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Saturday, August 30, 2014

St Margaret Clitherow !

Blessed Feast of St Margaret Clitherow!
Martyr under Henry VIII's reign

Feast / UK: 30 August

Margaret Clitherow, born in Yorkshire, England, was the wife of John Clitherow, whose family was Catholic, although he had taken on the state religion of England long before he married. Two or three years after her marriage, Margaret became a Catholic. Her home became a stopping-off place for priests, and Mass was offered secretly there.Her husband went along with her interests, even when she sent their oldest son to Douai, in France, to be educated. Not only was she devout, she was also a zealous promoter of the faith, converting others and bringing back backsliders to the practice of their religion. Meanwhile, the laws against the Catholic faith became more harsh, and the. government was determined that Catholicism should be stamped out in Yorkshire where it was especially strong.
Everyone loved St. Margaret Clitherow, and even her servants knew that she hid fugitive priests, but no one betrayed her. She was a good housewife, capable in business, dearly loved by her husband, whose only regret was that she would not attend church with him. Her husband was summoned by the authorities to explain why his oldest son had gone abroad, and the Clitherow house was searched. A Flemish boy, from fear, revealed the hiding place of the priests where chalices and vestments were kept. Margaret was arrested along with a neighboring housewife who had attended Mass at the Clitherow home. Margaret's only concern was that her family was safe.
She was brought to trial and would not plead, her only statement being, "Having made no offense, I need no trial." If she had been tried, her family would have been called as witnesses against her, and she was determined that this would not happen. Reluctantly, the judge sentenced her to be "pressed to death," a bizarre death sentence in which the condemned was placed under a door (or similar object) and rocks piled on the door until the person was crushed to death.
Margaret died on March 25, 1586, her last words being, "Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy on me!" She was only thirty years old and was canonized in 1970.
Thought for the Day: Through everyday fidelity we are given the strength to face the great crisis. St. Margaret Clitherow did not expect to die a martyr, but she was faithful in the everyday practice of her religion. When the great crisis came, she was ready.
From 'The Catholic One Year Bible': "A tree from good stock doesn't produce scrub fruit nor do trees from poor stock produce choice fruit.... A good man produces good deeds from a good heart. And an evil man produces evil deeds from his hidden wickedness."—Luke 6:43-45

Taken from "The One Year Book of Saints" by Rev. Clifford Stevens published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN 46750.

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Eternal Word Television Network
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Iraqi Patriarch appeals to world

Iraqi Patriarch appeals to world: do not remain indifferent to our suffering

(Vatican Radio) "The international community, and in particular the European Union and the United States cannot remain indifferent" to the "humanitarian catastrophe" unfolding at the hands of Islamic State militants. Those, the words of the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Raphael Louis Sako I who has renewed his urgent appeal on behalf of Christians and other persecuted minorities in Iraq. In an open letter released Sunday, the Chaldean Catholic Church leader calls into question the West's "moral and historical" responsibility towards religious minorities but also those of the Muslim community.
Below, we publish the English version of Patriarch Sako's appeal:
To the conscience of the world. Iraq's Christians, a double catastrophe
 (24.8.2014) It has become obvious that Iraqi Christians along with other minorities have received a fatal blow at the core of their lives and their existence whether through displacing more than a hundred thousand Christians by force, or looting their possessions, money, and documents, or occupying their houses for just being Christian! I visited the camps of the displaced persons in the provinces of Erbil and Dohok and what I saw and what I heard is beyond any imagination! Since the 6th August until now there is not yet an immediate concrete solution for  the crisis we are facing. On the other hand the flow of funds, arms and fighters continues to the Islamic State. Despite the fact that we are living an organized campaign of elimination from Iraq, the world conscience is not fully awake to gravity of the situation. Now, the second phase of the calamity has already begun, which is  the migration of these families to the different parts of the world, thus dissolving the history, heritage, and identity of these people into void.
Displacement and migration have their great impact on us, both on Christians and Muslims. Iraq is losing an irreplaceable component of its society, the Christian one; hence begins the vanishing of a genuine tradition!
The international community, principally the United States and European Union, due to their moral and historic responsibility towards Iraq, cannot be indifferent. While acknowledging all that is being done to solve this crisis, it seems that the decisions and actions undertaken until now have made no real change in the course of events  and the fate of these affected people is still at stake, as if these people are not part of  the human race! 
The same is true with regard to the Muslim community, whose statements about the barbaric acts in the name of their religion practiced against the life, dignity and freedom of Christians were not according to our expectation, knowing that  Christians have contributed and fought for this country, living in partnership with their Muslim brothers alongside the Islamic civilization.
Religious fundamentalism is still growing in its power and force, creating tragedies, and making us wonder when the Islamic religious scholars and the Muslim intellectuals will critically examine this dangerous phenomenon and eradicate it by educating a true religious consciousness and spreading a genuine culture of accepting the other as brother and as an equal citizen with full rights. 
What has happened is terrible and horrific, therefore, we need an urgent and effective international support from all the people of good will to save the Christians and Yezidis, genuine components of the Iraqi society, from extinction, knowing that   silence and passivity will encourage ISIS fundamentalists to commit more tragedies! The question is who will be the next.
Many of these displaced persons wish to return to their towns and houses in the Nineveh Plain, and hope to see it safe under international protection. But the full safety of this zone cannot be achieved without the cooperation of the International Community along with the joint action of the Central Government and the Regional Government of Kurdistan. These innocent people deserve to live in peace and  dignity after the terror afflicted on them by the ISIS and after being looted by their own neighbors.
The Church: Certainly we are proud of the faith of our sons and daughters and their steadfastness and courage in the face of this calamity for the sake of their belief. We invite them to live this crisis in a real communion with all the people around them without any distinction. What we need is not exhausting statements but real  communion with others which we experienced during the visit of the delegation of French bishop's conference, Personal Envoy of Pope Francis and Patriarchs. This crisis is empowering us for a spiritual, moral and material reconstruction of our communities. We do respect the decision of those who wish to migrate, but for those  who wish to remain, we underline our long history and deeply rooted heritage in this land. God has his own plan for our presence in this land and invites us  to carry the  message of love, brotherhood, dignity, and harmonious co-existence. 
Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako
President of the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops in Iraq
(From archive of Vatican Radio)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Catholic monk as Zen sensei: Church's 'inevitable' Eastern encounter

Catholic monk and Zen sensei: Trappist's new title sign of church's 'inevitable' encounter with the East

On April 17 (ca.2000?), at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Mass., Trappist priest Kevin Hunt was installed as a Zen sensei (teacher), making him the first North American Trappist to be both Catholic monk and authorized instructor of Zen. Jesuit Yr. Robert Kennedy, a Zen roshi (master) and Hunt's most recent teacher, oversaw the installation.

The monk's accomplishment, after years of study, represents an intimate East-West union within one Catholic religious and drew letters of commendation from the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, and Yr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, superior general of the Society of Jesus.

Hunt's achievement is "one that we can all celebrate in thanksgiving to God," wrote Kolvenbach. Many Christians, he noted, "have found Zen to be a valuable instrument for progressing in the spiritual life. By coming to focus on the present moment through the practice of the techniques of Zen meditation, the Christian can become aware of God's immediate loving presence. This awareness is especially needed in the modern world, where the realities of divine grace are too often pushed to the margins of people's consciousness.

Approximately 80 people--Hunt's friends, relatives and fellow Trappists --attended the ceremony in the abbey's chapter room, traditionally reserved for the abbot's weekly meeting with the monks. At the solemn pounding of a large Japanese drum, a beaming Hunt and Kennedy, bearing a statue of the Buddha's head, processed in with other members of their Zen meditation community, including a rabbi and two Catholic nuns.

"All guests are to be received as Christ," said Fr. Damian Carr, abbot of St. Joseph's Abbey. "It is more than appropriate that this celebration is taking place during the Paschal Octave for it is in the presence and spirit of the Risen One that I welcome you today."

The interfaith ceremony, notable for its simplicity and generous tone, took less than 45 minutes. After donning the Robe of Liberation, a simple black Japanese kimono, and receiving his teaching staff, Hunt, 70, who has been a Trappist for 50 years, turned and thanked the members of his religious community. "Thirty of these years I have been on a strange journey," he said. "I am dumbfounded, gratified, pleased, whatever words are appropriate here, for the continued love and support you have given me."

Hunt's installation as a Zen teacher comes at a time when Rome, according to some observers, appears to be pulling back from its Vatican II openness to interreligious dialogue, particularly with regard to Eastern religions. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's top doctrinal official, has at times expressed caution and even hostility toward these traditions, arguing they could cause doctrinal confusion among Christians. During a 1997 interview, Ratzinger described Buddhism as an "autoerotic spirituality" that could lead to "the undoing of the Catholic church."

In March 2002, Ratzinger ordered German Benedictine Yr. Willigis Jager, a Zen master, to cease all public activities. Jager was accused of playing down the Christian concept of God as a person as well as stressing mystical experience above doctrinal truths.

Derived from Buddhism, which is a nontheistic tradition, Zen emphasizes seeking enlightenment through meditation rather than adherence to Buddhist scripture. Although Hunt had read essays by Trappist monk Thomas Merton, whose writings helped popularize Catholic interest in Buddhism, Hunt said his interest in Zen was personal rather than intellectual, prompted by his "own search for God in meditation. Because I was a monk, I was very interested in meditation."

Throughout the 1990s, the Trappist monk worked with Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, an organization sponsored by North American Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries to promote exchanges between Catholic monastics and followers of Eastern traditions.

Hunt said that "knowledge of your own tradition" is of "supreme importance" in interreligious work.

"How does [Eastern practice] fit in with Meister Eckhart, St. John of the Cross or Teresa of Avila? What is the difference in their formulation of prayer? In that sense, Cardinal Ratzinger is somewhat right. Too often people get enthusiastic [about another tradition] and they don't do that kind of work," Hunt said.

But Hunt predicts Buddhism will change Catholicism just as Greco-Roman philosophy influenced Christianity centuries ago. Because "Catholicism means universal" it has to "be open to the Buddhist experience of God as it was to the Greco-Roman experience," he said.

Although taken for granted today, the early church's encounter with Platonic and Aristotelian thought brought adjustments in Christian understanding, Hunt said. During that time, the role of the bishops was to evaluate these influences in the context of Christian experience. Hunt said the church is now going through a similar assessment with regard to Asian traditions.

Hunt said he doesn't see how the church can return to its pre-Vatican II parochial attitude. The [church s] center of influence is moving out of North America and going to the Third World. That means that Western emphasis in Catholicism is going to diminish. That means that other cultures that have not been as strong as Western culture are going to bring their understanding," he said.

This movement is "inevitable," he said. "Like any organic thing there are going to be false starts. We are becoming more aware of that."

Hunt has been installed as a teacher in the White Plum Asanga, a loosely organized Zen community that traces its lineage of instructors 84 generations back to the Buddha. As a sensei, he is now considered part of that succession. He said his new title means his "basic insight has been approved" and he is qualified to guide others in Zen practice. But when asked what it means practically for a Trappist monk to be a Zen teacher, Hunt laughingly admitted he doesn't have "the slightest idea."

"We're going to have to see how it happens and what happens. I never expected to be a Zen teacher," he said.


 Related Web sites

Monastic Interreligious Dialogue

St. Joseph's Abbey

White Plum Asanga

[Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, a freelance writer, is a frequent NCR contributor. NCR Rome correspondent John L. Allen Jr. contributed to this report.]

The Exaltation of the Cross - 14 September / Elizabeth Lev

The Cross Scorned and Revered

A History of the Feast of the Exaltation

| 4226 hits

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, SEPT. 18, 2008 ( What a difference a couple of decades makes! After years of lawsuits demanding that crucifixes be taken down from public places and the banalization of the cross as a fashion accessory or body art, it's no wonder that the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross leaves many people scratching their heads.

The history of the true cross is a long and convoluted one, starting with a shoot from the tree of mercy in Eden, passing through King Solomon's bridge to Jerusalem, to the selection of this aged piece of wood for Christ's crucifixion.

Tradition has it that after the crucifixion the cross was hidden.

The cross of Christ was rediscovered by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 326 at the age of 80. Her indomitable spirit, as well as her extraordinary adventures, took their most delightful literary form in Evelyn Waugh's little book "Helena."

Part of the cross stayed in Jerusalem in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which was dedicated on Sept. 14, 335. This date would become the feast of the Exaltation, a word that means "raising aloft."

The remainder seems to have traveled all over the world. Fragments were sent to Constantine's new churches in Constantinople, while another piece was housed in the Church of the Holy Cross here in Rome, built by St. Helena on her own land.

The devotion to the cross spread so rapidly that before the end of the fourth century the hymn "Flecte genu lignumque Crucis venerabile adora" had been written, and St. John Chrysostom tells us that fragments of the cross were being venerated all over the world.

A king humbled

Oddly enough, however, the Exaltation of the Cross does not only celebrate the rediscovery of the true cross; it also commemorates an event in one of the most turbulent moments of early Christian history.

In 615 A.D. on the cusp of the rise of Islam, the Persian army was sweeping through the Mediterranean. King Chosroes of Persia, while leaving the tomb of Christ intact, took the fragment of the cross that Helena had left there.

Setting himself up as god, King Chosroes built a throne in a tall tower where he sat with the cross to his right, calling himself "the father."

The Byzantine emperor Heraclius challenged Chosroes to single combat to retrieve the cross. Victorious, Heraclius bore the jeweled reliquary back to Jerusalem. He had planned to bring the relic through the same city gate Christ had entered before his crucifixion, but the stones fell and blocked his passage.

Told that Christ had passed through this gate in humility on a donkey only to suffer death, King Heraclius stripped himself of crown, jewels and shoes, and in his simple tunic took the reliquary upon his shoulders. On Sept. 14, 630, the cross was restored to Jerusalem as an example of humility for all people.

This epic captured the imagination of numerous artists, particularly in the Renaissance, when art dedicated itself to recounting only the greatest of stories.

Antoniazzo Romano portrayed the event with the jewel-like colors of an illuminated manuscript in the apse of the Church of the Holy Cross, while Piero della Francesca, working in the more remote center of Arezzo from 1452 to 1463, rendered the majesty of this story in one of the most important fresco cycles of the 15th century.

Bearer of peace

In the Franciscan Basilica of San Francesco, Piero tells the story simply and with a minimum of decorative detail, but with powerful monumentality. In one of the earliest night scenes in Italian art -- "
Dream of Constantine" -- the emperor sleeps in his tent and dreams of the cross on the eve of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. A dramatically foreshortened angel erupts into the space along with Piero's lipid light to represent the miracle of Constantine's conversion.

Piero's "Exaltation of the Cross," despite the loss of the figure of Heraclius, expresses the peace, calm and order brought with the restoration of the cross -- an appropriate message during his age of constant war.

These images reflect the dignity shown to the cross by artists, citizens and rulers alike.

Over the years, the cross has been attacked by more than would-be gods and thieves. Voltaire taught the world to mock the cross when in "The Philosophical Dictionary" he wrote under the heading of Superstition, "Are those pieces of the true cross, which would suffice to build a hundred-gun ship -- are the many relics acknowledged to be false -- are the many false miracles -- so many monuments of an enlightened piety?"

In answer to the scientific age, a group of Jesuits in Belgium, the Bollandists, were formed in the 17th century. They study the evidence relating to miracles, relics and lives of the saints. They cite a study that weighed and measured all the known relics and found that the extant pieces do not make up a single cross.

This feast, so often overlooked, has long served the Christian community to remember that the means of our redemption should be brought into the light of our word, lives and hearts at all times, and that we should reflect upon it with the same courage, humility and determination as Jesus showed during his passion.

In today's world, where pop culture derides the cross, and politicians deny the cross, this feast rallies Christians to exalt in Christ's heroic sacrifice, and not to be embarrassed by it.

* * *

Elizabeth Lev teaches Christian art and architecture at Duquesne University's Italian campus. She can be reached at
(September 18, 2008) © Innovative Media Inc.

UKRAINE: Major Archbishop Sviatoslav calls for support for Ukraine

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav calls for support for Ukraine

(Vatican Radio) In a letter addressed "to the Catholic episcopal conferences, tо the world's
religious and political leaders, (and) to all people of good will," the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, speaks about the extremely difficult situation in Ukraine.
"For nine months," he says, "Ukrainians have been on an arduous pilgrimage from post-Soviet fear to freedom and God-given dignity." He notes: "All of the Churches and religious organizations of Ukraine stood together against the violence of the Yanukovych regime, the annexation of Crimea, and the division of the country."
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav describes the religious discrimination to which Churches and religious communities have been exposed in annexed Crimea and in the eastern war zone. Muslim Tatars have been especially targeted, while Greek and Roman Catholic ministries, Orthodox parishes of the Kyivan Patriarchate, and Jewish communities have also been menaced.
"Unfortunately," he says, "the beleaguered Ukrainian Catholics, Greek and Roman, faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and Protestants in the east of Ukraine are further endangered by the rhetoric of the Orthodox leadership in Russia, which is becoming increasingly similar to the propaganda of Russian political authorities and media."
Statements from the Russian Orthodox Church, he says, have defamed and libeled Greek Catholics and Ukrainian Orthodox of the Kyivan Patriarchate. "They are held responsible for the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine and are accused of generating the warfare, especially the violence against Orthodox clergy and faithful endured as a result of military operations." In his letter, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav "strongly rejects" those accusations.
"The tragedy that Ukraine is experiencing today, due to military aggression, is a tragedy for all peoples, believers of all faiths, and all social groups," he says. "We pray for all the innocent victims and for peace in Ukraine. And our Church is doing everything to bring peace and alleviate the suffering of those affected by this terrible conflict."
Concluding his letter, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav says, "Ukraine needs the effective support of the global Christian community and support of all people of good will. In a media context rife with propaganda we ask you to evaluate information critically. We need your prayer, your discernment, your good words and effective deeds.  Silence and inaction will lead to further tragedy. The fate of MA Flight 17 is an example of what may happen if the terrorist activity is allowed to continue."
Read the full letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church:
To the Catholic Episcopal conferences
То the World's Religious and Political Leaders
To All People of Good Will

For nine months Ukrainians, have been on an arduous pilgrimage from post-Soviet fear to freedom and God-given dignity. Traumatized by twentieth century World Wars, brown and red totalitarianism and genocide, they seek a just society and a democratic, European future. With patience, endurance, and great human sacrifice they overcame in February the brutal regime of Viktor Yanukovych. This moral triumph was answered in March by Russia's territorial annexation of Crimea. Now, for months the country endures foreign supported destabilization, separatism, and terrorist activity in the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions, in one word: war. Tragically, as became manifest in the criminal shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, the Ukrainian trial affects the global community.
All of the Churches and religious organizations of Ukraine stood together against the violence of the Yanukovych regime, the annexation of Crimea, and the division of the country. On the Maidan-Square for months, every day, and hourly in the night, in common prayer they insisted on respect of civil rights, non-violence, unity of the country, and dialogue. This civic ecumenical and inter-religious harmony and cooperation has been an important source of moral inspiration and social cohesion in Ukraine.
In annexed Crimea and in the Eastern war zone some of the Churches and religious communities have been targeted for discrimination, enduring outright violence. In Crimea the most exposed have been the Muslim Tatars. The Tatar community as a whole is in daily danger. Some of its leadership has been exiled, barred from their homeland. The existence of Greek and Roman Catholics ministries, Orthodox parishes of the Kyivan Patriarchate, and the Jewish community in Crimea has been variously menaced.
In April violence was instigated in eastern Ukraine.  According to Ukrainian authorities some1000 people, including international journalist and peace monitors, were kidnapped or detained; dozens were tortured or killed. The anti-terror operation launched by the Ukrainian government faces a foreign aggression that co-opts local rebels and local and international criminal delinquents.  As a result today there are over thousand civilian casualties in the densely populated cities, with the number rising by 50 deaths or more daily, not to mention the 298 victims of MA Flight 17. The infrastructure of the cities including roads and bridges, electric substations, coal mines, and industrial installations are being destroyed to cripple the economy and future reconstruction that will become the responsibility of the Ukrainian state. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee the warfare that has been brought into the heart of the cities by the so-called separatists.
Amidst the horrors of war the tiny Ukrainian Greek and Roman Catholic minority experience oppression on the territories controlled by the "separatists." Three Catholic priests were kidnapped: Pawel Witek and Wiktor Wąsowicz (Roman Catholic), Tykhon Kulbaka (Greek Catholic). The later was kept in captivity for 10 days and deprived of medicine he needed. The episcopal residence of the Greek Catholic bishop in Donetsk was robbed and sealed, depriving him of his chancery and all documentation. The Cathedral yard was hit by "separatist" rocket fire damaging the building and windows with shrapnel. The bishop and almost all Greek Catholic priests were forced to leave the environs of Donetsk. Armed representatives of separatist regime entered the church and desecrated the sanctuary. They "allowed" priests to stay and conduct services but put them on travel restrictions. Terrorists blackmail the clergy by threatening to harm their parishioners.
Most recently, on Saturday, August 16, the small monastery of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Donetsk was seized and violated. The sisters who generously and humbly served the community and who were on a summer retreat or at summer camps for children outside of Donetsk cannot now return to their home now being used by the "separatists."
Protestants are targeted by pro-Russian terrorist groups and have suffered the gravest violence: two sons of the pastor of the Evangelical Church "Metamorphosis" Alexander Pavlenko and two deacons of that church, Victor Brodarsky and Vladimir Velichko were taken from a church service, tortured, and killed by the terrorists. Their bodies were exhumed from a mass grave in Sloviansk.
Unfortunately, the beleaguered Ukrainian Catholics, Greek and Roman, faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and Protestants in the east of Ukraine are further endangered by the rhetoric of the Orthodox leadership in Russia, which is becoming increasingly similar to the propaganda of Russian political authorities and media.
In recent documents issued in Moscow at the highest level of the Russian Orthodox Church, particularly in a letter to the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, Greek Catholics and the Ukrainian Orthodox of the Kyivan Patriarchate, disrespectfully called "Uniates" and "schismatics", are defamed. They are held responsible for the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine and are accused of generating the warfare, especially the violence against Orthodox clergy and faithful endured as a result of military operations. Russian Orthodox leaders spread libelous information about Greek Catholics and other confessions thereby putting them in danger from the separatist militants who identify themselves as warriors for Russian Orthodoxy.
We strongly reject these claims and accusations. The Ukrainian military is not structured as a denominational entity. Therefore, chaplains of various denominations serve in the zone of the Antiterrorist Operation. Chaplains are not permitted to interfere in the life of local religious communities. Accusations that chaplains of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church have committed acts of violence against members of other churches and religious groups are not true.
The tragedy that Ukraine is experiencing today, due to military aggression, is a tragedy for all peoples, believers of all faiths, and all social groups. Buildings, churches and monasteries of all religious and ethnic groups are being damaged or destroyed. Clergy of all faiths who exercise their pastoral ministry in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and Crimea have suffered, some risking their own lives. Two Orthodox priests who were killed in the region are among more than a thousand civilians killed during the conflict and their terrible deaths are not connected with their religious beliefs. They were accidental victims of shelling.
We pray for all the innocent victims and for peace in Ukraine. And our Church is doing everything to bring peace and alleviate the suffering of those affected by this terrible conflict.
Ukraine needs the effective support of the global Christian community and support of all people of good will. In a media context rife with propaganda we ask you to evaluate information critically. We need your prayer, your discernment, your good words and effective deeds.  Silence and inaction will lead to further tragedy. The fate of MA Flight 17 is an example of what may happen if the terrorist activity is allowed to continue.
Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych
Primate of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

(From archive of Vatican Radio)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sayings of Light and Love VIII - John of the Cross

VIII. Those who fall alone remain alone in their fall, and they value their soul little since they entrust it to themselves alone.

Pope lifts beatification ban on Salvadoran Oscar Romero

Catholics march in San Salvador on 22 March 2014 during the commemoration of the 33th anniversary of the murder of Oscar Romero
Archbishop Romero's death is commemorated by large crowds every year

Pope Francis has lifted a ban on the beatification of murdered Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.
For years, the Roman Catholic Church blocked the process because of concerns that he had Marxist ideas.
An outspoken critic of the military regime during El Salvador's bloody civil war, Archbishop Romero was shot dead while celebrating Mass in 1980.
Beatification, or declaring a person "blessed", is the necessary prelude to full sainthood.
The bishop was one of the main proponents of Liberation Theology - an interpretation of Christian faith through the perspective of the poor.
'Death squads' On Monday, the Pope said he was hoping for a swift beatification process.
"For me Romero is a man of God," the pontiff told journalists on the plane bringing him back from a trip to South Korea.
"There are no doctrinal problems and it is very important that [the beatification] is done quickly."
Archbishop Romero's tomb in San Salvador cathedral
Archbishop Romero was buried in the cathedral of San Salvador
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ANALYSIS: John McManus, BBC News

It seems Francis hasn't finished wielding his new broom at the Vatican just yet, despite being Pope for more than a year now. After peering into the dark corners of the Vatican's banking system, and pushing an inclusive brand of Catholicism, he's now tackling what's been a painful episode for many Catholics.
Francis's decision to send the case of the Archbishop Romero to the Vatican's saint-making office flies in the face of what his two predecessors advocated. Indeed, Francis's own instincts early on in his Church career also tended to be suspicious of Romero's Liberation Theology, preferring clerics to steer away from political analysis and advocate salvation through prayer instead.
Yet many Catholics have been puzzled as to why a man killed for standing up for the Poor, has for so long been ignored by a Church which claims to speak for them. The Pope's comments don't mean he's changed his mind on Liberation Theology but may be an acknowledgment that, for many Catholics, Oscar Romero is already a saint - in practice, if not in name.
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View from the cathedral steps at the funeral of murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero
Archbishop Romero's funeral was also attacked and dozens were killed
Archbishop Romero denounced the right-wing death squads that operated in the Central American nation at the time and the oppression against the poor, calling for an end to all political violence.
Left-wing rebels fought an insurgency against the US-backed right-wing government.
Some 75,000 people were killed in the civil war, which began in 1980 and ended in 1992 with a UN-brokered peace agreement.
Archbishop Romero was killed on 24 March 1980, aged 62, after ending his sermon in the capital, San Salvador.
No-one has ever been convicted in connection with his murder.
In 2010, then President Mauricio Funes - El Salvador's first left-wing leader since the end of the civil war - made an official apology.
"I am seeking pardon in the name of the state," Mr Funes said as he unveiled a mural honouring Oscar Romero at El Salvador's international airport.
The archbishop, he said, was a victim of right-wing death squads "who unfortunately acted with the protection, collaboration or participation of state agents".

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sayings of Light and Love VII - John of the Cross

VII. The virtuous soul that is alone and without a master is like a lone burning coal; it will grow colder rather than hotter.

Pope OKs Protecting Iraq Minorities, Wants UN OK

Pope OKs Protecting Iraq Minorities, Wants UN OK

Pope endorses efforts to protect Iraq minorities, but says UN should approve intervention

By NICOLE WINFIELD - The Associated Press


Pope Francis on Monday said efforts to stop Islamic militants from attacking religious minorities in Iraq are legitimate but said the international community â€" and not just one country â€" should decide how to intervene.
Francis was asked if he approved of the unilateral U.S. airstrikes on militants of the Islamic State group, who have captured swaths of northern and western Iraq and northeastern Syria and have forced minority Christians and others to either convert to Islam or flee their homes.
"In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor," Francis said. "I underscore the verb 'stop.' I'm not saying 'bomb' or 'make war,' just 'stop.' And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated."
Francis also said he and his advisers were considering whether he might go to northern Iraq himself to show solidarity with persecuted Christians. But he said he was holding off for now on a decision.
The pope's comments were significant because the Vatican has vehemently opposed any military intervention in recent years. Pope Paul VI famously uttered the words "War never again, never again war" at the United Nations in 1965 as the Vietnam War raged, a refrain that has been repeated by every pope since. St. John Paul II actively tried to head off the Iraq war on the grounds that a "preventive" war couldn't be justified. He repeatedly called for negotiations to resolve the crisis over Iraq's invasion of Kuwait a decade prior.
Francis himself staged a global prayer and fast for peace when the U.S. was threatening airstrikes on Syria last year.
But in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks â€" in the Vatican's mind an "unjust aggression" â€" John Paul defended the "legitimate fight against terrorism," and the right of nations to defend themselves against terrorist attacks. He did though call for restraint and the Vatican subsequently focused its position on emphasizing the need to eradicate the root causes of terrorism: poverty and oppression.
Recently, the Vatican has been increasingly showing support for military intervention in Iraq, given that Christians are being directly targeted because of their faith and that Christian communities, which have existed for 2,000 years, have been emptied as a result of the extremists' onslaught.
The U.S. began launching airstrikes against IS fighters on Aug. 8, allowing Kurdish forces to fend off an advance on their regional capital of Irbil and to help tens of thousands of religious minorities escape.
When the Vatican's ambassador to Iraq, Monsignor Giorgio Lingua, was asked about the U.S. airstrikes, he told Vatican Radio that it was unfortunate that the situation had gotten to this point "but it's good when you're able to at the very least remove weapons from these people who have no scruples."
The Vatican's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, went further, saying "Maybe military action is necessary at this moment."
Church teaching allows for "just wars," when military force can be morally justified under certain circumstances. The four main criteria, all of which must be met, include that the damage inflicted by the aggressor must be "lasting, grave and certain," that all other means haven't worked, that there must be real prospects for success and that the intervention must not produce results that are worse than the original evil. Finally, church teaching holds that the responsibility for determining if the four conditions have been met rests with the judgment of "those who have responsibility for the common good."
Francis was thus essentially applying church teaching on the "just war" doctrine to the Iraq situation.
But, he said, in history, such "excuses" to stop an unjust aggression have been used by world powers to justify a "war of conquest" in which an entire people have been taken over.
"One nation alone cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor," he said, apparently referring to the United States. "After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It's there that you must discuss 'Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?' Just this. Nothing more."
Francis sent a personal envoy, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, to northern Iraq last week with an undisclosed amount of money to help people in flight and show the pope's solidarity with those forced to flee their homes.
In other comments Monday:
â€"Francis confirmed he hoped to travel to the United States in September 2015 for a possible three-city tour: to attend a family rally in Philadelphia and to address Congress in Washington and the United Nations in New York. He said a Mexico stop on that trip was possible but not decided yet. He also said he might make one-day visit to Spain next year.
â€"Francis said he would go "tomorrow!" to China and that he wanted a dialogue with Beijing. He said all the Catholic Church wanted was to be able to operate freely in the country.
â€" Francis acknowledged that he "must be smarter" about over-extending himself after he was forced to cancel some appointments in the spring due to illness. He said the last time he took a vacation away from home was in 1975. "I'm very attached to my home," he said, saying he takes "staycations" instead. "I change my daily rhythm, I sleep more, read more things that I like, listen to music, pray more. And in that way, I rest."
â€" Francis said he was hoping for a quick beatification for slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, saying there were no more doctrinal issues blocking the process for one of the heroes of the liberation theology movement in Latin America. Romero's case had been held up for decades in the Vatican's orthodoxy office which, under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, launched a crackdown on the movement in the 1980s over concerns about its Marxist excesses.
â€"Francis refused to brand as a failure his high-profile June peace prayer at the Vatican with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents, even though weeks of violence erupted soon thereafter. Francis noted that the prayer initiative came from the two leaders, not him, and was designed to show that while there can be a political path for negotiation, there was also a separate path for prayer. "Now, the smoke of bombs, of war, isn't letting them see the door, but the door has been open since that moment," he said.
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Koreans analyze Papal Visit: What is the secret to his success?

The secret to his success? Korean press analyzes Papal Visit

2014-08-18 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) As Pope Francis makes his way back to Rome, Vatican Radio's Seán Patrick Lovett looks at the how the local press is analyzing the Holy Father's Apostolic Voyage to Korea.

What is the secret to Pope Francis' success? How does he keep up his energy level? What is it exactly that makes him so popular? And what are the lessons we've learned from this papal visit to Korea?
No, I'm not the one asking those questions – the Korean media are.
The papal plane wasn't even off the ground on Monday when newspapers and news programmes around the country were already in analysis mode.  Frequently, they end up answering their own questions.
For example, most of the local papers unanimously attribute what we have come to know (for some time now) as "The Francis Effect" to what they call "gong-gam" – literally translated as "the ability to enter into communion with another person". There is no one-word version for the same in English. "Sympathetic" or "nice" just don't do it justice. They say that he's funny, a brilliant communicator and, most important of all, that his actions speak louder than words. All things the rest of us have known for some time now – but, here in Korea, everything about Pope Francis is a brand new discovery.
Even seasoned pope-watchers, however, have been amazed by his stamina. Just in case you didn't know, it's an eleven-hour flight from Rome to Seoul and there's a seven-hour time difference. That can do awkward things to your metabolism and your sleeping habits. But Pope Francis has never shown signs of being affected by either. The press claims it's because he doesn't eat much anyway and is driven by an almost superhuman will-power. Perhaps. All I know is that, in private, Pope Francis gets down on his knees every day and gives thanks for what he calls "Grace".
His popularity is easiest to understand, at least according to Korean media. It's because he does all the things they'd like to see their politicians doing. Things like paying more attention to the social, economic and generational divisions and injustices that plague the country. Or even something as straightforward as sharing the pain of parents who have been waiting four months to understand why their children drowned in a ferry accident: ten of the victims' bodies have still to be recovered.   
And as for the lessons to be learned – the Korean press is unanimous in its conclusions is this regard as well: quite simply, all of the above.
(From archive of Vatican Radio)

Pope to Asian youth: You are the present & future of the Church

Pope to Asian youth: You are the present and the future of the Church

2014-08-18 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) During his homily at the concluding Mass of the 6th Asian Youth Day, Pope Francis told the young people gathered "to be like Christ, who responds to every plea for his help with love, mercy and compassion." He also said young people were the present and the future of the Church.

Below is the Holy Father's Homily in English
Dear Young Friends,
The glory of the martyrs shines upon you!      These words – a part of the theme of the Sixth Asian Youth Day – console and strengthen us all.  Young people of Asia: you are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ.  He is the light of the world; he is the light of our lives!  The martyrs of Korea – and innumerable others throughout Asia – handed over their bodies to their persecutors; to us they have handed on a perennial witness that the light of Christ's truth dispels all darkness, and the love of Christ is gloriously triumphant.  With the certainty of his victory over death, and our participation in it, we can face the challenge of Christian discipleship today, in our own circumstances and time.

The words which we have just reflected upon are a consolation.  The other part of this Day's theme – Asian Youth! Wake up! – speaks to you of a duty, a responsibility.  Let us consider for a moment each of these words.
First, the word "Asian".  You have gathered here in Korea from all parts of Asia.  Each of you has a unique place and context where you are called to reflect God's love.  The Asian continent, imbued with rich philosophical and religious traditions, remains a great frontier for your testimony to Christ, "the way, and the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6).  As young people not only in Asia, but also as sons and daughters of this great continent, you have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies.  Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life! 
As Asians too, you see and love, from within, all that is beautiful, noble and true in your cultures and traditions.  Yet as Christians, you also know that the Gospel has the power to purify, elevate and perfect this heritage.  Through the presence of the Holy Spirit given you in Baptism and sealed within you at Confirmation, and in union with your pastors, you can appreciate the many positive values of the diverse Asian cultures.  You are also able to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith, what is contrary to the life of grace bestowed in Baptism, and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt, and lead to death
Returning to the theme of this Day, let us reflect on a second word: "Youth".  You and your friends are filled with the optimism, energy and good will which are so characteristic of this period of life.  Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love!  This is the path you are called to take.  This is the path to overcoming all that threatens hope, virtue and love in your lives and in your culture.  In this way your youth will be a gift to Jesus and to the world.
As young Christians, whether you are workers or students, whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church's present!  Keep close to one another, draw ever closer to God, and with your bishops and priests spend these years in building a holier, more missionary and humble Church – a Church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalized.
In your Christian lives, you will find many occasions that will tempt you, like the disciples in today's Gospel, to push away the stranger, the needy, the poor and the broken-hearted.  It is these people especially who repeat the cry of the woman of the Gospel: "Lord, help me!".  The Canaanite woman's plea is the cry of everyone who searches for love, acceptance, and friendship with Christ.  It is the cry of so many people in our anonymous cities, the cry of so many of your own contemporaries, and the cry of all those martyrs who even today suffer persecution and death for the name of Jesus: "Lord, help me!"  It is often a cry which rises from our own hearts as well:  "Lord, help me!"  Let us respond, not like those who push away people who make demands on us, as if serving the needy gets in the way of our being close to the Lord.  No!  We are to be like Christ, who responds to every plea for his help with love, mercy and compassion.
Finally, the third part of this Day's theme – "Wake up!" – speaks of a responsibility which the Lord gives you.  It is the duty to be vigilant, not to allow the pressures, the temptations and the sins of ourselves or others to dull our sensitivity to the beauty of holiness, to the joy of the Gospel.  Today's responsorial psalm invites us constantly to "be glad and sing for joy".  No one who sleeps can sing, dance or rejoice.  Dear young people, "God, our God, has blessed us!" (Ps 67:6); from him we have "received mercy" (Rom 11:30).  Assured of God's love, go out to the world so that, "by the mercy shown to you", they – your friends, co-workers, neighbors, countrymen, everyone on this great continent – "may now receive the mercy of God" (cf. Rom 11:31).  It is by his mercy that we are saved.
Dear young people of Asia, it is my hope that, in union with Christ and the Church, you will take up this path, which will surely bring you much joy.  Now, as we approach the table of the Eucharist, let us turn to our Mother Mary, who brought Jesus to the world.  Yes, Mother Mary, we long to have Jesus; in your maternal affection help us to bring him to others, to serve him faithfully, and to honor him in every time and place, in this country and throughout Asia.  Amen.

(From archive of Vatican Radio)

VOCATION: Pope calls on religious to live vocation as a gift

Pope calls on religious to live vocation as a gift

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Saturday afternoon with Communities of Religious at the "School of Love" in Kkottongnae. Approximately 5000 male and female religious were present for the event.
In his address, Pope Francis spoke about the "great variety of charisms and apostolates" represented by the religious. The Holy Father reflected on the words of the Psalm: "My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Ps 73:26). "We all know that while joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty, 'it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved'" (Evangelii Gaudium, 6). This conviction of being loved by God is at the centre of a religious vocation. It is only a joyful witness that will allow religious "to attract men and women to Christ."
This joy, the Pope said, "is rooted in the mystery of the Father's mercy revealed in Christ's sacrifice on the cross." Whether involved in contemplative or active vocations, all religious "are challenged to become 'experts' in divine mercy." Moreover, this challenge is fulfilled precisely in religious community. Speaking from his own experience, Pope Francis acknowledged the difficulties of community life, but emphasized that it is in community life that religious are called to grow in "mercy, forbearance, and perfect charity."
Pope Francis than spoke about each of the evangelical counsels – obedience, chastity, and poverty – as essential aspects of religious life. "Mature and generous obedience," he said, "requires that you cling in prayer to Christ who, taking the form of a servant, learned obedience through what he suffered (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, 14)."
Purity and chastity are inspired by an experience of God's mercy, and expresses "your single-minded dedication to the love of God who is 'the strength of our hearts'."
Finally, the Pope said, "through the evangelical counsel of poverty you are able to recognize God's mercy not only as a source of strength, but also as a treasure." He warned against the hypocrisy of religious who take vows of poverty but live as though they were rich, causing scandal amongst the faithful.
Pope Francis concluded his address with a call to the religious men and women: "Dear brothers and sisters, with great humility, do all that you can to show that the consecrated life is a precious gift to the Church and to the world.
Below, please find the complete text of the Pope's address at his meeting with Religious Communities in Korea:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I greet you all with affection in the Lord. It is good to be with you today and to share these moments of communion. The great variety of charisms and apostolates which you represent wondrously enriches the life of the Church in Korea and beyond. In this setting of the celebration of Vespers where we have sung the praise of God's infinite goodness and mercy, I thank you, and all of your brothers and sisters, for your efforts to build up God's Kingdom in this beloved country. I thank Father Hwang Seok-mo and Sister Scholastica Lee Kwang-ok, the Presidents of the Korean Conferences of Major Superiors of Men's and Women's Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life, for their kind words of welcome.
The words of the Psalm, "My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Ps 73:26), invite us to think about our own lives. The Psalmist exudes joyful confidence in God. We all know that while joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty, "it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved" (Evangelii Gaudium, 6). The firm conviction of being loved by God is at the center of your vocation: to be for others a tangible sign of the presence of God's Kingdom, a foretaste of the eternal joys of heaven. Only if our witness is joyful will we attract men and women to Christ. And this joy is a gift which is nourished by a life of prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of the sacraments and life in community. When these are lacking, weaknesses and difficulties will emerge to dampen the joy we knew so well at the beginning of our journey.
For you, as men and women consecrated to God, this joy is rooted in the mystery of the Father's mercy revealed in Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Whether the charism of your Institute is directed more to contemplation or to the active life, you are challenged to become "experts" in divine mercy precisely through your life in community. From experience I know that community life is not always easy, but it is a providential training ground for the heart. It is unrealistic not to expect conflicts; misunderstandings will arise and they must be faced. Despite such difficulties, it is in community life that we are called to grow in mercy, forbearance and perfect charity.
The experience of God's mercy, nourished by prayer and community, must shape all that you are, all that you do. Your chastity, poverty and obedience will be a joyful witness to God's love in the measure that you stand firmly on the rock of his mercy. This is certainly the case with religious obedience. Mature and generous obedience requires that you cling in prayer to Christ who, taking the form of a servant, learned obedience through what he suffered (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, 14). There are no shortcuts: God desires our hearts completely and this means we have to "let go" and "go out" of ourselves more and more.
A lively experience of the Lord's steadfast mercy also sustains the desire to achieve that perfection of charity which is born of purity of heart. Chastity expresses your single-minded dedication to the love of God who is "the strength of our hearts". We all know what a personal and demanding commitment this entails. Temptations in this area call for humble trust in God, vigilance and perseverance.
Through the evangelical counsel of poverty you are able to recognize God's mercy not only as a source of strength, but also as a treasure. Even when we are weary, we can offer him our hearts burdened by sin and weakness; at those times when we feel most helpless, we can reach out to Christ, "who made himself poor in order that we might become rich" (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). This fundamental need of ours to be forgiven and healed is itself a form of poverty which we must never lose sight of, no matter how many advances we make in virtue. It should also find concrete expression in your lifestyle, both as individuals and as communities. I think in particular of the need to avoid all those things which can distract you and cause bewilderment and scandal to others. In the consecrated life, poverty is both a "wall" and a "mother". It is a "wall" because it protects the consecrated life, a "mother" because it helps it to grow and guides it along the right path. The hypocrisy of those consecrated men and women who profess vows of poverty, yet live like the rich, wounds the souls of the faithful and harms the Church. Think, too, of how dangerous a temptation it is to adopt a purely functional, worldly mentality which leads to placing our hope in human means alone and destroys the witness of poverty which our Lord Jesus Christ lived and taught us.
Dear brothers and sisters, with great humility, do all that you can to show that the consecrated life is a precious gift to the Church and to the world. Do not keep it to yourselves; share it, bringing Christ to every corner of this beloved country. Let your joy continue to find expression in your efforts to attract and nurture vocations, and recognize that all of you have some part in forming the consecrated men and women of tomorrow. Whether you are given more to contemplation or to the apostolic life, be zealous in your love of the Church in Korea and your desire to contribute, through your own specific charism, to its mission of proclaiming the Gospel and building up God's people in unity, holiness and love.
Commending all of you, and in a special way the aged and infirm members of your communities, to the loving care of Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my blessing as a pledge of enduring grace and peace in Jesus her Son.
(From archive of Vatican Radio)

Pope to Jesuits in Korea: Be pastors, not state altar boys

Pope to Jesuits in Korea: Be pastors, not state altar boys

2014-08-17 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) During the second day of his visit to Korea, Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop at Seoul's prestigious Sogang University, founded by the Jesuits in 1960. During the relaxed and informal meeting with his confreres, the Pope talked about the need for priests to bring consolation to people, rather than castigate them for their sins.
Returning to one of his favourite themes of the Church as a field hospital for those who have been wounded, Pope Francis said God's people are seeking and needing to be consoled. The Church has many wounds, he said, and some of them have been caused by us, priests and practising Catholics. So often, he added, our clerical attitudes have done much damage to the Church. However, he continued, there are no wounds that cannot be consoled by the love of God and priests are called to tend to these wounds, with the certainty that God will always bring forgiveness and hope.
Priests, the Pope said, are not state altar boys but they are pastors and he urged his confreres to act like pastors with people who come to Confession. Be merciful, he exhorted them, and always remember that God never tires of forgiving us.
(From archive of Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis : “Asian Youth! Wake up!

Pope Francis : "Asian Youth! Wake up!

2014-08-18 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis continues  his Apostolic journey to Korea which began August 13th and ends on August 18th. This marks his  first visit to Asia, a continent where 60% of the world's  population lives. While on Saturday he presided over a beatification ceremony of 124 Korean martyrs in Seoul on Sunday he travelled by helicopter to Haemi, which lies 102 kilometres south west of this capital city, to preside over another solemn celebration: the concluding  Mass to mark the 6th Asian Youth Day. At the end of the Mass Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, President of the Federation of the Asian Bishop's Conference, announced that Indonesia would be the venue for the  7th Asian Youth Day in 2017.
The venue for Sunday's Holy Mass was the square in front of the Castle there, first built to defend the population from pirates back  in 1421, in 1490 it became a military stronghold with  barracks and prisons within its compound. It was here that almost three thousand Christians were detained during the anti- Christian persecutions of  the XIX century. The walls of the castle are two kilometers long and the vast area within can hold up to 200.000 people.
On this occasion young people from across Asia gathered  there to be part of Sunday's congregation on this very special occasion as Sean Patrick Lovett reports.
Listen to Sean- Patrick Lovett's report focusing on the homily of Pope Francis during the concluding Mass of the  6th  Asian Youth Day : 

 "Asian Youth! Wake up!"
Here in Korea, everywhere you look, you see this slogan – in every shape, size and form: on banners fluttering from lampposts and draped across skyscrapers, on caps, t-shirts and coffee-cups. It flashes across TV screens and is emblazoned upon anything and everything associated with these Asian Youth Day celebrations.
So no one was surprised when Pope Francis focussed on the individual words of this slogan during his homily at the Mass closing the 6th Asian Youth Day, using his familiar 3-point catechetical approach, and confirming some of his favourite inspirational themes.
As "Asians", he said, "you have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies. Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life". "As Christians", he continued, "you can appreciate the many positive values of the diverse Asian cultures. You are also able to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith…and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt, and lead to death".
As "Youth", said Pope Francis, "you are filled with the optimism, energy and good will which are so characteristic of this period in life. Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love". "As Christians", he went on, "you are not only a part of the future of the Church, you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church's present". The Pope urged the young people of Asia to keep close to one another, to God, and their Bishops, in order to build "a holier, more missionary and humble Church" that seeks "to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalised".
As Asian Youth called to "Wake up!", concluded the Pope, you have a responsibility and a duty "to be vigilant, not to allow the pressures, the temptations and the sins of ourselves or others to dull our sensitivity to the beauty of holiness, to the joy of the Gospel". No one can do anything if they are asleep, improvised Pope Francis in English, repeating again and again the challenge to "Wake up!".
In Seoul, I'm Seàn-Patrick Lovett.  
(From archive of Vatican Radio)

KOREA / Pope meets leaders of other Churches and faiths

Pope meets leaders of other Churches and faiths in Korea

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Monday morning with leaders of the different Christian Churches in Korea, together with the heads of the other main religious communities. The encounter was held in Seoul's Catholic cathedral, just ahead of a concluding Mass which marked the final event on a packed, five day, papal programme.
Our correspondent in Korea for this papal visit is Sean-Patrick Lovett  - he reports on this significant ecumenical and interfaith meeting.
Pope Francis had an opportunity to meet briefly this morning with Korea's religious leaders, before going on to celebrate his last Mass in the country at Myeong-dong Cathedral.
Standing in front of a painting representing the recurring leitmotif of this visit, the Korean martyrs, the Pope greeted, one by one, among others: the Anglican Bishop of Seoul, the President of the Lutheran Church and the head of the Presbyterian churches in the country. Korea's Buddhist leaders and representatives of other Christian communities were also present, along with the Orthodox Archbishop, who presented the Holy Father with a byzantine cross. The Pope appeared to be particularly pleased with this gift, promising to use it to impart the final blessing at the Mass.
And that's exactly what he did.
The Pope's improvised remarks in Spanish at the end of the encounter were translated for him by Fr John Che-chon Chong SJ – the newly-appointed Jesuit Provincial for Korea (and now familiar friendly face) who has been seen at the Holy Father's side ever since he left Rome. 
"We must continue walking together", Pope Francis told the ecumenical gathering, "walking with God and going forward together. Pray for me".
Religious observers in this country say that relations among the different confessions in Korea are cordial (at least on the surface) and rarely subject to many of the tensions experienced elsewhere in the world.
What they won't say is if this is the result of praiseworthy religious tolerance – or growing religious indifference. A recent survey on the subject revealed that nearly half the population in Korea professes no religious belief whatsoever.
That's why it is so easy to understand much of Pope Francis' appeal to them: his is the new face in a faithless void.
In Seoul, I'm Seàn-Patrick Lovett. 
(From archive of Vatican Radio)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

O How He love us ....

 A Prayer for Resting in the "Full Extent" of Jesus' Love

 Aug 15, 2014 | Scotty Smith

Having loved his own who were in the world, he showed them the full extent of his love. John 13:1

     Dear Jesus, this story always grabs my heart, but today it's rekindling awe. It's the night of your betrayal—the night you would be denied and abandoned, not just by Peter, but also by all of the disciples. You knew this, and yet you persisted in disrobing yourself, bending low, and washing the dirty feet of these beloved and weak men.

     The beauty and truth revealed in this scene is what keeps me sane—gospel-sane. It anchors me when I lose my moorings, centers me when I feel vulnerable, quiets me when I'm in restless mood, reels my heart in when I am in a wandering mode.

     This is how you love each of your followers, all of your disciples, your whole bride. You've made us your own at the price of your blood. We've been redeemed from sin and death, and placed into your righteousness and embrace. Absolutely nothing can separate us from your love.

     The only thing more certain than death and taxes is your love for us. You love us when we're seeking you and enjoying your presence; and you love us when we ignore you, throw pity-parties, and make foolish choices. Not that you're passive and indifferent, just the opposite—you're engaged and patient. Your love is not based on anything in us, but everything in you.

     Jesus, it's the last line in this little verse that really "does me in". As with the men in the upper room, so with those of us in any of a number of rooms right now: you're still committed to showing us the full extent of your love—its height, depth, width, and breadth. You love us to the end, and evermore.

     Though you died for a huge pan-national bride, I affirm, with the Apostle Paul, that you loved me and gave yourself for me (Gal. 2:20). This isn't narcissism, it was a necessity; it's not Western individualism, but gospel liberation. Hallelujah, many times over! So very Amen I pray in your truly astonishing name.



‘Barbaric’ sexual violence perpetrated in Iraq by militants – UN

'Barbaric' sexual violence perpetrated by Islamic State militants in Iraq – UN

13 August 2014 – Two senior United Nations officials today condemned in the strongest terms the "barbaric acts" of sexual violence and "savage rapes" the armed group Islamic State (IS) has perpetrated on minorities in areas under its control.
In a joint statement from Baghdad, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence (SRSG) in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov urged the immediate protection of civilians. "We are gravely concerned by continued reports of acts of violence, including sexual violence against women and teenage girls and boys belonging to Iraqi minorities," Ms. Bangura and Mr. Mladenov said. "Atrocious accounts of abduction and detention of Yazidi, Christian, as well as Turkomen and Shabak women, girls and boys, and reports of savage rapes, are reaching us in an alarming manner," Ms. Bangura and Mr. Mladenov stated, pointing out that some 1,500 Yazidi and Christian persons may have been forced into sexual slavery.The officials condemned, in the strongest terms, the explicit targeting of women and children and the barbaric acts IS has perpetrated on minorities. Acts of sexual violence are grave human rights violations that can be considered as war crimes and crimes against humanity, they warned.Mr. Mladenov called on regional Governments and the wider international community for the immediate release of the women and girls held in captivity and to support the Government of Iraq's efforts to protect its citizens. He pledged that his Office would closely monitor the situation to ensure accountability and advocate for support to the survivors of the "barbaric acts."Meanwhile, on the humanitarian front, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) today said it is supporting delivery of urgently needed services to tens of thousands of people still trapped on Sinjar Mountain.
"The humanitarian situation of the civilian population on Sinjar Mountain is alarming due to the narrow corridors for transporting essentials such as medicines, food and water, especially with the soaring temperatures which are reaching up to 111 degrees Fahrenheit (44 degrees Celsius)," said Dr Jaffar Hussain, WHO's Representative to Iraq.So far, WHO has deployed two mobile medical teams to Sinjar Mountain to provide essential services and distribute high-protein biscuits to people still stranded there. The two teams will be stationed there until the evacuation of all displaced people from the mountain. In the last several days, more than 60,000 have crossed the Feshkhabour border-point through Syria to enter back into Iraq at Dohuk. The threat of disease outbreaks in crowded shelters there is very present, Mr. Hussain warned. Plus, people suffering from noncommunicable diseases, like diabetes and cancer, need urgent care. Mothers still need to deliver babies, he added. Currently, ten mobile medical teams are in Dohuk to provide essential healthcare. All hospitals are on high alert and require space prepared to receive patients among the new families arriving. WHO has also recruited 50 nurses to support local teams.At the Iraqi-Syrian border point of Feshkhabour, 16 ambulances, two medical doctors and 10 paramedics are providing care. WHO, in conjunction with the Iraqi Ministry of Health and UNICEF, is undertaking a five-day polio vaccination campaign across the country, with the aim of immunizing 4 million children under the age of 5 years.WHO is also making contingency plans for the delivery of medical supplies into Iraq after several airlines cancelled or reduced flights into the country. Strategies being considered involve local procurement of medicines, and the use of the Mersin port in Turkey and Um Qasr Port in Basra, Iraq.


DIALOGUE / Asia: Zen-Christian Monastic Fraternity - BOSE Community

On the Tatami of Zen-Christian Monastic FraternityMatteo Nicolini-Zani
Brother Irénée (forefront) and Brother Matteo at zazen.
Brother Irénée (forefront) and Brother Matteo at zazen.

This is not a travel journal or a chronicle what I lived in Japan together with four other Christian monks and nuns from 17 September to 4 October 2011. It is only a chain of spiritual insights collected during our spiritual exchange with Zen monks, trainees and masters during our monastic stay in three Zen Buddhist monasteries.
Ichigo, ichie, "Every moment, an occasion". This is the first spiritual insight that touched my mind and my heart even before setting foot on Japanese soil. I met it for the first time written in the tourist guide that I read during the plane trip to Japan. This insight stayed with me through of our experience in Zen monasteries: I found it hanging on the walls of the places visited, I found it several times behind the words and the faces of people we talked to.
Everything is here, in the smallest portion of every thing, every experience, every time. And every moment is always new. Even our Christian faith and our Christian monastic tradition speak much about this and place great emphasis on attention, vigilance, care for every detail. The Bible and monastic literature speak of this in abundance. Let me cite just a few quotes: 
 Now is the favorable time, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2).
Abba Poimen said about abba Pior
that he was starting [to be a monk] every day.
(Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Alphabetical series, Poimen 85)
Abba Moses asked abba Silouan saying: "Can a man start every day?".
The elder answered him: "If he is industrious, he can even start every hour."
(Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Alphabetical series, Silouan 11)
An abba once said:
"A senior monk was asked, 'Abba, what are you doing here in the desert?'.
The abba replied: 'We fall and we rise, we fall and we rise,
we fall again and still we rise!'"
(Anonymous saying of the Desert Fathers)
This rediscovery of the importance of keeping a "beginner's mind" is the most important gift I carry with me on my return home. The words of some rōshi have expressed these same insights.
I have been touched by the words of one of them, because for the first time I heard about happiness from a Buddhist master: "My way of being happy, of enjoying life, is to take care of this moment, of every moment" (Oba rōshi). Buddhist monks and Christian monks are both in search of happiness and both seek happiness in the fight against the ego and in the quest for unity: the word "monk" literally means "one", "unified", "one who has only one goal". The abbot of the monastery of Manju-ji, saying that he saw the happiness on our faces, summed up the monastic life in the pursuit of happiness: sanmon shifuku, "the gate of the monastery leads to the greatest happiness". We can say the same after seeing many serene faces during those days. To recognize that we can stimulate each other in our journey to happiness by seeking inner unification was a great gift to us all.
Two things have made me live this intuition in a very concrete and at the same time very deep manner. I will tell briefly how these two things have enriched my Christian monastic life.
First, zazen. One of our group of five Christian monastics once put a witty question to a rōshi: "Buddha taught freedom of suffering, so why should I suffer such a terrible pain when practicing zazen?". The answer was enlightening for my understanding: "If your legs hurt, zazen becomes practice. When you sit and get pain you really see who you are".
Through the hard everyday practice of zazen I learned the importance of having our body and breathing aligned with our mind. In this way I can now better understand the Biblical passage that says that our "body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 6:19), the place where God dwells. I understood that zazen helps me to keep in the right direction. It helps me to be attentive to what I am doing, to be firm in my spiritual focus. Certainly it helps me welcome what I receive from God, be open and ready for receiving his Word again and again. The Rule of St Benedict begins with the words "Listen, open the ear of your heart" (RB Prologue). I understood how zazen can be a very useful tool for opening the "ear of my heart" and of my mind. For this reason I am convinced that it is able to deepen my Christian prayer.
Second, rules or discipline. While living in a Zen dōjō for a few days I realized that the schedule is arranged strictly and I therefore came to know that "whatsoever kind of monastic life you are living, no minute should be wasted", as I heard from a rōshi. That is the best, the most practical way to stop living according to the ego and to develop a new attitude according to the common rules. "The more rules you have in the monastery, the deeper and more interesting can monastic life become!", the same rōshi told us in a provoking tone. Because I know that the same rōshi has spent many years in putting the rules into practice and because I saw his peaceful face as a result of this hard and long practice I will consider it as a precious advice for my Christian monastic practice.
I similarly view the practice of sanzen, in which the rōshi checks the state of mind and the spiritual progress of the practitioners. We have a similar practice in Christian monasticism, which is called "opening of the heart" to a spiritual father. While seeing the Zen monks assiduously leaving their cushions for sanzen, the importance of the spiritual discernment through a personal sharing with a master who is able to transmit the true teaching through words and, even more, without them, was confirmed for me.
I would like to conclude by quoting a last few words that we heard from a rōshi: "The teaching of each particular religion has its own understanding of things. Each religion is complete in itself, but each religion has to face and examine the same state of mind. If we do not continue deepening our own religious experience - particularly a true and powerful practice of zazen and a true and powerful practice of prayer -, the dialogue has no future" (Harada rōshi). I was personally convinced of that already before this exchange, but this exchange led me to be more deeply aware of it. For me this is also the true purpose of interreligious dialogue: through dialogue we can deepen our spiritual life and our monastic practice.
Through this exchange I became more aware of what a rōshi called "parallelism" as another form of interreligious dialogue (besides inclusivism, exclusivism, and pluralism), a form that a spiritual exchange such as the one we lived explores and performs: we maintain our own religious experience, but we try to learn as much as we can from another religious tradition. I realized this not on the basis of theoretical investigation, but in a very practical way, the only way in which a true encounter takes place: sitting for a while - a few but intense and unforgettable days - on the same human ground, being welcomed for a time in the spiritual house of the other, sharing the same tatami of monastic fraternity.
As a farewell gift from the abbot of the Rinzai Zen monastery of Manjuji I received a piece of calligraphy by the abbot himself. The word written on it is kizuna, which means "a tie, a connection". This spiritual fraternal link is indeed what I experienced in those days of shared life with our Zen fellow practitioners, they and we both in search of the way of liberation from the enslaving ties of a self-centred life and longing for a deeper, mutual "liberating tie" whose name is fraternity.