Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trump’s decree against seven Islamic countries is not in favor of Christians

http://www.asianews.it/files/img/No-muslim-ban.jpgThe decree signed by President Donald Trump to block entry to the US travelers to seven countries with an Islamic majority is not in favor of Christians. 

On the contrary, it further incites the idea of ​​a "Western war on Islam" and threatens to unleash vengeance on Christians in the Middle East.
Trump motivated the freezing of visas for 90 days to those coming from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Sudan, as an operation to "protect" the United States from Islamic terrorists and somehow also to protect "Christians" . 

To find support in his constituency, justifying his choice, he tweeted that "many Christians have died in the Middle East. We cannot allow this terror to continue. "

It must be said that Trump’s order, in sec. 5) admits that one can make exceptions for "individuals" of "religious minorities" who "suffer religious persecution in their country", without specifying the type of religion. But in general the popular version is that there is a closure of US borders only to "Muslims." It would appear that the Christians of the seven countries "banned" are permitted to reach the United States, although some Christian families of Syrian refugees have been unable to enter.

The first to lash out at the US measures was Louis Sako, the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad. He pointed out that discrimination of refugees on the basis of religion shames the Christians in the Middle East and could provoke further violence against them, as they are already regarded as a minority "protected"  by the Western powers.

Fr. Georges Massouh, of the Islamic-Christian Center at Balamand University, points out that facilities for Christians "do not help" the community of the faithful of the Middle East.
"The decision - he told the Orient-Le Jour – has a very racist thread that will exacerbate hatred and extremism. And it is the people of the region, including Christians, who will pay the price ... We must stop exploiting the minority dossier. " The reference is to the powers of France, Britain, Russia, etc .. who have led their plans for domination in the Middle East against the Ottoman Empire with the excuse of defending Christian minorities, Druze, Orthodox, Jewish, etc ...

From this point of view, Donald Trump seems to pursue the same policy of his predecessors. In 2001, after the attack on the Twin Towers, George W. Bush decided to attack Afghanistan (although the majority of the kamikazes who flew the planes against Towers were Saudis) and called this operation a "crusade". 

The immediate result was a series of attacks against Christians in the Middle East and Pakistan. Even Barack Obama, with his strange defense of democracy in the Middle East, after the Arab spring lent his support to the Muslim Brothers in Egypt who felt free to attack churches and Christians throughout the country (in addition to the multiple attacks in Iraq ).

The continuity between the Republican and Democratic presidents is in fomenting and supporting a war between the West (American) and the Islamic world, without any care for the extremist terrorism that then takes vengeance on Christians.

From this point of view, the wisest voice seems to be that of the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who pointed out that Trump’s decision "is a great gift to the extremists".

Opponent of women's ordination appointed as bishop of Sheffield

Image result for Bishop Philip NorthThe Church of England has appointed as the new bishop of Sheffield a clergyman who opposes the ordination of women.

Philip North, from the traditionalist Anglo-Catholic wing of the C of E, is being promoted from his position as bishop of Burnley, where he has championed people who are economically and socially marginalised.

His opposition to women priests prompted criticism of the appointment. Emma Percy, the chairperson of Watch (Women and the Church), acknowledged North’s strengths in urban ministry and with youth, but added: “We are aware of the sadness felt by many in Sheffield that they will now have a diocesan bishop who will not ordain women. Sheffield is a diocese with a large number of women clergy and we sincerely hope that the new bishop will promote a culture in which ordained women will feel validated and encouraged to flourish.”

In 2012, North accepted the post of bishop of Whitby but two months later stepped aside after protests over his opposition to women in the ministry.

He has been a member of the Company of Mission Priests for the past 20 years. Many of its members joined the Roman Catholic church after the C of E permitted the ordination of women. 

The organisation of male Anglican clergy pledges to remain unmarried and to live a simple life. 

In a statement about his appointment, North said he looked forward “to finding ways of strengthening our ministry to the poor and the vulnerable and to the young. In a diverse diocese, I am wholly committed to being a bishop for everyone and will work to ensure that priests and parishes of all traditions can flourish and find delight in serving God and his people.”

In December, North lambasted the C of E for adopting a “middle-class culture” and failing to listen to the marginalised working-class voices behind the vote for Brexit. He accused the church of allowing its agenda to be “set not by the poor but by academics, the moneyed elites and certain sections of the secular media”.

The C of E has ordained women since 1994, and appointed its first female bishop in December 2015. There are now 10 female bishops out of a total of 115, two of whom are the more senior diocesan bishops.

The issue of women’s ordination has been deeply divisive within the church. 

In 2013, the church’s ruling body, the synod, adopted five principles on the consecration of women as bishops, which included a commitment that the church would enable those opposed to the move on theological grounds “to flourish within its life and structures”.

Percy said: “We have concerns that the current appointment system makes it harder for women to be appointed as diocesan bishops. We hope that as the church seeks to live out the five guiding principles the importance of women flourishing in the church may be taken as seriously as that of the minority who remain opposed to their ordination.”

Last week, C of E bishops upheld traditional teaching that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman, after two years of internal discussions about Christians in same-sex relationships and gay marriage. 

Campaigners for gay rights within the church said they felt betrayed by the bishops’ report, although it was welcomed by conservative evangelicals.

Priest tells anti-Trump protesters to commit suicide

The pastor of a largely immigrant Catholic church in Queens has a suggestion for his anti-Trump parishioners: Go take a flying leap off the nearest building.

“Show your hate for Trump. Do it for social justice. #JumpAgainstTrump,” read a meme posted by the Rev. Philip Pizzo just hours after he celebrated Sunday Mass.

The message included an illustration of a man plummeting from a skyscraper.

The conservative priest, who oversees St. Benedict Joseph Labre Roman Catholic Church in Richmond Hill, previously posted a photo of President Obama with the words “He’s not my president’’ and another snapshot of Hillary Clinton titled “Ugly Face’’ in Italian along with “Happy Halloween.’’

Pizzo, 67, told The Post on Monday that he just thought the “Jump Against Trump’’ meme was “funny.”

“I do not promote suicide,’’ Pizzo insisted. “I’ve helped many people over the years, and it does not promote suicide. It was funny.”

But some parishioners were outraged.

“Suicide is not funny, plain and simple,” said Carlos Coburn, a congregant who once sought counseling from Pizzo because he was struggling with thoughts about killing himself.

Coburn said he has attended the church for 20 years but will start worshiping elsewhere, given the controversial posting.

“It’s disturbing for someone in my situation,’’ Coburn said. “I know this man, he baptized me, and I don’t want to go back to his church.”

Another parishioner said Pizzo “normally posts about supporting Trump, but this was just taking it too far.’’

Alex Leston, who attended services at St. Benedict until three years ago — when Pizzo axed funding for a youth program he worked on — said he too was “appalled” by the meme.

The priest’s social-media politicking is particularly troubling given the area’s large Hispanic immigrant population, according to Leston, who feels that the tone-deaf post shows how disconnected Pizzo is from his parishioners.

“The parish he is supposed to be serving is mainly Latin American and Caribbean,” he said. “It’s not a good look for him.”

A rep for the Diocese of Brooklyn said the post does not reflect the church’s stance and has been removed.

“Father Pizzo did share the meme in question on his personal Facebook page,” said diocese spokesman Vito Formica.

“He says he intended it as satire only, regrets the offense it has caused and has deleted it. This post does not, in any way, represent the view of the church.”

On the day of President Trump’s inauguration, Pope Francis urged the new leader of the free world to uphold “the advancement of human dignity.”

“At a time when our human family is beset by grave humanitarian crises demanding far-sighted and united political responses, I pray that our decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people,’’ the pontiff said.

Curtains set alight in Catholic church in Belfast

Suspected arson at Belfast Catholic Church leaves parishioners ‘deeply upset' A Catholic Bishop has condemned an arson attack on a church in north Belfast which has left the congregation "distressed and deeply upset". 

The PSNI said someone set fire to a set of 25ft-long velvet curtains worth £10,000 at St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street between 4.30pm and 5.30pm yesterday. 

The Fire and Rescue Service received a call shortly after 5pm and one appliance was dispatched to the scene.

The church has been a parades flashpoint in recent years, including in 2015 when a loyalist flute band was accused of playing a sectarian song outside the building. 

The year before, there was minor trouble as a Twelfth parade passed.

The Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, described the clergy who serve the parish as "deeply shocked and appalled" by the attack. 

"This criminal action is a violation of the sanctity of the church and an attack upon the local community that has caused significant damage to the property and left the local congregation distressed and deeply upset.

"Places of worship hold deep significance for the entire community and for their congregations and they should not be targeted," he said.

The Bishop praised the many people who have offered messages of support to the clergy and said it demonstrates that the repercussions are felt by all in the community.

Jesus mingled with people, pope

 (foto: EPA)Pope Francis on Tuesday said Jesus was "always in the middle" of a crowd, "without a security detail", "not because he was looking for popularity" but rather to be close to the people, during a homily at the Santa Marta residence where he lives in the Vatican.

"Jesus looks at each one of us ... watching our big problems, our big joys, as well as the little things, because he is close", he "is not afraid of big things but also takes into account small ones", the pontiff also said in the homily, parts of which were broadcast by Vatican Radio.

Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus

V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.
V. God the Father of Heaven
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Holy Ghost,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Holy Trinity, one God,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, Son of the living God, R. Have mercy on us.
Jesus, splendor of the Father, [etc.]
Jesus, brightness of eternal light.
Jesus, King of glory.
Jesus, sun of justice.
Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus, most amiable.
Jesus, most admirable.
Jesus, the mighty God.
Jesus, Father of the world to come.
Jesus, angel of great counsel.
Jesus, most powerful.
Jesus, most patient.
Jesus, most obedient.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
Jesus, lover of chastity.
Jesus, lover of us.
Jesus, God of peace.
Jesus, author of life.
Jesus, example of virtues.
Jesus, zealous lover of souls.
Jesus, our God.
Jesus, our refuge.
Jesus, father of the poor.
Jesus, treasure of the faithful.
Jesus, good Shepherd.
Jesus, true light.
Jesus, eternal wisdom.
Jesus, infinite goodness.
Jesus, our way and our life.
Jesus, joy of Angels.
Jesus, King of the Patriarchs.
Jesus, Master of the Apostles.
Jesus, teacher of the Evangelists.
Jesus, strength of Martyrs.
Jesus, light of Confessors.
Jesus, purity of Virgins.
Jesus, crown of all Saints.

V. Be merciful unto us, R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Be merciful unto us, R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.

V. From all evil, R. deliver us, O Jesus.
From all sin, deliver us, O Jesus.
From Thy wrath, [etc.]
From the snares of the devil.
From the spirit of uncleanness.
From everlasting death.
From the neglect of Thine inspirations.
Through the mystery of Thy holy Incarnation.
Through Thy Nativity.
Through Thy Infancy.
Through Thy most divine Life.
Through Thy labors.
Through Thine agony and passion.
Through Thy cross and dereliction.
Through Thy faintness and weariness.
Through Thy death and burial.
Through Thy Resurrection.
Through Thine Ascension.
Through Thine institution of the most Holy Eucharist.
Through Thy joys.
Through Thy glory.

V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us, O Jesus.

V. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.

Let us pray.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who saidst, "Ask and ye shall receive, seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Grant, we beseech Thee, to us Thy suppliants, the gift of Thy most divine love, that we may love Thee with our whole heart, and in all our words and works, and never cease from praising Thee.

O Lord, give us a perpetual fear as well as love of Thy Holy Name, for Thou never ceasest to govern those Thou foundest upon the strength of Thy love. Who livest and reignest world without end.

R. Amen.

Indian Church: Women need medical care, not "safe abortion"

Better access to health care which is affordable should be provided by the government, especially for women in the rural areas," said Holy Spirit Sister Julie George, told AsiaNews. She is the director of Pune based Streevani ("the voice of women") that stands for the liberated and empowered woman in the modern world, involved in the abortion debate in India. 

The theme has returned to world attention following the first moves of the new US President Donald Trump, who has blocked federal funding to international NGOs who practice abortions.
Illegal abortions, reports the nun, "are among the main risk factors for women, who often die young. The lack of information and the use of easy ways such as taking pills or other home remedies lead to serious complications. The government should provide better access to care, particularly for women living in rural areas. "

Sister Talisha Nadukudiyil, executive secretary of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) Council for Women asks “when we, the Catholics, are fighting against abortion itself how can we speak anything on 'unsafe abortion'". "I would stress on what Pope Francis said in his Encyclical Laudato Si, 'If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away' ( #120)."

"How can one who ignores the silent cry of the fetus of one's own blood listen to the cry of the fellow beings? In such a situation can we expect any decrease in the crimes against the vulnerable?" she asked.

According to recent data, in India illegal abortions cause the death of 10 women a day. Every year the number of abortions is around seven million - of which about 40 thousand in the single state of Rajasthan - in large part be attributed to selective abortions [related to the sex of the child, in particular girls - ed].
CI + Development Foundation studies report that abortion causes a third of deaths among mothers. In more than 8% of the country women do not know that abortion is allowed until the 20th week of pregnancy and in the presence of particular conditions. This causes proliferation of facilities offering clandestine solutions. Furthermore, the issue is also a social problem, given that over 90% of all abortions are due to medical or socio-economic reasons.

Dr Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a Catholic theologian and medical scientist, said, "Unsafe abortions are obviously a pressing concern in India despite our liberal laws. However the tendency to see access to safe abortion as the primary solution to the problem is myopic. While access to safe abortions and creating awareness about available facilities is a must, it is well to remember that abortions even under the best of conditions carry the risk of medical complications, and may lead to loss of productivity and psychological damage."

"I believe prevention is better than cure. We need to improve the status of the girl child to reduce abortions due to sex selections, and educate women in safe sex to prevent unintended pregnancies with their associated social stigma and financial burden that push women to abortion. For the Catholic Church it is a toss between a moral teaching that frowns on sex that is closed to procreation and the risk of an unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Most women would choose to be safe rather than sorry; after all, it is their bodies and lives on the line."

Another Catholic theologian based in Mumbai, Virginia Saldanha, former executive secretary of Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences' Women's Desk, said, "The word 'unsafe' says it all. Who goes for unsafe abortions? Those who cannot access safe abortions, i.e. the poor and vulnerable sections of people, among vulnerable sections will be young women who have been raped, or who have experimented with sex and got pregnant unwittingly. These are the persons at risk, the very persons who need protection from the government or voluntary healthcare agencies. Please note I am not supporting abortions, but young people getting pregnant do tend to go for unsafe abortions."

Msgr. Ma Daqin reinstated in Patriotic Association, but as "a priest”

http://www.asianews.it/files/img/China_-_Ma_Daqin_(AsiaNews).jpgAuxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai has recently rejoined the Patriotic Association, for which he denounced his involvement at his episcopal ordination on July 7, 2012 but he expressed “regrets” in an article on his blog last June.
According to a copy of an agenda of a joint meeting of the Shanghai Patriotic Association and Church Affairs Commission on Jan. 20, Bishop Ma was elected as a “supplemented member” and a standing committee member of the Eighth Committee of the Shanghai Municipal Patriotic Association.

The agenda addressed Bishop Ma as “Father Ma Daqin”.

Bishop Ma’s bishop status was revoked by the Bishops’ Council in China in December 2012

He has been under surveillance and lived in Sheshan Seminary since his ordination.

The agenda also included a report of the Ninth Assembly in Beijing Dec. 26-29, 2016, as well as a report of the Shanghai PA and of the Church affairs commission in 2016.

Priests in China told AsiaNews that Catholics reacted negatively to Bishop Ma’s article honoring the Patriotic Association and to his re-joining the PA, saying Bishop Ma’s move is a move to further divide the Church in China.

A source in Shanghai said actually he has become a member of Patriotic Association of Songjiang district in Shanghai since last September.

A priest said Bishop Ma’s denunciation of PA at his ordination and the subsequent restrictions that he suffers have given hope to the Catholics in the open and underground communities that the Church can live their true faith.

Now, he said, some think that Bishop Ma’s rejoining the PA is a way to express his influence in his diocese. Other Catholics in China said the Church has to accept the reality that they are tightly controlled by the government, the priest said.

However, some Catholics still find Bishop Ma courageous and influential in the diocese.

Still, some comments on Bishop Ma’s article of June 2016 on his blog that they wondered it was really the bishop’s intention to do so.

Pope's 'Idea of Art' a docufilm

Image result for Pope Francis' 2015 book 'My Idea of Art'Pope Francis' 2015 book 'My Idea of Art' on the evangelising power of painting, sculpture and architecture is being turned into a documentary, it emerged on Thursday.

The film takes the viewer on a guided tour of the Vatican Museums, St Peter's square and the basilica following an itinerary set out by the pope to discover those works that best illustrate his idea of the ability of art to contrast a culture of exclusion and waste. 

"The museums must increasingly become the place of beauty and welcome. They need to throw open their doors to people from all over the world," Francis writes.

The documentary is narrated by the book's co-author Tiziano Lupi, a journalist, and directed by Claudio Rossi Massimi.

Available in six languages, it will be available in early 2017 distributed by Draka Distribution.

SOUTH KOREA - The new yearbook of the Korean Church also in e-book

The first is St. Andrew Kim Dae-geon, ordained a priest on August 17, 1845, the most recent is Don Kwang-Kyu Gi, who became a priest on September 24, 2016. 

Since 1845 (considered the "Official" date of birth of the Korean Church) to date, 6,021 Koreans ordained priests are in their country of origin or in other nations of the world. 

These are some of the data contained in the new yearbook of the Korean Church 2017, sent to Agenzia Fides, which collects data, figures and historical information on the Catholic community in Korea.

In the overall calculation of priests, there are 122 new Korean names in the country or incardinated in the dioceses or religious orders, between 2015 to 2016, according to data that distinguish the priests of Korean nationality from missionaries and foreign priests. 

The text, prepared by the Korean Bishops' Conference, is published on the basis of data received from all the dioceses and researches carried out. 

It is also available in e-book format.

To 31 December 2015 the baptized Koreans were 5.6 million, divided into 19 dioceses, and accounted for 10.7% of the total Korean population, attending 1,706 existing parishes, next to the 761 mission stations.

According to historical reconstructions, the "unofficial" foundation date of the Korean Church is 1784, when a group of young noblemen founded a "community of the Church" in the country, no sacraments and no priests. 

They then asked the Bishop of Beijing, and later in Rome, to send them instituted ministers.

MIDDLE EAST - Controversial debate on Christians in the Middle East

The condition and the future destiny of the Middle Eastern Christian communities continue to be the focus of different approaches and also geo-political controversy implemented by political leaders of international importance. 

The latest manifestations of this trend concern France and Russia. 

In an extensive interview recently published by the Lebanese daily L'Orient-Le Jour, former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron, an "independent" candidate in the next presidential election of France, rejected the argument that the permanence in power of Syrian President Bashar Assad would represent a "guarantee" for the survival of Christian communities in Syria.

Macron described this argument as a "diplomatic and moral mistake", calling Assad "a bloodthirsty dictator". "I" he added "do not support the idea to put Assad's removal as a precondition, but neither am I complacent toward Assad". 

Macron claimed, among the roles of France, to "ensure that the Eastern Christians interests are defended", but added that "this is in no way linked to Assad". 

Macron's words are a direct response to some statements by Francois Fillon, who emerged victorious from the primary elections to choose the presidential candidate for the center-right in France, who last November, in a debate ahead of the final phase of the primary elections, had presented the permanence in power of Assad as a necessary factor in ensuring the survival of Christian communities in Syria, arguing that if in place of the present Syrian regime "Sunnis come to power, for Christians this means there is a suitcase or coffin".

On Wednesday, January 25 the Foreign minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov expressed his opinion even regarding the geopolitical significance, taking its cue from the plight of Christians in the Middle East. 

Speaking at the 25th edition of the International Christmas Education, being held in Kremlin, Putin’s close collaborator made reference to the alarm and concern caused in the Middle East also from "cruel suffering" and the "deliberate destruction" inflicted on the Christian communities in the region. 

"Unfortunately - added Lavrov - the European Union avoids the discussion on the problems of Christians in the Middle East, putting itself under the infamous mask of 'political correctness'."

TANZANIA - Drought: Bishops' warning but the government minimizes

http://tec.or.tz/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Logo-TEC.jpg"I call for intense prayers to be held across the country. This is so that God, who protected the sons of Israel in their 40-year journey to the promised land, may look upon us with mercy and kindness", says His Exc. Mgr. Tarcisius Ngalalekumtwa, Bishop of Iringa and President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Tanzania, in a pastoral letter in which he expresses the Bishops' concern for the severe drought that has hit the country.

"It is the rainy and farming season in most parts of the Country but we are witnessing a weather pattern that is different from what we are used to as there has been no rain to allow agricultural production to continue", he says in the letter sent to Fides.

Also other religions, like the Lutheran and Muslim, have launched similar alarms about the consequences of the drought. One concern, however, is not shared by the government. 

President John Magufuli argues that a local businessman is stirring alarmism about a possible famine to force the government to eliminate taxes on the 25,000 tons of corn imported from abroad. 

"I will not allow the maize into the Country without the due taxes being paid", said the President, who minimized the news regarding the death due to hunger and thirst of thousands of head of cattle. 

The government also reiterated that Tanzania has sufficient food reserves to meet a possible shortfall in agricultural production.

IVORY COAST - Peace must be a project for the future, says a missionary

The situation of young people in Duékoué is marked by the wars of 1997 and 2011. 

In 2016 the first elections were boycotted. 

In December there were those laws, to which an opposition party failed to submit candidates. 

"When a country is marked by war, the first thing that comes out is the lack of recognition of the results by the exponents of the government parties in office", says, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides, Father Xec Marques, a Salesian missionary in Africa since 1992. 

For young Ivorians peace has to do with what to eat every day, how to cope with school expenses, or how to cure the sick.

"They do not have a project - continues the missionary. Many are old enough to vote, but few took part in the last election because they do not believe in politics and politicians". 

"For us Salesians and educators the challenge is knowing how to promote the values of social consciousness, political responsibility. Peace cannot just be the absence of violence, must be able to be a project for the future", concluded Father Marques.

NICARAGUA - The Report of the American States Organization disappoints many, even the Church

"The lords of the American States Organization (OAS the acronym in Spanish) are politicians that adapt themselves to the circumstances, they are not defenders of freedom and justice; they disguise themselves as 'listeners' and then at the end bless the theft and abuse of trust of the people", said the Bishop of Esteli, His Exc. Mgr. Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara, SDB, after the statement of the Government of Nicaragua, developed together with the OAS.

According to information of Fides, the Nicaraguan community had invited the OAS representatives to verify the democratic crisis that Nicaragua is going through, after the elections that saw Ortega win as president although this was impossible under the rules of the electoral law in force. 

The Report, according to the specialized political press, reports the situation of the country but not the causes of the problems, does not speak of transparency and independence required by a free and fair electoral process.

"The honor of those who swore to defend the American hemisphere of the Democratic Charter is called into question and the institution is weakened. We want to see at the helm of organizations like this good people, not politicians", said the Bishop vigorously in a press conference held on January 24.

EL SALVADOR - Religious leaders ask the UN to mediate between the government and gangs

Lutheran Bishop Medardo Gomez told the press that the leaders of the Lutheran and Evangelical Churches of El Salvador will ask the United Nations to mediate between the Salvadoran government and the gangs in order to launch a "peace process " in the country.

He also said they are in contact with the Mara Salvatrucha gang through family members: "The families of these young people attend our churches, belong to our Christian communities, their mothers, wives and families have told us that they support us in order to succeed in this dialogue among gangs".

A few days ago His Exc. Mgr. Rosa Chavez had declared that the Catholic Church is ready to support a dialogue between the authorities and the gangs, only if its participation is asked and if there are favorable conditions of mutual trust and always in the context of established norms. 

However, government authorities claim that they will not dialogue with criminals. 

The director of the National Civil Police, Howard Cotto, added that this is just a strategy, "a strategy of criminal gangs, to give the media the impression that they are the victims instead of criminals instigators".

This is what the Vice-President of the Republic, Oscar Ortiz also said: "The government does not negotiate with gangs. The country has only a proposal for those who want to intimidate or blackmail the population, that is, renounce crime. There is no other way, and the state will do everything possible to win this battle, it will cost us a lot but we will win".

A priest's stunning theory on why Juarez is less dangerous now

Credit: Elisa Pires via JMJ Rio 2013-Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).Juarez, located in the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico, was considered from 2008 to 2010 to be one of the the most dangerous cities in the world, due to drug trafficking violence and the constant struggles for power and territory between the cartels.

However, the city of 1.3 million inhabitants dropped off this list thanks to a significant decrease in the number of homicides: from 3,766 in 2010 to 256 in 2015.

Although this drop can be credited to an improvement in the work of local authorities, for Fr. Patrico Hileman – a priest responsible for establishing Perpetual Adoration chapels in Latin America – there is a much deeper reason: Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

“When a parish adores God day and night, the city is transformed,” Fr. Hileman said.

The priest told Radio María Argentina that in 2013 the missionaries opened the first Perpetual Adoration Chapel in Juarez. At that time “40 people a day were dying because two drug gangs were fighting over the city to move drugs into the United States.” 

It was the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels, whose former leader Joaquín “el Chapo” Guzmán Loera was recently extradited from Mexico to the United States.

Fr. Hileman recalled that “the parishes were saying that the war wasn't ending because a group of soldiers were with one gang and the police were with the other one. They were killing people, burning houses down so they would leave, fighting over the city.”

One of the parishes that was “desperate” asked the missionaries to open a Perpetual Adoration chapel because they assured that “only Jesus is going to save us from this, only Jesus can give us security.”

The missionaries only took three days to establish the first Perpetual Adoration chapel in Juarez.

Fr. Hileman told how one day, when the city was under a state of siege, a lady was on her way to the chapel to do her Holy Hour at 3:00 in the morning, when she was intercepted by six soldiers who asked her where she was heading.

When the woman told them that she was going to “the little chapel” the uniformed men asked her what place, because everything was closed at that hour. Then the woman proposed  they accompany her to see for themselves.

When they got to the chapel, the soldiers found “six women making the Holy Hour at the 3:00 in the morning,” Fr. Hileman said.

At that moment the lady said to the soldiers: “Do you think you're protecting us? We're praying for you 24 hours a day.” 

One of the uniformed men fell down holding his weapon,“crying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The next day at 3:00 in the morning they saw him in civilian clothes doing a Holy Hour, crying oceans of tears,” he said.

Two months after the chapel was opened, the pastor “calls us and says to us: Father, since the chapel was opened there has not been one death in Juarez, it's been two months since anyone has died.”

“We put up ten little chapels in a year,” Fr. Hileman said.

As if that were not enough, “at that time they were going to close the seminary because there were only eight seminarians and now there are 88. The bishop told me me that these seminarians had participated in the Holy Hours.”

Fr. Hileman pointed out that “that is what Jesus does in a parish” when people understand that “we find security in Christ.”

He also noted that “the greatest miracles occur in the early hours of the morning. “

The early morning “is when you're most at peace, when you hear God better, your mind, your heart  is more tranquil, you're there alone for God. If you are generous with Jesus, he is a thousand times more generous with you,” Fr. Hileman said.

Sodalits agree to pay 2.8 million dollars in reparations to abuse victims

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae announced Saturday that 66 persons can be considered victims of abuse of mistreatment by members of the community.

The superior general of the community, Alessandro Moroni Llabres, also said Jan. 21 that the society has set aside more than $2.8 million in reparations and assistance for victims.

Moroni's statement followed the Jan. 16 decision of Peruvian public prosecutor María del Pilar Peralta Ramírez to drop charges against the founder, Luis Fernando Figari, and other members of the community. Figari has been accused of sexual abuse, mistreatment, and abuse of power.

There was a protest, which included some of the complainants, outside one of the society's pastoral centers in Lima, rejecting the decision of the attorney general's office.

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae is a society of apostolic life which was founded in 1971 in Peru, and granted pontifical recognition in 1997. CNA's executive director, Alejandro Bermúdez, and its director of operations, Ryan Thomas, are both members of the community.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark was in May 2016 appointed as the Vatican's delegate to oversee ongoing reform of the society. The cardinal had previously served as superior general of the Redemptorists, and secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Moroni began his statement saying that he was delivering it so as “to make known the details of the reparations which we have already granted because of the moral responsibility we have before the persons who have suffered because of some members and ex-members of our organization.” 

He pointed out that “when we received the prosecutor's ruling to dismiss the complaint, we understood that it is a decision based on the strict framework of criminal law.”

“I would like to remind you that this investigation did not have as its goal to prove whether there were or were not victims of wrongdoing by persons connected to our community, but rather to prove if we are a criminal enterprise, which has committed kidnapping and serious injuries. The ruling has dismissed that accusation. That is why we are in agreement with it,” he said.

However, he recalled that “besides the norms proper to the judicial and canonical spheres, there is a necessary moral sphere.” In that respect he reiterated the community's pronouncements recognizing “all the harm done” by Figari and “condemning his actions and declaring him a persona non grata.”

“We have also asked for [Figari's] removal from our community and we have sent all the information on his case to the Holy See,” he added.

Moroni said that “unfortunately, there's not much more we can do in this regard. Figari's trial is proceeding in Rome and we can only wait for the final pronouncement by the Vatican authorities.”

“On the other hand, we have also recognized that some members of our community have done much harm and we have taken very concrete measures to clarify the truth about all these cases,” he stated. “And this is most important thing: we are maintaining our commitment to making redress to those who suffered because of this. Those persons continue to be our priority.”

He recalled that an Ethics Commission for Justice and Reconciliation was formed in November 2015 at the request of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae so that the victims “could be welcomed and served in the first instance by highly respected and objective persons.”

In April 2016, that commission's report detailed an internal culture of extreme “discipline and obedience to the founder” which was “forged on the basis of extreme physical demands, as well as physical punishments, constituting abuses which violated the fundamental rights of persons.”

Moroni said the ethics commission presented 32 cases to the Sodalits, and that another team of international experts in abuse investigations and the care of victims found another 71, “and we have attended to a total of 103 persons.”

“Of this total, sufficient elements have been found to consider 66 persons as victims of abuse or mistreatment of a different nature.”

“To determine if a person can be considered a victim,” he said, “we did not require any technical or scientific means of proof, such as would be required in any juridical investigation. Rather, we made a moral evaluation, considering the verisimilitude of the testimonies that were received. And in case of doubt, we have opted to trust the persons who have given us their testimony.” 

He indicated that in 47 cases an agreement for monetary compensation was reached. Of these, 35 have been completed already, while the other 12 are still being taken care of.

Five of the victims are in waiting, “because they are part of the judicial process.”

Another three “have rejected our proposal and one does not want to continue with the process. There are in addition 10 persons in the process of receiving a final proposal for reparation.”

“Among monetary compensations, medical or psychological assistance, help to return to the workforce, and support for some persons whose cases did not correspond to this process, but who had urgent needs, the amount approved for this purpose so far totals more than $2,842,000,” or 9.36 million Peruvian soles.

Moroni continued: “For us, the principal responsibility does not fall upon the Vatican or the Peruvian Church. Nor does the principal responsibility fall on the Attorney General's Office; the principal responsibility of seeking the truth and repairing the damage is OURS.”

“Beyond the lofty complexity of the judicial and canonical processes, today we want to reaffirm that we are determined to fulfil our moral responsibility, with all its consequences,” he stated.

Moroni reiterated the community asks forgiveness from “everyone who has suffered any kind of abuse or mistreatment on the part of a member or ex-member of the Sodality, and also from all of society, which has been understandably indignant.”

“To the members of our spiritual family and the people of good will who work daily in our apostolates,” he continued, “we ask forgiveness for all of the continued suffering in this painful process. We encourage you to continue trusting in the action of God, who by his infinite mercy brings forth fruits of conversion, solidarity, and reconciliation among us.”

“Welcoming the truth, however painful it may be, and making reparation to those who have suffered, we will be able to go forward on the path of service to which God calls us,” Moroni concluded.

In addition to Peru, the community operates in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, and Italy.

Cardinal Etchegaray's retirement means the end of an era

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray speaks with CNA in Rome on Oct. 17, 2014. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.As Cardinal Roger Etchegaray leaves Rome to retire to France, his homeland, an era has closed.
He was a bishop without emblem or motto, but he was committed to peace and to the human person. Cardinal Etchegaray epitomizes all the characteristics of the modern Church. If there is something we deem to be new, it is possible he had done it already.

The news of Cardinal Etchegaray’s departure was spread by Angelo Scelzo, former deputy director of the Holy See Press Office and a good friend of the cardinal. Scelzo penned a Jan. 20 article on the Italian Bishops Conference’s newspaper Avvenire and reported that, before leaving, Cardinal Etchegaray was able to say goodbye both to Pope Francis and Pope emeritus Benedict.

Why was Cardinal Etchegaray so important for the life of the Church?

A smart French priest with a profound human touch, Cardinal Etchegaray was born in 1922 in the southwestern French town of Espelette, the first of three children. Ordained a priest in 1947, he was among the Second Vatican Council’s experts, called “periti,” and also Vicar for Catholic Action. He served as deputy and secretary general of the French Bishops’ Conference from 1961 to 1969. He was Archbishop of Marseille from 1970 to 1985 before entering the Roman Curia. 

In Rome, he served as president of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace from 1984 to 1998 and headed Cor Unum from 1984 to 1995. To some extent, by assuming both the posts of the Vatican dicasteries for charities and international works, Cardinal Etchegaray anticipated the current Curia reform that places them in the same sphere of responsibility.

But this just a minor observation in a whole life whose deeds marked an era of the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Etchegaray, 94, now leaves his house in Piazza San Calisto to return to Bayonne, in France, where he will live out his life with his sister in a retirement home
There are many reasons this retirement means the end of an era.

This is evident in his home, full of books, memories and history. And among the memories, there was a Nativity artwork displayed in the dining room. That Nativity was donated to him by Fidel Castro. If the Church can now have an impact on Cuba’s life and current developments, it is because Cardinal Etchegaray worked out the first steps there.

Cardinal Etchegaray went to Cuba for the first time in 1989. At the time, he was serving as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The trip was kept secret, as it presented many difficulties. For instance, state atheism was the official religion in Cuba until 1992.

In 1989 John Paul II sent Cardinal Etchegaray to Cuba to build bridges. It was Christmas time, and Cardinal Etchegaray could celebrate a Mass in a crowded Cathedral of Habana.
At the end of the Mass, Cardinal Etchegaray “posed a crowd-pleasing question: ‘What message shall I take to the Pope?’ ‘That he come! That he come! That he come!’ thousands of voices roared in unison. ‘I hear your message,’ replied Etchegaray, ‘I don’t know what he will say, but I am certain he will come’,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

That was the first of many trips to Cuba that eventually found fruition in the first, historic visit of a Pope in to the island in 1998. 

Cardinal Etchegaray’s lifestyle shows his impact on the era.

As Pope Francis encourages a sober style of life, asks Christians to commit to the poor, preaches conversion and a flight from worldliness, it must be remembered that Cardinal Etchegaray, once he was ordained bishop in 1969, never wanted an emblem or a motto. 

When asked about that decision, he said that “having an emblem and a motto seems to me an inheritance of the medieval past.” He was among the very few who made such a symbolic decision.

Back in 1986, Cardinal Etchegaray was among the organizers of the first meeting of the world’s religions in Assisi, and he took part in all the other meetings. Although that first meeting was strongly criticized within the Curia, he was held in great esteem not just by the Pope, but by many Curia members.

In 1997, he was called to preach the Lenten Spiritual Exercises to the Curia. He presented a reflection focused on Jesus “True God and true man,” linked by a guiding line, a sentence of the French philosopher Blaise Pascal: “Outside of Jesus Christ, we do not know who God is, nor who we are.

The spirit of the cardinal’s life has always aimed to build bridges. He was sent as papal envoy to Iraq to attempt to avoid the Second Gulf War in 2002. He traveled through China four times (in 1980, 1993, 2000, and 2003) in order to try to better understand the situation of the Church of China and eventually improved relations with the country.

He was the man two Popes turned to in scenarios of crisis. At the same time, he was a good friend to Pope Paul VI, whom he described as “a very discreet, very reserved Pope, who became a wanderer Pope, the first Pope to take the plane, the first Pope to go to the Holy Land, the first Pope to go to the United Nations,” and who “had taught the truth of humanity to all men, and he went toward the poorest.”

Before leaving Rome, Cardinal Etchegaray was also able to say goodbye to the Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. To Benedict, he has a special link: on Christmas Eve 2009, Cardinal Etchegaray was seriously injured as a person unsuccessfully attacked Benedict XVI during the procession into Mass.

Now Cardinal Etchegaray is not leaving on a mission for the Church, but he returns home, to Bayonne, to live with his beloved sister Maite.

Parsing Pope Francis’s puzzling take on religion in China (Opinion)

Parsing Pope Francis’s puzzling take on religion in ChinaUnderstandably, most reaction to Pope Francis’s latest blockbuster interview, in this case with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, focused on his comments on populism, including Donald Trump.

Whenever you have the pope warning against the lure of political “saviors” promising to solve crises with walls and wire, and even making comparisons to Adolph Hitler, it’s obviously going to make waves and get tongues wagging.

Yet for all those who care about the cause of religious freedom around the world, there’s another portion of the interview that’s likely to raise eyebrows and, perhaps, generate some consternation - what Francis had to say about China.

In the English translation provided by El Pais, here’s what the pope is quoted as having said: “In China, churches are crowded. In China they can worship freely.”

In the original Spanish, the pope’s statement wasn’t quite that bald. What he said was, “En China las iglesias están llenas. Se puede practicar la religión en China,” which translates as, “In China the churches are full … one can practice religion in China.”

There is, of course, a big difference between saying religion can be practiced someplace, which can imply despite difficulties and dangers, and claiming that one can “worship freely” there.

Nevertheless, the fact that Pope Francis appeared to suggest that the climate for religious freedom in China is basically positive likely will irritate, even outrage, people who know the reality, and who have been working on behalf of the country’s religious minorities.

To begin with, the first part of the pope’s statement, that churches are full, is empirically accurate. Christianity has been growing like gangbusters in China, to the extent that at some point in the not-too-distant future observers expect it to be home to the single largest Christian population anywhere in the world.

For the record, the vast majority of that expansion has come among Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians. By way of contrast, the small Catholic community has done little more than keep pace with overall population growth.

On what Francis said about the ability to practice one’s religion, however, the situation is considerably more complicated than the pope’s simple statement suggested, and it is a bit puzzling that he didn’t at least acknowledge the challenges.

It’s especially curious because it’s not as if he doesn’t know. 

Last November, when Francis celebrated a Mass for bishops who had died during the past year, the Vatican booklet for the liturgy included five bishops from mainland China who had served time in prison or labor camps, and either died in prison or from health complications after their release.

Information about China’s policy of tight control over religious groups is easily available.

In its most recent annual report, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom recommended that China be designated a “country of particular concern,” meaning one of the world’s worst violators when it comes to respecting the right to religious liberty.

Here’s what the 2016 report found, covering the preceding year.

“China’s severe religious freedom violations continued in 2015,” it said. “During the past year, as in recent years, the central and/or provincial governments continued to forcibly remove crosses and bulldoze churches; implement a discriminatory and at times violent crackdown on Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists and their rights; and harass, imprison, or otherwise detain Falun Gong practitioners, human rights defenders, and others.”

Christians are often in the front lines for those campaigns of harassment and intimidation.

Just a few days before the pope gave his El Pais interview, Pastor Gu Yuese of Congyi Church, the country’s largest state-run megachurch, was re-arrested for refusing to support the government’s removal of crosses from Christian structures. 

Some observers believe it may be the most significant anti-Christian crackdown since the Cultural Revolution, because it sends a chilling signal not only to dissident but even those Christians trying to play by the government’s rules.

Gu had been arrested previously at the beginning of 2016 on the same charges, when government authorities investigated him for corruption. He was released in March on bail, and held under house arrest. Hundreds of ordinary Christians and pastors have been arrested for the same reason.

Catholics who chafe against the government’s attempt to control the Church often suffer the same fate. As of mid-2016, at least three bishops and more than a dozen priests were in prison in China, and Catholics in various parts of the country routinely complain of surveillance, intimidation and the threat of arrest.

In late December, China’s Minister for Religious Affairs sent another shot across the bow, saying Beijing is willing to engage in dialogue with the Vatican but that the price of admission is that Chinese Catholics must “hold up high the flag of patriotism” - meaning, of course, not questioning the government’s domination of religious life.

Just the week before, the Vatican was compelled to issue a statement saying it was “saddened” when government officials insisted that an “illegitimate” bishop, meaning one ordained without the pope’s consent, had to be at the ordination ceremony for two new bishops who came with the approval of both Beijing and Rome.

Granted, China is not North Korea, where tens of thousands of Christians languish in forced labor camps, nor is it Syria and Iraq, essentially a free-fire zone in which Christians are routinely slaughtered. Still, to say that conditions on the ground add up to an ability to “practice religion” seems a serious exaggeration.

Of course, Francis may be engaged in that time-honored Vatican strategy of playing the long game, playing down provocative rhetoric in order to advance the relationship with Beijing, ideally affording Rome greater leverage to achieve positive change. 

Further, the pope may be concerned that Christians on the ground in China would be the ones to pay the price should he indulge in finger-pointing and denunciations.

Still, those Catholics in China these days behind bars, or who fear ending up there, may be forgiven for wishing that once in a while, their pope would speak publicly and clearly about their sacrifice.

Whenever that day may be, it certainly wasn’t the El Pais interview.

Dutch Gov’t to Set Up Int’l Abortion Fund to Counteract Trump

Dutch Gov’t to Set Up Int’l Abortion Fund to Counteract TrumpThe Dutch government is calling for an international fund for abortion and contraception. 

The move comes in reaction to President Donald Trump's executive order Monday reinstating the Mexico City Policy, which would withdraw all federal money from international organizations that promote abortion.
Lilianne Ploumen, minister for foreign trade and development for the Netherlands, made the announcement Tuesday, expressing the government's wish to establish a fund to which governments, corporations and non-profits could contribute to advance access to abortion worldwide in order to "compensate this financial setback as much as possible."

The Mexico City Policy was first enacted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 (named after the city that hosted the U.N. International Conference on Population, where the policy was first announced), and directed that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) withhold federal funds from international organizations that perform abortions.

President Bill Clinton overturned the policy on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 1993, which was reinstated under President George W. Bush on Roe's anniversary in 2001. 

The Mexico City Policy was once again reversed under President Barack Obama in 2009.