South Sudan Catholic Radio Station Closed, Journalist Detained

A journalist has been detained and a Catholic radio station has been shut down in South Sudan on grounds of “national security”, local media reports.

The country’s director of information at the National Security Service, Madut Wol, ordered the closure of Bakhita Radio Saturday and security agents detained one of the station’s news editors, the Sudanese news service Radio Tamazuj reported.

Ateny Wek, a presidential spokesman, explained that the radio station had failed to report on the fighting yesterday according to the statement given by the army, which said that rebels attacked their positions yesterday. Instead, he alleged, the station reported that the army was responsible for the aggression.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Church Criticizes Decision to Remove Bibles from Hotel Rooms

The Catholic Church in Britain has described a decision by a budget hotel chain to remove Bibles from its hotel rooms as “bizarre and sinister”.

Travelodge, a company with hotels in the UK, Ireland and Spain, announced last week it had removed Bibles from its hotel rooms “in order not to discriminate against any religion”.

The company, whose Bibles had been given for free by the Gideon Society, took the decision despite receiving no complaints about the presence of the sacred book in the rooms.

Robert Rigby, chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain, said the action “is at once bizarre and sinister.”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Pope’s Special Envoy to Iraq Thanks Francis for Prayers

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said he was “very moved” and thanked Pope Francis for his spontaneous prayers for the “suffering people in Iraq” and for his personal envoy.

The prayer was expressed at the end of the prayer of the faithful during the Mass for peace and reconciliation celebrated in the Cathedral in Seoul, at the conclusion of Pope Francis’ visit in Korea, Fides reports.

After praying for world peace, for the Church, for the places of war, for those who suffer from separation and division, and for the marginalized and the poor, the Pope also added an unscripted prayer “for Cardinal Filoni who was supposed to be with us but was sent by the Pope to Iraq to help all minorities who suffer in that country. May the Lord be near him in his mission”.

On the papal plane, Francis told reporters that he is willing to visit Iraq himself but has been warned against it. “I am willing (to go there),” he said. “I said if it were necessary when we return from Korea we can go there. It was one of the possibilities… At the moment it is not the best thing to do, but I am ready for this.”

Cardinal Filoni left Rome for Amman and Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, last Tuesday. His precise itinerary has not been disclosed for security reasons, the Vatican says.

By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

New Ukrainian Orthodox head to face questions of independence

The newly elected head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate must decide whether that Church can be independent from Russia, Ukraine’s eastern neighbor with which it is in conflict, analysts say.

On Aug. 13, Metropolitan Onufriy was elected Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, making him the primate of the UOC-MP, which is one of the three primary Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. He was enthroned at his Church’s Kyiv cathedral Aug. 17.

In addition to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate – which is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church – there is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

“The greatest dependence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Moscow is ideological,” Anatoliy Babinskyj, an analyst of the Religious Information Service of Ukraine told CNA, adding that “98 percent of the literature which is sold in the churches of the UOC-MP are published in Russia with a clear idea of ‘the Russian world’.”

“Ukraine is not only a huge market for Russia but also a field for ideological influence through books, websites, magazines, and priests who teach theological, cultural, and mental traditions in Russian.”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Three Relatives of Pope Killed in Car Crash in Argentina

Three relatives of Pope Francis have been killed, and one remains in critical condition, after a car accident in Argentina.

Police confirmed the accident, which took place in the country’s Cordoba province today, claimed the lives of two grandnephews of the pontiff, Antonio aged 8 months and Jose aged 2, along with their mother 39 year old mother, Valeria Carmona.

The Pope’s nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, 35, is in a hospital in serious condition. He is the son of the Pope’s late brother, Alberto Bergoglio.

According to reports, the car carrying the family was travelling between Cordoba and Rosario when it struck a truck loaded with corn.

The director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement the Pope “was informed of the tragic incident that happened to some of his relatives and is deeply saddened. He asks that all those sharing in his grief join with him in prayer.”

By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Pope’s Telegrams to China Could Signify Thaw in Chinese-Vatican Relations

Permission for Papal Plane to Fly Over Communist State Brings Hope

Although it is normal practice for the Pope to send telegrams while flying over different nations, his telegrams to and from China have many talking.

En route back to Rome Monday at the end his apostolic visit to Korea this week, the Holy Father sent his second telegram to Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people.

It read: “Your Excellency Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, Returning to Rome after my visit to Korea, I wish to renew to your Excellency and your fellow citizens the assurance of my best wishes, as I invoke divine blessings upon your land.”

Before the Pope embarked on his third international pilgrimage Thursday, his flying over China marked the first time China allowed a Pope to fly through its airspace.

On his outbound flight, the Pope sent the Chinese president the following message: “I extend my best wishes to your Excellency and your fellow citizens, and I invoke divine blessings of peace and well-being upon the nation.”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Vatican Diary – Reform of the papacy, a work in progress

An Analysis by Sandro Magister

The prior of Bose, Enzo Bianchi, and archbishop emeritus of San Francisco John R. Quinn are presenting it as a given that Francis will completely overhaul the role of the pope. But some acts of this pontificate contradict their expectations

There are those who maintain, and even say they are certain, that Pope Francis wants to reform the papacy to the point of “destructuring” the role of the Roman pontiff as it was developed in the second millennium of the Christian era, beginning with the Gregorian reform and continuing through the magisterium of the Council of Trent and of Vatican I.

This seems to be the gist of two significant declarations that have come in recent weeks.


The author of one of these is the lay monk Enzo Bianchi (in the photo), founder and prior of the monastery of Bose.

On July 23, after Pope Francis appointed him as a consultant for the pontifical council for the promotion of Christian unity, Bianchi released shattering statements to the website Vatican Insider.

> “Francesco vuole raggiungere l’unità anche riformando il papato”

The position that the prior of Bose received is not of great significance in itself. But it received enthusiastic coverage in the media, given the vast influence of Bianchi’s words in the Catholic world – and not only among progressives – and his regular contributions to the front pages of important Italian secular newspapers like “la Repubblica” and “La Stampa.”
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Johnson to LCWR: Sisters ahead of hierarchy in living Vatican II renewal

The Vatican and women religious are caught up in a tension with historical, sociological and ecclesiastical roots, but a solution could be found, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson said.

The Fordham University theologian praised the sisters for their commitment to “meaningful, honest dialogue” and urged them to stay the course.

Johnson was honored Friday with the Outstanding Leadership Award by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the largest group of women religious leaders in the nation, representing about 80 percent of the 51,600 sisters in the United States.

Both Johnson and LCWR have been criticized by the church, and Johnson told the nearly 800 sisters gathered here for LCWR’s annual assembly that the criticisms of her writing and of LCWR are intertwined.

Johnson is widely admired by LCWR members, and she urged them to hang on despite an ongoing investigation by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Fellow Jesuit Serves as Papal Translator During Korea Trip

One of Pope Francis’ confreres, Jesuit Father John Chong Che-chon, has been the translator at the Pope’s side during the five-day Korea trip.

The Korea Times this week reported on the 57-year-old priest who has been assisting the Pope since he got off the plane from Rome.

Rev. John Chong entered the Society of Jesus in 1990 and was ordained as a priest in 1996, according to the Korea Times.

Before his ordination, he studied spiritual theology in Spain, earning a master’s and a doctorate.

Just as he met the Pope at the airport on Thursday, he led him to the door of the plane’s runway today, providing some final assistance with translation. He was one of the last people to say good-bye to the Holy Father, who expressed his gratitude with an embrace.

By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Francis on Iraq: It’s up to the UN to decide how the aggressor will be stopped

In his interview with journalists on board the flight from Seoul to Rome, Francis spoke of ISIS’ violence: “It is right to stop an unjust aggressor. When I say “stop” I do not mean launch bombs and go to war…It is the UN that needs to work out how to intervene.” Francis wanted to visit the conflict zone and said he is ready for a trip to China. He confirmed his visit to the US and to the offices of the United Nations

The plight of religious minorities who are forced to leave Iraq, ISIS’ violence, the US bombings. The Gaza war straight after the prayer for peace. The Holy See’s relations with China, Francis’ upcoming visits, his new encyclical and the holidays the Pope spent at home. This is what Francis talked about on the flight back to Rome, answering fifteen questions put to him by the journalists travelling with him.

On ISIS’ aggression against Christian minorities in Iraq and the bombs dropped by the US
“In cases where there is unjust aggression, all I can say is that it is right to “stop” an unjust aggressor. I must emphasise the verb “stop”, by this I do not mean dropping bombs and declaring war, but stopping it. Careful consideration needs to go into how it is stopped. Stopping an unjust aggressor is right. But we must bear in mind how many times the excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor has been used by powers to take control of populations and gone to war in order to conquer. One nation alone cannot judge how an unjust aggressor should be stopped. After World War Two, the idea of the United Nations came about; this is where discussion needs to take place, asking: is this an unjust aggressor? It seems so, so how do we stop him? Nothing more than this. Secondly there are the minorities. Thank you for using this term. Because people talk to me about Christians, about the suffering, about martyrs. And yes, there are many martyrs. But here there are men and women, religious minorities; not all of them are Christians but all of them are equal in God’s eyes. Stopping the unjust aggressor is humanity’s right but it is also the aggressor’s right to be stopped so he does not cause any harm.” Continue reading

In South Korea, Pope Makes Special Mention of Iraq

At a Mass for peace and reconciliation today, the last major activity on Pope Francis’ South Korea itinerary, the Holy Father showed that he continues to have the Iraq tragedy forefront in his mind.

At the end of the Prayers of the Faithful, spoken in Korean by various Church leaders and lay representatives, the Pope added his own prayer, in Italian.

“For Cardinal Fernando Filoni,” he said, “who should be here among us but was unable to come because he was sent by the Pope to the suffering people of Iraq, to help those who are persecuted, those who have been stripped of everything, to all the religious minorities who suffer in that land, so that the Lord may be close in his mission.”
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Chaldean Patriarch Sako’s Statement From Iraq

“Liberate the villages and other places that have been occupied as soon as possible and with a permanent result. The hope of these people must not be allowed to die!”

The Chaldean Patriarch, Louis Raphael I Sako, has issued the following statement concerning the visit of Pope Francis’ Personal Envoy to Iraq, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, and calling on international organizations to intervene.


The Special Envoy of the Holy Father in Iraq, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, accompanied by Patriarch Sako, by the Apostolic Nuncio, and the local Bishops, met with the political authorities of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan and visited the Christian refugees as well as the Yezidi and others in the provinces of Duhoq and Erbil.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Korean Church has revitalized my faith, Filipino youth reflects

At the conclusion of the 6th Asian Youth Day, a young Filipino pilgrim stated that the greatest thing he will walk away with is a higher value of his faith, thanks to the profound devotion of Korean Catholics.

“The biggest thing that I will take with me from this experience is the vitality of faith here in Korea, because in the Philippines, we know that the Philippines is a Catholic country, but the faith becomes routine,” Jessie Perez said.

“But here in Korea it’s not routine, it’s not common for them to become Catholic. That’s why they value their faith so much,” he observed, stating that “I would like to instill our young people to value their faith, to value what they have, to value the Catholicism that we have.”

Hailing from Manila, Perez was present along with other members of his group for Pope Francis’ closing mass for the 6th Asian Youth Day, which followed the theme “Asian youth! Wake up! The glory of the martyrs shines on you!”

The Mass took place Aug. 17 at Haemi castle, which is a few hours south of the capital city of Seoul.

Noting how the main purpose of his visit was to participate in the Asian Youth Day, Perez explained that he also wanted to come “to experience faith, to experience the vitality of the Catholic faith in Asia” through the youth event.

Being in mass with Pope Francis “serves as a challenge for me with the homily that he gave us, the Asian youth,” he said.

“It challenges us to be more rooted in our faith. We might not experience persecution like the martyrs, but in modern times we experience a lot of persecution, and the challenge is to stand firm in the faith, stand firm on what we decide and what we do in every aspect of our lives to be” greater witnesses of the faith.

Echoing the encounter’s theme, Pope Francis urged those gathered “Asian youth, wake up!”
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Papal visit to Korea focuses on theme of reconciliation

Calls for peace and reconciliation dominated Pope Francis’ historic apostolic visit to South Korea, which concluded as the Pope boarded a plane back to Rome Aug. 18.

“Jesus asks us to believe that forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation,” the Pope said at the final Mass, which he described as being “first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family.”

“God’s gifts of reconciliation, unity and peace are inseparably linked to the grace of conversion, a change of heart which can alter the course of our lives and our history, as individuals and as a people.”

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis met briefly with about a dozen religious leaders representing various faiths, including Buddhism, Confucianism and native Korean religions, as well as the Anglican, Lutheran and Orthodox churches.

The Aug. 13-18 apostolic visit coincided with the 6th Asian Youth Day, which drew tens of thousands of young people from across the continent.

Pope Francis addressed the youth on several occasions, urging them to “wake up” and respond to God’s call. He reminded the young people of the continent that “you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present!”
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Pope to Koreans: Trust in the reconciling power of the Cross

At the concluding Mass of his historical trip, Pope Francis urged the faithful to embrace Christ’s message of forgiveness and reconciliation, stressing earlier in his visit that there is only “one Korea.”

“This…is the message which I leave you,” the Pope told the congregation gathered at the Aug. 18 Mass held at the Myeong-dong Cathedral in Seoul. “Trust in the power of Christ’s cross! Welcome its reconciling grace into your own hearts and share that grace with others!”

“I ask you to bear convincing witness to Christ’s message of forgiveness in your homes, in your communities and at every level of national life.”

The Pope’s Aug. 13-18 trip follows an invitation from the president of the Korean Republic, Park Geun-hye, and the bishops of Korea. During his time, the Pope traveled from the capital city of Seoul to Daejon, where he celebrated the Sixth Asian Youth Day with thousands of young people.

He also visited the rehabilitation center for disabled persons in Kkottongnae, as well as a shrine in Haemi for a closing Mass with Asian youth.

Speaking off-the-cuff to young people earlier in the week, the Pope addressed the division between North and South Korea, emphasizing that the two are “one family,” and calling for prayers of re-unification while stressing repentance and forgiveness. He then paused and invited those gathered spend a moment praying in silence for unity between the two countries.

At the closing Mass on Monday, the Pope reiterated this message, saying that his visit culminates with imploring God for “the grace of peace and reconciliation.”
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7th Asian Youth Day to Be Held in Indonesia

On Sunday, Cardinal Gracias, the archbishop of Bombay and president of the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conference, told thousands of young pilgrims gathered at Mass in Haemi, Korea, that the next Asian Youth Day will be held in Indonesia in 2017.

The cardinal made the announcement in his closing address of the 6th Asian Youth Day, during which he reflected on the event and expressed his gratitude to the Holy Father for his presence.

Here below is the text of Cardinal Gracias’ address to Pope Francis:


Most Holy Father,

It is my privilege to convey to you the sentiments of the tens of thousands of our youth assembled here.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Senior Chaldean Official: Islamists Have Been Planning to Empty Iraq of Christians For Years

Msgr. Najim Says in this interview that Terrorists Interpret Christian Love of Peace as Weakness

The year was 1840, when the Italian city of Otranto met one of the most brutal massacres of Christians in history was perpetrated by the hand of Muslims. 813 people perished in the eighteen days of siege by the Ottoman army, bravely refusing to renounce their faith in Christ. On August 14, the anniversary of the end of the tragic massacre, the Church remembers its martyrs.

174 years since those events, in another area of ​​the planet, Iraq, history seems to be repeating itself. Newspapers around the world are reporting on the cruel persecution tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians are facing (as well as Yazidis, another minority in the country), forced to flee their city besieged by fundamentalists who, under the name of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), intend to establish a Caliphate on rigid and brutal religious interpretations.

Already many people have been killed, many more injured, or barricaded on Mount Sinjar without food or water, and becoming close to death. Appeals for peace by the Pope and the Church have followed, as well as invitations to prayer and commitment into concrete action to help.

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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News

Korean man takes name of ‘Francis’ at baptism by Pope

On Sunday morning Pope Francis baptized 62-year-old Lee Ho-Jin – the father of one of the victims from the Sewol Ferry tragedy earlier this year – who took on the baptismal name “Francis.”

Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi reported that the baptism was celebrated in 20 minutes without Mass. It was officiated by a Korean priest, who is acting as the Pope’s translator, with Pope Francis conducting the immersion and anointing.

According to the nunciature in Korea where the the baptism took place, the ceremony was attended by Lee Ho-Jin’s son, daughter, and a priest of the Suwon diocese.

On Aug. 15, Fr. Lombardi said that the Pope met with some of the family members from the ferry tragedy before a Mass with thousands of Koreans at the World Cup stadium in Daejon earlier in the week.

He approached, blessed and “touched the head of each one of them and he shared his closeness” with them, Fr. Lombardi said.
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Chinese youth moved to tears by Pope’s informal remarks

A young man from Hong Kong was moved by Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff remarks during the opening celebration of the 6th Asian Youth Day, stating that the pontiff spoke to them “heart-to-heart.”

“For the things that the Pope said (in Italian) I couldn’t hear clearly,” but understood that he “would like to talk heart to heart without following the speech. I was so touched by this because I felt that the Pope would like to talk much more” than time allowed, Giovanni Pan said.

“Another point is the moment when we said the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer,” he explained, referring to the moment when Pope Francis and the thousands of Asian youth present joined hands and prayed the traditional prayer together.

“From the stage I looked at the place where the Chinese and people from Hong Kong were, and I saw that many of them were crying. So I was so touched and I also cried.”

Pan, 33, was one of three youths who spoke during the Asian Youth Day event, giving his testimony and asking questions to Pope Francis, as well as sharing his concerns about the world and modern society.
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Interreligious leaders call for two-state solution in Holy Land

More than 30 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders in the United States called for a two-state solution to the Israel-Gaza conflict in a strongly-worded statement issued on Thursday.

“This tragic escalation of violence demonstrates once again that there is no such thing as a stable status-quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the leaders insisted in the Aug. 14 message. “It is more urgent than ever that the United States and the international community press for a two-state peace agreement.”

The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas has halted for a ceasefire which ends Monday at midnight.

Both a return to the “previous status quo” and the sustainment of the conflict are dangerous, the religious leaders warned. The two-state agreement, they insisted, is “the only realistic resolution of the conflict in which both people can live in peace, security, and mutual recognition.”

“We strongly supported Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts to achieve a negotiated peace agreement, and urge the United States to renew efforts to reach a two-state agreement as soon as possible,” the statement read.

Such a solution might not currently be set in stone but would be based upon previous agreements, the group stated.
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By VicGeorge Vassallo Posted in News