Archive of October 2, 2013

Divine Mercy statue in India receives cardinal's blessing

Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, Oct 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Sept. 30, Cardinal George Alencherry unveiled and blessed a shrine featuring a statue of the Divine Mercy of Jesus, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

“The statue is 43-feet tall and it proclaims that the Lord is ever merciful to all those who seek him,” Bishop Anthony Chirayath of the Syro-Malabarese Diocese of Sagar told CNA Sept. 28.

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. It is of the East Syrian rite, and is headed by Cardinal Alencherry, who is Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly. Nearly all 3.8 million Syro-Malabarese Catholics are in India, though there is an eparchy located in the U.S.

Some 20 bishops attended the blessing, as well as around 100 priests and religious. When he spoke to CNA, Bishop Chirayath said that “a presence of about 3,000 Catholic devotees of the Divine Mercy is expected, including pilgrims from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany and Italy,” adding that “a great participation of staunch devotees, even of other faiths, is to be witnessed.”

Bishop Chirayat explained that the motivation behind erecting this monumental shrine was through his personal experience some years ago.

While on a visit to the Divine Mercy shrine in San Francisco on Oct. 5, 2007, Bishop Chirayath said he saw a shrine in a vision and heard an “interior voice” instructing him to “build a shrine” in Sagar dedicated to the Divine Mercy of Jesus.

“I was neither aware of, nor a devotee to, the Divine Mercy.”

The image of Divine Mercy, based on visions experienced by 20th century Polish nun St. Faustina Kowalska, depicts Jesus touching his heart, from which red and white rays flow, offering the mercy of God to sinners.

The bishop said that locally, people refer to the Divine Mercy of Jesus as “Dayasagar,” or “Ocean of Mercy,” and that local non-Catholics call him “Prabhu,” or “Lord.”

The shrine is located in Khajuria, near Sagar. The statue weighs 1.5 tons and is placed at a height of 45 feet on a 100-foot concrete structure to protect it from violent storms and earthquakes. It is 16 feet wide, three feet depth, and three inches thick. The rays from the heart of Jesus are 21 feet long.

“The original idea was to install a statue of only eight feet,” Bishop Chirayath explained, “but later the vicar general and the curia suggested that we install a statue of 40 feet, but now increased to 43 feet.”

The statue was commissioned to a Catholic sculptor from Kerala, a state on the southern tip of India, named Poly.

The work was completed with contributions from devotees across India, and without making any appeals or undertaking fund-raising drives, the bishop said.

“People heard of this construction and voluntary contacted us, contributing small amounts.”

In addition, Fr. Anthony Gramlich, rector of the U.S. national shrine of the Divine Mercy, gave a painting of the devotion to the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Sagar. It was installed in the shrine at Khajuria in 2007, and the diocese was then consecrated to the Divine Mercy.

Since then, numerous miracles have been reported and recorded, particularly among non-Catholics. The shrine has become very popular, and Bishop Chirayath himself has reported being cured there of a malign tumor. He noted that the shrine is contributing to inter-religious dialogue in the area.

The shrine, which already has a perpetual adoration chapel as well as a relic of St. Faustina, will be expanded in the future.

Today, Oct. 1, Cardinal Alencherry also consecrated St. Theresa Cathedral for the Sagar diocese.

The Syro-Malabar Diocese of Sagar has over 60 priests and 100 religious, and serves some 7,000 Catholics, who are 0.1 percent of the population.

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Knights of Columbus aid ongoing response to Newtown shooting

Newtown, Conn., Oct 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - St. Rose of Lima Catholic Parish of Newtown, Conn., received a $100,000 gift from the Knights of Columbus to support its ongoing response to the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

“In the 24-hour news cycle, we often read or see the news, are affected for a time, and then quickly move on,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said Sept. 30. “But the people of Newtown could not simply ‘move on,’ and our gift and award are meant to acknowledge that the work of Monsignor Weiss and the St. Rose of Lima community continues.”

St. Rose of Lima is the only Catholic parish in Newtown.

On Dec. 14, a gunman killed 20 elementary school students and six faculty and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School after killing his own mother. He then took his own life.

Priests from St. Rose of Lima quickly arrived at the school to comfort victims and their relatives.

Anderson presented the Knights of Columbus’ gift after an evening Mass at the church Sept. 30. “You have made such an extraordinary witness of love, hope, and faith,” he told the parish.

Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport was the main celebrant and homilist for the Mass.

Anderson said that parish pastor Monsignor Robert Weiss continues to help the families who lost loved ones and helps with many community projects and gifts for them.

Msgr. Weiss received the Knights of Columbus’ first ever Caritas Award in August at the knights’ Supreme Convention in San Antonio. The award is intended to recognize “exemplary works of charity.”

At the presentation of the award, Anderson paraphrased Pope Francis and said the priest was able “to sympathize with the brokenness of others without losing his own strength and identity.” Anderson said this was “no easy task under the circumstances.”

Newtown’s St. Virgilius Knights of Columbus Council, which is based at the parish, also received a Caritas Award. The council established a program that asked other Catholics to say at least three Hail Marys for the shooting victims and their families, the first responders and teachers, and the Newtown community. More than 105,000 people took part in the project and offered over 3.25 million prayers.

Council members served as ushers at eight children’s funerals and helped the parish with logistical challenges in responding to the disaster.

The parish has ongoing programs related to the shooting.

The Knights of Columbus Board of Directors voted earlier this year to create the Caritas Award, which will be awarded to future recipients when merited.

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Taxpayer-funded abortions part of health care law, report says

Washington D.C., Oct 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Federal taxpayer funds could subsidize tens of thousands of abortions each year through the health care legislation that is continuing to go into effect, according to a new report from a pro-life group.

“The issue of whether the Affordable Care Act creates streams of taxpayer funding for abortion has been hotly debated,” Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said Sept. 26. “Research done by the Lozier Institute makes clear that, through the Multi-State Plans alone, Americans will be complicit in the deaths of thousands of unborn children each year through their tax dollars.”

The Lozier Institute is the education and research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. Its report examines the Affordable Care Act’s multi-state plans, which are present on the new health insurance exchanges.

The institute estimates federal taxpayers will heavily subsidize between 71,000 and 111,500 abortions per year through federal premium tax credits and Medicaid expansion for subscribers to plans that permit abortion.

Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia do not bar health plans with elective abortion coverage from the health insurance exchanges created by the 2010 law. Seventeen states permit state funds to be used for elective abortion coverage in their Medicaid programs.

These laws mean that about 5.57 million girls and women could gain abortion coverage under the Affordable Care Act through either the Medicaid expansion or the insurance exchanges created by the act.

During debate over whether to pass the health care legislation, President Obama secured the support of several pro-life Democrats by signing an executive order that confirmed the application of long-standing restrictions on elective abortion funding to the health insurance exchanges.

However, critics of the executive order said at the time that it would not prevent federal subsidies from going to insurance plans that pay for abortion and are allowed on the health exchanges.

Donovan, the report’s author, said that the current multi-state plans’ rules would allow the administration to push for the creation of health plans that cover elective abortions in states where they are not explicitly banned.

“A taxpayer may have an individual plan that does not cover elective abortion, but his or her tax dollars will be increasingly flowing to public and private plans in other states that reimburse for abortions at a higher rate than previously seen in American health care,” Donovan said. “Moreover, the ability to avoid the companies that sponsor these plans may decrease over time as they grow in size and continue to curry favor from a government that views abortion as a form of therapy.”

Donovan said that the Obama administration is paying Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., to direct consumers to abortion-funding plans in the multi-state plans through the Center for Medicaid Services’ “Navigators” program. This could help enroll girls and women in plans that cover elective abortion and discourage them from enrolling in plans that do not.

The report prompted some members of Congress to criticize the Obama administration.

“The results of this study are a sad reminder that despite assurances from the President when Obamacare was signed into law, this law will in fact result in the taxpayer funding of abortion,” Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said Sept. 26. “This staggering loss of precious human life is an abomination and American taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill.”

Rep. Black said she would continue to fight against what she said is the Obama administration’s “reckless disregard for the sanctity of human life” and would work to end federal funding of abortions and abortion providers “once and for all.”

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Pope Francis: 'Do not be afraid of holiness'

Vatican City, Oct 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis urged thousands of pilgrims to recognize that although everyone is a sinner, it is possible to be holy because of God's grace.

“Do not be afraid of holiness, do not be afraid to aim high, to be loved and purified by God, do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit,” he told those gathered in St. Peter's Square on Oct. 2.

He began his reflections by questioning that although in the Creed we profess that the Church is holy, “how can we say that the Church is holy when she is all too evidently made up of sinners? Sinful men, women, priests, nuns, Bishops, Cardinals, Popes? All of them. How can a church like this be holy?”

We can find an answer, he said, when we consider the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians when he says that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy.”

“The Church is holy because it proceeds from God who is holy,” urged the Pope, “It is not holy by our merits; we are not able to make her holy. It is God, the Holy Spirit, who in his Love makes the Church holy.”

The Holy Father then stressed again that the Church is one composed of sinners, warning of the temptation which some believe that the Church is only for those who are “pure,” and that all others are to remain “removed,” outside of the Church.

“This is not true! This is heresy!”

“The Church, which is holy, does not reject sinners,” he urged, but rather “welcomes them” and “calls everyone to be wrapped by mercy, tenderness and the forgiveness of the Father, which gives everyone the chance to meet him, to walk towards holiness.”

He went on to explain that God wants us to approach him with our sinfulness, asking the crowds if anyone among them had come without sin.

“No, none of us. We all carry our sins with us,” he noted, reflecting how God wants to offer forgiveness and transform our hearts. The Pope then stressed that the God we find within the Church is not “a ruthless judge,” but one like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, who is always waiting.

God, he said, wants us to be part of a Church “that knows how to open their arms to welcome everyone, which is the home not of a few, but the home of all, where everyone can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by his love,” including “the strongest and the weakest, the sinners, the indifferent, and those who feel discouraged and lost.”

“The Church offers to all the possibility to pursue the path of holiness, which is the way of the Christian,” said the Pope, went on to explain how one is able to encounter Jesus through the sacraments, most especially through the Eucharist and Confession.

The pontiff challenged those gathered to ask themselves, “Do we allow ourselves to be hallow? Are we a Church that calls and welcomes with open arms, who gives courage, hope? Or are we a church closed in on itself ?”

He concluded his reflections by encouraging the pilgrims not to be afraid to be holy or to have high aspirations when they feel weak, frail and sinful.

“Holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things,” he said, but in leaving it to God, stressing that “the meeting of our weakness with the strength of his grace, is to have confidence in his active service to others.”

Pope Francis finished by quoting 19th century French novelist and convert Leon Bloy in saying that “there is only one sadness in life; that of not being saints.”

“Do not lose hope in holiness. We travel all this way; Do we want to be holy? The Lord awaits us all with open arms to join in this path of holiness.”

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Pastoral care of families a key topic in reform meetings

Vatican City, Oct 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Halfway through their meetings, the council of cardinals and Pope Francis have addressed many different themes, with the formation and care of families slated to be a high priority.

During an Oct. 2 press briefing on the current status of the meetings, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi revealed that so far the council has reflected on the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council and the upcoming Synod of Bishops.

Although the topic has not yet been touched upon by the council, Fr. Lombardi expressed that the pastoral care of families will be a major point of discussion in upcoming sessions.

The council of eight Cardinals began their first session of meetings Tuesday, Oct. 1, and are due to finish on Thursday, Oct. 3.

During the briefing, Fr. Lombardi recalled that the agenda for the first day included a morning session that ran from about 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., with an afternoon session scheduled between 4 p.m. And 7 p.m. Rome time, in which the discussion surrounded the theme of the upcoming Synod Assembly, and the organization of the Synod of Bishops.

Further updating those present, the press director noted that Pope Francis is taking an active part in the meetings, which have changed venue from the Apostolic Palace library, to a conference room in the Santa Marta guesthouse of the Vatican, where the Holy Father resides.

Fr. Lombardi was careful to clarify that the eight cardinals who compose the council were chosen due to their extensive experience and knowledge of the current situation of the Church, and in each of their respective areas.

In the question and answer session of the briefing, much attention was paid to a recent interview with the Pope that was published in the Italian daily “La Repubblica.” On the topic, Fr. Lombardi stressed that the text, like that of other recent interviews with the Holy Father, represent a “conversational” and “colloquial” method of communication.

“It is not,” he explained, “a magisterial document.”

The members of the council of cardinals celebrated Mass alongside Pope Francis in the chapel of Santa Marta on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and are scheduled to do so again on Thursday before the start of their final morning session for this set of meetings.

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Pope shares desire to guide Church to humble service, dialogue

Rome, Italy, Oct 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a recent interview, Pope Francis shared his vision of a poor, missionary Church that dialogues with the world and serves the needs of the people, as well as his hope for a Roman Curia that is less “Vatican-centric.”

“The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old,” he said. “The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other…This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”

He encouraged a greater awareness of this problem among Church members as well governments and other state actors, and he stressed the need for the selfless love of agape that seeks to serve others.

The Holy Father spoke with atheist journalist Eugenio Scalfari in a Sept. 24 interview at his Vatican residence, which was published Oct 1. in the Italian daily La Repubblica.

During the interview, Pope Francis also spoke of the reform he is seeking within the Church.

“(The Curia) has one defect: it is Vatican-centric. It sees and looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are still, for the most part, temporal interests,” he said.

“This Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us,” the Pope explained. “I do not share this view and I will do everything I can to change it.”

He distinguished between the Church and the Holy See, clarifying that while the Holy See “has an important function,” is it “at the service of the Church.” He further said that within the Vatican, the Roman Curia is a “quartermaster's office” which “manages the services that serve the Holy See.”

The Church, he said, “is, or should go back to being, a community of the people of God and his priests, his pastors and his bishops who have the care of souls, who are at the service of the people of God.”

This discussion of the Roman Curia followed from a distinction between narcissism and charity, which includes a rightly ordered love of God, self, and others. Pope Francis noted in particular that Christ “was incarnate so as to infuse in the souls of men the sentiment of fraternity.”

 Scalfari and Pope Francis agreed that there have been many Church leaders who were narcissists, “flattered and thrilled by their courtiers.”

Pope Francis referred to “the court” as the “leprosy of the papacy.” When questioned about whether this was the Curia, the Pope acknowledged the presence of some “courtiers” in the Curia, but denied that the Curia itself is “the court” he was referencing.

The Roman Pontiff affirmed that the members of his council of eight cardinals, chosen to help advise him on reforming the Curia, are “not courtiers but wise persons, who share my own sentiments.”

“This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not only vertical but also horizontal,” he said.

Both the Holy Father and Scalfari lamented their perception of temporal interests within the Church, and expressed enthusiasm for Pope Francis' vision of a poor, missionary Church.

The Pope tied this vision of the Church to his emphasis on dialogue.

“Our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope,” he said. “We must restore hope to young people, help the elderly, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.”

Pope Francis praised Vatican II for its call to ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers, which he said was largely dropped after the Council.

“I have the humility and the ambition to want to do something,” he stated.

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Bishops urge humility, care in resolving government shutdown

Washington D.C., Oct 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Reacting to the federal government shutdown, the U.S. bishops cited Pope Francis’ advice to leaders that they cannot govern well “without loving the people and without humility.”

“Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?” the Pope asked government leaders in his homily at a Sept. 16 daily Mass. “If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.”

The bishops included these words in their Sept. 30 letter to members of Congress about the federal budget impasse. The bishops called on Congress for “wise bipartisan leadership and moral clarity” to create a plan to ensure the government continues to operate and meet its responsibilities.

The letter was signed by Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.

By the end of the day on Sept. 30, President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives had failed to agree on a spending plan for the new fiscal year. This prompted a shutdown of many government agencies that were not deemed “essential.”

In addition, the U.S. government will have exhausted its federal borrowing authority by Oct. 17, which could lead to a default on U.S. debt.

Faced with this situation, the U.S. bishops emphasized the need for wise decisions.

“Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times,” the bishops said.

“Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity,” they added, saying that budget proposals should be evaluated by how they affect those who are hungry, homeless, unemployed or impoverished.

“A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons,” they continued. “It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.”

The bishops stressed government’s responsibility to advance the common good and to care for the poor and vulnerable at home and internationally.

They cited the 20-year high in poverty rates, the lack of food security for 49 million Americans, and the high unemployment and underemployment rates.

They also noted the United States’ international work in providing food and medical aid, including disease vaccinations and HIV/AIDS medication.

The bishops also said that a completed budget deal would allow Congress to continue “the essential task of immigration reform.”

They pledged their support for a bipartisan budget that reduces “future unsustainable deficits” while protecting the poor and vulnerable.

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New book collects memories of Pope Francis from Argentina

Denver, Colo., Oct 2, 2013 (CNA) - A new book on the Holy Father gathers insights and recollections from 20 people across Argentina who knew Pope Francis as a seminarian, priest and bishop in Buenos Aires.

“A Pope who is constantly surprising people with his gestures, words and teachings comes from somewhere, has a background,” said editor and translator Alejandro Bermudez, “and that's what the book tries to explore.”

“Pope Francis: Our Brother, Our Friend” (Ignatius Press) records personal recollections from twenty individuals who personally knew the man who became Pope Francis.

Shortly after Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope in March, Bermudez – who heads both Catholic News Agency and ACI Prensa, the largest Catholic news provider in Spanish – traveled to Argentina to conduct interviews with those who had personally known the Holy Father.

The result, Bermudez explained, is “the mosaic of a complex, rich personality that can help us understand the concerns, the experiences, the convictions and spiritual motivations behind the decisions and style of Pope Francis.”

The book offers memories and reflections through the eyes of 10 Jesuits who lived close to Pope Francis in Argentina – as peers, professors or those receiving spiritual direction from then-Fr. Bergoglio.

These accounts are enriched by the testimony of 10 other individuals who knew the Pope, Bermudez explained, “from a prestigious politician to a lowly beggar, from a rabbi to a priest working in the slums.”

Fr. Ángel Rossi, S.J., who was a student of then-Fr. Bergoglio and is now superior of the Residencia Jesuita community in Córdoba, described the Pope as “a very skillful man.”

“I say that he is a mix between a desert saint and a brilliant manager, a combination that normally isn’t very common,” the priest explained in the book.

“He is a man with great intelligence, and also with academic and scholarly intelligence, but above all I think of that special perception which previously the monks used to call the ‘cardiognosis’: the gift of knowing peoples’ hearts.”

A 62-year-old beggar in Buenos Aires said that Fr. Bergoglio “cared for me, he cared for us, he knew all of us.”

He recounted how Pope Francis, as a priest and later as a bishop and cardinal, would ask for prayers.

“I always liked to greet him because he always gave a smile. He never greeted seriously or in a bad mood,” the beggar recalled, adding, “We miss him here.”

“He was a person who went from giving spiritual assistance to someone, to speaking on the phone with a bishop or some important person, to washing clothes in the laundry or to the kitchen or where they raised the hogs,” said Fr. Fernando Cervera, S.J., whose spiritual advisor was then-Fr. Bergoglio.

He added that the Pope had been very involved with the students in the classroom as well.

José María Poirier, director of the Catholic magazine “Criterio,” said that as a cardinal, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the publication’s 80th anniversary and told the staff members to “be on the cultural frontiers, do not expect the intellectuals to come to you; you be the ones going out to meet the non-religious intellectuals, the non-Catholics and non-Christians.”

The great “paradox” of Pope Francis, said Poirier, was that despite his tremendous work with the poor of Buenos Aires and his contributions to interreligious dialogue, he consciously chose to keep such a low profile that “he was almost invisible in the eyes of the city.”

“Pope Francis: Our Brother, Our Friend” is now available in English from Ignatius Press.

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Chinese pro-life activist awarded human rights fellowships

Washington D.C., Oct 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Chinese pro-life activist Chen Guangcheng has announced a new three-year partnership with the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., as well as with two other human rights groups.

The blind human rights advocate will also partner with the Witherspoon Institute, a non-profit organization focused on moral reasoning in a free society, and the Lantos Foundation, a human rights organization which promotes the advance of human rights in American foreign policy.

“I believe that human rights supersedes partisan politics and is greater than national borders as well,” Chen said, adding that he looks forward to a “new starting point” and working for institutions “that are not intimidated by the powerful.”

“The kinds of concerns that he expressed on human life issues are something that Americans really need to hear,” Catholic University of America president John Garvey told CNA.

“The lack of concern for human life or respect that we have seen in the last 40 years in America reaches its highest form in places like where he's lived.”

Chen, who has been blind since childhood, became a self-taught human rights lawyer while in China, speaking out in particular against forced abortions and sterilizations under the country's one-child policy.

His activism attracted the attention of the Chinese government, and Chen spent four years in prison for his advocacy. In September 2010, he was placed under house arrest with no formal charges, and has said that during this time he and his family were treated harshly, beaten and denied proper medical care.

In April 2012, Chen escaped from house arrest, seeking refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Attracting growing international attention and voicing concern for the safety of his family, Chen was offered a fellowship at New York University’s law school in May 2012. The Chinese government agreed to allow him to travel with his immediate family to the U.S.

New York University announced in June that Chen's fellowship was ending, stating that the position was meant to be a temporary post. The pro-life activist claimed in a June 17 statement that the university ended his fellowship following “great, unrelenting pressure” from the Chinese government.

At the Oct. 2 press conference, the Witherspoon Institute and the Catholic University of America announced that Chen would begin this month in three-year prestigious human rights fellowships, and the Lantos Foundation said that the activist will take on the role of senior advisor.

Chen commented at the press conference, through a translator, that the opportunity to partner with these groups will “set up a platform from which I am able to speak up about facts and realities of the Chinese Communist Party's violation of human rights.”

He thanked the American people for offering him refuge in the United States and voiced a desire to join with the organizations offering him fellowships and “work closely for all mankind.”

“We will make concerted efforts to defend all mankind, including the Chinese people,” Chen affirmed, adding that the new opportunity will help to “safeguard human dignity” for the most vulnerable.

Matthew Franck, director of the center at the Witherspoon Institute where Chen will be a senior fellow, told CNA that the organization wants to help Chen “bring visibility and greater public significance to the plight of freedom and democracy in China.”

“Chen is a truth teller – it is our wish that he continue to tell the truth about human rights abuses in China.”

Franck added during the press conference that the Witherspoon Institute “is devoted to freedoms, and among them religious freedom,” both domestic and international.

Richard Nelson Swett, treasurer of the Lantos Foundation, remarked that “the fight for human rights transcends the prosaical political battles,” and that the “spirit of independence” and concern for human rights that Chen embodies is shared with the foundation's namesake, the late congressman Tom Lantos.

The organization looks forward to collaborating with the “active leader and voice on the behalf of literally tens of millions” of Chinese citizens, Swett said. He also expressed his pleasure that Chen's experiences would demonstrate that “care and concern for human rights” spreads beyond the “polarized politics of this world.”

Garvey praised Chen’s “value and advocacy for human rights in China” and his work in exposing the country’s one child policy and forced abortions, and said he was “delighted to welcome Mr. Chen to our university.”

He commented that this work of “protecting the rights of the poor and the vulnerable resonates with the mission of the Catholic University of America” and would benefit academic life at the college.

Chen's “enthusiastic support for his defense of human rights in China and around the world” will “be a witness” to the moral foundations that the university seeks to instill in its students as well, Garvey added.

“Chen's own witness, which has been very courageous,” he told CNA, “is a wonderful model for our students to learn those virtues that he has exhibited in his fight against the difficulties he has experienced in China.”

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