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Archive of October 19, 2013

Human rights promotion fights totalitarianism, activist says

Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng has asked the international community to support and protect basic human rights and values in order to fight against totalitarian regimes and oppression.

“In today’s world, the greatest threat to human civilization is still the barbaric totalitarian system. Though such systems are few in number, they do great harm,” Chen said at an Oct. 16 lecture at Princeton University which was sponsored by the school's Witherspoon Institute.

“Therefore, to make the good flourish in this world, the defense of universal human rights and values needs to be the priority. To eliminate the bad in the world, the removal of totalitarian governments needs to be the priority.”

Chen became a self-taught human rights lawyer while living in China, working against the country's one-child policy and the forced abortions and sterilizations occurring under it.

Chen's work gained the attention of the Chinese government, and he spent four years in prison for his advocacy. After his release from prison in September 2010, Chen was placed under house arrest without formal charges, and has stated that during this time, he and his family were treated harshly, beaten, and denied proper medical care.

Chen escaped from house arrest in April 2012, finding  refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. The following month he was granted a fellowship at New York University’s law school, and he was allowed to leave the China.

In early October, it was announced that Chen would join the Witherspoon Institute as distinguished senior fellow in human rights.

At the Oct. 16 lecture, Chen emphasized that totalitarianism still presents “the greatest obstacle in humanity’s march toward justice and civilization.” However, he stated, people can work “to influence it with your universal values, such as freedom, equality, democracy, and constitutionalism.”

He pointed to “massive dictatorships such as the Chinese communist government” as examples of totalitarianism today, examining the Chinese government's abuses in its strict control of the media, forced abortion policies, and targeted punishment of human rights defenders.

Chen explained that by promoting human rights and working together, the Chinese people are “gradually … overcoming the fear in their hearts and boldly demanding the rights that are due to them.”

“A government without moral responsibility, legitimacy, and legality is like water without a source,” he said.  “We shall not be daunted by it. Our children shall not continue to live in fear, lies, and violence.”

Chen asked for the help of the United States and “kindhearted American people” in supporting Chinese people working against the abuses of the Chinese government. He asked all democratic countries, but particularly the United States, “to set a good example by shifting the focus from economy and trade to human rights, and from price to value, when dealing with dictators.”

He asked the United States to “move forward to provide assistance to the freedom-loving people in totalitarian countries,” by promoting internet freedom, deterring human rights violations, linking human rights supporters together, ending religious persecution in China, and using “all resources and means to help terminate China’s evil one-child policy and forced abortions.”

When dealing with China, attaching “importance to economic interests alone will keep the United States further away from fundamental ideals such as freedom, democracy, and human rights, which are the founding principles,” of the United States, Chen said, urging Americans to act upon the values on which the nation was formed.

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Pope: Art expresses the beauty of faith

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The creative arts help proclaim the gospel, explore the mysteries of Christian faith and reflect the quest for the “supreme beauty” found in God, Pope Francis has said.

“In every age the Church has called upon the arts to give expression to the beauty of her faith and to proclaim the gospel message of the grandeur of God’s creation, the dignity of human beings made in his image and likeness, and the power of Christ’s death and resurrection to bring redemption and rebirth to a world touched by the tragedy of sin and death,” said Pope Francis on Oct. 19 at the Vatican.

His comments came in a private audience to the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, an international organization dedicated to preserving and restoring the Vatican’s vast collection of art. The Pope assured them that their contributions have helped to give witness to the gospel message.

He noted that Rome’s “countless” pilgrims and visitors can encounter the Gospel message through the art that is found in the Vatican Museums.

The pieces there “bear witness to the spiritual aspirations of humanity, the sublime mysteries of the Christian faith, and the quest of that supreme beauty which has its source and fulfillment in God,” Pope Francis explained.

The Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums was founded three decades ago in order to support the work of the Vatican Museums in preserving and restoring the many treasures of art from the centuries.

Pope Francis said the organization’s founding was “inspired not only by a praiseworthy sense of stewardship for the Church’s heritage of sacred art, but also by the desire to advance the spiritual and religious ideals which led to the foundation of the papal collections.”

“Dear friends,” he continued, “may your patronage of the arts in the Vatican Museums always be a sign of your interior participation in the spiritual life and mission of the Church.”

“May it also be an expression of our hope in the coming of that Kingdom whose beauty, harmony and peace are the expectation of every human heart and the inspiration of mankind’s highest artistic aspirations,” the Pope added.

He concluded by imparting his apostolic blessing “as a pledge of enduring joy and peace in the Lord.”

The Pontiff then took time at the close of the private audience to greet each of the more than 350 patrons and staff members present.

Vatican Museum patrons from the around the world have gathered in Rome this week for their 30th anniversary event, which includes special tours of museum galleries, a conference with museum curators, and a restoration fair.

The organization hosts chapters throughout the United States and Canada, as well as several European nations such as Belgium, France, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. It also sponsors several art restoration projects.

More information about the patron organization can be found on its website, www.vatican-patrons.org.

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Thomas Aquinas College founder remembered for humility

Santa Paula, Calif., Oct 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Ronald P. McArthur, the founding president of Thomas Aquinas College, died Oct. 17 and is being remembered for the profound impact he had on the college's community, and beyond.

“He was the kind of man that was of very strong and particular opinions … but he still had a great liberality of heart and mind, and in that true Thomistic fashion, would give a listen to his interlocutor whom he disagreed with in a way that most people don't listen to their friends,” Andrew Whaley, a 2005 graduate of Thomas Aquinas College, shared with CNA Oct. 18.

“He would really listen to you, and really try to understand … he shocked me with his humility and liberality all the time.”

The college's current president, Michael F. McLean, stated Thursday that “the entire Thomas Aquinas College community is united in prayer for Dr. McArthur.”

“Of course, we pray first for the repose of his soul and the consolation of his wife, Marilyn, but we also offer a deep, heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving. We thank God for blessing us with this good, holy man, who was our mentor, our colleague, our teacher, and our friend.”

McArthur was born in California in 1924, and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Attending St. Mary's College after the war, he planned to become a lawyer. But his encounter with Plato's “Apology” transformed him; he said, “I saw then that ideas were important.”

Following his time at St. Mary's, McArthur earned a doctorate in philosophy at Laval University of Quebec, and then taught at several California colleges. Together with a number of colleagues, McArthur formed a vision for Catholic liberal education and decided to form a college devoted to it.

Thomas Aquinas College's founding document was written in 1969, and McArthur was named its first president the following year. As president, he recruited faculty and students; fundraised; and taught.

He remained president through 1991, and then returned in 2002 as a tutor. Due to failing health, he retired from teaching in 2012.

“We started the school because we thought that education in general was going in the wrong direction, to more and more specialization, to fewer and fewer required courses, that students were not being generally educated,” McArthur told the Los Angeles Times when he stepped down as college president.

“And we thought, more particularly, that Catholic schools were losing their sense of purpose.”

Whaley characterized McArthur as one of “these men who looked out at the modern landscape, all of the upheaval going on, and developed a vision for the way things ought to be, in their heart, and had the guts to pull the trigger and build it.”

He added that McArthur “had a big heart; he did so much kindness, so much good to people behind the scenes, in addition to building Thomas Aquinas College.”

McLean, who became the college's president in 2010, reflected that “it is beautiful to contemplate the many fruits of Dr. McArthur’s work.”

“How many people came to the College that he helped to found and, as a result, discovered the life of the mind, the gift of faith, or their vocations? How many people are now priests or religious, bringing grace to countless others? How many marriages, families, children, and grandchildren owe their very existence, in part, to the sacrifices he made?”

“Already, we can see quite clearly the world of good Dr. McArthur achieved in his short time on this earth. May he rest in peace,” McLean concluded.

McArthur's funeral Mass will be said Oct. 25 at 9 am at Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel on the college campus, and will be in the extraordinary form. It will be preceded by a rosary the prior evening, at 7 pm, at the same chapel.

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