Rome, Italy, Oct 10, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Zenit news service’s six editors resigned their positions Oct. 7, citing their disagreement with the Legionaries of Christ’s plans to increase the outlet's ties to the order.
In a statement signed by the six editors, and addressed to Zenit readers, the editors state, "After years of fruitful collaboration with the Legionaries of Christ, we disagree with the decision of the congregation to underline the institutional dependence of the agency on the Legion.
"The initial vision of ZENIT was never to make it a service of a particular congregation, but rather of the universal Church. This has been the spirit with which we have worked throughout the years, and the spirit we could not betray."
"We warmly thank all our readers for their loyalty and support throughout the years, and we hope to be able to continue to work for the Church and for all those who seek the truth, in another manner, but always with the same spirit," they said.
Gisèle Plantec (French), Mirko Testa (Italian), Inma Álvarez (Spanish), Karna Swanson (English), Alexandre Ribeiro (Portuguese) and Tony Assaf (Arabic) have all informed the CEO of Zenit, Alberto Ramírez Puig, of their departure. The position of editor in German is vacant.
Zenit is a news service promoted by the Legionaries of Christ, which has expressed its desire to change the identity of Zenit from an independent news agency at the service of the Church to one with a more institutional dependence on the congregation.
In 1997, Jesús Colina founded Zenit and asked the Legionaries of Christ to act as spiritual advisors to ensure fidelity to the magisterium. For the past 14 years, the agency has worked independently of the congregation.
Colina was informed earlier this year that the Legionaries wanted to change the identity of the agency, and asked for his resignation, which he tendered Sept. 27.
At the time, he cited a lack of mutual trust and transparency between himself and the Legion, in both editorial and financial matters, and a fundamental disagreement with the future direction of Zenit.
Zenit publishes in seven languages and sends its daily service to some 450,000 subscribers.
Quito, Ecuador, Oct 10, 2011 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Ecuador expressed its sadness over the situation facing evangelical pastor Yousef Nadarkhani in Iran, who converted from Islam and has been sentenced to death.
In a statement issued Oct. 7, the Ecuadoran bishops joined with dozens of institutions, countries and world figures calling for the reversal of the pastor’s sentence. Nadarkhani was arrested and imprisoned in 2009 over charges of “apostasy.”
Despite assurances from his lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah—who claims that the sentence is unconstitutional and that he will likely be spared—some fear Iranian officials will execute Nadarkhani to keep others from following his example.
The bishops of Ecuador sent a message to the Iranian ambassador to their country, Majid Salehi, expressing their sorrow “over the unjust treatment that this Evangelical brother pastor is receiving.”
They added that his “freedom to approach God is being constrained through totally unacceptable coercion by public officials in a way so radical that it borders on martyrdom.”
The bishops also emphasized that every citizen has the right to religious freedom as established by Iranian law. They then reminded the Iranian ambassador that Islam also should contribute “to the observance of human rights and to the establishing of peace.”
Lima, Peru, Oct 10, 2011 (CNA) - Despite a Peruvian official denying her support for abortion, pro-life critics have reacted strongly to her endorsing pro-abortion individuals and policies during her tenure in office.
The Population Research Institute’s Office for Latin America denounced Peru’s Minister for Women’s Affairs, Aida Garcia-Naranjo, for becoming one of the most vocal advocates of abortion on demand in the country and for allowing abortion supporters to work in her office.
Abortion is illegal in Peru, except if a doctor determines that the life of the mother is in danger. In practice, physicians do not frequently find the mother’s life to be threatened by her child.
Sergio Burga, a researcher for the institute, told CNA that a meeting between various representatives of organizations that promote the legalization abortion in Peru took place on Sept. 2 at the offices of the Ministry for Women’s Affairs.
The research institute claims several prominent abortion supporters now hold positions at the ministry.
Burga said that despite Garcia-Naranjo’s denials that she supports abortion or that she is currently pursuing policies that would legalize the procedure, “what we see is the complete opposite.”
“The Ministry for Women’s Affairs is being used and its resources are being directed towards lobby groups that are not focused on the interests of the majority,” he said.
He also noted that many of the leaders who were present at the Sept. 2 meeting were the same ones who spoke at a Sept. 28 outside the Peruvian Congress in support of the legalization of abortion.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 10, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - Spanish author Jesus Garcia said that although women in modern society can aspire to any number of careers, being a nun is considered “taboo,” even in some Christian families.
“Not a single girl who says she wants to be a nun is told, 'what a great nun you are going to be, that’s great, that’s your future,'” Garcia said.
His recent book, “What’s a Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?” (Libro Libres), features a collection of individual testimonies from women who have chosen the convent over a career and marriage.
In an Oct. 6 interview with Europa Press, Garcia said the decision to be a nun is met with rejection while other women “morally strip themselves” at their jobs “to the applause of everyone.”
Garcia said that people view a woman's decision to become a nun as a “contradiction,” since she “is denying herself the chance to have children, and this is incomprehensible to many.”
“Society has advanced greatly with respect to women’s choices, their independence, … and yet we react in horror when our daughters or the daughters of our friends say they want to be a nun,” Garcia said.
He noted that the women he interviewed for his book where all “adults who freely made their choice.”
“They aren’t crazy or stupid. Something happened. Find out what it was. They have an answer,” he said.
Garcia said he wanted to write the book because women’s religious life is something “very unknown” within the Church, compared with religious life for men, who have greater visibility.
“A nun becomes a nun out of love, enormous love. Each one is a witness of immense love. Without that love, what they do makes no sense,” he observed. “It’s the love of God that overwhelms everything, destroys their plans for the future, for having a family, a career, and yet it makes them very happy.”
In fact, their “overflowing joy and happiness” is what caught Garcia's attention the most.
“To me, an authentic nun is a testimony that God exists, because apart from the existence of God, this would be incomprehensible,” he said. “They could not be joyful and they would be frustrated.”
Jesus Garcia has already sold 10,000 copies of his book, which he credits to his inclusion of Sister Teresita's story—a Spanish nun who holds the record for the most number of years in the cloister.
Sr. Teresita, of the Monastery of the Buena Fuente in Sistal, met with Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Spain for World Youth Day and gave him a copy of Garcia’s book. The author later met with her to ask her about her impressions of the meeting and to thank her for giving the book to the Pope.
He said Sister Teresita apologized to him because before meeting with the pontiff, she was “very nervous” and thought that Garcia had gotten her into a “mess.”
“I said to myself: Jesus forgive me, because I was mad at you because of the mess you got me in to, but now I am very happy, very content, and this is has been a great gift for me,” the nun told him.
A few weeks later, on September 16, Sister Teresita turned 104, and employees from the book’s publisher came to celebrate with her. According to Garcia, she told them that her meeting with the Pope was “a gift from the Virgin Mary at the end of her life.”
Garcia said the experience taught him that “even at 104 years old, having seen everything that can be seen in life, you can still dream and dream big.”
He said that he has encountered nuns in the convent who are like every other person and who have their “virtues and their defects.”
Ultimately, the world needs to know about these women, Garcia remarked. What they do is something that is “greatly needed,” he added, convinced that “the world is being sustained by the prayers of these cloistered nuns.”
Garcia said he doesn't buy into the idea that there is a crisis of vocations, saying attention needs to be paid not to the “quantity” of vocations but to their “quality.”
Nuns today have a very different life than they did in the past, he pointed out.
“Today’s world offers you nothing for being a nun,” he said. He noted that while there are “less nuns today than there were 30 years ago, there are more novices now than before.”
Garcia went on to say that in this sense, World Youth Day has always been a boon for vocations because the Church has a kind of “visibility that she doesn’t have at other times of the year or in history.”
He said the greatest satisfaction he has received from this book has been the help it is giving to the parents and families of nuns who were not able to understand why their daughters went to the convent in the prime of their lives.
Through these interviews, he said, they have found out that what happened to their daughters “was true and not a whim or the result of brainwashing but rather an experience of real love.”
Cairo, Egypt, Oct 10, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church has declared three days of fasting and mourning after a demonstration turned violent and led to at least 24 deaths. The church says anti-Christian infiltrators are responsible.
“The Christian faith denounces violence,” the church said in an Oct. 10 statement issued one day after a demonstration for Christian rights gave way to violence between civilians and the army, leaving 272 injured. “Strangers infiltrated the demonstration and committed the crimes for which Copts are being blamed.”
In its official response, the Coptic Orthodox Church urged authorities to “solve the root causes of the problems” between Christians, Muslims, and police. The church noted that Egypt's Christian minority has “suffered repeated problems while the aggressors have gone unpunished.”
Sunday's demonstration drew an estimated 10,000 Christians to Cairo for what was meant to be a peaceful protest against a recent church burning in the southern city of Aswan. Coptic Christians, who make up a tenth of Egypt's population, marched to demand more protection and rights from the transitional military government.
By Sunday night, however, Cairo was the scene of the worst violence since former president Hosni Mubarak left office. Video footage posted online showed army vehicles running over protesters, while witnesses accused riot police of firing into the crowds and working alongside anti-Christian mobs that were shouting Islamist slogans.
Meanwhile, participants in the demonstration were accused of throwing rocks and bottles at police. Protesters, who say they were unarmed, allegedly managed to seize weapons from some members of the army, who eventually used tear gas to disperse them.
Mary Nour, a Coptic protester who spoke to Egypt's Ahram Online, said the army “is treating us the way Mubarak treated protesters during the revolution.” Protesters on Sunday voiced outrage against Field Marshall Mohamed Tantawi, head of the interim military council that replaced the ousted president, as they substituted his name into chants used in the original anti-Mubarak protests.
Sarah Carr, a Cairo-based blogger and journalist, provided a “firsthand account” to the Egyptian publication Al-Masry Al-Youm, saying she saw “two armored personnel carriers … driving at frightening speed through protesters, who threw themselves out of its path. A soldier on top of each vehicle manned a gun, and spun it wildly, apparently shooting at random.”
In a nearby Coptic hospital, Carr said she found the floors “sticky with blood … there was barely room to move among the wounded.” The Coptic Orthodox Church says Christians account for at least 17 of the 24 people confirmed dead.
The army has so far declined to say what proportion of the hundreds wounded were civilians, though it has called for a fact-finding committee to look into Sunday's violence. Interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said the events were “not clashes between Muslims and Christians but attempts to provoke chaos.”
A White House statement urged “restraint on all sides” for the sake of forging “a strong and united Egypt.” The U.S. government said Coptic rights “must be respected,” especially the “universal rights of peaceful protest and religious freedom.”
But Father Rafic Greiche, a spokesman for Eastern Catholics in Egypt, warned that life was getting worse for Egypt's Christian minority.
He told Vatican Radio on Oct. 10 that the government was “not controlling” anti-Christian elements – a change for the worse from the era of Mubarak, who was known for restricting Christian activities but also sought to keep radical Muslim groups down.
“At the time of the old regime of Mubarak, there were also churches being burned … and it was the security who always used to take care of us,” said Fr. Greiche.
Now, the priest said, “even the government goes not give a damn about what is happening” to Copts in Aswan and elsewhere.
“First, the government in Aswan has to leave,” Fr. Greiche responded when asked what Christian
protesters expected from the state.
He also said a proposed law to liberalize building rights for Christians and other groups “has to be implemented. It was promised from this government four months ago, and it was not done.”
The Catholic spokesman says Christians also want a law to stop the religious discrimination they face in many areas of life. “We ask that this law be implemented for at least ten years, until the society gets used not to discriminating (against) one another,” he stated.
In an interview with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Fr. Greiche accused Aswan's governor of complicity with Islamic radicals, saying the official “gave the green light for the fundamentalists to burn the church.”
He accused the army of abusing its power to dispel Sunday's demonstration, saying state security forces “used vagabonds, a rabble force of street fighters,” to attack what had been a “peaceful demonstration.”
Fr. Greiche also warned that the Islamic extremists Mubarak once held back had “developed a very loud voice,” while the new interim government “leaves them to do whatever they want.”
Their ultimate goal, the priest said, was to enact Islamic law throughout Egypt and force Christians to flee the country.