Archive of September 15, 2012

College students put their faith into action

Providence, R.I., Sep 15, 2012 (CNA) - While most college students are enjoying the final days of summer with family and friends, a group of Providence College students arrived early on campus to put their faith into action.

The 26 new students and seven student coordinators participated in Faith Works, a pilot program developed to increase service opportunities available to incoming freshmen and to augment the number of faith formation programs available to the college’s students.

The energetic students served at diocesan sites such as Emmanuel House, the St. Martin de Porres Center, and the Office of Life and Family and Office of Immigration and Refugee Services.

As students learn more about the relationship between the college, diocese and the community, the program allows them to establish connections with Catholic agencies that offer numerous opportunities for service.

Troy Valdevia, a recent graduate of St. Raphael Academy, Pawtucket, R.I. and parishioner of Holy Spirit Parish, Central Falls, R.I. said he was amazed to learn about the large number of volunteer opportunities that exist in the diocese. He hopes to volunteer with the Gabriel Project, helping to collect supplies for families of newborns.

“I live here and didn’t know about the programs that are offered at my very doorstep and that I could take part in,” said Valdevia, who will live on campus during his freshman year to better experience college life.

“This has been a real eye-opener,” he continued, adding that while attending St. Raphael Academy, he volunteered at the Rejoice in Hope Center in Cranston, R.I. and assisted with several student retreats.

For Gabrielle Barbera of Montrose, N.Y., the program allowed her to continue an interest in public service, and provided a “feeling of being more connected” with her peers and the community.

“I am starting off with a good group of people, “ said Barbera, as she took a break from painting at the diocesan emergency overnight shelter.

The Honors Biology major said that one of the reasons she chose to attend Providence College was the school’s strong emphasis on community service and spiritual growth.

Adam Comeaux, an engineering student from Columbia, Md., said he volunteered for Faith Works because of the good experiences he had performing community service with his parish youth group. He served in a community soup kitchen and helped renovate several homes being repaired by Habitat for Humanity in Delaware.

“I really enjoy it, I like the interaction with other people,” Comeaux added.

According to Richard Lumley, campus minister, one goal of the five-day immersion program is to create opportunities for students to engage in community service at the beginning of their Providence College experience, thus forging positive relationships with their peers, the community and the diocese.

“This is their first college experience,” Lumley emphasized. “It’s been great to connect with the Diocese of Providence.”

“The program encourages them to be leaders,” Lumley added, noting that the students also toured the facilities at the Adult Correctional Institute to learn about chaplaincy services and also took a walking tour of Smith Hill, where they learned about the neighborhood’s ethnic diversity and cultural history.

Posted with permission from The Rhode Island Catholic, official newspaper for the Diocese of Providence.

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Catholics decry Muslim violence in Libya, Middle East

Washington D.C., Sep 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic leaders and scholars have denounced the violence that killed a U.S. ambassador and several other Americans in Libya, as well as ongoing clashes throughout the Middle East.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted the “urgency” surrounding the situation.

“Yesterday’s events in Libya and Egypt point to what is at stake,” he said. “We need to be respectful of other religious traditions at the same time that we unequivocally proclaim that violence in the name of religion is wrong.”

The cardinal’s comments came at a Sept. 12 international religious freedom symposium co-sponsored by the bishops’ conference, Catholic Relief Services and The Catholic University of America.

He observed that thousands of Christians are being forced out of Middle Eastern countries due to harassment and violence.  

“As many Muslims and Jews will tell you, this is not good for the region,” he explained, noting that Christians are indigenous to the region.

“They contribute to the common good of their societies, and their presence enriches diversity and tolerance, and beyond tolerance, respect,” he said. “Their presence is good for all of the people of the Middle East.”  

On the night of Sept. 11, an angry crowd stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

In the following days, violence has spread throughout the region. Much of the violence in the area appears to be in reaction to a low-budget video produced in the U.S. that mocks Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

However, according to the Associated Press, a senior Libyan official has said that militants in that country may have used the film as a cover for a planned terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate.

Unlike the other protests in the region, the crowd in Libya was heavily armed, reportedly using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to carry out the attack.

Protests have now been reported in some 20 countries. While some of these protests were primarily peaceful, others quickly turned violent in Middle Eastern nations including Yemen, Sudan, Tunis and Egypt.

According to Fox News, demonstrators in Lebanon chanted against Pope Benedict XVI’s 3-day Apostolic Visit to the country, which began Sept. 14. The pope has said that he is visiting the region as “a pilgrim of peace.”

Dr. Thomas Farr, who served as the first director of the U.S. State Department's office of international religious freedom, said that the problem underlying the violence is “the view, widely accepted among Muslims abroad, that anyone who offends Islam must be punished, either by the state or private actors.”

Violent extremism and the idea “that anyone offending Islam must be punished” are leading to increased attacks on religious minorities and threatening the security of America, he warned.

Farr, who directs the Religious Freedom Project at the Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, also spoke at the international religious freedom symposium on Sept. 12.

“No one should insult the sacred beliefs of another,” he said. “It is an assault on human dignity and respect for others.”

“But the malevolent idea that the proper response to defamation of religion is criminal prosecution, let alone violence or murder, is a dangerous problem in the Muslim-majority world,” he explained.

Farr stressed that is “in the vital interests of the United States" that these Middle Eastern nations "overcome violent religious extremism and achieve stable democracies and economic development.”

To achieve this, he said, the U.S. must more effectively support Muslims within these countries who understand the critical importance of religious freedom for their nation's future success and realize “that Islam can be defended without violence.”

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Pope encourages culture of peace in Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon, Sep 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a speech to Lebanese leaders on Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI called for the strengthening of a “culture of peace” that is built upon respect for life, the family and religious liberty.

It is “quite demanding” to achieve peace, the Pope told a gathering of political, cultural and religious leaders at the Presidential Palace in the city of Baabda, Sept. 15. Peace involves “rejecting revenge, acknowledging one’s faults, accepting apologies without demanding them, and, not least, forgiveness. Only forgiveness, given and received, can lay lasting foundations for reconciliation and universal peace.”

He praised Lebanon as a Middle Eastern country where Christianity and Islam “have lived side by side for centuries.” In Lebanon, he said,  it is “not uncommon to see the two religions within the same family.” If it is possible to have harmony within the same family, he asked, “why should it not be possible at the level of the whole of society?”

Pope Benedict had begun the second day of his apostolic visit with a private Mass at the Apostolic Nunciature of Harissa before being taken by car to the Presidential Palace. There he was greeted by the President of Lebanon, General Michel Sleiman. The two men then had a private meeting.

Following further meetings with the President of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, and the country’s Prime Minister, Nagib Mikati, the Pope then held discussions with the leaders of Lebanon’s Sunni, Shiite and Alawite Muslim communities, as well as with leaders of the Druze community.

The Pope’s subsequent address to civil society leaders concerned “understanding and harmony between cultures and religions.”

Religious coexistence and peace, he said, require a “profound transformation of mind and heart” at the level of the individual in order to recover both “a degree of clarity of vision and impartiality” and “the profound meaning of the concepts of justice and the common good.”

Without this, the Pope warned, “all our coveted human ‘liberations’ prove disappointing” as they become “curtailed by our human narrowness, harshness, intolerance, favoritism and desire for revenge.”

In order to build this desired “culture of peace,” however, there has to be a constant need to “return to the wellsprings of our humanity.”

“A person comes into this world in a family, which is the first locus of humanization, and above all the first school of peace,” he said, “To build peace, we need to look to the family, supporting it and facilitating its task, and in this way promoting an overall culture of life.”

The effectiveness of our commitment to peace, proposed the Pope, depends on our understanding of human life.

“If we want peace, let us defend life!” he urged.

This approach should lead society to reject not only war and terrorism “but every assault on innocent human life, on men and women as creatures willed by God.”

Wherever this “truth of human nature is ignored or denied”, he cautioned, it becomes impossible to respect the “grammar which is the natural law inscribed in the human heart.”

Securing peace for future generations requires that we “educate for peace in order to build a culture of peace.”

Education in both the family and the school must focus on “those spiritual values which give the wisdom and traditions of each culture their ultimate meaning and power,” the Pope exhorted. “The human spirit has an innate yearning for beauty, goodness and truth.”

The Pope’s call for peace comes amid armed conflict in Lebanon’s neighbor Syria between government and rebel forces. That conflict has at times reflected religious divisions.

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Pope calls Lebanese youth to 'revolution of love'

Beirut, Lebanon, Sep 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has challenged young Christians and Muslims in the Middle East to reject the path of violence and hate and instead unleash a “revolution of love.”

“It is vital that the Middle East in general, looking at you, should understand that Muslims and Christians, Islam and Christianity, can live side by side without hatred, with respect for the beliefs of each person, so as to build together a free and humane society,” the Pope told an open-air gathering of young people the in Bkerke, Lebanon Sept. 15.

Gathered in the square in front of the residence of the country’s Maronite Patriarchate, the tens of thousands of young people heard the Pope tell them that they were “the future of this fine country and of the Middle East in general.”

In recent years educated young people have been at the vanguard of anti-government protests across the Middle East, the so-called “Arab Spring.” Pope Benedict used his address to outline a different revolution: one begun by Jesus Christ.

“The universal brotherhood which he inaugurated on the cross lights up in a resplendent and challenging way the revolution of love. ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ This is the legacy of Jesus and the sign of the Christian,” the Pope said. “This is the true revolution of love!”

While youth is a “time when we aspire to great ideals,” Pope Benedict recognized that it can also be a time of great uncertainty. Such frustrations, however, should not lead young people to “take refuge in parallel worlds like those, for example, of the various narcotics or the bleak world of pornography.”

His comments also touched upon internet-based social networks, suggesting that while they were “interesting” they can also “quite easily lead to addiction and confusion between the real and the virtual.” Instead young people should “look for relationships of genuine, uplifting friendship.”

He urged the tens of thousands present to “find ways to give meaning and depth” to their lives and to flee from “superficiality and mindless consumption” including the love of money which can be a “tyrannical idol which blinds to the point of stifling the person at the heart.”

In an apparent reference to the world of celebrity culture, Pope Benedict suggested to young people that “the examples being held up all around you are not always the best.”

Instead he encouraged them to “seek beauty and strive for goodness.”

“Bear witness to the grandeur and the dignity of your body which ‘is for the Lord’,” he continued. “Be thoughtful, upright and pure of heart!”

In order to strive for these goals he recommended mediation upon Holy Scripture, reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and, in particular, prayer.

“Pray! Prayer and the sacraments are the sure and effective means to be a Christian and to live rooted and built up in Christ, and established in the faith,” he said.

The Pope challenged Lebanese young people to be “heralds of the Gospel of life and life’s authentic values” and to “courageously resist everything opposed to life: abortion, violence, rejection of and contempt for others, injustice and war.”

The witness of youthful faith being lived with “courage and enthusiasm” would help young people’s peers understand God’s desire for “the happiness of all without distinction.”

Towards the end of his speech Pope Benedict gave special mention to the young people who had travelled from neighboring war-torn Syria to be at the Papal gathering in Bkerke.

“I want to say how much I admire your courage. Tell your families and friends back home that the Pope has not forgotten you. Tell those around you that the Pope is saddened by your sufferings and your griefs.”

“It is time for Muslims and Christians to come together so as to put an end to violence and war,” he said in conclusion. He commended the youthful gathering to the protection of Bl. Pope John Paul II and Mary, “the Mother of the Lord, Our Lady of Lebanon.”

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