Archive of April 13, 2013

New York's longest-serving priest was 'generous to a fault'

New York City, N.Y., Apr 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Monsignor Gerald Ryan, the New York archdiocese's longest serving pastor and who died April 11, was  described by one of his parishioners as exceedingly generous and ever-ready to help his people.

“He was compassionate, and generous to a fault. He never ever was too busy to listen to anybody,” Madelyn Feliciano, office manager at St. Luke's parish, told CNA April 12.

“If anybody needed a priest to listen to them, he could have been exhausted and he'll stop what he's doing just to listen, to make sure that person was okay.”

Msgr. Ryan had been pastor at St. Luke's since 1966, though when he turned retirement age – 75 – in 1995, his position became administrator. Nevertheless, he continued to function as the parish's pastor until his death Friday at age 93.

Msgr. Ryan was born to Irish immigrants in Manhattan in 1920. He was ordained in 1945, and was assigned to St. Anthony of Padua in The Bronx, a predominantly black neighborhood.

In the 1960s he joined the civil rights movement, and began his ministry at St. Luke's, in the Mott Haven neighborhood of The Bronx – an area receiving many Puerto Rican immigrants at the time.

Msgr. Ryan learned Spanish, and maintained the parochial school at St. Luke's. In the 1970s The Bronx experienced a wave of arson, and he helped to re-build housing in the area. He has recently been assisted at the parish by another Spanish-speaking priest.

“There wasn't a person he didn't help,” Feliciano recalled. “He was an extremely amazing man.”

Feliciano has been at the parish since 1972, and 15 years ago left a better paying job to be the parish's office manager.

“He was an absolute joy to work for,” she reflected. “He changed my life tremendously. I am the person I am today because of him.”

Msgr. Ryan was very devoted to the youth, Feliciano said. He met with them every Wednesday until he went into the hospital. “He wanted the youth to be involved in church, to have a place to go to, where they can air out their problems.”

The priest was always available for confession, according to Feliciano.

“Anytime you came into him and say 'I need to confess,' he'd take you into the church. I grant you, he would sit there and talk to you. If you needed a talking to, he would give it to you.”

She recounted that The Battle Hymn of the Republic was among his favorite songs, and it would be heard at Mass on Thanksgiving day every year, “whether we wanted to sing it or not.”

Feliciano said they'll be singing this song for Msgr. Ryan at his funeral Mass, which is scheduled for 10:30 on the morning of Tuesday, April 16. The Mass will be preceded by a wake the preceding day from noon until 7 p.m.

In a July interview with The New York Times, Msgr. Ryan said that the priesthood is about “learning what human nature is, and what the struggles of people are. And where Jesus really is.”

The monsignor had been a priest for nearly 68 years at his death.

His archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, said April 11 that “Msgr. Ryan’s example has inspired me to be a better priest, as I am sure it has inspired so many others who worked with and learned from this humble, hardworking, faithful follower of Jesus.”

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US bishops urge support for international arms treaty

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, a representative of the U.S. bishops' conference asked that the Obama Administration hasten to review and sign a treaty to decrease arms trade.

“As a world leader and a major arms exporter, our nation should set a positive example for other nations to follow in efforts to reduce the flow of weapons into situations that violate human rights and cause terrible suffering,” said Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa in an April 11 letter.

In an April 2 vote at the United Nations, the U.S. joined a large majority of countries worldwide in agreeing to adopt a treaty that would regulate international trade in conventional weaponry.

But, come June 3 when the treaty opens for signature, President Obama will still need sign it and it remains unclear if U.S. will ratify it – a move which would need two-thirds of the senate's approval.

Bishop Pates, who serves as chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the U.S. bishops' conference, urged Secretary Kerry “to expedite a thorough review of the Treaty so that the President can sign it in early June.”

The bishop noted that the treaty is not perfect, but called the measure “an important step.” He said he agreed with the position of the Holy See, which noted that there are flaws in the treaty.

This can be seen, the Vatican has said, particularly in “the predominance of commercial or economic  considerations, and an inadequate elaboration of the principles of sufficiency, of victims’ assistance and of the need to reduce demand for arms.”

However, accepting the treaty would still be “a positive step in promoting human rights and dignity and in building a more peaceful world,” Bishop Pates said.

“My hope is that our nation will give further impetus to this process by joining other leading countries as a signatory in early June.”

The bishop also echoed earlier statements by Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York, saying that the Vatican “viewed its adoption as constituting a step towards establishing in the world a culture of responsibility and accountability.”

The bishop also appealed to the teachings of the Catholic Church – of which Secretary Kerry is a member.   

He emphasized that the “Catholic Church has a longstanding commitment to protecting human life and dignity,” pointing to church teachings to explain how reducing the presence of firearms within the population is “a means to this end.”

Bishop Pates also referenced his own travels in Sub-Saharan Africa and meetings with local leaders who “repeatedly expressed profound concerns for the untold human suffering that result from the unregulated flow of arms.”

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Pope appoints advisors for Curia reform

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In response to suggestions during talks leading up to the papal conclave, Pope Francis has appointed eight cardinals to advise him on governing the Church and reforming the Curia.

Eight cardinals, representing all the continents, will serve to advise the Pope in “the government of the universal Church” and will “study a plan for revising”  the Curia, the Vatican announced April 13.

Those selected for the group are Cardinals Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican City State governate;  Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, Archbishop emeritus of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India; Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, United States; George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia; and Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy will serve as the group’s secretary. Bishop Semeraro and Pope Francis worked together and got to know each other well when they facilitated the 2001 Synod of Bishops on the topic of bishops as messengers of the Gospel in the new millennium.

This announcement of the group comes one month after the Holy Father’s election, the Vatican press office director Father Federico Lombardi noted during an April 13 briefing.

He said that the decision shows that Pope Francis “listens attentively” to suggestions of the College of Cardinals.

The group will hold its first meeting Oct. 1-3, though the Pope is already in touch with all the appointed cardinals.

The group will not have any legislative ability, but will rather serve to advise the Holy Father on governing the Church and revising Blessed John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, "Pastor Bonus."

"It is a group, not a commission, committee, or council," Fr. Lombardi stressed. 

"The group has no legislative power and its main function is to advise the Pope. The group will not in any way interfere in the normal functions of the Roman Curia, which helps the Pope in the daily governance of the Church."

Updated April 15, 2013 at 11:32 a.m. Rome time. Adds quotes from Father Lombardi in paragraph 10, explanation of familiarity between Pope and Bishop Semeraro.


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At DC event, Christian converts recount captivity in Iran

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Two Iranian converts to Christianity recently spoke of their experiences facing persecution and imprisonment in their country for their religious beliefs.

“It’s not just about religion,” said Maryam Rostampour, one of the two women who spoke at a panel in Washington, D.C., of her home country’s treatment of religious minorities.

“It’s about government power,” she noted during her address at the Hudson Institute on April 9.

Rostampour and Christian convert Marziyeh Amirizadeh were both born into Muslim families, and converted as young women to Christianity. Both went to Turkey in order to study theology, where they met one another.

They returned to Iran, where they began evangelizing around the country. They decided to distribute the Christian New Testament in Farsi – Iran’s official language – and between the two of them, Rostampour and Amirizadeh handed out over 20,000 bibles throughout the country.

The women also formed two house churches, one for young people and another for prostitutes. They said that while the Christian community was small during this time period in the early 2000s, the Iranian people were receptive to hearing the Christian faith.

Based on stories they have heard since, Rostampour said that now, “we believe that there are many many churches” in Iran.

In 2009, the women were arrested and charged with of apostasy, anti-government activity, and blasphemy. While imprisoned in the local Evin prison, they faced beatings, mental torture and threats.

“Mental torture in any prison is worse than physical torture,” Rostampour said.

She noted that there were others imprisoned for intellectual crimes and the arbitrary will of the government – including mothers with their children, who were often taken away after their third birthday

Rostampour and Amirizadeh explained that they continued their evangelization while in prison, and Amirizadeh expressed that most prisoners were open to hearing about God “because they were hopeless.”

Amirizadeh noted that letters from individuals had a particularly strong impact upon their experience in prison: guards would read and open them, prompting conversations on the Christian faith, and eventually contributing to their release alongside letters from the Vatican, United States, and non-profit organizations.

Through the experience, the women kept their faith, despite pressures to deny Christianity. Rostampour praised God for supporting them through their trials, crediting “God’s grace and God’s will” for their release.

Rostampour and Amirizadeh have since left Iran and moved to the United States.

The women also referenced the detention of Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, also a convert to Christianity, for charges of threatening national security. The pastor helped run several house-churches throughout the country, though following pressure from the government, he stopped his work with the churches in 2009 and focused instead on supporting orphanages throughout Iran.

Abedini became a United States citizen in 2010, following his marriage to an American wife. He is also being held at Evin prison.

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