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Local bishop: ‘The Madonna has not appeared in Medjugorje’

February 28, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Feb 28, 2017 / 04:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishop of the local Church where Medjugorje is located reiterated on Sunday his long-held belief that the alleged Marian apparitions at the site are false.

“The position of this Curia throughout this period has been clear and resolute: these are not true apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno wrote in a Feb. 26 statement on his diocesan website.

He referred to investigations into the authenticity of the supposed apparitions that began with the diocese in 1982, and which have continued to the present time at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The alleged apparitions originally began June 24, 1981, when six children in Medjugorje, a town in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, began to experience phenomena which they have claimed to be apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to these six “seers,” the apparitions contained a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.

These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their first occurrence, with three of the original six children – who are now young adults – continuing to receive apparitions every afternoon because not all of the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.

Since their beginning, the alleged apparitions have been a source of both controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the city for pilgrimage and prayer, and some claiming to have experienced miracles at the site, while many others claim the visions are non-credible.

The bishop holds the supposed apparitions to be nothing but a manipulation of the visionaries and the priests who work with them.

Bishop Peric, who was ordained a priest of the diocese which he now heads in 1969, emphasized his devotion to Mary, and his incredulity regarding the alleged apparitions in Medjugorje.

“During the course of my episcopal ministry, first as coadjutor (1992/93) and later as ordinary, with preaching and the publication of books, as well as with more than fifty Marian and Mariological articles, I have tried to present the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the incarnation and the work of the Son of God and Her Son, and her intercession for the whole Church, of which she is mother according to grace. At the same time I have highlighted, as was done by my predecessor of happy memory, Bishop Pavao Zanic, the non-authenticity of the apparitions, which by this time have reached the number of  47,000.”

The statement delves extensively in what Bishop Radic considers the ambiguousness of the apparition.

“The female figure who supposedly appeared in Medjugorje behaves in a manner completely different from the real Virgin Mother of God in the apparitions currently recognized as authentic by the Church: usually she does not speak first, she laughs in a strange way, before some questions she disappears and appears again, she obeys the ‘visionaries’ and the local pastor who make her come down from the hill into the church even against her will. She doesn’t know with certainty how many more times she will appear, she allows some of those present to step on her veil extended on the ground, and to touch her dress and her body. This is not the Virgin of the Gospels.”

The bishop also takes issue with the visionaries’ request for a “visible sign” from the Virgin and the promise from one the visionaries that there will be a sign at the top of the hill in the form of water.

“After almost four decades there is no sign whatsoever, nor water, just fantasies,” the bishop wrote.

The statement also makes detailed reference to the inconsistencies among the various visionaries regarding the purpose of the apparitions, as well as their duration.

“All the ‘visionaries’ but one agreed that the Virgin would appear for three more days … but she appeared to have changed her mind and still ‘appears’ for 37 years,” Bishop Radic said.

The statement mentions other irregularities, such as a strange trembling in the apparition, a false anniversary of the beginning of the apparition, inconsistencies in whether the apparition has a child, inexplicable silences, strange messages, discrepancies in dress, nervousness rather than peace among the seers, scandalous touching of the apparition, and intentional manipulation of the apparition.

“Considering everything that has been examined and studied by this diocesan Curia, including the investigation of the first seven days of the alleged apparitions, we can affirm in peace: the Madonna has not appeared in Medjugorje! This is the truth that we sustain, and we believe in the word of Jesus, according to which the truth will set us free.”

In April 1991, the bishops of the former Yugoslavia determined that “on the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

On the basis of those findings the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directed in October 2013 that clerics and the faithful “are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.”

In January 2014, a Vatican commission completed an investigation into the supposed apparitions’ doctrinal and disciplinary aspects, and was to have submitted its findings to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope Francis visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2015, but declined to stop at Medjugorje during his trip.

Earlier this month, Francis appointed Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warszawa-Praga as a delegate of the Holy See to look into the pastoral situation at Medjugorje. The Polish archbishop is to “suggest possible pastoral initiatives for the future” after acquiring a deeper knowledge of the local pastoral situation.

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Priest: We need to praise what is good, true in the Muslim faith

February 28, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA).- Not only is there a good deal in common between Muslims and Christians, but Catholics are called to respect and work together with those who practice the Muslim faith in recognition of truth and goodness they do possess, said Islam scholar Fr. Thomas Michel.

Fr. Michel, who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Theology and worked under Pope John Paul II as head of the Vatican Office for Relations with Muslims, told CNA that Benedict XVI, like both St. John Paul II and Pope Francis, have all repeated the same message regarding Muslims – that of the Second Vatican Council.

“The document Nostrae aetate says that the Church has ‘esteem’ for Muslims,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we should just tolerate Muslims or put up with Muslims. ‘Esteem’ means to try to see what people have that’s good and appreciate them for that.”

The major “common point” between Christianity and Islam, Fr. Michel said, is that both faiths believe in the existence of only one God, and that both are trying to do what this one God wants.

Therefore, “how can we be enemies with people who are also, like us, trying to worship the one God?” he said. “Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, we’ve seen that part of our work as Christians is to be in dialogue with people of other faiths.”

“And this means not only talking to them and listening to them, but it also means cooperating with them, working together with them for good.”

This dialogue, Fr. Michel emphasized, isn’t just about making peace with each other, although that is important, but is about “the kind of world we live in” and how that makes it important that we all come to know each other better.

Fr. Michel noted that when the Fathers of the Council taught us, they didn’t deny the past conflict and tension between Catholics and Muslims, but they did say that it is in the past, and “what we have to do now is work together for the common good.”

The document Nostrae aetate is the declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions from the Second Vatican Council, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965.

Fr. Michel referenced a part of the document that says that the Church “rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”

“The Church, therefore,” it continues, “exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.”

Four ways we can collaborate with Muslims or those of other faiths, Fr. Michel said, is by together working to build peace, and to promote social justice, “true human values,” and “true human freedom.”

A Jesuit, Fr. Thomas Michel has lived and worked among Muslims himself for many years, particularly in Turkey. He first went to Indonesia, joining the order’s Indonesia Province, in 1969.

Fr. Michel worked in the Vatican under Pope John Paul II from 1981-1994 as head of the Office for Relations with Muslims. From 2013-2016 he taught religious studies at the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University in Doha, Qatar.

For 2016-2017, Fr. Michel joined the teaching staff at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome, where he gave a lecture Feb. 23.

His lecture on Contemporary Islam, titled “A Christian Encounter with Said Nursi’s Risale-i Nur,” gave a Christian analysis of the Risale-i Nur Collection, an interpretation on the Qur’an written by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi between the 1910s and 1950s in Turkey.

Summing up the teachings in what is a 6,000 page collection, Fr. Michel told CNA that Nursi “was trying to help Muslims live their faith in a lively way in modern terms.”

“He said you don’t have to live in the past, you don’t have to have nostalgia for earlier times.” The idea Nursi tried to convey, Fr. Michel explained, is that modernity is not the enemy of faith, “but a patient in need of the spiritual medicine faith provides.”

Nursi said, according to Fr. Michel, that “our enemies aren’t this group of people or that group of people.” Instead, he said our enemies are ignorance, poverty and disunity. And these are not only the enemies of Muslims, but of everyone.

Fr. Michel said that Nursi taught that to fight these common enemies everyone must work together, using both faith and reason.

According to Fr. Michel, there are somewhere around 5-12 million people who try to live the Qur’an according to the teachings of Nursi, depending on how you measure the level of commitment.

The majority of these Muslims are in Turkey, but some can be found in central Asia, places in Europe and even in the U.S. It isn’t a formal movement per se, but some people devote their lives to studying Nursi’s teachings and others try to study it in the midst of living their normal lives, he said.

If worried about Islamic extremists or that the Muslim religion will overwhelm Christian values in Western society, Fr. Michel said to try to remember that in the case of refugees, they “want the same things that normal Americans want.”

They want “to raise their children to be good God-fearing people, and to have a life, to have a job, to enjoy simple enjoyments. They’re no different than we are,” he said.

He said that in his experience, those who have negative attitudes about Muslims have only experienced the religion through TV or the newspaper, but that those “who know Muslims…have a very different attitude.”

“I’ve lived among thousands of Muslims…The people that I’ve lived with in many different countries, they go from birth to death, and from children to grandchildren, and there’s no violence in their lives,” he said.

“The average Muslim sees Islam as a religion of peace.”

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South Sudanese bishops call for food aid, peace negotiations

February 28, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Juba, South Sudan, Feb 28, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of South Sudan issued a call last Thursday for dialogue between the warring factions in the country, and international humanitarian aid to alleviate the famine affecting so many in their nation.

“Those who have the ability to make changes for the good of our people have not taken heed of our previous pastoral messages … we intend to meet face to face not only with the President but with the vice presidents, ministers, members of parliament, opposition leaders and politicians, military officers from all sides, and anyone else who we believe has the power to change our country for the better,” the South Sudanese bishops said in a Feb. 23 pastoral message to the faithful and people of South Sudan.

“We intend to meet with them not once, but again and again, for as long as is necessary, with the message that we need to see action, not just dialogue for the sake of dialogue.”

In their meetings with government and opposition leaders, the bishops will take as a model the importunate widow of Christ’s parable, they emphasized.

South Sudan has been embroiled in civil war since December 2013, when violence erupted in the capital city of Juba and quickly spread throughout the country. The war has is being fought between forces loyal to the country’s president and those loyal to its former vice president, and is largely drawn along ethnic lines. Peace agreements have been short-lived, with violence quickly resuming.

The bishops’ message came at the conclusion of a three-day plenary assembly together with the apostolic nuncio to South Sudan. They said they received “disturbing reports from all seven of our dioceses spanning the whole country.”

“The civil war, which we have frequently described as having no moral justification whatsoever, continues. Despite our calls to all parties, factions and individuals to STOP THE WAR, nevertheless killing, raping, looting, displacement, attacks on churches and destruction of property continue all over the country. In some towns there is calm, but the absence of gunfire does not mean peace has come. In other towns, civilians are effectively trapped inside the town due to insecurity on the surrounding roads.”

The bishops are particulary concerned that alongside fighting between government and opposition forces, “much of the violence is being perpetrated by government and opposition forces against civilians.”

“There seems to be a perception that people in certain locations or from certain ethnic groups are with the other side, and thus they are targeted by armed forces. They are killed, raped, tortured, burned, beaten, looted, harassed, detained, displaced from their homes and prevented from harvesting their crops … Even when they have fled to our churches or to UN camps for protection, they are still harassed by security forces,” they lamented.

They pointed to the famine facing more than 100,000 South Sudanese, saying “there is no doubt” it is “man-made, due to insecurity and poor economic management.”

“Hunger, in turn, creates insecurity, in a vicious circle in which the hungry man, especially if he has a gun, may resort to looting to feed himself and his family. Millions of our people are affected, with large numbers displaced from their homes and many fleeing to neighbouring countries, where they are facing appalling hardships in refugee camps.”

Millions have become refugees or are internally displaced, and some 40 percent of the population is dependent on international aid.

The bishops expressed concern that some government officials seem to be suspicious of the Church.

“In some areas the Church has been able to mediate local peace deals, but these can easily be undermined if government officials are removed and replaced with hardliners who do not welcome Church efforts for peace. Priests, sisters and other personnel have been harassed.”

They detailed that Catholic radio programs have been removed, and churches burnt down. In May 2016, a Slovak nun, Sister Veronika Terézia Racková, was killed by militants; a physician, she had been working at a hospital in Yei.

The bishops also noted that on Feb. 14 “security officers attempted to close down our Catholic bookshop. They harassed our personnel and confiscated several books … We hear people saying that ‘the Church is against the government’.”

“We wish to inform all of you that the Church is not for or against anyone, neither the government nor the opposition,” the bishops stressed. “We are FOR all good things – peace, justice, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, dialogue, the rule of law, good governance – and we are AGAINST evil – violence, killing, rape, torture, looting, corruption, arbitrary detention, tribalism, discrimination, oppression – regardless of where they are and who is practising them. We are ready to dialogue with and between the government and the opposition at any time.”

The bishops called on the international community to act to alleviate the country’s humanitarian crisis, and said they will continue to make their people’s extreme hardships better known across the world.

Speaking to the people of South Sudan, the bishops said: “We call upon you to remain spiritually strong, and to exercise restraint, tolerance, forgiveness and love. Work for justice and peace; reject violence and revenge. We are with you … We wish to give you hope that you are not abandoned and that we are working to resolve the situation at many different levels.”

The bishops concluded by announcing that Pope Francis hopes to visit their country later this year.

“The Holy Father is deeply concerned about the sufferings of the people of South Sudan. You are already in his prayers, but his coming here would be a concrete symbol of his fatherly concern and his solidarity with your suffering. It would draw the attention of the world to the situation here. We call upon you to begin a programme of prayer for this visit to go ahead. Let us use the coming months fruitfully to begin the transformation of our nation.”

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The Dispatch

Great Lent

February 28, 2017 Dr. Thomas Howard 0

Presently Lent arrives. This is the forty days leading up to Easter, which also recall the forty days of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. There is a telescoping of things here, since His temptation did […]

The Dispatch

Catholic Composers: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

February 28, 2017 Paul Senz 0

In the history of classical music, there are figures who stand out above all the rest. While there are seemingly countless composers who left indelible marks, or who created works of indescribable beauty and poignancy, […]

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US bishops denounce rise in anti-Semitic attacks

February 27, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2017 / 02:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops are responding with solidarity and concern for the Jewish community, following a surge in anti-Semitic actions in recent weeks.

“On behalf of the Bishops and people of the Catholic Church, as the Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, I want to express our deep sympathy, solidarity, and support to our Jewish brothers and sisters,” said Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanksi of Springfield in a press release.

“I wish to offer our deepest concern, as well as our unequivocal rejection of these hateful actions,” Bishop Rozanski continued.

On Feb. 20, more than 150 headstones were damaged in University City, Missouri at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. Just a week later, over 100 headstones were found similarly knocked over at the Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was “deeply saddened” by the vandalism at Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery, and called for “prayerful solidarity with the families of those whose final resting places have been disturbed.”

“As a community, we must speak out to condemn inflammatory messages and actions that serve only to divide, stigmatize, and incite prejudice,” the archbishop continued. “We must continually and loudly reject attempts to alienate and persecute the members of any religious tradition. Rather, as members of diverse faith and ethnic communities throughout the region, we must stand up for one another and improve the quality of life for everyone by building bridges of trust and understanding.”

No suspects have been named in either case, but the damage has reached hundreds of thousands of dollars.

More than 50 bomb threats targeting the Jewish community have also been reported across the country since the beginning of the year, including scares at Jewish community centers in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Milwaukee.  

According to the Anti-Defamation League, violent anti-Semitic actions soared in 2015, and continued into 2016 with increased online anti-Semitic harassment.

Leaders and officials have denounced the surge in anti-Semitic actions, including words from President Donald Trump last week, who said the recent attacks on the Jewish community were “horrible and are a painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia also spoke out, saying that “hate is not permissible in Philadelphia,” and that the perpetrators “will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” according to the New York Times.

Echoing these sentiments, Bishop Rozanski promised that “the Catholic Church stands in love with the Jewish community in the current face of anti-Semitism.”

Quoting Pope Francis, he pointed to the dangers of the anti-Semitic attacks, linking them to acts of dehumanization, which is most notably seen in hatred towards neighbors.

However, the Springfield bishop also voiced hope that these attacks could be an opportunity for neighborly love to shine brightly.

“But here we also find an opportunity: that the light of the love of neighbor may illuminate the Earth with its stunning brightness like a lightning bolt in the dark; that it may wake us up and let true humanity burst through with authentic resistance, resilience and persistence.”

“I encourage everyone to remember their neighbor, to find the opportunities to be lights of resistance, resilience, and persistence during these contentious times, especially with all our brothers and sisters of faith.”

 

 

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