Vatican City, Nov 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has sent a message to the Syriac archbishop of Baghdad, marking the funerals of those who were killed by Muslim extremists at the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation.
On Oct. 31, gunmen linked to al Qaeda stormed the cathedral during Sunday Mass, taking over 120 Catholics hostage. After the Iraqi military raided the church to free the hostages, 58 people, including two priests, were killed.
The group that claimed responsibility for the attack is demanding that the Coptic Church of Egypt release the wife of one of its priests, whom the extremists claim voluntarily converted to Islam and was subsequently locked up by the Church.
On Nov. 2, the semi-official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published a message sent by Pope Benedict to Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka, the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad.
"Deeply shocked by the violent deaths of so many faithful and of the priests Tha'ir Saad and Boutros Wasim, I want to participate spiritually in the funeral while I pray that these brothers and sisters be accepted into the mercy of Christ in the Father's house," the Pope wrote.
“For years this beloved country has suffered untold difficulties and Christians have become the subject of brutal attacks that, in total disregard for life – an inviolable gift from God - want to undermine trust and peaceful coexistence,” he added.
“I renew my appeal that the sacrifice of these brothers and sisters may be a seed of peace and a true rebirth, so that those who believe in reconciliation, solidarity and fraternal coexistence, find motivation and strength to do good.”
In his concluding remarks, the Pope said that to “all of you, dear brothers and sisters, I offer my apostolic blessing, which I willingly extend to the injured and to your families so painfully tried."
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2, 2010 (CNA) - In a message commemorating the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, Archbishop Jose Luis Mollaghan reminded Catholics that “for Christians, death is illuminated by the faith.”
The feast days take place each year on Nov. 1 and 2.
Archbishop Mollaghan said, “On the feast of All Saints, the Church invites us to turn our eyes to heaven and contemplate the multitude of men and women of every people and nation who are with God.” It is an opportunity to “pray for the sanctification of the Argentinean people and for the glorification of God’s servants,” he added.
Referring to the feast of All Souls, the archbishop recommended that the faithful “visit cemeteries and pray for the dead. In this way we remember our loved ones, knowing that they have not been forgotten and are not gone forever.”
“We don’t visit a cemetery as if we were going to a museum or an art gallery, but rather for Christians, death is illuminated by the faith. The cemetery is a place for silence and for remembering our loved ones in prayer. It is the final resting place for those who shared their lives with us and who await the Resurrection,” the archbishop said.
Washington D.C., Nov 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic bishops in the U.S. expressed their solidarity with Iraqi Christians after Islamic militants stormed a cathedral in Baghdad, killing more than 50 faithful and wounding over 70.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also said that the United States has “failed” to safeguard Christians in Iraq and stressed the moral obligation the U.S. has to protect the human rights of those within the country.
On Oct. 31, gunmen linked to al Qaeda took over 120 faithful hostage at the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation during Mass, demanding that the Coptic Church of Egypt release the wife of one of its priests, whom the extremists claim voluntarily converted to Islam and was locked up by the Church.
After the Iraqi military raided the church to free the hostages, over 50 people, including 3 priests, were killed. Vatican Radio reported that between 70 and 80 people are seriously wounded from the attack, many of them women and children.
Pope Benedict lamented the disaster after he prayed the Angelus on Nov. 1. He condemned the “savage” attack and offered prayers for the victims.
Cardinal Francis George, president of the USCCB, said on Tuesday that the incident has “shocked and horrified” the Catholic community.
“We join Pope Benedict XVI in expressing our profound sorrow at this savage violence and offer our heartfelt prayers for the victims, their families, and the Church and people of Iraq,” Cardinal George said in a statement Nov. 2.
Referring to the recent synod of bishops on the Church in the Middle East, the prelate recalled that “bishops from Iraq spoke of the perilous situation facing Christians and other minorities in that country,” which included human rights violations such as “kidnappings for ransom; bombings of churches, schools, and other property occupied by Christians; threats to Christian-run businesses and livelihoods; and the death of Archbishop Rahho and other priests following kidnappings.”
“Together with this most recent murderous attack, this pattern points to an appalling lack of basic security. Many Christians have been forced to leave their homes or have fled abroad in search of safety. Many have little hope of return to Iraq in the near future.”
“The United States bears responsibility for working effectively with the Iraqi government to stem the violence,” he underscored. “Our Conference of Bishops raised grave moral questions prior to the United States military intervention in Iraq and then called for a ‘responsible transition.’”
“While we welcomed the end of U.S.-led combat in Iraq, we share the Iraqi bishops’ concern that the United States failed to help Iraqis in finding the political will and concrete ways needed to protect the lives of all citizens, especially Christians and other vulnerable minorities, and to ensure that refugees and displaced persons are able to return to their homes safely,” Cardinal George wrote.
“Having invaded Iraq, the U.S. government has a moral obligation not to abandon those Iraqis who cannot defend themselves,” he stressed.
“We offer our prayers and solidarity with the suffering Christians of Iraq at this terrible time of loss and horrific violence. We stand with the bishops, Church and people of Iraq in their urgent search for greater security, freedom and protection. We call upon the United States to take additional steps to help Iraq protect its citizens, especially the most vulnerable.”
Pamplona, Spain, Nov 2, 2010 (CNA) - A tourism program aimed at promoting churches during the Year of St. James in Spain has made it possible for more than 37,000 people to visit the nine churches along “El Camino de Santiago,” also known as the Way of St. James.
The initiative was organized by the provincial government of Navarre in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Pamplona and the Diocese of Tudela. Fifty-six percent of visitors to the churches came from inside Spain, while 44 percent came from 16 different countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Holland and Denmark.
The Church of St. Miguel in Estella, the Monastery of San Salvador in Urdax, and the Church of St. Peter in Puente la Reina received the highest number of visitors.
South Bend, Ind., Nov 2, 2010 (CNA) - The University Notre Dame recently held a memorial Mass for a 20 year-old film student who died on the school's football field last week after a structure he was videotaping from fell over.
Junior Declan Sullivan, a member of the university's Department of Athletics video crew, was filming football practice on Wednesday, Oct. 27, when a hydraulic scissor lift at the LaBar Practice Complex toppled.
The incident is currently being investigated by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Notre Dame Security Police Department.
Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins said Oct. 28 that there “is no greater sadness for a university community than the death of one of its students.”
“There is certainly no greater sadness for a family than the loss of a son or brother,” he added. “It is with a sense of that double sadness that, on behalf our university, I express our deepest condolences to Declan’s family, friends and classmates.”
Athletic director Jack Swarbrick told reporters the school's football game against the University of Tulsa would continued as planned on Saturday, in Sullivan’s memory. Players wore decals on their helmets commemorating Sullivan and a moment of silence preceded the coin toss.
“Our focus is on the team, and on Declan,” Swarbrick said. “There is an intensity that attaches to the experience of being part of a team and an athletic program. Declan is part of that program. And so, the sorrow that is felt is even greater.”
In a homily given at an Oct. 28 Mass of Remembrance for Sullivan in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Thomas Doyle recalled the young man's life and passion for film.
“Declan was a story teller,” Fr. Doyle said. “And while Declan could tell a good tale and write a captivating essay . . . his preferred medium for story telling was through the lens of a camera. Capturing the texture of life on film was the passion and the way that Declan created stories that gave meaning and orientation to life.”
“Those who did not know Declan may be inclined to say that capturing stories through the lens of a camera was what ultimately robbed him of life,” he added. “But those who know him will summarily reject such a myopic byline because you know that telling stories through the lens of a camera is how Declan lived.”
“Every time we experience death, and particularly yesterday in the wake of Declan’s passing – we encounter one of those foreign, unthinkable, hard to imagine events,” Fr. Doyle said.
“Despite the feelings of loss and disorientation, tonight’s stories, and the story of our being here together tell us: We are loved . . . and we are not alone. The divine scripture, this crowded basilica, those holding vigil outside, the body and blood of Christ that we share not only remind us, but they show us in high drama: that we are loved … and we are not alone.”
Fredericksburg, Va., Nov 2, 2010 (CNA) - The U.S.-based group 40 Days for Life announced at the end of their fall campaign that this year 541 babies were saved from abortion during the event.
The latest 40 Days for Life campaign was held from from Sept. 22 to Oct. 31, and included activities from participants such as prayer and fasting, peaceful vigils and community outreach throughout the U.S.
“It’s Day 40 – and I have great news to share!” campaign director Shawn Carney wrote on the group's website on Sunday. “As of right now, we know of 541 babies – and their mothers – that God has spared from abortion.”
“That’s at least 3,352 since the first coordinated 40 Days for Life campaign a mere three years ago,” he noted. “And who knows how many more that we’ll never hear about?”
Though certain groups around the U.S reported opposition from local clinics, as well as some run by Planned Parenthood, Carney reported that ultimately, the event was a national success.
The pro-life leader also said that there were “at least four abortion facility employees” who left their jobs during the just completed campaign. “And others may be thinking about it,” he noted.
40 Days for Life branched out across the Atlantic this year and began its first campaign in London, England on September 22, in conjunction with the launch of the U.S. fall campaign.
Austin, Texas, Nov 2, 2010 (CNA) -
After a temporary restraining order, the parents of a 16-year-old girl in Texas have agreed not to force their daughter to have an abortion against her will. Sidewalk counselors saw the violent coercion in progress and called police.
The teenager’s mother brought her by force to local abortion facilities on two occasions, demanding she get an abortion. Her parents insisted that she have one even though she refused and the father of her baby also did not want the abortion.
Attorneys allied with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) secured a temporary restraining order blocking the parents from forcing their daughter to go to an abortion facility. On Thursday they signed a long-term court order prohibiting them from forcing their daughter to have an abortion for the duration of her pregnancy.
“No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life--especially one that belongs to someone else--is worthless,” commented ADF attorney Stephen Casey of Round Rock, Texas.
ADF attorney Gregory R. Terra of Georgetown agreed.
“The parents made the right decision, one which they, their daughter, the baby’s father, and especially their grandchild, will appreciate,” he said.
The 16-year-old, a high school student, is 14 weeks pregnant. She became more resolute against having an abortion after she received information from a pro-lifer outside one of the abortion facilities.
“The right not to have an abortion is protected by law, and this right isn’t relinquished just because someone else considers the child to be an unwanted burden,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “This situation illustrates what a difference it can make when a woman is more fully informed about the true nature of abortion.”
Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, told CNA that this was a “fairly extreme” case of coercion, with reports the girl was dragged by her hair.
Elizabeth McClung of the Austin Coalition for Life was not present for the Oct. 9 incident at the International Health Care Solutions independent clinic in northwest Austin. However, she reported that sidewalk counselors involved in the 40 Days for Life campaign had spoken with the girl before her mother started “getting physical.”
The girl’s mother “was shoving her, hitting her, pushing her. She actually fell on the ground and scraped her leg.”
“At one point she actually was holding onto the bed of a pickup truck in the parking lot but her mom was yanking on her to go inside.”
Pro-life advocates who witnessed the coercion called the Texas Alliance for Life and asked what they should do.
“Dial 911, that is a crime occurring,” they were told, according to Pojman. “No one can be coerced, it may be an assault.”
“We stayed on public property, we didn’t trespass,” McClung told CNA. “We called police and were peacefully praying.”
When police arrived, the counselors told the police they were available to help. When the girl and her mother came out, the sidewalk counselor emphasized to the young woman that it was her decision not to have an abortion. She gave the girl her name and phone number.
While the teen’s mother did take her to Planned Parenthood a few days after the incident, she again decided not to abort, McClung reported. A local maternity home has offered to help the young woman.
“That girl is extremely courageous, because she had to go against her parents’ wishes, which should not be taken lightly,” Pojman continued. “But in extreme situations where parents (are) forcing abortion on a minor who clearly does not want it, it is time to step in to intervene, to work with the parents if possible but also to involve police and courts.”
Pojman said the incident sparked the realization that many in the Austin pro-life community lacked a process for how to help coerced women.
“Be familiar with the law,” he suggested. “Have attorneys available to take these cases.”
“No person, whether adult or a minor, should be in anyway coerced into having a procedure she doesn’t want, especially an abortion.”
McClung recommended materials from the Center Against Forced Abortion (CAFA), a project of the San Antonio-based Justice Foundation.
“We had spoken about it before and we had a protocol in place but this was the first time in practice.”
Allan Parker, president of the Justice Foundation, said the Austin case shows the need for attorneys willing to help women being coerced to have abortions.
Coerced abortion is “extremely frequent” in America, Parker claimed.
“I have spoken with hundreds of pregnancy resource centers. They say it is a very frequent problem.
CAFA has produced a “Dear Parent” letter which often suffices to stop parents from coercing their daughter to have an abortion by noting the illegal nature of their intended action.
“Most parents think they can make the decision because they’re the parent. They don’t realize that it’s illegal.”
“The best thing for pro-life clinic demonstrators to remember is to tell the young woman: ‘No one can legally force you to have an abortion. Period.’
“If the girl herself will continue to tell that to the abortionists, most abortionists will not perform an abortion, though some have.”
The sidewalk counselors should also have the “Dear Parent” letter with them for the girl, for the police and for social service agencies, Parker recommended.
He also noted the “second largest problem” is men forcing adult women to have an abortion because the man does not want to take care of a child.
“It’s illegal for the father of the child to force the mother to have an abortion,” he repeated.
“Education is the best answer at this time. Abstinence ed courses should include this training,” as should pregnancy resource centers, Parker advised.
Pojman of the Texas Alliance for Life said the teen in the Austin incident is ending a rough period of her life.
“Hopefully she and her parents can reconcile,” he said. “She is brave and her boyfriend is also very brave and supportive.
“She was many times close to being despondent. But she’s a brave and tough kid. It’s a shame she had to go through this, but it looks like it’s going to be a good ending, for this chapter of her life at least.”
McClung also drew lessons from the coercion attempt.
“We’re there not just for the baby but for the mothers as well. We’re talking to the mothers not their babies. Let’s reinforce the fact that there are so many people who want to help them, not break them down,” she said.
She praised the young woman for refusing the abortion despite the “very difficult” situation of her parents’ opposition. “There’s a real community of support standing behind her and helping her through this.”
The CAFA website is at the URL http://www.txjf.org/
Rome, Italy, Nov 2, 2010 (CNA) - Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone recently highlighted the Pope's call to Catholics to use reason based on authentic freedom.
The cardinal made his comments last week during the presentation of the first Italian volume of the complete works of Joseph Ratzinger titled, “The Theology of the Liturgy.”
After noting that the Holy Father has always defended the Second Vatican Council’s continuity with the Church’s tradition, Cardinal Bertone said this first volume of the Pope’s works is intended “to help the Church in a great renewal that is only possible if we ‘love the Beloved,’ as the liturgy teaches."
Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has always helped the Church in this effort, “through a lifetime of research” that has produced more than a hundred books and more than 600 articles, he said. The complete works will bring together his entire body of writings into 16 volumes.
Cardinal Bertone pointed out that the Pope’s theological method “always has serious and sharp biblical analysis as its starting point, moving on later to the Fathers of the Church—of whom he possesses vast knowledge—in order to arrive at a systematic theological reflection.”
This rigorous process, he said, does not mean that we are confined in our thinking, but rather guarantees that we can offer an original and illuminating commentary on the present.