Archbishop Kurtz: Do not forget the power of prayer amid violence


Surrounded by numerous violent conflicts throughout the world, the faithful should not forget the power of prayer, said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“In the coming days and weeks I urge you to ask our Catholic people to pray for peace and to support diplomatic efforts aimed at dialogue and reconciliation,” Archbishop Kurtz said in a July 22 letter to the U.S. bishops. “As Jesus admonishes us: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’.”

The world’s violent conflicts “cry out for peace,” demanding both prayer and action, he said, encouraging prayers for peace both in personal devotion and during the prayers of the faithful at Mass.

“We should never underestimate the power of prayer; for it touches and opens us to the power of God among us,” the archbishop emphasized. “My prayer is that together we might help open our world to God’s gift of peace, a peace that the world cannot give.”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Pope Francis to meet with 20 young Asian leaders


During his upcoming apostolic voyage to South Korea Pope Francis is slated to meet with 20 Asian youth during the 2014 Asia Youth Day, including Korean pop-star BoA.

According to the Korean Times, representatives from 17 Asian countries will attend a luncheon with the Roman Pontiff Aug. 15, following his visit to Daejeon’s World Cup Stadium, where he will celebrate Mass for the Solemnity of the Assumption, after which he will have an official lunch with the diocese’s seminarians.

Among the 17 different countries the youth will come from are India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Taiwan, Nepal, China, Japan and Mongolia.

K-pop sensation BoA will also join the banquet as an honorary ambassador for the sixth Asian Youth Day, being held in Daejeon. Taking place Aug. 13 – 17, the event is expected to draw some 2,000 youngsters from 22 Asian countries.

The Roman Pontiff will travel to the Somoe Shrine after the luncheon, and will meet with all participants of the AYD later that evening.
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Soaring student debt sparks response from US Catholic colleges


With a national student loan debt of slightly more than $1 trillion, American colleges may have to start re-thinking the way they do business.

Recent graduates of Catholic colleges are among those feeling the weight of student loan debt. Karissa O’Hearn and her husband Joe both graduated from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., a few years ago. As a student, Karissa said she did not realize how signing for loan after loan would affect her financial future.

“(Financial aid offices) let you sign a piece of paper saying you’re responsible for 30,000 + dollars in debt, but (they do not) take the time to tell you what that really means,” Karissa said. “For the next 20+ years you could be paying that off, depending on who you marry or what job you get.”

According to Forbes, nearly 12 percent of all student loans are currently delinquent by 90 days or more, making them the type of debt most likely to be in default.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Candidate favoured by Christians wins Indonesia’s presidential election


Joko Widodo, the candidate favoured by Indonesia’s Christian population, has won the nation’s presidential election.

The Southeast Asian nation, the world’s 4th-most populous at 252 million, has the largest Muslim population of any nation but also has a sizable Christian population. It is 86% Muslim, 6% Protestant, 3% Catholic, and 2% Hindu.

Father Benny Suseyto, secretary of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, told the Fides news agency in June that Widodo, the current governor of Jakarta, is “a leader who has put on his agenda the issues of human rights and freedoms, the rights of minorities, the fight against religious intolerance, in addition to the urgent issue of the fight against corruption.”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Group of Laotians soon to be recognized as martyrs


The missionary Fr. Mario Borzaga, a catechist and 15 other missionaries are being fast tracked by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

The small communist south-east Asian nation of Laos will have its very own martyrs, possibly within just a few months. Two parallel processes have begun for a group of religious, missionaries and lay people which have been split down the middle: the missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate (OMI), Mario Borzaga and the Laotian catechist Paul Thoj Xyooj killed in 1960 on the one hand and 15 martyrs including missionaries and lay catechists killed in Laos between 1954 and 1970 on the other.

Angelo Pelis, OMI, is Postulator for the Cause of Borzaga-Thoj Xyooj. He completed Borzaga’s “Positio” (a 480-page document) last April, after which it was reviewed and approved by the relator for the cause, Jozef Kijas. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints published the “Positio” (a text which presents evidence to support a cause for beatification, Ed.) on 9 June. Forty copies were printed and sent to a group of theologian advisors and cardinals to be examined. “Documents were gathered with a view to prove the martyrdom of the two servants of God,” Pelis told Vatican Insider. Once their martyrdom has been recognized, the beatification process can start. “Given Borzaga’s spiritual stature, emphasis was placed on his vocation for the sainthood, proof of which is to be found in his writings.”

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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Iraq faces ‘historic catastrophe’, Chaldean patriarch warns


The Chaldean patriarch has urged Iraq to turn away from its current path, warning that the new policies of Islamist jihadists threaten Christian-Muslim coexistence.

“Should this direction continue to be pursued, Iraq will come face to face with human, civil, and historic catastrophe,” Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon Louis Raphael I Sako said in a July 17 message he described as “urgent.”

He called for peace and co-existence “in a spirit of human brotherhood.”

“We implore in particular our Iraqi brothers, asking them to reconsider and reflect upon the strategy they have adopted and demanding that they must respect innocent and weaponless people of all nationalities, religions, and sects.”

He spoke weeks after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant occupied the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, and as the organization was beginning to force Mosul’s remaining Christians from the city.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

In deadly conflict, Boko Haram captures key Nigerian town


Islamic militant group Boko Haram has taken control of the northeastern Nigeria town of Damboa in a July 18 attack that killed at least 40 people.

The vigilante force defending the town fled when it ran out of ammunition. Damboa is one of the biggest towns in Borno state and a significant trading center, the BBC reports.

Fighting around the town has damaged electricity stations, leaving the regional capital of Maiduguri without power for three weeks. The capital is about 53 miles from the captured area.

Since 2009, Boko Haram has led an insurgency with the goal of creating an Islamic state. It drew international attention earlier this year when it kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, many of whom are still prisoner.

Nigeria’s government has faced heavy criticism for failing to rescue the girls and to end the insurgency.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Meriam Ibrahim lands in Rome, meets with Pope Francis


A young Sudanese woman dismissed of a death sentence for refusing to renounce her Christian faith has arrived to Rome with her family, where they met with Pope Francis a few hours after landing.

“Pope Francis was very tender with her, her husband, who was in prison, and thanked her for her courageous witness to perseverance in the Faith,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said of the encounter in a July 24 statement.

Describing the meeting between the young family and the Roman Pontiff as “very serene and affectionate,” Fr. Lombardi explained that for him encounter was “a gesture of closeness and solidarity for those who suffer for their faith.”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Meriam Ibrahim Arrives in Rome


Christian Sentenced to Death for ‘Apostasy’ Welcomed by Italian Prime Minister

Meriam Ibrahim and her family arrived aboard an Italian government plane at Rome’s Ciampino airport at around 9 o’clock this morning. She was accompanied from Khartoum by Italy’s deputy foreign minister, Lapo Pistelli.

Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, was among those present to welcome the Ibrahim family on their arrival. “It’s a day of celebration,” he said.

Pistelli said Ibrahim and her two children “are well and in very good shape”. He added they will have “important appointments over the next few days before they leave for the United States.” He also said the Prime Minister had informed Pope Francis of her release.

Born to a Muslim father and Christian mother, Ibrahim was jailed and in May sentenced to death by a Sudanese court, accused of converting from Islam to Christianity. She was also charged with committing adultery since her marriage to a Christian cannot be recognised under sharia law.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Australia’s oldest Catholic weekly newspaper shuts


The Record, Western Australia’s Catholic newspaper, which was established in 1874, will publish its final edition on July 23.

Perth Archbishop Timothy Costello said the decision to close the paper was reached after a five-month review with stakeholders following a protracted decline in subscriptions.

‘Change is sometimes difficult and there will be many people who will be sorry to see The Record in this present form no longer appear each week in our churches,’ Archbishop Costello said on Monday.

‘If our goal is to use the media to share the message of Jesus, we must try new methods and set out in new directions.’

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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Cristiano Ronaldo Is Alive Thanks to a Conscientious Objector


Mother of Talented Portuguese Soccer Player Says She Would Have Aborted Him But for Refusal of Her Doctor

Seventy individual prizes, among which are two Gold Balls and a FIFA World Player, a jumble of trophies won with the jerseys of Sporting Lisbona, Manchester United and Real Madrid. And even a string of records that require a good measure of patience for one who wants to read them all, as well as two high honors conferred by the Portuguese State.

No small merit for these achievements is owed to an unknown Portuguese doctor. Small and fragile is the vulnerable body that grows day by day in the womb of a woman, but great is the noble gesture of one who carries out his work with professionalism and faith and thus succeeds in saving a human life from abortion.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Conference for Ecclesial Movements, New Communities Set for November


The Pope’s words of encouragement to ecclesial communities to keep joy alive and to not be afraid have inspired a Vatican dicastery to spearhead a world congress in Rome this fall.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity will hold its third world congress of ecclesial movements and new communities November 20 to 22.

Titled “The joy of the Gospel: a missionary joy”, based on Pope Francis’ Apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the event is to take place at the Pontifical International College Maria Mater Ecclesiae in Rome.

Before the Angelus prayer on May 19, 2013, the Sunday of Pentecost during the Year of Faith, the Holy Father addressed the new movements and new ecclesial communities, encouraging them to continue in their work: “You are a gift and wealth for the Church! Always carry forth the strength of the Gospel! Do not be afraid! Always keep alive your joy and passion for the communion of the Church!”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Islamists Seize Monastery in Northern Iraq


Monks of Mar Benham Forced to Leave With Nothing But Their Clothes

Jihadist militants have taken over one of the Iraq’s best-known Christian landmarks and expelled its resident monks, a cleric and residents said Monday.

Fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) stormed Mar (Saint) Behnam, a fourth-century monastery run by the Syriac Catholic church near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh in northern Iraq, on Sunday.

AFP reports the monks reportedly pleaded to be allowed to save some of the monastery’s relics but the fighters refused and ordered them to leave on foot with nothing but their clothes. After fleeing, the residents who included some families were eventually picked up on a deserted road by Kurdish peshmerga fighters who drove them to safety.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Lord Alton: The World Must Respond to Cry of Iraq’s Christians


Religious Cleansing Is Making a “Hateful Mockery” of International Law

The last Christian has now been expelled from Mosul. The light of religious freedom, along with the entire Christian presence, has been extinguished in the Bible’s “great city of Nineveh” — the centre of Christianity in Iraq for two millennia. This follows the uncompromising ultimatum by the jihadists of Isis to convert or die.

On Sunday Pope Francis expressed his profound anguish: “Our brothers are persecuted, they are cast out, they are forced to leave their homes without having the chance to take anything with them.” The UN Security Council has denounced these crimes but we desperately need to do more.

Before pitilessly exiling the Christians on foot, Isis stole everything they had — homes, businesses, cars, money and even wedding rings, sometimes with the ring fingers attached. Churches have all been destroyed, shuttered or turned into mosques.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

St. John Paul II, Gianna Molla to be World Meeting of Families patrons


Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia announced Sunday that St. John Paul II and St. Gianna Beretta Molla will be patron saints of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, being held in his cathedral city.

“Saint John Paul II and Saint Gianna have been chosen as the two worthy Patron Saints to guide all in preparation and participation of this international event as they fully embody the history, mission and theme of the World Meeting of Families 2015,” Archbishop Chaput stated July 20 during Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

“Saints John Paul II and Gianna had a deep and abiding commitment to strengthening the family and sustaining it with love. This historic event will give thousands from around the globe the opportunity to share in the same commitment of our Patron Saints.”

During the Mass, Archbishop Chaput also unveiled and blessed a relic of St. John Paul II’s blood for the veneration of the faithful.

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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

The Third Asian Voyage for Francis Will Be to Japan


An analysis by Sandro Magister


Bergoglio has dreamed of this destination since his youth. And now he will go there as pope, at the invitation of the Japanese government. As revealed and explained by a former ambassador to the Holy See, Kagefumi Ueno

“I will go to Asia twice in six months. To Korea in August to meet with Asian young people. In January to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The Church in Asia is a promise.”

Pope Francis said this in an interview published on the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul.

But after Korea, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, another Asian nation is already preparing to receive a visit from the pope: Japan.

This has been revealed by an authoritative Japanese personality: Kagefumi Ueno, ambassador to the Holy See from 2006 to 2010, now a professor of civilization and culture at Kyorin University in Tokyo, and the author in 2011 of a book on the Vatican described through the eyes of an observer culturally far removed – of a Buddhist-Shintoist outlook – and yet highly interested.
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Celestine V a Model Pope? The Myth and the Reality


A comment by Sandro Magister


Together with Saint Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has chosen as his guide Saint Pietro del Morrone, pope for a few months at the age of 85. But according to the historians that pontificate was a disaster

“These two saints have given the example. They knew that as clerics – one was a deacon and the other a bishop, the bishop of Rome – as clerics both of them had to give the example of poverty, of mercy, and of complete emptying of self.”

This is how Jorge Mario Bergoglio has indicated two saints as his models: not only the predictable Francis, from whom he has taken his name, but also the unexpected Pietro del Morrone, pope for a few months in 1294 with the name of Celestine V.

He did so on July 5 in Isernia, a city that claims to be the birthplace of Celestine V, on the anniversary date of this saint’s election as pope.

And this is precisely what is unusual. As pope, Celestine V was never particularly esteemed by his early and later successors. Instead they have remembered and admired him for his “humble” resignation of the pontificate and even more for his previous holy life as a hermit.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in Comment

Why aren’t Pope Francis and his cardinals singing from the same hymn sheet?


An Anslysis by Paddy Agnew


It was possibly a watershed moment in Holy See media relations. The scene was the Sala Stampa of the Holy See some 10 days ago. Australian Cardinal George Pell was presenting the New Economic Framework for the Holy See, a document which outlines proposed major reforms not only to IOR (the Vatican bank) and to APSA (the Vatican City treasury), but also to all the various Vatican-run media. Halfway through the press conference, a reporter from Milan newspaper Corriere Della Sera asked a question. She wanted to know why, among the six new lay members of the board of IOR, there was no Italian representative. For a brief moment, almost the entire press room started to laugh.

So, what do you want to do? Put the foxes in charge of the chickens again? Has not the recent traumatic history of IOR been besmirched by the nonchalant ease with which, thanks to a bit of blind eye and to a bit of maladministration, Italian high finance (Banco Ambrosiano, Enimont) and sometimes even organised crime used IOR for their own money-laundering purposes.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in Analysis

Pope Sends Message to Argentine Parish Priest in Gaza


Pope Francis has offered words of comfort to Gaza’s Christian Community as the massacre in the territory continues.

In a message to the parish priest of Gaza, Father Jorge Hernandez, a fellow Argentinian, Pope Francis said he is keeping the territory’s Christian community in his prayers.

The Holy Father offered words of comfort and assured them he was praying for all those living through this conflict.

The parish priest of Beit Jala in the West Bank, Father Mario Cornioli, had earlier informed the Pope of the extremely challenging situation facing the small Christian community in Gaza and all the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip which has been caused by Israeli bombardments aimed at trying to halt rocket attacks by militants.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Pope Francis calls Syro-Catholic patriarch, assures of his prayers


According an Italian Catholic new organization, Pope Francis made a phone call to Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan over the weekend to reassure him of his continued prayers for Iraqi Christians.

Following the July 19 burning down of the Episcopal palace of Syrian-Catholics in Mosul, Italian Catholic news organization SIR reports that Pope Francis made a phone call to the Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan of Antioch the afternoon of July 20 to express his condolences and closeness in a time of persecution.

The agency reports that during their 9 minute conversation, the Pope reassured the patriarch “that he follows closely and with concern the drama of forced and threatened Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul.”

SIR referred to other reports coming from the Syrian-Catholic Patriarchate, which stated that Patriarch Younan “thanked the Pope” and asked him to “intensify” his efforts to engage world leaders by bringing them face-to-face with the fact that the province of Nineveh is undergoing “a mass cleaning based on religion.”

At the end of the call Pope Francis gave his apostolic blessing to the patriarch and to “all the Christian people of the East,” assuring that he “will always be present in his prayers for peace and security.”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News