Boca Raton, Fla., May 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Catholic foreign aid organization aims to advance the “integral development” of people it helps around the world by serving both their physical and spiritual needs.
Jim Cavnar, president of Cross Catholic Outreach, said the Boca Raton-based organization was launched in 2001 to help Catholic missions in developing countries “grow and supply their outreaches to the poor.”
Cavnar told CNA May 14 that a project is successful when it shows “transformative power” in people’s lives, as when suffering children become well, poor students graduate from school, and communities gain access to safe water or health care.
“These practical changes are accompanied by spiritual guidance from our partner churches or missionaries, so even more positive changes follow. Men, women and children come to Christ, and through his teachings, they experience a change of heart that will last,” he said.
Its programs include a Daughters of Charity project in Ethiopia that helps 70 women and girls from rural towns become financially self-sufficient. Another program in the Philippines helps 1,000 poor families build faith-based businesses through micro-loans and weekly fellowship groups, the organization said.
The outreach organization has supported feeding centers, water projects, home construction, health care, education and job training in over 40 countries. In ten years it has distributed $2 billion in aid, with organizational and corporate gifts of supplies like medicine playing an important role.
Cross Catholic Outreach is an affiliate member of Catholic Charities USA. It has worked with the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which handles humanitarian outreach for the Pope. The organization previously focused on helping Cor Unum’s response to disaster relief and refugee needs, though more recently it focuses on large projects for impoverished communities.
It is the sister organization of Cross International, which raises funds for Protestant-run aid programs from Protestant sources.
Cavnar said Cross Catholic Outreach works through existing churches in a way that is cost-effective and that “empowers indigenous Catholic leaders.” Local bishops and clergy often refer the outreach organization to suitable local partners.
He said donors can fund specific projects, such as an orphanage in Mozambique, a fresh water well in Kenya, or a school for the poor in Haiti.
Cross Catholic Outreach has “felt the direction of God” in its work, Cavnar said. Its assistance has often arrived at struggling local ministries “just when they need help most” to keep from closing. The organization has sometimes received large and unexpected donations to help meet its own commitments.
“These experiences show us that God is in our work and that he is using CCO to answer the prayers of the poor,” Cavnar said.
The outreach’s website is www.crosscatholic.org.
Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
After the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh which killed at least 1,127 workers, demands for better oversight from Western retailers as well as local manufacturers have been widespread.
“The question is whether U.S. importers have an obligation to do something about working conditions in other countries,” Edward J. O'Boyle, senior research associate with Mayo Research Institute, told CNA May 14.
He pointed to John Paul II's 1981 encyclical “Laborem Exercens,” where the late pontiff said that labor's effect on the worker is more important than both its effect on the product and on profits.
“We cannot purchase imported goods at the price of the lives of people in other countries simply because they live in other countries where working conditions are deplorable; we have an obligation to intervene,” O'Boyle, a retired economics professor, added.
On April 24, the eight-story Rana Plaza collapsed in Savar, near the country's capital of Dhaka. Bangladesh is the world's second-largest garment exporter. Since the tragedy, some 300 similar factories have closed following worker unrest.
O'Boyle noted that Western retailers already intervene with their suppliers in developing countries when they are provided with faulty garments.
“John Paul is asserting that substandard working conditions are a more compelling reason for intervention with the manufacturer than defects in the manufacturer’s product,” he noted.
“As necessary as they are to the survival of any business enterprise, the profits of the firm that derive directly from selling its products are subordinate to the well-being of the workers who make those products.”
O'Boyle suggested two avenues by which Bangladeshi working conditions might be improved, either through government intervention or by working agreements among manufacturers.
Since importers must be licensed, he said governments in Western countries might make the licenses “contingent on demonstrating that working conditions...are acceptable.”
His suggestion for manufacturers' working agreements is currently being undertaken. Several European clothing retailers, including H&M, the single largest clothing buyer in Bangladesh, have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which obliges them to conduct safety inspections and pay for repairs at factories in the nation.
The Associated Press reports that the accord is a revision of an agreement which was rejected by retailers two years ago “because of cost and legal concerns.” The April 24 collapse was the latest in a series of incidents at Bangladeshi factories. A fire in November killed 112, and May 9, another fire killed eight.
American retailers have yet to sign the agreement. Gap wants the accord's rules on dispute resolution changed, and Walmart, Bangladesh's second-largest clothing buyer, will not sign.
Christopher Westley, an economics professor at Jacksonville State University and an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, addressed the factory collapse by iterating that economic and social systems “have to be based upon the primacy of the human person,” as Catholic social teaching says.
“In Bangladesh, it doesn't sound like whoever was controlling (the factory) had taken any of those lessons to heart,” he said to CNA May 13.
He added, however, that he was unsure if this is a “systemic issue” in the country, bringing in issues of corruption, because such events “can still happen in a free society, because of the human condition, because people are imperfect.”
Westley suggested that Bangladeshi workers are “vulnerable,” because they are easily available, their labor is cheap, and they are easily exchanged.
“Maybe over time, that causes the owners of capital to lose sight that these are living breathing human beings made in the image of God,” he considered.
He added that laborers there might be “kind of treated like capital...not seen as being people, they're just seen as being inputs in a production process,” in a mentality that says that “if the safety regulations are too expensive, we can replace them if something bad happens.”
What Westley finds concerning is that labor conditions in Bangladesh do not seem to have improved over time. Bangladeshis are choosing to work in industries known to be unsafe despite the risks because “it beats whatever their next available option will be.”
“Working conditions in any developing economy usually are dangerous,” but that the situation normally improves, as societies become wealthier and can afford investments in safe workplaces.
“What is it about Bangladeshi society that makes it persistently be poor,” Westley asked. He suggested such social institutions as a corrupt government and the hindrance of capital investment as possible answers.
Westley contrasted the nation with South Korea, which was in a similar state after the Korean War. Yet South Korea has grown from being among the poorest countries, to a developed nation among the top 20 economies.
While Bangladesh has made slight strides in fighting corruption, it remains a worrisome situation in the country. In 2005, it shared the distinction of being the most corrupt country in the world with Chad, according to Transparency International.
By 2012, Bangladesh had moved up to rank 144 in public sector corruption, among 176 countries considered by the organization, in the company of the Central African Republic, Syria, and Ukraine. South Korea, meanwhile, was ranked 45, behind Poland but ahead of Hungary.
On the recent factory collapse, Westley reflected that producers, consumers and governments all have a place in ensuring that such tragedies are not repeated.
“It does seem like human life is treated much less valuably in that situation, and it's something we should be concerned about.”
Thomas Storck, an author and a member of the editorial board of The Distributist Review, noted that “market forces, the mere play of supply and demand is not going to bring about economic justice.”
“The popes have been quite clear that this is not an acceptable opinion for Catholics,” he told CNA May 13.
Storck noted Pius XI's 1931 encyclical “Quadragesimo Anno,” in which the pontiff wrote that “the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces.”
To tame free market forces, Catholic social teaching suggests either government regulation or, more favorably, Storck said, “the idea of intermediate groups which would do economic regulation.”
He said these intermediate groups are among the solutions of distributism, an economic system developed in large part by the English writer G. K. Chesterton in concert with then-emerging Catholic social teaching. It seeks widespread property ownership rather than the ownership of capital primarily by a small number of very wealthy individuals or by the state.
Storck suggested that guilds or occupational groups, including labor unions, could contribute to worker safety in Bangladeshi clothing factories.
“When you have very large companies that have a tremendous amount of economic power” – such as the European and American companies which purchase from Bangladeshi suppliers – “then they can in various ways drive down wages, and persuade governments that are weak to ignore their own health and safety laws.”
The concentration of economic power among a few very wealthy companies enables those companies to “exploit the workers” in such developing countries as Bangladesh, said Storck.
Distributism “champions the idea of worker-ownership because then there's no pressure” to cut the cost of labor in production. “That's what drove these companies to produce in Bangladesh in the first place,” Storck said. “They wanted to cut their labor cost.”
When enterprises are owned by the laborers, the conflict between wages and profits is eliminated, Storck explained.
He concluded by saying that the social encyclicals, and the whole of Catholic social teaching, should not be approached “through the lens of the American political divide.”
If a given position is supported by Church teaching, he said, “I've got to adhere to it...regardless of whether its congruent with liberalism or conservatism.”
Following one of the worst industrial disasters ever, Bangladesh's government is making efforts to address workers' safety concerns. The country has moved to make unionization easier, and raising the minimum wage for factory laborers, which is currently $38 a month.
Washington D.C., May 15, 2013 (CNA) - Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, said that the five Popes involved in the Second Vatican Council shared a common vision of protecting and spreading the Catholic faith.
Popes John XXIII and Paul VI “emphasized the need for prayer, need for understanding” as they oversaw the council, Cardinal Rigali said, explaining that this mindset became the “ethos” of Vatican II following the gathering.
The goal of the Second Vatican Council was “to help the world see Jesus,” he stressed, “so that everything about us would be more in conformity with Jesus Christ.”
The cardinal’s May 9 remarks were delivered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., as part of a Year of Faith lecture series.
The Second Vatican Council, also known as Vatican II, opened in 1962 under Pope John XXIII and closed in 1965 under Pope Paul VI. Future Popes John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI were also present throughout the council and participated in its discussions.
Vatican II focused upon the Church’s relation to the modern world and implemented a number of reforms designed to make the teachings of the Church more understandable without compromising their content.
Cardinal Rigali, who was present at the council as an assistant and translator, recalled his experiences as a young priest at the gathering, which saw a significantly greater number of bishops – particularly Eastern Rite Catholics, and bishops from missionary areas, Africa and Latin America – than its predecessor, the First Vatican Council.
The number and diversity of bishops present at the meeting “showed how universal, how catholic, the Catholic Church is, made up of people from every nation, from every rite,” he reflected.
This display of the Church’s diversity demonstrated that “here are so many people...that want to see Jesus” and who want to “encounter him in the Church and in others,” he said, explaining that this is the reason that Pope John XXIII called the council.
With this in mind, the cardinal clarified, Vatican II aimed to help “all the people become one,” not by giving up the faith, “but principally in prayer and vocation in the Holy Spirit,” coming together as the Body of Christ.
Throughout the council, Cardinal Rigali noted, it “was so important that everything be about Jesus,” and that the “sacred deposit of Christian doctrine” be protected and passed on.
Through the council, “many graces” were given to the Church, he said, but following Vatican II, the Church also faced many challenges, and “not all of them have been met.”
Among these challenges has been the question of what constitutes “the Spirit of Vatican II,” Cardinal Rigali said, citing Pope Benedict XVI, who said “there is no spirit of Vatican II independent of what Vatican II says.”
He also recalled the former Pontiff’s quote, “Not everything that happened in the name of Vatican II belonged to Vatican II.”
A proper reading of Vatican II sheds light on our efforts to faithfully understand the intersection of the Church and the modern world, the cardinal explained.
“As we read the documents 50 years later, it’s amazing to see how relevant they are, how much they apply to the Church,” he remarked.
Primarily, he explained, the Second Vatican Council was “supposed to be about clarity of teaching” and charity.
The work of teaching and clarifying the council has been furthered through the papacies of the Popes following Vatican II, especially Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, he said.
Cardinal Rigali emphasized that the five popes involved with the council represent the true nature of Vatican II.
“They all have the same spirit of the council, they all have the exact same idea of what it was supposed to be,” he said.
Vatican City, May 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As he looked ahead to Pentecost, Pope Francis spoke about the Holy Spirit’s role in guiding Christians to know Jesus, who is the Truth, in an age of relativism.
“We live in an age rather skeptical of truth,” the Pope said, as he encouraged Christians to let themselves “be imbued with the light of the Holy Spirit, so that he introduces us into the Truth of God.”
But “you cannot grab the truth as if it were an object, you encounter it. It is not a possession, is an encounter with a person,” Pope Francis noted as he recalled Pontius Pilate posing the question, “What is truth?” to Jesus.
The Holy Father made his remarks in the context of an ongoing series of reflections on the Creed that he has been offering each Wednesday, as well as the Feast of Pentecost which will be celebrated this coming Sunday.
For those reasons he focused on the role of the Holy Spirit in leading believers to the Truth.
“First of all, he reminds and imprints on the hearts of believers the words that Jesus said, and precisely through these words, God’s law – as the prophets of the Old Testament had announced – is inscribed in our hearts and becomes within us a principle of evaluation in our choices and of guidance in our daily actions, it becomes a principle of life,” the Pope taught.
The second way that the Holy Spirit leads us, the pontiff taught, is by guiding “us ‘into’ the Truth, that is, he helps us enter into a deeper communion with Jesus himself, gifting us knowledge of the things of God.”
“We cannot achieve this on our own strengths. If God does not enlightens us interiorly, our being Christians will be superficial,” Pope Francis stated.
The May 15 general audience featured more off-the-cuff remarks from the Pope than previous meetings have, and today he seemed to spontaneously compose a prayer to encourage people to be more open to the Holy Spirit.
“And this is a prayer we need to pray every day, every day: Holy Spirit may my heart be open to the Word of God, may my heart be open to good, may my heart be open to the beauty of God, every day,” he urged.
“Will you do it?” he asked the crowd packed into St. Peter’s Square. The pilgrims responded “yes,” but Pope Francis was not satisfied, so he replied, “I can’t hear you!” He was rewarded with a much louder and enthusiastic “Yes!”
Pope Francis also held up Mary as an example and “her ‘yes,’ her total availability to receive the Son of God in her life, and who from that moment was transformed.”
“Do we live in God and of God, is our life really animated by God? How many things do I put before God?” he asked the pilgrims.
Living this way means not being “a ‘part-time’ Christian, at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in certain choices,” he said.
The Pope closed his address by asking Catholics to look at how they have spent the Year of Faith so far.
Have we “actually taken a few steps to get to know Christ and the truths of faith more, by reading and meditating on the Scriptures, studying the Catechism, steadily approaching the Sacraments.
"But at the same time let us ask ourselves what steps we are taking so that the faith directs our whole existence,” he said.
Vatican City, May 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Keith P. O’Brien will be spending several months in penance and prayer outside of Scotland after meeting with Pope Francis, according to the Vatican.
The Vatican press office released a one-paragraph statement on May 15 which says that Cardinal O’Brien “for the same reasons he decided not to participate in the last Conclave, and in agreement with the Holy Father, will be leaving Scotland for several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer, and penance.”
“Any decision regarding future arrangements for His Eminence shall be agreed upon with the Holy See,” it added.
In the days before the election Pope Francis, Cardinal O’Brien – who was the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh – became the focus of media attention following accusations by three priests and one former priest that he made inappropriate sexual advances toward them in the 1980s.
The cardinal revealed on Feb. 18 that he would not attend the conclave and at the same time announced that Pope Benedict had accepted his resignation, effective Feb. 25.
Where the cardinal will be living out his time of penance and renewal is not known, and the Scottish Catholic Media Office could not provide any additional information.
Vatican City, May 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The attendance response to a Pentecost weekend event for Church movements has exceeded the Vatican’s expectations by 50,000 people.
“Over 120,000 people have signaled their attendance, around 150 different ecclesial realities coming from around the world are registered attesting to the fact that the Church's catholicity knows no boundaries,” said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.
“The Year of Faith is going better than what I thought, because the response has been great so far,” he remarked in a May 15 interview with CNA.
“We expected 70,000 people and we’re reaching double the numbers,” he added.
The Vatican has organized the May 18-19 weekend for Church movements to gather in Rome as part of the “Year of Faith,” an initiative aimed at evangelizing and helping Catholics become more fervent in faith.
The Church movements are typically focused on presenting the Gospel in depth, building and promoting Christian community, and preparing their members to witness to their faith in the public square.
“New movements and associations are the young face of the Church and it’s a fruit of the Second Vatican Council,” the archbishop explained.
Participants in the weekend will have a chance to experience the faith in several ways.
Starting at 7:00 a.m. on May 18, groups of around 50 people will be guided by experts in theology on a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s tomb inside Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Later in the afternoon, between 3-6 p.m., members of the Focolare movement’s Gen Verde musical group, along with a choir of over 150 singers from the various movements will provide music for those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Once the music has finished, Pope Francis will join in the celebration with a prayer in front of the image of the Virgin Mary Salus Populi Romani.
The event will continue with two strong testimonies by Irish writer John Waters and Pakistani surgeon Paul Bhatti, whose brother was killed by the Taliban for standing up against the country’s blasphemy law.
Members of the movements will then ask the Pope some questions, which he will respond to off-the-cuff.
A large group of people with disabilities, the parents of a child killed in L’Aquila’s earthquake, and Italian politicians from the Communion and Liberation movement will be among those attending.
The weekend ceremony will conclude on Sunday with Pentecost Mass presided over by Pope Francis at 10:00 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square.
The archbishop explained that Pope Benedict XVI launched the Year of Faith to call people to be witnesses of faith.
“On the other hand, the new Pope’s presence and his simplicity is attracting many people to Rome who want to listen, touch and see him,” said Archbishop Fisichella.
“This is great. And it’s in some way an effect of the Year of Faith, especially seeing Pope Francis being the first witness,” he stated.
Vatican City, May 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis stressed the importance of religious freedom in a message for the 1,700th anniversary of the Roman Emperor Constantine legalizing Christianity.
The Pope said in his message, released May 15 by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, that “this historical decision” which gave religious freedom to Christians, “opened new ways to the Gospel and contributed decisively to the birth of the European culture.”
He added that “thanks to the foresight of civil authorities, the right to express one’s own faith is respected everywhere,” and Christianity’s continued contribution “to culture and to the society of our times is accepted.”
Issued in 313 A.D., Emperor Constantine’s decree legalizing Christianity throughout the Roman Empire is known as the “Edict of Milan.” At the time, the empire included modern-day Istanbul, which was called Constantinople during that period.
Cardinal Angelo Scola and the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, will celebrate the publication of the edict with a ceremony in Milan on May 16.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in collaboration with the Council of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, organized the meeting of the two Church leaders.
Given that the edict impacted Christians in both the East and West, Pope Francis said in his message that he hopes “that, today as back then, the common witness of Christians of East and West, supported by the Spirit of the Risen Christ, contributes to the spread of the message of salvation in Europe and in the whole world.”
Cardinal Scola will co-chair an ecumenical prayer service and will comment on the texts chosen for the Liturgy – Acts of the Apostles 26 and John 17 – alongside Patriarch Bartholomew.
The Byzantine Choir of the Conservatory of Acharnes will sing, and there will be music from the chapel of the Cathedral of Milan to emphasize the beauty of the Church.
After Mass, Cardinal Scola and Patriarch Bartholomew will go down into the crypt to venerate the relics of Saint Ambrose and the Saints Gervase and Protaso, a devotion that unites Catholics and Orthodox.
Cardinal Scola will donate to Bartholomew the new Ambrosian Gospels and some relics of St. Ambrose of Milan, martyrs and witnesses of faith.
This will be the second time an Orthodox patriarch has visited the Archdiocese of Milan this week, after the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, stopped there on May 14.
Boston, Mass., May 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley called the successful production of embryonic stem cells by cloning human embryos an “abuse” which ignores the dignity and value of the human person.
“The news that researchers have developed a technique for human cloning is deeply troubling on many levels,” the archbishop of Boston, who chairs U.S. bishops' pro-life activities committee, said May 15.
“Creating new human lives in the laboratory solely to destroy them is an abuse denounced even by many who do not share the Catholic Church's convictions on human life.”
The May issue of the journal “Cell” included a paper from scientists at Oregon Health and Science University announcing they have produced embryonic stem cells by transferring the DNA of human skin cells into human eggs to produce embryos.
The aim of the research is to produce stem cells for therapies to treat diseases which will not be rejected by patients' bodies, because they will be genetically identical.
Such cloning has been done before in mice and monkeys, but this is the first time human embryos have been successfully grown past an eight-cell stage from cloned cells.
The eggs were derived from women who were “financially compensated for the time, effort, discomfort, and inconvenience associated with the donation process.” They were given hormones to induce ovulation and to facilitate the retrieval of their eggs.
After the nucleus was removed from the eggs, genes from other person's skin cells was added into the eggs, and with electricity and caffeine, the researchers were able to induce embryos to grow. The embryos were thus genetic copies – clones – of the persons whose DNA was inserted into the eggs.
The stem cells from these embryos, which were destroyed in the process, were shown to be pluripotent – able to develop into many different kinds of cells.
“Over 120 human embryos were created and destroyed, to produce six embryonic stem cell lines. Creating the embryos involved subjecting healthy women to procedures that put their health and fertility at risk,” Cardinal O'Malley stated.
He pointed out that the stated goal of the research, producing genetically matched stem cells for therapies, “is already being addressed by scientific advances that do not pose these grave moral wrongs.”
Adult stem cells, which do not prose the same ethical concerns as human embryonic stem cells, are already being used to treat and cure diseases, making it unnecessary to do such research on human embryonic stem cells.
These adult stem cells are taken from a person's existing stem cells or from the placenta or umbilical cord at birth. They can also be found throughout the body in all human tissues, including bone marrow, fat, and teeth.
Cardinal O'Malley said that the techniques of the new cloning research “will be taken up by those who want to produce cloned children as 'copies' of other people.”
The study's head, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, has said that the technique will not be used to produce babies because they have not been able to do so with monkey embryos made in the same way.
He also dismissed ethical concerns about the embryos they had made, saying they aren't the equivalent of a human being because they were not fertilized naturally, according to NPR.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said the researchers “created many human embryos, male and female, and allowed them to grow for up to seven days, for the sole purpose of killing them and harvesting their stem cells.”
Cardinal O'Malley concluded his statement by saying that “whether used for one purpose or the other, human cloning treats human beings as products, manufactured to order to suit other people's wishes. It is inconsistent with our moral responsibility to treat each member of the human family as a unique gift of God, as a person with his or her own inherent dignity.”
Vatican City, May 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis said on Wednesday that bishops and priests must take care to avoid temptations in order to be an effective shepherd, protecting their flock from dangers.
He urged the Catholic faithful to pray for bishops and priests, “because if we go on the road to riches, if we go on the road to vanity, we become wolves and not shepherds.”
The Pope’s words came in his May 15 homily in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence at the Vatican.
“A bishop is not a bishop for himself,” Pope Francis said. “He is for the people, and a priest is not a priest for himself. He is for the people: to serve, to nurture them, to shepherd them, who are his flock – in order to defend them from the wolves.”
When the bishops and priests do this, he said, they foster a “relationship of protection and love” between God and the pastor and between the pastor and the laity.
This shows “a true love” that unites the Church, he explained.
The Pope based his homily on the Acts of the Apostles passage in which St. Paul exhorts the Church of Ephesus to guard against the “ravening wolves” and “men speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them,” Vatican Radio reports.
Pope Francis repeated his prayers for bishops and priests who face temptation.
“We are men and we are sinners,” he said. “We are tempted.”
He cited St. Augustine’s commentaries on the prophet Ezekiel. Augustine warned against the temptations of wealth and vanity, when the bishop and priest “take from the people,” make deals and become “attached to money.”
The Holy Father added that “when a priest, a bishop goes after money, the people do not love him – and that's a sign….he ends badly.”
A bishop or priest on “the road to vanity” is one who “enters into the spirit of careerism – and this hurts the church very much,” the Pontiff said. Such a man “ends up being ridiculous: he boasts, he is pleased to be seen, all powerful – and the people do not like that!”
He pointed to the example of St. Paul, who “did not have a bank account” but worked with his hands and accomplished God’s will.
Pope Francis asked the Catholic faithful to pray for bishops and priests “that we might be poor, that we might be humble, meek, in the service of the people.”
He urged bishops and priests to pray much and to “boldly preach the message of salvation.”
Washington D.C., May 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A bipartisan coalition of Congress members has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, calling for government action to protect the family members of Chinese pro-life leader Chen Guangcheng.
“Chen Guangcheng and his family have suffered greatly at the hands of Chinese officials in Shandong Province,” wrote the congressional leaders.
“Their story is not unfamiliar but it is somewhat unique, in that it has garnered international attention, in part through Chen's heroic escape from house arrest, and shone a bright light on the consistent human rights abuses endured by the Chinese people,” they said.
The letter was signed by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), along with Reps. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.).
It recalled the escape of Chen from Chinese house arrest last year.
Blind since childhood, Chen became a self-taught human rights lawyer. He drew the attention of Chinese officials through his work to expose the government’s one-child policy and its frequent enforcement through forced abortions and sterilizations.
Chen was sentenced to more than four years in prison for his activism, and after his release in Sept. 2010, he and his family were placed under house arrest with no formal charges. He reported that he and his family were beaten during this period and were not allowed medical treatment.
The Chinese attorney gained international attention following his escape from house arrest to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in April 2012.
Amid global pressure, the Chinese government promised to treat him and his family humanely and allow them to live in peace. Chen agreed to leave the embassy and was taken to a local hospital. However, he quickly voiced fears that China would not keep its promises and said that he wanted to come to the United States to be safe.
After being offered a fellowship to study law and learn English at New York University's law school, Chen was permitted to travel to the U.S. with his wife and two children. Unlike most Chinese families, Chen was allowed to have a second child because he is blind. Chinese policy includes an exception to the one-child policy for some disabled individuals.
Since his escape, Chen has continued to voice concern for his family members remaining in China. The congressional letter echoed these concerns.
“Most urgent is the dire medical condition of Chen Kegui, the imprisoned nephew of Chen Guangcheng, who is reportedly suffering from acute appendicitis,” it said. “His family is fearful that absent proper medical attention (which has been denied by Chinese authorities to date) his life is at risk.”
Furthermore, it said, “Kegui has been sentenced to three years in prison for defending himself against intruders,” and Chen Guangchen’s older brother has been beaten “in what seems like an escalating effort to intimidate and harm Chen Guangcheng's family.”
The lawmakers acknowledged that the State Department has “made the medical condition of Chen Kegui a priority in your discussions with Chinese government officials.” They urged department officials to continue working to send a strong message to the Chinese government that “this situation is of the utmost importance.”
In particular, the congressmen suggested that U.S. officials meet with Chen Kegui in prison and with Chen Guancheng and his wife in the United States. They also called on the department to seek medical parole and prompt attention for the imprisoned family member.
The State Department should also urge the Chinese government “in the strongest possible terms” to investigate the actions of officials and government workers who have allowed the persecution of Chen’s family to take place, the legislators stated, recommending that government workers involved in the mistreatment of the Chen family be denied U.S. visas.
“Regardless of whether any of these individuals intend to travel to the U.S., such a message to the Chinese government would be of great symbolic import,” they noted.
Stressing the need to act swiftly and with deliberation, the Congress members asked for a future “briefing by the State Department regarding the actions being taken regarding this situation.”