Alexandria, Egypt, Oct 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A priest of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria has rejected claims that attacks on Egyptian Christians are a religious conflict, noting that terrorists in the country are attacking many groups.
“The idea that this involves a conflict between Muslims and Christians simply isn’t borne out by reality. Not only Christians are being attacked, but state institutions as well,” Fr. Hani Bakhoum Kiroulos, secretary of the patriarchate, said Oct. 25.
While police are stationed at many churches, terrorists “strike completely unexpectedly.”
Fr. Kiroulos told Aid to the Church in Need, “this is a problem that affects all Egyptians equally, not only the Christians.”
“Egypt is conducting a war on terrorism.”
Fr. Kiroulos’ comments come after an Oct. 20 attack on a Coptic wedding in Cairo when unidentified gunmen killed a Christian family of four and wounded several others, both Christian and Muslim.
That was the latest in a series of attacks since a military coup July 3. In August, some 80 churches were attacked, and both Muslims and Christians were killed.
The priest said that such attackers “want to provoke Christians into calling for Western intervention, from the U.S. or European countries.”
He said this would “internationalize” the conflict and “disrupt national unity.”
“The extremists’ goal is also to embroil the Christians in a civil war. But this tactic won’t work – Christians have shown that they are genuine Egyptians.”
Fr. Kiroulos said extremist elements are trying to block the majority of Egyptians, who desire a democratic state that guarantees civil liberties and religious freedom.
In his view, Egypt needs a new constitution, and elections for president and parliament. The terrorist elements destabilizing the country “must be eliminated.”
He also called for “genuine reconciliation between all groups in Egypt.”
“Hence, the Muslim Brotherhood must put the interests of Egypt before its own. This is the only way will we be able to build a genuinely democratic state.”
Christians tended to oppose to the rule of former president Mohammed Morsi, who was elected with backing from the Muslim Brotherhood in June 2012. The Egyptian military removed Morsi from power in a July coup.
The Muslim Brotherhood has voiced sympathy for the victims of the wedding shooting, though Fr. Kiroulos said he was not able to judge the group’s sincerity.
“I can say that during the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood many terrorists entered the country and we are now suffering from the consequences of their policies.”
Fr. Kiroulos reported that the Sinai region is heavily infiltrated by terrorists, who are active throughout Egypt.
The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need’s new report on Christian persecution, “Persecuted and Forgotten?”, said that a rise in anti-Christian violence and intolerance was expected given the political unrest in Egypt.
However, the scale of attacks has exceeded even the “bleakest predictions.”
Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people. An estimated 200,000 Christians have left the country since February 2011.
Lusaka, Zambia, Oct 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic television is coming to the southern African country of Zambia following years of effort by the Zambian bishops conference.
“It has been a very long wait, but worthwhile,” Father Paul Samasumo, spokesman for the Zambian Episcopal Conference, said in an Oct. 24 statement published by Vatican Radio.
He said the Zambian bishops decided to use radio and television especially as a means to evangelize as far back as 1995, when they made media use a “pastoral priority.”
“The bishops decided that they would use especially radio and television as means of evangelization,” the priest continued.
“In this context, evangelization was and still is understood in a wider and holistic context of promoting gospel values that enhance the well-being of men and women, wherever they are to be found and without discrimination.”
Zambia’s broadcasting authority announced it had granted a television broadcast permit to the Zambian Episcopal Conference on Oct. 18. The conference had first applied for the permit in 2002.
The new Catholic television station aims to serve all Zambians and will “promote the best of Zambian values and become the preferred television channel of wholesome family viewing, on account of appropriate programming,” according to the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa.
Fr. Samasumo compared the effort to Catholic institutions such as hospitals and schools, which are open to the public regardless of religion.
The Zambian bishops’ conference is also committed to three radio projects in development.
In the Archdiocese of Kasama in Zambia’s northeast, a diocesan community radio station is being prepared. Two radio stations are being established in the southwestern Zambian town of Shesheke.
The Diocese of Chipata, in the country’s east, is hoping that the broadcasting authority will soon approve its 2008 application to turn its Radio Maria into a national radio station.
Zambia is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola.
Around 87 percent of Zambians are Christian, and 21 percent of the population is Catholic Christian. The country is served by 11 dioceses.
Washington D.C., Oct 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
After watching and suffering alongside his late wife's battle with cancer, Chris Faddis, author of the book “It is Well: Life in the Storm,” hopes that people will learn to place their trust in God in the midst of struggles.
"Trust isn't about trusting that God is going to take us out of the pain, or that God is going to redeem us here on Earth,” said Chris Faddis to CNA during an Oct. 22 interview.
Over the course of their battle with terminal illness, the Faddis family learned about trust, and faith in God through all things.
Angela Faddis’ dying wish was for “the world to know that no matter what we must trust in Jesus," Chris said, and it is this desire to give witness to the need to trust in God that gave rise to the book.
Two years ago, Faddis’ wife Angela was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Over the course of her 17-month battle with cancer, Angela provided a public witness of faith and radical trust through a Facebook page, television, radio, and print interviews.
Angela died Sept. 21, 2012, but Chris is convinced that his wife’s witness of trust can help others “find consolation in suffering.” He added that he had always had "desire to write a book on trust," but it became clear over the course of Angela's illness "that God wanted me to write this book in the middle of a storm."
"I certainly didn't know that we would go through the kind of suffering that we did," Faddis said of his family's struggle. Through the trials, however, "it was clear God had a purpose for it," he added.
He explained that often, people don’t like to say there is a reason or purpose to suffering, “because we think that means God's punishing us.”
Faddis clarified that God is not punishing people through suffering, but instead "he's allowing us to participate in the suffering because it will bring us closer to him, it will bring us closer to heaven, and it will bring us closer to other people who are suffering."
Through his family's suffering, Faddis said their understanding of trust grew. Generally, trust in God is thought of as a sense "that God is going to solve every problem."
In reality, however, trust is not God acting as "the great problem-solver," but a faith that God will provide, no matter the struggles or challenges.
"He didn't come just to solve our problems. He came to show us the way, and he promised a struggle," Faddis said.
“Trust is about fully surrendering to God so that even if all you have left is the promise is heaven, that's where we say it is well."
Faddis added that he and his family "kind of knew," that lesson throughout his life and through the beginning stages of his wife's cancer, "but it really became clear at the very end."
As Angela entered into her last days, Chris said, "she was coming to realize internally what God was saying to her: 'Will you trust me now when all you have left is heaven?'"
"We're going to have those times when we have that sense that that's all we have left, and that's the level of trust that God calls us to."
This complete trust in God through all things is "what he wants from us, and he knows it takes time to get there," he continued. He explained that Angela understood that suffering was needed for this trust. She would say that "we must embrace our suffering; not run from it, not hide from it, not ignore it – but embrace it."
In the year since her death, this witness has been embraced by his family and those who came in contact with Angela's story, Faddis said. Their two young children "have this solace there" in reflecting on their mother's death, and a focus that "we should really focus on living."
"For the most part there's a real sense of joy for them," Faddis said, adding that this joy has pervaded through the grief and tears.
"They have a real understanding of what Mommy's witness is for people."
Faddis said that he has felt driven "to give back whatever God gives you in this life," and though reflection he has been convicted that "God was wanting to use this story" in order to share the Faddis family's lessons on trust.
“To be able to trust that much is something that we all need to have.”
"I think it's important that we can have that depth" of faith, Faddis added.
When many look at people of faith such as Angela, they "think 'she had great faith, I just don't have that,'" he said.
Instead, people should look at persons of great faith and "think, 'they have great faith, and that was because of God, and God can do that for me as well.'"
Faddis said he hoped that people reading his book or encountering his wife's story would understand Angela's message: that "at all stages of life, we just simply have to trust."
"People can throw all their trust into Jesus."
Vatican City, Oct 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his general audience Pope Francis continued his reflections on the Creed, stressing the centrality of the Communion of Saints in the faith and how that communion embraces and purifies the Church.
“The love of God,” Pope Francis told thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square Oct. 30 for his weekly address, “scorches our selfishness, judgments and divisions.”
The Pope opened his remarks by saying “Dear brothers and sisters, today I want to talk about a very beautiful reality of our faith: 'the Communion of the saints.'”
He noted that the expression has two different yet related meanings – the first being a communion in “holy things,” and the second a communion “between holy people,” as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“The communion of saints is the deepest reality of the Church,” he said, emphasizing that the second connotation “reminds us that there is a communion of life between those of us that believe in Christ.”
Through Baptism, the Pope added, “we have incorporated ourselves” in Christ and in the Church, and have been made “sharers in the communion of life and love which is the Blessed Trinity” and “are united to one another in the Body of Christ.”
Reflecting on the unity of the Trinity, Pope Francis stressed that “The relationship between Jesus and the Father is the 'womb' of the link between Christians.”
“If we are rooted in that womb, in this burning fire of love which is the Trinity, we can become able to possess one heart alone and one soul alone, because the love of God scorches our selfishness, judgments and divisions.”
The pontiff then used the analogy of a big family to describe dynamic of the Communion of Saints, urging that we should help one another and that “through this fraternal communion we draw nearer to God and we are called to support one another spiritually.”
He then challenged those present, encouraging them to ask themselves “Do we know how to share the uncertainties of our itineraries of faith, looking for fraternal help in prayer and spiritual comfort? Are we available to listen and help all those who ask for it?”
The Communion of Saints, he noted, “thanks to the resurrection of Jesus, establishes a deep and indissoluble link between those who are pilgrims on earth, the souls of Purgatory and those who enjoy celestial bliss.”
It is to the Saints in heaven, he urged that we must “unite ourselves as a Church, which finds the highest form of solidarity in the prayer of intercession,” highlighting how the upcoming Feasts All Saints and All Souls are both an example and opportunity to ask for assistance from those seated with God in heaven.
“As we rejoice in this great mystery,” he concluded, “let us ask the Lord to draw us ever closer to him and to all our brothers and sisters in the Church.”
Among the pilgrims present at the audience today were groups and individuals from England, Wales, Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Vietnam, the United States, Argentina, El Salvador, and México.
Rome, Italy, Oct 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A noted French philosopher and friend of retired pontiff Benedict XVI reflected that the former Pope's greatest contribution during his pontificate could be how he addressed the rationality of belief.
“As far as I can judge…the way in which he asked afresh the question of the relationship between faith and reason might have a lasting influence,” Remi Brague told CNA in an Oct. 25 interview.
Brague, who attended this year's Ratzinger Foundation Conference held from Oct. 24-26 in Rome, is a historian of philosophy, specializing in the Arabic, Jewish, and Christian thought of the Middle Ages, and is the author of several analysis books on Western thought.
The Ratzinger Foundation is an international group composed of the former Pope's students who gather every year for the purpose of scholarly research and study.
As someone who has worked and collaborated closely with Benedict XVI, Brague stated that although he is “no prophet,” he believes that the way in which Benedict “asked afresh the question of the relationship between faith and reason and, in particular, the way in which he deepened, he compelled us to deepen the question about what exactly reason is,” will be an enduring gift of the former Pope.
“Reason, revelation, in its Christian form,” Brague stressed, “might be a boon for human reason, might compel her to open up and to reach the full range of its possibilities” without becoming narrower or less lively as it could be.
“For this reason,” he emphasized, “I think that the Christian revelation is interesting for a philosopher too,” because “philosophy has to not only sift out whatever is revealed,” but also “take into account the possible opportunities for her to grow broader and to encompass things that she couldn't have possibly thought of previously.”
At last year’s Ratzinger Foundation Conference, Brague was given the “Ratzinger Award,” which is handed out every year in order to promote further study of the writings of the former university professor, Benedict XVI.
On receiving last year's award, the philosopher recalled that “it was a great honor and a joy for me to be sure, on the other hand,” however “it was a kiss of death for my secular colleagues.”
Although for him it was “emphatically positive,” to be chosen for the award, Brague revealed that the reception of it has made it more difficult to address colleagues in the secular world.
When asked if he would have preferred not to receive the award for that reason, the philosopher replied that “Certainly not, on the contrary! Christians must be at the same time supporters of law and order and, at the same time, well, they have to be dangerous.”
“If we should lose this subversive dimension,” he stressed, “well, perhaps I would give up, give up being a Christian, for this would mean that the salt of the earth would have lost its flavor.”
Vatican City, Oct 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis' reform of the Roman Curia is expected to produce a new document regulating the body, and to reduce the number of Pontifical Councils, while increasing the number of Congregations.
The group of eight cardinals advising Pope Francis on the reform and on the government of the Church will have their second meeting at the Vatican Dec. 3-5, following their Oct. 1-3 meeting.
“The cardinals are not thinking about an adjustment of Pastor Bonus; they are mostly thinking about sketching out a brand new pastoral constitution,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, Holy See press office director, said in a media briefing Oct. 2.
Pastor Bonus is the apostolic constitution issued by John Paul II in 1988 which regulates and defines charges, duties and composition of the offices of the Roman Curia.
Composing a new apostolic constitution is a tricky challenge: Pastor Bonus was finally issued after 16 years of studies and discussion. Nevertheless, the new apostolic constitution should re-design the Roman Curia.
The Roman Curia is composed of a number of different dicasteries, but by far the two most common types are Congregations, of which there are nine, and Pontifical Councils, of which there are 12.
While Congregations have executive power, Pontifical Councils do not, and remain in the background of their own spheres of influence.
It is widely rumored in Rome that the curial reform will result in fewer Pontifical Councils, and that their competencies will be transferred to the Congregations. This subsumption of the councils into the Congregations should streamline the Roman Curia.
Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa and coordinator of the G-8 cardinals, said last week that this consolidation could develop the laity's role in the Church's ranks by creating a 'Congregation for the Laity.'
This possible congregation would enroll the current Pontifical Councils for the Family and for the Laity, as well as the Pontifical Academy for Life, according to Cardinal Rodríguez.
By speaking of a congregation for the laity, Cardinal Rodríguez is seemingly following Pope Francis’ wish to give more space and importance to laypeople within the Church.
In any case, a 'Congregation for the Laity' would submit the laity to the authority of the clergy, since a Congregation is a governmental body.
This is the reason why – the official of a Pontifical Council who asked for anonymity told CNA Oct. 30 – “creating a Congregation would not be the best way to give more space and influence to the laymen of the Church.”
The official maintained that “the ranks of Pontifical Councils are full of laymen, entrusted with important charges, acting as main characters in the life of the Church.”
The official said that Pontifical Councils should instead “think about having more lay members, thus giving the lay people a sort of deliberative power within the Vatican dicasteries.”
Under current law – Pastor Bonus – dicasteries are composed of their presiding cardinal or archbishop, along with other cardinals and bishops, “assisted by a secretary, consulters, senior administrators, and a suitable number of officials … unless they have a different structure in virtue of their specific nature or some special law.”
The apostolic constitution goes on to say that some dicasteries can have “clerics and other faithful” as well, but specifies that “strictly speaking, the members of a congregation are the cardinals and the bishops.”
San José, Costa Rica, Oct 30, 2013 (CNA) - Costa Rica's Electoral Supreme Court has said that the Church has the right to speak about social and moral issues, proclaiming its teaching freely in order to inform the nation’s voters.
The Catholic Church has the right to “take stances on the country's social problems, as well as to preach the faith with authentic freedom, teach its social doctrine, exercise an earthly mission without interference and issue moral judgments, even on issues related to public order and others of interest to it,” the ruling said.
In an Oct. 25 decision, the court rejected a lawsuit filed against the Bishops' Conference of Costa Rica over a recent document on the electoral process and democracy, which was accused of being detrimental to the freedom of voters.
The court said that what Costa Rican law prohibits “of Catholic clergy (and of the laity as well)” is engaging in religiously-motivated political propaganda or using religious beliefs as a means for such.
Such restrictions are intended to protect the free will of voters, the court explained.
However, after a careful reading of the bishops' document issued on Oct. 7, the court found that nowhere does it favor any one political tendency or group.
On the contrary, the justices explained, “The reflections of the bishops are limited to explaining their positions regarding fundamental issues of the national reality, which they base on quotes from documents related to the social doctrine of the Church.”
They found that the bishops were not using their authority to influence the Catholic vote and that their document was “purely informative.”
“It contains a series of assessments that, in the opinion of the bishops, should be taken into consideration when evaluating the political choices offered in electoral process of February of 2014, and it leaves it to the faithful themselves to freely, spontaneously and distanced from any religious orientation, chose their own leaders,” the court said in its ruling.
Washington D.C., Oct 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A national campaign to depict abortion as a normal and positive experience has drawn criticism for overlooking the harm that abortion causes to women and their unborn children.
“This campaign reinforces the political beliefs about the goodness of abortion without giving women a chance to be honest about how they feel about their abortion or their lost child,” said Tina Whittington, executive vice president for Students for Life of America.
The problem with “encouraging women to fit into this mold that says 'I am okay with my abortion and I feel no regrets,'” she told CNA on Oct. 30, is that “it takes away their rights to feel regret, loss or sadness.”
“This is part of the reason why it takes women so long to seek help” for counseling after an abortion, Whittington continued. Rather than dealing with the pain they experience, women feel pressured to “stand behind a message point.”
Ultimately, she said, the campaign tells women, “We don't care about your complicated emotional or psychological health, all we care about is getting this political agenda moved forward.”
Whittington responded to a nationwide effort to re-energize the abortion movement in the U.S., led by Advocates for Youth and supported by other groups including NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
The campaign has involved the coordination of more than 130 events in some 30 states and 100 college campus in order to promote abortion access and oppose regulations on abortion.
At the center of the campaign is an effort to “destigmatize abortion and promote access” by promoting stories showing abortion as a normal and positive experience for women. The initiative centers on the findings from a 2011 survey from the Guttmacher Institute stating that 1 in 3 women in the United States would have an abortion by the age of 45.
However, pro-life advocates noted that the campaign fails to take into account the stories of women who have had traumatic or negative experiences from their abortions, nor does it mention the children who were adopted after their mothers chose life in difficult and challenging situations.
“Many of these 1 in 3 are deeply wounded and struggle daily with the decision they made or were coerced into,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List.
Overlooking these stories is overlooking the well-being of these women, she said.
“This is just another example of how pro-abortion forces put the institution of abortion above the wellbeing of individual women.”
Dannenfelser told CNA that “post-abortive women who speak out about their experiences have been instrumental in encouraging other mothers to choose life and winning hearts and minds to the pro-life cause.”
One of the rallies, held Oct. 28 in Washington, D.C., featured comments from Advocates for Youth president Deb Hauser, who explained that “every good story that mobilizes needs a villain.”
According to rally organizers, one of the purposes of the event was to fight those who would “shame” women who have had abortions. A poem read at the rally criticized individuals who pray near abortion clinics, saying that they express “judgment” and oppose “freedom.”
Dannenfelser explained that the campaign is pushing for abortion to “be normalized in our society.”
But ultimately, she stressed, “the pro-life argument that there are two unique people – a mother and a child – at the center of every abortion decision will always win out.”