Venezuelan bishops accused of “hate crimes”

January 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 18, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, called for an investigation of two bishops accused of committing “hate crimes” in homilies they gave on the Feast of the Divine Shepherdess, Jan. 14, a popular Marian feast day in the country.

On Monday, the Venezuelan president gave a speech before the Constitutional Assembly asking the Supreme Court of Justice, the Comptroller’s Office and the Public Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the Archbishop of Barquisimeto, Antonio López Castillo; and the Bishop of San Felipe, Víctor Hugo Basabe.

Venezuela’s El Nacional reports that the bishops “cried out for the end of hunger and corruption” in their homilies. Bishop Basabe made reference to a “corrupt plague” causing starvation in the country, and Archbishop Castillo prayed the country would be saved from corruption, according to the report.

In his speech, Maduro said that “a devil comes in a cassock to call for violent confrontations, to call for civil war…and I thank the people of the state of Lara who alerted me to this filth, because I really don’t listen to [the bishops]. We don’t listen to those bandits.”

Maduro’s allegations came just days after the Venezuelan bishops’ conference called for international monitors to oversee the country’s 2018 presidential elections, calling the Constitutional Assembly controlled by Maduro “unconstitutional and illegitimate.”

Archbishop Castillo told reporters Tuesday that he had received a phone call of support from Pope Francis, according to a report from El Impulso.

“We received Pope Francis’ message and he supports us as well as the people of Venezuela,” he said.

Bishop Basabe responded to Maduro’s accusations through a letter obtained by ACI Prensa–CNA’s Spanish language sister agency. Basabe stated that his “conscience in no way reproaches him” because his “only crime seems to be serving the truth.”

“Mr. Maduro has put in my mouth words I never said. How sad it is  that a national public official would so scandalously lie in front of the whole country on National Teacher’s Day. What’s worse is he accuses me committing a crime while he commits one himself,” the bishop said.

“I knew that my words would upset those who deep down in their consciences know they are responsible for the tragedy that this people whom I love is going through,” Basabe added.

“Here I am in my own church with my only weapons: my faith in Christ and the certainty that my life is in his hands. [My fate] is up to those who will not be pardoned by conscience or history,” he concluded.

Bishop Mario Moronta Rodriguez, vice-president of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, also repudiated Maduro’s accusations. On Jan. 16, he appeared on the television program Circuito Éxitos, arguing that the accusations made against Lopez and Castillo are accusations “against the entire episcopate and the entire Catholic Church.”

“What they did was to simply make a statement reflecting everything we have been saying for a long time and it touches on a wound or sore,” he added.

Finally, he said that “when the bishops are called ‘devils in a cassock,’ [Maduro] is also inciting hatred.”

“There are a lot of people going hungry. If that’s calling for hatred then the dramatic nature of that law has to be changed,” he concluded.

In a Jan 16 press release, the Venezuelan bishops’ conference expressed their solidarity with Lopez and Basabe, and said that President Maduro, “totally twisted the message” given by both of them, “with the purpose of claiming the bishops were committing a crime.”

“The truth about what is happening in the country was evidenced in the homilies given that day. The gestures of the thousands of parishioners present at the Mass on Venezuela Avenue showed they agreed with what they were hearing,” the statement added.

Venezuela’s hate crime law “criminalizes any demonstrations” against the government, the bishops noted.

“We exhort all the parishioners of the Archdiocese of Barquisimeto and the Diocese of San Felipe to care for your pastors, to be alert to any move against them, which could attack their human dignity,” the statement added.

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


Knights of Columbus praise increased US aid for persecuted Iraqis

January 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The federal government has pledged $55 million in aid for religious and ethnic groups that have faced ISIS persecution in Iraq’s Ninewa Province, drawing praise from the Knights of Columbus, a supporter of humanitarian efforts in the region.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced last week that the government will provide $75 million to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for aid to Iraq, including the $55 million earmarked for communities of Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities. Future contributions from USAID will depend on the success of new accountability and transparency measures at the UN, according to the announcement.

The earmarked funds will help to rebuild communities in areas of Ninewa Province previously controlled by ISIS. According to USAID, the money will be used to restore basic services, like water, sewage, and electricity, as displaced religious minorities return to the region. Most of Ninewa’s religious minorities, including the majority of its Christian population, fled Mosul over the last decade. The Yazidi population had been persecuted by ISIS, and many Yazidi women were sold into sex slavery or killed.

The province, located in the northern part of Iraq, contains the city of Mosul, an ISIS stronghold until July of 2017, when it was decimated in the Battle of Mosul, which ousted ISIS and liberated the city.  Mosul has still not recovered from the battle, which lasted for more than nine months.

Last year, speaking at the In Defense of Christians summit, Vice President Mike Pence promised to provide assistance for Christian communities in the Middle East that were at risk of being wiped out.

Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus issued a statement Wednesday saying that the group is “grateful” for the increased funding, and that they look forward to continue collaboration with NGOs and government agencies to support Christians and other groups persecuted by ISIS.

“We are grateful for the actions of the American government in this regard, and look forward to continuing to work with our government and those affected by the genocide to ensure that needed relief reaches those most in need, and that these communities survive for generations to come,” the statement read.

The Knights also praised the funding increase, saying that the United States is now treating the genocide of Christians in the Middle East in a manner similar to other genocides, and will help to continue to weaken ISIS’ influence in the area.

“In addition, the U.S. government’s actions bring America’s foreign aid into line with our country’s response to previous genocides and will also help defeat ISIS’ overall strategy of eliminating minorities from the Middle East,” Anderson said.

In August 2017, the Knights of Columbus pledged more than $2 million to rebuild the Christian town of Karamdes, which was decimated by ISIS.  The group has raised more than $11 million to support Christian refugees, especially in Iraq and Syria.  In 2016, the Knights, in partnership with In Defense of Christians, led a successful effort to persuade the US government to designate ISIS persecution of Christians and other minorities a genocide.



Christ statue in Peru suffers smoke damage

January 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Lima, Peru, Jan 17, 2018 / 04:38 pm (ACI Prensa).- Last weekend, just days before Pope Francis’ visit to Peru, a fire was set that damaged part of Cristo del Pacifico, a 120 foot tall statue located in Lima, the nation’s capital.

According to RPP News, five fire department units responded and put out the fire Jan. 13, which caused noticeable smoke damage to the back part the the statue.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”es” dir=”ltr”>Incendiaron el Cristo del Pacífico o “Cristo de lo Robado”, no sufrió daños de consideración. <a href=””></a></p>&mdash; Mona Paredes (@monaparedes) <a href=””>January 13, 2018</a></blockquote>
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“So far the motive leading to the incident is unknown; but the theory has come up that this may have been done  because of Pope Francis’s upcoming visit,” RPP stated.

Cristo del Pacifico is a 70 feet tall sculpture set on a 50 foot base and can be seen from several areas of the capital. It was dedicated June 29, 2011.


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


Peace and progress start with education, Francis says at Chilean university

January 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Santiago, Chile, Jan 17, 2018 / 03:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to Chilean university students and academics Wednesday, Pope Francis said Catholic educational institutions play a prophetic role in helping future generations tackle problems with an integrated, inclusive approach.

“In our day, the mission entrusted to you is prophetic,” the Pope said Jan. 17 to a crowd of  some 2,400 students and academics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago. “You are challenged to generate processes that enlighten contemporary culture by proposing a renewed humanism that eschews every form of reductionism.”

This prophetic role on the part of Catholic universities is a key motive in seeking out “ever new spaces for dialogue rather than confrontation,” he said.

These spaces, he added, must be occasions “of encounter rather than division, paths of friendly disagreement that allow for respectful differences between persons joined in a sincere effort to advance as a community towards a renewed national coexistence.”

The meeting marks the last event for the day, and is part of his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, after which he will visit Peru Jan. 18-21.

In his speech, the Pope said Chilean Saint Alberto Hurtado, SJ, who studied at the university, is a prime example of how “intelligence, academic excellence and professionalism, when joined to faith, justice and charity, far from weakening, attain a prophetic power capable of opening horizons and pointing the way, especially for those on the margins of society.”

He then noted how the rector of the university, Dr Ignacio Sánchez, had said there are “important challenges” in Chile which deal with “peaceful coexistence as a nation and the ability to progress as a community.”

On the topic of peaceful coexistence as a nation, Pope Francis said even speaking of challenges is a sign that certain situations “need to be rethought.”

“The accelerated pace and a sense of disorientation before new processes and changes in our societies call for a serene but urgent reflection that is neither naïve nor utopian, much less arbitrary,” he said.

Peace as a nation is possible to the extent that educational processes are transformative, inclusive, and favor coexistence, the Pope maintained.

This doesn’t mean simply attaching values to educational work, but rather implies means “establishing a dynamic of coexistence internal to the very system of education itself. It is not so much a question of content but of teaching how to think and reason in an integrated way.”

For this “mental formation” to happen, Francis said an “integrating literacy” is needed which can help students process the rapid changes happening in society.

This literacy, he said, must integrate know how to integrate and harmonize the various “languages” which “constitute us as persons”: the “intellect (the head), affections (the heart) and activity (the hands).”

Following this approach will allow students to grow not only on a personal level, but also at the level of society, he said, which is important since “we urgently need to create spaces where fragmentation is not the guiding principle, even for thinking. To do this, it is necessary to teach how to reflect on what we are feeling and doing; to feel what we are thinking and doing; to do what we are thinking and feeling. An interplay of capacities at the service of the person and society.”

The Pope noted the importance of the unity of knowledge against the fragmentation of fields, saying, “The ‘divorce’ of fields of learning from languages, and illiteracy with regard to integrating the distinct dimensions of life, bring only fragmentation and social breakdown.”

He noted that in our “liquid” society, borrowing a phrase from the late Polish sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, “those points of reference that people use to build themselves individually and socially are disappearing.”

“It seems that the new meeting place of today is the ‘cloud’, which is characterized by instability since everything evaporates and thus loses consistency,” he said.

The Pope said that “This lack of consistency may be one of the reasons for the loss of a consciousness of the importance of public life, which requires a minimum ability to transcend private interests (living longer and better) in order to build upon foundations that reveal that crucial dimension of our life which is ‘us’.”

“Without that consciousness, but especially without that feeling and consequently without that experience, it is very difficult to build the nation. As a result, the only thing that appears to be important and valid is what pertains to the individual, and all else becomes irrelevant. A culture of this sort has lost its memory, lost the bonds that support it and make its life possible,” he said.

“Without the ‘us’ of a people, of a family and of a nation, but also the ‘us’ of the future, of our children and of tomorrow, without the ‘us’ of a city that transcends ‘me’ and is richer than individual interests, life will be not only increasingly fragmented, but also more conflictual and violent.”

“The university, in this context, is challenged to generate within its own precincts new processes that can overcome every fragmentation of knowledge and stimulate a true universitas.”

On progressing as a community, the Pope pointed to the university’s chaplaincy program, which he said is a sign of “a young, lively Church that ‘goes forth’.”

This same mentality has to be present in universities, he said, noting that classic forms of research are now “experiencing certain limits,” which means modern-day culture requires new forms that are more inclusive “of all those who make up social and hence educational realities.”

A great challenge for the university’s community, then, “is to not isolate itself from modes of knowledge, or, for that matter, to develop a body of knowledge with minimal concern about those for whom it is intended.”

Rather, “it is vital that the acquisition of knowledge lead to an interplay between the university classroom and the wisdom of the peoples who make up this richly blessed land,” Francis said, adding that education has to extend beyond the classroom and to “be continually challenged to participation.”

Francis then pointed to the need for an education that emphasizes both quality and integration, saying the service that universities offer must always aim for excellence when it comes to national coexistence.

“In this way, we could say that the university becomes a laboratory for the future of the country, insofar as it succeeds in embodying the life and progress of the people, and can overcome every antagonistic and elitist approach to learning.”

The Pope warned against a kind of knowledge that seeks to subject nature to its own “designs and desires,” citing a warning against this from the 20th century kabbalist Gershom Scholem. He said that “to reduce creation to certain interpretative models that deprive it of the very Mystery that has moved whole generations to seek what is just, good, beautiful and true” will “will always be a subtle temptation in every academic setting.”

“Whenever a ‘professor’, by virtue of his wisdom, becomes a ‘teacher’, he is then capable of awakening wonderment in our students,” Pope Francis said. “Wonderment at the world and at an entire universe waiting to be discovered!”

The mission entrusted to the university, then, is prophetic, he said, and closed his speech asking the Holy Spirit to guide the steps of everyone present, so that the university is able continue “to bear fruit for the good of the Chilean people and for the glory of God.”


Faith is an adventure, Pope Francis tells Chilean youth

January 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Santiago, Chile, Jan 17, 2018 / 02:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a meeting with youth during his second full day in Chile, Pope Francis said that faith is a grand adventure, one that gives young people the inspiration to overcome difficulties and dream big.

“I know that the hearts of young Chileans dream, and that they dream big dreams, for these lands have given rise to experiences that spread and multiplied across the different countries of our continent,” he said.

“Who inspired those dreams? It was young people like yourselves, who were inspired to experience the adventure of faith,” the Pope said Jan. 17 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Carmel in Maipú, a suburb of Santiago, Chile.

“For faith excites in young people feelings of adventure, an adventure that beckons them to traverse unbelievable landscapes, rough and tough terrain,” he said, but added that young people like adventures and challenges.

Pope Francis spoke to youth during an encounter at the National Shrine of Maipú, which includes a basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Patroness and Queen of Chile. The meeting took place as part of the Pope’s Jan. 15-22 apostolic visit to Chile and Peru.

Among those present was a group who took part in a 10-day missionary project earlier this month, in anticipation of Francis’ visit. The project included more than 2,500 college students, who spread out to 90 rural communities across Chile to share their faith, lead youth activities, and build chapels.

During the encounter, students presented the Pope with a flag signed by those who took part in the mission projects, as well as a scale model of a rural chapel, representing the evangelization of the peripheries of Chile.

Pope Francis said that the National Shrine where the gathering with youth took place “is a home to both heaven and earth. A home for Chile, a home for you, dear young people, where Our Lady of Carmel waits for you and welcomes you with an open heart.”

Just like she has accompanied the nation and its people over these last 200 years, she wants to accompany you and the dreams that God has placed in your hearts, he said. “Dreams of freedom, dreams of joy, dreams of a better future.”

Francis told a story about a young man who once told him about how unhappy it made him when his cell phone battery died, or when he couldn’t connect to the internet. The young man said it was because when this happens it makes him feel “shut off from the world, stuck.”

The same thing can happen in our faith: “After a while on the journey or after an initial spurt, there are moments when, without even realizing it, our ‘bandwidth’ begins to fade and we lose our connection, our power,” Pope Francis said.

“Then we become unhappy and we lose our faith, we feel depressed and listless, and we start to view everything in a bad light.”

Jesus is our internet “connection,” he continued. Without a good relationship with Jesus, we can become frustrated and annoyed, even starting to believe that nothing really matters or that nothing we do makes a difference.

“It worries me that, once they have lost their ‘connection,’ many people think they have nothing to offer; they feel lost. Never think that you have nothing to offer or that nobody cares about you. Never!” Francis emphasized.

Referencing the Chilean St. Alberto Hurtado, he said that the saint can be a good guide for young people on how to set their hearts ablaze “with the fire that keeps joy alive” – which is Jesus.

St. Alberto’s “password” for achieving happiness was to ask the question: “What would Christ do in my place?” Francis said, asking youth to type that phrase into their phones to remember to ask it on a regular basis.

He advised them to ask themselves “at school, at university, when outdoors, when at home, among friends, at work, when taunted: ‘What would Christ do in my place?’ When you go dancing, when you are playing or watching sports: ‘What would Christ do in my place?’”

The only way to commit something to heart, like a password, is by using it over and over, day after day, the Pope said. Therefore, “wherever you are, with whomever you are with, and whenever you get together,” ask yourself: “What would Jesus do?”

“The time will come when you know it by heart, and the day will come when, without realizing it, your heart will beat like Jesus’ heart.”

“Dear friends, be courageous, go out straightaway to meet your friends, people you don’t know, or those having troubles,” he encouraged.

“Go out with the only promise we have: that wherever you are…you will always be ‘connected’; there will always be a ‘power source.’ We will never be alone. We will always enjoy the company of Jesus, his Mother and a community.”



Trump to address March for Life via livestream

January 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 01:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. President Donald Trump will address participants in the 45th national March for Life via live video, the White House confirmed Wednesday.

The march, held annually on or near the anniversa… […]

Pope appeals for unity, non-violence in Chile’s torn Mapuche zone

January 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Temuco, Chile, Jan 17, 2018 / 07:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Chile’s largely indigenous Araucania region, long divided by violent conflict. He stressed the importance of unity, which he said cannot be achieved through violence or forced uniformity.

Pointing to Jesus’ prayer that “they may all be one” at the end of John’s Gospel, Pope Francis noted that it is at this “crucial moment” before his death that Jesus “stops to plea for unity.”

“In his heart, he knows that one of the greatest threats for his disciples and for all mankind will be division and confrontation, the oppression of some by others,” he said, and urged those present to take Jesus’ words in the prayer to heart.

We must “enter with him into this garden of sorrows with those sorrows of our own, and to ask the Father, with Jesus, that we too may be one,” Francis said, and prayed that “confrontation and division never gain the upper hand among us.”

Pope Francis spoke during his Jan. 17 Mass in Chile’s Araucania region in Temuco, which for years has been torn apart by violent conflict surrounding the plight of the area’s Mapuche people, an indigenous group present largely in south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina.

He traveled to the region as part of his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, after which he will make an official visit to Peru from Jan. 18-21.

The largest indigenous group in Chile, the Mapuche resisted Spanish conquest during colonial times by using guerrilla warfare tactics to evade soldiers and maintain control of their land.

They continued to resist after Chilean independence in 1818, however, in the 1860s the military gained control, and the majority of their land was given over to members of the military and incoming immigrants.  

Despite the launch of some initiatives aimed at restoring parts of their land and the creation of scholarships for Mapuche students, the Mapuche live in one of the poorest areas of Chile and claim to be mistreated by authorities.

Some of the Mapuche have in recent years adopted violent means of protest, and have bombed trucks and land of non-Mapuche people they say are illegally inhabiting the area.

They have also set fire to churches, burning more than two dozen in 2016 and 2017, according to the Chilean prosecutor’s office. Just last Friday three more churches were firebombed in the Chilean capital Santiago in protest of the Pope’s visit.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and authorities are unsure whether Mapuche activists are to blame, however, leaflets criticizing the upcoming visit of Francis and calling for a “free” Mapuche nation were dropped at the scene.

The field attached to the Maquehue Airport, where Pope Francis landed and celebrated Mass, had once been used as a detention center where many indigenous peoples were tortured during Chile’s military government under Augusto Pinochet.

In the lead up to the Pope’s trip, a number of the Mapuche had protested the use of the airport for the papal Mass given the serious human rights violations that took place there, arguing that the land belongs to them and not the government. Two more attacks on churches took place shortly before the Pope’s arrival to Temuco, however, no one has claimed responsibility for these either.

In his homily, Pope Francis recognized that in the past, the airport had been the site of “grave violations of human rights,” and said he was offering the Mass for “all those who suffered and died, and for those who daily bear the burden of those many injustices.” He paused in a moment of silence for all who died.

“The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross bears all the sin and pain of our peoples, in order to redeem it,” he said, and pointed to the day’s Gospel reading from John, in which Jesus prays for the unity of his disciples.

Unity is a gift which must be “persistently sought” for the good of all, and for future generations, he said, but cautioned against what he named as two temptations that can “poison the roots” of this unity.

First, Francis warned against the temptation to confuse unity with uniformity, saying “Jesus does not ask his Father that all may be equal, identical, for unity is not meant to neutralize or silence differences.”

“Unity can never be a stifling uniformity imposed by the powerful, or a segregation that does not value the goodness of others,” he said. Rather, the unity that Jesus refers to is a “reconciled diversity” which recognizes the value of the individual contribution of each tradition and culture.

This unity “will not allow personal or community wrongs to be perpetrated in its name,” the Pope said, adding that “we need the riches that each people has to offer, and we must abandon the notion that there are higher or lower cultures.”

It also requires both listening to and esteeming one another, which in turn builds solidarity. And solidarity, he said, is the most effective weapon against “the deforestation of hope.”

He also warned against the temptation to obtain unity with the use of violence, and cautioned against two forms of violence which he said stifle the growth of unity and reconciliation rather than encouraging them.

The first, he said, are the “elegant agreements that will never be put into practice.” They consist of nice words and detailed plans, and while these are needed, they end up “erasing with the elbow what was written by the hand” when they go unimplemented, he said, explaining that this is a form of violence “because it frustrates hope.”

Second are the actual acts that take place, he said, insisting that “a culture of mutual esteem may not be based on acts of violence and destruction that end up taking human lives.”

“You cannot assert yourself by destroying others, because this only leads to more violence and division,” he said. “Violence begets violence, destruction increases fragmentation and separation. Violence eventually makes a most just cause into a lie.”

Rather than using these two avenues, which are “the lava of a volcano that wipes out and burns everything in its path,” the Pope urged attendees to pursue a path of “active non-violence” as a political style, and told them to never tire of promoting true and peaceful dialogue for the sake of unity.

After Mass, Pope Francis will head to the mother house for the Sisters of the Holy Cross order, where he will each lunch with around 11 people, eight of whom will be Mapuche.