Pope Francis addressed the faithful gathered for an ecumenical prayer service in South Sudan, and urges all those present to pray, to work and to journey.
By Francesca Merlo
In Juba’s John Garang Mausoleum, concluding his second day in South Sudan, Pope Francis addressed the faithful gathered for an ecumenical prayer. He noted that from the South Sudanese land, “wracked by violence”, “many prayers have now been raised to heaven”.
Pope Francis asked all those present to reflect on three verbs:
The first, is to pray. Pope Francis noted that prayer gives us the strength to go forward, to overcome our fears, to glimpse, even in the darkness, the salvation that God is even now preparing. He added that “prayer brings down God’s salvation upon the people”, and that the prayer of intercession is the type of prayer that we, as shepherds of God’s holy people, are especially called to practise.
The Holy Father urged all those present to support each other in this effort.
“In the diversity of our confessions, let us feel united among ourselves, as one family, responsible to pray for everyone.”
A South Sudanese believer participates in the Ecumenical Prayer meeting in Juba
Speaking of the verb “work”, Pope Francis noted that the peace of God is not only a truce amid conflicts, “but a fraternal fellowship that comes from uniting and not absorbing; from pardoning and not overpowering; from reconciling and not imposing”.
Let us work tirelessly, urged the Pope “for the peace that the Spirit of Jesus and the Father urges us to build: a peace that integrates diversity and promotes unity in plurality”.
“Those who choose Christ choose peace, always; those who unleash war and violence betray the Lord and deny his Gospel.”
“What Jesus teaches us is clear,” added the Pope, “we are to love everyone, since everyone is loved as a child of our common Father in heaven”.
Participants in the Ecumenical Prayer meeting in Juba
The third and final verb is “to journey”. The Pope noted that in this country, “Christian communities have been deeply committed to promoting processes of reconciliation”, before expressing his gratitude for this “radiant testimony of faith born of the realisation, expressed not only in words but also in deeds that prior to any historical divisions, there remains one unchanging fact, namely, that we are Christians”.
Speaking of ecumenism in South Sudan, Pope Francis described this reality as “a precious treasure” and an act of praise for the name of Jesus.
“May the witness of unity among believers overflow to the people as a whole.”
Bringing his discourse to an end, Pope Francis introduced two final words for the South Sudanese encouraging them to persevere in their journey: memory and commitment.
Memory means making sure that “the steps that you take follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before you. Commitment. means journeying towards unity when love is concrete.
Finally, Pope Francis noted that together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, they travelled to South Sudan as “pilgrims, to be with you”.
“Let us love each other constantly, from the heart.”
A moment of the Ecumenical Prayer meeting in Juba
Juba, Ecumenical Prayer
Pope Francis addresses the winners of the Zayed Prize for Human Fraternity, and tells them that fraternity can be reached, and peace obtained, but that it is a long journey.
By Francesca Merlo
February 4th marks the International Day of Human Fraternity, and the day of the ceremony for the awarding of the 2023 Zayed Prize for Human Fraternity, awarded this year to the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Kenyan peacemaker, Mama Shamsa.
To mark the occasion, Pope Francis sent a videomessage, in which he congratulates the winners for their work in promoting a culture of peace.
Addressing all those attending the award ceremony, Pope Francis notes that “we all bear in our heart the desire to live as brothers and sisters, in mutual assistance and harmony” adding that as, unfortunately, this often does not happen, we should “further stimulate the search for fraternity.”
The Holy Father goes on to note that although religions do not have the political force to impose peace, “by transforming man from within, inviting him to detach himself from evil, they guide him towards an attitude of peace”.
Religions, he suggests, have a decisive responsibility in the coexistence of peoples. “Their dialogue weaves a peaceful web, repels temptations to lacerate the civil fabric, and frees one from the instrumentalization of religious differences for political ends.”
Bearing this in mind, the Pope continues that “religions, in order to be at the service of fraternity, need to engage in dialogue with each other, to get to know each other, to enrich each other, and above all to develop that which unites and to collaborate for the good of all.”
Pope Francis then expresses the importance of encountering different people.
Each meeting between men and women of different walks of life, he says, “can be an opportunity to encourage each other to go forward as brothers and sisters”.
Bringing his message to an end, the Pope say that we aware that the journey to fraternity is a long and difficult one, but that all who undertake it, are commited to the cause of peace, “responding to the real problems and needs of the last, the poor, the defenceless: those who need our help”.
Another message at the ceremony came from US President Joe Biden, who, in supporting Pope Francis’ words on religion, notes that “faith and history teach us that, however dark the night, joy cometh in the morning.”
However, he adds, this takes work.
“Our pursuit of peace, justice, and human dignity is perennial; with every generation, we are called to combat the flames of hate that have been given too much oxygen for too long. We must sow the seeds of fraternity across all peoples, religions, and beliefs. We must rise together, enriched by each other’s differences and made whole by each other’s compassion.”
Highlighting the importance of the International Day of Human Fraternity, the US President reminds those present that this day “offers us an opportunity to see each other as equals, created in the image of God.”
Today, he concludes, “the United States joins in common cause with all people seeking peace and equality, remaining always committed to building a better Nation and a better world for future generations”.
Pope Francis meets South Sudanese internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Juba with Archbishop Justin Welby and Rev. Iain Greenshields, and reiterates his heartfelt appeal to end all conflict in South Sudan so as to bring a better future for its people.
By Lisa Zengarini
“The future of South Sudan cannot lie in refugee camps.”
Meeting on Saturday with a group of South Sudanese internally displaced persons (IDPs), along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Scottish Presbyterian Moderator Rev. Dr Iain Greeshields, Pope Francis renewed his “forceful and heartfelt” appeal to end all conflict in South Sudan, and to resume the peace process “in a serious way”, so that “violence can end and people can return to living in dignity”.
“Only with peace, stability and justice can there be development and social reintegration”, he said.
The meeting took place on Saturday afternoon at the “Freedom Hall” in Juba, on the second day of the three Christian leaders’ Ecumenical Pilgrimage for Peace aimed at restarting the young country’s stalled peace process and at drawing international attention to continued fighting and a worsening humanitarian crisis.
Pope Francis’ remarks came after three testimonies by three displaced children from Bentiu, Malakal and Juba Camps, and an introductory intervention by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Sara Beysolow Nyanti, who presented an overview of the current humanitarian situation and of the international efforts to support the war-torn nation.
In her presentation, the Liberian UN representative highlighted how insecurity, fuelled by inter-communal violence, crime, and impunity, continues to hamper national and international efforts to bring peace in South Sudan which has been experiencing internal war since 2013.
She explained that the ten year-conflict has displaced two million people and caused an additional two million refugees outside the country, making South Sudan the fourth in the list of the world’s most neglected displacement crises and the country with the largest refugee crisis in Africa.
Also, extreme levels of food insecurity and malnutrition affect two-thirds of the country’s population, making it one of the worst food emergencies globally. Women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities are the ones who suffer the most.
However, in this dire situation, said Nyanti, there still are opportunities to support the affected communities in achieving their potential and transforming their country, and in particular women. Indeed, she said, women are the key to this transformation.
Pope Francis shared that view: “If mothers and women receive the proper opportunities, through their industriousness and their natural gift of protecting life – he said – they will have the ability to change the face of South Sudan, to give it a peaceful and cohesive development!”.
“I ask all the people of these lands, to ensure that women are protected, respected, valued and honoured. Please, protect, respect, appreciate and honour every woman, every girl, young woman, mother and grandmother. Otherwise, there will be no future.”
In his remarks, the Holy Father expressed his “closeness and affection” to all people suffering displacement in South Sudan due to violence, but also natural calamities.
“I am here with you, and I suffer for you and with you”, he said.
Referring to the testimonies of the three displaced children who shared their hardships and their hopes for the future, the Pope insisted on the urgency of restoring long-term peace so they can enjoy a normal childhood in an open and integrated society “discovering the beauty of a reconciled fraternity”.
“There is a need for you to grow as an open society, for different groups to mingle and to form a single people by embracing the challenges of integration, even learning the languages spoken throughout the country and not just those in your particular ethnic group. (…) It is absolutely essential to avoid ostracizing groups and ghettoizing human beings. To meet all these challenges, however, there is a need for peace.”
After thanking Nyanti for her informative insight into the current situation and challenges in South Sudan, Pope Francis noted that despite their painful past and the present hardships of displacement, faith and hope for a better future haven’t been lost. He encouraged them to be seeds of this hope by choosing “fraternity and forgiveness” and weaving “webs of communion and paths of reconciliation” with people of other ethnicities and origins.
“Be seeds of hope, which make it possible for us already to glimpse the tree that one day, hopefully in the near future, will bear fruit. (…) True, right now you are ‘planted’ where you don’t want to be, but precisely from this situation of hardship and uncertainty, you can reach out to those around you and experience that you all are rooted in the one human family.”
The Pope appealed in particular to the youths of South Sudan to rewrite the history of their country “as a history of peace”, by learning from the experience of the elderly who, he said, are their roots.
“May you, young people of different ethnicities, write the first pages of this new chapter! Although conflict, violence and hatred have replaced good memories on the first pages of the life of this Republic, you must be the ones to rewrite its history as a history of peace!”
Bringing his address to a close, Pope Francis expressed gratitude to all those helping displaced people and in emergency situations in South Sudan: ecclesial communities, missionaries and humanitarian and international organizations, in particular the United Nations. He also remembered the many humanitarian workers who have lost their lives while carrying out relief work in South Sudan.
In this regard, Pope Francis further stressed the need for long-term international support by accompanying the population on the path of development so as to make it self-sufficient.
Finally, Pope Francis turned his thoughts to the many South Sudanese refugees living outside the country and to those who cannot return because their territories have been occupied. “I am close to them and I trust that they can once again take an active role in shaping the future of their land and contribute to its development in a constructive and peaceful manner”, he said.
The Pope concluded the meeting by imparting a special blessing along with Archbishop Welby and Reverend Greeshields.
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Pope Francis meets with the bishops and clergy of South Sudan in St Theresa’s Cathedral in Juba. An opportunity to talk about the role of the universal Church and of intercession as an icon of synodality
By Andrea Tornielli
Anyone who exercises a ministry in the Church is asked to make room for the Lord and to intercede in the midst of the people. Pope Francis’ speech in Juba Cathedral during his meeting with the country’s bishops, clergy and religious, was profound and full of insights. The Successor of Peter first recalled the need not to think “that we are at the centre of everything”, and not to rely “on our own talents”, because ” everything we accomplish comes from God: he is the Lord, and we are called to be docile instruments in His hands “.
He then asked pastors to be compassionate and merciful, “not overlords” or “tribal chieftains”. And then he pointed to a fundamental attitude of those who are called to serve their brothers and sisters: intercession.
As the Son of God did by becoming incarnate and dying on the cross: he came down to raise us up. As Moses did, interceding for the people, putting himself inside their history to bring them closer to God. And interceding, Francis explained, echoing the words of Cardinal Martini, does not mean simply ‘praying for someone’, as we often think. Etymologically it means ‘to step in the middle’, to take a step so as to put oneself in the middle of a situation. “A lot of times it doesn’t go so well,” but you have to do it, the Pope remarked.
It was evident, listening to him, that the Bishop of Rome was speaking in the third person but from the heart of his own experience as a pastor who prays, who cries out, who intercedes, who steps into the middle to help his people. Because, as he explained, this is precisely what is required of pastors, to “walk in the midst”: in the midst of suffering, in the midst of tears, in the midst of the hunger for God and the thirst for love of their brothers and sisters.
“Our first duty,” Francis went on to say, “is not to be a Church that is perfectly organized – any company can do this”. The Church of Christ “stands in the midst of people’s troubled lives”, and “that is willing to dirty its hands for people” and its pastors exercise their ministry, “walking in the midst and alongside our people, learning to listen and dialogue, collaborating as ministers with one another and with the laity”. Together, not as privileged members of a caste. Together, following the Master and making room for Him, not as functionaries of the sacred or as managers who rely on structures and strategies. Is this not the most appropriate icon to describe synodality?
Sudan’s President Salva Kiir pardons 71 inmates who were serving different sentences. The act of clemency comes during Pope Francis’ pilgrimage of peace to the east African nation.
By Linda Bordoni
In a decree read on the state-owned South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation, the nation’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit pardoned 36 inmates on death row and 35 inmates who failed to pay compensations or fines.
He reportedly ordered prison authorities to execute the order accordingly.
No reasons were given by the Head of State for the pardon, but the act of clemency comes following his meeting earlier in the day with Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland Rev Iain Greenshields, at the start of their Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace that takes place from 3 to 5 February.
The Pilgrimage takes place during the second leg of the Pope’s apostolic journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and to South Sudan, from where he is scheduled to depart on Sunday, 5 February.
On Friday, the three religious leaders met with the political rulers in Juba and issued a plea to pursue the path to peace and reconciliation and to work to ensure their people may look to a future in which respect for human rights is upheld by law and the application of law.
In December, in the run-up to Christmas, Pope Francis sent a letter to the world’s heads of state asking them to pardon prisoners.
In his invitation to make a “gesture of clemency” he invited world leaders to grant leniency to “those of our brothers and sisters deprived of their liberty whom they deem fit to benefit from such a measure, so that this time marked by tensions, injustices, and conflicts may be opened to the grace that comes from the Lord.”
Catholic faithful in South Sudan express their fervent hopes that Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to the nation will bear fruits of peace at all levels of society.
By Vatican News
As Pope Francis spoke to the clergy and religious men and women of South Sudan on Saturday, around 4,000 Catholics gathered outside St. Theresa Cathedral in Juba to hear his words of encouragement.
They shared their hopes and excitement for the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to their nation with Massimiliano Menichetti.
• Is 58:7-10
• Ps 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
• 1 Cor 2:1-5
• Mt. 5:13-16
It is small, simple, and composed mostly of something that doesn’t sound tasty at all: sodium chloride. But the importance of salt in the ancient world is hard to overstate, even if it is usually taken for granted in our own day. Salt was valued so much among the Romans that spilling it was interpreted as a bad sign. The word “salary” is derived from the word “salt”, in reference to payments made to Roman soldiers (either in salt, or so they could purchase salt); a bad soldier was sometimes described as “not worth his salt”.
Similarly, we are all familiar with the expression, “He is the salt of the earth.” That phrase comes from today’s Gospel reading and Jesus’ declaration in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the salt of the earth.” This was high praise when we consider that salt often played a role in the rise and fall of nations and civilizations. Before refrigeration and other modern means of preserving food, salt was vital to keeping food pure and edible, which in turn had a significant effect on the health, stability, and success of ancient peoples.
This important place and positive effect of salt is seen in passages in the Old Testament. In the book of Job, the question is asked, “Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt…?” (Job 6:6), and the author of Sirach states, “Chief of all needs for human life are water and fire, iron and salt…” (Sir 39:26). Newborn babies were rubbed with salt (cf. Ez. 16:4), and certain burnt offerings were sprinkled with salt (Lev 2:13; Num 18:19; Ez 43:24), which symbolized the indissoluble, covenantal relationship between God and the chosen people of Israel.
In the positive sense used by Jesus, to be salt of the earth is to work to preserve life, to be pure, and to exemplify holiness. “Jesus signifies that all human nature has ‘lost its taste’”, wrote St. John Chrysostom, “having become rotten through sin.” This plays on the double meaning of the Greek language, in which the phrase “loses its taste” can also mean “has become foolish and dull”. Mankind has lost its moral awareness and sense of holiness, and Christ’s disciples are to restore what has been lost, drawing men and women to the source of eternal life.
Jesus then said, “You are the light of the world.” This builds upon St. Matthew’s reference, in the previous chapter, to “the people who sat in darkness” having “seen a great light” (Mt 4:16; cf. Isa 9:1-2). The reference to “a city set on a mountain” is also drawn from the prophet Isaiah, who envisioned a time when “the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains” (Isa 2:2). That is “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the eternal home for those who, as members of the Church, journey toward the Kingdom.
“The humble city is the society of holy men and good angels,” wrote St. Augustine in his great work, City of God, “the proud city is the society of wicked men and evil angels. The one city began with the love of God; the other had its beginnings in the love of self” (Bk. XIV, ch. 13). Those who are motivated by a vanity and narcissism live in darkness; they are consumed by themselves and destined for eternal darkness if they do not change their ways.
But those who follow Christ are filled with the life and light of God: “Just so, your light must shine before others…” Why? So that the world—filled with corruption and sin, lacking salt and the taste of goodness—will see the good deeds done by grace and glorify God. “It is only for the sake of God’s glory that we should allow our good works to become known”, noted Augustine. That should be the goal of every disciple worth his salt.
(This “Opening the Word” column originally appeared in the February 6, 2011, issue of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
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In 2021, the second full year of the pandemic, I began to go outside more after a year of intense insideness. Like others, I started noticing what I had not known how to see previously: the arching of a tree branch, deep and out toward the Napa River that flowed by my house; how the elderly woman who lived next door called out, by name, to each neighbor passing through; what happened when the late-day sun, symphonic, grew its mustard hues into a golden carriage of light; and how 15 minutes later the sky would go gray.
I began to see more clearly because I began to watch more closely, and of course I noticed the birds. Falcons, hawks, owls, vultures, turkeys, hummingbirds. In the late winter, mother and father made nests; in spring their fledglings took up the sky.
Birds have a kind of mythical quality to them, in that they are able to both fly and walk. They can lift themselves up. I’m jealous. My solid bones protect me from injury, yet they keep me stapled to the ground. I want to be of the air, like a bird.
In Joy Harjo’s poem “Redbird Love,” the speaker, through her own (“we”) perspective, tells the listener of the main events of a bird’s life. In the opening line of the poem, we’re told, “We watched her grow up.” The bird discovers her body: “We watched her strut.” The bird discovers partnership and trust: “We watched him fill his beak.” And the last line is not about the bird, but about the speaker and the listeners, together, and what we realize through this patient, close looking: “We are double-, triple-blessed.”
The pronoun in this continuous refrain is telling us something — the “we” that the speaker intones could refer to a group they belong to, the community that watched this bird come of age. But in the final line, it seems that the “we” is trying to communicate something else entirely: “The sacred world lifts up its head / to notice / we are double-, triple- blessed.”
The “its” and the “we” are noting the same group: There is the world, and then there is us. In this final line, the poem reveals that the world and the us are joined, always, and without effort. This bird, or rather, “bird-girl” we’ve watched go through her life cycles in the poem is also of the world, and we are in the same world, together. To look closely at others is to watch ourselves closely, and what a gift it can be, offering our attention.
The poem begins in the past tense with the word, “watched” and ends in the present by stating we “are” blessed. Telling the story of a life is a strange collapsing of time. There’s an interplay of different experiences of time: The speaker can tell the story of a life in less than two minutes, with 36 lines of poetry. Living a life demands decades, and it is the opposite expression of that poetic experience of time.
The speaker is painting a picture of something we see daily, weekly, if we watch closely: birds eating, building nests and boasting to potential mates. The poem implies: How often do we stop to enjoy the simplicity of these tasks? Can we see that there might be a miracle in this daily living?
My favorite lines of the poem are these four: “In the end / There was only one. / Isn’t that how it is for all of us? / There’s that one you circle back to — for home.” Harjo delicately and skillfully puts these heavier lines in the middle of the poem, to change its tone and signal a shift in perspective. Whereas before, the bird-girl was exploring herself and aging into the world, it’s after these lines that we watch her prepare the world for something or someone else, as others have done for each of us.
“There’s that one you circle back to — for home,” is the line that tells us this is not a bird-poem or a poem solely about aging, living, looking or seeing, but this is a poem about love. About who you go home to. About which people or persons are home to you. We circle back, like a bird in flight, to those with whom we feel double, triple blessed.
I no longer live on the Napa River’s banks; I no longer pause time by looking at the birds on the island. But where I’ve moved to the light still boasts her mustard color, her golden carriage. The sky still goes gray. I’ve traded avian lessons for proximity to friends, family and my romantic partner, who I circle back to, for home.
In the early 1990s, I was director of a residential treatment center in Westchester County, New York, called St. Christopher’s. Seventy-two teenage males and females lived there and attended the school on our grounds. They were from the lowest-income, highest-crime neighborhoods of New York City. Most had been in and out of foster homes their entire lives. They came from families rife with domestic violence, alcoholism and substance abuse disorders. Some had criminal histories themselves.
We had two maintenance people on staff, Ray and Tim, and when school got out each day, they worked with a small group of kids to teach them carpentry, plumbing and painting. One day Tim approached me with an idea.
“My family owns a house in Syracuse, about five hours from here. Let’s take some of these kids skiing one weekend. There’s a pretty easy mountain nearby, they’d love it.”I said, “Good idea,” but probably was thinking, “That is not such a good idea.” I knew from years of experience that kids in a controlled environment like ours often behaved well there, but when removed they could soon display negative if not violent behaviors, none of which Ray nor Tim were trained to handle.
A few days later 14-year-old Leon approached me and excitedly said, “Mr. Redmond, I heard we’re going skiing next weekend!”
Well, I thought, I guess we are.
That Friday night, Leon and three other boys piled into a van. I was the driver. My 6-year-old son Aiden came with us. Ray and Tim would meet us in Syracuse.
The next morning the sun was glistening on the snow but my son wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed back and gave Tim a few hundred dollars in cash, telling him, “That should be plenty for two days of lift tickets, lunch and snacks.”
An hour later Tim called me.
“You on the slopes?” I asked.
“Well, not quite,” he replied. “The boys said they needed some equipment, so I stopped at a ski shop. I wasn’t watching them and they bought Bolle visors, Olympia gloves, all high-end stuff. The money’s all gone. Can you give me your credit card number so we can buy lift tickets?”
I was furious. I stewed about those boys all day. They came back around 5. “We loved it, Mr. Redmond! Thank you. We can’t wait to go back tomorrow!”
I grabbed one of the expensive visors and said, “You’re not going back. You blew all the money on this stuff. Skiing is done.”
We had dinner but didn’t talk much. Ray and Tim hit the sack, I watched television with the boys, and during a commercial break I got up to get a soft drink from the kitchen when I heard one of the boys, Kasey, murmur to himself, “Today was the most fun I ever had.”
I stopped in the doorway. There was something about the way he said it. It wasn’t directed to me. He wasn’t saying it to the other boys either. It was a statement of recognition, not meant to manipulate or gain something, just the plain truth for him.
I turned to Kasey and said, “You mean this is the most fun you’ve had since you’ve been at St. Christopher’s?”
“No,” he replied. “In my life. Today was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”
In that very second, my soul perceived there was something far more important here than holding the boys accountable for the money they’d blown. I could not help but remember the Gospel story where Jesus and his disciples are walking through a field of grain and they are hungry and Jesus gives them the OK to pick some heads and eat them. The Pharisees see this and get all up in a dither, complaining, “Our law says you cannot do that on the Sabbath!” But Jesus knows something else. He knows there are things more important than a human law on when to pick grain.
There are also some things more important than what kind of ski gloves to pick out.
I walked into Ray and Tim’s room.
“Set your alarm,” I said. “We’re going skiing tomorrow.”
Ray replied, “But I thought you said …”
“I know, but one of those boys just told me that today was the most fun he ever had in his entire life. We’re going skiing.”
And we did. It was by turns hilarious and scary, watching these kids out on the slopes. They had no idea what they were doing, but they loved it. They knew something like joy. They were the last ones off the mountain that day. When I drove us back to St. Christopher’s, they slept the entire way.
Over the next several months, each boys left St. Christopher’s to move back home or to some other placement. Ray and Tim found jobs elsewhere, too.
One year later, I received a phone call from Kasey.
“Mr. Redmond, I know I don’t live at St. Christopher’s any more, but if you go skiing again, do you think I can come?”
“Of course,” I told him.
We never did go skiing again, that year or any other year.
That was almost 30 years ago.
But when I think of those boys, and that weekend, I hope and pray that the memory of it worked for some good in their lives. I think of what Fr. Zosima says in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov:
You must know that there is nothing higher, or stronger, or sounder, or more useful afterwards in life, than some good memory, especially a memory from childhood, from the parental home. You hear a lot said about your education, yet some such beautiful, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If a man stores up many such memories to take into life, then he is saved for his whole life. And even if only one good memory remains with us in our hearts, that alone may serve some day for our salvation.
My soul has come to know that weekend was not about the gloves. It wasn’t even about skiing.
At some point around middle adulthood, many people begin to feel the itch of new/old questions about life. A man may realize that having been a star at football or chemistry has lost its luster. A middle-aged woman figures out that looks don’t count for much at all.
As achievements are losing their luster, niggling questions arise: What are we doing here? What’s the difference between satisfaction and joy? Between achievement and meaning? Between career and vocation?
Those questions, all the same in the long run, are the thread that weaves through today’s readings.
Isaiah, or whoever wrote chapters 40-66 of the Book of Isaiah, wanted his readers to think critically about what they considered a good, meaningful life. He used practical examples to describe the path to personal fulfillment and the way to offer genuine light to the world. For Isaiah, as for the author of Psalm 112, the just person possesses a light that leads them through dark periods even as it shines for others to see.
Paul will tell the Corinthians that being light has nothing to do with fancy words or intellectual showmanship. It’s as simple and as countercultural as Christ crucified, as unpretentious and as challenging as was Jesus’ life for others.
Paul’s reflection leads into Jesus’ description of disciples as light and salt for the world.
This week, our readings from the Hebrew Scriptures give the most detailed description of what is entailed in being living lights.
Isaiah’s instructions are quite striking when we ponder them. He tells us to share our bread with the hungry, to shelter and clothe those who are vulnerable in any way and to never turn our backs on our own. Isaiah’s subtext comes down to saying that we need to treat everyone in need as one of our own, as our clan, as the people to whom we owe first allegiance.
Psalm 112 continues that theme, emphasizing that the just person is a light in the darkness of an unjust and cruel world. Those who treat needy others as members of their family are people whose experience of goodness and trust in God has freed them from fear of want, from the need to accumulate what others need for survival.
These people can lend in such a way that they create an honest and trusting society. They shall not be moved from their unshakeable trust in God. Their heart is firm in the conviction that all are one. Because they know that what happens to one happens to all, they can share and trust that they will never go hungry if another has something to share.
It takes little to realize that these messages apply to communities, not just to individuals. The community Isaiah wants to build, the community that we, too, are called to build, will bring a new dawn to the world.
Isaiah tells us that when we treat another’s need as our own, we create the kind of society that reflects the very glory of God. In such a society, no cry for help goes unanswered — not because God swoops in, but because the people of God live their vocation to reflect and effect God’s love.
This is exactly what Jesus, the Jewish preacher, was talking about when he called his listeners to be salt of the earth and light for the world. Jesus knew Isaiah’s teaching and he prayed the psalms. He realized that neither salt nor light exist for themselves, but to call attention to something else.
As salt and light, the people of God do not simply note the needs of others; they prove by their activities that such needs can be addressed and alleviated. Their light demonstrates that the reign of God is a real and growing phenomenon in our world.
This brings us back to our questions about our own lives. Isaiah, Paul and Jesus want their people to live in joy and to know meaning. In short, they want people to understand and find the fulfillment of living their vocation — of discovering what they were made for and how they can best use the gifts they have been given for the good of the world.
That is the simple and countercultural truth about why we were created.
The Sunday readings we will hear from now until Lent invite us to keep asking about the good life — about the reign of God in our midst.
We can begin today by asking ourselves when we have experienced real joy and depth. When we look at those moments, it may surprise us to see how closely they align with the type of activities Isaiah suggested, how much they are actually experiences of the reign of God in our midst. Remembering and contemplating that will be enough for this week.
While addressing clergy in Juba for his long-awaited ecumenical pilgrimage in South Sudan, Pope Francis insists we need courageous, generous souls ready to die and suffer for Africa.
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
We need courageous, generous souls ready to suffer and die for Africa.
Pope Francis stressed this when speaking to bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians and lay pastoral workers, of South Sudan, in the Cathedral of Saint Therese in the African nation’s capital of Juba, on Saturday morning.
This encounter marks the first event of the Pope’s second day in the country, before meeting with his Jesuit confreres, internally displaced peoples, and participating in an ecumenical prayer gathering, later on in the day. The Pope will celebrate Mass for the nation’s faithful on Sunday morning.
The Holy Father is in South Sudan as a “pilgrim of peace,” where he is embarking upon a three-day ecumenical pilgrimage for peace, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The visit to the country marks the second leg of his two-nation, 40th, Apostolic Journey abroad, and his fifth Journey to Africa.
Pope Francis visited the DRC from 31 January to 3 February, following in the footsteps of Pope St. John Paul II, who visited there in 1980 and 1985.
In his remarks, Pope Francis recalled that in his address yesterday, he drew upon the image of the waters of the Nile, which flows through the country. In the Bible, he recalled, water is often associated with God’s activity in creation, and cleanses and sanctifies.
From the same biblical perspective, the Pope said he wished to take another look at the waters of the Nile.
The waters of that great river, the Pope lamented, collect “the sighs and sufferings of your communities, the pain of so many shattered lives, the tragedy of a people in flight, the sorrow and fear in the hearts and eyes of so many women and children.”
They also, he added, bring to mind the story of Moses, “a story of liberation and salvation.”
Remembering the story of Moses, who led God’s people through the desert, the Pope invited, “let us ask ourselves what it means for us to be ministers of God in a land scarred by war, hatred, violence, and poverty.”
“How can we exercise our ministry in this land, along the banks of a river bathed in so much innocent blood, among the tear-stained faces of the people entrusted to us?”
To try to answer this, the Pope suggested the clergy reflect on two aspects of Moses’ character, namely his meekness and intercession.
Moses’ meekness, “his docile response to God’s initiative,” he stressed, was exemplary, but “we must not think, though, that it was always this way.” The Pope recalled that “at first,” Moses “attempted to fight injustice and oppression on his own.”
Moses’ mistake, the Holy Father suggested, was putting himself at the centre, and relying on his strength alone, which led him “to remain trapped in the worst of our human ways of doing things,” responding “to violence with violence.”
The Pope warned clergy against the tendency to think at times that they are at the centre of everything.
The Pope warned against when, as a Church, we sometimes think we can find an answer to people’s suffering and needs through human resources, like money, cleverness or power.
Instead, he insisted, “everything we accomplish comes from God: He is the Lord, and we are called to be docile instruments in His hands.”
This, the Pope said, is the kind of meekness that we need in our ministry, “a readiness to approach God in wonder and humility, to let ourselves be drawn to Him and guided by Him, and to realize that the primacy is His.”
“Let us allow ourselves to be drawn to the Lord and spend time with Him in prayer, daily approach the mystery of God, so that he can burn away the dead wood of our pride and our immoderate ambitions, and make us humble travelling companions of all those entrusted to our care.”
The Pope then turned to the second aspect of Moses’ character, being an intercessor, pointing out that Moses’ meekness before God made him capable of interceding for them, bringing them closer to God.
“Our first duty is not to be a Church that is perfectly organized, but a Church that, in the name of Christ, stands in the midst of people’s troubled lives, a Church that is willing to dirty its hands for people.”
The Holy Father urged pastors to work together, walk alongside the people, and never chase prestige.
He urged them to make every effort to banish the temptation of “individualism,” of pursuing “partisan interests,” and lamented how sad it is “when the Church’s pastors are incapable of communion,” “fail to cooperate,” “and even ignore one another!”
Inviting them to cultivate mutual respect, closeness and practical cooperation, the Pope asked, “If we fail to do this ourselves, how can we preach it to others?”
Reflecting on the art of intercession, Pope Francis said to look at Moses’ hands, noting that Scripture offers us three images in this regard: Moses with staff in hand, with outstretched hands, and with his hands raised to heaven.
The first image, Moses with staff in hand, the Pope said, tells us that he intercedes with prophecy.
With that staff, the Holy Father observed, Moses works wonders, signs of God’s presence and power, and speaks in God’s name, forcefully denouncing the oppression that the people are suffering, and demanding Pharaoh to let them depart.
“Brothers and sisters,” he continued, “we too are called to intercede for our people, to raise our voices against the injustice and the abuses of power that oppress and use violence to suit their own ends amid the cloud of conflicts.”
“If we want to be pastors who intercede, we cannot remain neutral before the pain caused by acts of injustice and violence. To violate the fundamental rights of any woman or man is an offence against Christ.”
The second image, the Pope stated, is that of Moses with outstretched hands, recalling that Scripture tells us that he “stretched out his hand over the sea.”
It is necessary to extend our arms to our brothers and sisters, to support them on their journey, the Pope reflected.
“Our hands,” he continued, “were ‘anointed with Spirit’ not only for the sacred rites, but also to encourage, help and accompany people to leave behind whatever paralyzes them, keeps them closed in on themselves, and makes them fearful.”
The Pope then reflected on the third image of Moses with his hands raised to heaven.
“Moses stood with the people to the very end, raising his hands on their behalf. He did not think of saving himself alone; he did not sell out the people for his own interests!”
The task of intercessors, the Holy Father suggested, involves bringing people’s struggles before God in prayer, obtaining forgiveness for them, and administering reconciliation as channels of God’s mercy.
“Beloved, these prophetic hands, outstretched and raised, demand great effort,” the Pope said, acknowledging, “To be prophets, companions and intercessors, to show with our life the mystery of God’s closeness to His people, can cost us our lives.”
“Many priests and religious have been victims of violence and attacks in which they lost their lives,” the Pope lamented.
In a very real way, he said, they offered their lives for the sake of the Gospel.
“Their closeness to their brothers and sisters is a marvelous testimony that they bequeath to us, a legacy that invites us to carry forward their mission,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis recalled Saint Daniele Comboni, and the great work of evangelization he carried out in South Sudan with his missionary brothers.
He recalled how the saint used to say “that a missionary must be ready to do anything for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.”
“We need courageous and generous souls ready to suffer and die for Africa.”
The Pope thanked the clergy before him on the behalf of the entire Church, for everything they do amid so many trials and tribulations, and especially for their dedication, courage, sacrifices and patience.
The Holy Father prayed they “will always be generous pastors and witnesses, armed only with prayer and love,” who allow themselves to always be surprised by God’s grace and are ready to always accompany His people.
Pope Francis concluded, praying that the Blessed Mother protect them, and asking them to pray for him.
Many readers of Karl Keating’s 1054 and All That: A Lighthearted History of the Catholic Church might be tempted to see the book as little more than an amusing chronology of the Church history no longer widely taught either in schools or colleges. Yet the book is itself a fascinating product of a good deal of history both secular and ecclesiastical, and if understanding that history will not necessarily make the book’s wonderful jokes any funnier, it will show how the book fits in the continuing evolution of history as a study, whether for schoolchildren, undergraduates or Catholics keen on having a surer grasp of the Church history that has been so instrumental to establishing the deposit of the Faith.
For a sense of this history, we can go to R.W. Southern (1912-2001), the biographer of St Anselm and Robert Grosseteste and the historian of the scholasticism that gave us European civilization. In an essay entitled “The Shape and Substance of Academic History” (1961), Southern revisited the study of history to see how it had developed and saw a curious rise and fall. For the historian, “The truth was history had attained academic status in 1850 [when it was introduced at Oxford] on a wave of opposition to theological dogmatism and impatience with ancient restrictions, without anyone being clear whether the subject had a method or a public, or indeed whether it was a recognizable subject at all.”
This concern that history might be too chaotic and too inscrutable to yield defensible truths was answered by the great historians William Stubbs (1825-1901) and F.W. Maitland (1850-1906), who sought to give the study a certain respectability by showing how the West’s long-standing commitment to liberty emerged from England’s constitutional development. For these historians, the study of history should not be regarded as an easy subject for rich men too lazy to tackle what Lytton Strachey called the “bleak rigidities of the ancient tongues” but a severe and exacting discipline replete with practical application. “The central theme of constitutional history was Parliament, the long-matured and best gift of England to the world,” Southern wrote.
Its origins could be traced back to the dim recesses of the German forests, and its development could be brought forward through the most famous events in English history to the moment at which it seemed destined to enlarge the area of freedom and responsibility in this country and throughout the world. Here was the noblest and most generous theme for secular history ever proposed.
By the time Southern himself entered Balliol in 1930, this was the reigning view of historical study at Oxford. History, not Theology, ruled the academic roost. The claims made for the moral properties of historical study might now seem, as Southern says, “pure moonshine”; but it did not seem so then. “Indeed, history had succeeded beyond all expectation in giving the university that central position in society which it had had in the thirteenth century and had gradually lost in the intervening centuries.” By 1900, one third of all undergraduates were studying history. Fifty years later, historical study had begun to lose and would never regain its evanescent centrality.
What went wrong? Southern says that the study of history became too predictably formulaic – much as overly syllogistic scholasticism did in the 14th century when it lost its leading role in the development of Europe. It also became too narrowly reflective of the interests of England’s liberal establishment. Of course, in our own time, we have seen this overly cozy relationship between the study of history and our elites degenerate into critical race theory – the eyewash of cultural revolution; though independent scholars continue to do good work outside of the academy. The reasons why Church history is no longer read by the general public are too manifold to enumerate, though the historical illiteracy among the faithful is not helped by an episcopate heedless of inculcating any substantive catechesis.
Such factors are persuasive as far as they go, but they do not tell the whole story of why history fell out of favor. What Southern fails to note in his precis of the discipline’s decline is the publication of a tell-tale little book called 1066 and All That (1930) by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, both Punch writers who were perhaps more appreciative of the actual relationship of history to its readers than Southern and his Oxford friends realized. Here was a rollicking rejection of all the grandiose claims made for the discipline of history by two wags who recognized that for most men – even university men – history was little more than a series of half-remembered imbroglios of dubious significance. Told from the standpoint of the man in the street, it had little coherence and less reliability, though lots of laughs. Here is the book’s entry on the Middle Ages:
The Chapters between William I (1066) and the Tudors (Henry VIII) are always called the Middle Ages, on account of their coming at the beginning; this was also the Age of Piety, since Religious fervour was then at its height, people being (1) burnt alive with faggots (the Steak), 2) bricked up in the walls of convents (Religious Foundations), and (3) tortured in dungeons. All of this was not only pious but a Good Thing, as many of the people who were burnt, bricked, tortured, etc. became quite otherworldly.
The entry on the Dissolution of the Monasteries is equally ludicrous:
One of the strongest things that Henry VIII did was about the Monasteries. It was pointed out to him that no one in the monasteries was married, as the Monks all thought it was still the Middle Ages. So Henry, who, of course, considered marrying a Good Thing, told Cromwell to pass a very strong Act saying that the Middle Ages were all over and the monasteries were to be dissolved. This was called the Disillusion of the Monasteries.
The entry on St Thomas of Canterbury is funnier still. “Thomas á Belloc, the great religious leader, claimed that clergyman, whatever crimes they might commit, could not be punished at all; this privilege, which was for some reason known as Benefit of Clergy, was in full accord with the devout spirit of the age. Henry II, however, exclaimed to some of his Knights one day, ‘Who will rid me of this Chesterton beast?’ Whereupon the Knights pursued Belloc and murdered him in the organ at Canterbury. Belloc was therefore made a Saint and the Knights came to be called the Pilgrims of Canterbury.”
Taking 1066 and All That as its model, Keating’s book dispatches huge themes in comparably lapidary paragraphs. Apropos Pius X, he remarks:
He wrote against Modernism, the religious theory that everything, whether doctrinal or moral, is adjustable to suit one’s preferences. Modernism was popular for years, but today the only self-described Modernists to be found are gray-haired. Young people genuinely interested in Catholicism think Modernism is too old-fashioned.
The Punch writers might have left matters at that, but Keating goes on to distill his subject’s essence: “This pope is remembered particularly for calling for frequent reception of Holy Communion and for lowering the age of First Communion. Like his immediate predecessor, Pius called for an expanded study of Thomism, particularly as an antidote to the many philosophical errors that had arisen in the nineteenth century.”
Having given his readers this nice précis, he can then leave them with a particularly apt bon mot: “On his accession to the Throne of Peter, Pius declined to make his impoverished sisters papal countesses, which shocked Roman High Society, and just as well, since High Societies regularly need shocking.”
As this shows, Keating’s book is every bit as amusing as that of his predecessors, but parts ways from them. His object is not so much to mock Church history as to begin to restore its study among general readers. Since there is no Church history more relevant to our own present discontents than that surrounding the Blessed Sacrament, Keating’s entry on one of the saints most solicitous of its devotion is particularly apt:
One of the earliest Catholic writers was Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred in Rome in 107. As he was being taken to Rome under guard, he wrote letters to seven local churches that he passed along the way. Among much else he said, Ignatius noted that the Eucharist is “the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins, the flesh which the Father in his goodness has raised again.” This explicit and early affirmation of the Real Presence seems to be why there never has been a Baptist church named after Ignatius.
Here is light-hearted history that manages to be at once funny, faithful and insightful, and yet it still serves a serious purpose.
Why? While R.W. Southern might never have been unappreciative of the Oxford History School — after all, it trained him to become an historian — he was still dedicated to reviving the scholastic humanism that Oxford abandoned, the same humanism that gave Western civilization not only its fidelity but its zest. In sharing with his readers the history of the Church in such a succinct, entertaining, incisive way, Keating prospers that vital revival.
1054 and All That: A Lighthearted History of the Catholic Church
By Karl Keating
Rasselas House, 2022
Paperback/Hardover, 140 pages
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CNA Newsroom, Feb 3, 2023 / 16:15 pm (CNA).
At about 3 a.m. on Jan. 29, two hooded individuals were caught on camera vandalizing a pro-life pregnancy center in Houston, an attack that the leader of that center is calling “racist.”
“It’s absolutely racist!” Sylvia B. Johnson, executive director of Houston Pregnancy Help Center, told CNA Friday.
Johnson oversees the organization’s three pregnancy centers, including the one that was vandalized in Houston’s Fifth Ward, which she said serves mostly minority women and is located in a “Black neighborhood.”
She added that there were two vandals caught on camera, who appeared to be Caucasian, writing “Abortion for all” on the front of the clinic. The vandals also glued the locks on the entrance of the clinic, she said.
“You don’t go to the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas — and you are white — at three o’clock in the morning and write ‘Abortion for everyone’ unless you are racist!” she said.
“I’m just being honest, this is just the truth,” Johnson, who is African American, added.
Johnson said that the clinic had 30 men and women scheduled to come into the clinic the next morning for pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, parenting classes, and other services. Within 15 minutes of calling staff and volunteers for help cleaning the clinic and fixing the lock, the clinic was ready for service, she said. All of the clinic’s services are free.
“The so-called ‘woke’ community does not value the women that we serve and tried to prevent them from coming through our doors by injecting that glue into the keylock,” she said.
The city of Houston is “very pro-abortion” Johnson said, adding that she didn’t call the police because she feels that the city leadership doesn’t care about vandalism of pro-life pregnancy centers.
“What I find very ironic,“ Johnson told CNA, “is that this happened in the month that we celebrate Black history.” She went on to express her belief that the concentration of abortion clinics in minority neighborhoods is rooted in racism.
“It was never about the mamas,“ she said.
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Denver, Colo., Feb 3, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA).
Authorities in the U.K. have dropped charges against a woman arrested for silent prayer in a “buffer zone” that bans pro-life advocacy outside an English abortion clinic.
However, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce says the charges still could be revived, leaving her in an ambitious legal situation.
“It can’t be right that I was arrested and made a criminal, only for praying in my head on a public street,” Vaughan-Spruce said in a Feb. 3 statement.
“So-called ‘buffer zone legislation’ will result in so many more people like me, doing good and legal activities like offering charitable support to women in crisis pregnancies, or simply praying in their heads, being treated like criminals and even facing court,” she added.
Vaughan-Spruce was arrested Dec. 6, 2022, in Birmingham, England, outside an abortion facility that was closed at the time.
Video footage of her arrest shows an officer asking her if she was praying, to which she answers: “I might be praying in my head.” You can watch the exchange in the video below.
Isabel Vaughan Spruce was standing near an abortion clinic in Birmingham.
Policeman: “are you praying?”
IVS: “I might be praying in my head”
Policeman: “you’re under arrest”
This really is the ultimate thought crime. pic.twitter.com/ehZiTx0bMU
— David Atherton (@DaveAtherton20) December 23, 2022
She was charged Dec. 15 with four counts of breaking Birmingham’s Public Space Protection Order around the abortion facility. The order is intended to stop antisocial behavior. The terms of the order include prayer under “protest,” which is banned within the “buffer zone” around the clinic. For standing still and praying silently inside a buffer zone, she was accused of “protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users.”
Vaughan-Spruce is the director of March for Life UK.
The Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charges in late January and Vaughan-Spruce did not have to appear in court, as previously scheduled. However, she can still be prosecuted if the charge is reinstated.
Her case has the support of ADF UK, a religious freedom legal group.
Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, said in a Feb. 1 statement that Vaughan-Spruce faces “significant legal uncertainty.” She aims to “obtain legal clarity on what, if any, liability she may incur in the future based on the charges laid against her.”
Vaughan-Spruce said she will pursue a verdict in court to clarify her legal situation.
“It’s important to me that I can continue my vital work in supporting women who’d like to avoid abortion if they only had some help,” she said. “In order to do so, it’s vital that I have clarity as to my legal status. Many of us need an answer as to whether it’s still lawful to pray silently in our own heads.”
“Isabel is right to request proper clarity as to the lawfulness of our actions,” Igunnubole said.
“It’s one thing for the authorities to humiliatingly search and arrest an individual simply for their thoughts,” the attorney said.
“It’s quite another to initially deem those thoughts to be sufficient evidence to justify charges, then discontinue those charges due to ‘insufficient evidence,’ and then to warn that further evidence relating to the already unclear charges may soon be forthcoming so as to restart the entire grueling process from the beginning,” he said.
“This is a clear instance of the process becoming the punishment, creating a chilling effect on free expression and freedom of thought, conscience, and belief,” the attorney added.
Several localities in England have implemented strict buffer zones, which some critics characterize as censorship zones. On the national level, the U.K. Parliament is expected to pass legislation to create buffer zones around abortion clinics. The House of Lords approved the proposed legislation, called Amendment 45, in a voice vote on Jan. 30.
Amendment 45, sponsored by Conservative peer Baroness Sugg of Coldharbour, would make it a crime to engage in activity that seeks to “influence” women who are seeking abortions or “any person’s decision to access, provide, or facilitate the provision of abortion services.”
It criminalizes “harassment, alarm, or distress to any person in connection with a decision to access, provide, or facilitate the provision of abortion services” within 150 meters, about 500 feet, of an abortion clinic.
Those convicted of violating the law could face an unlimited fine, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children reported.
The House of Lords rejected an amendment to investigate whether exclusion zones are justified and their possible denial of rights of association, conscience, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion. Amendment 54 replaces similar legislation in the House of Commons, which is expected to ratify the amendment.
Alithea Williams, public policy manager for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, lamented the passage of the bill.
“This is a black day for democracy and basic civil liberties,” she said Jan. 30. “Ordinary, peaceful citizens will now be branded criminals and subject to crippling financial penalties for the simple act of praying in public, and offering help to women in need.”
“Parliament has literally just criminalized compassion,” Williams said. “This is not just an outrageous assault on civil liberties, it removes a real lifeline for women. Many children are alive today because their mother received help and support from a compassionate pro-life person outside a clinic. Many women feel like they have to choose to have an abortion, and pro-life vigils give them options. Now their choices have been taken away.”
Williams cited Vaughan-Williams’ arrest and the arrest of Adam Smith-Connor, who faces fines after he prayed outside of an abortion clinic for his son who died in an abortion.
“Thoughtcrime is now very real in the U.K. It is very disappointing that peers ignored these warnings and voted for this extreme and cruel legislation,” Williams said.
St. Louis, Mo., Feb 3, 2023 / 14:15 pm (CNA).
A bipartisan congressional commission chaired by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, announced Thursday the nomination of six Hong Kongers, including Cardinal Joseph Zen and jailed Catholic media mogul Jimmy Lai, for the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in the cause of human rights.
“Jimmy Lai, Cardinal Joseph Zen, Tonyee Chow Hang-tung, Gwyneth Ho, Lee Cheuk-Yan, and Joshua Wong were nominated because they are ardent champions of Hong Kong’s autonomy, human rights, and the rule of law as guaranteed under the Sino-British Declaration and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” the announcement from the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China reads.
“The nominees are representative of millions of Hong Kongers who peacefully opposed the steady erosion of the city’s democratic freedoms by the Hong Kong government and the government of the People’s Republic of China. Through the nomination, the members of Congress seek to honor all those in Hong Kong whose bravery and determination in the face of repression has inspired the world.”
All of those nominated have been involved in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, especially since 2019, when large-scale protests against authoritarian Chinese rule erupted on the territory, which is a special administrative region of China.
Hong Kongers have historically enjoyed greater freedom of religion than on the Chinese mainland, where religious believers of all stripes are routinely surveilled and restricted by the communist government. But in recent years, Beijing has sought to tighten control over religious practices in Hong Kong under the guise of protecting national security.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 91, is the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, having led the territory’s Catholics from 2002 to 2009. An outspoken advocate for religious freedom and democracy, Zen also is a sharp critic of the Vatican’s 2018 agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops, which was renewed in October 2022 for another two-year term.
Zen was arrested last May by Hong Kong authorities and put on trial for allegedly failing to civilly register a pro-democracy fund. He was convicted and ordered to pay a fine, which he has appealed.
The cardinal wrote on his blog on Jan. 31 that, following his return from Rome for Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral, he was receiving treatment in the hospital after experiencing difficulty breathing.
Jimmy Lai Chee-ying is an entrepreneur and billionaire media mogul who converted to Catholicism in 1997. Lai has supported the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement for more than 30 years and has said that his Catholic faith is a major motivating factor in his pro-democracy advocacy. The newspaper he founded, Apple Daily, had distinguished itself over the years as a strongly pro-democracy publication critical of the Chinese government in Beijing before it was forced to shut down.
Lai has been jailed since December 2020 for his involvement in pro-democracy protests and faces the possibility of being sentenced to life in prison under national security charges. On Dec. 13, 2022, a Hong Kong court delayed Lai’s national security trial, initially scheduled for that month, until September 2023.
Two of the other nominees were initially sentenced to jail time alongside Lai. One is Tonyee Chow Hang-tung, a lawyer and vice-chair of a now-shuttered civil society group, who was arrested in connection with a 2020 vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam, a journalist, was detained on a national security charge for peacefully participating in an opinion poll ahead of an election.
Also nominated is Lee Cheuk-yan, a veteran labor rights advocate and former legislator sentenced for joining unauthorized assemblies, who is facing additional criminal allegations on national security grounds.
Finally, Joshua Wong Chi-fung had been previously imprisoned for his role in organizing protests in Hong Kong in 2014. In the summer of 2019, he participated in large-scale pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. In November 2021, three pro-democracy activists, including Wong, pleaded guilty to charges related to their roles in an “illegal assembly” in 2019. The next month, they were each sentenced to months in prison, with the possibility that they will face further charges.
Other Catholic pro-democracy organizers in Hong Kong have been recognized for their work in recent years. In 2021, Martin Lee Chu-ming, a Catholic lawyer who helped found the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, was nominated for the prize.
Boston, Mass., Feb 3, 2023 / 13:22 pm (CNA).
The Satanic Temple, a political activist group known for protesting religious symbolism in public spaces, has announced that it will be opening a free abortion clinic in New Mexico offering prescriptions for drugs that cause abortion.
“TST is proud to expand reproductive options for our members. This is just the beginning,” said Erin Helian, executive director of campaign operations for the group. “We will remain steadfast as we continue the fight to uphold reproductive justice in the United States.”
Abortion is legal up to the point of birth in New Mexico, except in the cities of Clovis and Hobbs, which passed laws banning abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. TST’s move is seen as an attempt to counter any restrictions on abortion in the state.
The group, which denies the existence of Satan but associates itself with satanic imagery, says the online clinic will provide medication abortion pills by mail to those “who wish to perform The Satanic Temple’s religious abortion ritual.”
The opening of an abortion clinic follows a series of highly publicized stunts the group has orchestrated to challenge what it sees as an undue freedom of religion exercised in the public square.
According to their press release, TST “confronts religious discrimination to secure the separation of church and state and defend the constitutional rights of its members.”
Past initiatives include placing a bronze “Baphomet” statue in front of the Oklahoma Capitol to protest a statue of the Ten Commandments. The group also made headlines for hosting “After School Satan” clubs at a public schools that have Christian “Good News” clubs.
The New Mexico abortion clinic will be called “The Samuel Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic,” according to TST’s website.
Alito is the U.S. Supreme Court justice who wrote the majority opinion for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case in June 2022, which overturned Roe v. Wade.
The Satanic Temple wrote on its website: “In 1950, Samuel Alito’s mother did not have options. The clinic’s name serves to remind people just how important it is to have the right to control one’s body and the potential ramifications of losing that right.”
The website features an animated picture of an older woman walking into the clinic saying the words, “If only abortion was legal when I was pregnant.”
Ethel Maharg, executive director of Right to Life in New Mexico, told KOB4 that TST’s announcement is “just an egregious thing.”
“They’re trying to make it a religious right so that they can use, I guess, the First Amendment right to practice, but that’s different, freedom of speech and religion,” Maharg said.
After the town of Hobbs voted to ban abortion in November, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, told Reuters that the ordinance had been “authored by out-of-state extremists” and called it “a clear affront to the rights and personal autonomy of every woman in Hobbs and southeastern New Mexico, and we will not stand for it.”
The abortion clinic has a “frequently asked questions” page, which addresses the question of abortion access for those who don’t live in New Mexico.
“Regardless of where you live, if you are in the state of New Mexico during your video consultation and when you perform your abortion ritual, you will have abided by the law,” the website says.
“However, if you travel to a state where abortion is illegal and need follow-up care, there may be some risks,” the website says.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have enough information to know how state laws will be enforced. We believe that the religious nature of our care neutralizes this risk, but state courts must affirm this, and we are working toward attaining that confirmation,” the website reads.
The clinic will provide abortion care for free, the clinic’s website says, adding that it will be funded by donations from supporters.
The Catholic Church in Germany has so far paid more than $43.5 million (40 million euros) to victims of sexual abuse, German Catholic KNA agency has reported.
The Independent Commission for Recognition Payment approved an average amount of $24,000 (22,150 euros) in 1,809 cases. The commission’s annual report was presented in Bonn Feb. 3. There have been a total of 1,839 applications from victims of sex abuse seeking compensation from the Catholic Church.
In 143 cases (about 8%), the commission ordered a payment of more than $54,300 (50,000 euros); in 24 cases (1%) more than $108,600 (100,000 euros). In almost 1,000 cases (54%), the approved amount was $16,300 (15,000 euros) or less, KNA reported.
Most of the applications — three out of four — came from men, and one in four were from women. However, KNA noted, 20 of the 24 payments over $108,600 went to women.
The panel classified nine cases as not plausible. For an additional 21 applications, payments were not awarded because these applications were withdrawn or because they involved multiple applications that were combined, the German Catholic news agency provided.
The Independent Commission for Recognition Payments, headed by lawyer Margarete Reske, formerly the presiding judge at the Cologne Higher Regional Court, has been operating since Jan. 1, 2021. It has 11 members — experts from various disciplines. They were proposed by a majority non-church body and appointed by the German Bishops’ Conference. The members freely make the decisions about applications and payment amounts, KNA reported.
In terms of dioceses, a particularly large number of applications were submitted last year from Cologne (52) and Muenster (51). Among the religious orders, the Salesians (16) and Redemptorists (15) had the most applications submitted.
According to Reske, the average waiting time for a claimant to receive payment is currently less than four months after the commission’s office has received an application, as reported by KNA.
Pope Francis arrived in South Sudan Friday evening from the Democratic Republic of Congo to start a long-awaited ecumenical pilgrimage for peace in South Sudan.
John Baptist Tumusiime, Vatican News staffer – Juba, South Sudan.
President Salva Kiir welcomed the Pope at Juba International airport. Also at the airport were First Vice President Riek Machar; the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields as well as other religious leaders of the Catholic and Protestant faiths.
The three Church leaders are in South Sudan to deliver a message of peace and reconciliation in continuation of a process that began in 2019 when Pope Francis, with support from Archbishop Justin Welby and the retired Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Very Rev Dr John Chalmers came together to encourage peace in South Sudan.
Those who took part in the 2019 retreat at the Vatican were members of the Presidency of the Republic of South Sudan who, according to the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan, included Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic; Vice-Presidents designate, Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon, Taban Deng Gai, and Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabio, widow of the Sudanese leader, John Garang.
Others who participated were ecumenical members of the Council of Churches of South Sudan. The preachers at the retreat were Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, Uganda, and Nigerian Jesuit Father Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator.
At the end of the retreat, Pope Francis kissed the feet of South Sudan’s leaders and challenged them to end the war and commit to peace.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011 amidst joy and great expectations for a promising future for the citizens of the new nation. This joy was, however, short-lived because the country was plunged into civil conflict in 2013 following a power struggle between President Kiir and Riek Machar, whom Kiir had earlier removed from the position of Vice President. The ensuing armed conflict killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced more than two million others, with some seeking safety in Internally Displaced People’s camps and others fleeing to neighbouring countries as refugees.
A peace agreement was signed between the two men in 2018; although shaky, it still holds.
Many South Sudanese believe that the coming of Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby and the Rt. Rev. Dr Greenshields will strengthen the peace agreement and bring the plight of the people of South Sudan to international attention. The majority of south Sudanese have much hope in the three visiting Church leaders and have taken to referring to them as the “three wise men.”
Listen to the audio version of John Baptist’s report here.
John Baptist Tumusiime in Juba, South Sudan
Washington D.C., Feb 3, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).
Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate would expand and make permanent current laws that are designed to prevent the federal government from funding abortions in other countries through foreign aid.
The bill, known as the American Values Act, would bolster existing prohibitions on foreign aid for abortions. It would specifically ban aid for abortion as a method of family planning and would prohibit aid money from being used to encourage or coerce abortions or for involuntary sterilization. The bill would also make permanent a ban on the use of funds for the Peace Corps to pay for abortions.
The bill would also establish a long-standing restriction on funds to lobby for or against abortion, funds for any organization that supports or participates in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization, and funds to the Peace Corps to pay for abortions.
“Tax dollars should never be used to perform or promote abortion services in the U.S. or abroad,” Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the primary sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, pro-abortion groups tirelessly work to exploit loopholes and overturn long-standing pro-life provisions of law,” Risch continued. “I’m proud to reintroduce the American Values Act to prevent Idahoans’ dollars from paying for abortions across the globe. One of my top priorities as the Republican leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is protecting the rights of unborns everywhere.”
Risch originally introduced the legislation in 2021, but it failed to make it out of the Committee on Foreign Relations, which is chaired by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey. Risch, who is the ranking member of the committee, reintroduced the bill with six Republican co-sponsors.
“American taxpayers should never be exploited to fund abortions abroad,” one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a statement. “I’m proud to join Ranking Member Risch and my Senate colleagues in introducing this bill to clarify and prevent any further capitalization upon unintentional loopholes by pro-abortion groups.”
The current restrictions on foreign aid being used for abortions were established through a legislative amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act in 1973, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. Known as the Helms Amendment, it is named after former Sen. Jesse Helms, from North Carolina, who introduced it. The Biden administration, along with other Democrats and pro-abortion groups, have called for its repeal.
Marilyn Musgrave, the vice president of government affairs for SBA Pro-life America, told CNA that taxpayer money should never be used to fund abortion. Musgrave served in Congress from 2003 until 2009, representing Colorado’s 4th District.
“Americans should never be forced to subsidize abortion on demand until birth at home or around the world,” Musgrave said. “The majority of Americans, including those who are ‘pro-choice,’ oppose the use of tax dollars to support international abortion. We thank Sen. Risch and his colleagues for reintroducing this bill that ensures foreign assistance dollars are not being spent on abortion, and we urge members on both sides of the aisle to join in supporting this bill.”
The Committee on Foreign Relations currently has 11 Republican members and 11 Democratic members.
The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of Scotland are in South Sudan with Pope Francis on a long-planned “Pilgrimage of Peace”. They had direct words for the country’s leaders at a Meeting with Authorities, Civil Society and Diplomatic Corps in Juba.
By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis, Justin Welby and the Reverend Dr. Iain Greenshields addressed the political leaders of South Sudan on Friday afternoon, kicking off a long-planned ecumenical pilgrimage for peace to the ravaged east African nation.
Speaking after the Pope’s powerful address, the Archbishop of Canterbury recalled having witnessed the devastation of war in the country and the suffering and grief it caused when he visited the nation nine years ago.
Archbishop Welby reminded those present that, together with a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Pope Francis hosted a retreat at the Vatican in 2019 for the leaders of South Sudan.
“We prayed it would be a space for the Holy Spirit to work, and in that meeting we saw the possibility of hope. Pope Francis knelt to kiss the feet of each politician. Almost five years later, we come to you in this way again: on our knees to wash feet, to listen, serve and pray with you.”
However, the Archbishop continued, when he remembers the commitments made back in 2019, he is saddened by what he sees and hears.
“We hoped and prayed for more; we expected more; you promised more. We cannot pick and choose parts of a Peace Agreement. Every part must be done by every person, and that costs much.”
Archbishop Welby went on to point out that “the answer to peace and reconciliation is not in visits like this but it is in your hands.”
“For the heroic and brave and courageous people of South Sudan, who fought for so long for their freedom and won it,” surely they are people “who have the courage to struggle for peace and reconciliation,” he said.
“[Peace] is within your reach, it is close to you, you can take it, with the help of God.”
“I pray this might be a visit of hope and healing, of time spent together as one family of Christ, following the one God who brings us ever closer to each other and to him,” he concluded.
“And I pray most that the prayer that was sung to me this afternoon by a group of primary school children may be answered: They sang: no more corruption, we want peace in South Sudan, Give us peace in South Sudan!”
In his speech, the Right Reverand Dr Iain Greenshields highlighted the need for the peace of Christ.
“Today, we need that peace. We need churches and leaders who are generous of heart, liberal of love, and profligate with God’s grace,” he exclaimed. “We need leaders who care about the values by which our countries live, who care about the conditions in which people live, and who act out their faith in work amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised.”
“These things make for peace.”
Noting that all the people are essential co-workers in God’s desire for a world in which all people can live life in fullness, he said it is “in the reach of the President, Vice-Presidents, leaders and people of South Sudan to extend the reach of justice and compassion to the whole of this young and optimistic country, full of people ready to work for a vibrant and fulfilling future.”
“May all political, civic and international leaders join together in seeking God’s holistic promise of life in fullness for all God’s people.”
Africa’s largest displacement crisis has seen nearly 4.5 million people flee their homes due to deadly civil conflicts and environmental disasters in South Sudan. Pope Francis was scheduled to meet with some of them Feb. 4 during his three-day “ecumenical pilgrimage” to the country with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Church of Scotland.
Since 2013, violence ranging from concentrated attacks between rivaling ethnic groups to full-on civil war has gripped the world’s youngest nation, which declared its independence in 2011. A peace agreement was signed between the two largest warring parties in 2015 only to fall apart a year later. A revitalized peace agreement was signed in 2018.
“There is a peace agreement, but there is still active subnational violence,” Charlotte Hallqvist, an officer of the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, in South Sudan, told Catholic News Service Feb. 2. “Ethnic conflicts are on the rise.”
Fueling the displacements is an “overlap of crises,” she said. South Sudan is experiencing its fourth year of historic flooding, which has only deepened tensions between ethnic groups.
“South Sudan has always seen flooding, but the seasonal flooding is not disappearing, causing people to move into regions traditionally populated by members of other ethnic groups,” Hallqvist explained. “That leads to competition for land and resources that fuels ethnic tensions.”
“What we are seeing are waves of displacement,” she told CNS. “People haven’t been displaced once, but twice, three times, four times,” she said.
Thousands of those displaced persons end up in “Protection of Civilians” sites operated by the United Nations similar to refugee camps, such as the one in Malakal, where Fr. Michael Bassano, a Maryknoll missionary from Binghamton, New York, has worked since 2013. He estimates that between 40,000 to 50,000 people currently live there.
Bassano ministers to the Catholic community in the Malakal site composed of some 2,000 people primarily belonging to three ethnic groups. Two of these, the Shilluk and the Nuer, continue to actively fight each other in the country’s Upper Nile State.
“We said we would only have a church if all ethnic groups are involved,” he told CNS. “There was opposition to praying with people from the other group, but we kept saying in the church that if we are one family of God, we have to move beyond these divisions.”
Bassano was scheduled to introduce several displaced persons from the Malakal site to Francis during the pope’s meeting with internally displaced persons from throughout the country in Juba Feb. 4.
The pope’s visit, said Bassano, shows those he works with “that people are praying for them and care for them at this time when the violence continues. They need to be encouraged that they can have peace and the violence will come to an end.”
“These people literally have nothing, they’ve lost their land, livelihoods, homes. Yet they are surviving in the camps because of their faiths,” he said.
Salva Kiir, the President of South Sudan, welcomes Pope Francis and his call for peace and reconciliation announcing the country has lifted the Suspension on the Rome Peace Talks.
By Linda Bordoni
During the Pope’s first official event in Juba, his meeting with Authorities, Civil Society and the Diplomatic Corps, President Salva Kiir reiterated an announcement made on the eve of the Holy Father’s ecumenical pilgrimage of peace to South Sudan.
“In honour of the Holy Father Pope Francis‘ historic visit to our country, and our declaration of 2023 as the year of Peace and Reconciliation, I am officially announcing the lifting of the suspension of the Rome Peace talks with the Holdout Groups.”
Mr. Kiir went on to express his hope that “his brothers from the Non-Signatories South Sudan Opposition Group will reciprocate this gesture and engage with us honestly to achieve an inclusive peace in our country.”
In November 2022, the government of South Sudan announced it was suspending its participation in the Rome peace talks, accusing the Non-Signatories South Sudanese Opposition Groups of “lacking commitment” and preparing for war.
Noting that it is the first time in the history of the nation that the head of the Catholic Church has visited South Sudan, Mr Kiir described the Pope’s presence as a “historic milestone” and expressed his deep gratitude for the visit that, he continued “will leave a positive impact on. Our national conscience and peace in our country.”
“This historic visit of these global Christian leaders must compel us to engage in deep thinking about our recent history, especially on how it relates to the noble task of peace consolidation and the important projects of reconciliation and forgiveness among our people,” he said.
The President recalled the spiritual retreat in which he participated in the Vatican in 2019 during which the Pope “kissed our feet and asked us to remain in peace.”
“That rare gesture,” he said, did not go in vain: “Today, both Dr Riek (the Vice-President) and I are seated here working collectively to implement the Revitalized Peace Agreement we signed in 2018”.
He said that guided by the desire for an inclusive political process, the Roadmap-2022 extended the transitional perio by 24 months in September last year.
“We did this to give ourselves time to plan and create institutions that will permit for holding credible and transparent elections, which are the end game of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. The fact that the Roadmap was developed exclusively by the Parties to the Agreement is itself an encouraging sign in our path to political maturity,” he explained.
Mr. Kiir concluded saying that the Roadmap will be used “to fast-track the implementation of outstanding provisions in the Revitalized Peace Agreement and to build on the successes we have already achieved, such as the graduation of unified forces.”
The memories of Valentino Marcos Alvero brought a wide, warm smile to the face of Fr. Joseph Magdaong.
“A very happy person, always with jokes to share, just a fun guy to be with and have a meal with,” said Magdaong, standing on the steps outside St. Stephen Martyr Church in Monterey Park and speaking about Alvero, a fellow Filipino American and a parishioner.
“Thank you, God, for giving me a chance to be with Val,” Magdaong added about his “kababayan,” or “countryman.”
The pastor welcomed Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez and Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell, vicar of the archdiocesan pastoral region that includes Monterey Park, and a congregation of more than 100 to an evening memorial Mass Jan. 27 in a community still looking for answers and seeking comfort from a Jan. 21 mass shooting at a dance club just two blocks from the church.
Alvero, 68, was one of 11 killed, along with nine more injured in the dance club shooting. His name was listed with the other victims on a simple white sign placed next to a bouquet of flowers near the altar.
In Northern California earlier in the day Jan. 27, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone traveled to Half Moon Bay to acknowledge lives lost and families fractured in a deadly Jan. 23 shooting at two work sites there.
A crowd of approximately 50 grieving family and community members, including the town’s mayor, gathered at both the Mountain Mushroom Farms and Concord Farms sites where the archbishop came to help reclaim the site from the violence that occurred there.
In Monterey Park, Gomez began the Mass at St. Stephen Martyr Church by reading a message from Pope Francis expressing his condolences to those affected by the shooting. He finished it with a message of his own, delivered in both English and Spanish.
“We want to be close to you in this challenging time,” said the archbishop. “It is a tragedy that has affected all of us, especially the families of the victims as well as the parish and the community. But we are together. You have our prayers and somehow God is going to bring blessings to this difficult situation.”
In his homily, Magdaong pointed to the importance of cherishing memories of those killed as a necessary part of coping with the tragedy, even singing lyrics during his homily to the popular 1974 song “The Way We Were,” made famous by Barbra Streisand.
Celebrating the memorial Mass for the victims, the priest said, was important because “it is our obligation and our duty to always pray especially in this time of a mass shooting for those killed and injured. We pray for healing because we know prayer is powerful.”
Prayer, he said, “helps us to stay calm and believe, a purpose to respond with peace and love instead of hate and violence.”
As the memorial Mass concluded, some gravitated to two other nearby memorial sites that have been growing since the shooting took place: outside the entrance of the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, and in front of the Monterey Park City Hall.
The shooting suspect, later identified as Huu Can Tran, 72, walked from the Star Ballroom to another nearby dance studio, but someone there disarmed him and he fled. He later took his own life in his van as police closed in. Nearly two weeks later police had yet to identify his motive.
In a statement released the day after Alvero’s death, the family described him as “a loving father, a dedicated son and brother, a grandfather who loved his three granddaughters fiercely, an uncle who loved his nieces and nephews like his own. … He loved ballroom dancing, he loved his community and he was the life of the party. … We will all miss him for the rest of our days on this earth. We hope that he danced to his heart’s content until the very end and hope that he is now dancing in heaven.”
In Half Moon Bay, eight migrant farmworkers were shot by a disgruntled former co-worker at two separate locations in the bucolic coastal enclave, which is 30 miles from San Francisco and located in San Mateo County, one of the three counties served by the archdiocese.
Seven of the victims died and one remains in critical condition. The suspect was apprehended hours later.
“We come together this day to reclaim this space of death as a place of life,” Cordileone said, circling the grounds to bless them with holy water. “This place where violence occurred, we are reclaiming as a place of peace. This place that causes fear, anger and pain, we are reclaiming as a place of hope and community. We reclaim the humanity of both victim and victimizer in God’s name.”
The archbishop spoke in both English and Spanish. All of the victims — seven men and one woman — were of either Asian or Hispanic descent.
Servando Martinez fought back tears as he spoke haltingly in Spanish about his brother, Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50, who was one of the victims.
“For me, my brother Marciano is not dead. He is only ahead of us,” he said. As family members flanked him in support at the microphone, he asked for forgiveness for the suspect, a remarkable act of faith the archbishop recognized, saying: “They themselves have manifested the love of God in extending forgiveness to the perpetrator of this heinous crime who took their loved ones away from them.”
The suspect, Chunli Zhao, 66, faces seven counts of murder and one of attempted murder.
In comments after the prayer services, Fr. Jose Corral, pastor of Our Lady of the Pillar Parish in Half Moon Bay, said his parish community has rallied around the families “emotionally, spiritually and physically.”
“Two of those seven people who died are from our parish,” he said. “We hope that this is going to bring the parish together and the town of Half Moon Bay even closer and to get closer to God, to get closer to Jesus. He works in mysterious ways.”
The parish and the archdiocese also took part in a community candlelight vigil for the victims later that night.
Pope Francis tells the leaders of divided South Sudan that future generations will either venerate their names of cancel their memory, based on what they do now, and he issues an appeal “to leave the time of war behind and let a time of peace dawn.”
By Linda Bordoni
In his first official discourse after landing in South Sudan’s capital city, Pope Francis issued an appeal for peace and reminded those in power that their purpose is to serve the community.
Addressing the nation’s Authorities, Civil Society and Diplomatic Corps at the Presidential Palace of Juba on Friday afternoon, shortly after his arrival in the ravaged East African nation, the Pope reminded them he has come “as a pilgrim of reconciliation, in the hope of accompanying you on your journey of peace.”
He noted that his is an ecumenical pilgrimage undertaken in the company of two brothers: the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
“Together, stretching out our hands, we present ourselves to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.”
“We undertook this ecumenical pilgrimage of peace after hearing the plea of an entire people that, with great dignity, weeps for the violence it endures, its persistent lack of security, its poverty and the natural disasters that it has experienced,” he said.
The Pope decried the fact that the “years of war and conflict seem never to end,” and noted that, “even yesterday” lives were lost in bitter clashes.
“At the same time, the process of reconciliation seems stagnant and the promise of peace unfulfilled.”
He expressed his hope that the protracted suffering of the people is not in vain, that their patience and sacrifices challenge everyone and, “allow peace to blossom and bear fruit.”
Meeting with Authorities in South Sudan
Pope Francis then directed a direct call to South Sudan’s belligerent political leaders saying that they, “the fathers and mothers of this young country”, are called to “renew the life of society as pure sources of prosperity and peace, so greatly needed for the sons and daughters of South Sudan.”
“They need fathers, not overlords; they need steady steps towards development, not constant collapses.”
“May the time that followed the birth of the country, its painful childhood, lead to a peaceful maturity,” he said.
The Holy Father reminded the leaders “that those “sons and daughters”, and history itself, will remember you if you work for the benefit of this people that you have been called to serve.”
“Future generations will either venerate your names or cancel their memory, based on what you now do.”
Developing his powerful appeal, Pope Francis directly addressed the President and Vice-President with the words: “In the name of God, in whom so many people of this beloved country believe, now is the time to say “No more of this”.
“No more bloodshed, no more conflicts, no more violence and mutual recriminations about who is responsible for it, no more leaving your people athirst for peace. No more destruction: it is time to build! Leave the time of war behind and let a time of peace dawn!”
The Pope invited them to see themselves as truly “public”, “of the people”. Those who are entrusted with the responsibility of presiding over and governing the state, he explained, “have the duty to place themselves at the service of the common good.”
“That is the purpose of power: to serve the community.”
He remarked on the temptation to use power for one’s own advantage, and warned against restricting the abundant resources of the land to few.
Those resources, he said, should be “recognized as the legacy of all, and plans for economic recovery should coincide with proposals for an equitable distribution of wealth.”
The Meeting with the Authorities in Juba
Pope Francis recalled that at the basis of democracy is the respect for human rights, upheld by law and the application of law, particularly the right to the freedom of self-expression, and said “there is no justice without freedom.”
He expressed the hope that the Republic’s path to peace will “not be bogged down by inertia”, and said “It is time to move from words to deeds. It is time to turn the page: it is the time for commitment to an urgent and much-needed transformation.”
“The process of peace and reconciliation requires a new start. May an understanding be reached and progress be made in moving forward with the Peace Accord and the Road Map!”
The Holy Father noted that “In a world scarred by divisions and conflict,” the fact that the country is hosting an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace, is something rare.”
“It represents a change of direction,” he said, “an opportunity for South Sudan to resume sailing in calm waters, taking up dialogue, without duplicity and opportunism.”
“May it be for everyone an occasion to revive hope. Let each citizen understand that the time has come to stop being carried along by the tainted waters of hatred, tribalism, regionalism and ethnic differences. It is time to sail together towards the future!”
Calling on those present to undertake a path of respect, dialogue and encounter, the Pope said that “Behind every form of violence, there is anger and resentment, and behind every form of anger and resentment, there is the unhealed memory of wounds, humiliations and wrongs.”
Thus, “the only way to break free of these is through encounter: by accepting others as our brothers and sisters and making room for them, even if it means taking a step backwards.”
He said this attitude is essential for any peace process and for the cohesive development of society and noted that young people have a key role to play in the “passage from the barbarity of confrontation to a culture of vital encounter.”
Women also have a fundamental role, the Pope noted, and “need to be increasingly involved in political life and decision-making processes.”
In his untiring appeal for good governance, Pope Francis did not neglect to mention the need to care for creation “for the sake of future generations.”
“I think, in particular, of the need to combat the deforestation caused by profiteering.”
And he called for action against corruption noting “The inequitable distribution of funds, secret schemes to get rich, patronage deals, lack of transparency.”
“Before all else, there is a need to combat poverty, which serves as the fertile soil in which hatred, divisions and violence take root,” he said.
And reiterating the fact that “the pressing need of any civilized country is to care for its citizens, especially the most vulnerable and the disadvantaged, he said he thinks especially “of the millions of displaced persons who live here:
“How many people have had to flee their homes, and now find themselves consigned to the margins of life as a result of conflicts and forced displacement!”
The Pope’s all-embracing vision on the problems and needs of the country even touched on the need “to control the flow of weapons that, despite bans, continue to arrive in many countries in the area, including South Sudan.”
“Many things are needed here, but surely not more instruments of death!”
He called for the development of suitable healthcare policies, the need for vital infrastructures and the promotion of literacy and education: “the only way that the children of this land will be able take their future into their own hands.”
“Like all the children of this continent and of the world, they have the right to grow up holding in their hands notebooks and toys, not weapons and tools for labour.”
Pope Francis wound down his speech shining the light on the fostering of positive relationships with other countries, and acknowledging “the precious contribution made by the international community to this country, (…) and expressing gratitude for the efforts made to promote reconciliation and development.”
“I realize that some of what I have had to say may appear blunt and direct,” he concluded, assuring those present that together with his brothers with whom he has undertaken this pilgrimage of peace, he offers “heartfelt prayers and support, so that South Sudan can experience reconciliation and a change of direction.”
“May its vital course no longer be overwhelmed by the flood of violence, mired in the swamps of corruption and blocked by the inundation of poverty. May the Lord of heaven, who loves this land, grant it a new season of peace and prosperity.”
The Meeting with Authorities in Juba
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