Archive of October 24, 2013

New Vatican cricket club aims to spark intercultural dialogue

Vatican City, Oct 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy See has launched a new cricket club with the goal of encouraging dialogue between cultures, as well as growing virtue among the athletes, both on and off the field.

“The idea was if we start a cricket club, cricket being so popular in the whole of the East, especially in the Indian sub-continent, we could start a dialogue through cricket,” Father Theodore Mascarenas told CNA in an Oct. 22 interview.

Fr. Mascarenas is a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture, overseeing the departments for Asia, Africa and Ushuaia, and is also the new chairman for the Vatican cricket team, called the Saint Peter's Cricket Club.

The club was originally proposed to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who suggested the team be named after the Apostle Peter, by Australian ambassador to the Holy See Mr. John McCarthy, and will be composed of the priests and seminarians in Rome.

“There are lots of young seminarians here who have played cricket and some of them are very high quality,” Fr. Mascarenas added, “you won’t believe it when you see them playing.”

Speaking of the decision to start a cricket club, the priest noted that one of the determining factors in founding it was that “a dialogue through cricket meant we could talk to people, to Muslims, to Hindus to Buddhists, to Sects, in the medium of cricket because that’s one language that everybody speaks together.”

Getting to know people, urged Fr. Mascarenas, is the first step in intercultural dialogue, and is also the “most difficult part.”

“Most of our cultural tensions come because we do not know the other. Ignorance is the spark, ignorance is the dynamo, ignorance is the source of almost all fundamentalism, we don’t know the other.”

He reflected that although this first step is challenging, “cricket I think is an easy means” to enter into this dialogue, and expressed his hope of “starting a dialogue over the ocean.”

Another hope of the club, expressed the priest, is that “first, through sports, the priests and seminarians with their exemplary behavior on the field, would be an example of how spirituality influences sport, on the practical level.”

Secondly, Fr. Mascarenas urged that “we hope that seeing priests and seminarians play sports, participate in sports,” that “sports gets an elevated stand, and elevated status, in society.”

The priest emphasized “that sports is not something dirty played for money, but is played as a part of faith, as a part of spirituality,” and that part of the intention is also to promote the adage of “healthy mind and healthy body” amongst those who play.

An Oct. 22 press release announcing the launching of the club revealed that cricket is the second most popular sport in the world, its strongest presence being in the entire Indian sub-continent, as well as Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the West Indies.

With 105 countries currently participating in the sport, cricket is also beginning to have a stronger grip in the countries of Ireland, Canada, Holland, and even some parts of the United States.

Speaking on the global significance of the sport of cricket, Fr. Mascarenas recalled that “when India and Pakistan play cricket, India and Pakistan stop, everybody starts watching the TV and nothing works.”

“It’s really a game that brings passion into people,” he urged, stating that “what baseball has done to America, that’s what cricket is doing to the subcontinent.”

The Saint Peter's Cricket Club currently has several different objectives in which it is working, the first being to organize a tournament amongst the various colleges in Rome, which, according to a survey done earlier this year, will be able to count on roughly 300 players and supporters from the city.

Eventually the club hopes to challenge the Church of England to a match, and aims in the future to play teams from Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist educational institutions in order to fortify relationships and dialogue with various cultural communities.

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Charity director laments mounting violence in Central African Republic

Bangui, Central African Republic, Oct 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Widespread violence in the Central African Republic which began in December is in risk of diffusing to nearby countries, an official with Aid to the Church in Need has warned.

“The situation is becoming steadily more dramatic. Torture, looting and the murder of civilians are continuing unabated, whole villages are being burnt down,” said Christine du Coudray, head of the charity's African section, in an Oct. 22 interview with Aid to the Church in Need.

“The country is sinking further and further into chaos, and there is a danger of a conflagration which could destabilize the whole region.”

The Central African Republic was engulfed in a war from 2004 to 2007, but violence broke out again in December, 2012. On March 24, 2013, Séléka rebels ousted the president, and installed their own leader in a coup.

The Séléka have since been officially disbanded, but its members continue to plunder the country through looting, torture and rape. The Central African Republic is among the world's poorest countries, with extremely low human development and major human rights abuses.

The Central African Republic borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Chad, Sudan, and South Sudan. Of its population of 4.4 million, the United Nations estimates that hundreds of thousands have been displaced from their homes by this year's violence.

du Coudray welcomed an Oct. 10 United Nations Security Council resolution which opens a path for international intervention in the country which it has said is in danger of becoming a failed state. She called the resolution “the first glimmer of hope for a country which has been on the brink for months.”

“Public life does not function and the country is still being destroyed,” du Coudray said, adding that “schools are closed, wages and salaries are not being paid … even in the past it was almost exclusively the Church which took care of the population.”

That remains true today. In Bossangoa, a city 200 miles north of the capital, Bangui, some 30,000 people took refuge in an enclosed church compound, a director of Doctors Without Borders reported in The Guardian Oct. 17. The compound is a Roman Catholic mission.

The violence in the Central African Republic is in danger of becoming sectarian. du Coudray said many of the Séléka “come from the Sudan or Chad” and that a portion of them “are now importing Islamism, which has not existed in the country to date. Up to now the co-existence of Christians and Muslims has been good.”

Most Central Africans are Christian, though significant minorities practice indigenous religions or Islam. du Coudray explained that “the native Muslims do not want Islamists and are themselves victims of the attacks.” Séléka rebels have targeted Christians in several locales, according to an Oct. 9 report from Reuters.

du Coudray recounted that on Oct. 3, a car transporting Fr. Aurelio Gazzera, a Carmelite “was shot at by a member of the dissolved Séléka at a road block as it left” Bangui. She explained that this happened in front of police who “did nothing to stop the Séléka rebels' actions.”

“In the course of the same day the missionary was followed by cars containing a number of ex-rebels, who tried to cut him off,” du Coudray continued. “There are indications that this was an attempted abduction.”

“To put it briefly: Séléka can still make trouble completely without hindrance, and not only in remote villages, but in broad daylight in the country's capital.”

She said the Central African Republic “needs help … from aid organizations.” Caritas has launched an appeal for the country, and since 2002, Aid to the Church in Need has supported over 240 projects there, providing over $3.2 million in aid.

Aid to the Church in Need has provided for the safeguarding of priests and religious; the purchase of cars and motorcycles; the support of pastoral work; and the construction of infrastructure.

Aside from the Catholic charities Aid to the Church in Need and Caritas, many other nonprofits have withdrawn to Bangui, leaving the remainder of the country helpless. Doctors Without Borders reported in July that the country's health care system has collapsed. In parts of the Central African Republic, malaria cases have doubled in the past year.

“The people in the Central African Republic urgently need our prayers,” du Coudray urged. “We Christians have no other weapons than prayer! Let us take up the rosary and plea for peace and protection for this country's population.”

Yet, du Coudray added, “in the midst of suffering, death and despair there are also signs today that the Lord has not forgotten this country.”

She noted that Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga of Bangui recently ordained seven priests, and in his Sept. 29 homily, he said that “our faith in Jesus, the victor over evil, demands that we bear greater witness to the hope which lives within us.”

“The Church also bears witness to this hope on the Calvary of this country,” du Coudray concluded: “the hope for the resurrection which conquers death.”

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Beauty queen promotes morality in recent interview

Quezon City, Philippines, Oct 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The first ever Filipina-American to be crowned Miss World revealed her traditional values in a recent television interview.

Megan Young, the 23 year-old who was crowned Miss World on Sept. 28, said in a recent television interview that she is pro-life, rejecting both abortion and contraception.

Young, who was born in Virginia but moved to the Philippines with her family as a child, was interviewed on ANC, a Filipino news network, when she was asked about the country's recent adoption of a reproductive health law, which was signed by president Benigno Aquino III on Dec. 21, 2012.

The new law mandates sex education in middle and high schools and subsidizes contraceptives, including potentially abortion-inducing drugs.

Young indicated opposition to the law, saying, “I'm pro-life, and if it means killing someone that’s already there, then I’m against that of course. I'm against abortion.”

Asked about contraception, she added that, “I don't engage in stuff like that,” going on to say she believes that “sex is for marriage” and “should be with your partner for life.”

“I'm actually against divorce,” she added, “because I've seen that in my family. So I think that if you marry someone, that should be the person you should be with forever, through sickness and health, through good or through bad.”

When asked how a single woman as “gorgeous” as herself could remain abstinent, Young replied with a laugh, “you just say no, that’s it.”

“If they try to push you, then you step away because you know that that person doesn’t value you, doesn’t value the relationship as much.”

She said that a gentleman would not pressure a woman into premarital sex in the first place, while at the same time recognizing that abstaining from sex before marriage takes character.

“If the guy is willing to sacrifice that,” she said, “then that means a lot.”

Young said she chose to compete in the Miss World pageant rather than Miss Universe because Miss World’s “main focus is charities and helping out and giving back.”

“After you win your main focus, your duties, will all be helping out with charities.”

The newly crowned beauty queen is also a stage performer and actress and is know for her kindness as well as her talent.

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Pope Francis warns faithful not to be 'rosewater Christians'

Rome, Italy, Oct 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily, Pope Francis focused on the fact that we have been “re-created” in Christ, urging those in attendance to take their faith seriously, rather than committing halfway.

“People do not take it seriously! Lukewarm Christians: ‘But, yes, yes, but, no, no.’ Neither here nor there - as our mothers said, ‘rosewater Christians’ - no!”

The Holy Father offered his reflections to those present for his Oct. 24 daily Mass in the Saint Martha guesthouse of the Vatican.

“We have been re-made in Christ,” urged the Pope at the beginning of his homily, “What Christ has done in us is a re-creation: the blood of Christ has re-created.”

“If before the whole of our life: our body, our soul, our habits, were on the road of sin, iniquity; after this re-creation we must make the effort to walk on the path of righteousness, sanctification… holiness.”

Pope Francis then reflected on how our parents made an act of faith for us at the moment of our Baptism, stressing that it is our responsibility to make this faith our own, and that to live as Christians “is to bring forth this faith in Christ.”

Emphasizing the fact that we are often weak and that we commit sins through our imperfections, the Pope urged that this is a path to sanctification if we do not “get used” to living in that state.

He cautioned that if a person has the attitude that “’I believe in Jesus Christ, but I live the way I want to’ Oh, no, that will not sanctify, that is wrong! It is a contradiction!”

“If, however, you say, ‘I, even I am a sinner, I am weak,’ and if you go always to the Lord and say: ‘But, Lord, You have the strength, give me faith! You can make me clean,’ (and if) you let yourself be healed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation – yes, even our imperfections are used along the way of sanctification.”

Christians, urged the pontiff, have been created “anew” by the Blood of Christ, and are on the path of righteousness, but “we must take it seriously!”

In order to take the faith seriously, the Pope stated that we must carry out “simple” works of righteousness, noting that the first act should always be to “worship God.”

“God is always first! And then do what Jesus advises us to help others.”

Noting that there are some Christians who live their faith at “half-speed” Pope Francis emphasized to those present that “We are holy, justified, sanctified by the blood of Christ: Take this sanctification and carry it forward!”

For those who have the attitude of “a little touch here and there, of Christian paint, a little ‘paint catechesis,’” he stressed that “inside there is no true conversion.”

“There is no such conviction as that of St. Paul: ‘Everything I gave up and I consider garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.’”

This, he stated, “was Paul's passion and that is the passion of a Christian,” urging that we must detach ourselves from everything that distracts us or takes us away from Jesus.

“You can do it!” encouraged the Pope, “as did St. Paul and also many Christians.”

The pontiff concluded his reflections by urging that the question posed for us today is whether or not we want to “live our Christianity seriously, if we want to pursue this re-creation.”

He invited all those in attendance to ask for the intercession of Saint Paul, that we may obtain the gift of grace needed in order to live our Christian faith seriously, and “to believe that we truly have been sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ.”

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Mission work is about sharing God's love, Spanish priest says

Madrid, Spain, Oct 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A priest who has spent 50 years ministering in the east African nation of Burundi has emphasized that the primary focus of the missions is to help spread God's love, rather than caring for merely material needs.

“It's not about building homes or hospitals, but about teaching how to interpret life from the dimension of God's love,” Father Germán Ancanada, a member of the Missionaries of Africa, told CNA Oct. 22.

Fr. Ancanada is 76 and a native of Palencia, in northern Spain. While in seminary in Palencia, he learned of the Missionaries of Africa, also known as the White Fathers, for their habit. The order was founded in 1868 by the Archbishop of Algiers.

The order's commitment to priestly fraternity was a draw for Fr. Ancanada. “They said that they lived in communities of at least three members, and I knew that I wanted to live in community.”

He said he has spent 50 years in Burundi, one of the world's poorest countries, because “when you go to be a missionary, you taken on the destiny of the people.”

“It is more important that people become aware of the beauty of love than that we build bridges or roads that could be destroyed by hatred later,” he explained. “We need to raise (that) awareness.”

Burundi is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Its adjusted per capita income in 2012 was only $625, according to the International Monetary Fund. Most of its population is Hutu, though there is a sizable Tutsi minority.
Fr. Ancanada noted that nationality of missionaries is changing, saying that “up to now, Africans were considered the receivers of the missions, but now they are beginning to be the transmitters.”

In the case of the Missionaries of Africa, the congregation has 1500 members and 450 seminarians. Of these, 95 percent come from Africa.
“We need to erase the idea that the only thing Spain has to offer African countries is money. We know very well that the faith has diminished greatly.  But there are people who truly believe, and that faith has made them happy and it is the same faith that can also bring happiness to Africans.”
“Perhaps Africa does not have the same material means as other continents, but maybe that is not as necessary as we thought. But … we can create a more authentic vision by sharing the faith,” he said. 

“As the Pope says, I need to have ‘the smell of the sheep’, and in my case, the smell of African sheep.  For this reason, if you are with them, you have to suffer with them.”

During his half-century spent in Burundi, Fr. Ancanada has witnessed a 12-year civil war, as well as the mass killings of both Hutus and Tutsis.
The civil war, which lasted from 1993 to 2005, was the worst violence, he said. Many areas were left devastated, and therefore his archbishop charged him with rebuilding an area where 67,000 homes had been destroyed.

“During that period,” Fr. Ancanada recalled, “a reporter got me condemned to death for publishing that I had said that all members of the military are thieves and corrupt, which is something I never said.”
The Spanish ambassador then asked him to leave the country because of the tensions created by the article. “The ambassador told the superior of the White Fathers to take me out of Burundi, because I would be the next victim.”
“When this happened, my bishop told me: ‘You are not in any more danger than anyone else. If you are unsafe, then I am unsafe as well.’”

“In fact, that archbishop was killed soon after. When I visit his tomb it is like visiting the tomb of a hero, because he had qualities and a commitment that was far superior to mine.”

“The mission is very interesting and it makes you very happy, but you always need to convert, because we always do foolish and dumb things.”

He added that suffering is a necessary part of mission work.

“A missionary that does not have crosses is not authentic. Precisely because of this, it is normal to suffer with (the people), it is a sign of authenticity, it is natural to demonstrate the vision of the Gospel in my life.”
“The missionary should be a source of unity and communion in the places in which he lives,” Fr. Ancanada concluded.

“For this reason, in areas affected by wars, the way the faith teaches us to respect and live together in peace is a formidable solution for participating in the healing of that area.”

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Obama urges House to resume talks on immigration reform

Washington D.C., Oct 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - President Barack Obama has asked the House of Representatives to move on an immigration reform bill, emphasizing the current dysfunctions in the immigration system and pressing for change.

“We should pass immigration reform.  It’s good for our economy.  It’s good for our national security.  It’s good for our people.  And we should do it this year,” the president said in an Oct. 24 speech from the White House.

The speech marks a renewed emphasis on immigration reform from the Obama administration.

In June, the Senate passed by a margin of 68–32 a bill that would help improve border security, require employee immigration status verification, and introduce a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.

Though the bill passed and was sent to the House of Representatives, the legislation stalled over the summer as international concerns with Iran and Syria and domestic disputes over the debt ceiling and government funding took attention from the issue.

Some Republican members of the House have voiced opposition to the bill, but Obama challenged that this issue is not necessarily partisan. He reminded the nation that “my Republican predecessor was also for it when he proposed reforms like this almost a decade ago,” and the bill was supported by “more than a dozen Republican votes in the Senate.”

He also stressed that this is not a political move.  

“I’m not running for office again.  I just believe this is the right thing to do.”

He noted that action on the topic must be made because “our current immigration system is broken.  Across the political spectrum, people understand that.”

Obama commented that many of the policies that do not let graduates of American universities stay in the United States, that allow larger companies who take advantage of “the shadow economy” with few punishments, and that deport undocumented children who grew up in the United States back to the countries their country of birth are “not fair.”

“ It doesn’t make sense.  We have kicked this particular can down the road for too long.”

The president’s speech comes mere days after Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, called for immigration reform.

In an Oct. 18 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Cardinal Dolan stated that helping “the newcomer to our land feel at home is part of our mission,” as Catholics, and reminded the public of the critical role that Catholic immigration programs around the country play in assisting “immigrants in becoming Americans.”

“With help from the church and other institutions, our country has done a remarkable job of transforming immigrants from other shores into Americans, helping them become full members of our culture and communities.”

Cardinal Dolan vowed that these programs would continue and that the “Church will keep pouring resources into helping immigrants demonstrate that commitment, something our leaders should keep in mind as they debate what will become of these Americans in the making."

However, even as the children of immigrants “are achieving education and income levels comparable to the native-born population,” he continued, they still face institutional challenges to their integration into American society.

“By bringing the undocumented out of the shadows and giving them a chance to earn citizenship, we'd remove barriers to their immersion. This would allow them to participate in our society and develop talents and skills without inhibition, to the benefit of our culture.”

“Without such changes, we’ll remain a two-tiered society with a permanent underclass, a departure from the core democratic principles of our country,” he warned, asking the government to support “comprehensive immigration reform.”

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