Rome, Italy, Oct 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new documentary produced by the Knights of Columbus traces the background of Pope Francis, offering insight into his life and thought through the words of those who knew him best.
“This documentary introduces people to Pope Francis in a very accessible way,” said Andrew Walther, one of the documentary’s executive producers.
“Most people know something about our Holy Father,” Walther told CNA, “but through his own words and the interviews with those who worked with him in Argentina, as well as with key Catholic figures in the United States, this film will help give viewers an in depth understanding of the pope's thought, life and work.”
Entitled “Francis: The Pope from the New World,” the hour-long program will air on the FOX Business Network on Oct. 20, at 5 p.m. Eastern Time.
It will offer viewers a chance to learn more about the unprecedented Pontiff – the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from the Americas and the first Pope to take the name Francis – whose unique style has captured headlines ever since his election.
Produced largely in the Pope’s home country of Argentina, the film features interviews with the Holy Father’s friends, co-workers, and brother priests, as well as his biographer and the poor people in Buenos Aires whose lives he touched.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who is also one of the project’s executive producers, said the film “arrives as the world realizes that a very special man has assumed the leadership of the Catholic Church, and this begins – but does not end – with his gestures of humility and care for everyone.”
“Still, what remain largely unknown to the public are many details of Pope Francis’ life, the work he has done and the ways in which he has defended the voiceless and Catholic principles,” Anderson explained. “This documentary delves into those stories.”
The film starts with Pope Francis’ introduction to the world from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on March 13.
It then delves into his background in Argentina, where the Pope was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio and lived for years as a simple Jesuit priest.
Exploring the history of his life, viewers are offered a better understanding of the Holy Father, from his family life at home to his vocation story, compassion for the poor and love of soccer.
The documentary also examines the Pope’s time as a Jesuit provincial and his work to protect those endangered by Argentina’s Dirty War, as well as his efforts on behalf of those struggling with the economic and political situations in the country – sometimes drawing sharp opposition from those in political power.
Prof. Guzman Carriquiry Lecour, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, described “Francis: The Pope from the New World” as an “excellent introduction to the life and thought of our Holy Father.”
“Through his own words, and through the stories of those who knew him well and worked closely with him, this documentary takes you on an eye-opening journey through many of the key events in the life of Jorge Mario Bergoglio,” Carriquiry said.
“It makes clear why this man was so well qualified and prepared to become Pope,” he continued. “Anyone who wants a better understanding of Pope Francis would do well to start with this film.”
The documentary has also drawn the praise of Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who said that it will help viewers see the Holy Father “more clearly.”
“The whole world is talking about Pope Francis,” Archbishop Gomez remarked. “All this interest is a sign that millions in our secularized societies are still seeking God – and they’re still looking to the Catholic Church to show them the way.”
The film, he said, “presents a Pope who has a beautiful vision for human happiness and a Pope who is calling the Church to deeper love for Jesus and a new desire to bring our neighbors to God.”
Watch the full trailer below:
Vatican City, Oct 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Amid recent violence against Christians in Pakistan, a leading bishop says that the attacks are deeply rooted in the political situation of the country and how it relates to both the West and surrounding areas.
Bishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi interprets the terrorist bombing in late September of a Christian church in Peshawar which killed nearly 100 people as a retaliative move against the U.S. military.
The group that claimed responsibility for the attack, he said, stated that it was done because “the Americans are using Drone attacks,” and “unless the Americans stop the Drone attacks” they “will continue to attack more churches.”
“This threat is not coming from just any group,” the bishop told CNA in an Oct. 11 interview. “It’s coming from a very powerful extremist group that has already been causing problems and is causing problems to our government.”
The group has also attacked both military bases as well as the police, he said, and is “strong enough to challenge the government. They are a threat to the whole of society, not just the Christians.”
Bishop Coutts explained that the number of Christians in the country, including both Catholics and Protestants, total about “2.5 percent of the population,” and that being an Islamic country, roughly “95-96 percent” of the population is Muslim, with the rest being composed of other religious minorities.
“According to our constitution we have religious freedom,” he said “and if you come to Pakistan you will see many churches.” However, “in recent years we have been facing and experiencing intolerance to such an extent that it has reached the point we are being attacked.”
“There are a number of factors that have contributed to this,” he stated, stressing that the first is the ongoing war in Pakistan’s neighboring country Afghanistan, which is a “one-hundred percent Muslim country.”
“First was the fight against the Soviet Union with the United States, and Saudi Arabia helped our government, and then the Taliban developed to fight against the Soviets,” the bishop recalled, “But now what is happening is we have our own brand of Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban.”
Bishop Coutts revealed that in previous years Pakistan identified the Taliban only with those who fought within Afghanistan for the freedom of the country, but that now a “Pakistani Taliban” has developed who “want to make Pakistan a purely Islamic state.”
The bishop emphasized that although the country is primarily Muslim, it is “at the moment a democratic country” with a newly elected government, and that “extremist Islamic groups who are not the majority at all.”
However, he stressed that although the radical groups are a small minority, they “are very strong because of the methods they use.”
“They use the methods of violence and even suicide bombing,” which is, he noted “a new phenomenon in Pakistan. They do not believe in democracy. They want an Islamic state. They want all Islamic laws.”
“So that is the basic struggle at the moment, the background to understand how a small minority like the Christians or the Hindus are suffering within that overall new form of Islam, a militant, violent form of Islam promoting Jihad or Holy War.”
Referring to the Peshawar attack, the bishop urged that the situation “is dangerous” because “there is a perception here that the whole west, Europe or America are all Christians.”
In other words, they believe that “Christians are attacking the Muslim countries. Iraq, now Afghanistan. And so you are Pakistani Christians. We are not immigrants.”
“The perception is that if they attack the Christians, Americans will stop the drone attacks. It’s not just a local problem. It has drawn us into global politics. It is something much wider.”
Rome, Italy, Oct 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily Pope Francis examined Christ's interaction with the pharisees in the day's Gospel reading, stressing that pious works without love are empty.
During the Oct. 10 liturgy at St. Martha's residence, the Pope centered his reflections on the “Sign of Jonah,” which Jesus refers to in Luke's Gospel narrative.
He noted that when Jesus speaks of the “wicked generation,” he is not referring to those who have followed him out of love, but rather pointing to the religious officials who are trying to test him and lead him into a trap.
Pope Francis spoke specifically of the pharisees who demanded that Jesus perform signs, which the Lord responded to by stating that he alone would give the “Sign of Jonah,” just as Jonah himself had become a sign to the Ninevites.
Those who make such demands, the Pope said, suffer from the “Jonah syndrome,” which Jesus refers to as hypocritical because they exhibit “an attitude of perfect piety,” that looks to the doctrine of salvation but disregards the “poor people.”
The “Sign of Jonah,” urged the Pope, is the sign of truth which gives one the confidence to receive salvation from the blood of Christ.
Referring to those Christians who believe that they will be saved solely by the works which they perform, the Pope stressed that although necessary, works are a consequence and a response to the merciful love which saves us.
Works without merciful love, he urged, have no meaning, highlighting that the “Jonah Syndrome” is to perform works that are absent of this love.
Pope Francis concluded his homily by exhorting those present to take advantage of the day’s liturgy and make a choice, asking them which attitude they prefer; the “Sign of Jonah,” or the “Syndrome of Jonah?”
Vatican City, Oct 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
At a Vatican conference on the topic “God entrusts the human being to the woman,” global female experts discussed the role of women in working towards restoring the dignity of the human person.
“Women are pragmatic responders,” said Vicki Thorn, founder of the U.S.-based Project Rachel post-abortion healing outreach, who likened her work with victims of abortion to that of a “field hospital.”
Women “respond to the moment: we may see someone hungry, we may see someone hurting: that's our call, to be those people who are right there, willing to take the risk,” she told CNA on Oct. 11.
The three-day event held by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Laity drew approximately 100 women from across the globe. They arrived in Rome to discuss Blessed John Paul II's Apostolic Letter “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women” on the document's 25th anniversary.
Despite many people's negative view of the Catholic Church and women, Thorn said that history reveals a more positive story.
“The openness of the Church to women is there… and its important that we as women understand our role, looking back, historically, to the saints: the women saints did incredible things in the Church,” she said.
“Women ran educational institutions, long ago,” Thorn explained. “They were educating: they saw a need. They were nursing the sick, they were feeding the poor. Now we’re involved in issues of trafficking, we’re involved in issues of other injustices, but it’s a pragmatic response.”
“We see it, we deal with it. That’s the unique gift of women, I would say.”
Thorn’s ideas were exemplified by many conference participants, who listened attentively to panel sessions on theoretical issues such as “Sexual differences and the concept of the person,” – but followed up with practical questions such as “how do we implement these ideas in our own work?”
Oana Gotia, professor of moral theology at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Rome, was asked, “practically speaking, how do we help our young people?”
Gotia replied that youth are living in very “confused environments” and even in family life, “it's a very fragile context” because there are so many broken homes.
If we believe, theoretically, that God created the human being “good,” we must begin from there on a concrete level, affirming the person, she said. “Every educational endeavor should proceed from the goodness of being: 'you are good,' because you exist…'you are unique.'”
Catherine Soublin, of international charitable organization Caritas' France section, spoke of her experience working with the poor. She described her work as a “ministry of friendship” rather than humanitarian aid.
“I saw a homeless woman sitting on the street, so I went over to talk to her,” recounted Soublin. “I asked, would you like me to use the familiar version of 'you' or the formal version of 'you' when I speak to you?”
“She responded, 'what's the difference?'”
“I explained to her that the familiar version is used with people one is very close to, like family members, but the formal version is used as a sign of respect for those one does not know well.”
“'I would like the formal version,' she said.”
“So I said, 'ok! I will use it,'” concluded a smiling Soublin. “She brightened right up!”
Christiana Von Habsburg-Lothringen, member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, listened to Soublin's story and exclaimed, “you restored her dignity!”
“I once had a similar experience,” Von Habsburg-Lothringen explained. “I went to speak to a group of women – they were wealthy and very well put together. One woman sitting in the front seemed very closed off and unhappy. She came up to me afterwards and was very despondent.”
“She told me that she had been married to a very wealthy man who had abandoned her and their children in favor of a younger woman. But this woman had raised her children all on her own – they were now in university, but it had been a very difficult life.”
“And I said to her, 'but look at what you've done! You've raised your children all by yourself and now they are doing quite well! It's really amazing!' You should have seen the look on this woman's face – she looked so young and happy. It was as if she had suddenly become ten years younger.”
“I didn't really reflect on what had happened, but later on I shared this story with a bishop and he said to me, 'do you know what you did? You restored her dignity!'”
The experience of these participants served as paradigmatic examples of what Blessed John Paul II described as the “feminine genius” in which “God entrusts the human being to the woman in a special way.”
Monsignor Livio Melina, President of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Rome, gave the seminar's opening speech on this theme.
He noted how so many people today have a completely misguided concept of sexuality that stems from an “affective illiteracy.”
“They don't know the name of how they feel,” he explained. Often, they engage in activities which are not loving but rather just “an immediate expression of the sexual urge.”
“How can we reclaim the grammar of love?” Melina asked. “We need…credible witnesses.”
Several participants noted the possibility for the Church to do more in supporting those who are trying to offer this credible witness to the world.
Professor Lucetta Scaraffia, who teaches contemporary history at Rome's Sapienza University, said “we need a less self-referential Church.”
“We need to be a bit more self-critical, and listen to the truth of what our critics have to say,” she continued.
Scaraffia then pointed out the after the sexual revolution, we can see positive changes such as single mothers being less marginalized from society and sexual violence being condemned.
“But we didn’t need the sexual revolution to achieve these results!” she exclaimed. “We could have done these things ourselves!”
Giorgia Salatiello, professor of Philosophy at the Gregorian University of Rome, added that Christians need to be pro-active in responding to the needs of persons in society. “We often get there five minutes late! We need to be one minute early!”
Many other women spoke of their experience of women in the Church who were pragmatic responders.
Obianuju Ekeocha of Nigera shared how 80 years ago, sisters from Ireland arrived in her home country to share the gospel.
“The peoples' religion offered them practices like polygamy and infanticide,” she explained. Were it not for the “loving persistence” of these religious women, “we would still be in darkness” she said.
Participants were reminded of the ultimate witness of love, however, by Michelle Borras – a theologian in residence at the Blessed John Paul II shrine in Washington, D.C.
“When we think about the early Church, really the primary form of dialogue that Christianity had with the world was martyrdom. It was not simply trying to speak to the others. The word that Christians spoke was spoken first with their life and then with their death,” she explained.
“And I think there is something of that that remains for any woman of Christian witness in the world. The word in which the intelligent believer can become most luminous is the testimony of a life that is given to the end.”
Aleppo, Syria, Oct 14, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A day after their kidnapping in Syria, the whereabouts of three relief workers from the Red Cross remain unknown, though another three of their companions, as well as a Red Crescent volunteer, have been released.
“Good news! We confirm that the Syrian Red Crescent volunteer and 3 out of 6 ICRC colleagues have been released safe & sound,” Robert Mardini, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross' Middle East operations, tweeted Oct. 14.
The relief workers were reportedly abducted by gunmen Oct. 13 near Saraqib, about 35 miles southwest of Aleppo, in a region largely controlled by the Free Syrian Army, an opposition group.
According to SANA, media outlet of the Assad regime, the kidnapping was carried out by “terrorist” rebels, with whom the government has been in a civil war for more than two years.
Little is publicly known about the seven aid workers who were kidnapped, but they had been sent to the locale to assess the medical situation and to deliver medical supplies.
“Both the ICRC and the SARC (Syrian Arab Red Crescent) work tirelessly to provide impartial humanitarian assistance for those most in need across Syria on both sides of the front lines, and incidents such as these potentially undermine our capacity to assist those who need us most,” Magne Barth, head of the Red Cross' Syrian delegation, stated Oct. 13.
“The ICRC is committed to assisting the Syrian people and will continue conducting its humanitarian activities both in the country and in neighbouring countries for refugees there.”
Kidnappings are an increasingly common fact of life in Syria. In April, two Orthodox bishops were abducted near Aleppo, and their driver was killed. Their whereabouts remain unknown. The bishops were on a humanitarian mission to help two kidnapped priests when they were themselves kidnapped.
And in July, Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, a Jesuit, was kidnapped in Ar-Raqqah, 130 miles east of Aleppo, in north central Syria. A reporter and activist reported Oct. 5 that Fr. Dall'Oglio was then alive and “being treated well by his kidnappers.”
The Syrian conflict is now in its 30th month, having begun when demonstrations sprang up nationwide in the Spring of 2011, protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president and leader the country's Ba'ath Party.
In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters. Since then, the violence has morphed into a civil war which has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people.
There are some 2 million Syrian refugees in nearby countries, most of them in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.
An additional 4.25 million Syrian people are believed to have been internally displaced by the war.
The Syrian rebels are made up of a number of groups, including both secularists such as the Free Syrian Army, and Islamists such as al-Nusra Front.
Following an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria, Western nations considered military intervention in the civil war, amid dispute over who was responsible for the attack.
However, the government has since agreed to chemical disarmament, and last week, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the body in charge of destroying Syrian chemical weapons.