Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The governor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has received a letter from Pope Francis offering thanks for the city’s hospitality during his visit in July for World Youth Day.
“It is with great joy that we share with the population of Rio a message of Pope Francisco,” said Rio governor, Sérgio Cabral Filho on Aug. 25.
He said that the letter, received on Aug. 23, “moves us.”
Pope Francis was in Brazil from July 22 to 28 for World Youth Day, an event organized by the Church in which millions of young people from around the world gather with the Holy Father for prayer, catechesis and fellowship.
More than three million participants were present at the event’s closing Mass on Copacabana Beach.
The Holy Father praised the work of the teams involved in World Youth Day.
“I could not fail to express my sincere gratitude for all the work” by every sector of the state government and their “effort in ensuring the smooth progress of my one-week visit to Brazil,” he said.
“I also want to reiterate the gratitude for the kind provision of the Headquarters of the State Government of Rio de Janeiro, the Guanabara Palace.”
He noted the Palace “was the scene of my first official engagement in Brazil and where I had the opportunity to ‘ask for permission’ to enter into the heart of Brazilians.”
“I promise my prayers for the success of all initiatives of this government for the common good of the population of Rio de Janeiro,” especially those dealing with public safety, said the pontiff.
“I wish for everyone the most abundant blessings of God and I ask you to please pray for me,” he added.
Vatican City, Aug 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Aug. 28, Pope Francis will say Mass at the “chapter” of the Order of Saint Augustine, a meeting of the group's leaders which will elect a new head as well as set out their aims for the next six years.
The Pope will head the Eucharistic celebration at the Basilica of Saint Augustine in Campo Marzio to launch the chapter, which takes place every six years, lasts for about two to three weeks and will start this Wednesday, the feast of St. Augustine.
“The Pope was very devoted to Santa Monica (St. Augustine's mother) and often visited the tomb of Santa Monica to pray,” Cardinal Prospero Grech, an Augustinian friar, said in an Aug. 26 statement.
Around one hundred Augustinians from all over the world will gather in Rome to elect their new prior General marking their one hundred and eighty fourth chapter.
The head of the order is expected to be chosen between seven to 10 days after the launch of the chapter, during the first week of September. Until he is chosen, the vicar General Father Michael Di Gregorio, who is second in charge, will preside over the meetings.
The newly elected prior General will then lead more meetings for about one or two weeks to decide on the Augustinians' new aims and initiatives until their next term in 2019. The current head, Father Robert F. Prevost, has been serving for twelve years after he was re-elected in 2007.
“In the last one hundred years, the Prior General has never made three consecutive terms, but the re-election of Fr. Prevost is not impossible,” Antonello Sacchi of the Augustinian general curia's press office told CNA.
The Augustinians are present in 50 countries across all five continents. One of the reasons the chapter takes several weeks is because the realities can differ greatly from country to country and the goals for the next six years should be set accordingly.
“For example, the reality in Asia is very different to the reality in the United States,” said Sacchi. “And in the United States, vocations to the order are increasing tremendously.”
The Order of Saint Augustine was founded in 1244 aimed at living and promoting the spirit of community as it was lived by the early Christian communities. It is based on the teachings of the Bishop of Hippo Augustine, who lived during the fourth and fifth centuries. The Augustinians, who include both men and women, follow the rule of “living together in harmony, with one soul and one heart on our way to God.”
According to Cardinal Grech, the number of vocations will not be a top issue of discussion for the group since the order “consists of quality, not quantity.”
“Let us start with this question, what does the Church need today in our country, wherever we are?” he said in his statement. “We must give this response as a community.”
Washington D.C., Aug 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Coptic Christians must turn to their centuries-long history of overcoming obstacles as they seek to maintain their identity while fleeing violence amid Egyptian upheaval, scholars said at a recent event.
“Yes it's a story of decline, but also of survival; yes it’s a story of decay, but it’s one of endurance as well,” said Samuel Tadros, author of the recent book, “Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity.”
Tadros, a native of Egypt, is a research fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom. He spoke on the history of Copts in Egypt at an Aug. 22 event in Washington, D.C.
Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom, also spoke, explaining that contemporary political events bring this subject into even sharper focus.
“Last weekend there were attacks in Egypt – persecution the likes of which we have not seen since at least the 14th century against the Coptic Christian minority” in the area, she said.
“Scores of Churches were burned, looted, otherwise damaged; other institutions, Bible institutions, a monastery that dates back to the fourth or fifth century was destroyed,” she said. “Franciscan nuns were paraded as prisoners of war in the streets and jeered by supporters of President Morsi.”
The Muslim Brotherhood website, Shea charged, “has incited such attacks, blaming the Copts” for events around the country, including military action and the ousting of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
Tadros noted that modern liberalizing movements within the country have come to use the state to grant liberties and freedoms in Egypt and elsewhere in the region. This has enabled powerful groups to disenfranchise those who do not have power, such as the Copts in Egypt.
This dependence upon power and catering to the powerful results in “a separation from the country you live in,” he explained, adding that this distancing and animosity creates “a tendency to despise the people you live amongst.”
This political situation has led to an exodus of Coptic Christians from Egypt, which has in turn created questions of Coptic identity and where the future of the Coptic Church lies.
“The Arab Spring might lead in the end to something better in Egypt,” Tadros said, “but some things are hard to change.”
Once people leave Egypt and choose to build new lives” elsewhere in the world, he observed, “there’s no going back there.”
Less than a century ago, Tadros pointed out, there were only a handful of Coptic churches outside of Egypt. Now, however, “one-fifth of the Coptic churches are outside of the country where it has built its identity.”
“What does it mean to be a Copt when Egypt is the place you no longer call home?” he asked, suggesting that it is unclear what effects the migration of the Coptic people away from Egypt may have in terms of politics and identity.
Although acknowledging that “we are seeing a humongous demographic change in the Middle East,” he expressed doubt that current trends will reverse themselves. He warned of increasing polarization between minorities who feel they can only be protected with military force and majorities who use force to ensure a status quo.
Although Copts and Muslims “can and have lived in harmony in the past,” he said, “there are very few voices, if any that reject this binary choice between Islamism and the military.”
However, despite the various struggles facing the Copts, Tadros emphasized their ability to help shape their own future.
“Yes, Copts have been persecuted in Egypt, but they’ve not been hopeless victims,” he said.