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My People

Vol. 28, Issue 5, May 2015

"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


Children from Jean Jaures, Les Arcs school recently visited Rhone American Cemetery in Draguignan, France. They adopted the grave of S Sgt. Joseph MacSuga and promised to put flowers and drawings on his grave at least twice a year. The cemetery has a large outreach program with local students, aged 5 to 18. A cemetery staff member is shown handing one of the students an adoption certificate. (Credit: American Battle Momuments Commission)

The Family Leads The Way

This year's World Communications Day on May 17 will focus on the family. Pope Francis issued his message for the Day on January 23, the Vigil of the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of the Catholic press and writers. The message follows:

"The family is a subject of profound reflection by the Church and of a process involving two Synods: the recent extraordinary assembly and the ordinary assembly scheduled for next October. So I thought it appropriate that the theme for the next World Communications Day should have the family as its point of reference. After all, it is in the context of the family that we first learn how to communicate. Focusing on this context can help to make our communication more authentic and humane, while helping us to view the family in a new perspective.

"We can draw inspiration from the Gospel passage which relates the visit of Mary to Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-56). 'When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." ' (vv. 41-42)

"This episode first shows us how communication is a dialogue intertwined with the language of the body. The first response to Mary's greeting is given by the child, who leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. Joy at meeting others, which is something we learn even before being born, is, in one sense, the archetype and symbol of every other form of communication. The womb which hosts us is the first 'school' of communication, a place of listening and physical contact where we begin to familiarize ourselves with the outside world within a protected environment, with the reassuring sound of the mother's heartbeat. This encounter between two persons, so intimately related while still distinct from each other, an encounter so full of promise, is our first experience of communication. It is an experience which we all share, since each of us was born of a mother.

"Even after we have come into the world, in some sense we are still in a 'womb,' which is the family. A womb made up of various interrelated persons: the family is 'where we learn to live with others despite our differences' (Evangelii Gaudium, 66). Notwithstanding the differences of gender and age between them, family members accept one another because there is a bond between them. The wider the range of these relationships and the greater the differences of age, the richer will be our living environment. It is this bond which is at the root of language, which in turn strengthens the bond. We do not create our language; we can use it because we have received it. It is in the family that we learn to speak our 'mother tongue,' the language of those who have gone before us. (cf. 2 Macc 7:25,27). In the family we realize that others have preceded us, they made it possible for us to exist and in our turn to generate life and to do something good and beautiful. We can give because we have received. This virtuous circle is at the heart of the family's ability to communicate among its members and with others. More generally, it is the model for all communication.

"The experience of this relationship which 'precedes' us enables the family to become the setting in which the most basic form of communication, which is prayer, is handed down. When parents put their newborn children to sleep, they frequently entrust them to God, asking that He watch over them. When the children are a little older, parents help them to recite some simple prayers, thinking with affection of other people, such as grandparents, relatives, the sick and suffering, and all those in need of God's help. It was in our families that the majority of us learned the religious dimension of communication, which in the case of Christianity is permeated with love, the love that God bestows upon us and which we then offer to others.

"In the family, we learn to embrace and support one another, to discern the meaning of facial expressions and moments of silence, to laugh and cry together with people who did not choose one other yet are so important to each other. This greatly helps us to understand the meaning of communication as recognizing and creating closeness. When we lessen distances by growing closer and accepting one another, we experience gratitude and joy. Mary's greeting and the stirring of her child are a blessing for Elizabeth; they are followed by the beautiful canticle of the Magnificat, in which Mary praises God's loving plan for her and for her people. A 'yes' spoken with faith can have effects that go well beyond ourselves and our place in the world. To 'visit' is to open doors, not remaining closed in our little world, but rather going out to others. So too the family comes alive as it reaches beyond itself; families who do so communicate their message of life and communion, giving comfort and hope to more fragile families, and thus build up the Church herself, which is the family of families.

"More than anywhere else, the family is where we daily experience our own limits and those of others, the problems great and small entailed in living peacefully with others. A perfect family does not exist. We should not be fearful of imperfections, weakness, or even conflict, but rather learn how to deal with them constructively. The family, where we keep loving one another despite our limits and sins, thus becomes a school of forgiveness. Forgiveness is itself a process of communication. When contrition is expressed and accepted, it becomes possible to restore and rebuild the communication which broke down. A child who has learned in the family to listen to others, to speak respectfully, and to express his or her view without negating that of others, will be a force for dialogue and reconciliation in society.

"When it comes to the challenges of communication, families who have children with one or more disabilities have much to teach us. A motor, sensory, or mental limitation can be a reason for closing in on ourselves, but it can also become, thanks to the love of parents, siblings, and friends, an incentive to openness, sharing, and ready communication with all. It can also help schools, parishes, and associations to become more welcoming and inclusive of everyone.

"In a world where people often curse, use foul language, speak badly of others, sow discord and poison our human environment by gossip, the family can teach us to understand communication as a blessing. In situations apparently dominated by hatred and violence, where families are separated by stone walls or the no less impenetrable walls of prejudice and resentment, where there seem to be good reasons for saying 'enough is enough,' it is only by blessing rather than cursing, by visiting rather than repelling, and by accepting rather than fighting, that we can break the spiral of evil, show that goodness is always possible, and educate our children to fellowship.

"Today the modern media, which are an essential part of life for young people in particular, can be both a help and a hindrance to communication in and between families. The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that 'silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist.' (BENEDICT XVI, Message for the 2012 World Communications Day). The media can help communication when they enable people to share their stories, to stay in contact with distant friends, to thank others or to seek their forgiveness, and to open the door to new encounters. By growing daily in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others, these 'new possibilities,' we will employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it. Here too, parents are the primary educators, but they cannot be left to their own devices. The Christian community is called to help them in teaching children how to live in a media environment in a way consonant with the dignity of the human person and service of the common good.

"The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information. The latter is a tendency which our important and influential modern communications media can encourage. Information is important, but it is not enough. All too often things get simplified, different positions and viewpoints are pitted against one another, and people are invited to take sides, rather than to see things as a whole.

"The family, in conclusion, is not a subject of debate or a terrain for ideological skirmishes. Rather, it is an environment in which we learn to communicate in an experience of closeness, a setting where communication takes place, a 'communicating community.' The family is a community which provides help, which celebrates life and is fruitful. Once we realize this, we will once more be able to see how the family continues to be a rich human resource, as opposed to a problem or an institution in crisis. At times the media can tend to present the family as a kind of abstract model which has to be accepted or rejected, defended or attacked, rather than as a living reality. Or else a grounds for ideological clashes rather than as a setting where we can all learn what it means to communicate in a love received and returned. Relating our experiences means realizing that our lives are bound together as a single reality, that our voices are many, and that each is unique.

"Families should be seen as a resource rather than as a problem for society. Families at their best actively communicate by their witness the beauty and the richness of the relationship between man and woman, and between parents and children. We are not fighting to defend the past. Rather, with patience and trust, we are working to build a better future for the world in which we live."

Freedoms Must Be Protected

(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)

Credit: American Battle Monuments Commission

Vatican City(VIS) - On March 10, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, spoke at the 28th meeting of the Council for Human Rights. His speech, the majority of which is presented here below, emphasized the fundamental importance of religious freedom as well as the freedom of expression.

"The International Community is now confronted with a delicate, complex, and urgent challenge with regard to respect for religious sensibilities and the need for peaceful coexistence in an ever more pluralistic world: namely, that of establishing a fair relationship between freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The relationship between these fundamental human rights has proven difficult to manage and to address on either a normative or institutional level. On the other hand, it should be recognized 'that the open, constructive, and respectful debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local, national, and international levels, can play a positive role in combating religious hatred, incitement, and violence.' Failure in this effort is evident when an excessive and irresponsible use of freedom of expression results in intimidation, threats, and verbal abuse and these infringe upon freedom of religion and can sadly lead to intolerance and violence. Likewise, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion has focused on the violence committed 'in the name of religion', and on its root causes."

"Unfortunately, violence abounds today. If genocide means any act committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such, then the International Community as a whole is certainly witnessing a sort of genocide in some regions of the world, where the enslavement and sale of women and children, the killing of young men, the burning, beheading and the forcing into exile of people continue. In this context, the Delegation of the Holy See would like to submit to the joint reflection of the Human Rights Council that these and other unspeakable crimes are being committed against people belonging to ancient communities simply because their belief, social system, and culture are different from the fundamentalist combatants of the so-called 'Islamic State' group. The appeal to religion in order to murder people and destroy the evidence of human creativity developed in the course of history makes the on-going atrocities even more revulsive and damnable. An adequate response from the International Community, which should finally put aside sectarian interests and save lives, is a moral imperative."

"Violence, however, does not stem from religion but from its false interpretation or its transformation into ideology. In addition, the same violence can derive from the idolatry of State or of the economy, and it can be an effect of secularization. All these phenomena tend to eliminate individual freedom and responsibility towards others. But, violence is always an individual's act and a decision that implies personal responsibility. It is in fact by adopting an ethics of responsibility that the way toward the future can become fruitful, preventing violence, and breaking the impasse between extreme positions: one that upholds any form of freedom of expression and the other that rejects any criticism of a religion. ..."

"Freedom of expression that is misused to wound the dignity of persons by offending their deepest convictions sows the seeds of violence. Of course, freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that is always to be upheld and protected; in fact, it also implies the obligation to say in a responsible way what a person thinks in view of the common good. ... It does not, however, justify relegating religion to a subculture of insignificant weight or to an acceptable easy target of ridicule and discrimination. Antireligious arguments even in the form of irony can surely be accepted, as it is acceptable to use irony about secularism or atheism. Criticism of religious thinking can even help dismantle various extremisms. But what can justify gratuitous insults and spiteful derision of the religious feelings and convictions of others who are, after all, equal in dignity? Can we make fun of the cultural identity of a person, of the color of his skin, of the belief of his heart? A 'right to offend' does not exist. ..."

"Several mutually interdependent issues like freedom of religion, freedom of expression, religious intolerance, and violence in the name of religion come together in the concrete situations the world faces today. The way forward seems to be the adoption of a comprehensive approach that would consider these issues together in domestic legislation and deal with them in such a way that they may facilitate a peaceful coexistence based on the respect of the inherent human dignity and rights of every person. While opting to be on the side of freedom, the consequences of its exercise cannot be ignored and they should respect this dignity and, thus, build a more humane and more brotherly global society."

Death Penalty Is Inadmissible

(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)

Prayer to St. Joseph
O Glorious St. Joseph, model of all who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in the spirit of penance in expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously by placing love of duty above my inclinations; to gratefully and joyously deem it an honor to employ and to develop by labor the gifts I have received from God, to work methodically, peacefully, and in moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from it through weariness or difficulty to work; above all,with purity of intention and unselfishnesss, having unceasingly before my eyes death and the account I have to render of time lost, talents unused, good not done, and vain compliancy in success, so baneful to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all to imitate thee, O Patriarch St. Joseph! This shall be my motto for life and eternity. Amen.

Vatican City (VIS) - This morning (March 20) the Holy Father received in audience a delegation from the International Commission against the Death Penalty. Below we offer extensive extracts from the letter the Pope gave to Federico Mayor, president of the Commission, to greet and offer his personal thanks to all the members of the aforementioned International Commission, the group of countries that lend their support, and all those who collaborate in its work.

"I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some reflections on what the Church contributes to the humanistic efforts of the Commission. The Church's Magisterium, based on the Sacred Scripture and the thousand-year experience of the People of God, defends life from conception to natural end, and supports full human dignity inasmuch as it represents the image of God. Human life is sacred as, from its beginning, from the first instant of conception, it is the fruit of God's creating action."

"States kill when they apply the death penalty, when they send their people to war, or when they carry out extrajudicial or summary executions. They can also kill by omission, when they fail to guarantee to their people access to the bare essentials for life. ... On some occasions it is necessary to repel an ongoing assault proportionately to avoid damage caused by the aggressor, and the need to neutralize him could lead to his elimination; this is a case of legitimate defense. However, the presuppositions of personal legitimate defense do not apply at the social level, without risk of misinterpretation. When the death penalty is applied, it is not for a current act of aggression, but rather for an act committed in the past. It is also applied to persons whose current ability to cause harm is not current, as it has been neutralized - they are already deprived of their liberty."

"Nowadays the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed. It is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, which contradicts God's plan for man and society, and his merciful justice, and impedes the penalty from fulfilling any just objective. It does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance."

"For the rule of law, the death penalty represents a failure, as it obliges the state to kill in the name of justice. ... Justice can never be wrought by killing a human being. ... With the application of the death penalty, the convict is denied the possibility of to repent or make amends for the harm caused; the possibility of confession, by which a man expresses his inner conversion, and contrition, the gateway to atonement and expiation, to reach an encounter with God's merciful and healing justice. It is furthermore frequently used by totalitarian regimes and groups of fanatics for the extermination of political dissidents, minorities, and any subject labelled as 'dangerous' or who may be perceived as a threat to its power or to the achievement of its ends."

"The death penalty is contrary to the sentiment of humanitas and to divine mercy, which must be the model for human justice. ... There is discussion in some quarters about the method of killing, as if it were possible to find ways of 'getting it right.' ... But there is no humane way of killing another person."

"On the other hand, life imprisonment entails for the prisoner the impossibility of planning a future of freedom, and may therefore be considered as a sort of covert death penalty, as they deprive detainees not only of their freedom, but also of hope. However, although the penal system can stake a claim to the time of convicted persons, it can never claim their hope."

"Dear friends, I encourage you to continue with your work, as the world needs witnesses of God's mercy and tenderness, and may the Lord Jesus grant the gift of wisdom, so that the action taken against this cruel punishment may be successful and fruitful."

"An Authentic Christian Woman"

by Leiann Spontaneo

Through the true understanding of how woman makes a gift of herself to the created world you can transform your faith and the lives of all those in your path (Kineke, 10). The authentic Christian woman needs to simplify their life, have hope for a kind of love revolution.

It's important to show God glory through your life, not just through your words or spiritual acts. Start seeing ordinary daily routines as something done for God, not something to check off your list so you can search for God amidst things you think are holy. All of life is holy if lived unto the Lord. Colossians 3:23 teaches us to work heartily at every task; as something done for the Lord and not for men (Meyer, 7).

May you know your true beauty, one that comes from Christ's light living within your as well as the goodness of your body - yes your body - in all its feminism hormonal shifts, emotional ups and down, and relational roller coasters. You are loved, you are the beloved, and you are beautiful (Zeno, 150).

There will be no Love Revolution if we don't do things on purpose that will help others (Meyers, 168). Once you make up your mind to declare war on selfishness and want to be a part of a Love Revolution, you need to find creative ways to be a blessing such as something you can get them , do for them, or pray about for them (Meyer, 185).

There you have it ... bits and pieces of an authentic Christian woman. Rearrange however you like! But know the true ingredient ... love.

Works Cited:

Kineke,Genevieve: The Authentic Catholic Woman. Cincinnati, Servant Books, 2006, Page 10

Meyer, Joyce: 100 Ways To simplify Your Life, New York, Faith Words, 2007, Page 7

Meyer, Joyce: The Love Revolution, New York, Faith Words, 2009, Pages 168 and 189

Zeno, Katrina J.: When Life Doesn't Go Your Way, Maryland, The Word Among Us press, 2009, Page 150

Pope Francis Tweets

by Michael Halm

Pope Francis recently tweeted, "A credible witness to truth and to the values of the Gospel is urgently needed." He is showing the world by being an good example of such a witness to truth.

His predecessor Pope Benedicto XVI set up a Twitter account in 2012. At that time it was considered a positive step toward evangelizing the world through modern technology. However, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the head of the Vatican's pontifical council for social communications, explains that offensive replies soon become a "crisis." They were, however, more easy to ignore on Twitter than they would have been on other social media.

Celli explains that the Vatican already spends too much hours "cleaning" the Facebook page of its official news website, while leaving "educational debates."

The offensive replies are almost always from respondents not using their right names. Many are the usual rants against the Church. They sometime prompt more tweets they likely do not expect, like Mary Piro's recent, "Lord, bless all this negativity - if they are commenting here, they are definitely searching for You. Thank You God." And her, "Funny that an Atheist is following a Christian site. Please stay on ... and you will find Him." Or Katie Dieringer Kahr's, "I am praying for you, sounds like you could use a lot. God Bless."

Tens of thousands of others all over the world share the Pope's tweets, sometimes adding like Elissa Bogos Merzaei, "Wise words from the Pope." Others just add a one-word comment since tweets are limited as to number of characters like Tiffany Elyse's, "Inspiration." or Laura Pastrana's and William Taylor's, Amen!"

In the second year of papal tweeting Monsignor Paolo Luca Braida was named coordinator of the preparation of the pope's speeches and homilies. The pope selects tweets from extracts of these speeches and homilies proposed by the monsignor, not just a few a month but nearly every day.

Last year Pope Francis was identified as the most influential world leader on Twitter in the annual Twiplomacy survey. He then had 14 million followers in nine languages.

"It's not the number of followers which is really important," Matthias Luefkens says, "but the reach, the engagement, the real benchmark is tweets retweeted by followers to their own network."

That is where Pope Francis wins hands down, with his Spanish-language tweets retweeted more than 10,000 times on average, and his English-language tweets over 6,400 times. Luefkens says that while television remains the key channel to hit the widest audience, Twitter is an increasingly-powerful tool.

"It helps you to broadcast, and if you broadcast to the right audience, that has huge impact," he said. "The social network enables politicians to create a sense of intimacy and even to interact with one another in public."

During the Pope's visit to the Philippines earlier this year, one tweet in Filipino had nearly 76,000 retweets. The English version, "The Philippines bear witness to the youthfulness and vitality of the Church," had nearly 37,000. Other tweets were nearly as popular, "The family is the greatest treasure of any country. Let us all work to protect and strengthen this, the cornerstone of society." and "How often we forget to dedicate ourselves to that which truly matters! We forget that we are children of God." and "The com-passion of God, his suffering-with-us, gives meaning and worth to our struggles and our sufferings."

Before reaching the Philippines, he tweeted, "Please pray with me for everyone in Sri Lanka and the Philippines as I begin my trip," and again got nearly 37,000 retweets. To my friends in Sri Lanka and the Philippines: May God bless you all! Please pray for me."

The number one English language Pope tweet was, "Every Life is a Gift," on the occasion of the Roe v. Wade anniversary at over 24,000.

For those not on Twitter the tweets are also available illustrated and sharable on Facebook's Pope Tweets produced by Ed Vizenor.

"The laity are called to become a leaven of Christian living within society," prompted Andy Doherty to write "lucky to be laity." Adoration Servants commented, "Establishing Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration everywhere as John Paul II hoped for will do this." David Rhodes added, "The whole people of God are called to be leaven. In fact the whole of humanity."

To "Suffering is a call to conversion: it reminds us of our frailty and vulnerability." Allen V. Harris responded with, "This accents last Sunday's sermon." Cindy Mercurio suggested, "Sent this tweet to a friend who is suffering with depression. Struggling to find her way. Pray it may lead her back to the Church."

George Wilson called the pope's prayer, "May every Church and Christian community be a place of mercy amid so much indifference" an excellent message.

To "Humility saves man: pride makes him lose his way." Shafiq Pontoh responded with, "Soooo TRUE." L. M. Sawyer had a more general comment, "Daily goodness from the pope." Scott Gower shared, "I'm not catholic, but Pope Francis has authored some solid tweets."

Lee Llewellyn sent a message unrelated to any individual tweet, "Many congratulations to your Papal anniversary and thank you for trying to modernize, Unify and welcome ALL to faith/church."

Prison To Praise

A Friend

by Cliff Smith

(Editor's note: Mr. Smith writes from California. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)

What is a friend?

A friend is always by your side! When hard times come!

When you are sick they sit up all night with you!

When a need comes our way, they will give you aid!

There is always a smile ...

They help you up when you fall down!

A friend will hug you when you are down?

A friend ...

Syrian Refugees Face Crisis

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations and other organizations in Geneva, Switzerland, addressed the issue of Syrian refugees at a March 17 meeting. It was the 28th session of the Human Rights Council, report of The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. His remarks follow:

"... Conflicts forced a staggering 5.5 million people to flee their homes in the first six months of 2014. This represents a major addition to the record of 51.2 million worldwide who already were forcibly displaced by the end of 2013.[1] The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic recently informed that, since the start of the crisis, 'more than 10 million Syrians have fled their homes. This amounts to almost half of the country's population, now deprived of their basic rights to shelter and adequate housing, security and human dignity. Many are victims of human rights violations and abuses and are in urgent need of protective measures and support.' To compound this tragedy, more than 3 million people, most of them women and children, have fled the Syrian Arab Republic and are refugees in neighboring countries.[2] Violence continues to produce victims in the Middle East in particular, but elsewhere as well, where hatred and intolerance are the criteria for inter-group relations. The human rights of these forcibly displaced people are systematically violated with impunity. A variety of sources have provided evidence on how children suffer the brutal consequences of a persistent status of war in their country. Children are recruited, trained, and used in active combat roles, at times even as human shields in military attacks. The so-called Islamic State (ISIL) group has worsened the situation by training and using children as suicide bombers; killing children who belong to different religious and ethnic communities; selling children as slaves in markets; executing large numbers of boys; and committing other atrocities.[3] In camps throughout the Middle East, children constitute approximately half of the refugee population and they are the most vulnerable demographic group in times of conflict and displacement. Their life in exile is full of uncertainty and daily struggles. 'Many are separated from their families, have difficulties accessing basic services, and live in increasing poverty. Only one in two Syrian refugee children in the neighboring countries is receiving education."[4] Beyond the specific conditions faced by internally displaced children and those in the refugee camps of the region and beyond the enormous tragedies affecting them, it seems important to envision their future, by focusing on three particular areas of concern.

"First, the world must deal with the situation of millions of stateless children, who as such according to the law, were never born. The United Nations estimates that approximately 30,000 of these children can be found in Lebanon alone. Moreover, due to the Middle Eastern conflicts and massive uprooting of families, several thousand unregistered children are scattered in camps and other asylum countries.[5] These are 'phantom kids' whose parents have escaped from Syria but whose name and date of birth were never registered at any office. In fact, UNICEF reports that 3,500 children 'officially' do not have a family or an identity. This occurs because all personal documents have been destroyed under the rubble of war or, at times, simply because their parents did not have the time or the money to certify their birth. Stateless children cross international borders alone and find themselves completely abandoned. The number of stateless persons in the world reaches 10 million. While all face grave difficulties, those fleeing Syria face challenges that are even more dramatic: a child below eleven years of age and without documents has no access even to the most basic services. These children obviously cannot go to school and they are likely to be adopted illegally, recruited in an armed group, abused, exploited, or forced into prostitution. Every child has the right to be registered at birth and thus to be recognized as a person before the law. The implementation of this right opens the way for access to the enjoyment of other rights and benefits that affect the future of these children. Simplifying mechanisms and requirements for registration, waving fees, advocating for refugee inclusive registration legislation, represent steps to solve the plight of stateless children.

"Second, another key component that shapes the future of uprooted children is education. Both in Syria and in refugee camps in the region, provision of education has become extremely problematic. Some 5,000 schools have been destroyed in Syria[6] where more than one million and half students no longer receive an education and where attacks against school buildings continue. The extremists from ISIL already have closed a great number of schools in the zones under their control. The dangerous condition of the country does not permit children to attend school nor to have access to a proper education. The international community as a whole seems to have misjudged the extent of the Syrian crisis. It was thought by many that the Syrian refugee flow was temporary and such refugees would leave their countries of asylum in a matter of months. Now, after four years of conflict, it appears likely that these refugees will remain and the locals have to learn to live side by side with them. As a result of the conflict, children are behind in their education and are missing the enjoyment of their childhood. In the camps, there are only 40 teachers for more than 1,000 students, aged 6 to 17. Most of the teachers are volunteers, and often refugees themselves. Classes focus on drawing and music to help ease the trauma; writing and mathematics are taught when books are available. In Turkey, children face additional problems because of the language barrier. These refugees speak Arabic or Kurdish so, they cannot attend public schools where only Turkish is spoken. For different reasons, whether in their home countries or in the refugee camps, children find an inadequate education system that jeopardizes their future. Everywhere there is an urgent need for an education system that could absorb these children and bring some normalcy to their lives.

"Third, another disruptive consequence of the continuing violence that torments the Middle East is the separation of family members, which forces many minors to fend for themselves. The root of the destabilization of society is the generalized violence that leads to the breaking down of the family, society's basic social unit. To prevent the further exploitation of children and to protect them properly, an additional effort should be made to facilitate the reunification of minors with their respective families...

"The right to a legal identity, to an adequate education and to a family are key elements and specific requirements in a comprehensive system of protection for children. Such measures require the close collaboration of all stakeholders. Access to quality education and psycho-social care, together with other basic services, is extremely important. However, children cannot benefit from such services unless they are registered at birth and their families and communities are supported to protect them better. If the violence does not stop and the normal pace of education and development is not resumed, these children are at risk of becoming a lost generation.

"Peace in Syria and the Middle East is the priority for healthy growth of all children. With conviction, during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Francis stated: 'May the violence cease and may humanitarian law be respected, thus ensuring much needed assistance to those who are suffering! May all parties abandon the attempt to resolve issues by the use of arms and return to negotiations. A solution will only be found through dialogue and restraint, through compassion for those who suffer, through the search for a political solution and through a sense of fraternal responsibility.'[7] ..."

[1] UNHCR, Mid-Year Trends 2014, pg. 3.

[2] Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, Human Rights Council (Twenty-seventh session). February 5, 2015.

[3] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the combined second to fourth periodic reports of Iraq, pg. 5, point 23 (a), February 4, 2015, Geneva.

[4] A. Guterres speech at the opening session of the "Investing in the Future" conference in Sharjah, October 15, 2014.

[5] UNICEF Monthly humanitarian situation report, Syria Crisis, October 14 - November 12, 2014.

[6] Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, Human Rights Council (Twenty-seventh session). February 5, 2015.

[7] Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Meeting with refugees and disabled young people, Latin Church, Bethany beyond the Jordan, Saturday, May 24, 2014.

Light to the Nations

(A Christian Perspective on World News)

vigil Marks 20th anniversary

Vatican City (VIS) - The Pontifical Council for the Family has organized an international vigil to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the publication of St. John Paul II's encyclical "Evangelium Vitae." According to a press release from the dicastery, the event is a form of thanksgiving for the fruits of the pastoral care of life, and will also serve to spread the benefits of prayer for life as well as to recall eternal life, the destiny of every human being.

The vigil will be divided into three stages: it will begin at 5 p.m. in the Roman basilica of St. Mary Major, with an explanation of various artistic elements of the basilica relating to the theme of life. At 6 p.m. an original rosary will be prayed, focusing on the contemplation of the Gospel passages linked to the theme of life, interspersed with experiences related by the faithful. This will be followed, at 7 p.m., by a Eucharistic celebration presided by Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who comments that "the anniversary of the Encyclical and this vigil that commemorates it, on the eve of the Annunciation, is particularly meaningful as it makes manifest the intimate connection between the mystery of life and the experience of the family, made up of affection and social relationships. Defending life means participating in the alliance between God, man, and woman."

The international character of the vigil is accentuated by the participation of the shrines of Fatima, Lourdes, and Guadalupe, where rosaries will be recited, dedicated to life, as part of the initiative "A rosary embraces the world."

The Italian television channel Telepace will transmit live the events of the vigil from 5:15 p.m., while English-, French- and Italian-speaking viewers will be able to take part in the Holy Rosaries of Lourdes, according to the following schedule: at 2:30 p.m. (local time) the Rosary will be broadcast by the main American Catholic television channels; at 3:30 p.m. by the French Catholic channel KTO, and at 6 p.m. in Italy, by the broadcaster TV2000.

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

Vatican comments on development

Vatican City (VIS) - Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Permanent Observer at the United Nations in New York, spoke at the session dedicated to intergovernmental negotiations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, held on March 24.

The prelate expressed his appreciation for the "ambitious and compelling nature" of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and his conviction of the need for a "transformative and action-oriented post-2015 agenda," "Moreover," he continued, "we SDGs must integrate in a balanced manner the three pillars of sustainable development - economic, social, and environmental development - with an overarching focus on the eradication of poverty and the achievement of a life of dignity for all. It is imperative that the SDGs focus more on the needs of the most vulnerable countries, notably the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Land-Locked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), with particular attention to the sectors of the populations where poverty is most pervasive, to those regions where armed conflicts continue to block even the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - and indeed cause further regression towards underdevelopment - and to those areas most affected by natural disasters.

The Holy See delegation, affirmed the Archbishop, "is fully aware that SDGs are a carefully and purposefully crafted package to respond to the desires of the stakeholders," and therefore does not support "the technical proofing of the goals and targets, as it may lead to the re-opening and re-negotiating of what is already a politically balanced agreement acceptable to the great majority of the stakeholders." Furthermore, results and progress if the SDGs are implemented "would have to be assessed and verified against indicators agreed by the stakeholders themselves."

"Therefore," he continued, "my delegation takes note of the work of the UN Statistical Commission in providing a preliminary list of indicators for the SDGs and targets. We further emphasize that the development of evidence-based indicators should continue to be carried out in an open and transparent manner and guided by Member States. These indicators should not upset the political balance of the SDGs, nor should they serve to impose ideas or ideologies that do not find consensus under the outcome of the Open Working Groups (OWGs)."

Archbishop Auza concluded by indicating that certain goals and targets "are understood differently in different cultural and religious contexts and will translate differently into their national policies and legislation. We believe the indicators must take these differences into consideration and be drafted in a way that allows countries to assess their results in a way that both reflects and respects their national values, as well as is consistent with their national policies and legislation. ... My delegation strongly believes that the indicators should be global, while taking into consideration the national and regional specificities, especially different capacities. Indicators cannot be unrealistic figures that only, or not even, developed countries can achieve."

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

st. teresa, a "remarkable woman"

Vatican City (VIS) - Pope Francis has written a letter to Fr. Saverio Cannistra, prepositor general of the Order of Descalced Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, to commemorate the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Jesus and to participate in the giving of thanks for the charism of this "remarkable woman."

"I consider it a providential grace that this anniversary coincides with the year dedicated to consecrated life, in which the Saint of Avila shines as a sure guide and attractive model of total commitment to God. ... How much we continue to benefit from the witness of her consecration, born directly of her encounter with Christ, her experience of prayer, as a continual dialogue with God, and her community life, rooted in the maternity of the Church!"

"St. Teresa was above all a teacher of prayer. The discovery of Christ's humanity was central to her experience. Moved by the desire to share this personal experience with others, she describes it in a lively and simple way, accessible to all, as consisting simply in 'a relationship of friendship ... with Whom we know loves us.' The prayer of Teresa was not a prayer reserved solely to a space or time of day; it arose spontaneously on the most diverse occasions. ... She was convinced of the value of continual, if not always perfect, prayer. ... To renew consecrated life today, Teresa has left us a great heritage full of concrete suggestions, ways, and methods of praying that, far from closing us in ourselves or leading us merely to inner balance, enable us always to start again from Jesus, and constitute a genuine school for growth in love for God and neighbor."

"Starting from her encounter with Jesus, St. Teresa lived 'another life;' she transformed herself into a tireless communicator of the Gospel. Keen to serve the Church, and faced with the great problems of her time, she did not limit herself to being an observer of the situations surrounding her. ... In this way she began the Teresian reform in which she asked her sisters not to waste time discussing 'matters of little importance' with God while 'the world is in flames.' This missionary and ecclesial dimension has always distinguished the Discalced Carmelites. As she did during her times, St. Teresa opens up new horizons to us today; she calls us to a great enterprise, to look upon the world through Christ's eyes, to seek what He seeks and to love what He loves."

"St. Teresa knew that neither prayer nor mission could sustain an authentic community life. Therefore, the foundation she laid in her monasteries was fraternity. ... She was very careful to warn her sisters of the danger of self-referentiality in fraternal life," emphasizing the need to "'place what we are at the service of others. To avoid such risks, the Saint of Avila reminded her sisters above all of the virtue of humility, which is neither outward neglect nor inner timidness of the soul; instead, it involves each person being aware of their own possibilities and of what God can achieve in us. The contrary is what she refers to as a 'false point of honor,' a source of gossip, jealousy, and criticism, that seriously harm relations with others. ... With these noble roots, Teresian communities are called to become houses of communion, able to bear witness to the fraternal and maternal love of the Church, presenting to the Lord the needs of the world, riven by divisions and wars."

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

Edge To Edge

Pray The News

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.

  • We pray for all families to experience the love of Jesus in new ways and to be beacons of faith.
  • We pray for blessing, strength, and happiness for all mothers.
  • We pray for an end to all wars and for all those who have been killed in wars.
  • We pray for the victory of the civilization of love and life over the culture of death.
  • We pray for persecuted Christians for continued strength and courage.
  • We pray for God's wisdom or issues such as the death penalty and protection of freedoms.
  • We pray for an end to abortion, euthanasia, violence, and all attacks on life.
  • We pray for all prisoners to give their lives to Jesus.
  • We pray that all forms of communication will be used to spread the Gospel.

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