Aurora, Colo., Jul 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The pastor of an Aurora parish mourning the death of one of their own in a July 20 mass shooting, reassured parishioners of the hope they can find in Christ – even in the darkest times.
“The sun rises in the east,” said Father Terry Kissell of St. Michael the Archangel Parish during Mass July 22, referencing Aurora’s location east of Denver.
“Though there is darkness and confusion and pain, we can’t forget that there will come a new day, a new dawn when there will be no more suffering, no more tears and no more sadness.”
Parishioner Alex Sullivan, 27, was one of twelve victims killed inside a nearby movie theater last Thursday during the midnight premiere of the newest Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Sullivan was confirmed as an adult last year at St. Michael's. He was also married last year and would have celebrated his one-year anniversary July 22.
Parishioner Jimmy Piralla went through the RCIA program with Sullivan last year and was visibly shaken by the news of his death.
“It really makes you appreciate your family members and your loved ones,” Piralla said.
He said his friend’s death also makes him appreciate the choice he made to become Catholic.
“It just affirms to me that Christ was calling Alex, because he was confirmed last year,” Piralla said. “It makes me even more sure that the choices I’ve made to become Catholic were the right decisions.”
At a July 22 Mass for youth at Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora, Deacon John Thunblom encouraged parishioners to forgive the gunman.
“Don’t harbor hatred in your heart,” he said. “A very terrible thing has happened. We will overcome it. We will do it with prayer…with love…with kindness.”
Pastor of the parish Father Martin Lally also told parishioners gathered at the 5 p.m. Mass that prayer will heal those struggling, especially the family of parishioner Alexander Jonathan (A.J.) Boik, 18, who was killed in the movie theater.
“We just have to believe in the power of prayer individually and collectively,” Fr. Lally said. “We don’t have to deal with this alone…we can really lean on one another and take comfort and strength from one another.”
Parishioner Charly Butterworth, 16, said she came to the youth Mass to find strength and support while trying to cope with the massacre she personally witnessed.
Butterworth said she was sitting in the fourth row of Theater 9 with her brother and her friend when the gunman “came in from behind the screen.” She said she thought it was a special effect for the midnight showing.
“Then I saw him throw something that was on fire,” she said, citing a tear gas canister the gunman threw into the crowd before shooting at random.
Although Butterworth, her brother and friend were able to escape unscathed, she says she suffers from nightmares and has found it difficult to get a handle on her experience.
“That’s why I came to church today,” she said. “I needed to go to church to see my friends and go to Mass.”
After the Mass, Fr. Lally embraced Butterworth and asked her how she was doing.
“There are no rules for responding or reacting or dealing with these kinds of situations,” Fr. Lally said during the Mass. “Don’t feel like you have to deal with (your emotions) alone. We are here for you.”
Havana, Cuba, Jul 23, 2012 (CNA/Europa Press) -
Cuban dissident leader Oswaldo Paya, died on July 22 in an apparent traffic accident in the southeastern province of Granma.
The accident occurred at around 2 p.m. local time when the 60-year-old Paya and three companions were driving from Havana to the city of Bayamo.
Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuban Commisssion on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the dissent leader’s brother, Carlos Paya, who lives in Madrid, and the secretary of the bishop of Bayamo, Msgr. Carlos Amador, all confirmed the news to Europa Press.
Some, however, including the dissident's daughter, Rosa Maria Paya, suspect foul play.
“There was a car that was trying to force them off the highway and was bumping into them the entire time,” she told CNN Español.
“So we think this was not an accident. They wanted to hurt him and they ended up killing my father.”
She was informed of the accident by Cuban police but was provided details about the crash from two of the companions who survived.
Carlos Paya told CNN Español that for “twenty years we thought something like this could happen,” adding that his brother was constantly persecuted by the police.
“Oswaldo Paya is a peaceful dissident, nominated six times for the Nobel Peace Prize, but above all he is a great human begin, one of the kindest persons in the world. Someone devoted in body and soul to seeking peace and reconciliation between Cubans.”
Paya’s family has traveled to Bayamo to identify his remains. Cuban dissident Harold Cepera also died in the accident.
Oswaldo Paya was the most prominent leader of the Cuban dissidence and was the drive behind the Varela Project, which calls for a peaceful transition to democracy and freedom in Cuba.
In 2002, the Cuban parliament rejected his proposal, which then President Fidel Castro dubbed a conspiracy by the United States to overthrow his government.
In October of that same year, the European Parliament bestowed the Andrei Sakharov Award for Human Rights and Freedom of Thought on Paya for his peaceful struggle for democracy.
Paya, who was the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, was sent to a Communist work camp during the 1960s.
On March 12, 2012, days before Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to Cuba, Oswaldo Paya granted an extensive interview to CNA.
He criticized the lack of rights and the captivity in which the country of Cuba has lived under the Communist regime of Fidel and Raul Castro.
However, he noted, there “can be no conditions on what the Pope has to say” when he arrives on the island.
“I am not going to put words in the Pope’s mouth. Our attitude is one of listening, and I think that the changes in Cuba are the responsibility of us Cubans, and it is not just or healthy to expect that the Pope and his message is going to be what brings about political changes in Cuba. But we can expect a message of hope,” Paya said.
Aurora, Colo., Jul 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop James D. Conley of Denver delivered the invocation at a non-denominational Sunday evening vigil for the victims of the Aurora theater shooting, telling attendees to ask God for hope amid the “darkness” of the crime.
“All of us in this local community were affected by what happened here on Friday – and we will never be the same,” he said July 22.
Bishop Conley, the auxiliary bishop of the Denver archdiocese, encouraged the crowd to remember that human lives are “precious in God’s sight.”
“Let us glorify God in our love for one another. Let us glorify God by responding to all violence with peace and to all evil with love,” he said in his introductory remarks.
The vigil drew thousands of people to the Aurora Municipal Center who mourned the 12 killed in the shooting early July 20. Another 58 people were wounded in the attack and the resulting chaos.
Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan spoke at the event, as did several religious leaders, the Denver Post reports.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper read each of the names of those who died.
The crowd responded to each name by shouting “We will remember.”
Bishop Conley prayed:
“You respond to evil, O Lord, with love. In your boundless love, you have conquered sin and death. Your victory over death is our hope – for we know that we do not live in a lasting city.”
He asked God to “help us to build a community of peace” and prayed for the conversion of the perpetrator of the shootings.
“You are our hope Lord,” he continued. “We look to your Resurrection as a sure sign that death does not defeat us – that death is not the end. Instead, we pray that each of us may join in the victory of your Resurrection.”
Bishop Conley encouraged vigil attendees to “trust God without doubt” and turn to him with their fears.
“Let us ask him for the hope we need to see in the midst of this darkness – and a new day dawning here in our community,” he said.
He invoked Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
He encouraged the crowd to mourn the dead and grieve with their loved ones, asking them to find consolation in God’s “abundant love.”
Santiago, Chile, Jul 23, 2012 (CNA) -
Bishop Jose Luis Azuaje of El Vigia-San Carlos in Venezuela has been elected the new president of Caritas Latin America and the Caribbean, in place of Bishop Fernando Bargallo.
Bishop Azuaje’s term began on July 16 and will end in 2015 at the World Assembly of Caritas International.
He has replaced Argentinean Bishop Fernando Bargallo, who stepped down after the publication of controversial photos of him shown with a woman on a beach in Mexico.
The regional coordinator of Caritas Latin America and the Caribbean, Father Francisco Hernandez, thanked Bishop Bargallo for his work with the agency. Bishops from other branches of Caritas in the region also expressed their gratitude to him.
Bishop Azuaje was born on December 6, 1957, in Valera, Venezuela. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Trujillo on May 5, 1984, at the age of 26.
He was named Auxiliary Bishop of Barquisimeto on March 18, 1999. On July 15, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI named him Bishop of El Vigia-San Carlos.
Vatican City, Jul 23, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican is denying newspaper claims that three officials close to Pope Benedict XVI were found complicit in the recent leaking of sensitive papal information to the media.
“The Secretariat of State expresses its firm and total disapproval of those publications, which are not based on objective criteria and seriously damage the honor of the people concerned, who have served the Holy Father faithfully for many years,” said a statement issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State on July 23.
The allegations were printed in the July 23 edition of the Italian daily newspaper “La Repubblica” after they appeared in the online edition of German newspaper “Die Welt” last week.
Both articles claimed that the role of three senior Vatican officials in the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal was uncovered by an investigative Commission of Cardinals, led by the Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz.
“Being called before a commission in the course of its investigations in no way means that a person is a suspect,” Father Federico Lombardi said on Vatican Radio July 23.
“It is evident that the three people mentioned in the article may have been called to appear, but this says nothing about their being suspected of shared responsibility or ‘complicity.’”
Both Fr. Lombardi and the Vatican Information Service subsequently publicly confirmed the names of the three officials in question.
They are Italian Cardinal Paolo Sardi, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, German Bishop Josef Clemens, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and a German laywoman, Ingrid Stampa, who is Pope Benedict’s private secretary and housekeeper.
Fr. Lombardi suggested that original article in “Die Welt” was ignored in the rest of the German media because it contained inaccuracies and accusations that were without any proof.
The report from the Commission of Cardinals was presented to Pope Benedict XVI in his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo late last week.
“The fact that the results of the investigations have not yet been made known by the authorities concerned, in no way legitimizes the publication of unfounded and false interpretations and theories. It is not this kind of information that the public has the right to know,” the July 23 Secretariat of State statement concluded.
Meanwhile, the only person charged so far as part of the “Vatileaks” investigation has been granted house arrest after nearly two months in custody. Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict’s butler, was given parole July 21.
The 46-year-old Italian was charged on May 26 with the “aggravated theft” of confidential Vatican documents found in his apartment. Over the next few days the Vatican’s justice system will decide whether to send him for trial or acquit him.
Damascus, Syria, Jul 23, 2012 (CNA) - The Syrian rebels’ attack on Damascus has allowed radical Islamist groups to attack Iraqi refugees, Christians allegedly loyal to the Syrian government and other civilians.
Local Christians have expressed dismay and outrage at the attacks on defenseless civilians, a local source told Fides news agency.
The rebel group Liwa al-Islam, a Wahhabi group whose name means “The Brigade of Islam,” has claimed responsibility for killing top generals in President Bashar Assad’s government. On the morning of July 23, its members also killed an entire Christian family in the Damascus neighborhood of Bab Tuma.
Militants blocked the car of Nabil Zoreb, a Christian civil officer. They ordered him, his wife Violet, and his two sons George and Jimmy to get out of the car. The militants then killed them all.
In southeastern Damascus, Islamist fighters with the Muslim Brotherhood ally Jehad al Nosra attacked the homes of Iraqi refugees. They ransacked the homes, burned them and forced the occupants to leave.
The refugees said “gangs of Muslim terrorists attacked and chased us.”
Rebel forces struck the capital of 1.7 million on July 14. The fighting destroyed homes, burned cars and damaged the city’s electrical grid. The government said it had repelled most of the rebels July 23, according to the Associated Press.
The situation in Damascus is deteriorating, with residents facing long lines for gasoline and bread. Thousands have fled into neighboring Lebanon.
There are about 200,000 internally displaced people from Damascus. They have moved from one neighborhood to another city or different suburbs to escape the fighting.
As they wage their battle with government forces, rebel groups have taken positions in neighborhoods and civilian buildings.
Families, elderly women and children of all ethnicities and religions have fled to the predominantly Christian neighborhoods of Jaramana, Qassaa. Young Christians are coordinating refugees and sending them to schools, churches, mosques and public buildings with space to welcome them.
Humanitarian aid is being provided through Caritas Syria, the Middle East Council of Churches, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Community of St. Egidio.
Young Christian volunteers are also working on garbage collection, which is becoming a health threat in the intense summer heat.
The interfaith non-violence movement Mussalaha, whose name means “Reconciliation,” has said that both government loyalists and rebels can join its movement on condition that they give up weapons. It advocates for building reconciliation beginning with families, tribes, clans and communities.