Rome, Italy, Sep 23, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis condemned a massive suicide bombing at a Christian Church in Pakistan over the weekend, calling the violence unacceptable and urging peace efforts in the region.
“Today, in Pakistan, because of a wrong choice, a decision of hatred, of war, there was an attack in which over 70 people died. This choice cannot stand.”
At around noon Sunday, Sept. 22, two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the midst of the hundreds of worshippers leaving the historic All Saints church in Kohati Gate, a heavily populated area of Peshawar, Pakistan.
Witnesses of the attack, which killed at least 80 and wounded more than 120 people, said they heard two blasts from the bombs, the second being more powerful than the first. Suicide vests were later found outside of the church.
It is reported that the militant group Jandullah, linked to the Pakistani Taliban, said they carried out the double bombing in retaliation for US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal north-west.
This attack comes as the latest in a series of assaults on Pakistani Christians, who represent about 1.6% of the country's overwhelmingly Muslim population. Reports say that there are about 200,000 Christians in the province, of whom 70,000 lived in Peshawar.
Both religious and political leaders have condemned the attack, however angry crowds took to the streets in denouncement of the state's failure to protect minorities. On Sunday the demonstrators blocked roads in Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, and reports say that rallies are also expected in major cities on Monday.
The attack has been described as the first assault of its kind on Christians in recent memory, and is thought to be the deadliest ever attack on Pakistan's Christians. As a result, the Pakistani government has announced three days of mourning.
In unprepared remarks made at the end of his Sept. 22 one-day trip to the city of Cagliari on the Italian island of Sardinia, Pope Francis referred to the attack as an act of “hatred and war,” saying that violence such as this “cannot stand.”
“It serves nothing. Only the path of peace can build a better world.”
The lights on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica were dark on Sunday night, reportedly out of remembrance and mourning for the victims and their families.
Houma, Louis., Sep 23, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis appointed Bishop Shelton J. Fabre head of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux today, and accepted the resignation of Bishop Sam G. Jacobs, who had turned 75 in March.
Bishop Fabre had served as the auxiliary bishop of New Orleans since 2007.
“Bishop Fabre for me has been a true brother in ministry. He has been a great coworker in the ministry of this archdiocese, and I have a great deal of respect for him and for the way in which he lives out his ministry as a bishop,” Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans said Sept. 23.
“I will sincerely miss him and our ministry together. At the same time, the people of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux are very blessed to receive a loving and gentle shepherd who will walk with them and lead them in the ways of Christ.”
Bishop Fabre will be installed as head of Houma-Thibodaux on Oct. 30.
He was born in 1963 in New Road, Louis., and after high school entered seminary for the Diocese of Baton Rouge. He studied at Saint Joseph Seminary College in Louis., and then received a masters in religious studies from the Catholic University of Louvain.
He was ordained a priest in 1989, and served at several parishes, as well as head of the diocesan Black Catholic office and in the tribunal. He was then appointed auxiliary bishop of New Orleans, and consecrated on Feb. 28, 2007.
Bishop Jacobs, who is Bishop Fabre's predecessor, had served as head of the Houma-Thibodaux diocese since 2003.
The Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux covers 3,400 square miles in south-east Louisiana, and is home to some 120,000 Catholics, who comprise 59 percent of the local population.
Cairo, Egypt, Sep 23, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis has indicated respect “for Islam and Muslims” in a letter to the head of the main cultural institution of Sunni Islam, marking the end of Ramadan.
Ahmed el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, perhaps the highest authority in Sunni thought, received the Pope’s letter at the hands of Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel, apostolic nuncio to Egypt, on Sept. 17, Fides News Agency reported.
A statement from the Cairo-based university said that the Holy Father’s letter expressed hope in the attempt to further “understanding among Christians and Muslims in the world” and “to build peace and justice.”
Secretary of the Patriarchate of Alexandria of the Catholic Copts, Fr. Hani Bakhoum, told the agency that the Roman Pontiff’s letter “is a way of expressing the deep sense of respect and affection that the Catholic Church, the Holy See and the Pope have towards all Muslims and especially of al-Azhar, which is the most representative institution of moderate Sunni Islam.”
“Surely this letter will help over time to put aside any misunderstanding and also resume to bilateral dialogue with the Holy See.”
Following an attack on the Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve in 2011, dialogue between the Holy See and al-Azhar was interrupted when, according to Fides, the university “interpreted Pope Benedict XVI’s statements on the need to protect Christians in Egypt and the Middle East as an undue Western interference.”
Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2013 (CNA) - Amid rising numbers of people living alone, the Church must help build relationships and community with those who are not called to the vocation of marriage or religious life, an author says in a new column.
“Being alone is the first thing God pronounces 'not good,' after so many proclamations of the goodness of His creation. And yet being alone is an increasingly common condition in American life,” writer Eve Tushnet said in her Sept. 23 column for CNA.
An author in Washington, D.C., Tushnet’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times and Crisis Magazine. She has written on a number of topics, including her own Catholic faith and same-sex attraction, and she is working on a book about vocational discernment for gay Christians.
In her piece, “All the single laity,” Tushnet points out that “the early Church was anything but intently focused on pairing up lovebirds” and as a “quick flip through the dictionary of saints will show,” there are “plenty” of people who are not called to the vocation of marriage.
However, she noted, in many parishes, those who are unmarried are relegated to the “Young Adults Ministry” which often serves as “meet markets” to aid those called to marriage in finding their spouse.
While this approach can be helpful to those called to that vocation, she said, it often “leaves little space” for those who are “not married nor seeking marriage” – such as those who are separated, widowed and not interested in remarrying, civilly-divorced, same-sex attracted, or simply do not feel called to marriage or religious life.
As theology surrounding the “vocation of singleness” develops, she suggested, Christians should be encouraged to find community and form relationships that will lead them “into love, not loneliness.”
Singleness – in contrast to other vocations which are “typically defined by the type of relationship you have to others” – is often “defined by a lack of relationship to others,” Tushnet observed. Because of this, singleness can lead to isolation and loneliness even within the Church if not approached correctly.
In order to solve this issue facing single Catholics, the Church must become “more attuned to her history and mission” of serving as the “primary family for Christians,” she said.
This kind of community may look different for each person, but creating “subgroups within the Church for people whose life stages or paths appear similar” may not always be the best answer.
While it is comforting to be able to be able to relate to someone with similar struggles as yourself, it is important that these groups do not become the only places Christians seek community, the author said.
Rather than “envying one another” – as a single person may envy a married person's bond or a married person could envy a single person's freedom – Christians should “get to know one another” so that they can “help carry one another's crosses,” she added.
Being single offers “countless ways” to have a “fruitful and life-giving” presence in the Church, Tushnet said, such as being a godparent, hospice volunteer, teacher or shelter worker.
“These are callings which truly entwine our lives together, so that nobody has to be alone,” she explained.
Although more and more people may live alone “in the Census data,” it does not mean that one must be alone “in the Genesis sense.”
The full text of Tushnet's column can be found here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2682.
Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
American bishops have praised a recent bill in the House of Representatives that would protect those who share the Church’s understanding of marriage from penalties by the federal government.
The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act was introduced in the lower chamber of Congress on Sept. 19 by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho).
“I strongly support the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act,” said Archbishop William W. Lori of Baltimore, who chairs the U.S. bishops' committee for religious liberty, in a Sept. 20 statement.
“In a growing climate of intolerance against individuals and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, this Act is an important step in preserving their religious liberties at the federal level.”
Labrador explained that his bill would “ensure tolerance for individuals and organizations that affirm traditional marriage, protecting them from adverse federal action.” The legislation would prohibit the federal tax code from targeting groups and individuals who act upon their conscience in defining marriage as an institution between one man and one woman.
These protections would extend to both non-profit and for-profit organizations, but would only take effect on the national level, meaning that states could still penalize those who define marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
Religious freedom concerns in connection with marriage have been increasing for months, amid mounting lawsuits against those who object to a redefinition of marriage. Photographers, bed-and-breakfast owners and bakers have been among those facing large fines or jail time for adhering to their religious beliefs on marriage. Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to close in several states that have redefined marriage, due to their policy of placing children only in homes with a mother and father.
Archbishop Lori explained that alongside other protections in the bill, “the federal government would not be able to deny individuals and organizations a grant, contract, or employment because their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman is informed by their religious faith.”
“This non-discrimination bill is significant, indeed, very important,” added Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. bishops' committee for the promotion of marriage.
“It would prevent the federal government from discriminating against religious believers who hold to the principle that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. “
“This is of fundamental importance, as increasingly such individuals and organizations are being targeted for discrimination by state governments – this must not spread to the federal government.”
Both archbishops have asked that members of the House of Representatives support the bill.
Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In ministering to gay individuals, Catholic chaplains must share Christ’s love and mercy, without being forced to condone same-sex relationships, said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. military archdiocese.
“The current situation makes it necessary to reiterate with clarity the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding homosexuality,” said Archbishop Broglio in a Sept. 17 statement, “Renewed Fidelity in favor of Evangelization.”
“The Church must minister to all regardless of their sexual inclination. While the invitation to conversion cannot be diluted, the door to the mercy of Christ, obtained through His Cross, must be kept open.”
At the same time, he added that “no Catholic priest or deacon may be forced by any authority to witness or bless the union of couples of the same gender.”
The archbishop’s statement recalling “what is clearly held by the Catholic Church” was occasioned by “recent changes in interpretations of the laws of the Federal Government.”
Several months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.
The federal government has extended benefits to same-sex partners of military servicemen, and the U.S. Department of Labor said on Sept. 18 that same-sex couples can participate in employee benefit plans, even if they live in states that do not recognize “gay marriage.”
“A clear disservice is rendered if the truth of the Gospel is confused by the actions of those ordained to disseminate that truth,” Archbishop Broglio said, also acknowledging “the danger of scandal.”
In addition to the recognition that his clergy cannot witness or bless the union of same-sex couples, Archbishop Broglio said that they also must not be compelled to lead marriage retreats open to same-sex couples or to offer relationship counseling that contradicts Church teaching to same-sex partners.
He added that priests may officiate a or participate in burials and military ceremonies such as retirements, changes of command, and promotion ceremonies, so long as assistance or participation would not “give the impression that the Church approves of same sex 'marital' relationships.”
Archbishop Broglio reaffirmed that lay Catholics openly living as if they were married are “excluded from ministries in the Catholic community,” such as lectoring, altar serving, and being extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.
Lay Catholics in command positions also received guidance in the archbishop’s statement, as they “can be faced with additional questions as they fulfill their responsibilities to those above and below them in the chain of command.”
Archbishop Broglio referenced the National Catholic Bioethics Center’s guidelines for military personnel, quoting that while commanders “would not be engaging in morally illicit cooperation” by implementing certain employee benefits to same-sex couples, that they should avoid such cooperation where possible.
“Our determination is contingent on the situations in which commanders are unable to avoid such cooperation without jeopardizing their own just right to their employment security for themselves and/or their families,” the guideline explains.
“This is also contingent on the commander making known his/her objection to being required to so participate, as well as on attempting through legal channels to continue to accomplish changes in policy consistent with the historic understanding of marriage and family as based on natural moral law.”
Archbishop Broglio thanked the “Congress of the United States for its passage of renewed conscience-protection language, specifically for chaplains in the Armed Forces,” and encouraged Catholics in the archdiocese to consult the archdiocese with further questions and concerns.
The military archdiocese is responsible for the pastoral care of nearly two million Catholics in the U.S. Armed Forces, overseas United States civilian government personnel, and their families. The archdiocese oversees 265 Catholic chaplains, who volunteer for ministry as members of the Armed Services.