Archive of November 16, 2013

Mother Teresa Awards given to promoters of social justice

Mumbai, India, Nov 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Harmony Foundation, based in Mumbai, on Oct. 27 conferred its Mother Teresa Awards on eight individuals and an organization for their work towards social justice and peace in the world.

“We strive to restore belief in compassion and egalitarianism that highlights the various endeavors taken up by individuals and NGOs to promote peace and strengthen humanity as a whole,” Abraham Mathai, who founded The Harmony Foundation in 2005, told CNA.

Given that there are so many awards given to those in cinema, music, sports, and corporate excellence, Mathai considered that it would be right to “appreciate and acknowledge” those who work for social justice and peace.

“There could not be a better name than Mother Teresa,” he said. The awards were praised by Sr. Nirmala, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity from 1997-2009, who said that naming the award for Mother Teresa reflects an “appreciation of our Mother and her humble works of love among the poorest of the poor.”

Mathai established The Harmony Foundation to build up communal harmony among various groups, especially in India, working without discrimination of caste, creed, or sex. The foundation partners with its patrons Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi; Mahesh Bhatt, a Bollywood producer; and Vishnu Bhagwat, an Indian admiral.

This year's recipients were Fr. Cedric Prakash; Indian Rescue Mission; Sindhutai Sapkal; Diep Saeeda; Hanumappa Sudarshan; Arunachalam Murunganatham; Sushmita Sen; Sam Childers; and Maulana Mahmood Madani.

Childers protects and rescues orphans in South Sudan and Uganda who would be in danger of recruitment as child soldiers. Born in the U.S., Childers became involved with drugs and motorcycle gangs, but converted to Christianity in 1992.

Since a 1998 trip to Sudan, Childers has devoted himself to caring for east African children affected by war and other violence. Accepting the award in Mumbai, he said, “this award belongs to the thousands of children in war-struck Sudan, and in many other parts of the world, who live a daily life with the constant fear and threat of attacks.”

Fr. Cedric Prakash is a Jesuit who has served India's marginalized minorities, and Indian Rescue Mission is an organization which rescues girls sold into prostitution. Sindhutai Sapkal has devoted herself to caring for orphans, and Diep Saeeda is Pakistani activist for women's rights.

Hanumappa Sudarshan is a physician who serves tribal communities in South Asia, and Arunachalam Murunganatham is an entrepreneur who developed a more cost-effective means of producing feminine hygiene products, providing both employment and better health care for the women of rural India.

Bollywood actress and former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen was awarded for her social outreach campaigns, including advocacy for educating special needs children. Maulana Mahmood Madani is a Muslim politician in India who advocates for minorities and disaster relief, and has been an outspoken opponent of terrorism.

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Catholics pray, send aid in Typhoon Haiyan's wake

Brooklyn, N.Y., Nov 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Salesian religious order is responding to Typhoon Haiyan as Catholics around the world voice their prayers and support for the massive storm's victims.

“Salesians were on the ground and able to respond immediately,” Father Mark Hyde, executive director of the U.S.-based Salesian Missions, said Nov. 12. “But they need additional help and we are responding to that call.”

The Salesian missionaries in the Philippines are planning to help 8.5 million people affected by the typhoon. The missionaries are providing food, water and tents for temporary shelters.

More than 600,000 people have been displaced by the typhoon and more than 10,000 may have been killed, the Associated Press reports. The central eastern islands of Samar and Leyte were the hardest hit.

Immediately after the typhoon passed, Salesian missionaries, students and volunteers prepared an initial 30,000 relief packages. Salesian schools and other buildings are serving as a shelters. The Salesians have also designated 11 drop-off centers across the Philippines to receive donations.

The typhoon cut off communications to some Salesian-supported communities.

Fr. George P. Militante from Cebu said that Salesians have been trying to connect to others to help relief operations.

“We are hearing that the basic needs for food, water, tarps and temporary shelters are the priorities,” he said.

The Salesians have also been helping victims of the Oct. 15 earthquake. The religious order has been aiding vulnerable children and families in the Philippines since 1950.

U.S. partners of Salesian Missions will ship over 285,000 rice meals and medical supplies to the country next week. Shoes and soccer balls will also be shipped to the typhoon victims. The soccer balls are intended to help restore a sense of normalcy by allowing children and youths to play.

Salesian Missions is part of the worldwide Salesian NGO federation the Don Bosco Network. The U.S. organization is raising funds for relief supplies through the website

As aid continues to pour in to the Philippines, Catholics continue to mourn the dead and encourage the living.

In New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Filipino Apostolate will hold a Mass of Healing and Hope on Nov. 17 at St. Michael’s Church in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens.

“We are taking this opportunity to pray as a community for those who have been affected by the Typhoon not just in the Philippines but those living here in the United States,” Fr. Patrick Longalon, coordinator of the apostolate, said Nov. 17.

He said many Filipinos in the diocese had heard “good news” about their families, others received “heartbreaking news” that their loved ones had died, while some are still awaiting news. Some Filipinos in the U.S. cannot travel home for funerals because of immigration issues.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn said the entire diocese is “mourning” with those who have lost loved ones.

Other expressions of support came from all parts of the world, including the long-suffering South Sudan.

Fr. Mark Opere Omol, a spokesman for the Diocese of Torit in South Sudan, sent a Nov. 11 letter to the Philippines voicing Christians’ “profound grief” at the loss of life and “heartfelt condolences” to survivors.

“(T)he gruesome typhoon can never, in any way, wipe away the hope and strength of goodwill of the populations of the Philippines,” he said. “The faith and hope in God remain strong and a source of consolation to all.”

“We are united in raising prayers to the merciful God for the souls of the deceased and invoking solace and courage to those in mourning,” Fr. Omol told Archbishop Jose S. Palma of Cebu, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Fr. Omol voiced hope that the international community and international charities will respond quickly to help typhoon victims.

He said such disasters are occasions to intensify a “spirit of solidarity and generosity.”

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God a 'relentless warrior' for our salvation, says Pope Francis

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Preaching his homily during Mass at the chapel of Santa Marta in the Vatican, the Pope stressed God's unwavering dedication to redeeming mankind.

“When the Lord takes up the defense of his people it is like this: he is a relentless warrior and saves his people,” Pope Francis said Nov. 16.

God “saves (and) renews everything: ‘All creation was made anew in its nature as before.’ ‘The Red Sea became a road without obstacles,’” the Roman Pontiff preached, recounting the first reading, from the book of Wisdom.

Our salvation comes when God hears “the prayer of his people, because he has heard in his heart that his chosen ones suffer,” he explained.

The Pope then turned to the Gospel story in which a poor widow persistently begs an unjust judge to render a verdict on her behalf.

This widow’s perseverance reveals the true strength of humanity: that of prayer.

“And what is the power of men?  What is the power of mankind? That of the widow: to knock at the heart of God, knocking, asking, lamenting many problems, many sorrows, and asking the Lord for freedom from these sorrows, from these sins, from these problems.”

God has the power to save man, but “the power of man is prayer.” Most especially, “the prayer of the humble man is the weakness of God,” he emphasized.

“God is weak only in this: he is weak in respect to the prayers of his people … the culmination of the power of God, the salvation of God” is in “the Incarnation of the Word.”

The Lord “does and will do justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night,” added the Pope.

The persistent widow in the Gospel “was brave” and never tired in her pleas, he said.

“You are like the widow: pray, ask, knock at the heart of God, every day.”

“Always remember that God is powerful. He is capable of making all things new, but he also has a weakness: our prayer.”

Pope Francis concluded by thanking the priests of St. Peter’s Basilica who were present at the Mass, reminding them of the power of their intercession in “praying to the Lord for the many needs of the Church, of humanity, of all.”

“Thank you for this work…and continue on for the good of the Church.”

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Pope to Guadalupe pilgrims: use Gospel's 'perfume' to evangelize

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis’ video message to the pilgrims gathered in Mexico City today encouraged the faithful to spread the Gospel with a peaceful manner, as did Christ.

“The task of evangelization requires much patience, much patience…don’t lose peace in the presence of discord.  And know also to present the Christian message in a serene and gradual manner, with the perfume of the Gospel, as the Lord did,” the Pope said by video Nov. 16 to those who had come to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

The Roman Pontiff used the video message to express his “desire to be with” the participants who had assembled together for conference and pilgrimage entitled, “Our Lady of Guadalupe, star of the new evangelization on the American continent.”

The conference is inspired by John Paul II's 1999 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, and will discuss evangelization and the Americas. Among its sponsors are the Knights of Columbus and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Pope Francis explained, “the goal of all pastoral activity is always oriented to the missionary impulse to reach everyone, without excluding anyone and really taking into consideration each person’s circumstances.”

“You must reach everyone and share the joy of having met Christ.”

He cautioned that “this is not about going as one who imposes a new obligation, as those who merely limit themselves to reproach or complaint before what we consider imperfect or insufficient.”

“Know to give preference to, in the first place, that which is essential and most necessary, that is, the beauty of the love of God that speaks to us in Christ’s death and resurrection.”

“For the other part, you must strive to be creative in your methods, we can’t remain closed in the common place of 'it has always been done like this.'”

A Church that remains closed in on itself, with a sense of self-satisfaction, warned the Roman Pontiff, “in a certain way ‘has indigestion’ and weakens.”  

Rather, Christians must “have the audacity to reach the existential peripheries that need to feel the closeness of God.”

In a particular way, the bishop must “be like the shepherd that knows the names of his sheep, guiding them with closeness, with tenderness, with patience, demonstrating effectively the maternity of the Church and the mercy of God,” insisted Pope Francis.

Bishops, he said, should not be overly focused on administrative matters, but rather must “keep vigil” for the people entrusted to them, “knowing to discern, without stopping, the breath of the Holy Spirit that comes where it wills, for the good of the Church and her mission in the world.”

The Roman Pontiff then went on to reject the attitude of clericalism “which does so much harm to the Church in Latin America.”

It “is an obstacle to the development of maturity and responsibility of much of the Christian laity,” because “clericalism implies a self-referential attitude” that  “impoverishes the view towards meeting the Lord which makes us disciples, and towards the people that await the announcement” of the Gospel.

In order to help the Church avoid temptation and to grow in her mission, Pope Francis especially asked the prayers of those in consecrated life, who act as “leaven” in the Church.

“I ask the religious to be faithful to the charism they have received, that in their service to the hierarchy of Holy Mother Church, they not permit the disappearance of that grace with the Holy Spirit gave to their founders and that they must hand on in all its integrity.”

The Pope then concluded his message by reiterating the importance of each Christian’s mission, given in the first sacrament of initiation: “Remember that you have received Baptism, that you have been transformed into disciples of the Lord.  But each disciple is, in turn, a missionary.”

“This treasure of faith is not given for personal use. It is to give away, to hand on, and in this manner it grows.”

“Make known the name of Jesus.”

Then, referencing the story of how Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego, making roses bloom in December, Pope Francis added: “if you do this, do not be surprised that the roses of Castile grow in winter.  Because you know, both Jesus and we have the same mother!”

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