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Catechesis must encounter the disabled with love, archbishop says

October 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Oct 21, 2017 / 02:01 am (CNA).- The Church must learn “how to encounter disabled people today, how to allow them to have an encounter with Christ in the silence of their own interior and in the signs that indicate his presence in brothers; how to foster their commitment to witness and to be protagonists in the community as catechists, and therefore believers who transmit the faith, living it and teaching it,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella said Friday.

“God directs his word to everyone, no one excluded,” the archbishop said Oct. 20. “He finds ways in which to speak to the people who derive from the multiformity of his being,” while addressing the misperception that intellectually disabled people cannot understand the Catholic faith.

God communicates through the dynamics of “support, inclusion and integration,” he said, adding that “a person can be blind, but hear; can be deaf, but perceive; can be unable to reflect, but grasp the intimacy of the strength of presence.”

Archbishop Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, offered these remarks in a keynote speech on the opening night of a Vatican-sponsored conference dedicated to catechesis for those with intellectual disabilities.

The conference, titled “Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church,” is taking place Oct. 20-22 at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome.

Over 420 people who work in catechesis are registered for the conference, and come from professions and countries all over the world.

In addition to Fisichella, other speakers include Baroness Sheila Hollins of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and representatives from dioceses around the world, who will present methods for the catechesis of disabled people. Disabled people participating will lead moments of prayer throughout the gathering.

Participants will also have an audience with Pope Francis during the event, demonstrating the Pope’s keen interest in the topic.

In his speech, Fisichella said addressing the topic of disability within the Christian community is “urgent” because of the social and cultural stigmas that people with disabilities often face today.

Recounting several examples of situations when people with disabilities have been discriminated against, he noted that in 2015 an elderly parent who was beaten for taking a reserved parking spot when buying medicine for his son, who was having an epileptic emergency.

He also pointed to how in August of this year a disabled teenage girl was raped in the Italian town of Piacenza, and her attacker immediately set free. Another example was how, earlier this month in Naples, seven couples who had made adoption requests refused the offer of a child with Downs Syndrome.

“The bullying and arrogance of the stronger” can always happen to anyone, Fisichella said, but noted that it’s also always true “that when this happens to a person who is disabled, and therefore weak and defenseless, then the disdain and the complaint” must be more forceful.  

Fisichella reflected on the way that God relates to man, saying it is the Lord from the beginning who chose to speak and reveal himself to man. Revelation, and the response of faith, begins with “the act of love from which comes God’s decision to reveal himself and the purpose of calling one to share in his own life,” he said.

There are different stages of revelation, he said, noting that each one “is marked by the love of God.”

“It’s a love that reaches the heart of every person, meeting them in their interior, where the perception of a presence that gives meaning to life is best expressed,” he said.

Faith, he said, is “a personal act which testifies to having encountered God who made himself known.”

Faith “is never far from love,” Fisichella said, explaining that love itself “generates faith and sustains it with the strength of hope.”

“Love comes from God and returns to God,” he said, and “this completely transforms man, because it renders him capable of relating to himself and others with a love he receives as a gift and which he himself cannot produce.”

Fisichella said that “one can think of catechesis as a desire to stay for a long time in order to grow in knowledge of the Lord Jesus,” adding that the heart of catechesis is “to make the life of the believer a path where through the knowledge of what is believed we enter into the mystery by celebrating it with the prayer of the entire people of God.”

To fully understand this, it’s necessary that “it be made easier to understand the impact that catechesis can have on people with disabilities,” he said.

Ultimately, the goal of catechesis is “to make it so that God seizes everyone, whatever state they are in, because the primacy lies with him,” Fisichella said, stressing that God “finds the most adequate means to communicate his life of love and to make the love he invests in a person felt.”

The archbishop pointed to music, song and art, which all bespeak love, he said, allowing those who experience them to understand God in a different way, he said. So “no one is excluded from the Word that God speaks, with which he makes himself known to each one.”

He then spoke of the need to promote the “culture of encounter” that Pope Francis speaks of so often, with a special emphasis on friendship, brotherhood and solidarity.

We must learn to take the initiative on this, the archbishop said, explaining that a true culture of encounter “does not stop at a few hurried moments, and in the form of formalities.”

“Rather, it feels the duty to ‘entertain’ itself with people, of giving one’s own time without the hurry that prevents them from entering into depth (of) the encounter with the richness of experience acquired and with the charisms which are offered to each person, no one excluded, for the growth of the entire community.”

“A culture of encounter, then, is to welcome the mystery of the brother in order to understand better the mystery of his own existence,” Fisichella said, adding that this “culture” must also be a place where “the dimension of the Church, a community that lives communion, becomes the criteria of judgement and testimony of our presence in today’s world”

Our responsibility, then, “is to transmit the faith in a living way, and not to create obstacles, so that it reaches everyone, above all those who are preferred by the Lord.”

 

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Catholic leaders lament assassination of Maltese journalist

October 20, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Valletta, Malta, Oct 20, 2017 / 11:29 am (CNA).- Both Pope Francis and the bishop of the local Church have expressed their sorrow over the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist who died in a car bomb attack on Monday.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta condemned her murder, saying Oct. 16 that “The loss of this brave journalist fills us with sadness and with determination to continue defending democracy until the very end.”

“This is not a time to wage war between us or to blame one another. As a people we must wake up, defend the dignity of each one of us, and stop the verbal attacks on each other. We must defend the great value of democracy by moving from words to actions.”

“I pray for the soul of this victim and her family, and I extend my solidarity to all journalists. I encourage them to defend the truth, to be afraid of no one and to be servants of the people and of democracy,” Archbishop Scicluna concluded.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, sent the archbishop a telegram Oct. 20 on behalf of Pope Francis.

It said the Pope is praying for Caruana Galizia’s “eternal rest, and asks you kindly to convey his condolences to her family. The Holy Father also assures you of his spiritual closeness to the Maltese people at this difficult moment, and implores God’s blessings upon the nation.”

Caruana Galizia, 53, was killed when the rental car she was driving exploded shortly after she left her home in Bidnija, 9 miles northwest of Valletta, the Maltese capital. She was known for her investigations into corruption among the island nation’s politicians, of both the ruling and the opposition parties.

Earlier this year she claimed that prime minister Joseph Muscat was linked to the Panama Papers scandal – that he and his wife had used offshore bank accounts to hide payments from the Azerbaijani ruling family.

Her claims triggered early elections, which Muscat’s Labour Party nevertheless won.

Muscat has condemned Caruana Galizia’s murder, saying there was absolutely “no justification” for “this barbaric attack on a person and on the freedom of expression in our country.”

Caruana Galizia’s sons have called on Muscat to resign, and to replace Malta’s police commissioner and attorney general.

The journalist had reportedly told police two weeks ago she had received threats.

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Excluding people with disabilities makes Church ‘incomplete’

October 19, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, Oct 19, 2017 / 03:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A leading expert on faith and disabilities has said that people with disabilities are an essential aspect of the Church’s life and mission, and that parishes which exclude them are “incomplete.”

“It’s important to say from the very beginning that any parish that doesn’t have people with disabilities in it, is an incomplete body of Christ…their full capacity to evangelize and catechize is impoverished,” Cristina Gangemi told CNA Oct. 18.

Gangemi is co-director of The Kairos Forum, and an expert in pastoral care for people with intellectual disabilities. She has partnered with the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization to host a conference on catechesis for people with disabilities.

The conference, titled “Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church,” will take place Oct. 20-22 at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome.

Gangemi told CNA that “to have everybody the same doesn’t celebrate the beauty of diversity, because one thing that we’re all the same in, one true moment of equality, is that we’re all different.”

But, she said, when people with disabilities participate in parish life, it is sometimes “presumed by the priest…that they don’t have the learning capacity to be able to be prepared for First Communion or the Sacraments.”

While people with disabilities are often described as having “learning difficulties,” Gangemi said the reality is actually the reverse: “the problem is that there are lots of teaching difficulties.”

She noted that many resources used in catechetical preparation for the reception of the sacraments are not adapted to the learning styles of intellectually disabled people, who frequently learn best through action, drama, art and music.

“So we’ve got this paradox. You’ve got people with disabilities who long to receive the sacraments, who from the moment of their conception are touched by God’s grace, and so therefore are called to the sacraments, and then you’ve got this problem in parish structures where nobody really knows how to make all their programs accessible.”

Because people with disabilities often struggle to learn using traditional methods, “the presumption is they can’t be catechized.”

The heart of catechesis and evangelization is essentially “the echoing down of faith from one generation to another, from one person to another in the parish,” she said. “And as for evangelization, everybody, no matter who they are, holds the capacity to be an agent of evangelization.”

Pointing to another example, Gangemi recalled the story of a 50-year-old man with disabilities at a parish in London, who at every Mass, during the consecration or when people went up for Communion, would extend his hand toward the altar and make unintelligible sounds.

Typically the man’s caretakers would tell him to be quiet and not to make noise. However, one day as the man was watching others receive Communion, he again reached out his hand and said, “Why not me?”

“This reaching out for 40-45 years, watching everybody go up to Communion and come back again, was his longing for the Eucharist,” Gangemi said. “And if you think of what Jesus did and what Jesus said, he made a special focus on people who are left out.”

“His lament, ‘why not me?’ was no different than the psalmists and the people that were exiled. So I think that’s got to stop, my hope is that that will stop, she said.”

In 2016, Pope Francis told an Italian group that excluding anyone from parish life because of a disability is wrong, stressing that it is better to “close the door” of a parish than to exclude the disabled.

Disability catechesis, Gangemi said, is not simply about making sure people with disabilities have access to the Sacraments, but is more broadly focused on “how can we ensure that every single person, born and baptized, can be an agent of evangelization and can have the faith echoed down to them so that they can echo down the faith to others.”

“People with disabilities who become active in the Church through their own creative skills then become people that can evangelize to others and call others to salvation,” she said.

The catechetical conference was proposed in 2016 by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for the New Evangelization, and approved personally by Pope Francis. Gangemi, who has a number of family members with disabilities, was invited to help organize the event because of previous Vatican conferences on disabilities she’d arranged.

So far, 420 people who work in catechesis have signed up, coming from professions and countries all over the world. Archbishop Fisichella, Baroness Sheila Hollins of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and representatives from dioceses around the world will present methods for the catechesis of disabled people. Participants will also have an audience with Pope Francis on day two of the event, demonstrating the Pope’s keen interest in the topic.

In her comments to CNA, Gangemi called the conference “historic,” since it is among the first global events to address the topic of catechizing those with intellectual disabilities.

Gangemi is also partnering with the Archdiocese of Newark’s office for Pastoral Ministry for Persons with Disabilities, to launch a parish training course on catechesis for the disabled.

The goal, she said, is to engage people so as to “try to make a shift in the way we see and think” about disability, “because the Catholic Church teaches that all life is gift.”

“That’s our starting point: all life is gift,” she said, and voiced her hope that the conference would be “the beginning, and that those of us who live now will leave a legacy for those to come, that it won’t die.”

 

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England’s Buckfast Abbey to celebrate 1,000 years of foundation

October 18, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Plymouth, England, Oct 18, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In 2018 one of England’s historic monasteries will celebrate the millennium year of its foundation, offering a prime example of the contribution of monastic life to society amid an increasingly fast-paced world.

For the Benedictine monks who inhabit Buckfast Abbey in Devon, reaching such a significant anniversary means “we are the inheritors of a great tradition,” Abbot David Charlesworth told CNA.

“Place matters for Benedictines, so the fact that we are in a place that has been established for many centuries before we came is important.”

Not only to Benedictine monks take the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, they also make an additional vow of stability, meaning that when they are assigned to a monastery, they stay there. While they might travel or even spend time in other monasteries, they will always be attached to the original, as an individual would be to their family home.

Charlesworth, who served as Abbot at Buckfast from 1992-1999, and was re-elected in 2009, said that in general, human beings “like the idea of roots.”

The concept of monasticism is ultimately rooted in the Gospel and expressed through the Rule of St Benedict, he said, but it is also rooted “in place, in a place, and it is from there, out of that place, that we then live our Baptismal vocation expressed through our monastic vocation.”

When it comes to living this vocation in modern times, the millennium landmark “helps to sort of galvanize our approach as to what we’re doing for the future,” Charlesworth said. This, he added, encompasses “what we’re doing personally, what we’re doing as a community, and what we’re doing as members of the Church of the Southwest of England.”

The abbot spoke to CNA about the millennium anniversary during a sit-down interview inside one of the two main guest houses at Buckfast Abbey, located in Buckfastleigh, about 25 miles northeast of Plymouth.

The abbey was founded in 1018 during the reign of King Cnut and entrusted to care of the Benedictines.

The monks who inhabited the monastery followed the “Regularis Concordia” rule, which was drafted in Winchester around the year 970 for all Benedictine monasteries in an effort to re-establish, in a sense, monastic life.

Just over 100 years later, in 1147, Buckfast became a Cistercian monastery. The Order was founded in 1098 by a group of monks seeking to live a simpler life in more strict observance of the Benedictine Rule.

Under the Cistercians Buckfast thrived, exporting wool to Italy by the 14th century. By the 15th century, the monastery had in essence become a wealthy landowner, while continuing to run an almshouse and school, and support local parishes in the area.

But in 1539 was shut down by the commissioners of King Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries in a bid to confiscate the wealth of the country’s religious institutes during the English Reformation.

The monastery was immediately vacated, stripped and left to decay. During the more than 300 years that Buckfast was without monks, the monastery changed hands four times, eventually landing in those of Dr. James Gale in 1872, who decided to sell the property, but wanted it to go back to a religious community.

Just six weeks after putting an advertisement in the paper, Buckfast was purchased by monks, who moved in shortly after, bringing a close to the 343 year gap in monastic presence at the abbey.

That first group of monks who returned to Buckfast were Benedictines who had been exiled from France and had made their way to Ireland. They moved to Buckfast in 1882 after acquiring the abbey, and began the process of restoring the property.

As the work was being carried out, the ruins to the original Cistercian design from the 1100s were discovered, and the monastery was constructed in its modern form from the ancient layout. The abbey was consecrated in 1932, with the final stone of the large bell tower being laid in 1937.

Now in 2017, the monastery is again a thriving presence in Devon. Not only does Buckfast represent a silent spiritual hub for tourists or visitors who want to get away for a day of prayer, but it also boasts of several other major activities available for people throughout the area.

The Buckfast monks essentially serve as the board of trustees for the St. Mary’s grade school that sits on their property, and the abbey hosts a center for evangelization called the School of the Annunciation, which was established as a response to Church’s call for a new evangelization.

The school offers formation to adults from all walks of life, and it also holds the status of a Catholic Institute for Higher Learning, providing distance-learning opportunities for students to obtain Master’s Degrees in Catechesis and Evangelization, validated by the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.
 
Buckfast also has a large conference center where they host various congresses and retreats throughout the year, including for non-Catholic groups.

The monastery also offers two refurbished guest houses for pilgrims and tourists to stay. They also have private houses available to rent if people want a longer get-away.

Buckfast also has a cafeteria and an adoration chapel open to visitors. Monks also offer pilgrims the opportunity to pray Vespers with them every evening.

The abbey is known throughout the UK for a tonic wine they brew called Buckfast Tonic Wine. Originally brewed for medicinal purposes, the wine is controversial in some areas of the UK due to its unique recipe, which contains high amounts of alcohol infused with high levels of caffeine.

Reminiscent of the monastery’s early centuries, Buckfast, which is strategically placed beside the River Dart that runs through the area, also generates their own power with a water turbine that provides enough energy not only for their own grounds, but for locals in the nearby area who want to purchase it for their own homes and neighborhoods.

Another means of income for the monastery is renting grazing ground for local farmers.

Several acres of land had been purchased for Buckfast when it was established in order to preserve the silence of the monastery and ensure that the monks were truly removed with few distractions. However, since the swath of land owned by Buckfast largely serves as a buffer-of-sorts from the outside world, they rent out certain patches to local farmers who need fresh grazing land.

And while Buckfast can’t quite claim to be celebrating 1,000 years of having monks on the property, the millennium anniversary of the monastery’s foundation is recognized as a monumental event not only for the abbey, but the entire region.

Preparations for the anniversary have been underway for 10 years. According to Charlesworth, “not only do we reassess the physical environment of the monastery, but we reassess our spiritual lives as well.”

“Everything is integrated, it’s an integrated system,” he said, noting that while the monks themselves have had retreats and meditations to reflect on, the structure of the monastery itself has also been cleaned and renovated, from the base of the Church floor to the top of the bell tower.

Paintings depicting the history and reconstruction of the monastery have also been produced, and vestments woven in honor of the upcoming anniversary. Exhibits on Buckfast and monasticism are also set to be unveiled, and study workshops are scheduled exploring the role of Christian monasticism both in the past and in the present.

The famous image of Our Lady of Buckfast that greets visitors as they approach the monastery was also redone. Crafted by a local artist with her neighbor and her neighbor’s baby as models, the statue depicts a smiling Mary holding a smiling infant Christ in a relaxed pose on her hip.

Based on the medieval original, which was destroyed during the sacking of the monastery in the 1500s, the statue, according to Charlesworth, is meant to depict “the joy of motherhood.”

“You don’t typically see statues like that,” with Mary’s soft but full smile, and her relaxed pose, he said, explaining that when he initially commissioned the statue in 2012, “I specifically asked that be emphasized…the smiling motherly face of Mary and child.”

When pilgrims arrive, he explained, they see Christ “smiling and looking at them as a child – because he was a child – and there is Mary looking at her Son in the joy of motherhood.”

Various liturgical events are also set to take place, with three major Masses scheduled throughout the year. The first will take place on the May 24 feast of Our Lady of Buckfast, which will mark the diocesan celebration.

The bishops of England, Wales, and Scotland will all be invited to the Mass. Parish priests and representatives of parishes in the area will also be invited.

The next major liturgical event will be the singing of Vespers by the abbey choir on the July 11 feast of St. Benedict. Members of both civil society and the Church of England will be invited for a civic and ecumenical celebration of the anniversary.

Another Mass will be offered on the Aug. 25 feast of the Dedication of the Abbey, which will be more of a community celebration for the abbey parish staff and their families.

On Oct. 27 a Votive Mass will be offered for the Oct. 27 feast of Saints Simon and Jude, which will be celebrated by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, Gregory Polan of Conception Abbey in Missouri, who will come in from Rome for the celebration.

The Mass will primarily be for the monks and nuns o the Benedictine family, particularly those from France and in Germany, since the first monks to re-settle Buckfast in the 19th century were French and German.

With around 120 employees on staff and 3-400,000 visitors a year, Buckfast is far from a small presence in the area. However, there are only 15 monks, including Abbot Charlesworth, who live in the enclosed monastery of the abbey.

But according to Charlesworth, “the vitality of a monastic community witness does not depend so much on the age or number of members as on their manner of living the monastic life.”

Going into the future, he hopes Buckfast Abbey is able to offer a concrete service based on “Christ-centered hospitality” to the mission of the Church as a whole, but specifically the pilgrims who come.

“The monastic life itself is our way of participating in the mission of Christ and his Church,” the abbot said, adding that it offers both the Church and the world “a strong clear sign of the very nature of the Christian life.”

Though the monks are enclosed, that doesn’t mean they are inactive or that their presence isn’t felt, he said, because if lived properly through a life of prayer and asceticism, monastic life “assumes an evangelical importance, being the attitude and behavior which demonstrates our faith at the point of contact with each other and the world.”

“To witness the contentment and pleasure that others experience here is a great joy,” he said, noting that for many of Buckfast’s visitors, the monastery is a place “where they are uplifted and find peace,” which in itself is “an important source of encouragement.”

This opportunity for peace, joy and renewal is a primary way to evangelize, particularly amid a busy and often hectic rhythm, he said.

Evangelization, he said, “should seek to orientate our human freedom towards God, who is the source of truth, goodness and beauty.”

Because of this, a life of prayer is also a mode of evangelization, he said, explaining that “the Spirit given to us in prayer and the sacraments encourages us to spread the Good News of Jesus in word and deed” to the community, and to visitors.

“For us, the three-fold mission of liturgy, hospitality and evangelization helps us to express our commitment, through our monastic calling to the life of the Gospel,” Charlesworth said, stressing that “we do not have to work away from the monastery to bear witness to Jesus.”

“Within the monastic enclosure, if we are willing to cooperate with each other and collaborate with those who share our vision, we have the resources to bring hope and joy to those in need.”

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Christians in Middle East feel ‘abandoned, betrayed’ by the West

October 12, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, Oct 12, 2017 / 10:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As interreligious tensions and a migration crisis continue in the Middle East, key Church leaders in the region have said Christians largely feel abandoned by the international community, which has done little to help resolve the situation.

According to Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Christians in the Middle East “feel that we have been abandoned, even betrayed, because we were hoping that the international community would defend our rights and provide us with the equal chance to live in our homeland, but that wasn’t the case.”

“It’s not easy to endure that violent upheaval in those two countries, in Iraq and Syria,” he said, explaining that both faithful and Church leaders in the region share this sense of abandonment and betrayal by Western countries in particular, which he said are more “opportunistic” than helpful.

“We, the heads of Churches, along with some other prominent lay people who have been caring for their communities, we try to send our voice, our rights, like St. John the Baptist, but it seems that we are shouting in the desert,” he said.

Younan cited “opportunistic geopolitics” as one of the main reasons Christians have either been left homeless with no funding to rebuild their cities, or left lingering in refugee camps for years due to a backlog in visa requests while being denied official refugee status.

“We don’t have the interest regarding our faith among the politicians that govern the Western countries. We don’t have the numbers, we don’t have the oil, we don’t pose any terrorist threat to the civilized world, and therefore we have been put aside and neglected,” he said.

The patriarch is in Rome for the Oct. 9-12 plenary assembly marking the centenary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Oriental Institute, founded by Benedict XV.

Christians from Iraq and Syria who have fled to neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan are still living “in a kind of limbo. They don’t know what to do for their children,” he said.

In terms of numbers, Younan said that so far more than 50 percent of Christians in Iraq have already left the country, while a third of the remaining Christian population is internally displaced.

As far as the Christian presence in Syria, “we can easily talk about a third” of the Christian population having left, with many still waiting to be admitted to new countries.

The main needs of refugees and displaced persons is first of all humanitarian assistance, Younan said, explaining that the Church tries to provide for their basic needs, “but surely its not enough,” since most have already been displaced for several years.

“We still suffer with them in our souls because we don’t know what to do for them. We can’t seek refugee visas for them, because otherwise the Christian community would be empty in their homelands and for us this is a great loss,” he said. “But we try to respond to their basic needs.”

In terms of dialogue between Christianity and Islam, the patriarch said at times it’s difficult to speak of such a dialogue in the current cultural context, but it must happen at the level of “the believers of each religion.”

At the present moment, dialogue is focused on how the two can mutually and peacefully coexist, he said, with an emphasis on the fact that “we live in the 21 st century, that we have to respect each other, to accept each other and not discriminate because of religion.”

“This is also the mission, the task of the countries who have a word to say on the international scene,” he said. “We sit together at the United Nations…and we talk about human rights and therefore we have to uphold those rights for all, not only for the ones who believe in our religion, but for all people.”

While the Holy See, and Pope Francis in particular, understand and are doing their best to help in the plight of Christians in the Middle East, Younan said that in the broader community “the geopolitical strategy of the mighty countries is still in, let’s say, the ‘winning’ part in the world.”

“To follow the ethics of the Gospel, the real defense of human rights is for those who are the weakest and for the forgotten ones among the minorities in the Middle East,” he said, but “that’s not the case, we are not the point of their interest.”

The first right that needs to be promoted for Christians in the Middle East is to be able “to live in freedom as equal citizens,” rather than second-class citizens who face harsh discrimination which frequently goes unpunished by the law, the patriarch said.

Another key right is the ability “to choose our creed, our religion, and the right also to announce our creed, our religion to others,” he said.

However, currently “it’s forbidden” to evangelize in Muslim countries apart from Lebanon. Because of this, “we’ve been always, along the centuries, reduced to minorities because we’ve been forbidden to be missionaries in our own country.”

Issuing an appeal to the international community, Younan asked that Western nations not look at Christian and other minorities in the Middle East “as numbers, but as people, as persons, being persecuted along the centuries.”

“We’ve been reduced to minorities not because we had to leave our countries, but because we are not considered equal citizens with the Muslim majority,” he said, and called on “this so-called civilized world not just to look for their own political, economic interest,” but to protect “the rights of those who are persecuted because of their religion and their creed.”

“This is the way to deal with our problems, our very critical situation,” he said. And if the world fails to do defend the “human and religious” rights of everyone, “the Middle East will be emptied of their Christian communities and it would be a very great loss.”

 

Material from EWTN News Nightly was used in this report.

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Moved by priest’s martyrdom, French businessman returns to the faith

October 10, 2017 CNA Daily News 4

Paris, France, Oct 10, 2017 / 06:07 am (ACI Prensa).- Patrick Canac was baptized, but like so many others, drifted away from the Church over time.

In recent months, however, the successful French businessman has had a change of heart, returning to the Catholic Church and even making a large donation for the construction of a new seminary in Avignon, France.

What caused the drastic change? The witness of Fr. Jacques Hamel, the priest killed in August 2016 by ISIS jihadists as he was celebrating Mass in the small French town of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a suburb of Rouen.

“I was brought up in the Christian faith. I was baptized and received all the sacraments of initiation, but then I drifted away from the practice of my faith for a long time,” Canac told CNA during a visit to Rome.

“Last year, the murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel in a church near Rouen really hit me,” he said. “For terror to make its way into that church reminded me of the darkest times of our civilization.”

“I had an immediate, reflexive reaction as if they had killed my brother. That someone can go into a church today and kill the celebrant is just terrible, it’s horrific, it’s the devil going into a church.”

The French businessman had an instant reversion to the faith, realizing, “we all have Judeo-Christian roots” which “must be defended and saved.”

“It’s the same problem they have the Middle East, where Christians are being killed,” he reflected. “And I had an inner reaction, telling myself, ‘I’m a Christian and I’ve got to do something, put my talents to use’.”

Canac promptly made a large donation to build the new Redemptoris Mater seminary in Avignon. The project is gradually becoming a reality, and Pope Francis blessed the building’s cornerstone at his Sept. 4 general audience in Saint Peter’s Square.

“I think it’s important for our Western countries – (including) France, of course – to be evangelized, that people be encouraged to return to the Church again. Because the Church is the cradle of our civilization,” Canac said.

“I think of the first Christians, those who were pioneers, those missionaries and martyrs that spread the Gospel throughout the world. And that’s why I have put my business success to work by helping with the building project for the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Avignon.”

He explained that seminary will help to re-evangelize Europe by forming the priests who will become modern-day missionaries, “priests that will evangelize people like me so they can return to the Church.”

He continued: “After the murder of Fr. Hamel, I felt that our Judeo-Christian civilization is being threatened. Anything that will form people who will spread the Gospel, a Christian message of peace and love, must be helped.”

Last October, Pope Francis allowed the opening of Fr. Hamel’s beatification cause, waiving the normal five-year waiting period after his death.

“I am in complete agreement with Pope Francis proposing him for beatification,” Canac said. “Fr. Jacques in a martyr. What I have learned about his past life before he was killed is that he was a true Christian, worthy to be a martyr. He tried to convince his murderers that they were doing evil. His attitude was extraordinary and exemplary for everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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