Archive of July 19, 2013

Black pastors call for peace amid Trayvon Martin protests

Memphis, Tenn., Jul 19, 2013 (CNA) - Reacting to the protests and scattered violence in response to the verdict in the Florida trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin, a group of black Christian ministers has called for peace.

“The black community knows that our civil rights were won through peace, not violence,” said Protestant minister Rev. William Owens, president of the Tennessee-based Coalition for African American Pastors.

“We are a nation of laws, not unlawful violence. The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy for everyone, but resorting to violence will only hurt our own communities,” he said July 18.

“What kind of message are we sending to our children if we perpetuate the violence in our culture?” added Rev. Owens, who organized students during the civil rights movement.

Protests were sparked after the July 13 "not guilty" verdict in the second degree murder trial of George Zimmerman. Most of the protests have been peaceful, although some have become violent.

Several thousand demonstrators filled New York City’s Times Square. A Los Angeles protest of about 200 people shut down a freeway, with some in the crowd throwing bottles. Some protests in Oakland were accompanied by assaults, vandalism, broken windows and arson attempts, the Los Angeles Times reports. Similar crimes have accompanied other protests.

A July 17 protest in Victorville, Calif., resulted in 17 arrests after some protesters began looting stores.

Some crimes unaffiliated with any protests have also taken place. One beating victim in Milwaukee has claimed one of his assailants said Trayvon Martin’s death motivated the attack, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says.

Zimmerman, a 29-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer in a Sanford, Fla., neighborhood, said he shot and killed 17-year-old Martin in self-defense on Feb. 26, 2012.

Zimmerman alleged that Martin punched him, breaking his nose, and pushed him to the ground, slamming his head several times against the sidewalk.

Prosecutors contended that Zimmerman, who is half white and half Hispanic, had followed the unarmed black teenager only because of his race and then started the altercation that resulted in Martin’s death.

Zimmerman was detained by police but was not charged for over a month, leading to accusations that race was a factor in the processing of the case.

Rev. Owens called for non-violent action, saying that “the hearts of people have been changing” since Martin’s death.

“Instead of divisive rhetoric, let’s continue to use our stories and our voice to address society’s problems,” he said.

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Women with prostitution charges find compassion, new start

Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 19, 2013 (CNA) - A Philadelphia treatment court has been praised for offering hope and healing to women seeking to change their lives after being repeatedly charged with prostitution offenses.

“I think its a tremendously helpful approach,” author and speaker Dawn Eden told CNA in a July 11 interview.

“When I heard the graduates give their stories, stories of healing and hope, I really felt the presence of God in the room.”

Eden gave the July 9 commencement speech to the women graduating from Project Dawn Court. The initiative is designed to help women with repeat prostitution offenses and is modeled off of the highly successful Philadelphia Treatment Court, which was founded in 1997 to help reduce drug crimes.

“The idea behind treatment courts is that, there are certain offenders that are known in the criminal justice system for being 'revolving-door offenders,'” Eden said.

She noted that the goal of Project Dawn is to “reduce recidivism by enabling people who are willing to be treated to go through a treatment program that's individually tailored to their needs.”

The women involved in the treatment court receive counseling for past sexual abuse as well as drug or alcohol addictions as needed, checking in with the judge who is monitoring their progress every month or so. The participants who stay clean for one year graduate the program, and if they stay clean for another year, they will have the opportunity to get their prostitution convictions expunged.

Eden, who flew to Philadelphia out of her own pocket to give the speech, was very excited to speak with the graduates, saying that “I could relate a lot of it to my own experiences as a victim of childhood sexual abuse.”

She emphasized that “nearly all of prostituted women have suffered childhood sexual abuse,” and that many who were abused became homeless, and turned to prostitution and drugs when they were already on the streets.

“There's this misconception that prostitutes who are drug addicts became addicted to drugs first and then took to prostitution in order to feed their habit,” Eden said.

However, “in nearly every case, these are women who first suffered sexual abuse in childhood, then became homeless, were preyed upon by someone who sexually exploited them.”

“A pimp, and then this pimp, after abusing and prostituting them, got them addicted to drugs so that they would become even more dependent upon the pimp, and not get away.”

Eden was clear to mention that although these women are responsible for their actions, they have continually been victimized, and need compassion more than another jail sentence. Sharing from her own experience, she told the women that she had to learn that her value as a human being “does not depend on what I do,” but that her value “as a human being, as a woman, comes from being made in the image and likeness of God.”

She also emphasized to the women that, “the worst thing that they can do is not to fall or relapse,” but to “fall or relapse and refuse to seek help.” Eden said the most successful stories in the program are not the women who made it through without a relapse, but the ones who did and were honest.

“The graduate's prognosis is better, not worse, if they have experienced a relapse in the court, and taken advantage of the resources of the court in order to get back up and continue with the program.”

Project Dawn Court is not only effective in helping these women, but interesting given that “it's not a religious organization that runs the court, its the city of Philadelphia that operates it.”

She said she realized that although the Project Dawn Court is not religious, we, our country, “have this heritage of Judaism and Christianity that says that people can change, people can grow.”

Eden, who hopes to continue speaking in venues such as the Project Dawn Court, finished her speech by telling the graduates that “the key to healing is not to forget your past, but to find moments in your past when someone did something kind for you...when someone protected you, smiled at you, performed an act of love for you without expecting anything in return.”

She encouraged them to find those good memories in their lives, and to build their identity on those, “because your identity is as a beautiful and beloved daughter of God.”

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Pope Francis' shadow: Monsignor Pedacchio Leaniz

Vatican City, Jul 19, 2013 (CNA) - Pope Francis now counts on the discreet presence of his new, 49-year-old Argentinean secretary, Msgr. Fabiàn Pedacchio Leaniz.

“I want to keep a low profile,” Pope Francis' second secretary told CNA in a June 27 conversation. “I’m doing my best to attend to the Holy Father, without revealing anything of Pope Francis private life.”

Msgr. Fabiàn Edgardo Marcelo Pedacchio Leaniz leaned out the Apostolic Palace window at the Pope’s side for the first time on May 12, almost exactly two months after Pope Francis’ election.

Shortly after the March 13 event, he moved to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican hotel where the Pope is living. He began collaborating part time with Pope Francis, while keeping his post of “second class secretary clerk” at the Congregation for the Bishops.

Now, Msgr. Pedacchio Leaniz is Pope Francis’ full-time second secretary, a position through which he aids the Holy Father in his daily life whether it be as a translator or in answering personal correspondence in the name of the Pope. The first secretary is Msgr. Alfred Xuereb, of Maltese origins, who also served as second secretary to Benedict XVI.

As second secretary, Msgr. Pedacchio will eventually be inserted into the ranks of the Secretariat of State.

The priest has long known the pontiff. When he took his post in the Vatican Curia in 2007, it was under recommendation of the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

An expert in Canon Law, Msgr. Pedacchio Leaniz was secretary of SADEC, the Argentinian society for  Canon Law. He also worked at the Ecclesiastical Court of Argentina.

The monsignor was raised in the barrio of Villa Luro, in Buenos Aires. He recounted in an interview with the newspaper “El Periodico del Barrio” in Jan. 2007 that, when he was younger, he never thought about becoming a priest.

In 1983, he decided to study economics and raise a family. But then he met a priest who, Pedacchio Leaniz told El Periodico del Barrio, “grabbed my attention for his joy and openness. Once he asked me if I had ever thought of being a priest.”

Msgr. Pedacchio’s first reply was, “My future is studying, graduating and raising a family.” But he kept thinking about this priest’s proposal, and the following March he entered the seminary.

He was ordained a priest on Dec. 7, 1992.

It was later that then-parish priest Fr. Pedacchio Leaniz began to have a weekly phone conversations with his archbishop, Cardinal Bergoglio, and meet with him more frequently.

In 2007, the Congregation of Bishops asked Cardinal Bergoglio if he could suggest an Argentinian priest for a post within its ranks. The cardinal chose Msgr. Pedacchio Leaniz, whom the archbishop of Buenos Aires held in great esteem.

Their friendship even led to some speculation about the true role the priest had in the Congregation for the Bishops.

In a Dec. 26, 2011 report, an anonymous informant wrote in the Argentinian portal Intereconomia accusing him of being “a spy of Cardinal Bergoglio in Rome” within the ranks of the Congregation of Bishops.  

The report insinuated that Msgr. Pedacchio used to inform Cardinal Bergoglio “of any document or letter that reached the Congregation, sealed documents included.” The report also asserted that “when the issue at stake is very important, Msgr. Pedacchio also sends faxes to Bergoglio with all the documentation required” by “his boss.”

Msgr. Pedacchio Leaniz is considered by many to be skilled and attentive. “He used to keep eyes and ears open,” said a Vatican clerk who worked in the Congregation for Bishops and spoke to CNA on the condition of anonymity.

His hobbies are varied. He likes opera and music in general, and he has a broad collection of CDs of various genres. He likes soccer and he is a big fan of the Argentinian football team of River Plate. He loves Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ books, and he is a fan of Pedro Almodovar, the famous Spanish film director and Academy Award winner.

In Rome, he used to buy prayer books at a small bookshop in the vicinity of Saint Peter Square. The booksellers described Msgr. Pedacchio in a June 27 conversation with CNA as “a nice and easygoing person, sometimes even humorous.”

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Pope Francis prays with Benedict XVI before World Youth Day

Vatican City, Jul 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis met with former pontiff Benedict XVI today to pray for his trip to Brazil and for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro next week.

The Pope also brought Benedict XVI the itinerary of his journey so that he could participate spiritually as well as follow the live broadcast of the event.

Pope Francis visited Benedict shortly after 4:00 p.m. local time at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, where the former Pope moved to live just a few months ago.

He paid tribute to the commemorative medal prepared for the journey and Benedict XVI assured him of his prayers, remembering the intense experiences of the past World Youth Days in Cologne, Sydney and Madrid.

The meeting began with a moment of prayer in the monastery’s chapel and continued with a friendly chat that lasted about half an hour.

Next week's global youth event in Rio will take place from July 23 - 28, during which Pope Francis will be staying in a modest residency, visiting a slum and traveling without his popemobile.

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'Everything is lost in war,' Pope says of WWII church bombing

Vatican City, Jul 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis echoed the words of World War II pontiff Pius XII in a message today marking 70 years since the Basilica of San Lorenzo bombing in Rome.

“The memory of the bombing of that dramatic day resonates once again in each of the words of Pope Pius XII, 'nothing is lost with peace, everything can be lost with war,'” Pope Francis said on July 19.

“Peace is a gift of God, to find such open hearts to receive him and to work to be builders of peace and reconciliation,” he told the vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini.

The San Lorenzo basilica was bombed July 19, 1943 by allied planes aiming to disrupt railway communication, and was the most catastrophic bombing in Rome during World War II.

Pope Francis underscored that the anniversary of the event should be “an occasion to pray for those who have disappeared and a renewed meditation around the terrible scourge of war, as well as an expression of gratitude to the man who was attentive and provident father.”

The pontiff also encouraged assistance to the homeless and the wounded in his message to the cardinal.

“I would like to remind all those who, in such a dramatic moment, collaborated in offering moral and material help in healing the wounds of body and soul and in providing assistance to the homeless,” he said.

“That was a charity race that stretched to every human being in danger and in need of friendship and support,” said Pope Francis in his message.

He emphasized that during that time, “many Bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout Italy were like the Good Samaritan in the Gospel parable, leaning on his brother in pain, to help him and give him consolation and hope.”

Pope Pius XII, he recalled, “did not hesitate to run, immediately and without escort, among the still smoking ruins of the District of San Lorenzo, in order to help and console the frightened.”

“Even at that time, he showed to be a caring pastor who is in the midst of his flock, especially in times of trial, ready to share in the sufferings of his people.”

Pope Francis stressed that the gesture of Pius XII was a “sign of the incessant work of the Holy See and the Church in its various forms, parishes, religious institutes, boarding schools, to give relief to the population.”

He noted “among others, I wish to make mention Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, then Deputy Secretary of State, who accompanied Pius XII in the visit to the barrio just devastated by bombs.”

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Flash mob organizers hope to unite WYD crowds in Rio

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jul 19, 2013 (CNA) - Organizers of a massive flash mob in Brazil hope that some two million young people from around the world will dance for Pope Francis before the start of the closing Mass for World Youth Day 2013.

“The idea of the flash mob is to show that together we can show the world something, that we are able to say something to the world. To show unity, that we think together,” said Edson Erdmann, artistic director for the events at Guaratiba, near Rio de Janeiro.

He explained that Pope Francis will re-join pilgrims on the morning of July 28 after their overnight vigil at the Campus Fidei. He hopes that the young people will greet the Holy Father with a massive flash mob.

A video teaching the dance steps is available on YouTube for young people who wish to begin practicing with their friends. But there will also be four rehearsals on Saturday evening and Sunday morning before the Pope arrives.

“The idea is for the music to be simple, good and pleasant to listen to. The choreography is simple but we are going to amaze the world if we all do it together,” Erdmann explained.

Carioca dancer Glaucia Geraldo created the choreography. The song “Francisco” comes from the Show del Futuro.

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Bishops urge end of 'indifference' to Central African Republic

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jul 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The bishops' conference of Africa released a message of solidarity with the people of the Central African Republic, where a rebellion and coup have lately led to serious human rights violations.

“We urge the new authorities of the Central African Republic to assume their responsibility to ensure the safety and protection of the entire population and to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid,” the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar wrote in a July 13 declaration.

The African bishops' conference met in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this week and discussed the theme of the Church as “family of God … in service of reconciliation, justice and peace.”

Among the topics discussed was the situation in the Central African Republic, where Séléka rebels ousted the president March 24. The country suffered a war from 2004 to 2007 which sprang up again in December.

It is among the world's poorest countries, with extremely low human development, and major human rights abuses.

The bishops indicated their “shock and outrage” at the “serious human rights violations” in the Central African Republic, as well as the “quasi indifference of the international community.”

Their reaction was similar to that of Doctors Without Borders, which said in a July 9 report that the country's health care system has collapsed, with most aid agencies having withdrawn to the capital city, leaving the rest of the country helpless.

The bishops' conference called on international bodies, including the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations to “help end all foreign interference in the country” and to “guarantee emergency humanitarian assistance” to Central Africans.

The bishops themselves have mobilized the Catholic aid agency Caritas to contribute to an appeal for the country, and said they “urge … sister Churches of the world to intensify their solidarity with Caritas and the Church of the Central African Republic in their efforts to help the many victims.”

The efforts of the Central African bishops, “in cooperation with the other religious denominations” to assist the country's “battered populations” and to keep the conflict from spreading or “becoming a seemingly religious” struggle were praised by their brother bishops.

The declaration also indicated that the bishops of the Central African Republic have consistently denounced the “abuses and unspeakable sufferings imposed” on the country's people.

The Séléka have plundered the country, looting from families, religious orders and the Church. After seizing power, the constitution was suspended and parliament dissolved.

Aid to the Church in need has provided support to more than 200 projects in the Central African Republic, safeguarding priests, purchasing cars and motorcycles, supporting pastoral work, and promoting the development of infrastructure.

The Central African Republic borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan. Most of the nation’s citizens are Christian, though significant minorities practice indigenous religions or Islam.

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Pro-life activist's former abortion clinic in Texas closes

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The abortion clinic formerly managed by pro-life activist Abby Johnson will close as a result of more stringent health regulations on such facilities throughout the state of Texas.

“This is what grace truly looks like,” Johnson told 40 Days for Life, a national pro-life campaign. “Knowing that the former abortion clinic I once ran is now closing is the biggest personal victory of my life.”  

Johnson, a former abortion clinic worker and manager of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas, left the industry in 2009 after participating in an ultrasound-guided abortion.

Since her departure from the abortion business, Johnson has become an outspoken pro-life speaker. She has founded a non-profit, And Then There Were None, to help abortion clinic workers who wish to leave the industry find new lines of employment.

The pro-life group 40 Days for Life hosts prayer and fasting vigils for the end to abortion in front of abortion clinics across the country. Johnson’s clinic was the focal point of the first 40 Days for Life campaign in 2004.

She has credited the organization – which was engaged in a two week prayer vigil at her clinic the week she left her former job – with helping her to leave Planned Parenthood.

“From running that facility, to then advocating for its closure, and now celebrating that dream,” Johnson said to the organization, “it shows that my life has indeed come full circle.”

“I am honored to have worked with so many who helped with my conversion and the closure of this facility. We will continue to fight until every abortion clinic in this country has shut its doors.”

The closure of the Bryan clinic comes alongside announcements that two other Texas Planned Parenthood clinics will close following the signing of a law limiting late-term abortions and increasing clinic standards by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

In a July 18 press release Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast announced that three affiliates of its Houston clinic in Bryan, Lufkin and Huntsville Texas will close due to “the combined impact of years of budget cuts to women's health care services and the dismantling of the successful Women's Health Program.”

The new law bans most abortions after 20 weeks, the point at which scientific evidence indicates unborn babies can likely feel pain.

It also makes sure that abortion clinics meet the same health regulations as other outpatient surgery centers, requires physician involvement in the abortion procedure, and ensures that physicians at the abortion facility have emergency room admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Abortion clinics will be responsible for ensuring that their clinics comply with the new health standards.

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