Cairo, Egypt, Jan 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Catholic Coptic bishop has said he “very strongly” encourages Christians to accept Egypt's draft constitution for Egypt, voted on this week, citing the autonomy it grants to Christians, Muslims and Jews.
“If the constitution is really taken seriously then the situation of Christians in Egypt will improve considerably,” Bishop Kyrillos William Samaan of the Coptic Eparchy of Assiut told Aid to the Church in Need Jan. 14. He said the new document is “without doubt an improvement on what applied under the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The constitution was the subject of a referendum which took place Jan. 14-15.
The Egyptian constitution had been under revision since December 2013. Representatives of Egypt’s churches, including Coptic Catholic Bishop Antonios Mina of Guizeh, were involved in the review process before the draft was submitted to interim president Adi Mansour for approval.
Bishop William Samaan said the Christian community is very happy with the draft constitution, which has strong support from the Christian media.
The bishop said the proposed constitution “guarantees Christians and Jews autonomy in matters regarding civil status and internal affairs.” It grants Muslims, Christians and Jews “the same right to build places of worship.”
“I hope we Christians will then be free at last to build and renovate churches,” Bishop William Samaan said.
The repair and construction of churches has been strictly regulated in Egypt. This has severely hindered the Christian population, which traces its roots back to the early years of Christian evangelization.
The Coptic Catholic Church, which is in communion with the Bishop of Rome, has about 250,000 adherents, and is headed by the Cairo-based Patriarch of Alexandria.
The two-day referendum on the new constitution took place Tuesday and Wednesday, with 37 percent of registered voters participating, the state-run Al Ahram newspaper has said.
The newspaper projects a 90 percent “yes” vote for the draft constitution, though members of the Muslim Brotherhood are boycotting the election.
About 400 people have been arrested for disrupting the vote and there have been some clashes between protesters and police, the BBC reports.
The Egyptian military removed the Muslim Brotherhood-backed resident Mohammed Morsi from power in July 2013. Egypt has been politically unstable since the “Arab Spring” protests of 2011 deposed then-president Hosni Mubarak.
A December 2012 constitutional referendum approved the previous constitution by a vote of 64 percent, with turnout of 33 percent. That election was boycotted by secular elements in Egyptian society.
Providence, R.I., Jan 18, 2014 (CNA) - It was a lesson in compassion straight out of the Gospel of St. John.
Born on foreign shores, a man now homeless, brought some of the medical training and compassion for the infirm he first acquired in his native Haiti to bear in caring for a fellow guest at the diocese’s Emmanuel House homeless shelter in his time of need.
After walking the streets of Providence for several hours as a powerful winter storm took aim at New England Jan. 3, Joseph Follett returned early to the diocesan shelter, where he had also stayed the night before. His feet soaked from walking in the light snow that had fallen since he had left that morning, Follett slowly, and with some difficulty removed his socks to dry, but recovered his feet with his wet sneakers.
After overhearing Emmanuel House Director Dotty Perreault express concern about Follett’s well-being considering his borderline diabetic condition, John Compas immediately came to Follett’s aid, removing his drenched sneakers and, taking a wash cloth, he began to gently cleanse and dry the man’s cold, blistered feet. He then obtained a pair of new white athletic socks, recently donated to the shelter, and stretched them over Follett’s feet to protect them.
“What this man needs is some TLC,” Compas said, with an accent that testified to his Haitian French-Creole upbringing.
Tender loving care these days is hard to come by for Follett, according to his adult son Andrew – who is also currently homeless and a guest at Emmanuel House. His father, he said, was once a former special needs teacher who taught for 28 years in the Boston schools.
The experience of the past four weeks, since the two began seeking shelter at Emmanuel House has been overwhelming for both of them.
“Every day here it’s been something special,” said Andrew, who had attended college in Pennsylvania with aspirations of becoming a football coach. “I’ve never really been part of a community.”
Emmanuel House is an evening shelter, so the men must depart in the early morning. Those in need of a place to sleep can then return to the facility, located at 239 Public St., on the city’s South Side, when it reopens at 5 p.m.
But as temperatures dipped Thursday, and snow began to fall, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin called for the shelter to be reopened at noon to provide those in need with a refuge from the storm. He directed that the shelter would remain open through Sunday afternoon.
Following the bishop’s announcement, and a phone call from the shelter’s director to one of the men – who was trying to keep warm for a couple of hours at Crossroads Rhode Island before taking to the streets again – it didn’t take long for word to spread among the three dozen homeless men who had spent the previous night at Emmanuel House that the diocesan shelter was reopening much earlier in the day than usual.
Another group that had set out for Kennedy Plaza soon learned that they too had a warm, safe place to seek refuge from the approaching storm, and redirected their course for Emmanuel House.
By 1 p.m., amid falling snow, about a dozen men had returned to Emmanuel House.
“I was glad for the information,” said Doug, one of the shelter’s guests, of how the group he was with at Crossroads appreciated receiving a phone call from Emmanuel House Director Dotty Perreault inviting them back several hours early.
He and some of the other men had just arrived at Crossroads after visiting Amos House to receive lunch. They were hoping to stay warm for a couple of hours before returning to walk the streets until the diocesan shelter reopened.
As the men sat quietly watching television, Perreault returned to Emmanuel House after picking up some supplies, preparing to hunker down with her staff at the shelter through Sunday.
While the decision to keep the shelter open during the day was a necessary one, given the conditions, it is one that may have ramifications down the line.
“I had to bring on two extra people for weather relief and that will put us over budget,” Perreault says as she checks the level of donated supplies sitting on the shelves of an improvised stockroom created from a small office at the former diocesan day care center.
She is concerned that the added impact to her budget due to the storm may force Emmanuel House to close for the spring season days earlier than it had originally planned, leaving the homeless out on the street with no place to sleep at night.
David, 55, said he was thankful for the opportunity to spend the day inside, and out of the harsh weather.
“It’s freezing. I just got over pneumonia,” he said.
What would he be doing if the shelter had not reopened during the day?
“Probably walking in the city. You can only stay at Crossroads for so long. Just enough to get warm,” he said.
“It’s kind of tough being out there.”
The early opening prompted Perreault to arrange for an earlier food delivery from the Salvation Army, which brings dinner twice a week and breakfast on Sunday mornings to Emmanuel House.
Around 3 p.m., the truck arrived, and the two Salvation Army staff members, assisted by a couple of guests from Emmanuel House, proceeded to carry the warm pasta and a side dish in.
The delivery of food into the shelter was halted only briefly, when what sounded like five gunshots in the distance pierced the air.
“Were those gunshots?” said Roger Cronin Jr., stopping in his snowy tracks near the front door.
After the brief pause, the delivery continued as Cronin and his colleague, Maureen Gensheimer, continued their mission.
Cronin said that even though the weather conditions for driving were becoming increasingly miserable, and he would have preferred to remain inside at that time, experience has taught him how important it is to honor one’s commitment to those in need.
“Both Maureen and I have been homeless ourselves,” he said. “We’ve both been out there. We know what it is like to be cold, wet and hungry. I knew I had to come out.”
Posted with permission from Rhode Island Catholic, official publication of the diocese of Providence.
Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The U.S. bishops are inviting the faithful to participate in nine days of prayer, fasting and pilgrimage surrounding the 41st anniversary of legalized abortion throughout the nation.
“We're all called to pray for the cause of life,” said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director of policy and communication for the U.S. Bishops' Pro-Life Secretariat.
“It's a beautiful effort,” she told CNA, stressing that “those sacrifices and prayers make a difference” in building a culture of life and changing hearts.
This is the second year that the bishops have held a 9 Days for Life campaign. The initiative runs from Jan. 18-26 and will overlap with the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that mandated legal abortion throughout the U.S. in 1973.
All people – regardless of whether they are able to attend the March for Life – are welcome to participate in a nine-day novena for life through their prayers and sacrifices, McQuade explained.
The bishops' conference has set up an online platform, 9daysforlife.com, which includes email and text alerts as well as a phone application. The social media hashtag #9daysforlife is being promoted during the campaign.
Dioceses across the country will also host events such as Masses and Holy Hours for those affected by abortion, as well as for pilgrims attending pro-life demonstrations.
Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee, encouraged participation in the novena in a Jan. 16 statement.
He observed that modern American society “relegates abortion to a matter of personal choice, often denying the integrity and even the recognition of the personhood of unborn children.”
This tendency, he said, is reflected in the 55 million abortions performed in the past 40 years and demonstrates what Pope Francis calls a “throwaway culture.”
“However, we have great trust in God’s providence,” the cardinal reflected.
“By our participation in these 9 Days for Life, as we call upon the Lord for the healing and conversion of our nation and those impacted by the culture of death, we are also reminded – through the very act of prayer – of our beautiful dependence on God and His deep love for each of us,” he said.
Vatican City, Jan 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In meeting with the employees of Italy’s national broadcaster, Pope Francis stressed the importance of responsible communications rooted in truth, noting its role in forming persons.
“The ethical quality of communications is the result, ultimately, of a careful conscience, not superficial, always respectful of people, both those who are the objects of information and those who are the recipients of the message,” he said at a Jan. 18 audience with the directors and staff of RAI.
“Each one, in his own role and with his own responsibility, is called to be vigilant in maintaining a high level of ethics in communications, and to avoid those things which create so much damage: disinformation, defamation, and slander. Maintain the level of ethics.”
Pope Francis met with the broadcasting organization on the occasion of its 90th anniversary for radio, and 60th for television.
The Roman Pontiff reflected on the longstanding collaboration between RAI and the Vatican’s radio and television services, noting that the partnership has allowed the Italian people “to be able to access the words, and successively, the images of the Pope and the Church.”
“We think of the Second Vatican Council, of papal elections, or of the funeral of blessed John Paul II,” for example, he suggested.
“Recalling such a rich history of accomplishments also calls us to a renewed sense of responsibility, for today and tomorrow.”
Pope Francis then issued some challenging words to his audience.
“The past is the root, history becomes the root of new impulses, the root of present challenges, and the root of a future to move forward towards! And that future isn’t found without the responsibility for our identity.”
“I remind you that your profession, in addition to being informative, is formative; it is a public service, that is, a service for the common good, a service for truth, for goodness, and for beauty.”
The various professionals at RAI, including “executives, journalists, artists, clerks, technicians, and workers,” said the Pope, “know they belong to a company that produces culture and education, that offers information and shows, at every moment of the day reaching a large part of Italy.”
“It is a responsibility which he who is owner of a public service cannot abdicate for any reason,” he said, expressing his hope that they would “place themselves at the service of human, cultural, and civil-societal growth” with “determination and perseverance.”
Pope Francis then concluded by wishing the attendees a good new year.
“I wish you to work well, and to put faith and hope in your work, to be able to convey this, because there is much need of it!”
Vatican City, Jan 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis met this week with members of an ecumenical delegation of Finnish Lutherans, encouraging them to work towards unity among all Christians.
“In the face of those who no longer see the full, visible unity of the Church as an achievable goal, we are invited not to give up our ecumenical efforts, faithful to that which the Lord Jesus asked of the Father, ‘that they may be one,’” the Pope told the delegation Jan 17.
“Ecumenism is in fact a spiritual process, that is realized in faithful obedience to the Father, in fulfillment of the will of Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
The group, led by Kari Makinen, a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, was on its annual pilgrimage to Rome for the feast of St. Henry, their nation’s patron saint. Their trip coincides with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held Jan. 18-25.
The week of prayer is sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the World Council of Churches’ faith and order commission. The week is dedicated to encouraging dialogue and spiritual unity amongst Christians.
Pope Francis reflected on this year’s theme, “Has Christ been Divided”, in his audience with the delegation, noting that the process of working for Christian unity is changing in response to an increasingly secularized culture, particularly in Europe.
“At the current time, even our ecumenical journey and the relations between Christians are going through significant changes, due to the fact that we find (ourselves) professing our faith in the context of a society and culture where the reference to God and to all that recalls the transcendent dimension of life is ever less present.”
In the face of these challenges, “it is necessary that our testimony focuses on the center of our faith, on the announcement of the love of God that is manifested in Christ his Son,” encouraged Pope Francis.
“We find here space for growth in communion and in unity amongst ourselves, promoting spiritual ecumenism, which grows directly from the commandment of love left by Jesus to his disciples.”
Yet the ecumenical movement faces many challenges. Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting Christian Unity, noted that a major difficulty lies in different understandings of ecumensim’s goal.
“The main problem that we have today in the ecumenical dialogue with all the Protestant” communities, he told CNA recently, is the lack of “a common vision of the goal of the ecumenical movement. We have two different views. The Catholic view, (which) is also the Orthodox view, (is) that we will re-find the unity in faith in the sacraments and in ministries.”
Conversely, Cardinal Koch said, “the vision that I find today in the Protestant churches and ecclesial communities (is that) of the mutual recognition of all the ecclesial communities as churches.”
In this Protestant vision, the goal of ecumenism presupposes a different understanding of “church.” Rather than unity visible in sacrament and ministry, the Protestant vision sees “church” as simply a conglomeration or “addition of all these ecclesial communities.”
“This is the view of the ecumenical goal that is very very difficult for us.”
Nevertheless, hope remains. As Pope Francis continues the work of his predecessors in seeking union with the Orthodox, most visible in his upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the spring, the improving relationship between Catholic and Orthodox may serve as a model for dialogue with Protestants.
“I think that the Reformation … has some basis in the division between Orthodox and Catholic, and when we can find new unity between Orthodox and Catholics, I think we have a better basis for the discussion between Catholics and Protestants,” said Cardinal Koch.
“I hope that we have more in common than what is divided.”