Baltimore, Md., Sep 28, 2011 (CNA) - Mixed with the braying of livestock and the welcome laughter of children, a new sound swirls above the village of Nakupurat in Kenya these days. It is the steady creaking of a windmill. For villager Ekiru Ewoi and the 2,000 residents here, it is a sound that reminds them daily that the hard days of thirst have passed.
"When the windmill was broken, we were going to the river," Ekiru says. "That took the whole day, from morning to evening, to get water."
Like many in Kenya's Isiolo District today, the villagers of Nakupurat have been hit by the drought gripping the country. More than three million people across Kenya are directly affected, many of them pastoralists like Ekiru whose lives depend on the grasses their livestock need to stay healthy.
Staying alive became more difficult in 2009, when the windmill that pumps water from a well in Nakupurat broke. With the next closest water source miles away in the muddy waters of the Ewaso Nyiro River, the effect on Nakupurat was catastrophic. Young men herded their livestock to greener pastures and the village school closed, forcing children to walk nearly seven miles each way to attend class at a neighboring school. Elders like Ekiru, too old to join the young men in their search for forage, struggled each day to make the arduous journey to the river.
"I used to take the livestock to the river myself," Ekiru says. "I was becoming very tired on those trips, and I was suffering from hunger and joint pain."
But in July 2011, the blades of Nakupurat's windmill began spinning again, thanks to Catholic Relief Services and its partner agency, the Vicariate Apostolic of Isiolo. Together, they're rehabilitating 27 water sources across the Isiolo District. It's all part of the 6-month Isiolo Emergency Response project. Through it, the relief service is rehabilitating sand dams, shallow wells and the Nakupurat windmill as a way to provide immediate relief for Kenyans affected by drought.
For the villagers of Nakupurat, the effect has been dramatic. With clean water readily available, villagers wash more often and report that ailments common in areas of drought, such as diarrhea and worms, are greatly reduced. For the livestock on which these pastoralists depend, easy access to water has had an equally dramatic effect.
"Now that we are not going far away to get water, we are just able to stay near here," Ekiru says. "The livestock were getting tired and weak when they were walking long distances. But now we see they are growing strong."
He used to spend eight hours each day herding his goats to water. Now, Ekiru says he has an easy 30-minute walk. With his free time, Ekiru volunteers to look after the windmill and the attached distribution points for washing, drinking and watering livestock. Through the project, Catholic Relief Services will soon begin educating villagers on how to set up a fund to maintain the windmill.
Meanwhile, Ekiru and the villagers of Nakupurat are facing the dry season with a grim acceptance, tempered by the faith they have in their newly functional windmill. Looking out over the parched landscape around the village, Ekiru offers to the small group gathered to fetch water a simple lesson on local history.
"I have not seen drought like this for years," Ekiru says.
David Snyder is a photojournalist based in Baltimore, Maryland. Visit Catholic Relief Services at: http://crs.org/
Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The opportunity is coming to a close for Catholics and others to voice their opposition to religious freedom violations in federal mandates for contraception and sterilization coverage in insurance plans.
The Department of Health and Human Services on Aug. 1 issued an interim final rule mandating coverage as part of “preventive services” for women of childbearing age. The mandate also requires coverage for related education and counseling services.
The comment period ends on Sept. 30.
Though the mandate provides a religious exemption, it applies only to institutions with the inculcation of religious values as a primary purpose. Exempted groups must primarily employ and serve members of their own religion. Catholic leaders such as Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston have said it is “incredibly narrow” and would not cover most Catholic agencies and institutions, including student health plans at Catholic educational institutions.
The Catholic bishops have urged opponents of the rule to write to the Department of Health and Human Services to voice their opposition.
The bishops also urge support for the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, H.R. 1179, which would forbid federal requirements for health care plans to provide items or services which violate religious beliefs or moral convictions.
The U.S. bishops’ conference provides more information on action to take at http://www.usccb.org/conscience
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 28, 2011 (CNA) - Catholics in Mexico are grieving the death of Maria Elizabeth Macias, a 39-year-old editor who was kidnapped and murdered by drug cartels in the border state of Tamaulipas.
Macias, a member of the Community of Scalabrinian Lay Movement and editor-in-chief of newspaper Primera Hora, was found dead on Sept. 24 after she went missing two days prior.
“After two days of research and dramatic silence, her lifeless body was found in a street in the city of Nuevo Laredo was she was born,” Father Francisco Pellizzari, Scalabrinian spiritual counselor for North America, told Fides news agency.
The Tamaulipas attorney general's office reported that a threatening message—“attributed to a criminal group”—was found next to her dismembered body and read “this happens to the media which is against us.” Macias was known for using social networking sites to report on certain criminal organizations.
“The state government expresses its deepest condolences to the relatives and loved ones affected by these lamentable acts,” the office said, noting that an investigation is currently underway.
Father Rui Pedro, a friend of Macias's, remembered her as “a woman of great faith and commitment to justice.”
As a member of the Central Committee of the Lay Scalabrinian Movement, she “worked with great affection and loyalty” at the Casa del Migrante in Nuevo Laredo and “maintained daily contact with many of us in the movement,” Fr. Pedro added.
The Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles, or Scalabrinians, is an international community of religious and lay Catholics in 30 countries who help serve local migrants. The group was founded in 1887 by Italian bishop Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini.
Macias's death is the latest in a series of brutal attacks in Mexico on media members and activists opposed to the country's increasingly hostile drug trafficking climate.
According to the United Nations, the country is considered to be among the most dangerous for journalists as over a dozen have been killed by cartels so far this year.
Vatican City, Sep 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI said he “was happy to see that the faith in my German homeland has a young face, that it is alive and has a future.” The Pope made his comments at his weekly Wednesday audience held in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square.
“This apostolic trip to Germany provided me with an opportunity to meet the faithful of my own homeland, to confirm them in faith, hope and love, to share with them the joy of being Catholic,” said the Pope Sept. 28.
“But my message was also addressed to the German people as a whole, inviting them to look to the future with trust. It is certain that “where God is, there is a future.”
Pope Benedict’s four-day visit, which concluded on Sunday, took him all across his native country.
Today he dwelt upon some of the trip’s highlights starting with his address to the German parliament, the Bundestag, on the first day of his visit.
He said he had wanted to use the address to “expose the foundation of law and free State of law” and so to help civil society to “broaden our concept of nature, understanding it not only as a set of functions but beyond this as the language of the Creator to help us discern right from wrong.” In short, said the Pope quoting the 19th century German Bishop Wilhelm von Ketteler, “Just as religion requires freedom, freedom also needs religion.”
The German media had predicted that the papal parliamentary address would be subject to protest and boycott. In the end, both largely failed to materialize and the Pope’s remarks were well received by German civil society.
While in Berlin, the Pope met with leaders of the Jewish community with whom he had remembered Christianity’s “common roots in faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” He also fondly recalled his meeting with Muslim leaders and their discussion of “the importance of religious freedom for the peaceful development of humanity.”
The Pope said he had also used his visit to reach out to protestant Christians. In fact, on the second and third days of his trip he visited Erfurt in eastern Germany. It was here in the 16th century that the founder of the Reformation, Martin Luther, had lived and taught.
The Pope said his meeting with Lutheran leaders had been “cordial” and that it led them “more profoundly to Christ.” It reminded them all, he said, of “the importance of our common witness of faith in Jesus Christ in today’s world, which often ignores God or has no interest in Him.”
However, he said he had also used his meeting to make clear that there was still no possibility of inter-communion between the Church and the Lutherans as “neither the faith or unity so longed for are a product of our own,” adding that “a faith created by ourselves is of no value, and true unity is rather a gift from God, who prayed and prayed for the unity of his disciples.”
Before leaving Erfurt, the Pope had made time to meet with some victims of clerical abuse to whom he had expressed his “regret” and “participation in their suffering.”
The last leg of the Pope’s visit to Germany took him to the Catholic stronghold of Freiburg. There he presided over a prayer vigil for young Catholics who “with the grace of Christ,” he said today, “can bring the fire of God’s love into the world.”
Finally, Pope Benedict touched upon his meeting with Catholics involved in German civil society held in Freiburg on the final day of his visit. He said he told them that times of persecution can often purify the Church as she can be “free from material and political burdens in order to be more transparent to God.”
Pope Benedict said he was “deeply grateful to all who have contributed in various ways to the success of the visit” to Germany. He concluded his weekly audience by imparting his apostolic blessing.
Amarillo, Texas, Sep 28, 2011 (CNA) - Following demonstrations of support, Priests for Life founder Father Frank Pavone has asked his supporters to be thoughtful, respectful and prayerful in the dispute with his bishop.
“I would not presume to tell others how to exercise their expressive rights under the U.S. Constitution, but I want to encourage everyone in this great pro-life movement of ours to continue to be to calm, respectful, thoughtful, peaceful and above all prayerful in the manner in which they go about supporting me, personally, and the Priests for Life family of ministries that I head,” Fr. Pavone said on Sept. 27.
Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of Amarillo, Texas suspended Fr. Pavone from public ministry outside his home diocese, beginning Sept. 13. He cited “deep concerns” about the financial stewardship of Priests for Life ministries and said Fr. Pavone had disobeyed him. Fr. Pavone had failed to audit the financials of all the Priests for Life ministries, he said.
Some supporters of Fr. Pavone organized protests in Amarillo. An airplane and large trucks featuring graphic images of aborted babies circled St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral and school in Amarillo, the Amarillo Globe News reports. One demonstrator, Gregg Cunningham, also was outside the cathedral, carrying a sign asking Bishop Zurek to “free” Fr. Pavone.
Cunningham, who is the executive director of the California-based Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, and Kansas-based Operation Rescue president Troy Newman previously said they were mobilizing activists for peaceful protests outside Diocese of Amarillo facilities.
Fr. Pavone did not mention any specific protests in his Sept. 27 statement.
“Priests for Life has not taken the approach of public battles with, or criticism of, the hierarchy,” he said. “When there are problems or disagreements or miscommunications that involve the Church leadership, Priests for Life addresses them quietly, respectfully, and behind the scenes.”
“The current situation has been thrust upon us; we did not seek it, and we hope our actions so far have reflected adequately the respect we have for the shepherds of our Church. Be assured we are neither organizing nor endorsing public protests of any kind.”
Fr. Pavone said he had spent 20 years building up relationships with pro-life activists throughout the U.S. He expressed gratitude for the messages of support he has received.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 28, 2011 (CNA) - Federal, provincial and local government leaders from across Argentina have signed a pledge to uphold the dignity of human life at all stages and to oppose any law that would legalize abortion or euthanasia.
The nation's lawmakers signed the “Protocol for Life and the Family” at a conference of the Parliamentarians for Life and the Family on September 25 in the city of Salta.
During the ceremony, Archbishop Alfredo Horacio Zecca of Tucuman said that among “the threatening challenges, we must not fail to mention the crime of abortion, which some want to legitimize as if it were a right.”
The legalization of abortion would inject into society a mindset that justifies the “radical exclusion of others, the elimination of the unwanted unborn and disregard for the inalienable dignity of life,” he said.
“No doubt in some circumstances, the mother and the child experience serious difficulties. But the elimination of the one who is weakest is not the way to solve the problems,” he added. “Rather, a commitment to saving both lives through a concerted and broad political and social effort” is needed, the archbishop stated.
Archbishop Jean Laffitte, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, as well as pro-secretary Msgr. Carlos Simon Vazquez, also attended the conference which was held at the Historic House of Independence, the site of the signing of Argentina’s Declaration of Independence 196 years ago.
Senator Negre de Alonso said the location was chosen precisely because of its historic significance. “Here we commit ourselves to continue defending the Constitution and rejecting any law that attacks life, such as the legalization of abortion and euthanasia,” she noted.
Senator–elect Silvia Elias de Perez said, “We are not only against abortion but also euthanasia. We are against any kind of unlimited technical means to assist in conception and against all proposed laws being debated in the country that go against the first right that should be preserved, the right to life.”
Lima, Peru, Sep 28, 2011 (CNA) - In an interview with the Kath.net news agency sent to CNA for publication, German Catholic reporter Peter Seewald said the recent papal trip to Germany was a victory for the humility and message of the Pope.
In the interview, Seewald, author of “Light of the World,” described the Pope’s visit as “a small miracle” because “shortly before there was a very aggressive, anti-clerical assault by the media.”
“All of this brings to mind George Orwell’s ‘1984,’ in which an imaginary enemy, a nightmare, is created in order to scare people.” “And yet,” Seewald noted, “despite all of this incredible effort by the media, an innumerable amount of people stood up and refused to be deceived.”
“They said the Germans would turn their backs on him and all kinds of other stupidities. There appears to be nothing more offensive in our times than being Catholic. As the magazine ‘Stern’ said, ‘The brief euphoria at the outset was followed by an irreparable distancing between the majority of Germans and their fellow countryman.’ It’s as if they were saying that everything would be wonderful and orderly in the world if the Vatican just ceased to exist.”
However, Seewald continued, “We were all witnesses to something much greater. Where were all the masses of critics and protesters? They never showed up. And yet 350,000 people made great sacrifices in order to personally listen to the Pope and to attend Mass with him. Millions watched on television. The Pope’s books are selling faster than ever … And undoubtedly never before has so much intelligence, wisdom and truth, so much of what is fundamental, been heard in Germany.”
According to Seewald, whose own conversion to Catholicism came after meeting then-Cardinal Ratzinger, “(t)hese words can no longer be ignored. They are the measure and the touchstone for the subsequent debates and the renewal of the Catholic Church in Germany.” The only “shadows” of the Pope’s trip to Germany were the massive attacks against him by the media, he said.
“We were often reminded of the people of Nazareth who did not want to listen to the Prophet from their own land. ‘He performs no miracles.’ That was the complaint of many in the media. They work like crazy in a state of antagonism against the Pope, they preach a new faith without values, and at the same time they air all these complaints that people are turning their backs on the Catholic Church. In reality, the percentage of those who leave (the Church) is much smaller than those who leave political parties, industries or associations, or even the protestant church,” Seewald said.
On the other hand, he continued, to see Benedict XVI “walk through the ferocious pack of media dogs without losing his composure for one second” was amazing.
“Indeed it was sad that many did not take advantage of this opportunity to express for once authentic Christian fraternity,” Seewald said. There is a part of Protestantism that still continues to see itself as an anti-papal faction. Before, the man in Rome was considered the anti-Christ. Today he is seen as anti-modern. Nevertheless, what is more significant is this: that after the encounter with the Pope, not only Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim representatives were extremely content, but also the president of the Evangelical Church in Germany, who after the meeting with Benedict XVI said, quote, ‘I am pleased.”
The Kath.net interviewer asked Seewald who the Pope was referring to when he said during the vigil with young people, “(D)amage to the Church comes not from her opponents but from uncommitted Christians.” Seewald replied, “Probably you and me. The Pope is an encourager and a builder of bridges, but he also warns us. Every Christian needs new impulses to keep from becoming stagnant in his development, in his journey, his witness and his Christian conduct.”
Later in the interview Seewald said the Pope came to Germany to draw attention to problems, because “he does not want a fictitious peace but rather one that is genuine. He is anything but someone who covers things up with nice words or tries to put make-up on the seriousness of the situation with massive events, contrary to what (Hans) Kung and his friends assert.”
Seewald also lamented that as a preamble to the youth meeting in Freiburg, local organizers gave young people the chance to vote on various topics such as women priests and homosexuality, leaving out any spiritual preparation for the event.
“Someone who does this does not understand how things are today,” he said. “It also displays a lack of perception of the seriousness of the situation. By doing such things, one becomes an ally of the opinion leaders who for decades have been using second or third-rate issues to lead the Church according to their whims and have basically caused a spiritual stagnation. Today things are so bad that many people know absolutely nothing about their faith. They know nothing about the Gospel and the Sacraments,” Seewald said.
Nevertheless, he added, “The Pope gave appropriate directions. The fate of the Church and of the faith, he clearly said, is determined in the context of the liturgy and the Eucharist. True change is only possible through the transformation of the heart.”
Put simply, the successor of Peter wants to lead us to the sources. And they do not belong to him or to the Vatican, but rather, out of them flows the ‘living water.’ And that a Church exists that protects and cares for these sources should make us feel happy and secure,” he said.
Ontario, Canada, Sep 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Joseph Maraachli, the terminally ill 20 month-old known affectionately as “Baby Joseph,” died peacefully at home with his family in Windsor, Ontario on Sept. 28.
“It seemed like a relaxing breath, like he was okay. It didn’t seem like he struggled,” Joseph's mother Sana told Canada's CBC News.
Baby Joseph, who suffered from a severe and fatal neurological disorder called Leigh Syndrome, was considered to be in a vegetative state by Canadian doctors, who recommended that he have his feeding and breathing tubes removed.
In March of this year, Joseph's parents Moe and Sana Maraachli had asked pro-life advocacy group Priests for Life for help after doctors at London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario refused to transfer the child to a facility that could perform a tracheotomy on him.
The hospital claimed that the procedure—which would allow for the baby to breath on his own—was reserved for patients who needed a breathing machine long term. Baby Joseph had been at the Ontario facility since October of last year. His sister, Zina, passed away from a similar condition years ago.
However, physicians at the Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, Mo., where Baby Joseph was transferred, successfully performed a tracheotomy on the infant enabling him to spend his last weeks at home.
Priests for Life raised the money to transfer Baby Joseph to the St. Louis hospital and paid for the procedure and subsequent medical tests.
“This young boy and his parents fulfilled a special mission from God,” Priests for Life said in a Sept. 28 statement.
“Amidst a Culture of Death where despair leads us to dispose of the vulnerable, they upheld a Culture of Life where hope leads us to welcome and care for the vulnerable.”
Bobby Schindler, the brother of Terri Schiavo and co-executive director of Terri's Life & Hope Network, also offered his condolences.
“It was a privilege and an inspiration for me to meet the Maraachli family and see their dedication to care for and love their precious boy, regardless of his disability,” Schindler said.
“All the parents wanted was to bring their baby home,” he added. “By their example, they showed the world what it means to love unconditionally. May we all learn from their example.”
A private funeral service is scheduled for the morning of Sept. 28. Baby Joseph will be buried beside his sister Zina at Greenlawn Memorial Gardens in Oldcastle, Ontario.
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 28, 2011 (CNA) - The members of Mexico's Supreme Court on Sept. 28 rejected a decision that would have legalized abortion in the country.
By a 7 to 4 margin, the judges struck down a proposal by Supreme Justice Fernando Franco, which declared that the states' legal shields against abortion were unconstitutional, and that abortion should be legal nationwide—up to the ninth month of pregnancy.
Debates over Justice Franco's motion started on Sept. 26 among the 11-member Supreme Court and ended on Wednesday at noon, when Supreme justice Jorge Pardo forcefully argued against the measure.
Before Justice Pardo's speech, five judges expressed support for Franco's draft, while only three were against.
Justice Pardo noted that article 7 of the Mexican constitution recognized protection of the unborn. He rejected the idea that the states' efforts to protect the life of the unborn were creating new rights.
The judge also made the case for the federal nature of the Mexican government, highlighting that the Mexican Constitution “protects the states in exercising their freedom to establish the starting point of the right to life.”
On April 2007, the Legislative Assembly of Mexico's capital made abortion legal until the 12th week of pregnancy. That same year the Supreme Court ruled that there was nothing in the Constitution that would prevent any Mexican state from legalizing abortion.
The decision sparked a legal effort among Mexico's 31 states to create legal shields to prevent abortion from being legalized.
By 2011, 18 Mexican states had approved amendments to their constitutions explicitly protecting the unborn from the moment of conception.
Vatican City, Sep 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic Association of Latino Leaders has become the first lay organization in the world to give the Vatican an official response to Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”
“The response provides a beautiful vision of how to practice your Catholic faith in the business world and how that world is supposed to be,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who is a founding member of the group.
Archbishop Gomez was in Rome as part of a delegation to present the Vatican with a 28-page book that outlines the Latino leaders' response to the Pope’s encyclical.
In “Caritas in Veritate,” translated as “Charity in Truth, Pope Benedict offers an ethical framework for new thinking on social and economic matters. Published in 2009, it made headlines worldwide as it was seen as a Vatican response to the global economic crisis.
“The idea of responding to a papal encyclical – as unusual as that may be – was actually born when we were here for meeting in the Vatican last year,” explained the association's president, Robert Aguirre, who was also in Rome for the handover.
Aguirre told CNA how the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson, told them during last year's trip that “encyclicals go out and yet we never hear back from lay people.”
“So we thought it would be a wonderful idea if we took up that responsibility and said here is how we as lay people must respond to the Holy Father’s words and teachings,” said Aguirre.
“So we actually put that into a book which, to me, is actually more like a prayer book than anything else, but we came here to present that text here in Rome.”
The visit by the delegation to Rome has met with some of the Vatican’s most senior departments and personnel over the past few days. At a private meeting with Cardinal Turkson late last week, the group gifted him with two presentation boxes containing their book – one for the cardinal, appropriately red in color, and another for the Pope. The papal book was appropriately white.
Cardinal Turkson told CNA that he found the idea to be “a very commendable venture, that a group of laymen have seriously taken up an encyclical of the Holy Father, read it themselves and then come up with an implementation version that can be applied in society.”
He said he would now like to see other lay groups follow the Catholic Latino association's example.
Established in 2007, the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders is an organization of lay people drawn from the worlds of business and the professions. Also joining their delegation in Rome was Jose Ambrozic, the Director of the St. Malo Retreat Center in Colorado, and Fr. Matthew Munoz, a priest from Orange County in California.
They told Vatican officials how the “Caritas in Veritate” response will now be studied in the local chapters throughout the U.S. They also hope it will help the Pope’s encyclical achieve a greater influence upon an economic system still struggling to emerge from financial crisis.
Jose Gonzales, a Wall Street businessman and member of the group's Roman delegation, said that in the process of writing their response they found that the encyclical “makes clear that in order to understand what this crisis means you have to think beyond the crisis – (beyond) merely its economic and financial implications – and towards its human implications.
Gonzales also said that “Caritas in Veritate” applies to “the way we have to rebuild this economic system which, without being overly dramatic, is more or less crumbling.”