Pope Francis’ most famous words from 2013—and perhaps from his entire pontificate—are, of course, “Who am I to judge?” Such a quotable quote, right? Except for the fact that those five words were ripped out […]
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“We are glad to have learned t… […]
London, England, Jul 28, 2017 / 11:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A spokesperson for the parents of terminally ill British infant Charlie Gard has reported that their “beautiful little boy” has died.
He had been taken into hospice care on July 27… […]
Dawn Eden Goldstein, the award-winning author whose pen name is Dawn Eden, is an assistant professor of dogmatic theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Her books include Remembering God’s Mercy: Redeem […]
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 28, 2017 / 11:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Venezuela faces potentially radical changes to its constitution this weekend, after years of economic collapse and shortages.
In the midst of the political upheaval, the Venezuelan bishops are urging both the government and the people to seek a respectful, democratic solution.
“The country is in ruins, people are dying of hunger, there are a number of children dying every month in the hospitals. This demonstrates that the government has not been on top of the circumstances,” said Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas in an interview with Venezuelan journalist Carlos Croes.
He stressed that the administration of President Nicolas Maduro must dialogue with the country’s legislature, the National Assembly, whose majority is in opposition to the regime.
The government’s misunderstanding and mishandling of the country’s problems, the cardinal continued, is “something that works against peace in the country.”
“The way forward is respect, tolerance, and the government seeking an understanding with the opposition leaders,” he said.
Time to come to this understanding, however, is running out. This weekend Maduro will take the first step toward rewriting the Venezuelan constitution and reorganizing the government: holding a vote for members of the constituent assembly which will be tasked with drafting a new constitution.
The boycott of the process by the opposition will likely result in the dissolution of the National Assembly and further restrictions on the opposition within Venezuela. This move by Maduro follows previous attempts to dissolve the National Assembly through the Supreme Court and the shutdown of an October 2016 recall referendum of Maduro’s government – a constitutional right instated by Maduro’s predecessor and mentor within the country’s socialist party, Hugo Chavez.
The constitution which Maduro seeks to re-rwite was adopted in 1999, shortly after Chávez came to power.
In recent years, the Venezuelan economy has collapsed, resulting in food and medical shortages, as well as struggles with housing, utilities, and other basic necessities. As a result, Maduro’s popularity has plummeted, leading to a rise of opposition to the government and public protests around the country.
Previously, the Church in Venezuela has tried to broker agreement between the government and the opposition, though those negotiations have fallen through. Since then, the Venezuelan bishops have argued for a democratic resolution to the crisis. Cardinal Urosa again argued for democratic negotiations to resolve the issue, and warned that the widespread opposition – as high as 80 percent – to the constituent assembly would only make things worse.
“That is a problem that the government has to face and try to resolve from the democratic point of view,” he stated.
“We’re with the people and most Venezuelans don’t want the Constitutional Assembly,” he said. The bishops of Venezuela, the cardinal continued, “are defending the rights of the people which are being abused by an inefficient government.” He said that the most concerning aspects of the suffering the Venezuelan people face are the shortages of food and medication.
The Venezuelan bishops’ conference later issued a statement reinforcing calls for democratic processes and warning against rewriting the constitution. “Everything suggests that what is sought is to establish a socialist, Marxist state and military, by dissolving the autonomy of powers, especially the legislative powers,” warned the conference. They also warned the populace against starting riots or other forms of violence, stating that it could further destabilize the country.
The government has banned protests that could “disturb or affect” Sunday’s election for the constituent assembly, with fines of between five and 10 years for protestors.
Around 100 people have been killed in anti-government protests since April.
The bishops’ stance against the constitutional rewrite has not been without opposition of its own. Earlier this week, the publisher San Pablo, who distributes the “Sunday Page” – a Sunday bulletin for Venezuelan parishes about the Gospel and meditations – warned the faithful there was a false edition of the bulletin which had been distributed to parishes around the country.
In the false edition of the bulletin, which promoted the constitutional assembly, faithful are advised that the process “is like the permanent Revolution, it is a revolution within the Revolution and we must always be revising the Constitution.”
“We are calling you to be attentive and not be fooled, ” the publisher warned. The warning was later distributed by the Venezuelan bishops.
According to the Caracas daily El Nacional, Holy Family parish in Carora was attacked by government supporters July 27.
Families in the area reported that its roof “was damaged by stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by groups symapethic to government and officials of the Venezuelan National Guard.”
New York City, N.Y., Jul 28, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Middle East needs peace, human rights, and the continued presence of Christians, a Holy See diplomat told the U.N. Security Council Tuesday.
“Christian communities have existed for over two thousand years in that region and have peacefully coexisted with the other communities. The Holy See urges the international community, through the Security Council, not to forget them,” Monsignor Simon Kassas, interim chargé d’affaires of the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations, said July 25.
“The Holy See believes that the rule of law, including respect for religious freedom and equality before the law based on the principle of citizenship and regardless of one’s race, ethnic origin or religion, is fundamental toward the achievement and maintenance of the peaceful and fruitful coexistence among individuals, communities and nations in the whole region and beyond,” he continued.
Msgr. Kassas spoke in an intervention during the U.N. Security Council’s open debate on “The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question.”
He voiced the Holy See’s regret at the loss of lives and property in wars and conflict in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. In these places “the dramatic humanitarian situation calls for renewed commitment by all to arrive at a political solution to these conflicts.”
The diplomat said Pope Francis “deeply appreciates the tireless efforts of those toiling to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria.”
“He encourages all actors to work toward a Syrian-led political process leading to a peaceful and inclusive transition,” the monsignor said, stressing the benefits of a peaceful settlement that will restore stability, allow for the safe return of refugees and others who are displaced.
Peace in Syria will also create an environment for effective counter-terrorism efforts and maintain “the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian state.”
Turning to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Msgr. Kassas said the Palestinian question is debated four times a year and this debate sometimes sounds like “broken records,” but this will continue until a solution is found. He added: “notwithstanding the multiple challenges facing the Middle East today, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process cannot be allowed to slip out of the top priorities of the international community and this council.”
The Holy See voiced support for a two-state solution in which both the Israel and a Palestinian state exist side-by-side “in peace within internationally recognized borders.”
“For this process to happen and succeed, Israelis and Palestinians must agree on substantial steps to lower tensions and de-escalate the violence on the ground,” Msgr. Kassas said. This includes refraining from actions, including actions regarding settlements, that contradict their stated commitment to a negotiated solution.
He cited Pope Francis’ exhortation to pray for peace and to promote a culture of non-violence so that everyone can bequeath “a culture capable of devising strategies of life, not death, and of inclusion, not exclusion.”
All Palestinian factions must show “a united political will” and work together to address their people’s needs, Msgr. Kassas told the U.N.
“A united Palestinian front would prove the commitment of the Palestinians to a peacefully negotiated settlement and would be key to the economic prosperity, social cohesion and political stability of a Palestinian State,” he said.
“We must also not forget Jerusalem, a city sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims,” the diplomat continued, adding, “The historical status quo of the holy sites is a matter of profound sensitivities.”
Msgr. Kassas reaffirmed the Holy See’s support for “for a comprehensive, just and lasting solution” regarding Jerusalem and reiterated the importance of internationally guaranteed special status that ensures religious freedom of all its inhabitants and “the secure, free and unhindered access to the Holy Places by the faithful of all religions and nationalities.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 28, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his six-day visit to Colombia in September, Pope Francis will beatify martyrs Bishop Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve and Fr. Pedro María Ramírez Ramos, who provide a potent testimony as the country heals from decades of conflict.
Bishop Jaramillo was killed by Colombian Marxist guerrillas forces in 1989, while Fr. Ramirez was murdered at the start of the Colombian Civil War in 1948.
The two were recognized as martyrs by the Vatican earlier this year, and will be beatified during the Pope’s Sept. 6-12 visit to Colombia, which he is making largely to encourage efforts for peace and reconciliation after more than 50 years of violent conflict that has left some 200,000 people dead.
Given the nature of their deaths, the two can be seen as belonging to a new wave of “modern martyrs” Pope Francis has often referred to, killed by oppressive regimes of their time such as Nazism, communism and brutal dictatorships.
Born in Santo Domingo, Colombia, in 1916, Bishop Jamillo was one of the many thousands of victims of the 52-year-long civil war between the government and guerrilla rebels.
After intensive seminary studies in philosophy, humanities and theology, in 1940 he was ordained a priest with the Xaverian Missionaries of Yarumal at the age of 24. Just four years later, in 1944, he received his doctorate in theology.
Immediately after his ordination Jamillo was sent to serve in the Sabanalarga municipality in the northern most tip of Colombia. Part of the Barranquilla Archdiocese, the area was known at the time to be hostile, and the people had very primitive religious knowledge.
Although the assignment only lasted four months, it cemented in the future martyr a love for both the priesthood and his vocation as a missionary.
In a letter to his rector at the time, Fr. Aníbal Muñoz Duque, Jamillo said “I think that now my spirit is more capable of appreciating the greatness of my missionary vocation, I feel like Christ; I feel in the depths of my being the great love for my sheep.”
After finishing the assignment, Jamillo was then appointed at a professor at the Order’s seminary, where he quickly became known for his clarity, spiritual depth and love for the priesthood. During this time, he also served as a spiritual director at the seminary and worked at the Women’s Prison in Bogotá.
He was named director of novices at the age of 30, and in the year 1950 was named Second Assistant to the Secretary General of the Order and Rector of the seminary. He was easily recognized by those around him for his smile, good humor and pastoral advice.
In 1959 Jamillo was elected Superior General of the Order, guiding them through the years of the Second Vatican Council and the many changes that ensued.
Eight years into his 10 year mandate, he asked permission to step down as Superior General, and began working for the bishops conference as and adviser to the National Council of the Laity.
Not long after, in 1970, Bl. Pope Paul VI named him Apostolic Vicar of Arauca, and he was ordained a bishop in 1971. Just 13 years later, the vicariate was elevated to a diocese, and Jamillo became the first residential bishop of the area.
He quickly gained a reputation as a selfless servant who was close to his people, and launched several pastoral projects aimed at helping the local population.
Jamillo became an outspoken critic of the violence that was being committed by the National Liberation Army (ELN) at the time, however, he was also unafraid to call out what he referred to as a climate of fear among the people that often prompted them to retaliate against the guerrillas.
It was his public criticism of violence that led to his kidnapping Oct. 2, 1989, as he was making a pastoral visit to local parishes in Fortul. According to his biography, he celebrated Mass and administered some Sacraments before setting out for the city on foot when he and his delegation were stopped by armed militants dressed as peasants.
They asked for the bishop, telling him they were members of the ELN and that he was being kidnapped in order to “send a message” to the national government. One of the priests traveling with Jamillo, Fr. Helmer Muñoz, realized what was happening and refused to leave the bishop’s side.
The two were driven for several hours before stopping in a remote location. After praying together and absolving each others’ sins, Jamillo ordered Fr. Muñoz to leave out of obedience when the captors demanded that he go. As he was walking away, Muñoz heard the the bishops’ last known words, when he said: “I will speak to whoever you want me to, but please, don’t do anything to my son.”
Despite reassurances from the captors that Bishop Jamillo would not be hurt, when Fr. Muñoz returned to the spot the following morning he found the bishop’s body. Jamillo was lying on his back in the form of a cross, having been shot in the head twice; his episcopal ring was gone, and his pectoral cross had been broken.
He was buried shortly after and dubbed by the faithful of Arauca as “prophet and martyr of peace,” which is engraved on his tombstone.
The murder of Fr. Pedro María Ramírez Ramos also came at another contentious point in Colombia’s history, when the country was facing divisions after the death of left-wing presidential candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitan.
Born in La Plata, Colombia Oct. 23, 1899, Ramirez was just 12-years-old when his brother, Luis Antonio, invited him to join the seminary. He was officially enrolled in the seminary of Mayor de Garzon in 1915, but left in 1920. However, he entered the seminary again in 1928, this time in Ibague.
Ramírez was ordained a priest just three years later on June 21, 1931. He then served as pastor in various cities until 1946, when he was assigned to Armero just as political conflict in the country began to intensify.
After Gaitan’s death, tensions between liberals and conservatives reached a fever pitch, eventually leading to Colombia’s 10-year civil war, which lasted from 1948-1958 and is commonly referred to as “La Violencia,” or “the Violence.” It was out of this conflict that many of the left-leaning guerrilla groups who have fought against the government for the past 50 years rose.
Amid the chaos of the war, many liberal party groups in Armero protested Gaitan’s death by taking up arms, widely accusing the Church of joining forces with the conservative party; accusations they backed with the Church’s alleged support for conservatives and their frequent appeals to nonviolence.
It was in this atmosphere that an angry mob, alight with anti-religious sentiments, stormed Fr. Ramirez’s parish and a nearby convent April 9, 1949, in an attempt to arrest him.
They started throwing stones and eventually broke into the curial house and went to the chapel, where Fr. Ramirez was praying. He managed to escape with the help of one of the nuns.
The next morning, Ramirez continued his schedule as normal, celebrating Mass and visiting a wounded man in prison. Despite numerous pleas from parishioners and even the city’s mayor to leave town, Ramirez refused, insisting that he would not leave the sisters or the Blessed Sacrament alone.
After returning from the prison, the priest created an escape plan for the sisters, and had them consume all the consecrated hosts, leaving just one for himself. He then stayed in the convent to pen his last will and testament before the mob returned.
In the letter with his testament, Ramirez wrote that “I want to die for Christ and for his faith.” He thanked the bishop for allowing him to become a priest for the people of Armero, “for whom I want to spill my blood.”
“To my family, I will go ahead so that they follow the example of dying for Christ. With special affection, I will look at them from heaven,” he wrote.
Later that afternoon, as the mob returned, he consumed the last host and left his stole and serving vestments with a statue of Our Lady so they would not be desecrated before going out to meet the crowd.
The mob took Fr. Ramirez and beat him with sticks and their fists before bashing his head with a machete. As he fell to the ground, the priest shouted “Father, forgive them! All for Christ!” He was then decapitated, however, his body was later recovered and preserved from further desecration.
Pope Francis has often said that there are more martyrs now than in the early Church, and has praised them as sources of life and strength for the faith.
In an April 22, 2017, liturgy honoring the “new martyrs” of the Church, the Pope noted how in many communities around the world Christians are “objects of persecution.” However, he also noted that it is in difficult moments that people frequently call for “heroes.”
The Church today also needs the heroic witness of martyrs and saints, he said, explaining that this includes “the saints of everyday life,” who move forward with coherency, but also those who “have the courage to accept the grace of being witnesses until the end, until death.”
“All of them are the living blood of the Church. They are the witnesses who carry the Church forward,” he said. By demonstrating with their lives that Jesus is alive and risen, they also “attest with the coherency of their lives and with the strength of the Holy Spirit that they have received this gift.”
Lusaka, Zambia, Jul 28, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Zambia concluded a year of celebration marking 125 years since the Church was established in the country, its bishops have said that while it was once a missionary Church, it is now a Church on mission.
“Share your faith with other people, members of your extended families, and with other Zambians. Faith that is not shared remains small and is infantile. Faith shared is multiplied,” Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu of Lusaka said at a July 14-15 ceremony in the nation’s capital.
“Since the Church in Zambia has grown, it is now time to send missionaries to the world,” agreed the Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia, Archbishop Julio Murat, noting it was time to be a witness to Western countries.
The two-day celebration included a focus on youth and on the variety of Catholic acitivities, highlighting the differences among the 11 Zambian dioceses.
Fr. Stanley Lubungo, superior general of the Missionaries of Africa, or ‘White Fathers’, said that “today should also be about keeping alive the memory of our ancestors in the faith by imitating them. But we will not do that simply through symposiums, workshops or even grandiose liturgies … if we do not continue to look for ways in which the flame of the passion of our ancestors in the faith can empower us to lead the kind of committed lives they led at the service of the needy.”
“It is in that way that our Catholic faith will become a beacon of hope as we strive to reach out to those that society casts to the peripheries,” he added.
The event also attended by the Zambian vice president, Inonge Wina, who praised the Church for its work in education and social support, saying the “the Catholic Church has continued to be a strong and reliable partner with government in not only the delivery of social services but also in advocating for integral development.”
She recognized that although the Zambian government and the Church haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, both parties have similar goals. In a January collaboration, the government and the Church emphasized the need for more communication between the government and the Church as well as the need to combat tribalism.
Zambia was colonized by European nations in the 19th century, and missionaries were among the early European contacts with the natives. Jesuits and Franciscans established missions in the country’s south, while the White Fathers were based in the north, starting in 1891.
Napa, Calif., Jul 27, 2017 / 04:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a world that can sometimes seem disheartening, Christians have a path to the future in lives of joy and love, Archbishop Chaput said Thursday.
While Christians need to see the world’s pr… […]