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London cardinal ‘appalled’ by Finsbury Park attack on Muslims

June 19, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

London, England, Jun 19, 2017 / 11:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has offered prayers for the victims of a terror attack in north London that targeted worshippers outside a mosque in the early hours of Monday.

One person was killed and nine have been hospitalized, after a van drove into a group outside the Finsbury Park Mosque shortly before 12:20 am June 19.

The Muslim worshippers were helping an elderly man who had fallen down in the street.

“Together with people all over this country I am appalled at the deliberate attack on people leaving their late night prayers, as the end of their day of fasting, at the mosque in Finsbury Park,” Cardinal Nichols stated.

“Violence breeds violence. Hatred breeds hatred. Every one of us must repudiate hatred and violence from our words and actions. We must all be builders of understanding, compassion and peace, day by day, in our homes, our work and our communities. That is the only way.”

The cardinal also wrote to Mohammad Kozbar, trustee of the Finsbury Park Mosque, saying, “I am horrified that people should, again, be targeted in this way. I write to assure you of my prayers for the person who has died, for those who have been injured and for all deeply affected by this brutal attack. I know that I speak for all Catholics when I assure you of prayers and support.”

In a similar message to Ahmed Kheloufi, director of Muslim Welfare House, Cardinal Nichols wrote “to assure you of my prayers and of my deep compassion for all who have been injured and affected by this deliberate act of violence. In particular I pray for the person who has been killed. May God’s blessings strengthened you all.”

“I also want to thank you for the work you do to foster good relations in the Finsbury Park community,” the cardinal added. “I pray that your work will be strengthened at this most difficult time.”

The attack came after the group had taken part in evening prayers after breaking their Ramadan fast.

The van’s driver, a 48 year old man, was restrained at the scene of the attack, and the mosque’s imam kept him from being attacked. He has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, commented that “While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge, it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect.”

Prime minister Theresa May said that “there has been far too much tolerance of extremism over many years”.

“It is a reminder that terrorism, extremism and hatred take many forms; and our determination to tackle them must be the same whoever is responsible.”

The Finsbury Park Mosque had been associated with Islamist terrorism in the early 2000s. Abu Hamza al-Masri, its imam from 1997 to 2002, was found guilty in the UK of inciting violence. He was later extradited ot the US, where he was found guilty of terror charges.

The mosque was shut down in 2003 after a police raid, but was reopened in 2005 under new trustees and new imams which have reportedly turned it around.

In his message to Mohammed Kozbar, Cardinal Nichols said that “Fr John O’Leary has told me of all the good work you do to foster strong and good relations with all people in Finsbury Park. Long may this good work continue and may your resolve be strengthened at this difficult time.”


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Pope on Corpus Christi: In the Eucharist, we remember God’s love

June 18, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Jun 18, 2017 / 01:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For the observance of the feast of Corpus Christi on Sunday, Pope Francis said the Eucharist helps us to remember everything that Christ has done for us, in particular his great love for us.

Corpus Christi reminds us that in the midst of our lives the Lord comes to meet us “with a loving ‘fragility,’ which is the Eucharist,” the Pope said June 18.

“In the Bread of Life, the Lord comes to us, making himself a humble meal that lovingly heals our memory, wounded by life’s frantic pace of life. The Eucharist is the memorial of God’s love.”

The Pope gave his homily at a Mass held at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. Following the Mass, he led a Eucharistic procession across Rome to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, ending with solemn Benediction with the Holy Eucharist.

Today, the word of God says to each one of us: “Remember!” Francis proclaimed.

In this way we can be strengthened, just as the memory of the Lord’s deeds guided and strengthened God’s people when they were in the desert. Remembering everything that the Lord has done for us is the foundation of our own “personal history of salvation,” he said.

“Remembrance is essential for faith, as water is for a plant. A plant without water cannot stay alive and bear fruit. Nor can faith, unless it drinks deeply of the memory of all that the Lord has done for us.”

“Memory is important,” he went on, “because it allows us to dwell in love, to be mindful, never forgetting who it is who loves us and whom we are called to love in return.”

But today, our memories are weakened by our constant activity and business, the Pope pointed out.

Our lives are such a whirl of people and events that we no longer retain memories. But this leaves us at risk of only living on the surface of things and never going deeper, he said, “without the broader vision that reminds us who we are and where we are going.”

“This is why the Eucharistic commemoration does us so much good: it is not an abstract, cold and superficial memory, but a living remembrance that comforts us with God’s love.”

Francis explained that when we receive the Eucharist, our hearts have the opportunity to become overwhelmed with the certainty of Christ’s love for us, the Eucharist giving us a memory that is grateful, free, and patient.

It’s a grateful memory, he said, because it reminds us that we are children of the Father, who loves and nourishes us. And it gives us a patient memory, because even in the midst of trial we know that Christ remains in us.

It’s free memory, because Christ’s love and forgiveness can heal the wounds in our past, freeing us from the remembrance of past wrongs.

Additionally, he said how the Eucharist encourages us – that “even on the roughest road, we are not alone; the Lord does not forget us and whenever we turn to him, he restores us with his love.”

The Pope concluded by drawing on St. Paul’s words in the day’s first reading, which says: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

Thus, the Eucharist also reminds us that we are all one body; it isn’t a sacrament just “for me.” It is for many, all the faithful, he said, who together form one body. “The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity,” he stated.

“Now, in experiencing this Eucharist, let us adore and thank the Lord for this greatest of gifts: the living memorial of his love, that makes us one body and leads us to unity.”


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UK party leader steps down, citing Christian faith

June 17, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

London, England, Jun 17, 2017 / 06:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After facing backlash for his Christian faith, the head of the UK’s Liberal Democratic Party announced his resignation on Wednesday, claiming that leading the party was becoming incompatible with living his faith.

“To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me,” said Tim Farron, noting he would hold his position until the parliamentary recess begins next month.

Farron’s announcement follows significant media attention surrounding his answers to press questions on abortion and homosexuality.

During the recent election, Farron had been asked repeatedly by reporters about his views on the morality of homosexual acts.

Earlier this week, the party’s home affairs spokesman Brian Paddick – a prominent gay politician – resigned abruptly, citing concerns over opinions held by the party’s leadership.

Despite the Liberal Democrats gaining several parliamentary seats under Farron, he faced opposition from within his own party.

According to the Telegraph, one senior Liberal Democrat said Farron was “unhelpful during the campaign.”

He also said Farron’s “views [were] not compatible with being the leader of the Liberal Democrats.”

Simon Hughes, formerly the party’s deputy leader, said “it became unfairly difficult that Tim was put in the firing line and felt that he couldn’t adequately do justice to his faith while upholding the liberal values that he has argued for all his life.”

“It would be the same for people of other faiths who have strong faith views, where there are issues that are very controversial within that faith community,” he told the BBC.

Farron noted the “scrutiny” he faced when “asked about matters to do with my faith,” claiming he felt unable to remain Christian in the current environment and could not benefit the party in its mission of upholding everyone’s rights.

He said journalist had the right to question him as they saw fit, but that the scrutiny of his faith in the public eye drew away attention from the message of the Liberal Democratic Party.

“I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message,” he said, identifying a major aspect of that mission as “defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.”

“In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society,” he said.

He clarified that he disagrees with “Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society,” saying that this is “counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.”

Farron ended his address stating that he loved his party – a party he joined when he was 16 – and encouraged his successor to “fight for a Britain that is confident, generous and compassionate.”

“My successor will inherit a party that is needed now more than ever before. Our future as an open, tolerant and united country is at stake.”



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Stolen relic of St John Bosco’s brain recovered

June 16, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Turin, Italy, Jun 16, 2017 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A relic of St. John Bosco, which had been stolen from an Italian basilica two weeks ago, has been recovered, the local Prosecutor’s Office reported.

An urn containing a relic of St. John Bosco’s brain was discovered missing on June 3. The reliquary was kept in the Basilica of John Bosco in Asti, the saint’s birthplace, fewer than 20 miles east of Turin.

According to Italian press reports, the alleged perpetrator of the crime is a 42-year old man with a criminal record, residing in Pirenolo, Turin. He was arrested by the Asti police. The suspect allegedly planned to sell the reliquary, which he believed to be of solid gold.

St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians, was a 19th century Italian priest who had a particular love and apostolate for at-risk and underserved youth. Today, the order serves youth throughout the world primarily in schools, homeless shelters, and community centers.

Fr. Enrico Stasi, provincial of the Salesians in Piemonte and Valle d’Aosta, thanked “the judiciary, all the police and all those who have contributed to the positive solution to this unpleasant affair.”

“It is consoling for the Salesians, for the Church in Turin and for the many friends of Don Bosco throughout the world who have abundantly demonstrated their closeness in this time,” he told Agenzia Info Salesiana.

In this regard, he said that “the occasion of the restitution and return of the relic to its original place will be for us and for the faithful another sign of the benevolence and blessing of Don Bosco for those who continue to keep his spirit alive in the world.”

The basilica has experienced some other minor thefts in recent weeks, though nothing of spiritual value.

Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin also commented on the missing relic, saying it was news “you would never want to hear, because it makes us think of a profound moral misery” that someone would steal something of spiritual and devotional value.

The archbishop told an Italian news source that he asked all of his priests to say a special prayer during their Pentecost Masses for the Salesian family and the recovery of the relic, so that it can “continue to be a point of devotion for the millions of faithful who come to the sanctuary dedicated to him.”



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Mental health has a spiritual element, Holy See reminds UN

June 16, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Geneva, Switzerland, Jun 16, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See’s representative to the United Nations appealed Wednesday to the Human Rights Council to couple psychological treatment with spiritual care.

In response to a recent report on mental health issued by the council’s special rapporteur, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovich agreed that the report “rightly promotes the adoption of an integrated bio-medical, psycho-social, and community-based delivery of mental health care.”

“My Delegation also would like to point out the importance of spiritual care in helping persons living with, or affected by, mental health problems,” he added in his June 14 statement.

Archbishop Jurkovich quoted the words of St. John Paul II: “Whoever suffers from mental illness ‘always’ bears God’s image and likeness in themselves, as does every human being. In addition, they ‘always’ have the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such.”

The archbishop expressed hope that the report’s “caution against reductionist biomedical paradigms” would “awaken the consciences” of human rights advocates, policy makers, mental health practitioners, family members, and communities “to the inalienable and God-given dignity of each person.”

He said the issues and people suffering from mental illness have been ignored for too long. The topic of mental illness, he said, tends to draw fear, discrimination, and even rejection from society, which in the past led to ‘“warehousing’ of such persons in large, isolated, and closed institutions.”

The archbishop stated there must be an established defense against the dangers which may be new forms of isolation, like cultivating an over-dependency on psychiatric drugs, social exclusion, depriving the patients of informed consent, and inhibiting their self-responsibility. He also decried “the increasing encouragement and facilitation of assisted suicide” among those with mental health challenges.

Spiritual care should also aid the people seeking out mental care, he said, noting it is an integral part of the human person. However, he drew a line between spiritual care and “faith healing” which ignores or even rejects medical treatment.

“Spiritual care should not be confused with, or mistaken by, so-called ‘faith healing’ to the exclusion of medical, psychological, and social assistance,” he emphasized.


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‘Roughly half’ of Iraqi, Syrian Christians have fled since 2011

June 15, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Amsterdam, Netherlands, Jun 15, 2017 / 03:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new report estimates that between 50 and 80 percent of Christians have fled the countries of Iraq and Syria since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011.

Released by Christian advocacy groups Open Doors, Served, and Middle East Concern, the report estimates that at least 100,000 Iraqi Christians have fled or are internally displaced, and that the Christian population of Syria has been ‘roughly halved’, from about 2 million, since 2011.

“Factors for leaving included the violence of conflict, including the almost complete destruction of some historically Christian towns in the Nineveh plains of northern Iraq, the emigration of others and loss of community, the rate of inflation and loss of employment opportunities, and the lack of educational opportunities,” states the report.

The information for the report was gathered through a series of interviews with various sources, including NGO staffers and religious leaders, and also includes the findings of academic studies.

The report tracked the emigration of those Christians who have fled the Middle East to Europe, even though others have traveled to Asia, Australia or the Americas.

Since the 2003 U.S. invasion and the rise of the Islamic State, increased violence in Iraq and Syria has resulted in the targeted killings and expulsions of many Christians, with many fleeing to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, or beyond, while others are displaced within their home countries.

The arrival of the Islamic State made the situation especially dire for Christians, who were forced to either pay a tax, convert, or leave if they didn’t want to be killed.

That was the “tipping point” for Christians in the area who had already experienced an “overall loss of hope for a safe and secure future,” the report notes.

Iraq once had a Christian population of as many as 1.4-2 million in the 1990s, which declined to around 300,000 by 2014, and is now down to approximately 100,000. Most of those internally displaced have fled to Erbil.

Pinpointing the exact number of Christians who have stayed in or fled Syria is more difficult, though the report notes that numerous regions and towns that once had large Christian populations have decreased significantly since the start of the war, with some communities all but disappearing.

The report estimates that approximately half of Syria’s estimated 2 million Christians have left, and a survey found that of the Christians still in the country, about 35 percent wish to leave, compared to eight percent of the country’s Muslims.

Of the Christians who fled, many chose to seek resettlement in other countries through family or Church organizations rather than through state-sponsored refugee resettlement programs.

“Trust in churches allows people to feel more comfortable to register with them. Furthermore, it is seen to be less demeaning to have to line up to receive assistance ‘provided in a sensitive way in the safe space of a church,’” the report found.

The hope for return to their home countries varied among those who had fled. For the most part, those who were settled in their destination countries reported not wanting to return, while those who have encountered more difficulties in the resettlement process either have returned or hope to return someday.

Sweden and Germany have become popular destinations because of the ease of resettlement and the ability to find work, though the report found that due to new policies in these countries, that may change.

Published with the report was a policy proposal paper for the EU, since the report tracked only those Christians fleeing to Europe. It made several recommendations, including establishment of an “accountability mechanism,” to the European Union Parliament.

“Creating a national accountability mechanism for grievances is a long-term solution which aims to restore faith in a system that ensures all religious and ethnic communities are affirmed as equal citizens and deserving of protection, while also deterring negative actors from taking adverse actions against these communities,” it stated.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would authorize U.S. government funds to be given to aid groups directly providing assistance to displaced Iraqi and Syrian Christians. The bill has yet to clear the Senate. According to In Defense of Christians, thousands of Iraqi Christians have seen no financial aid from the U.S., despite the U.S. having given the Iraqi government millions of dollars for relief efforts.

As of October 2016, the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil has received more than $31 million in funding from Aid to the Church in Need, in addition to support from 16 other Catholic organizations from around the world. The Knights of Columbus have a website dedicated to providing relief to displaced Christians in the Middle East.


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Monks of Norcia announce special edition beer to help them rebuild

June 13, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Norcia, Italy, Jun 14, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- It was God and beer sales that helped sustain the Benedictine monks of Norcia, and it is God and beer sales that will help them rebuild.

Last year, in August and again in October, strong earthquakes rocked the town of Norcia, Italy, killing hundreds of people and destroying the 14th century Basilica of St. Benedict, where the monks of Norcia dwelt.

Miraculously, their brewery, where they produce Birra Nursia, was mostly left intact.

The monks were forced to dwell in tents and cabins through a particularly cold Italian winter while they began rebuilding a new, earthquake-proof monastery in San Benedetto in Monte, just outside the walls of Norcia.

Now, the monks have announced a special project that will help them rebuild: Leffe, a Belgian brewery, has agreed to partner with the monks for a special edition brew, the proceeds of which will go directly to the monks’ new monastery.

“Leffe beer, one of the most highly prized beers of Belgium and brewed in the monastic tradition, launched a special limited-edition brew with Birra Nursia, our own beer, as a joint label with Leffe Blonde,” the monks announced online.

“While the two beers, Leffe and Birra Nursia, remain distinct, the Nursia name on the Leffe Blonde bottle signifies the shared commitment of the two breweries: to rebuild Norcia and bring hope to the tragedy-stricken region.”

The 100,000 bottles of the special edition brew will only be available for distribution in Italy, and will directly fund the new wooden chapel, “which is not just for the monks, but is open to all those thirsting after God,” the monks noted.

Leffe beer itself has monastic roots. Norbertine canons of the Leffe abbey had been brewing beer in the town for centuries, until the French revolution resulted in the abandonment and destruction of the brewery. In the 1950s, determined not to let the brewing tradition die, the abbey’s Father Abbot Nys met master brewer Albert Lootvoet, and an agreement was struck.

Shortly after, the Leffe brewery was back in full effect, today under the ownership of Anheuser-Busch InBev. Some of the proceeds of the beer still support the Leffe monastery.

For the Norcia monks, the wooden chapel is the first phase of a full reconstruction for the abbey. While it will be officially inaugurated in September, the monks already held a Mass of thanksgiving in the chapel on Pentecost, despite an unfinished roof.

“In this way, we remember: Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eum,” the monks said: “Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the laborers build it.”

The monks said the whole experience has been a reminder that “in moments of tragedy when all seems lost, God calls us to trust that somewhere, somehow, good can come from it.


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St Anthony of Padua considered ‘all the world as his home’

June 13, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Padua, Italy, Jun 13, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Church celebrates St. Anthony of Padua, his widespread popularity can be traced to his efforts at reaching out as a neighbor to all peoples, according to the rector of the basilica where the saint’s body rests.

“The devotion to the Saint of the Peoples is truly universal perhaps because he himself desired to consider all the world his as his home,” Father Oliviero Svanera, rector of the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua, told CNA.

“He was Portuguese by birth, he went to Morocco to spread the faith, he landed in Sicily by shipwreck, then he went back up the Italian peninsula all the way to Assisi and joined the friars of St. Francis, who sent him all the way to France.

Once St. Athony returned to Italy he was appointed provincial superior and served in Padua, where he died in 1231.

“It is told that he would speak one language made of a thousand accents but which was understandable to all,” Fr. Svanera said. “As such, he was a neighbor to all: to the poor, to people in difficulty, to the sick. In this, his being ‘brother of all,’ is perhaps his universality, something that renders him a friend of all the peoples of the world, beyond nationality, culture, and even religions, given that St. Anthony is respected even by those who do not profess the Catholic faith.”

St. Anthony was born as Fernando Martins in Lisbon around 1195, and when he was 15 entered the Abbey of St. Vincent with the Canons Regular of St. Augustine, and he was ordained a priest.

In 1220 he was moved by seeing the relics of five Franciscan missionaries who had been martyred in Morocco. He was allowed to leave the Augustinians to join the Order of Friars Minor, where he took the name Anthony. He worked as a preacher and laid the foundations of Franciscan theology.

He was canonized in 1232, only a year after his death, by Gregory IX, who had heard him preach and called him the “Ark of the Testament.”

It was also in 1232 that construction of the basilica which houses St. Anthony’s body was begun. It was finished at the beginning of the 14th century.

Please find below more from CNA’s interview with Fr. Svanera, rector of the basilica:


For the feast day, there exists the famous Tredicina in honor of the saint: What does this consist of?

By the word “Tredicina” is meant the thirteen days of meditation and spiritual preparation for the solemnity of the saint, that is, from May 31 to June 13. Every day those devoted to St. Anthony invoke the intercession of the saint through a particular prayer, the Tredicina to Saint Anthony specifically, to entrust themselves to the mercy of God the Father. These are the days in which the basilica becomes the goal of pilgrims, both individuals and those organized in groups, and our sanctuary becomes truly universal, as in these days of veneration and prayer there are tens of thousands of pilgrims who come here from every country of the world.

Another tradition is the “Bread of St. Anthony.” What is the significance of this tradition?

In a word, the “Bread of St. Anthony” is synonymous with charity. The birth of this tradition has its roots in one of the “miracles” of the saint, that of Tommasino, a baby of twenty months who drowned in a washtub. The desperate mother invoked the help of the saint and made a vow: If she would obtain this grace, she would give to the poor the child’s weight in bread. And the little one returned miraculously to life. This miracle has given origin to two Antonian works in faithfulness to the spirit of St. Anthony: Firstly, l’Opera Pane dei Poveri (the Bread Work of the Poor), the Antonian organization which in Padua works to bring bread, and other necessities to people in difficulty, and next the Caritas Antoniana Onlus (Antonian Charity not-for-profit), the body of friars of the saint who in 2016 supported 124 development projects in 40 countries of the world, for a total of €2.64 million ($2.96 million).

St. Anthony was a great preacher who practiced charity: What can this teach us about a “Church that goes forth”?

The gospel and charity are the two hinges of the lesson from St. Anthony. His preaching was always capable of provoking the heart of everyone. And this too is thanks to his exemplary life and his humility, which he learned from Most Holy Mary, to whom he was profoundly devoted. St. Anthony proclaimed the gospel which conquers the temptation of power, the temptation of pride, the temptation, Pope Francis would say today, of worldliness, of how much worldliness there is and which brings us to act out life as in a play, or to want to give an appearance. Through his love, St. Anthony knew to stoop for the other (refugee, migrant, unemployed, alone, sick, imprisoned, marginalized, poor) and to take care of him. We will thus be effective Christians of a Church which goes forth if, like St. Anthony, we manage to go forth from ourselves to preach Christ crucified, following him with a style of humility, of true humility, a humility full of love.