Friday, January 31, 2014

Police arrest two in theft of Blessed John Paul II relic

Less than a week after a relic of Blessed John Paul II disappeared from a country chapel east of Rome, Italian police arrested two men for the theft, but the venerated piece of fabric stained with the late Pope’s blood was still missing.

Italian media reported earlier today that police had found an empty iron reliquary, along with a stolen cross, buried on the grounds of a drug treatment facility in the city of L’Aquila, about 75 miles east of Rome.

Two men in their early 20s, who were being questioned in connection with another crime, confessed they had stolen the objects and then revealed their location to police.

But the men said they had discarded the relic itself – reportedly a piece of the clothing Blessed John Paul was wearing when he was shot May 13, 1981 – by throwing it into some bushes near the facility. 

Members of Italy’s specialized scientific police were searching the grounds.

The relic and the cross were first reported missing from the church of San Pietro della Ienca over the weekend of January 25-26. 

The church, where Blessed John Paul often prayed, is located 13 miles north of L’Aquila, in the mountainous Abruzzo region where the late pope frequently went on brief vacations.

Mar Sako, a year as Patriarch: unity, dialogue and mission, the challenges of the Chaldean Church

"Our Chaldean Church in Iraq and the world has gone through difficult and critical circumstances" such as the massive emigration, lack of unity, the revision of the liturgy, fragmentation and isolation. Now is the time to turn to prayer " to see things in perspective of the Gospel" to walk "with honesty and trust in the Lord's Light and His enlightenment" writes Mar Louis Raphael I Sako in a pastoral letter addressed to the bishops, priests, nuns and faithful on the occasion of the first anniversary of his election as Chaldean Patriarch, which took place January 31, 2013 during the Synod in Rome. 

The former archbishop of Kirkuk succeeded His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, who resigned for reasons of age, and from the outset has placed the focus on the major challenges of the Chaldean Church: the exodus of the faithful , interreligious dialogue with Muslims and the rebirth of the communities of the East , the first protagonists of evangelization in Asia.

His Beatitude turn his thoughts to the Christians in Iraq and "the brothers in Syria and Lebanon," who "live today [in situations of] fear and instability, migration, and political and economic fragility" and to whom he expresses "sympathy, closeness and prayer". 

To them, but especially to the Chaldean community, Mar Sako renews his call to "revive" their original charism: "Gift of martyrdom during persecution, and steadfast in faith; gift of monastic life to live radically the Gospel, and gift of evangelizing, preaching and enculturation". "Our Church - he added - is invited to rebuild what was destroyed and distorted, gather the scattered, and brings back the immigrants".

In his pastoral letter to His Beatitude reiterates on several occasions the value of unity and communion, which will "free us from our divisions, internal and external " and "take us out from shutting on ourselves due to personal, sectarian and geographic reasons". 

"Unity is the only hope - he continues - for our future". And at the same time he emphasizes the values ​​of " love, charity, loyalty and sacrifice". 

The patriarch reaches out to all "Christian brothers and sisters" with feelings of "peace , love and respect " and thanks God for the gift of the Chaldean Church , in recent days, in fact , the community celebrated the consecration of three new bishops a sign of consolation , strength and hope" at a "critical" moment.

Mar Sako again emphasizes the role of lay men and women who enjoy the same dignity as "sons of God" and "equal rights" within the Church. They are "partners, not mere spectators" and "encourage them to participate in the life of the Church and public life, a real and effective participation". 

The Patriarch speaks of "great expectations" in view of the elections at the end of April 2014, and invites the Christian community to participate in order to become an active protagonist in the history and life of the nation.
Finally , His Beatitude also appeals for unity among the various churches, especially Eastern ones, which must look to the Pope with renewed confidence . And there is a reference to relations with the Muslim-majority in Iraq, renewing the commitment to a dialogue based on "mutual respect" as a basis "for peace and cooperation." He hopes that the Church will find a "new methodology" and a new " theological language", above all respecting the absolute value of "religious freedom".  

The Patriarch particularly appeals to the "voices of moderate Islam" to promote a "peaceful coexistence" and reject "violence against Christians".
Born on 4 July 1948 in Zakho, northern Iraq, Patriarch Sako was ordained priest on 1 June 1974. On several occasions, the archbishop of Kirkuk denounced the exodus of Christians, whose numbers have been more than halved, appealing to Church officials and local political leaders as well as the international community to ensure that Christians have a future in their native land.

In recognition for his work, the prelate received the Defensor Fidei award in 2008; two years later, he was given the Pax Christi international award.

Kirill and Patriarch of Antioch, a joint call for "peace and integrity" in Syria

The Moscow Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch have launched a joint appeal for peace and independence of Syria. 

"The two churches believe that only through open and honest dialogue true peace its independence and territorial integrity be guaranteed in Syria , and equal rights and opportunities for its citizens ensured," reads the statement issued on 30 January, at the end of Patriarch John X Yazigi's visit to Moscow.

According to the two religious leaders, it is important to support the process initiated in Geneva and at the same time hope that " that all the political problems in Lebanon, Iraq and all the countries in the Middle East will be dealt with in a spirit of peace that rejects violence and all types of pressure that may come from extremist positions or terrorist acts". 

The statement also stresses the need to take measures to ensure the immediate release of all the hostages from Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi ( of the Orthodox Church of Antioch ) and Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Youhanna Ibrahim ( of the Syrian Orthodox Church ) - abducted in April - as well as nuns , priests and orphans of the Convent of Maalula.

"The Churches of Antioch and Russia both have an experience of co-existence with Islam - conclude the two Patriarchs - We reject any type of extremism and hate speech. We appeal to Christians and Muslims to work together for the benefit of their homelands."
The visits of religious leaders of the Eastern Churches in Russia are almost a daily occurrence now and show - according to some analysts - the growing attention of those Christian communities towards Moscow, increasingly seen as a point of reference and new champion of their defense against the threat of Islamic extremism. 

Kirill is giving a more "global" aspect to the Russian Orthodox Church than his predecessor Aleksy II and aims to carve out a leading role internationally. 

According to the director of the Radio Kommersant Konstantin von Eggert, who is also a commentator on religious matters, the battle for the defense of Christians is "also an opportunity for the Moscow Patriarchate to remember that not only it is the most numerous among the autocephalous churches, but that is ready to use its special ties with the Kremlin for defending the community worldwide".

Boy fainted regularly from hunger, NI abuse inquiry hears

Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry heard today from a witness who was in home in Derry run by   Sisters of Nazareth nunsA boy looked after by Sisters of Nazareth nuns at a home in Derry used to faint regularly during morning Mass because of hunger.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry heard the boy, who has been giving testimony in person, was woken some time after 6am daily to serve at morning Mass. 

But he often passed out because he said he was always hungry.

The inquiry, which is investigating treatment of children at care homes across Northern Ireland before 1995, heard the witness confirm that while some nuns were pleasant, another was “a hateful bitch”.

She had “a built-in anger and hatred,” the witness told inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart. 

“You could have no relationship whatsoever with her. You could say she was under pressure, but she really didn’t have to be because the boys were doing a good job in running the place and she should have had the life of Riley.”

He confirmed his statement, given earlier to the inquiry team, in which he referred to this nun as “a bully and very contolling”.

“She was the sort of person who made you feel like you were always doing something wrong and you were a problem. There was no love in her at all.”

The witness told the inquiry that he had been placed in the home at Termonbacca in Derry when he was an infant. His earliest years were happy enough, he said. 

But when he was older he was moved from the nursery to another dormitory where the older boys “had a playing field,” he alleged.

At night the senior boys would walk up and down between the beds and batter us on the legs.

“I just lay there silent out of fear,” he told the inquiry. He said boys were called out by the senior boy and “used for his entertainment”.

He said he didn’t want to elaborate on that – “it doesn’t leave much to the imagination”. 

He alleged that the nuns never checked on the boys on the beds and she must have heard the names being called out but did nothing.

He told of an occasion when he was called to the laundry and saw his friend there who had been stripped naked. He was also made to strip naked. 

“We were touched sexually but we were not made to touch them sexually the abuse never went further than that.”

New law to permit adoption by same-sex civil partners

The general scheme of the Children and Family Relationships Bill has been published by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. New legislation will allow for the adoption of children by same-sex civil partners for the first time.

The general scheme of the Children and Family Relationships Bill was published today by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. 

The proposals seek to update family law to take account of the growing complexity and diversity of modern families.

Existing laws dating from the 1950s state that only married couples or sole applicants can seek to adopt a child. New laws would extend the right to apply to adopt to same-sex civil partners. 

Other proposals include measures to:

* Extend automatic guardianship to unmarried fathers who cohabit for a specified period with the child’s mother;

* Allow civil partners, step-parents, those cohabiting with the biological or adoptive parent to apply for guardianship or custody of a child;

* Ban commercial surrogacy, but permit altruistic surrogacy, as is the case in countries such as the UK, Australia and Canada;

* New penalties to ensure parental compliance with access orders. These options - which include compensatory time - are designed to more onerous if a parent persistently refuses to comply with court orders;

* Reform child maintenance laws so the courts treat all children equally irrespective of the circumstances relating to their conception and birth when making child support orders;

* Encourage the use of mediation to resolve disputes relating to children between estranged parents;

In a statement, Mr Shatter said there was urgent need to modernise family law to cater to cater to the needs of diverse family types.

The draft Bill seeks to provide legal clarity for all families in terms of their parental rights and responsibilities, with a central focus on what is in the best interests of the child, he said.

“Legislation in this area cannot be a one-size-fit- all solution but must, in a creative and pragmatic way, reflect the needs of families and children in 21st century Ireland,” he said.

Mr Shatter said because the issues were complex and sensitive, it was important that the public and various interest groups had a chance to be consulted before the legislation goes before the Oireachtas.

He has requested that the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality - in conjunction with members of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children - undertake a consultation process on his proposals for the Bill.

He has requested the committee to complete any observations it may have before Easter.

* The Department of Justice has published a policy background paper on the new Bill, along with the general scheme of the proposed legislation.

Abuse case has ’very profound’ implications for patronagte system of schools - Tánaiste!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_300_160/image.jpgThe implications of the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the Louise O’Keeffe abuse case are “very profound”, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has told the Dáil.

He joined the Taoiseach in apologising for the treatment of Ms O’Keeffe, whose legal fight took 15 years, and he put the apology on the record of the House.

He told Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who called for an apology for every school victim of abuse, that the judgment had “very profound implications for the patronage system of schools and for the relationship now between the State and patrons of schools”.

‘Horrendous experience’

He said: “I admire Louise O’Keeffe and I join with the Taoiseach in apologising to her for what happened in that school and for the horrendous experience she had to go through.”

The European Court of Human Rights judgment overturned a Supreme Court ruling that the State was not responsible for the sexual abuse she suffered as a national school student in Cork.

Ms McDonald had welcomed the Taoiseach’s apology to Ms O’Keeffe, which he made at the formal launch of the Child and Family Agency. 

But he said, “given the enormity of the wrong done to this woman and to others, those words of apology should have been uttered in this chamber”.

‘Threatening letters’

Ms McDonald said she understood that 135 other adults brought similar cases but, after the Supreme Court judgment in 2008, the other litigants “received threatening letters telling them they would face legal costs unless they dropped their cases”.

She said Mr Gilmore’s Government argued the case against Ms O’Keeffe just a year ago, even though he was referring to the issue of child abuse as a “historical issue”.

She said there was an established pattern that the State and Government “close ranks and try to shut down any call for justice from people like Louise O’Keeffe”.

Mr Gilmore said however, that the Supreme Court handed down a judgment, before this Government came into office and that was the legal position at the time, he said.

They had a system of schools operating under patronage and the Supreme Court judgment accepted that system and therefore that ultimate liability did not rest with the State, he added.

Faster than a speeding bullet, ‘decorum police’ take ‘Super Pope’ down

before afterLike a comic book showdown, Rome’s “decorum squad” took down the city’s latest hero when they scraped off and painted over the “Super Pope” street art very early this morning.

It marked a new city record given the piece went up Monday night and most illegal urban “decorations” are ignored for years. 

The artist, Mauro Pallotta, said he saw the censure coming. He told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that “city decorum” officials had been circling “dangerously close” to his piece on Wednesday.

“But the people’s reaction stopped them. There was a small revolution. They left, but they’ll be back,” he said. 

And right he was.

Pallotta said he draws and paints his “ecological” and removable street art onto paper that he then glues with a water-based adhesive to walls around his historic neighborhood of “the Borgo” — a series of small streets and low buildings near the Vatican.

While city painters scraped off his papered depiction of “Super Pope” and rolled on a fresh coat of paint, they didn’t bother with the street tagging on the rest of the wall or the graffiti plastered throughout the area.

Pallotta said he got the idea to draw the pope as superman when he was leafing through a superhero comic book while watching TV. 

A news story came on about Pope Francis and “It blew my mind like a short circuit: ‘Hey, the pope IS a superhero!’”
“The superpowers which I gave him represent the enormous power at his disposal, which he uses — the only world leader — to do good. He’s the only one who does what he says.”

Pope passes news photographers as he arrives to lead general audience in St. Peter's Square at VaticanHowever, Pope Francis would disagree with being equated with a superhero.

When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Bergoglio  told the story of the dangers of trying to play “Tarzan” and boastfully thinking one person alone can save the world.

He says in the book, “Pope Francis: His Life in His Own Words,” that when he was vicar general of the archdiocese, he brushed off a visitor looking to confess because he had a busy day ahead of him and needed to catch a train.
“I had an attitude of superiority, put another way, I was sinning…I was saying to myself, ‘Look how good I am, how great I am, how many things I can do.’ Pride affected my attitude,” the future pope said.
He said he since learned to “travel in patience” and realized that of all the things that need doing at work and in the world, it’s God who will always “sort out the story!”
“So often in life we ought to slow down and not try to fix everything at once! To travel in patience means: giving up the presumption of wanting to solve everything. You have to make an effort, but understand that one person cannot do everything.”
As he’s said elsewhere, you don’t need to be a superhero to be a saint; you just need to stick close to God.

Row in Seanad over RTÉ ‘compensation’ to Iona Institute

A row over how much licence fee money RTÉ paid in “financial compensation” to people associated with a Catholic thinktank erupted in the Seanad.
Fianna Fáil senator Averil Power demanded Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte come to the upper house to reveal the amount the State broadcaster gave to figures connected to the Iona Institute after an appearance on a chat show by performer Rory O’Neill, who also has the drag queen persona Panti Bliss.

Ms Power said the minister needed to explain to senators “recent revelations that RTÉ paid financial compensation to individuals associated to the Iona Institute in response to complaints about Rory O’Neill’s interview on the Saturday Night Show”.

Mr O’Neill’s appearance was later censored from the RTÉ player, though the performer insists he said nothing offensive in a discussion regarding homophobia.

Ms Power asked if RTÉ had considered other approaches to the controversy rather than a payout.

“Were other remedies offered to the organisation, such as a right to reply, and were those more appropriate remedies, in my view, refused by that organisation? Did RTÉ give any serious consideration to arguing the honest opinion defence in any threatened defamation action?

“The minister should outline to the house if he believes RTÉ acted appropriately, given its responsibility as a public service broadcaster to ensure balanced debate on issues of public importance.

“RTÉ has a responsibility to ensure that all voices are heard, not just those with the deepest pockets.

“I think that the revelations in the media over the last few days about this financial payment sets a dangerous precedent ahead of the referendum on marriage equality that has been promised by the Government.”

Fianna Fáil’s Jim Walsh defended the Iona Institute, stating it reflected the views of many people in Ireland.

Fundamentalist Christian protesters finally make voice heard outside Bible play in Newtownabbey didn't make the opening performance, but 70 fundamentalist Christian protesters made their voices heard at the second sold-out night of the controversial play The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged).

Members of the Free Presbyterian Church sang hymns and passed out leaflets at the entrance of the Theatre At The Mill in Newtownabbey last night as theatre-goers made their way to the play.

The group assembled at around 7pm before being led by a banner to the theatre's entrance.
The protesters, led by Rev Brian McClung of the Newtownabbey Free Presbyterian Church, handed over a letter of protest to Newtownabbey Borough Council.

On Wednesday, the first night of the two-night sold-out show, not a single protester was present.

Last night the group explained this was because the play clashed with their weekly church meeting.

The play performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company was thrust into the spotlight when members of the council's artistic board pulled it because of complaints from the DUP.

Following an outcry, the board then decided to put the play back on, a decision which was ratified by the full council.

Rev McClung described it as "perverse human nature" that the play had sold so many tickets since opposition was raised.

He said: "Primarily we are here tonight to stand up for the honour of God's word. We believe this play mocks the word of God.

"We are offended because people are mocking the scriptures and we are here to show our offense. Supposedly the council and society is to have regard for minorities, but they don't seem to have much regard for evangelical Christians when it comes to things like this."

Police maintained a small presence but left before the play began.

Audience member Glenn Mayes said it would have set a dangerous precedent if the DUP had been allowed to tell the public what they could and couldn't watch.

"If I want to come see it, I'll come see it," he said.

"Where that type of censorship stops I don't know, so I'm glad they put it back on and I hope that's the end of it, because anything can be found offensive."
Husband and wife Steve and Jill Laird admitted that they wouldn't have known about the play were it not for the row.
"They are entitled to protest if they want to," Steve said.
"I think they are entirely wrong and it's an indictment on our society in Northern Ireland that people take things so seriously and get offended so easily."
"We can do what we want. No one should be telling us that," Jill added.
Protester Norman Davidson said that by mocking the Lord and the Bible the play had opened the door for more anti-Christian groups to come into Northern Ireland and mock God as they please.
"I hope it will make people think about the direction that this country is heading without God," he said.
"It needs a God in this society to cure all the ills that we see now, such as anti-social behaviour on the streets, drugs and alcohol."

Nuns did nothing to stop our abuse by older boys in home, victim tells inquiry
A former resident of a Church-run children's home has told an inquiry how he was sexually abused by older boys while he slept. 

He told the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry that St Joseph's childre's home in Termonbacca, Co Londonderry, was "run on starvation".

The man was handed over to a priest at St Joseph's by his mother when he was a child and lived at the home in the 1950s and 1960s.

He told the inquiry which is investigating abuse claims against children's residential institutions from 1922 to 1995 that responsibility for the younger boys was given over to the older boys by the nuns. 

The witness described how the older boys would call out the names of children at night, before having them stripped and sexually abusing them "for their own entertainment".

He also said that he was battered with a brush while he slept and on many occasions pretended to be asleep to try and avoid the abuse.

The children's home and Nazareth House, also in Derry, were run by the Sisters of Nazareth.

The witness said he believed the nuns at the home must have heard the children's names being called, but he claimed that they never checked on what was happening.

As well as being abused by the older boys at night, he recalled how he was also attacked by a group of them in a laundry room.

He also alleged that one of the nuns at the home made him kneel for hours until the blood stopped flowing to his knees, referring to her as "evil and hateful".

The former resident told the inquiry he was constantly hungry, recalling how he fainted during Mass.

The inquiry has already heard from other former residents of the Sisters of Nazareth homes who told of lying in bed soaked in urine in an effort to discourage sexual predators, suffering public humiliation by being made to carry soiled sheets draped over them for wetting the bed, and being beaten for not working hard or fast enough.

Another said he did not have a childhood and never played football or enjoyed any other normal pursuits.

Death from hunger is unacceptable, says Dutch Jesuit in Homs

Destruction in SyriaWe refuse to die of hunger in Homs. We Christians and Muslims love life and want to live. 

This was the appeal Fr. Frans van der Lugt sent via YouTube. 

The Dutch Jesuit has been living in Syria for decades and is the only European left in the besieged city. 

Frans van der Lugt who has lived in Syria for decades and is the only European left in the besieged city, has posted a video message on YouTube saying: “We love life and want to live Activists in the Bustan ad Diwan area of Homs shared the video posted on YouTube by Fr. Frans in recent days. 

The video shows Fr. Francis as he is also known, speaking from what seems to be a church altar: “I am here to talk to you about the old city of Homs which has been under siege” for one year and seven months now."

“I represent the local Christian communities,” the priest said referring to the 70 or so Christians that remain in Syria’s third major city. Homs supports the revolt and has suffered huge destruction under the country’s repressive regime.
“Christians and Muslims are going through a difficult and painful time and we are faced with many problems. The greatest of these is hunger,” Fr. Frans states. “People have nothing to eat. There is nothing more painful than watching mothers searching for food for their children in the streets.”
Medical treatment is another big problem, the Jesuit leader goes on to say. “There are so many people here that need operations and or specialist medical treatment but have to wait a long time, and are forced to go through immense suffering.”
At one point, the person filming Fr. Frans asks him: “Do you think the international community will do something while we die of hunger here? Or will it stay silent?” 

Fr. Frans responds: “Given these conditions it is impossible for the international community and us not to do something together.” “I will not accept that we die of hunger. I do not accept that we drown in the sea of hunger, letting the waves of death drag us under,” the Jesuit goes on to say. 

“We love life, we want to live. And we do not want to sink in a sea of pain and suffering,” he said, concluding his message.

St Vincent de Paul Society recognised by Cameron

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A leading Catholic charity this week named for the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award has reported a marked increase in demand for its services.

David Cameron described the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), which helps the poor and disadvantaged through visits and practical assistance, as being able to “turn concern into action.” 

He also praised the large number of volunteers that society has, which currently stands at around 10,000.

Last year the SVP made 500,000 visits to 90,000 people, including the elderly, homeless and refugees. The visits are undertaken regardless of the individual’s religion.

The SVP works through 1,000 local groups across the country and along with visit provides debt advice and runs over 40 shops in disadvantaged areas.

A spokeswoman said the charity had seen a 69 per cent rise in take-up for its debt advice last year while there had been a “marked increase” in demand for its soup runs.

She also said the society had noted an increase in referrals made by social service agencies and other charitable groups to local SVP groups.

This year the SVP has already distributed 7,000 “Vinnie packs” to help rough sleepers cope with cold weather conditions including hats, gloves and thermal blankets this winter. The Big Society award is a weekly award set up by the Prime Minister in November 2010 recognising individuals or groups for outstanding work in the community.

El Salvador names airport and presidential hall after Romero

El Salvadorean President Mauricio Funes has announced that the country’s main international airport is to be renamed after Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered by a military death squad in 1980.

Mr Funes also praised Romero, the former archbishop of San Salvador, as “the most faithful and palpable representation of the relentless fight for the rights of the most vulnerable, unprotected and those who have no voice”.

Mr Funes said he would change the law to rename the airport “Aeropuerto Internacional Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero". 

The Hall of Honour in the Presidential Mansion will also be named after him.

The archbishop, an outspoken critic of the junta’s human rights abuses, was shot dead he celebrated Mass on 24 March 1980 as the Central American state descended into civil war.

Speaking on 16 January – the twenty-second anniversary of the signing of peace accords to end the conflict – Funes said he expects the changes to be ratified before the completion of his five-year presidency this year.

When Funes came to power on 1 June 2009, he stated Romero was the spiritual guide of the nation, which was still deeply divided over Romero.

Julian Filochowski, a former director of the Catholic charity Cafod, told Independent Catholic News earlier this month that Romero’s cause would be fast-tracked by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of the Saints so he could be beatified by the centenary of his birth in 2017.