New York City, N.Y., Sep 9, 2011 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the world's need for compassion and justice in a letter marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
“It is my fervent prayer,” the Pope told New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan in the letter, “that a firm commitment to justice and a global culture of solidarity will help rid the world of the grievances that so often give rise to acts of violence and will create the conditions for greater peace and prosperity, offering a brighter and more secure future.”
In the letter, dated Sept. 11 but released two days in advance, Pope Benedict told Archbishop Dolan that his thoughts were occupied with the the “somber events” of 10 years ago, “when so many innocent lives were lost in the brutal assault on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the further attacks in Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.”
He noted that the “tragedy” of the 9/11 attacks had been “compounded by the perpetrators' claim to be acting in God's name.”
“Once again, it must be unequivocally stated that no circumstances can ever justify acts of terrorism,” said the Pope. “Every human life is precious in God's sight and no effort should be spared in the attempt to promote throughout the world a genuine respect for the inalienable rights and dignity of individuals and peoples everywhere.”
Pope Benedict praised the American people for “the courage and generosity that they showed in the rescue operations and for their resilience in moving forward with hope and confidence.”
He said that his prayers were joined with those of Archbishop Dolan, “in commending the thousands of victims to the infinite mercy of Almighty God and in asking our heavenly Father to continue to console those who mourn the loss of loved ones.”
In 2008, Pope Benedict visited the former site of the World Trade Center. There, he prayed for God's “light and guidance” in the face of “such terrible events,” and expressed hope for “a world where true peace and love reign.”
Somerset, Pa., Sep 9, 2011 (CNA) -
When the last remains from United Flight 93 are buried on Sept. 12, two parishioners of St. Peter's Catholic Church in Somerset, Pennsylvania will finish the work of mercy they started 10 years before, helping family members bury the dead.
The last, unidentified remains of the flight's passengers “have been stored together for the last 10 years in a location that's under the coroner's control,” said Somerset County Solicitor Daniel Rullo.
Those remains, Rullo told CNA, “will be interred on September 12, in a ceremony that the coroner's intending to hold. It's essentially a funeral ceremony that will take place. There are three caskets of these remains that will be buried at the crash site.”
Rullo, a lawyer who served as head of his parish council for many years, worked closely with County Coroner Wallace Miller – a Catholic convert and his fellow parishioner – to help victims' families obtain the identified remains of the loved ones they lost on the hijacked flight. A total of 44 people, including the flight crew and the terrorist hijackers, died when the plane crashed into a field.
“That was a Tuesday, on September 11,” Rullo recalled. “I was at a meeting in which we received information from the 911 (emergency) director, that there had been a plane crash in the area near Indian Lake.”
Rullo's 14 previous years as county solicitor had never included an event of this magnitude, nor had Miller's tenure as the coroner.
“The worst exposure he would have had to these types of things probably would have been a multiple-death (car) accident,” Rullo recalled. “He never had any kind of consequence like this.”
Thus, the two men began a long and taxing process, not only confronting legal and logistical hurdles, but also sharing the burdens of hundreds of virtual strangers who had only one thing in common.
“United Airlines, for free, flew out any family members who wanted to come in. They would go to a resort here in Somerset County, and we would meet with these families on a one to one basis – so they'd have the ability to have any questions answered.”
The meetings took place, he recalled, “while all the reclamation was going on – that is, the determination of what remains were there, whether there would be a positive identification from the remains by way of physical observation or whether it would be necessary to send them to the DNA laboratory.”
“A lot of the people just wanted the opportunity to tell us a little bit about the family member – because, you know, these people really had almost nothing in common except for the fact that they were on an airplane together.”
The families had to choose whether to receive the remains of their loved ones as they were identified, or in one batch when the work was finished. Some “didn't want anything back,” Rullo remembered.
For many families, there was also a long waiting process, brought about by the strict rules that govern the certification of a death. “Most of them, because of the fact that you could not make positive identifications (visually) … had to wait for the DNA to come back from the Washington, D.C. laboratory where all the DNA was going.”
The process caused practical problems for relatives, as well as emotional distress. “There were life insurance policies they needed to apply for, assets they needed to start to transfer, bank accounts had been frozen – all kinds of things that would pose a problem. And we were being told that it could take months until some of the DNA testing could come back.”
That was why Rullo ended up filling a lawsuit, on behalf of the families, to obtain presumptive death certificates for the passengers of United Flight 93.
“It was something that we wanted to undertake in order to assist these people,” he said. “Many of the people were in need of getting assistance right away, trying to move this thing along and get their lives back in order.”
“We undertook to go ahead and have a hearing, in front of our local court, in which we put up evidence from United Airlines, from the FBI, and the coroner – and the judge issued presumptive death certificates within 30 days from within the date of the crash.”
Coroner Miller knew how to talk to grieving families, while Rullo's focus was on their legal rights and interests. Both men helped one another cope with a situation that challenged their expertise in different ways.
“My involvement with (Miller) was more from the standpoint of making sure that he was able to interact with the governing agencies that were involved – whether it was the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, the FBI, or the state police.”
“He focused on dealing with the families, the grief counseling that they needed, and I dealt with the legal aspects of everything.”
In 2011, ten years after their initial efforts, the two men worked to obtain a court order that would allow families to give the last remains of Flight 93's victims a proper burial.
“Under Pennsylvania law, you had to get court authorization in order to disinter and reinter remains. I had to present a petition with the coroner, to the court, authorizing us to disinter, and getting the appropriate permit to reinter, these individuals.”
Rullo understands the importance of giving the dead a proper burial. The Catholic Church numbers it among the seven “corporal works of mercy,” along with acts such as feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.
In retrospect, Rullo is struck by the way that all of Shanksville responded to an unforseeable tragedy.
“It really became something that the community took to heart,” he said. “There have been volunteers who literally embraced some of these family members, sometimes taking them into their home, getting to know them in a very personal way.”
“These are volunteers who, when we set up a temporary memorial, would man that memorial whether it was rain, snow, or good weather – just to be there, to tell the story when visitors would come through at the site.”
Denver, Colo., Sep 9, 2011 (CNA) -
Pope John Paul II saw the September 11, 2001 terrorist atrocities as attacks not only on the United States, but on “all of humanity,” recounts James R. Nicholson, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.
“We must stop these people who kill in the name of God,” the Pope told Nicholson two days after the attacks, the ambassador recalls in a column for Catholic News Agency.
Nicholson recounts the Pope’s reaction to the attacks and how the two men prayed together for the victims and their families.
He also says that the Pope’s words were “invaluable” to the U.S. in assembling a coalition to respond to the terrorists based in Afghanistan.
Though John Paul II was “first and foremost a man of peace,” he also understood the doctrine of just war and the responsibility of leaders to protect the innocent from evil forces, Nicholson said.
The ambassador also notes the late pontiff’s “uncommon sense” about globalism and the complexities of people and cultures and his knowledge of what ideologues can do to the freedom and dignity of innocent people.
Read Ambassador Nicholson’s column at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=1809.
Sherman, Texas, Sep 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Ramona Trevino has a compelling story to tell about her exodus from the nation's largest abortion provider. But in her first public appearance, she chose to emphasize what God accomplished through a vigil outside the clinic she used to manage.
“My message is to glorify God, and to glorify what wonderful things all of you are doing and continue to do. I'm so excited, and honored, to hopefully be a part of that,” she told 40 Days for Life participants at a recent event outside the defunct Planned Parenthood facility in Sherman, Texas.
“People like me everywhere are waiting for a miracle. And that is indeed what happened … Three months later, this place is out of business.”
Trevino, its former manager, had already taken a “leap of faith” on May 6, “leaving behind my job … half of my family's income.” It meant “having to worry about how we were going to survive, and pay the mortgage, and put food on the table.”
She told the assembled members of 40 Days for Life that there had been “a tugging in my heart, on and off, during the three years that I was managing. And it was a tugging that it shames me to say, I did ignore.”
Although Trevino's clinic did not perform abortions, she “still had a hand in the referrals. I still had to give out the number, I still had to give out the information on the locations … where they could get an abortion.”
“That's a truth I finally had to face. And that was a truth that would be brought to light due to the wonderful 40 Days for Life vigil that was held out here.”
In an interview with CNA, Trevino gave more details of her story, explaining how she tried to reconcile her Catholic faith with her work at Planned Parenthood. She also described the dramatic change of heart that coincided with the beatification of Pope John Paul II.
“I was raised Catholic, but I didn't really have a lot of formation in my faith as a kid,” said Trevino. “When I was a little girl … I felt like I was being called to the religious life.” But she “didn't have the formation, as a young child, to elaborate on that calling.”
Instead of becoming a nun, Trevino became pregnant in high school. She left school, and was in a non-Catholic marriage for eight years.
Two years after her subsequent marriage within the Church, Trevino learned about a part-time position at Planned Parenthood from a coworker at her former government job. She had gone through more extensive Catholic formation to prepare for marriage, but still lacked a proper understanding of issues surrounding sexuality and human life.
“I think there was still a lot about my faith that I didn't know – that I didn't get,” she recalled.
Trevino, who says she was “always pro-life,” also lacked an understanding of Planned Parenthood's leading role in the abortion industry. She associated the organization mostly with contraception, which she regarded as wrong for Catholics, but not for others.
“It didn't take me long before I became uncomfortable working there,” she remembered. “It was probably within the first three or four months. The thing that struck me hard was when I had to do my first referral for an abortion.”
“We provided pregnancy tests. So a lot of women would come in to confirm pregnancy, and if they were pregnant sometimes they would want an abortion. And we would have to counsel them on the information, the referrals, how far along they were, and that type of thing.”
“I remember the very first time I had to do that. I went into my office, I closed the door, and I cried. I guess it was something that I didn't think I was actually going to have to do. I was naïve, and I was too focused on the opportunity of being a manager.”
The referrals came relatively infrequently in the small Texas town, and other staff sometimes handled them. When they did occur, Trevino found ways to soothe her conscience.
“I would say prayers for them, and I would justify my actions all the time. I'd come home a wreck, and ask my husband 'Am I guilty?' And I would talk myself out of it, to justify it: 'Really, I'm not making the decision for her; when she walks out the door or gets off the phone, it's up to her what she does. I really am not responsible for what she chooses.''”
“I would constantly try to feed myself lies,” she said. “Eventually it got to me. I wasn't standing up for those babies. I wasn't trying to save their lives … Over time, I couldn't deny it to myself anymore.”
Trevino also became disillusioned with policies she said were geared toward “pushing things on people” for financial gain. “It's about making money. You didn't get the sense that they really, truly cared about these women they way they say they did.”
But the clinic manager's decision to leave Planned Parenthood and its practices behind, is mysterious even to her.
“I can't explain it on a human level. To me, it's all divine.”
The point when she says “everything began to change” was December 2010. She tuned in to her local Catholic radio station for the first time, and heard a show on women's post-abortion experiences. Almost every caller spoke of having an abortion through Planned Parenthood. She also learned about “the workings of contraception,” and its ability to cause an abortion.
“I began to tune in every day,” she said. She learned about Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood employee who chronicled her pro-life conversion in the bestselling book “UnPlanned.”
One night, coming back from the clinic, “I was listening to Catholic radio … I remember a woman saying: 'One day, when we die and we meet our maker, he's going to ask: “What did you do to prevent and stop abortion?”’ Right there, it was like a dagger in my heart.”
She began praying the Rosary during Lent, and said that on the third day, “the blinders just completely came off my eyes.” She dropped her excuses about working at a non-abortion-facility, and “understood why working for Planned Parenthood was wrong.”
“Shortly after, the first 40 Days for Life vigil was held outside the clinic. I got the courage to go out and talk to them, and ask for their prayers.” Trevino says she felt the strength God gave her through the prayers of the pro-life volunteers.
And it's possible that another intercessor, whom the Church celebrated just after Easter, may have been offering his prayers as she neared her decision.
“It was on Divine Mercy Sunday, the day that Blessed Pope John Paul II was beatified … At that time, I said I was probably going to leave Planned Parenthood in June. But I remember, on Divine Mercy Sunday … I just couldn't control my tears. Because at that moment I just felt God calling me.”
“I just took that leap of faith, and trusted God, and said: 'I'm out. I'm done.'”
Trevino, who hopes to pursue a pro-life ministry in the future, will give a keynote speech in Dallas on Sept. 27 as 40 Days for Life begins its fall campaign.
Claymont, Del., Sep 9, 2011 (CNA) - Ten years after Robert Fangman died in the terrorist attacks in New York City, his mother, Ruth, said accepting his loss “never gets easier.”
Ruth Fangman, a parishioner at Holy Rosary in Claymont, Del. plans to travel to her native Baltimore, where the Maryland 9/11 memorial will be dedicated on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. Robert Fangman's name will be etched in stone at the site in front of Baltimore's World Trade Center.
Ruth Fangman recalled this week that horrific Tuesday when she learned of the death of the youngest of her seven children, called “Bobby” by family and childhood friends. He was 33.
“He had been in Texas visiting his brother. He had called me that Saturday and said, “I'm on my way home (to Boston) tomorrow, and I'll stop in Delaware and see you,” she said.
Later that day, Bobby, a graduate of Holy Rosary School who was a flight attendant for United Airlines, said his plans had changed and he wouldn't be visiting Claymont.
On Sept. 11, Ruth Fangman was taking a neighbor to the Philadelphia International Airport when they heard on the radio that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York. Soon she learned that a second plane, from United, her son's airline, had flown into the other tower. She knew Bobby was going to Los Angeles, which was Flight 175's destination, and tried to reach him on his cell phone. She then called his roommates in Boston and was certain he was on the plane.
Around 2 p.m., representatives from United arrived at her home to confirm her worst fears.
Fangman, a widow, credits her friends and fellow parishioners at Holy Rosary Church for helping her after the attacks. “Without the support of my friends and my parish family, I don¹t think I could have made it.”
Holy Rosary will hold its annual memorial service the afternoon of Sept. 11, and Bobby's picture and other memorabilia will be on the altar.
“To lose a child, you never forget, and to lose one in this horrific way, it brings it back every year,” Fangman said. “The hole in my heart will never be filled. I miss him every day.”
Printed with permission from The Dialog, newspaper for the Diocese of Wilmington, Del.
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 9, 2011 (CNA) - The Catholic Multimedia Center website in Mexico was hit by a cyber attack on Sept. 7. Hackers succeeded in knocking a portal that provides information on the Diocese of Mexico City offline.
The director of the website, Father Omar Sotelo, said the attack was the work of experienced hackers, “as they tried to damage the central memory system by destroying the entire operating system and the contents of the page,” reported the Archdiocese of Mexico City’s news service.
He said the attack caused major damage to the appearance and programming of the website, but that technicians hope to have it back online by Sept. 12.
Earlier this year, the Mexican bishops’ website was also the target of an attack. Because of the level of damage to the site’s database, a new site had to be built.
Catholic Multimedia Center can be found at: www.ccm.org.mx
Vatican City, Sep 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI warned against separating moral values from public policy in his first meeting with the United Kingdom's new ambassador to the Holy See.
“When policies do not presume or promote objective values, the resulting moral relativism, instead of leading to a society that is free, fair, just and compassionate, tends instead to produce frustration, despair, selfishness and a disregard for the life and liberty of others,” Pope Benedict told Ambassador Nigel Baker, who presented his credentials to the Pope on Sept. 9.
In his own remarks to the Pope, Baker noted that the principles underlying British society were not “purely legal” in nature, but also included the “qualities of tolerance, compassion, generosity, (and) respect for others.” The new ambassador spoke of Britain's commitment to these principles in both domestic and foreign affairs.
Pope Benedict, in an apparent reference to the riots that terrorized London for several days in early August, said Britain's stated commitment to “enduring values” was “especially important in the light of events in England this summer.”
Policy makers, the Pope said, should “look urgently for ways to uphold excellence in education, to promote social opportunity and economic mobility, to examine ways to favor long-term employment and to spread wealth much more fairly and broadly throughout society.”
“Moreover,” he continued, “the active fostering of the essential values of a healthy society, through the defense of life and of the family, the sound moral education of the young, and a fraternal regard for the poor and the weak, will surely help to rebuild a positive sense of one’s duty, in charity, towards friends and strangers alike in the local community.”
Pope Benedict recalled his visit to the U.K. last September, during which he beatified the English convert, and later cardinal, Blessed John Henry Newman. He pointed out that Newman – a critic of rationalism and religious liberalism during the Victorian era – had developed insights that remained relevant in the present day.
“The United Kingdom, Europe and the West in general today face challenges that he identified with remarkable prophetic clarity,” said the Pope. “It is my hope that a fresh awareness of his writings will bear new fruit among those searching for solutions to the political, economic and social questions of our age.”
Meanwhile, he assured the ambassador that the Catholic Church in Britain is “eager to continue offering her substantial contribution to the common good through her offices and agencies.”
But he stressed that its agencies must work “in accordance with her own principles and in the light of the Christian vision of the rights and dignity of the human person.” Catholic adoption agencies throughout Britain have been forced to shut their doors rather than place children with same-sex couples, a practice that was required under the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations.
Both the Pope and the ambassador singled out international development as a priority item, with the Pope reiterating the point he made one year ago at Westminster Hall about economic and social development as “an enterprise truly worthy of the world’s attention and one that is too big to be allowed to fail.”
To that end, Pope Benedict said he appreciated British Prime Minister David Cameron's intention to preserve foreign aid funding amid austerity measures. The Pope also invited Ambassador Baker “to explore ways of furthering development cooperation between your Government and the Church’s charity and development agencies, especially those based here in Rome and in your country.”
The Pope concluded by invoking God's blessing upon the ambassador, his family, and “all the British people.”