Cairo, Egypt, Oct 18, 2011 (CNA) - Egypt's Coptic Catholic Patriarch Antonios Naguib has encouraged his flock to “persevere in hardship” and “keep praying,” after the violence and deaths that plagued a recent Christian protest.
“With wounded hearts, we join all the sincere forces of our nation, responsible for the present and the future of our beloved country, to express our deep sorrow for the bloody events, suffered by honest and sincere children of the nation,” the Eastern Catholic leader said in a statement on the Oct. 9 riots.
“They wanted to contribute to the country's democratic process, with peaceful demonstrations, like hundreds of other citizen groups,” the patriarch recalled. “Unfortunately, it ended with the violent death of around 25 people, the majority of whom were Copts, and 329 injured.”
Patriarch Naguib recalled the advice of Saint Paul, who told the persecuted Roman Church of the first century: “Never pay back evil with evil, but bear in mind the ideals that all regard with respect. As much as possible, and to the utmost of your ability, be in peace with everyone … Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.”
He said the Egyptian Church was looking to this message for direction, “at this time in which it is difficult to have a clear vision for the present and the future.”
Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, which follows similar traditions but is not in communion with Rome, declared three days of fasting and mourning after the violence, which was the worst seen in Egypt since former president Hosni Mubarak left office.
It began after an estimated 10,000 Coptic Christians marched to Cairo demanding legal protection against violence and discrimination. The group encountered violent opposition from thugs on the way, and witnesses said soldiers later fired indiscriminately on the crowds and ran over Copts with their vehicles.
Army leaders responded to international criticism by claiming the vehicular deaths were unintentional, a result of frightened soldiers attempting to flee. They pointed to instances of alleged violence by some protesters, who were accused of throwing rocks and bottles at soldiers and attacking their armored personnel carriers.
The Coptic Catholic patriarch said he was united in prayer and fasting with the Coptic Orthodox leader Pope Shenouda III and his faithful, “so that God may give his peace to our dear country.”
Patriarch Naguib said Egypt's interim military government must “take the necessary steps and firm measures to provide security and safety, establish clear and stable solutions to the problems that cause tension and conflict, uphold the law's supremacy in dealing with conflicts and crimes, and ensure the objectivity of the media.”
He also stressed the Coptic minority's duty to remain engaged in public life during a time of change. Civic action, he said, is “a sacred duty, which it is not allowed to abdicate.”
The patriarch hopes Christian participation in Egyptian politics will establish “a modern democratic State, based on the law, full citizenship, equality, justice, and the guarantee of freedoms.”
Egypt’s first elections since the fall of Mubarak were first set to take place in September but the military rulers have postponed them to late November.
“May the almighty and loving God help us, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” he prayed, “for his glory and the good of the whole country.”
San Diego, Calif., Oct 18, 2011 (CNA) - A federal appeals court will not review a ruling that the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial cross is unconstitutional, but supporters of the landmark say they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Jan. 4 that the 29-foot cross, located in a San Diego public park near the suburb of La Jolla, conveyed the message of state-endorsed religion
Supporters of the cross and the U.S. Department of Justice requested a review by a larger panel of the court, but a majority of active judges did not vote for a rehearing on Oct. 14.
The cross was dedicated in 1954 to honor veterans of the Korean War. It consists of six concentric walls with plaques honoring more than 2,800 veterans, brick steps, and a cross.
The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association, which oversees the memorial, filed the lawsuit. It was represented by the Plano, Texas-based Liberty Institute.
“Although we are disappointed that the Ninth Circuit denied requests to have the full court rehear this case, we are encouraged that five of the judges agree with us and believe the cross should stay,” said Liberty Institute president Kelly Shackelford, Esq. “With this encouragement and the recent ruling in favor of the Mojave Veterans Memorial, we plan to appeal to The Supreme Court.”
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Bruce S. Bailey, president of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association, defended the cross’ presence.
“People want this veterans memorial to remain as it is, from the thousands who visit it each month to honor our nation's veterans, to the 76 percent of San Diegans who voted to give it to the Federal Government as a national veterans' memorial,” he said.
“The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association is committed to preserving this veterans memorial so that future generations will also know the cost of freedom.”
The cross has been a target for litigation for 22 years. The Jewish War Veterans, the American Civil Liberties Union and others have challenged the cross’ presence on federal land on the grounds that it violates the principle of separation of church and state.
“We don’t think the government should be in the business of religion,” David Blair-Loy, legal director for the ACLU in San Diego, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
In a 2005 vote, San Diego residents overwhelmingly approved a measure to preserve the cross by donating the land on which it sits to the federal government.
In 2006, Congress passed a law authorizing the seizure of the land for use as a war memorial. The land is presently under the control of the Department of Defense.
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 18, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Renato Ascencio Leon of Juarez, Mexico has rejected Republican candidate Herman Cain’s suggestion to build an electric fence along the U.S. – Mexico border to stop illegal immigration.
“(Cain) has no right to put up barriers that prevent communication between the inhabitants of both countries,” the bishop said during Mass on Oct. 16 at the Cathedral of Juarez.
Bishop Ascencio is a member of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People.
“If the intention is that the undocumented not be allowed to enter the United States, then they should preach by example and not allow Americans to come to Mexico without the proper documentation,” he added.
Mexican lawmakers should understand “that it is just as much a crime for them to enter the United States illegally as it is for (migrants) to enter our nation illegally,” Bishop Ascencio added.
Vatican City, Oct 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Following a review of Regnum Christi, the lay movement affiliated with the Legionaries of Christ, changes will be made in the way its consecrated lay men and women are overseen.
“It will be necessary to find an adequate configuration that corresponds to Canon Law, in order to better conserve, promote and develop this treasure,” said Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the Pontifical Delegate to the Legion, in a letter published Oct. 17.
Cardinal De Paolis was appointed last year to review the purpose and structure of the entire Legion after a previous Vatican investigation condemned the life of its late founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel.
In turn, Cardinal De Paolis charged Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez of Vallodolid, Spain with carrying out an investigation into the life of consecrated lay people in Regnum Christi.
A consecrated lay person is somebody who, while not in holy orders, has committed to a life of apostolic poverty, chastity and obedience.
Between January and June 2011 Archbishop Blázquez met with many such members in a number of countries and also received evidence in writing.
Cardinal De Paolis said that the archbishop’s review had found that “at a personal level the consecrated members are grateful for their vocation” and live it “according to the evangelical counsels with joy,” rendering “a valuable service to the Church with their self-giving.”
However, he also said there “issues regarding personal and community life” in Regnum Christi that are “many and challenging.”
He explained how the review revealed a “widespread desire among the consecrated persons for a proper autonomy,” which “consecrated persons should enjoy,” within the Church.
While Archbishop Blázquez was not asked to provide concrete proposals on how to achieve this, Cardinal De Paolis said any reforms should certainly “involve responsibility on the part of the consecrated women and men in the organization and governance of their personal, community and apostolic lives.”
A key concern of his also seems to revolve around how the life of consecrated members of Regnum Christi corresponds to canon law, the internal code that governs life within the Catholic Church.
In his letter to the lay branch, he reminds the consecrated members of Regnum Christi of their rights under Canon 630. That is the canon that gives them the freedom to choose their own confessor and spiritual director. It also permits them not to open their conscience to their superiors if they do not want to.
To this end, Cardinal De Paolis calls upon directors in Regnum Christi to “diligently provide” sufficient numbers of confessors to their members and specifies that “among these there always be priests who do not belong to the Legion of Christ.”
He concluded by asking that any suggestions on how to reform consecrated life in Regnum Christi be sent to him so that that through a “path of personal and community reflection in an environment of prayer, dialogue, and respect,” he can help “bring to completion the beautiful reality of consecrated life in Regnum Christi in the Church.”
Rome, Italy, Oct 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The director of the Vatican press office, Father Federico Lombardi, denounced the violence that characterized the recent Occupy Wall Street-inspired protests in Rome. During the event, a large crucifix and a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes were destroyed.
“The violence that took place yesterday in Rome is unacceptable and unjustifiable,” Fr. Lombardi said on Oct. 16. “We condemn all violence, as well as violence against religious symbols.”
Organizers planned to march from a square near the city's central train station, past the Coliseum to the Basilica of St. John Lateran. However, shortly into the protest, groups of young people began looting stores, setting cars on fire and clashing with police.
The weekend protests were meant to coincide with similar demonstrations in Barcelona, New York and Sydney in solidarity with the “indignado” movement in Spain and the Occupy Wall Street protests in the U.S.
Protestors in Rome destroyed a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and a large cross at the Parish of Sts. Marcelino and Peter.
On Oct. 18 the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano published a statement by the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco. “We cannot help but express our total rejection of the violence organized by criminals who disturbed the many who attempted to peacefully express their concerns,” he said.
The Pope’s vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, added, “(t)he gratuitous violence that has profaned sacred images, the attacks on persons and the destruction of property cannot be justified in any way.”
“Rome, a hospitable city that each day welcomes thousands of pilgrims and tourists, has now been wounded.”
During his homily at the Cathedral of Milan on Sunday, Cardinal Angelo Scola said, “The destructions of the statue of Mary and the profanation of the crucifix deeply offend us. But besides offending us, the episode … fills us with great sorrow because it is an expression of grave violence to common sense.”
He urged Romans to respond to the violence with peace and justice.
Washington D.C., Oct 18, 2011 (CNA) - A new memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, D.C. is drawing the attention of those who say that it disregards the civil rights leader’s deep faith in God. But his niece hopes that those who see the monument will be drawn to study his life and thus learn about his faith.
“Not to include any mention of 'God' in the quotes at the memorial is a betrayal of the life, legacy and teachings embraced and lived by Dr. King,” said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, D.C.
“I think he would have been stunned and disappointed to see this oversight.”
The memorial is located along the National Mall, in West Potomac Park between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.
Fourteen quotations from Dr. King’s writings and speeches are engraved into the memorial walls but none mention God or religion.
In an Oct. 16 statement, Rev. Mahoney explained said he recently visited the memorial for the first time.
“As I walked around the memorial, I was stunned and shocked to see that the mention of 'God' was not included in any of the quotes from Dr. King on the granite wall surrounding his sculpture,” he said.
“Dr. King was an ordained Christian minister and pastor who made faith in God and the teachings of Christ the central part of his life and message,” Rev. Mahoney said. “The heart of the civil rights movement was rooted in the church and drew its strength from the timeless truths proclaimed by God.”
“How is it possible to have a memorial dedicated to a Christian minister, who based his entire message on faith in God and the teachings of Christ and whose movement was founded in the church, and not include even one mention of God?”
The quotations were selected by a twelve-member “Council of Historians” that included author and poet Dr. Maya Angelou; executive editor of Ebony Magazine, Mr. Lerone Bennett, Jr.; and chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, Dr. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham.
According to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation’s website, the quotations were intended to “reflect King’s ideals of hope, democracy, and love, the three main themes of the memorial.”
Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. and director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life, said that she does not believe references to God were “deliberately” excluded in an attempt to be politically correct.
“I believe it was their effort to be global and universal,” she told CNA on Oct. 16.
King said she did not think her uncle would be disappointed that the inscriptions did not include excerpts from any of his “many wonderful sermons.”
“Martin himself would not have desired a monument at all,” she said.
But if her uncle were alive, Alveda thought he would say, “Just remember that I served the Lord. Just remember that I loved Jesus Christ.”
“Of course he said many, many times that God is the center of the universe and the center of his life and the center of his joy,” she said.
Alveda believes that when people visit the monument and see “little snippets” of his works, they will “want to know more about the man, his legacy and his message.”
When they look further, they will discover his faith and love of God, she suggested.
If people go looking for Martin Luther King’s full message at his memorial, they will not be able to find it, she said. Rather, if they look at the “hearts of those of us who love the Lord,” they will find it there.
Vatican City, Oct 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Oct. 27 gathering of religious leaders in Assisi to discuss global peace will include four leading atheists, but will not include any common prayer.
“The emphasis is on the pilgrimage not on praying together,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, at a Vatican press conference Oct. 18.
“It is an exercise of dialogue, and dialogue always respects the specific identity of the people, of individuals.”
The October 27 event in Assisi is entitled “Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace” and is being held to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first World Day for Peace, begun by Pope John Paul II in 1986.
“The world today, as it did 25 years ago, needs peace,” said Cardinal Turkson adding that “following two and a half decades of collaboration and joint witness among religions it is time to assess the results and to re-launch our commitment in the face of new challenges.”
Today’s press conference confirmed that the only public prayer to mark the summit will be specifically Catholic in nature and will be led by Pope Benedict in St. Peter’s Square the evening before.
“The real prayer will be here at St. Peter’s on the vigil when the Holy Father is with the Catholic faithful,” said Cardinal Turkson.
The next day over 300 delegates from 50 countries will set off from the Vatican station on a specially charted train heading for the small Umbrian hill-town from where St. Francis hailed.
Upon arrival they will gather at the basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels where delegates will discuss the legacy of previous meetings as well as present challenges. They will also be addressed by Pope Benedict.
A “frugal lunch” will follow, after which each delegate will be assigned a room in a nearby Franciscan hostel where - if they so wish - they can observe a period of silence, prayer or reflection.
Later in the day, the group will make its way to the tomb of St. Francis, where they will renew their commitment to world peace.
Significantly, amongst the 176 delegates from non Judeo-Christian religions, there will be 50 Muslims—nearly five times as many as were present in 1986.
The Dalai Lama, however, will not be able to attend “due to a prior commitment,” said Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
From the Christian world there will be 31 delegations. Included in that number will be important church leaders such as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, as well as key figures from other ecclesial communions such as Archbishop Rowan Williams, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
One delegation that will attend for the first time will be a group of atheists, including the Austrian economist Walter Baier and three philosophers - Bodei Remo from Italy, Julia Kristeva from France and Mexico’s Guillermo Hurtado.
“This innovative idea of the Holy Father’s,” said Monsignor Andrea Palmieri of the Pontifical Council for Culture, “is based on the conviction that men and women, both believers and non-believers, are always searching for God, for the Absolute, and that they are, therefore, all pilgrims traveling towards the fullness of truth.”
One late withdrawal, though, is the English philosopher and arch-critic of Catholicism, Anthony Grayling.
“I thought it was originally to have a discussion with the Pope about the place of religion in society,” he told the Catholic Herald Oct. 18. But then “it turned out it was a minor event and what they wanted was these guests to accompany the Pope on a pilgrimage. So I decided to withdraw.”
Washington D.C., Oct 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is pressing the Obama administration to protect the rights of religious minorities in Egypt and around the world.
“On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I want to express our deep concern that a pattern of violence against minorities, especially Christians, has emerged and a culture of impunity has allowed that violence to grow and spread,” said Archbishop Dolan in an Oct. 14 letter to President Barack Obama.
The letter follows an Oct. 9 attack on Coptic Christians in Cairo. The crackdown by the military left over 20 dead and close to 300 injured.
Following the outbreak of violence, the White House issued an Oct. 10 statement urging “restraint on all sides” and insisting that “all people have the universal rights of peaceful protest and religious freedom.”
Archbishop Dolan thanked the White House for its statement and called the escalation in violence “a horrific reminder of the vulnerability faced by many minorities in Egypt.”
He pointed out that the Copts who were killed during the Oct. 9 demonstration were protesting the burning of a church near Aswan in late September and the “lack of government protection for religious minorities.”
“Certainly the bombing of a Coptic Church on New Year’s Day and subsequent attacks against other Christian churches are testament to a break down in the rule of law,” he said.
The archbishop emphasized that much work remains before peace and stability returns to the region and said that protecting religious minorities is an essential part of that effort.
Archbishop Dolan asked that the U.S. government “continue to urge and insist that the Egyptian government take immediate and effective steps to promote religious tolerance within Egyptian society and to protect the human rights of all minorities, especially Christians.”
He hoped that the Obama administration would show “continued attention to this urgent and important matter.”
The U.S. government sends over $2 billion in aid money to Egypt every year.