Washington D.C., Sep 14, 2013 (CNA) - A recent hearing before members of the U.S. House of Representatives examined the gender imbalance in India and its connection to human trafficking and mistreatment of women in the country.
“Sex-selective abortion and female infanticide have led to lopsided sex ratios,” said Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.). “In parts of India, for example, 126 boys are born for every 100 girls.”
“This in turn leads to a shortage of women, which then leads to trafficking in persons, bride selling and prostitution.”
Smith leads the House congressional panel that oversees global health and human rights. He chaired a Sept. 10 hearing on the sex ratio disparity in India, the first of its kind in Congress.
The congressman explained that by “shining a light on what is happening in India with its missing girls, we hope to move toward a world where every woman is valued and respected because of her intrinsic dignity, and where every child is welcomed regardless of his or her sex.”
Panelists at the hearing described the gender imbalance in India as a multi-faceted phenomenon, stemming from societal discrimination against women, influenced by international population control programs, and accomplished though sex-selective abortion, infanticide, and child neglect.
Matthew J. Connelly, a history professor at Columbia University, stated that “there can be no more important question than why boys increasingly outnumber girls, and what kind of world they will inherit if women have become a minority.”
Connelly explained that international family planning policies have played a part in contributing to making women “a persecuted minority,” particularly in areas with an existing “prejudice against girls.”
“It is not enough merely to insist on choice,” he argued. “Choices can be conditioned by default or design in ways that lead to new kinds of oppression.”
Researcher Sabu M. George, a member of India’s Campaign Against Sex Selection, argued that “rampant sex selection has resulted in genocide” within India.
He warned that this “extreme form of violence against women” could lead to further problems, such as “several men sharing one wife” and an increased “threat of violence inside and outside homes.”
George also explained that while there are laws prohibiting the use of ultrasounds to reveal the sex of an unborn child, these laws are not enforced.
Human rights lawyer Jill McElya, who works with the Invisible Girl Project, echoed George’s statements, saying that sex trafficking, sexual assault and violence against women are an intense problem in the country, and “the root is gendercide.”
The United Nations estimates that 50 million women “are missing from India’s population,” she explained, meaning that millions of Indian men “will not marry because their potential wives have been murdered, due to female feticide, female infanticide, and deadly forms of neglect.”
This sex disparity leads to the use and abuse of girls, McElya said, pointing to a high profile gang rape that resulted in the death of a young woman in New Delhi last winter, as well as the rape, abandonment and death of a five-year-old girl in April.
“These two crimes are examples of the evil frequently inflicted upon women and girls in India,” she said.
To help stem the continuation of sex selection, infanticide, and child neglect, McElya asked that the United States require India and other countries with sex imbalances in the population “to report what they’re doing to save their daughters” as a condition to receive U.S. funding.
Vatican City, Sep 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his morning Mass homily in Santa Marta, Pope Francis focused on the topic of gossip – saying that when we participate in this sin, we imitate Cain's gesture in killing his brother Abel.
The Pope began his homily Sept. 13 by echoing the words of Jesus in the gospel reading, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
He spoke for a few minutes on the virtue of humility, adding that Jesus addressed those who practice the opposite and who foster “that hateful attitude towards one’s neighbor when one becomes a 'judge' of his brother,” calling them “hypocrites.”
“Those who live judging their neighbor, speaking ill of their neighbor, are hypocrites, because they lack the strength and the courage to look to their own shortcomings.”
Pope Francis said that the “Lord does not waste many words on this concept,” and that “he who has hatred in his heart for his brother is a murderer.”
The Pope added that in his first letter, John the Apostle emphasizes that “anyone who has hatred for his brother is a murderer, he walks in darkness, he who judges his brother walks in darkness,” and that those who judge or speak ill of others are “Christian murderers.”
“A Christian murderer…It’s not me saying this, it’s the Lord. And there is no place for nuances. If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother. And every time we do this, we are imitating that gesture of Cain, the first murderer in History.”
During this time when there is so much debate and discussion about war amid cries for peace, the pontiff pleaded that “a gesture of conversion on our own behalf is necessary.”
“Gossip,” he cautioned, “always has a criminal side to it. There is no such thing as innocent gossip.”
Quoting St. James the Apostle, the Pope imparted that the tongue is designed to praise God, “but when we use our tongue to speak ill of our brother or sister, we are using it to kill God...the image of God in our brother.”
He said that although there are some who believe certain persons deserve to be gossiped about, that is not the case. Rather, he encouraged the Mass attendees to “Go and pray for him! Go and do penance for her! And then, if it is necessary, speak to that person who may be able to seek remedy for the problem. But don’t tell everyone!”
“Paul had been a sinner, and he says of himself: 'I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a violent man. But I have been mercifully treated.'”
Pope Francis challenged those present, saying that perhaps none are blasphemers, but that “if we ever gossip we are certainly persecutors and violent.”
“We ask for grace so that we and the entire Church may convert from the crime of gossip to love, to humility, to meekness, to docility, to the generosity of love towards our neighbor.”
Port au Prince, Haiti, Sep 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A rehabilitation clinic for the handicapped in Port-au-Prince will soon be opened in honor of Father Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero, an Argentinean priest who will be beatified Sept.14.
The new clinic will be called “Kay Gabriel,” which means “Gabriel’s House.” The inspiration behind the initiative is an Argentine physical therapist named Norma Lopez, who has been working in Haiti since the earthquake in 2010 that devastated the country.
Lopez works with a team of volunteers that care for adults with neurological disorders, as well as special-needs children and their families.
The idea for “Kay Gabriel” came after Lopez began working with the survivors of the earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 10, 2010. Hundreds of Haitians injured by the quake began seeking treatment at Saint Damien Hospital and pushing the underdeveloped health care system to its limits.
The story of a little girl named Johane was of particular relevance to founding of the home.
Johane was asleep at the time of the earthquake and suffered a fractured skull when her house collapsed. Doctors said there was no hope she would recover. She lay immobile in her hospital bed and was barely able to breathe. A feeding tube was her sole means of receiving nourishment.
Doctors said Johane needed surgery to alleviate a massive brain hemorrhage, but there were no surgeons to perform the procedure.
When she heard of the young girl’s plight, Lopez and her team began to care for Johane. One of the head nurses recalled hearing a story of a boy named Nicolas Flores, who survived a car accident through the intercession of Fr. Brochero.
Lopez explained that she was drawn “to pray to God from the bottom of my heart for the intercession of Fr Brochero that Johane would survive the severe brain damage she suffered.”
Though she realized there were slim chances for Johane’s survival, Lopez continued to pray each day for the girl. One day, a group of Italian surgeons decided to take Johane into surgery in order to alleviate some of the pressure on her brain.
Johane showed some improvement after the operation, and Lopez was moved by the desire to start a treatment program for other children in need.
“We began building Kay Gabriel, a name we chose in gratitude to that priest who interceded before God,” she said.
“The God of life, the God of hope. That God who gives us the certainty to believe that these children, young people, fathers, mothers and seniors who have lost a limb will be able to walk again and resume their lives, even with their limitations.”
Vatican City, Sep 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the occasion the beatification of Fr. José Gabriel Brochero of Cordoba, Argentina, known to locals as the “cowboy priest,” Pope Francis praised him for his open heart.
“Brochero was a normal man, fragile, like any of us,” said Pope Francis. But his greatness came from the fact that, “he knew the love of Jesus. He let his heart be touched by the mercy of God.”
Born in 1840 and ordained to the priesthood at age 26, Fr. Brochero was known for traversing his mountainous parish by mule to bring the gospel and sacraments to the people of Cordoba.
Pope Francis confirmed this image of the priest in his letter to Archbishop José María Arancedo, President of the Argentian Bishop’s Conference, on the occasion of Fr. Brochero’s beatification.
The Pope said that for the people of his parish, receiving a visit from Fr. Brochero was like “a visit from Jesus to each family.”
When visiting his parishioners, the Pope described how the priest would bring the image of the Virgin Mary and his Mass kit and prayer book.
While explaining the faith he would “speak in a way that everyone could understand because what he said about the faith and love that he had toward Jesus would come directly from his heart.”
His apostolic courage is an important witness for missionaries today, noted the Holy Father.
“Brochero did not stay in the parish offices: he would exhaust himself riding his mule and he ended up being sick with leprosy.”
He was faithful to the end, continuing to “pray and celebrate Mass even as a blind leper.”
He was well known for his aid to the sick and dying, particularly in the cholera epidemic of 1867 that devastated the city of Cordoba.
In late 1869, he was assigned to the parish of St. Albert, which extended over a region of 4,336 square kilometers.
The impoverished population of 10,000 who made up the parish had no roads or schools. Unable to be reached by the wider world, they were, according to Fr. Brochero, “abandoned by everyone but not by God.”
Early in his time at St. Albert, Fr. Brochero led a group of people over the dangerous Sierra Mountains to the city of Cordoba for a retreat of Spiritual Exercises with the Jesuits.
Although the journey was perilous due to intense snowstorms, it bore great spiritual fruit in the life of the people.
In addition to his people’s spiritual growth, the priest sought his flock’s social progress and worked to build local schools, construct paths for transportation, and even convinced the local authorities to provide postal and telegraph couriers.
An 1887 article in a local Cordoba newspaper described him as an exceptional priest whose work was not limited to preaching.
“He practices the gospel. Are you missing a carpenter? He’s a carpenter. Are you missing a laborer? He’s a laborer. He rolls up his cassock wherever he is, takes the shovel or hoe and opens a public road in 15 days aided by his parishioners,” the article said.
Fr. Brochero died in 1914.
Vatican City, Sep 14, 2013 (CNA) - On the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, Pope Francis devoted his daily homily to considering both the bitterness of suffering and the beauty of sacrifice present in the mystery of the Cross.
“Today we look upon the Cross, the story of mankind and the story of God. We look upon this Cross, where you can try that honey of aloe, that bitter honey, that bitter sweetness of the sacrifice of Jesus,” said Pope Francis to the congregation at Domus Sancta Marta on Sept. 14.
Despite the fact that humanity sinned, God chose to “take up the story” of mankind, “to journey with us.”
According to the Genesis narrative, the first man and woman allowed sin into the world by eating from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The incarnation of the Son of God brought salvation through a different kind of tree: the wood of the Cross.
“This tree of the Cross saves us, all of us, from the consequences of that other tree, where self-sufficiency, arrogance, the pride of us wanting to know all things according to our own mentality, according to our own criteria, and also according to that presumption of being and becoming the only judges of the world," Pope Franis explained.
"This is the story of mankind: from one tree to the other.”
The only possible explanation for our salvation is Divine love, said the Pope.
“God takes this course for love! There’s no other explanation: love alone does this.”
In the Cross we find both the sweetness of God’s love in redeeming us, and the bitterness of his suffering and death due to sin.
This bittersweet reality is a mystery, which “can only be understood, a little bit, by kneeling, in prayer, but also through tears.”
Moreover, each of us must be aware of the cry of our brothers and sisters “who are looking upon so much human misery.”
Pope Francis emphasized the motherly role of Mary in understanding the dual nature of the cross.
“In order to enter into this mystery, which is not a labyrinth but resembles one a little bit, we need the Mother, the mother’s hand. That she, Mary, will make us understand how great and humble this mystery is; how sweet as honey and how bitter as aloe.”
Each Christian must take up the bittersweet journey of the cross for himself, “with our mother, weeping and on our knees.”