Bhubneshwar, India, Aug 24, 2011 (CNA) - On the third anniversary of the outbreak of massive anti-Christian violence in Orissa state, a local Catholic archbishop has appealed for “peace and tranquility” and the defense of Christians’ rights.
“We Christians want to live in peace in our land. Despite the suffering and the tragedy of 2008, we harbor no hatred or revenge. We will remember the victims of the past, we will entrust to God the present and the future of Orissa,” Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar told Fides news agency.
“Over the past three years, a lot has happened towards reconstruction and dialogue,” he said in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need. “But there are people who are still afraid. There is some progress towards peace and justice but there is still a lot more to be done.”
He tells the faithful to remember two phrases of Jesus: “do not be afraid” and “love your enemies.”
The situation on the ground appears to be uncertain, with police guarding the main churches across the Orissa district of Kandhamal and reports circulating of an upcoming rally by Hindu extremists.
More than 100 people died and 25,000 to 50,000 people fled for their lives in August and September 2008. Over 170 churches and chapels were attacked. The incidents, among the worst anti-Christian violence in modern times, were sparked by the Aug. 23, 2008 killing of political activist Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. There was also an outbreak of violence during Christmas 2007 which caused 3,000 to leave their homes.
Archbishop Barwa said things seem calm, but a number of local groups continue to create problems. They do so by interfering with the construction of Christian homes and churches by blocking building supplies.
There are also “subtle forms of oppression and discrimination” against Christians.
“We have got justice for what happened in Kandhamal but we are a little discouraged. Lower-ranking officials disturb us but the higher-ranking ones are trying their best,” the archbishop said. “Although good words are spoken about the need for justice, they are not always manifested in terms of action.”
Most of those displaced by the violence in 2007 and 2008 have now returned to the district, thanks in large part to the construction of more than 3,700 homes. Over 4,000 homes will have been built by the end of the year.
“My message is clear: we need peace and tranquility – no more violence, no killing. The Christian faithful have the right to be in Kandhamal. They are growing in faith,” said Archbishop Barwa.
The archbishop succeeded Archbishop Rapahel Cheenath in February.
He thanked Aid to the Church in Need for its help in rebuilding churches damaged or destroyed by anti-Christian violence.
“We are all very grateful to those many people who have supported us with their help and their prayers,” he said.
Most of the major parish churches in Kandhamal have been repaired or rebuilt, but many of the smaller village churches and chapels have not.
Tallahassee, Fla., Aug 24, 2011 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Florida have asked Gov. Rick Scott to stay the execution of Manuel Valle, who was convicted in the 1978 shooting murder of a police officer. “True peace can only be achieved by forgiveness,” they said. “Governor, we ask you to stop state sanctioned killing.”
“Killing someone because they killed diminishes respect for life and promotes a culture of violence and vengeance,” the bishops said in an Aug. 3 letter. “We affirm the right and duty of the State to assure public safety and punish the guilty by incarceration, which allows the inmate an opportunity for reflection on their offenses and sorrow for the pain they have caused others.”
Valle, now 61, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Sept. 1 for fatally shooting Coral Gables police officer Louis Pena.
His execution had been scheduled for Aug. 2 but was postponed for a court hearing on the efficacy of a drug used in the execution procedure, the Miami Herald reports.
“The killing of Officer Louis Pena caused great suffering and pain for his family and friends, and we pray they were consoled as they mourned the loss of their loved one,” the bishops said. They also prayed for the healing of police officer Gary Spell, who was also shot at the scene of the crime.
The Florida bishops also emphasized the need for forgiveness.
“An execution re-opens the emotional wounds of victim’s families and does not bring back or honor their loved one,” they said.
“Willful murder is a heinous crime; it cries to God for justice,” the bishops added. They referred to the biblical murderer Cain and noted that God punished him, but also marked him to protect him from those wishing to avenge Abel’s murder.
“Like Cain, the condemned prisoner on death row – for all the evil of his crimes – remains a person. Human dignity – that of the convicted as well as our own – is best served by not resorting to this extreme and unnecessary punishment. Modern society has the means to protect itself without the death penalty,” they said.
Valle should spend the rest of his sentence in prison, the bishops stated.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 24, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - The Socialist party’s candidate for Spain’s upcoming presidential elections on Nov. 20. has stated that if elected, his first act would be to pass a law legalizing euthanasia.
“Since the ‘death with dignity’ law is not going to be processed, I am announcing that if Spaniards give me their trust it will be the first law I will sign,” Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told reporters during a Aug. 22 briefing.
The administration of Spain’s current president, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, approved a measure last May that would have legalized euthanasia. In June it was sent to the Spanish parliament but has yet to be put to a vote.
Vatican City, Aug 24, 2011 (CNA) -
L’Osservatore Romano has reported that the dates for the next World Youth Day have been set for July 23-28, 2013 in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
In an article titled, “Next Stop, Rio de Janeiro,” published on Aug. 24, reporter Gianluca Biccini said, “From 23 to 28 July 2013 the Corcovado’s giant statue of the Christ the Redeemer will welcome in its symbolic embrace young people from all over the world for the next international installment of (World Youth Day).”
“The clock is ticking,” Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta of Rio de Janiero said shortly after the closing Mass of World Youth Day Madrid 2011.
“We want to show that Rio is not only about sports and Carnival. Our WYD will be an opportunity for young people who are affected by problems such as poverty, violence and drugs.”
The Brazilian delegation at the Cuatro Vientos airfield in Madrid received the World Youth Day cross from the youth of Spain. It will soon begin its pilgrimage across Brazil. “The country is immense, and we want the pilgrimage to reach all 247 dioceses in Brazil before reaching Rio de Janeiro, two months before the event,” the archbishop said.
The last World Youth Day to take place in Latin America was in 1987 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“To organize (World Youth Day) is a joy and an opportunity for the Catholics of our archdiocese, for Brazil and for the faithful of Latin America.
“It is not only about welcoming young people from all over the world, but about renewing our trust in the Holy Spirit to be disciples and missionaries and to confirm our commitment to the realities of social life and to build a civilization of love,” Archbishop Tempesta said.
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 24, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has unveiled the theme for the next international level World Youth Day. The meeting will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2013.
“The motto will be the command of Jesus: 'Go and make disciples of all peoples.' Even now I entrust to the prayers of all the preparation of these very important appointments,” said the Pope in his August 24 general audience at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.
The theme is drawn from the resurrected Christ's commission to his disciples, as chronicled in the Gospel of Matthew.
The Pope also unveiled the theme for next year's World Youth Day, which will be held locally in the indvidiual dioceses across the world. The theme for the meeting will be: “Always be joyful in the Lord!” which is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians.
The Pope's announcement comes less than a week after his visit to this year's World Youth Day in Madrid . He described the events of last week as “a stupendous manifestation of faith for Spain and for the whole world.”
During his four days in the Spanish capital, the Pope presided over eight events before reaching the pinnacle of the event--Mass for an estimated two million pilgrims at Madrid's Cuatro Vientos on Sunday.
“For the multitude of young people from every corner of the earth it was a special occasion for reflection, dialogue, to exchange positive experiences and, above all, to pray together and renew their commitment to root their lives in Christ,” he said.
He reflected upon each event he participated in, paying particular tribute to the young people who had “not been frightened by the rain and wind” during Saturday evening's lightning storm which engulfed the World Youth Day prayer vigil also held at Cuatro Vientos. Instead, said the Pope, the vast congregation remained “in silent adoration of Christ present in the Eucharist, to praise Him, thank Him and ask Him for help and light.”
He described the World Youth Day pilgrims as a “precious gift which gives hope for the future of the Church” with their “firm and sincere desire to entrench their life in Christ” and to “walk together in the Church.”
Pope Benedict said he was sure that the young pilgrims will return home “with a firm resolve to be leaven in the dough, bringing the hope that is born of faith.” He also assured them all of his continued prayers that they “remain faithful to their commitments.”
The Pope concluded his address by wishing many of the pilgrims “a good return to work” as the summer vacation period draws to a close. He then imparted his apostolic blessing.
Washington D.C., Aug 24, 2011 (CNA) - Churches in the archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore suffered some damage in the Aug. 23 earthquake that shook the northeastern United States. The oldest church in the Archdiocese of Baltimore will be closed for repairs for at least several weeks.
St. Patrick Catholic Church in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood has been deemed unsafe. Its steeple was badly damaged. Several concrete parts of it fell and one piece gouged the sidewalk.
Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore visited the church on the morning of Aug. 24 and reviewed the damage with parish administrator Fr. Robert Wojtek.
“We thank the Lord that no one was injured,” Archbishop O’Brien told The Catholic Review. “It will be a while before we reopen. We want to get back to business as usual as soon as we can, but everyone knows we want to play it safe.”
Repairs will selectively deconstruct and stabilize the steeple.
“The cranes are coming in, and they’re going to be here for a couple of months,” the archbishop said. “There’s great history here. We’re conscious of that, and that it (St. Patrick) has a lot more years of service. We’ll not compromise it in any way.”
The parish was founded in 1792 and its current church was built in 1898.
The church recently became a mission of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish. The archdiocese will run shuttle buses to Sacred Heart of Jesus until the church repairs are complete.
Fr. Wojtek was showing a visitor around the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where he is pastor, when the earthquake tremors hit.
“The lights started to swing,” he said. “We were in the back of the church, and I thought a window had blown open in the choir loft. Two vigil candles fell, and one broke off. Then sirens started going off, and I knew it was something else.”
The Archdiocese of Baltimore reported minor damage to two other churches, both in eastern Baltimore.
The church properties in the Archdiocese of Washington also suffered minor damage.
The chimney on the rectory at Holy Name parish in northeast Washington fell in the quake and hit two cars, though no one was hurt.
At St. Gabriel Parish in northwest Washington pieces of the ceiling fell in the sanctuary. The cross on the roof of St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill fell, also without injury to anyone. Mount Calvary Church in Forestville suffered damage to its steeple, while its K-8 school has sustained damage.
Facilities management employees are evaluating the extent of the damage, the Catholic Standard reports.
CNA contacted the Archdiocese of Washington for an update but did not receive a reply.
The unusual 5.8-magnitude quake hit before 2 p.m. on Monday. It caused “significant damage” to the central tower of the Episcopal Church’s Washington National Cathedral.