"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
Pope Francis (Credit: InterMirifica.net)
(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)
Vatican city (vis) — More than a hundred thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square this evening in response to Pope Francis' appeal during last Sunday's Angelus in which he convoked for today, September 7, a day of fasting and prayer for peace, in the light of the dramatic circumstances which have engulfed Syria. Since then, this initiative has been welcomed and applauded not only by Catholics and other Christian confessions, but also by those belonging to other religions, from Buddhists to Jews and Muslims, and even those who do not belong to any religion. This week has seen extensive mobilization on the part of parishes and associations, Caritas and the Community of St. Egidio, prayer groups and religious orders such as the Descalced Carmelites of the Holy Land, mayors and presidents of autonomous regions, organizations for peace, co-operation and development, unions, and so on. Many prominent figures have joined in with the initiative, such as the architect Renzo Piano, the president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and the Grand Mufti of Syria, spiritual leader of the Sunnis, who invoked peace this afternoon in the Ummayad Mosque, Damascus, with the nation's religious leaders. A prayer for peace was raised this afternoon in Catholic churches around the world, from Australia to Egypt.
The Square was crowded with people since the morning; among them there were many who wished to confess, from 5.45 onwards, to one of the fifty priests in the Constantine Wing and below the colonnade; Francis wanted confessors to be present on this day as "true peace is born of the human heart reconciled with God and with one's brothers." At 18.30, the words uttered by the Pope last Sunday were repeated as an introduction to the Vigil which began at 7 p.m. with a greeting from the Pope and the singing of the "Veni Creator," followed by the enthroning of the image of the Virgin as "Salus Populi Romani," carried by four Swiss Guards.
"You and I must work for peace; it is a duty for us, for all people. The most powerful weapon for achieving peace is love and living for God."
The Pope began by praying the Rosary; each mystery was accompanied by the reading of a poem by St. Therese of Lisieux about the child Jesus, and at the end he invoked Maria: "Queen of Peace, pray for us." He then pronounced the following homily:
"'And God saw that it was good.' The biblical account of the beginning of the history of the world and of humanity speaks to us of a God Who looks at creation, in a sense contemplating it, and declares: 'it is good.' This, dear brothers and sisters, allows us to enter into God's heart and, precisely from within Him, to receive His message. We can ask ourselves: what does this message mean? What does it say to me, to you, to all of us?
"It says to us simply that this, our world, in the heart and mind of God, is the 'house of harmony and peace,' and that it is the space in which everyone is able to find their proper place and feel 'at home,' because it is 'good.' All of creation forms a harmonious and good unity, but above all humanity, made in the image and likeness of God, is one family, in which relationships are marked by a true fraternity not only in words: the other person is a brother or sister to love, and our relationship with God, Who is love, fidelity, and goodness, mirrors every human relationship and brings harmony to the whole of creation. God's world is a world where everyone feels responsible for the other, for the good of the other. This evening, in reflection, fasting, and prayer, each of us deep down should ask ourselves: Is this really the world that I desire? Is this really the world that I desire? Is this really the world that we all carry in our hearts? Is the world that we want really a world of harmony and peace, in ourselves, in our relations with others, in families, in cities, in and between nations? And does not true freedom mean choosing ways in this world that lead to the good of all and are guided by love?
"But then we wonder: Is this the world in which we are living? Creation retains its beauty which fills us with awe and it remains a good work. But there is also 'violence, division, disagreement, war.' This occurs when man, the summit of creation, stops contemplating beauty and goodness, and withdraws into his own selfishness.
"When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the center, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God's place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict. This is precisely what the passage in the Book of Genesis seeks to teach us in the story of the Fall: man enters into conflict with himself, he realizes that he is naked, and he hides himself because he is afraid, he is afraid of God's glance; he accuses the woman, she who is flesh of his flesh; he breaks harmony with creation, he begins to raise his hand against his brother to kill him. Can we say that from harmony he passes to 'disharmony?' Can we say this: that from harmony he passes to 'disharmony''? No, there is no such thing as 'disharmony'; there is either harmony or we fall into chaos, where there is violence, argument, conflict, fear.
"It is exactly in this chaos that God asks man's conscience: 'Where is Abel your brother?' and Cain responds: 'I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?' We too are asked this question, it would be good for us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother's keeper? Yes, you are your brother's keeper! To be human means to care for one another! But when harmony is broken, a metamorphosis occurs: the brother who is to be cared for and loved becomes an adversary to fight, to kill. What violence occurs at that moment, how many conflicts, how many wars have marked our history! We need only look at the suffering of so many brothers and sisters. This is not a question of coincidence, but the truth: we bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and in every war. All of us! And even today we continue this history of conflict between brothers, even today we raise our hands against our brother. Even today, we let ourselves be guided by idols, by selfishness, by our own interests, and this attitude persists. We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death! Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death!
"After the chaos of the Flood, when it stopped raining, a rainbow appeared and the dove returned with an olive branch. I think also of the olive tree which representatives of various religions planted in Plaza de Mayo, in Buenos Aires, in 2000, asking that there be no more chaos, asking that there be no more war, asking for peace.
"And at this point I ask myself: Is it possible to walk the path of pace? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace? Invoking the help of God, under the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace, I say: Yes, it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world tonight, I would like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for everyone! Or even better, I would like for each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to respond: Yes, we want it! My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God's reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken. This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace! Let everyone be moved to look into the depths of his or her conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother's sorrow – I think of the children, look upon these - look upon your brother's sorrow, and do not add to it, stay your hand, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this not by conflict but by encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: 'No more one against the other, no more, never! ... war never again, never again war!' 'Peace expresses itself only in peace, a peace which is not separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by personal sacrifice, clemency, mercy, and love.' Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! Amen."
Following the Pope's words, a moment of silence was observed during the preparation of the altar for the exposition of the Holy Sacrament. The adoration was accompanied by a biblical reading on the theme of peace, followed by the Pope's prayer on this subject and a responsorial invocation as a plea for peace. At the end of each of those moments, five pairs of people, representing Syria, Egypt, the Holy Land, the United States, and Russia, placed incense in the censer to the right of the altar. This offering was accompanied by a series of invocations on the common theme of peace, including: "Lord of life, bring to us Your peace, to where the fate of nations is decided" and "Stop, with Your creative power, all violence against human life."
The adoration was followed by the reading - "in the longest form planned for the celebration of a vigil" - of the Gospel of St. John. Then, from around 10.15 to 10.40 p.m., there was a long period of silence for personal prayer.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Pope Francis imparted his Eucharistic blessing to those present. Today, the Pope wrote to his nine million followers on Twitter, "Pray for peace."
World Mission Sunday will be celebrated throughout the world on October 20. Pope Francis issued his message for the Day on May 17, The Solemnity of Pentecost. His Message follows:
". . . This year, as we celebrate World Mission Day, the Year of Faith, which is an important opportunity to strengthen our friendship with the Lord and our journey as a Church that preaches the Gospel with courage, comes to an end. From this perspective, I would like to propose some reflections.
"1. Faith is God's precious gift, which opens our mind to know and love Him. He wants to enter into relationship with us and allow us to participate in His own life in order to make our life more meaningful, better, and more beautiful. God loves us! Faith, however, needs to be accepted, it needs our personal response, the courage to entrust ourselves to God, to live His love, and be grateful for His infinite mercy. It is a gift, not reserved for a few but offered with generosity. Everyone should be able to experience the joy of being loved by God, the joy of salvation! It is a gift that one cannot keep to oneself, but it is to be shared. If we want to keep it only to ourselves, we will become isolated, sterile, and sick Christians. The proclamation of the Gospel is part of being disciples of Christ and it is a constant commitment that animates the whole life of the Church. 'Missionary outreach is a clear sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community' (BENEDICT XVI, Verbum Domini, 95). Each community is 'mature' when it professes faith, celebrates it with joy during the liturgy, lives charity, proclaims the Word of God endlessly, leaves one's own to take it to the 'peripheries,' especially to those who have not yet had the opportunity to know Christ. The strength of our faith, at a personal and community level, can be measured by the ability to communicate it to others, to spread and live it in charity, to witness to it before those we meet and those who share the path of life with us.
"2. The Year of Faith, fifty years after the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, motivates the entire Church towards a renewed awareness of its presence in the contemporary world and its mission among peoples and nations. Missionary spirit is not only about geographical territories, but about peoples, cultures, and individuals, because the 'boundaries' of faith do not only cross places and human traditions, but the heart of each man and each woman. The Second Vatican Council emphasized in a special way how the missionary task, that of broadening the boundaries of faith, belongs to every baptized person and all Christian communities; since 'the people of God lives in communities, especially in dioceses and parishes, and becomes somehow visible in them, it is up to these to witness Christ before the nations' (Ad Gentes, 37). Each community is therefore challenged, and invited to make its own, the mandate entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles, to be His 'witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth' (Acts 1:8) and this, not as a secondary aspect of Christian life, but as its essential aspect: we are all invited to walk the streets of the world with our brothers and sisters, proclaiming and witnessing to our faith in Christ and making ourselves heralds of His Gospel. I invite Bishops, Priests, Presbyteral and Pastoral Councils, and each person and group responsible in the Church to give a prominent position to this missionary dimension in formation and pastoral programs, in the understanding that their apostolic commitment is not complete unless it aims at bearing witness to Christ before the nations and before all peoples. This missionary aspect is not merely a programmatic dimension in Christian life, but it is also a paradigmatic dimension that affects all aspects of Christian life.
"3. The work of evangelization often finds obstacles, not only externally, but also from within the ecclesial community. Sometimes there is lack of fervor, joy, courage, and hope in proclaiming the Message of Christ to all and in helping the people of our time to an encounter with Him. Sometimes, it is still thought that proclaiming the truth of the Gospel means an assault on freedom. Paul VI speaks eloquently on this: 'It would be... an error to impose something on the consciences of our brethren. But to propose to their consciences the truth of the Gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ, with complete clarity and with total respect for free options which it presents... is a tribute to this freedom' (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80). We must always have the courage and the joy of proposing, with respect, an encounter with Christ, and being heralds of His Gospel. Jesus came among us to show us the way of salvation and He entrusted to us the mission to make it known to all to the ends of the earth. All too often, we see that it is violence, lies, and mistakes that are emphasized and proposed. It is urgent in our time to announce and witness to the goodness of the Gospel, and this from within the Church itself. It is important never to forget a fundamental principle for every evangelizer: one cannot announce Christ without the Church. Evangelization is not an isolated individual or private act; it is always ecclesial. Paul VI wrote, 'When an unknown preacher, catechist, or Pastor, preaches the Gospel, gathers the little community together, administers a Sacrament, even alone, he is carrying out an ecclesial act.' He acts not 'in virtue of a mission which he attributes to himself or by a personal inspiration, but in union with the mission of the Church and in her name' (ibid. 60). And this gives strength to the mission and makes every missionary and evangelizer feel never alone, but part of a single Body animated by the Holy Spirit.
"4. In our era, the widespread mobility and facility of communication through new media have mingled people, knowledge, experience. For work reasons, entire families move from one continent to another; professional and cultural exchanges, tourism, and other phenomena have also led to great movements of peoples. This makes it difficult, even for the parish community, to know who lives permanently or temporarily in the area. More and more, in large areas of what were traditionally Christian regions, the number of those who are unacquainted with the faith, or indifferent to the religious dimension or animated by other beliefs, is increasing. Therefore it is not infrequent that some of the baptized make lifestyle choices that lead them away from faith, thus making them need a 'new evangelization.' To all this is added the fact that a large part of humanity has not yet been reached by the good news of Jesus Christ. We also live in a time of crisis that touches various sectors of existence, not only the economy, finance, food security, or the environment, but also those involving the deeper meaning of life and the fundamental values that animate it. Even human coexistence is marked by tensions and conflicts that cause insecurity and difficulty in finding the right path to a stable peace. In this complex situation, where the horizon of the present and future seems threatened by menacing clouds, it is necessary to proclaim courageously and in very situation, the Gospel of Christ, a message of hope, reconciliation, communion, a proclamation of God's closeness, His mercy, His salvation, and a proclamation that the power of God's love is able to overcome the darkness of evil and guide us on the path of goodness. The men and women of our time need the secure light that illuminates their path and that only the encounter with Christ can give. Let us bring to the world, through our witness, with love, the hope given by faith! The Church's missionary spirit is not about proselytizing, but the testimony of a life that illuminates the path, which brings hope and love. The Church – I repeat once again – is not a relief organization, an enterprise, or an NGO, but a community of people, animated by the Holy Spirit, who have lived and are living the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ and want to share this experience of deep joy, the message of salvation that the Lord gave us. It is the Holy Spirit Who guides the Church in this path.
"5. I would like to encourage everyone to be a bearer of the good news of Christ and I am grateful especially to missionaries, to the Fidei Donum priests, men and women religious, and lay faithful - more and more numerous – who by accepting the Lord's call, leave their homeland to serve the Gospel in different lands and cultures. But I would also like to emphasize that these same young Churches are engaging generously in sending missionaries to the Churches that are in difficulty — not infrequently Churches of ancient Christian tradition – and thus bring the freshness and enthusiasm with which they live the faith, a faith that renews life and gives hope. To live in this universal dimension, responding to the mandate of Jesus: 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations' (Mt 28, 19) is something enriching for each particular Church, each community, because sending missionaries is never a loss, but a gain. I appeal to all those who feel this calling to respond generously to the Holy Spirit, according to your state in life, and not to be afraid to be generous with the Lord. I also invite Bishops, religious families, communities, and all Christian groups to support, with foresight and careful discernment, the missionary call ad gentes and to assist Churches that need priests, religious, and laity, thus strengthening the Christian community. And this concern should also be present among Churches that are part of the same Episcopal Conference or Region, because it is important that Churches rich in vocations help more generously those that lack them.
"At the same time I urge missionaries, especially the Fidei Donum priests and laity, to live with joy their precious service in the Churches to which they are sent and to bring their joy and experience to the Churches from which they come, remembering how Paul and Barnabas at the end of their first missionary journey 'reported what God had done with them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles' (Acts 14:27). They can become a path to a kind of 'return' of faith, bringing the freshness of the young Churches to Churches of ancient Christian tradition, and thus helping them to rediscover the enthusiasm and the joy of sharing the faith in an exchange that is mutual enrichment in the journey of following the path of the Lord.
"The concern for all the Churches that the Bishop of Rome shares with his brother Bishops finds an important expression in the activity of the Pontifical Mission Societies, which are meant to animate and deepen the missionary conscience of every baptized Christian, and of every community, by reminding them of the need for a more profound missionary formation of the whole People of God and by encouraging the Christian community to contribute to the spread of the Gospel in the world.
"Finally I wish to say a word about those Christians who, in various parts of the world, experience difficulty in openly professing their faith and in enjoying the legal right to practice it in a worthy manner. They are our brothers and sisters, courageous witnesses - even more numerous than the martyrs of the early centuries - who endure with apostolic perseverance many contemporary forms of persecution. Quite a few also risk their lives to remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ. I wish to reaffirm my closeness in prayer to individuals, families, and communities who suffer violence and intolerance, and I repeat to them the consoling words of Jesus: 'Take courage, I have overcome the world' (Jn 16:33).
"Benedict XVI expressed the hope that: 'The word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere' (2 Thes 3:1): May this Year of Faith increasingly strengthen our relationship with Christ the Lord, since only in Him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love' (Porta fidei, 15). This is my wish for World Mission Day this year. I cordially bless missionaries and all those who accompany and support this fundamental commitment of the Church to proclaim the Gospel to all the ends of the earth. Thus will we, as ministers and missionaries of the Gospel, experience 'the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing' (PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80)."
The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) made an urgent call for a political solution to the crisis in Syria on September 10. Their statement follows:
"The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is gathered for its September 2013 meeting in Washington, DC, just three miles away from the Capitol where Congress is debating a resolution to authorize the use of military force in Syria. Today we prayed for our nations' leaders and for the Church and people of Syria. Having just participated, with our people, in the Holy Father's Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria, the Middle East and the world on September 7, we commit ourselves to continued prayer and action for peace in the days ahead.
"As our nation contemplates military intervention, we stand in solidarity with the Church and people of Syria, and with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and the bishops of the Middle East. We affirm the actions and messages of our President, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and the Chairman of our Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop Richard E. Pates, and now add our own collective voice to theirs in the national debate.
"Chemical weapons have no place in the arsenals of the family of nations. There is no doubt that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was a heinous crime against humanity. As Pope Francis declared: 'With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable!'
"Tragically, the deaths from chemical weapons are only part of the grievous story of Syria these days. More than 100,000 Syrians have lost their lives. More than 2 million have fled the country as refugees. More than 4 million within Syria have been driven from their homes by violence. A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Syria. We call upon our nation and the international community to save lives by pressing for serious dialogue to end the conflict, by refraining from fueling further violence with military attacks or arms transfers, and by offering more humanitarian assistance.
"We have heard the urgent calls of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and our suffering brother bishops of the venerable and ancient Christian Churches of the Middle East. As one, they beg the international community not to resort to military intervention in Syria. They have made it clear that a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation, and will have unintended negative consequences. Their concerns strongly resonate in American public opinion that questions the wisdom of intervention and in the lack of international support.
"We recall a decade ago when the Holy See and the Church in the Middle East urgently warned of the 'unpredictable' and 'grave' consequences of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, concerns we shared with our government. Although Syria is not Iraq and the resolution before Congress calls for a limited strike, not an invasion, the warnings we are hearing from the Holy See and local bishops of the region are similar; they question the probability of success of the use of military force in shortening the conflict and saving lives. We are also aware of the heavy burden already borne by the military and their families.
"For this reason, we make our own the appeal of Pope Francis: 'I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people. May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.'
"The Congressional resolution acknowledges that 'the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement.' Instead of employing armed force, our nation should work with the international community and direct all of its considerable diplomatic capabilities to initiate dialogue and negotiation. The use of force is always a last resort, and it should only be employed by legitimate authority in accordance with international norms. The lack of international and domestic consensus in this case is deeply troubling. Recent international proposals to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons deserve serious consideration, evaluation, and encouragement.
"We affirm the longstanding position of our Conference of Bishops that the Syrian people urgently need a political solution. We ask the United States to work with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.
"As Congress struggles with the complex challenges and humanitarian catastrophe that have engulfed Syria, we offer the voice of the Universal Church and our prayers for peace."
WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops' 2013 Labor Day statement parallels concerns for the economic inequality voiced at the Let Freedom Ring rally on the National Mall August 28. The rally marked the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
The Civil Rights march half a century ago stressed not only the need for Civil Rights but also the need for jobs and living wages. Addressing the anniversary crowd, President Obama recalled the sit-ins at segregated lunch counters and cited Dr. King's observation in 1965:
"What good does it do to be able to eat at a lunch counter if you can't buy a hamburger?"
"Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received — only what you have given . . ."
St. Francis of Assis
The bishops' annual Labor Day statement cites rampant income inequality in the midst of uneven economic recovery, urges bold action to create just economy with jobs that provide living wage and calls for increased minimum wage, immigration reform, and an end to wage theft.
The Labor Day Statement was issued by Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
In the statement, dated September 2, Bishop Blaire said that most people want to live in a more equal society that provides opportunities for everyone.
"The current imbalances do not have to be inevitable," Bishop Blaire wrote. "We must be bold in promoting a just economy that reduces inequality by creating jobs that pay a living wage and share with workers some profits of the company, as well as ensuring a strong safety net for jobless workers and their families and those who are incapable of work."
The 2013 Labor Day statement is available online in English and Spanish at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-
vatican city (VIS) — Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, met with ambassadors to the Holy See on September 5 to express the concerns of the Holy Father and the Vatican regarding the unstable situation of peace throughout the world, with special attention to the Middle East and Syria in particular.
The prelate remarked that the Holy Father has on various occasions publicly denounced the conflict in Syria which has so far claimed the lives of over 110,000 civilians, caused innumerable casualties, created four million refugees within the country, and provoked an exodus of more than two million into neighboring countries. "Faced with facts of this type, one cannot remain silent," he said, "and the Holy See hopes that the competent institutions will clarify the situation and that those responsible will be held accountable."
Archbishop Mamberti reiterated that the cessation of violence is an "absolute priority," and made an appeal to the Parties not to remain "wrapped up in their own interests, but to take with courage and decision the path of encounter and negotiation, overcoming blind opposition," and added a second plea to the international community "to make every effort to promote, without further delay, clear initiatives for peace in the Nation, always based on dialogue and negotiation."
He emphasized the importance of "the necessity and urgency of respect for human rights," and "the urgent need for humanitarian assistance for the majority of the population." In addition he gave thanks for the generosity of many governments in favor of the suffering Syrian population.
Mamberti underlined that the Catholic Church, for her part, is committed with all the means at her disposal to the humanitarian assistance of the population, Christian or not, and mentioned some matters that the Holy See considers to be of importance in an eventual plan for the future of Syria.
The general principles he proposed for arriving at a just solution to the conflict include: striving for the reinstatement of dialogue between the Parties and for the reconciliation of the Syrian population; the preservation of the unity of the country, avoiding the creation of different zones for the various components of society; and guaranteeing, alongside the unity of the country, also its territorial integrity.
The secretary also referred to the importance of asking all groups to offer guarantees that, in tomorrow's Syria, there will be a place for all, especially minorities including Christians. Mamberti mentioned the importance of respect for human rights and religious freedom, and he emphasized the equal importance of the concept of citizenship, on the basis of which all, independently of their ethnic origin or religious beliefs, are citizens of equal dignity, with equal rights and duties.
He concluded by drawing attention to the particularly worrying phenomenon of "the growing presence of extremist groups in Syria, often originating from other countries. It is therefore important to urge the population and also opposition groups to distance themselves from such extremists, to isolate them and to oppose terrorism openly and clearly."
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
WASHINGTON — On the same day that Pope Francis asked the G20 nations to "lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution" in Syria, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote to every member of Congress, urging them not to resort to military intervention, but instead work to end the violence in Syria through a political solution.
In their September 5 letter, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates affirmed the finding of a proposed Congressional resolution that acknowledges that "the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement," and questioned military intervention. The bishops also condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, declaring these "indiscriminate weapons have no place in the arsenals of the family of nations." They noted that more than 100,000 Syrians have lost their lives, more than 2 million have fled the country as refugees, and more than 4 million within Syria have been driven from their homes by the ongoing conflict.
"Our focus is on the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria and on saving lives by ending the conflict, not fueling it," the bishops wrote. They echoed the appeals of Pope Francis and bishops in the Middle East who "have made it clear that a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation, and will have unintended negative consequences.
"We ask the United States to work urgently and tirelessly with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities," they wrote. The bishops also assured Congress of their prayers in the midst of this complex situation.
Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates wrote to President Obama September 4, also urging a political solution in Syria.
The full text of the letter to Congress is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
An old English folk song turned march, author unknown, is titled, “The World Turned Upside Down.” As Americans abandon their faith in God, rejecting the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all innocent human life, our culture becomes a world turned upside down.
The war against women continues by those who accuse Christians of warring against women. As reported by lifesitenews.com, the pro-abortion Governor of California, Jerry Brown (D), this August signed into law legislation allowing boys to use girls’ restrooms in all California public schools.
This transgender bathroom bill permits students to “use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.” Brown has always been a supporter of the culture of death, which has claimed that a woman has a “right to privacy” when deciding to destroy the life growing within. Totally disregarding a girl’s right to privacy in showers, locker rooms, and changing areas, the law allows access to a boy, who decides he is a girl, as though somehow what he decides he is changes the reality of what he is.
The decision to destroy the child growing within has long been argued that it was between the mother and her physician. The “I am personally opposed” crowd argued that it was morally wrong to interfere with the patient-doctor relationship when a mother was deciding to destroy her unborn child.
California is about to become the fifth state, joining Montana, New York, Oregon, and Vermont, in authorizing midwives, nurse practitioners, and physicians’ assistants to perform first-trimester suction aspiration abortions. For abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, this will lower its costs, since it would not have to pay a doctor, reports lifesitenews.com.
The Director of UC-San Francisco’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health found that abortions performed by non-physicians have twice the rate of complications as those performed by doctors.
For those who have embraced relativism – a belief system that there are no moral absolutes, and that whatever a person chooses is morally acceptable – this belief system makes any act morally acceptable for them. Relativists have demanded that those who understand that the natural law of the Creator provides for moral absolutes, which are not subject to the forever-changing whims of those in power, be tolerant of their perverted concept of morality.
For those who do not believe in virtues, “tolerance” has become a virtue that they demand be practiced, but only by those who believe in virtues established by the Creator.
A federal judge in Massachusetts is allowing a lawsuit by a Ugandan homosexual group charging an American Evangelical pastor with a “crime against humanity,” reports lifesitenews.com.
Scott Lively, an attorney and author who runs Holy Grounds Coffee House, was invited in 2009 to speak at a conference in Uganda, where he stated that the goal of the homosexual movement is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.” Although Lively did not violate any law of Uganda, the homosexual group, Sexual Minorities Uganda, has accused Lively of inciting “persecution.”
As also reported by lifesitenews.com, Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray removed gospel singer Donnie McClurkin from the lineup of performers at a city-sponsored concert held at the Martin Luther King memorial. This headline performer is a black vocal ex-gay who believes homosexuality is a “curse” which can be overcome through prayer and determination. “This is bullying. It’s intolerance,” said McClurkin. “And it is depriving someone of their civil rights when they are told that they cannot come to an event, [because] by coming it would cause a disruption.”
In 2008, an American Psychological Association Symposium on the Role of Religion in Homosexual Therapy to be held at the Washington Convention Center was canceled under pressure from gay activists, who worried the panel might lend credibility to the idea that individuals can overcome homosexual inclinations, either through reparative therapy or other means.
Gene Robinson, the openly homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church, who long demanded tolerance of homosexuality and the ordination of homosexual priests, took partial credit for the symposium’s cancellation, stating, “Conservatives…were going to use this event to draw credibility to the so-called reparative therapy movement.”
While the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has publicly and strongly objected to President Obama’s federal mandate that all employers provide in their healthcare policies for the payment of contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs, at no additional premium cost, and with no co-payment, so-called “Catholic” health systems are receiving federal taxpayer funds to encourage and enroll people in Obamacare.
American Life League (ALL.org) reports that Ascension Health, the largest Catholic and nonprofit health system, received a $202,706 navigator grant in Alabama and a $165,683 grant in Kansas. The Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama, also received a $20,750 grant. “By taking government funds to enroll people into Obamacare,” states American Life League’s Michael Hichborn, “it is clear that as far as Ascension Health and Catholic Social Services of Mobile are concerned, money is more important than souls. If the Catholic faith is to survive Obama’s America, then sellouts like these must be reined in by the shepherds of the Church.”
As the U.S. bishops have clearly warned, our religious freedom is being threatened under the current administration, especially in regards to Obamacare. However, it is not only the Catholic Church, but also other congregations and individuals that are being pressured to commit intrinsically evil acts.
As reported by lifesitenews.com, a Christian Iowa couple, Dick and Betty Odgaard, are facing a state complaint filed by the Iowa Human Rights Commission for their refusal to rent their facility for a so-called gay wedding, unwilling to allow their business site as a place where homosexuals can exchange vows, and objecting that it would violate their conscience as Christians to facilitate homosexual couples in promoting such a ceremony.
Last year, a judge ruled that a New Jersey retreat house affiliated with the United Methodist Church could not refuse its services for a gay “marriage.”
In August, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin violated the human rights of a same-sex couple in refusing to photograph their union. The couple objected to photographing the celebration of a same-sex ceremony, since it would force them to function as a celebrant and thereby violate their own conscience. They would be required, as photographers, to arrange and construct photographs in order to artistically celebrate the same-sex ceremony.
The saddest commentary expressed in this decision was that of Justice Richard C. Bosson, who stated, “It is the price of citizenship.”
It is sad that in our country the “price of citizenship” includes participating in intrinsically evil acts, specifically contrary to one’s core religious beliefs.
The Cardinal Newman Society reports one of the greatest absurdities of all time. A theologian at the so-called “Catholic” Fordham University is now asking whether direct abortion to save the life of a mother could be justified, if the child is deemed as an “innocent aggressor.”
Offering this as a hypothetical question, since Professor Charles Camosy did not have a real-life incident on which to base it, he proposes that the abortion would be justified if the child is the innocent aggressor. “Can we use deadly force in response to deadly violence from these individuals if they are threatening our lives and/or the lives of innocent others? Both the tradition (and common sense) seems to answer in the affirmative.”
The innocent unborn child, the weakest and most defenseless member of the human family, can now be deemed an aggressor. What act of an unborn child can make him an aggressor? What tradition Professor Camosy alludes to is unclear, but one thing is for sure, it lacks all common sense.
The cable network GSN's (Game Show Network) religious game show, The American Bible Challenge, premiered last summer to the GSN's highest ratings for any show in their 18-year history. Now it has been renewed for a third season.
It is no wonder with the climax of the second season ending with the winning Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, out of Ann Arbor. They were winning in more than one way, with their smiles and their answers.
The three young nuns say that they got on the show because they want to provide support for the Sisters in their order, especially the older Sisters, who have been sources of inspiration to them and because they love a challenge — from soccer to Scrabble.
The contestants were allowed a quickie Bible study of the Old Testament before the final round on the final show. It did not start out so well with Sr. Evangeline passing on the first question of 10 questions, "What animal in the Book of Daniel had its mouth closed?" They continued on one by one to answer more questions correctly than did their opponents.
Network executive Amy Introcaso-Davis says, "We are proud of the breakthrough success of this atypical series."
"Sometimes a show perfectly hits that sweet spot of exciting competition blended with real heart, and that's the story of The American Bible Challenge," added Tom Forman, CEO of Relatively Television. "Our TV and online fans can look forward to another fantastic ride in our third season."
The "real heart" part is in the Faith Moments, where authors and celebrities share their faith, challenging viewers to live the Bible. Rev. Randy Frazee tells how he chose his future wife when she said grace. Karen Kingsbury tells how tearing up her boyfriend's Bible got her to finally get and read one. Max Lucado spoke of God's mercy, Sherry Surratt of security in God, and Rabbi Joshua Stanton of the power of prayer.
Faith Moments has a Facebook fan page as well as an app on iTunes, iPhone, and Android. There is also an associated Bible quiz at www.beliefnet.com. (It did, however, incorrectly give the number of books in the Bible as 66.)
Jonna Infield Piece, one of the Faith Fans, says about the show, "It is wonderful to see something worthy of watching on television! I have always had a profound appreciation of your clean humor. Thank you for proving funny doesn't need to be vile. God bless!"
Jonathan Mosebach agrees, "[It is wonderful] that there is a Christian, Bible-based trivia game show on TV! I wish there were more." So does Gwendolyn Cason, who says, "Love the show and thrilled that there's something wholesome on TV to watch!"
The Facebook page also poses such uplifting questions for Faithful Fans as: "What was your favorite moment from either season 1 or 2?"
Michelle Parrish answered, "Who can pick a favorite moment when every show rocked!" Rose Marie-Miranda even most simply added, "Everything!" Martha Sterling, Nicholas Limon, and Cindi Bond, however, unanimously said the nuns.
Jenny Lynn Shumate pleaded, "Loved it all, but the first and second seasons were too short. [Only nine episodes each.] Please don't be away too long for season 3 (but I heard it would not be back on till the year 2014). Please hurry back — surely it cannot take that long to have more contestants and wonderful questions."
Past contestants included the brothers Daniel Wagner, Joshua Wagner, and Jesse Wagner of the Wagner Warriors, and Anointed Ink playing for Inner Cry Ministries, that help rehabilitate former gang members by covering gang tattoos with uplifting substitutes.
Still others were the Rocking Rabbis, Philip Weintraub, Jeffrey Abraham, and student rabbi Eve Eichenholtz from New York, and the Redeemed Rednecks from Georgia, the Men of Motor City, and Holy Rollers from California.
The only thing the contestants and fans all have in common is their love of God's Word: This can be seen on the fan page which also asks non-trivial questions such as, "What is your favorite part of having Faith?" and got answers like "Watching God do things in ways I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined." (Theresa Little) and "Knowing that He is there for me." (Pearl Dass)
Gary Robets shared, "I just sit back and watch how the Lord helps me deal with this cruel and unpredictable world." Ed Bundas said his favorite thing was, "Seeing God come through."
Judy Campbell testified, "My favorite part is where Jesus stands next to me through the difficult times in my life. My dad died, three months later, my husband died, and two years later my 14-year-old grandson died. Without faith I would not have made it."
Others quoted Scripture. "Knowing whatever happens, Abba Father has me covered!" (Jer 29:11, Sandy McCabe) "Just being able to leave everything in the hands of my Savior and know He will not allow me to go through more than I can bear as Paul tells us in Corinthians 10:13." (Joycelyn Winans)
Susan Ballard, Audrey Ann Casper, and Erica Stewart all simply said, "Peace."
(Editor's note: Mr. Smith writes from California. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
Transform me from coal to what's full of light.
Lord, make me a diamond shiny and bright.
Like muddy water so clouded through.
Transform me to crystal clear standing anew.
Lord, take all my worldly ways.
Transform my mind with Your word each day.
Change my thinking and what I desire.
Fill me with Your spirit an unquenchable fire.
Transform my temple with a graceful cleaning.
Give my life purpose and meaning.
You're the potter and I'm the clay.
Transform me, Father, in everyway.
Transform me to my King's perfection.
When I look in the mirror I want Christ's reflection.
So many years my heart has been just torn.
Transform me so I can truly be reborn.
(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)
vatican city (vis) — In the early afternoon of . . . September 10, Pope Francis visited the Centro Astalli in Rome, which receives and offers support to asylum-seekers and refugees, managed by the Jesuit Service for Refugees. The Pope arrived at the center at lunchtime and greeted the diners and the volunteers working in the canteen. From there he proceeded first to the chapel in the Center for a moment of private prayer, then to the Church of Jesus where he met with around five hundred people, all members of the institution, including workers, volunteers, friends, and residents. Before addressing those present he listened to the words of two refugees, a Sudanese man and a Syrian woman.
"Each one of you, dear friends, carries with you the story of a life riven by the drama of war, by conflicts often linked to international politics," remarked the Holy Father. "But each of you carries above all a human and religious richness; a wealth to be welcomed, not feared. Many of you are Muslims or of other religions; you come from many countries and from different situations. We must not be afraid of difference! Brotherhood allows us to discover that diversity is wealth, a gift for all!"
The Pope recalled that Rome, after Lampedusa and other entry points, represents for many people the second stage of "a difficult, exhausting, and at times violent journey" they undertake "with the aim of ensuring a future for their children and the hope of a different life for them and for their families." Therefore, Rome should be "a city that allows them to rediscover the human dimension, to begin to smile again. However how often, here, as in other places, are many people whose stay permits bear the words 'international protection' forced to live in impoverished or at times degrading conditions, without the chance to begin a dignified life, to plan a new future?"
The Pope went on to speak about the commitment of the Society of Jesus to the cause of refugees, observing that St. Ignatius of Loyola had wanted a space to welcome the poor at his residence in Rome, and so in 1981 Fr. Pedro Arrupe founded the Jesuit Refugee Service, in the hope of maintaining the service in the heart of the city. "And I think of the spiritual farewell of Fr. Arrupe in Thailand, in a center for refugees," he added.
Francis selected three words to define the work of the Jesuits and their collaborators: serve, accompany, and defend.
"Serving means to welcome with care a person as they arrive, to reach out to them, without calculation and without fear … to work alongside those most in need, and first and foremost to establish with them a human relationship of closeness, to develop bonds of solidarity. … It means recognizing and welcoming demands for justice, for hope, and together seeking the way, the real paths to liberation."
But if we are to accompany, to welcome is not enough. "It is not enough to offer a sandwich if this is not accompanied by the possibility of learning to stand on one's own two feet. Charity that leaves the poor in the same situation as before is not adequate. True mercy, that which God gives and teaches us, asks for justice, asks that the poor find the way out of their poverty. It asks us - the Church, the city of Rome, the institutions – it demands that no-one should be in need of a meal, of a temporary shelter, a legal assistance service, to enable the recognition of his or her right to live and to work, to be recognized fully as a person.
"To serve and to accompany both mean to defend, they mean to place oneself on the side of the weakest. … How often are we unable or unwilling to echo the voices of those … who have suffered and suffer, to those who have seen their rights trampled, who have experienced so much violence that it has even suffocated their desire for justice?"
The Holy Father emphasized that for all the Church it is important that receiving the poor and the promotion of justice are not simply entrusted to "specialists," but rather take their place at the center of pastoral care, and called in particular on religious Institutes to consider "seriously and with responsibility this sign of the times. The Lord," he said, "calls us to live with more courage and generosity" the welcoming of the needy "in communities, in houses, in empty convents. … Empty convents are not to be sold to be transformed into hotels to make money for the Church. The empty convents are not ours, they are for the flesh of Christ, for the refugees. … This certainly isn't simple, and requires criteria, responsibility, and also courage. We do much, but we are perhaps called to do more, welcoming and sharing decisively that which Providence has given us to serve."
Following his address, the Holy Father, accompanied by two refugees, placed a floral tribute on the tomb of Fr. Arrupe, buried in the Church of Jesus, and then returned to the Vatican.
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com