. World Vision's ministry is not for sale."

World Vision's 2010 victory before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on faith-based hiring practices was watched closely by many Christian organizations (500 people signed up within 24 hours for a related ECFA webinar in April 2010). World Vision general counsel Steve McFarland later gave a series of ECFA webinars advising how other ministries could best structure their statements of faith to defend their hiring practices.

Yet Stearns said World Vision is not suggesting other ministries should now follow its lead.

"We made this decision for our organization based on who we are. Every organization has to come to its own conclusion," he said. "We are still passionate about protecting religious hiring rights—making sure that every Christian organization gets to decide this issue for themselves and not have the government decide it for them." (The latest example: World Vision's amicus brief on Hobby Lobby's Supreme Court case against Obamacare's contraceptive mandate.)

"We're not doing this for any legal reasons," he said. "If we wanted to, we would fight another battle on this all the way to the Supreme Court."

So the question becomes: Will supporters, particularly theologically conservative ones, let World Vision adopt a neutral stance on same-sex marriage? One of the first prominent voices out of the gate: Russell Moore, who tweeted, "I'm glad Carl Henry didn't live to see this," and promptly penned a reaction, concluding: "World Vision is a good thing to have, unless the world is all you can see."

Maintaining neutrality on such divisive issues is proving increasingly tricky for Christian organizations with broad coalitions. The most recent example is Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, which has declared neutrality on abortion, same-sex marriage, and guns as it seeks to encompass more Christians yet preserve its diverging base of 2.5 million Lutherans. Yet Thrivent's theologically conservative wing has not been pleased.

And the policy change comes as World Vision has reduced its U.S. workforce by 10 percent over the past 15 months as expenses have risen and government grants have decreased, reports The News Tribune in nearby Tacoma, Wash. "The last 12 to 24 months have been among the most challenging of any we have ever faced," Stearns wrote to 408,000 donors in a January letter that marked "the first time Stearns had sent out a letter asking child sponsors to increase their giving due to cutbacks," the newspaper reported.

Stearns hopes World Vision will not experience similar division like Thrivent and risk losing conservative supporters as a result.

"I don't want to predict the reaction we will get," he said. "I think we've got a very persuasive series of reasons for why we're doing this, and it's my hope that all of our donors and partners will understand it, and will agree with our exhortation to unite around what unites us. But we do know this is an emotional issue in the American church. I'm hoping not to lose supporters over the change. We're hoping that they understand that what we've done is focused on church unity and our mission."

And Stearns believes that World Vision can successfully remain neutral on same-sex marriage.

"I think you have to be neutral on hundreds of doctrinal issues that could divide an organization like World Vision," he said. "One example: divorce and remarriage. Churches have different opinions on this. We've chosen not to make that a condition of employment at World Vision. If we were not deferring to local churches, we would have a long litmus test [for employees]. What do you believe about evolution? Have you been divorced and remarried? What is your opinion on women in leadership? Were you dunked or sprinkled? And at the end of the interview, how many candidates would still be standing?

"It is not our role to take a position on all these issues and make these issues a condition of employment."

Stearns said he doesn't expect any outcry among World Vision's 100 country affiliates, since World Vision International allows each country to set its own hiring policies appropriate to its local legal context. Even in Uganda, where a high-profile new law criminalizing gays and lesbians has been opposed by World Vision Uganda, it stated: "The issue of same-sex relationships will neither prevent us from serving children, families and communities around the world, nor obstruct our collaboration with one another and with our partner organizations."

The policy change will also not affect World Vision's partnership with ministries that maintain current faith-based bans on same-sex behavior. "This is a very narrow policy change. It's strictly about whether this issue should be a condition of employment at World Vision."

How would Stearns respond to critics who bemoan the decision as yet another Christian organization caving before the advancing gay rights movement?

"We're not trying to do anything that's symbolic for the rest of the church," he said. "But if we're making a statement at all, I hope it's a statement about unity.

"I hope it's a statement that says when Christ left, he gave us the Great Commission [to make disciples] and the Great Commandment [to love others as ourselves], and we're trying to do just that," said Stearns. "Bridging the differences we have, and coming together in our unity."

Stearns has even written books on this subject. "In some manner we haven't finished Christ's mission for the church because we've been divided and distracted by too many other things," he said. "We've got to find our way to unity beyond diversity in the Christian church.

"I know the Evil One would like nothing better than for World Vision to be hobbled and divided on this issue, so that we lose our focus on the Great Commandment and the Great Commission," said Stearns. "And the board is determined not to let that happen.

"I hope if it's symbolic of anything, it is symbolic of how we can come together even though we disagree. We—meaning other Christians—are not the enemy. We have to find way to come together around our core beliefs to accomplish the mission that Christ has given the church.

"We feel positive about what we've done. Our motives are pure," said Stearns. "We're not doing this because of any outside pressure. We're not doing this to get more revenue. We're really doing this because it's the right thing to do, and it's the right thing to do for unity within the church.

"I'm hoping this may inspire unity among others as well," he concluded. "To say how can we come together across some differences and still join together as brothers and sisters in Christ in our common mission of building the kingdom."

World Vision charity to Hire Married Gay Christians

Major Evangelical Charity to Hire Married Gay Christians


The prominent Christian relief agency World Vision said Monday it will hire Christians who are in same-sex marriages, a dramatic policy change on one of the most divisive social issues facing religious groups.

Richard Stearns, president of the international humanitarian relief group, announced the hiring change for the United States in a letter to staff. Stearns said the World Vision board had prayed for years about how to handle the issue as Christian denominations took different stands on recognizing same-sex relationships.

"The board and I wanted to prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling our ability to accomplish our vital kingdom mission of living and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ," Stearns wrote in the letter.

The agency's new hiring policy was first reported by Christianity Today magazine.

Based in Washington state and started by evangelicals, World Vision now has an international operating budget of nearly $1 billion and conducts economic development and emergency relief projects around the world. Last year, the charity reported receiving 18 percent of its annual funding from the federal government.

Federal agencies have for several years faced pressure to require any group that receives federal funding to end any hiring restrictions on gays and lesbians. Stearns insisted the humanitarian relief group wasn't responding to any outside lobbying or concerns about government funding.

"I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue," Stearns said.

World Vision requires employees to affirm, through the agency's statement of faith or the Apostle's Creed, that they follow Christ. Stearns said the agency will continue to follow that policy, including requiring employees to remain celibate outside of marriage. World Vision says it hires staff from dozens of denominations with different views of gay relationships.

"I want to reassure you that we are not sliding down some slippery slope of compromise, nor are we diminishing the authority of Scripture in our work," Stearns wrote. "We are the same World Vision you have always believed in."

A few other conservative religious charities have tried to take similar steps, prompting controversy and a drop in donations, but World Vision is the largest and most prominent by far to do so.

— The Associated Press

Life's fragility is part of its beauty, Pope says

Life's fragility is part of its beauty, Pope says

CWN - March 24, 2014
Meeting on March 24 with members of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, Pope Francis observed that "in suffering no one is ever alone," because a merciful God is always present.

The image of Jesus, suffering on the Cross, is "the greatest school for whoever wishes to dedicate him to the service of his sick and suffering brethren," the Pope said. He also suggested contemplating the example of the Virgin Mary, who "made herself entirely available for God's will." The Holy Father made that point while reminding his listeners that the next day, March 25, would be the feast of the Annunciation.

The beauty of human life includes its fragility, the Pope said. He urged his audience to see the face of Christ in those who suffer from poverty, sickness, old age, and other ills, and to uphold "the dignity and the value of every single human person, from conception to natural death."

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In face of polygamy, Christian marriage should be proposed ‘without ambiguity,’ says

In face of polygamy, Christian marriage should be proposed 'without ambiguity,' says Pope

CWN - March 24, 2014
Pope Francis commended the bishops of Guinea-- a West African nation that ranks among the world's 15 poorest-- for the work of evangelization that has been accomplished there and said that "discords among Christians are the greatest obstacle to evangelization."

"The Church has need of communion among yourselves and with the Successor of Peter," he said.

"Our existence must be consistent with the Gospel we proclaim," the Pope added, as he called upon bishops to support catechists and families. The "Christian model" of the family, he added, "must be proposed and lived without ambiguity, when polygamy is still widespread and mixed marriages increasingly frequent."

The Pope also called upon seminarians to "learn to live in truth the requirements of ecclesiastical celibacy, and the proper relationship to material goods, the rejection of worldliness and careerism-- for the priesthood is not a means of social ascent-- as well as a real engagement alongside the most poor."

The nation of 10 million is 85% Muslim and 10% Catholic.

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Repent or face hell, Pope warns Mafia

Repent or face hell, Pope warns Mafia

CWN - March 21, 2014
Pope Francis pleaded with Mafia members to "convert yourselves, stop perpetrating evil," as he met on March 21 with the families of Mafia victims.

"I ask this on my knees," the Pope said, addressing himself to the Mafia. "It is for your good." He reminded criminals that whatever riches they gain by violence, "you cannot bring them with you to the next life."

"You still have time so as not to end up in hell," the Pope continued. "And that is what is waiting for you if you continue on this path."

During his visit to St. Gregory's church in Rome, to participate in a prayer vigil for victims of organized crime, the Pope expressed his sympathy and solidarity with the families. He praised the courage of those who were speaking out against the Mafia.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Memorare to St. Joseph

Memorare to St. Joseph

    Remember, O most chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who implored your help and sought your intercession were left unassisted.
 Full of confidence in your power I fly unto you and beg your protection.
 Despise not O Guardian of the Redeemer my humble supplication, but in your bounty, hear and answer me. Amen.

Act of Consecration to St. Joseph

     O dearest St. Joseph, I consecrate myself to your honor and give myself to you, that you may always be my father, my protector and my guide in the way of salvation. 
Obtain for me a greater purity of heart and fervent love of the interior life. 
After your example may I do all my actions for the greater glory of God, in union with the Divine Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 
O Blessed St. Joseph, pray for me, that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Jesus stands before Caiaphas

Jesus stands before Caiaphas

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Prisoners in Vietnam, not allowed Mass or Bible

Prisoners of conscience in Vietnam not allowed to go to Mass or even have a Bible
by NH
No health or spiritual care for 61 prisoners of conscience. No decent food and their human rights are not respected. Many of them are sick and in some cases their condition is serious. The cases of Lê Quŏc Quân and Maria Tạ Phong Tần.

Hanoi ( AsiaNews) - They can not go to mass, have the spiritual comfort of a priest nor even a Bible.  This is the condition of 61 (data dating to 2013 ) prisoners "of conscience" in Vietnam, a situation that becomes even more unbearable during Lent, confirmed by a letter from a blogger.
Prison guards in Hanoi and Thanh Hoa province, in a clear violation of human rights and religious freedom will not allow the lawyer Lê Quốc Quân, or bloggers Maria Tạ Phong Tần and Paul Trần Minh Nhat receive a Bible from their relatives.
The latest denunciation of the situation is contained in a letter written by blogger Paul Trần Minh Nhật to the former Archbishop Nguyễn Văn Nhơn, who was also president of the Episcopal Conference of Vietnam. " ... We could not even attend Mass on Sundays, nor read the Bible. We had a great desire to receive the sacraments and spiritual support from a priest, but the prison heads forbid us this".
The case of blogger Maria Tạ Phong Tần is of serous concern.  She was sentenced to 10 years in prison and is now imprisoned in Yên Dinh camp no. 5, Thanh Hoa province. It is renowned as one of the harshest labor camps.  She would like to have a Bible to hear the Word of God.  Her younger sister reports: "The guards used activist prisoners to beat my sister. They insulted my mother, though my mother died, setting herself on fire in front of the People's Committee in Bac Lieu province, July 30, 2012 , to protest against this injustice".

Currently prisoners of conscience are denied health care and spiritual care, they are denied decent food and their human rights are not respected. Many of them are sick and in some cases severely so. Miss T., a relative of a prisoner of conscience is called "crushed by the regime. The mother is dead, but still they will not leave her in peace. Perhaps they fear the truth and prisoners of conscience". "It's really horrible - reports the blogger Thanh Nghien - when someone offends the dead. This is the dirty work of prison guards and managers of local prisons. A while ago I was in jail and I know that the guards admire and fear the prisoners of conscience".

Why? Maybe because they don't need permission to believe in God.

St. Joseph and art

"But when one searches for the reasons why Christian art should have pictured Joseph as aged, we discover that it was in order to better safeguard the virginity of Mary. Somehow, the assumption had crept in that senility was a better protector of virginity than adolescence. Art thus unconsciously made Joseph a spouse chaste and pure by age rather than virtue...To make Joseph appear pure only because his flesh had aged is like glorifying a mountain stream that has dried. The Church will not ordain a man to the priesthood who has not his vital powers. She wants men who have something to tame, rather than those who are tame because they have no energy to be wild. It should be no different with God. 

...Joseph was probably a young man, strong, virile, athletic, handsome, chaste, and disciplined; the kind of man one sees sometimes shepherding sheep, or piloting a plane, or working at a carpenter's bench. Instead of being a man incapable of love, he must have been on fire with love....Instead, then, of being dried fruit to be served on the table of the king, he was rather a blossom filled with promise and power. He was not in the evening of life, but in its morning, bubbling over with energy, strength, and controlled passion." Archbishop Fulton Sheen (World's First Love)

St. Joseph's Dream

Colossians 3: 1-4

1 Risen, then, with Christ, you must lift your thoughts above, where Christ now sits at the right hand of God. 2 You must be heavenly-minded, not earthly-minded; 3 you have undergone death, and your life is hidden away now with Christ in God. 4 Christ is your life, and when he is made manifest, you too will be made manifest in glory with him.
1 Igitur, si consurrexistis cum Christo: quæ sursum sunt quærite, ubi Christus est in dextera Dei sedens: 2 quæ sursum sunt sapite, non quæ super terram. 3 Mortui enim estis, et vita vestra est abscondita cum Christo in Deo. 4 Cum Christus apparuerit, vita vestra: tunc et vos apparebitis cum ipso in Gloria.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

'Extreme Team' puts teens in forever homes

By tracking down distant relatives, 'extreme team' places teens in forever homes

Tony Barnes, left, smiles with his cousin and adopted son, Charlie, 17, in their Blue Springs, Mo. home in February 2014. Barnes formally adopted his cousin Charlie, who has ADHD, autism and some mental disabilities, after Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association contacted Barnes about Charlie in a last effort to place him with a member of his family in a permanent adoptive home.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tom Prudden jotted the name in his notebook almost as an afterthought. "Uncle Tony." The odds weren't good, but maybe. Maybe this was the relative who would step up and take Charlie, almost 16 and so lost and vulnerable, into his home, ending years in foster care.
Though the goal in Charlie's case always was adoption, his chances were slipping away. Many kids who linger in the foster system into their teens "age out" without ever being adopted. When they turn 18, they find themselves on their own without family or much support. If they have developmental delays and disabilities, they can land in group homes.
Charlie would come with acronyms and diagnoses: ADHD. PTSD from early child abuse. Autism. Mental disabilities. A foster care teen for at least four years, he hadn't even learned to throw a ball.
Sorting through his extended family to find a loving relative to save him would no doubt be tough.
Prudden turned to his computer keyboard and typed the name: Tony Barnes.
"I didn't know if I'd ever find his Uncle Tony," Prudden said. And if he did, would Barnes be willing to care for Charlie?
This case would be one of Prudden's first at the Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association. For 25 years he had worked for the Kansas City Police Department, investigating everything from vice and property crimes to asset forfeitures and robberies. Ready to retire, he one day saw an ad online.
Investigator needed for Extreme Recruitment.
He looked into it and found a program inspired by a reality TV show. Extreme Recruitment dedicates massive resources in a short period of time, 12 to 20 weeks, to find forever homes for longtime foster kids — often 12 or older — or large sibling groups who remain in the system.
These are children who have been abused and neglected and who have bounced from foster home to foster home. Often they're damaged from time away from family or years in a residential facility.
The staffers at Midwest Foster Care and Adoption, Prudden discovered, were passionate about these children and finding them a permanent home as quickly as possible.
"It's insane that kids are in care that long," said Liz Ross, youth programs supervisor with the association in Independence. "Children are removed from their homes and we promise them we'll get them a better family and we've failed."
No one wanted any more failures for Charlie.
Prudden started by going to Charlie's grandmother and biological mom, whose parental rights were terminated years ago. Even though another investigator had already spoken with them, Prudden hoped to get more.
"I'm a people finder," he explained to the two. "We're going to expand your family tree."
He asked for names of siblings, uncles and cousins. He wrote down some that hadn't come up before, including Uncle Tony's. Maybe someone on the list would be willing to adopt Charlie, he told them.
"Do whatever you have to do," Charlie's mom told Prudden, "because when he turns 18 he'll come back to us. He'll find us."
So many foster children referred for Extreme Recruitment share a story similar to Charlie's.
They have been in foster care more than two years — some as many as seven or eight — with no potential adoptive parents in the picture. The biological mom or dad's parental rights have been terminated. Going to live with some family members wouldn't be safe.
But these children still hope for that forever home.
Their own room. Family dinners. A mom or dad to always have in their life. When they get to college, a home base for breaks and holidays.
They recently worked with a 16-year-old girl whose father was in prison. They asked: Whom did his daughter connect with? Who was important to her?
"Nikki really liked her," the dad said of an ex-girlfriend.
They went to the ex-girlfriend. Though she wasn't able to offer the girl a home, she said her sister and her husband might.
The teen connected with that couple. The adoption soon will be finalized.
In its first two years in Kansas City, Extreme Recruitment has served 74 kids. There is currently a waiting list as Prudden and the two recruiters have full loads. Money for the program comes from grants and the state.
The team has found permanent homes for 59 of the children. Adoptions have been finalized for 14, with two more scheduled this spring.
That doesn't mean the Extreme team always finds a home for kids referred from the Children's Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services. Sometimes it might only be a family connection, someone who calls a child on his or her birthday or brings a present or is there to lean on when times are tough.
Take one teenage girl. She is in the hospital and permanency isn't an option right now. Doctors say she is suicidal and if she is released, she could take her own life.
Before the Extreme Recruitment team got involved, she was alone. She had been adopted years ago, but her adoptive mother died in a car crash. The girl had no one else.
Now, after the team researched her family tree and interviewed relatives, the girl has two family members and a close friend who talk to her and support her while she is in the hospital. She is no longer alone.
The team tells family members up front of all the struggles and challenges a child has.
"I'm not trying to sell these kids to anybody," Ross said. "I'm honest with them. I say, 'When he lights your closet on fire, this is what you can do.' We want to tell them everything. We say, 'When this happens in your house, we'll help you handle it.' We don't say, "If this happens.'"
That's one piece of child welfare that has changed, said Joe Beck of the Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association.
"The thought was nobody is going to take these kids 16 and older unless you shine them up."
Prudden's online search yielded two hits on Barnes' name. One looked likely. But there was no phone number, just an address.
He knocked on the door at 1:30 on a fall afternoon in 2012.
Barnes had been taking a nap. He was still a little groggy, listening to the words. But little was sinking in. Not yet.
I'm Tom Prudden with Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association. ... His name is Charlie. ... He's a relative on your father's side. ... We're hoping to find him a home.
"How'd you find me?" said Barnes, a blunt, cut-to-the chase kind of guy. In his early 40s, Barnes had worked his way up to corporate management in the restaurant industry and planned to retire in a couple of years. Then he would think about starting a family. Barnes figured he wanted four children.
Standing and talking with Barnes, Prudden could tell this was a private man. A little uneasy about a stranger showing up at his house talking about his family. For a while they just stood at the door.
Some relatives approached through Extreme Recruitment can be skeptical, at least at first. Sometimes they won't even answer the door or stay on the phone long enough to hear all the details. All they know is they don't want to get involved with "that side of the family."
Other times it gets emotional.
"People see the picture and they're crying," Ross said. "They're so excited that someone contacted them about this child and they've been waiting so long and didn't know who to contact."
Often, potential adopters of children in state care live in humble surroundings. They struggle to pay bills and feed their immediate family, much less take on care and support of a child who inevitably comes with challenges.
Barnes was different in that regard. He was a business professional, nice house, no kids. But was the timing right? Would he take this on?
Prudden told him more about Charlie, showed him a picture. Told of how the teen had been in foster care for many years and had developmental delays and disabilities.
And Charlie didn't have a forever home.
That hit Barnes.
How could a member of my family not have a home, blood relatives to support him?
He thought back to his own parents, who had long since passed away. When Barnes was little, his mother, grandmother and two aunts would help Charlie's grandmother clean the house and do other chores. Years ago, they would make sure her light bill was paid and bring food when the family needed it.
Barnes recalled visiting with Charlie's grandmother and mother but had seen the teen only once, as a newborn. Barnes had no idea the boy had been in foster care.
And now the teen faced an uncertain future, possibly life in a group home.
Taking in all the information about Extreme Recruitment and his distant cousin, Barnes told Prudden he'd be in touch.
The guy's not sold, Prudden thought as he climbed in his car and headed back to the office. He might not want to get involved.
Maybe he'd call. Maybe he wouldn't.
Maybe there was still someone out there to provide Charlie with that loving home, Prudden thought.
"I knew I wasn't going to stop."
As recruiters start working an Extreme case, interviews with children are critical. Their words help guide the team.
"We ask them, 'What adults are important to you?'" Ross said. "'Who has made you feel special? If you are sad, who would you go to? If you're happy, who would you want to tell?' "
The children may name a sixth-grade teacher or a great-grandma. One child said a former neighbor but couldn't recall the neighbor's name. All he could remember was a few details about a house near 39th Street.
"Tom and I drove around basically looking for a blue house and white door," Ross said.
For three brothers 11 to 15, the questions brought up memories from their past and their desire to have a better life.
What kind of home environment do you want to live in?
They had been in foster care for about four years. They were taken from their mother after her boyfriend severely beat the oldest, Carlos. He had begun to worry about his future and what it meant to be 15 and not have a real family.
"You didn't know that when you'd wake up in the morning if they'd be sending you somewhere else," Carlos said. "I was scared. I didn't have a connection with any family. ... If I went to college, there'd be no one to help support me."
Added Eladio, the middle brother: "We didn't know what family was. We had never ever had one. All we had was each other. Us three. That's it."
Living with different foster parents, in different placements — eight for two of them, a ninth for the middle brother — wasn't easy. They could never relax, be themselves.
And then the Extreme Recruitment team was ready to open their family tree, see if someone would be willing to give them that home all three wanted.
Who makes you feel safe?
Eladio thought of the couple first. He remembered get-togethers at their house. Laughing. That last Christmas before foster care, the aunt and uncle gave them small gifts and when they saw the uncle's Air Jordan shoes, he laughed and said: "You can have a pair of those next Christmas."
The middle brother knew who made them feel safe.
Jesus and Sara.
Carlos and younger brother Kaleb agreed.
Initially, the couple got a letter in the mail about Extreme Recruitment. Then came a phone call.
"I felt so bad. We were under the impression their mother was doing the most she could to get them back," said Sara Acuna. "We thought they were with an aunt on the mother's side."
Then the recruiter told her the boys had said they felt safe with her and her husband and wanted to live with them.
"She started to cry," Jesus Acuna said, "and handed the phone to me."
Kaleb, who will soon be 13, remembers when he and his brothers learned they would have a family: "I actually was jumping around."
On their first overnight with their aunt and uncle, they brought half their belongings. They were ready to be home.
And Eladio had a question, one that related to a time five years before. He turned to his uncle, now his dad.
"Do we still get our Jordans?"
The idea for this type of adoption recruitment came on a Sunday night in 2008 in a living room across the state.
Melanie Scheetz, executive director of the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition in St. Louis, has told the story many times. Yet she's still struck by the inspiration behind an adoption method that finds homes for hard-to-place foster kids in Missouri's two largest cities, a town in Canada and the state of Virginia.
"I was waiting for 'Desperate Housewives' to come on," Scheetz said. And there on the TV was another ABC hit at the time, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
She watched the designers, volunteers and construction workers pitch in and complete several jobs at once. They all worked toward the same goal: completing a home makeover in a week.
"What if we could do this?" Scheetz thought. "They are getting this thing that takes a long time done really fast. What if we could do it all at one time?"
In child welfare, finding an adoptive home for a child lingering in care is often linear, one process at a time. Because of that, recruiting families and finding a fit for a teenager — or a child with mental disabilities or behavior problems — can take two or more years.
"That's entirely too long," Scheetz said.
Soon after that Sunday night epiphany, she said, Extreme Recruitment started to take shape in the St. Louis area. Her agency hired a private investigator.
Workers in St. Louis admit they encountered some skepticism during the early days. Was it worth the time, energy and money? Scheetz estimates it can cost $5,000 per child.
"There's always been fear when you open up what's considered a can of worms — a child's family tree," said Gayle Flavin, a former Extreme Recruiter in St. Louis who now trains other agencies. "We have slowly won people over."
Still, finding the right family member isn't always easy, said investigator Carlos Lopez in St. Louis.
"The shocking part is how many family members don't want to get involved," he said. "They are quite frank with you. ... But you always know when you meet that one relative who will step forward to help out."
Charlie finishes the last of his fried potatoes and green beans and fidgets in his chair. He's got something to say and can't wait to share it.
"Can I take you on a tour?" he asks a visitor. "You want to see my room?"
Already in his pajamas and a thick bathrobe, Charlie has been home sick all day. Now he's feeling better and excited to have company.
And he's proud. Proud to live in a home with a framed picture of Barnes and his inspiration, Barbara Mandrell, a big couch for movie nights, a backyard pool and his own bedroom. Uncle Tony painted those walls and hung posters and, with partner James Grimsley, stocked shelves and boxes with toys.
Barnes gently tells Charlie he needs to finish dinner before there's any tour.
Every night at 6, the family sits down in the dining room for a full meal. With the three are another teenage boy and a 3-year-old girl, foster children unrelated to Barnes' family.
A few days after Prudden came to the home in the fall of 2012, Barnes called the investigator and said he wanted to meet Charlie.
That came after prayer and thought and long discussions with Grimsley.
"It was very overwhelming," Grimsley, a network analyst, says now. "We didn't know how to do the medications, the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) at school. It's all complex. We wanted to do our research. ... We didn't want to fail him."
In the end, one thing prevailed for the two.
"He was family," Barnes says. "This little guy never had a chance. I thought, the right thing to do is I take care of him, help him, because he is a part of my family."
The adoption became final last May.
"All you have to do is one thing: Not think about yourself," Barnes says. "As long as I make my mom proud in heaven and these kids are happy, that's all I want."
Charlie, now 17, leans in and looks at his Uncle Tony: "You love your mom so much."
Upstairs, in Charlie's room, the bed is made. Two finished superhero puzzles lie on a table with another under construction. Dinosaurs line a shelf. Framed certificates of Charlie's accomplishments fill one wall.
When Charlie came to live here, he didn't know how to tie his shoes. Now he does. Before, he didn't play outside much. Now he likes to help with yard work and has learned to throw a ball. He's in Special Olympics.
"It's about giving him the tools," Barnes said, "and making him think he can do anything in the world."
Before, his grades were below average. Now there are three A's and four B-pluses. Every night he brings home a stack of worksheets, and Barnes and Grimsley go over what Charlie has missed, sometimes for hours.
Charlie is happy here.
"I like pizza night because it's a-mazing," Charlie says, raising his hands above his head in the shape of a wide
V. He smiles wide.
Four different times he says he feels safe. "I wasn't safe before," he says.
"Tony tried to save my life. ... I love him with all my heart."
All it took was for someone to find Barnes.
"One of the things Tony said is he always saw himself as a parent; it was just a matter of when and what it would look like," said Amanda Johnson of Extreme Recruitment. "I think when Tom knocked on his door, that's when he had the realization that it's time, time for me to be a parent."
If no one had looked for him, he never would have been found. And Charlie might never have had a permanent family.
"I am Tony's son," Charlie says and turns to Barnes. "Right?"
Barnes smiles back. "Yes. Yes, you are."


Greek Catholic Priest abducted in Crimea

Greek Catholic Priest abducted by pro-Russian armed forces in Crimea

15 March 2014, 19:04 | Blogs |  | 0 |   | Code for Blog |   | 
kvych.jpgThe abduction occurred on Saturday March 15, between 10:00-11:00 AM, in Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine. Pro-Russian armed forces abducted Fr. Mykola Kvych, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, directly from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish of the Dormition of the Mother of God, located on Silska Street 5 (near kilometer 5 of the Balaklava highway).
Fr. Kvych was seized by two men in uniform and four men in civilian clothing. The young chaplain for the Ukrainian Navy was taken to an undisclosed location where he is being held captive. A parishioner who called Fr. Kvych's cellular phone heard abusive language on the line directed at the priest before the call was cut short. Sources confirm that Fr. Kvych is alive.
Earlier this week at the direction of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic hierarchy Fr. Kvych and other Greek Catholic priests in Crimea evacuated their wives and children to mainland Ukraine. The priests themselves returned to their parishes to be with their faithful in a time of crisis and moral and physical danger.
The call of Pope Francis for "pastors to have the smell of their sheep" has guided Catholic clergy in Ukraine during the months of peaceful protest of millions of citizens that began November 21 after President Yanukovych refused to sign an agreement of Ukraine's association with Europe.
Through December and most of the January the demonstrations in the "Revolution of Dignity" remained peaceful despite provocations and attacks by riot police. In late January and February violence by government special forces directed at demonstrators led to confrontation which left more than 100 people death. In Ukraine the victims are called the Heavenly Hundred.
On February 20 the brutal killing of scores of unarmed protesters by government snipers using high-powered rifles at short range led police to refuse orders of President Yanukovych. On February 22 Yanukovych fled Kyiv and subsequently appeared in Russia from where he is encouraging the further infiltration of Russian military into Ukraine. The Russian military occupation in Crimea is into its third week and many Ukrainians fear that they face imminent war.
Yesterday, another Greek Catholic priest returned to his home in Crimea (location not revealed to preserve the priest's identity) to find on the destroyed door of his apartment a menacing sign: "Get out Vatican spies. Police were standing outside the building.
The Greek Catholic priests of the peninsula have been directed not to celebrate services in their churches this Sunday but to serve in Roman Catholic Churches where in the company of other clergy their safety can be more easily guaranteed.
The Yanukovych government threatened to delegalize the Greek Catholic Church at Christmas time due to the pastoral attention that priest gave to protesting faithful. From 1946 to 1989 the UGCC was the biggest illegal Church in the world and the most substantial body of social opposition to Soviet rule in Ukraine. Since it did not collaborate with Soviet authorities it has enjoyed particular moral authority in Ukrainian society in the post-Soviet period and during the current social and political crisis.

Bishop Borys Gudziak Head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Eparch of the Eparchy of St. Volodymyr in Paris for Ukrainian Greek Catholics in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg and Switzerland

Monday, March 17, 2014

Canadian laws supporting human trafficking... disagree?

Short Gov't POLL:  Today (MON) is the LAST DAY to voice your opinion on what Canada should do with the prostitution laws in our country...


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kyiv Patriarchate hierarch fears being "wiped off the map"

Kyiv Patriarchate hierarch fears being "wiped off the map"

(Time) - Archbishop Kliment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church became a national hero to protestors at Maidan Square. Now, his church faces the prospect of being wiped off the map, as his homeland of Crimea prepares to vote for annexation by Russia

Archbishop Kliment began evacuating the holy icons from his church about two weeks ago, as soon as he realized that the region of Crimea, where he serves as the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox faith, would soon fall to the Russians. He wasn't so much afraid of looting or arson from the Russian soldiers occupying his region of Ukraine, although that concerned him too. He was preparing for nothing less than the nullification of the Ukrainian Orthodox church. Under Russian rule, "we will simply be liquidated," he says. "Our church is an enemy to the order that Russia would impose here, and our churches would be either looted or in the best case forced to close."

Those are not empty fears. Next week, Russia will get its chance to annex the entire Crimean peninsula, whose referendum on Sunday is stacked in favor of full secession from Ukraine. The result isn't likely to do terrible and lasting damage to Ukraine's economy or demographics. Crimea is a depressed region, connected to the mainland by only two roads, and the majority of its two million people are ethnic Russians who will likely welcome the chance to rejoin their historical homeland. But for Ukraine's people, their security and their sense of national pride, the loss of Crimea will be devastating. A generation since Ukraine won its independence from Moscow after the fall of the Soviet Union, it will again have to confront its own subversion, as well as the theft of its territorial jewel, the home of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Ukrainians and the birthplace of their religion.

The country remains, in many ways, a hostage of its own geography and history. Ukraine shares a wide-open border with Russia all along its east and south, and in the past week, around 80,000 Russian troops have surrounded it, according to Ukraine's security council. If the government in Kiev uses force to defend Crimea from annexation, Russia is almost certain to launch a broader invasion. On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry even warned in a statement that it "reserves the right" to take parts of eastern Ukraine "under its protection." The stick-up job implied in this threat is simple: give up Crimea and Russia may hold off on taking anything else...
Complete article here.

Ukrainian Rite Catholic priest abducted in Crimea

Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest abducted in Crimea

2014-03-15 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) In a serious escalation of tension in Crimea, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest was kidnapped on Saturday.
Sources in Ukraine say Father Mykola Kvych, a pastor and a Ukrainian military chaplain, was abducted by pro-Russian forces after celebrating the liturgy.
"Every abduction is a terrible event for everybody involved," said Bishop Borys Gudziak, the Eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy. "It's a gross violation of human rights and God-given human dignity." He expressed his grave concern about the repercussions of the kidnapping of Father Kvych.
Earlier this month, Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests received oral and written threats warning them to leave Crimea. Many priests, however, have chosen to remain with their people.
"Our priests and bishops have been very close to the people," said Bishop Borys. "We've been inspired by the example of Our Lord [Who] went a long distance from fellowship with the Father to incarnate Himself and be in our reality."
He said they have also been inspired by the words of Pope Francis "who said a pastor needs to have the smell of his sheep. And our pastors have been with the people, and they're today with the people enduring this occupation in the Crimea."
With the whereabouts of Father Mykola unknown, Bishop Borys made a special appeal "to the authorities of the Russian Orthodox Church, who have in direct or indirect ways supported these moves for the for the occupation of Crimea to do everything in their power to have Father Kvych released and to stop the persecution of Catholic priests and Catholic faithful on this peninsula."