Emmitsburg, Md., Aug 25, 2012 (CNA) - Some people know from a young age exactly what they want to do with their life. As children, they pick a path for themselves and they stick with it through high school, college and beyond.
Damascus, Syria, Aug 25, 2012 (CNA) - Syrian rebel forces have trapped over 12,000 Greek Catholics in a village near the Lebanese border, causing shortages of food, medicine and other urgent supplies.
For over 10 days the village of Rableh in the area of Homs has suffered under a strict blockade from armed opposition forces that have surrounded it, Fides news agency says. Snipers have killed at least three men of the village, including a married father of four.
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gergorios III Laham has appealed to men of good will to ensure that “Rableh is saved and all other villages affected in Syria.” He has asked “for peace to be reached in our beloved country.”
Archbishop Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio to Syria, has asked both sides of the conflict to adhere to “the strict observance of the international humanitarian law.”
Rebels began an armed revolt against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. Since then, more than 200,000 people have fled the country. Government forces drove out rebels from a Damascus suburb of Daraya on Friday.
The international pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need is helping an unnamed Syrian village in a situation similar to Rableh’s.
The destruction of bridges, the cutting of power lines and road obstacles have cut off the village from food and other basic necessities, the charity reports.
“We have organised ourselves so we could stand by each other and we are sharing everything so we could survive,” a local priest said. “We need every help we could get. Please help us.”
Those who have fled to Lebanon say that residents are suffering hunger and milk for children is running out. The village lacks canned goods and children’s diapers as well.
Motorcyclists trying to carry bread into the village have been shot at.
Aid to the Church in Need has made an emergency grant of $62,000 for food, medicine and baby milk.
“The fighting is reported to be fierce between the Free Syrian Army and official armed forces loyal to Assad,” Aid to the Church in Need journalist John Pontifex told CNA Aug. 24.
A government helicopter intending to attack rebel groups recently bombed the Greek Catholic monastery of St. James the Mutilated in Qara, which dates back to the sixth century. None of its 25 residents and 20 refugees were hurt but parts of the building were damaged.
Washington D.C., Aug 25, 2012 (CNA) -
Political changes in recent years could mean that Catholics play an important role in the upcoming presidential election, but in a new way, say political analysts.
Dr. John Kenneth White, a political scientist at The Catholic University of America, explained that Hispanics – many of whom are Catholic – could be a “definitive group” in deciding the 2012 presidential election.
The 2012 election is unique, he told CNA on Aug. 23, noting that not only are both contenders for Vice President Catholic, but that neither candidate from either major U.S. party is a white Protestant.
The unprecedented situation has led to an unexpected amount of attention on Catholics, he said.
However, he explained, “it’s very hard to talk about the Catholic vote in generic terms” because the vote of Catholics is “incredibly diversified.”
White observed that in 1960s, Catholic self-identification was high and the faithful largely voted as a single bloc.
In recent elections, however, the Catholic vote has looked more like the national vote, he said.
Catholic identity has decreased, he added, and it is “not necessarily the first identity people bring with them into the ballot box.”
Rather, Catholics tend to think of themselves by their race, gender and other distinguishing factors, he said. The voting habits of the faithful can therefore be better analyzed by carving out groups based on factors such as Mass attendance and ethnicity.
A blog post issued by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate agreed with this observation, adding that membership in a union, unemployment and military service also factor into the way that Catholics cast their ballots.
An Aug. 3 blog post on the research center’s website noted that while Catholics have made up approximately 25 percent of the total electorate in recent elections, they make up about 19 percent of the total voting age population in the 16 states that remain the most competitive this year.
Catholics account for “the largest share of the voting age population” in the competitive states of New Mexico, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and they could also be a significant “swing vote” in Florida, Nevada and Ohio, it said.
While polls indicate that Catholics are split in their candidate preference, it is difficult to make predictions about the election so far out, especially since both national conventions and the candidates’ debates could still be key in swaying voters, the blog post noted.
However, it suggested, “the votes of those without a religious affiliation may be more decisive to the election outcome” than those of Catholics.
Nevertheless, White believes that both national campaigns are actively trying to court the Catholic electorate.
“They both see the Catholic vote as being important,” he said.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney recently announced that Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York would be offering the final benediction at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 30.
The announcement drew national attention, particularly since Cardinal Dolan – who leads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – has been a vocal opponent of the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs.
White believes that the controversial mandate, which has drawn strong criticism from Church leaders, will have an impact on the vote of Catholics, “especially among frequent Church attendees.”
But the Obama campaign is “absolutely” trying to reach out to Catholics as well, in an effort that “takes on many different forms,” White added, explaining that a big part of this is the campaign’s outreach to Hispanic voters, which tend to overlap with Catholics.
And as a “leading minority” in many areas, Hispanics could be “a decisive number” in some swing states, he said.
White thinks the Hispanic vote will be “absolutely critical” in determining the outcome of the election.
“At the end of the day, that vote seems to be a lot more unified,” he said.