Konigstein, Germany, Jul 26, 2009 (CNA) -
A leading bishop from northeast India says violence and intimidation by some Protestant groups there are preventing thousands of people from converting to Catholicism.
Bishop of Kohima Jose Mukala told the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that there has been an upsurge in attacks and propaganda against the Catholic Church in Kohima, a mainly Protestant region.
There have been thinly-veiled threats on his life, church buildings have been destroyed, and a ban on conversions has been imposed by some village elders.
While visiting ACN’s international headquarters in Germany, Bishop Mukala spoke out against some Baptist and Evangelical church groups in the region, charging that people are being denied freedom of religion.
"There is a big increase in the number of people in the diocese wanting to become Catholic but there is very strong opposition among some of the local Protestant leaders," the bishop told ACN. "These issues have got a lot worse recently… If this opposition stopped, there would be a flood of conversions to Catholicism."
He reported that some Evangelicals in local self-governing churches and a number of Baptists in Kohima were alarmed at the growth of Catholicism.
Catholicism arrived in the region as late as 1951, when the first Catholics were baptized. There are now 58,000 among the region’s 1.9 million people, most of whom are Evangelical Christians.
Describing a visit to Catholic families in a small village of the diocese, Bishop Mukala said he was suddenly called to a parish meeting where the elder warned of "something happening to him" if he returned.
"When he told me this, I replied that if something did happen to me, it would be the elder’s responsibility. So far, nothing has happened," the bishop told ACN.
In another village Christian fundamentalists are accused of destroying a Catholic church which could only be rebuilt under police protection.
The threat of further violence has forced the bishop to begin lawsuits against individuals accused of attacks on the Church.
Bishop Mukala said that religious leaders are not to blame for the anti-Catholic activity, but rather local fanatics and village leaders in specific villages.
"They say there should be one state, one tribe and one religion. We are trying to convince them that they must allow people to be free."
He said that Catholicism was growing in the area in part because diocesan schools have a better reputation than government alternatives. Sixteen of the 20 top-performing schools in the region are Catholic, while the diocese’s 150 Catholic schools serve more than 30,000 students.
The bishop credited the religious sisters running the schools.
"Discipline is good and the management of the school is effective. The Catholic Church has placed an emphasis on integrity and hard work and that attracts people… There is also a genuine desire among people wanting to become Catholic. People want to know what we believe and why."
Bishop Mukala also thanked ACN for its support and encouraged prayers for the charity.
The charity has helped with 37 projects in the diocese over the past decade, including aid for poor and persecuted priests, building new churches and presbyteries, and providing motorcycles and other transport for clergy in remote areas.
ACN is also printing and distributing catechetical programs the ACN Child’s Bible in the local languages of Lotha and Angami.
Washington D.C., Jul 26, 2009 (CNA) - Late last month, 24-year old US Army LT Brian Bradshaw, described by a family member as "a search-and-rescue volunteer, an altar boy, a camp counselor," died while serving his country in Afghanistan. For Paul and Mary Bradshaw's family, June 25th memorializes the generosity and sacrifice of their son.
LT Bradshaw's life came to light via a Washington Post op-ed piece written by his aunt, Martha Gillis, who rightfully questioned the ceaseless coverage of Michael Jackson's passing at the exclusion of war coverage and acknowledgements of America's KIAs. Gillis' few lines unexpectedly generated numerous media inquiries, including Fox News. Martha Gillis reiterated on network television her stance, offered practical suggestions on how to assist military families coping with a deployed family member, and fondly remembered her nephew.
Remarkably, Gillis television appearance took place just one day after Bradshaw's full military honors funeral at St. John Bosco Catholic Church in Lakewood, WA. Inside the church, over six hundred attendees saw Bradshaw's flagged draped coffin resting beneath the banner of a life-sized image of Divine Mercy.
Department of Defense reports indicate LT Bradshaw and other soldiers narrowly escaped once an IED exploded, impacting their vehicle. Bradshaw and his men left the vehicle to escape on foot when a second IED detonated moments later as a civilian truck passed by. That second explosion resulted in severe injuries leading to Bradshaw's death.
In his junior year of high school at Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma, Washington, Brian had written: "Service (to others) is the foundation of life...Without service our lives have the same impact and meaning as a stick lying on the ground. No one remembers the sticks stepped on in the woods, but everyone remembers the flowers...If we serve and work throughout our lives, we will be the flowers that everyone remembers."
He carried this conviction with him into Afghanistan. Bradshaw was no stranger to service. Both his parents retired from the military- his father Paul served as a NG helicopter pilot and his mother Mary as an Army nurse. Brian joined the Army in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Well aware of the surrounding dangers, Bradshaw put service to and for others above personal self-interest. His father recalls "he was very happy when we sent packages. What he asked for was things to give away to local children there." Remembering a Father's Day phone call from his son in Afghanistan, Paul Bradshaw noted his son "was worried about all his men. He was worried about the people he was responsible for, not himself."
At Brian's funeral Mass, Rev. Lee Hightower noted Bradshaw "went to Afghanistan firmly believing he could help people suffering over there. It was there that he lay down his life for us. No greater love has anyone than to lay down his life for another."
Two memorial funds have been established in his honor:
The Brian Bradshaw Memorial Fund, Pacific Lutheran University, Office of Development, Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
The Brian Bradshaw Memorial Fund, Catholic Youth Organization Camps, c/o St. John Bosco, 10508 112th Street SW, Lakewood, WA 98498
This article appears courtesy of CatholicMil.org.
Vatican City, Jul 26, 2009 (CNA) - On July 26, Pope Benedict XVI led the Angelus prayer in Les Combes, Italy and recalled the Sunday readings, in particular the miracle of the loaves, when Jesus feeds thousands of people with only loaves of bread and two fishes.
"Narrating the ‘sign’ of the loaves, the Evangelist stresses that Christ, before distributing them, blesses them with a prayer of thanksgiving," the Pope said. "The verb is ‘eucharistein’ and recalls directly the Last Supper, during which John does not refer to the institution of the Eucharist, but to the washing of feet."
During the Year for Priests, the Holy Father explained, "we priests especially can turn again to this text of John, where the Apostles say: Where will we be able to find bread for all these people? Reading of this anonymous boy who has five loaves and two fish, we too come to say spontaneously: But, what is this for such a crowd?"
"Who am I? How can I, with my limitations, help Jesus in His mission?" He continued: "The Lord’s response is that by placing in his ‘holy and venerable’ hands the little that they are, priests become instruments of salvation for many, for all!"
At the conclusion of the Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict addressed a special greeting to local inhabitants in the Valdoten regional dialect: "Dear Valdostans, I am happy to be here with you. Pray for me and for the entire Church. I wish you a good summer!"
Vatican City, Jul 26, 2009 (CNA) -
Following the Angelus, Pope Benedict spoke about today’s feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandparents of Jesus.
The Pope then asked the faithful to pray for grandparents, "who in families are often the witnesses of the fundamental values of life."
"The educational role of grandparents is always very important and becomes even more so when, for various reasons, parents are unable to dedicate an adequate amount of time to their children. I entrust to the protection of St. Anne and St. Joachim all grandparents of the world, imparting a special blessing."