Archive of February 20, 2014

North Korea reportedly detains Christian missionary

Pyongyang, North Korea, Feb 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The North Korean government has allegedly detained a 75-year-old Christian missionary named John Short, possibly for distributing Christian pamphlets.

“I know he’s courageous and he’s in God’s hands,” Short’s wife Karen told The Associated Press.

“I believe that at the right time that the right thing will happen and he will be released,” she added, saying she had been “shocked” by her husband’s detention.

Short reportedly had Korean-language Christian literature with him, and his wife said that could be the reason for his detention.

“He knew North Korea was not a tourist destination but he cares about the people and he wants to help,” she told Agence France Presse.

The Shorts, originally from Australia, are currently living in Hong Kong.

Short arrived in North Korea the morning of Saturday, Feb. 15, as part of a regular tour group. Reports indicate that North Korean officers detained him and a Chinese companion, telling them they would be taken to the airport and deported.

Short’s wife told Agence France Presse he never arrived at the airport.

Australia’s foreign affairs department is working on the situation through the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang.

Short previously traveled to North Korea last year, also as part of an organized tour. He was arrested multiple times for preaching Christianity in mainland China. His biography on the Christian website Gospel Attract reports that he was arrested several times in China for “speaking out about the brutality against Chinese Christians.”

Short and his wife have owned the Hong Kong publishing house Christian Book Room for 15 years. The company distributes Bibles, calendars and tracts, Agence France Presse reports.

North Korea severely restricts religious activity, allowing only groups officially recognized by the government. The country’s government views foreign missionaries as seditious.

“There's risk involved,” Short’s wife told the AP. “He knew that too, but when you know what you must do, you do it.”

She said she and her husband recognize that North Korea doesn’t welcome Christians.

“But that doesn't mean we stand by and don't do anything because we care for the situation and we pray about it but sometimes you have to do more than talk.”

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights said in a Feb. 17 report that the North Korean state considers the spread of Christianity a “particularly serious threat” because it “challenges ideologically the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the realm of the State.”

North Korea is also holding Kenneth Bae, a U.S. citizen, on charges of seeking to overthrow the government. He was arrested in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.


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Nigeria archbishop laments failure to stop Boko Haram

Abuja, Nigeria, Feb 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Amid continuing attacks in Nigeria attributed to the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, one of the country's leading bishops has grieved the inability of government authorities to stop the violence.

“Unfortunately, the authorities have so far failed to fulfill their task of ensuring peace and security to Nigerians in every area of the Country,” said Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, president of the Nigerian Episcopal Conference.

He said policymakers and the Nigerian military “have not yet managed to get to the bottom of the problem,” Fides news agency reported Feb. 17.

“Despite the efforts and significant resources invested to combat these fanatical groups, policy makers and the Nigerian military “have not yet managed to get to the bottom of the problem."

His comments followed a Saturday attack on the village of Izghe in the northern state of Borno allegedly committed by a Boko Haram group. Over 100 civilians were killed by several men dressed in military uniform. After the attackers killed the people and raided shops, they fled towards the forest, Fides reports.

On Feb. 19, suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers took part in a major attack in the town of Bama on Nigeria’s northern border, the Nigerian army said. Details about the five-hour attack are scarce because the insurgency has severely affected the phone network, BBC News reports.

Wednesday's attack followed Tuesday remarks from army spokesman Doyin Okupe, who said the army was “on top of the situation.” He said Nigeria is “already winning the war against terror” and the insurgents’ activities will be “terminated within the shortest possible time.”

Archbishop Kaigama, who spoke to Fides before the Wednesday attack, said he was no longer surprised by the massacre because of Boko Haram’s “regular pattern” that is “aimed at terrorizing the population.”

He said Nigeria needs to address “ the root of the problem,” saying he thinks that groups outside Nigeria are offering “sophisticated assistance” to the radical groups.

The governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima, has said the insurgents were “better armed and better motivated” than security forces, the BBC reports. He said that without reinforcements the defeat of Boko Haram will be “absolutely impossible.”

Suspected Boko Haram attacks have killed over 245 people in 2014. The group is blamed for several thousand deaths since its insurgency began in 2009

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Denver hospice dedicated to upholding Church teaching

Denver, Colo., Feb 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A palliative care organization in the Denver archdiocese is committed to providing end-of-life care to patients that fully accords with the teaching of the Church, according to the group’s president.

“We have a focus on the Catholic faith. We’ll care for anybody, just like Jesus Christ would, but we have a focus on … following the teachings of the Church,” Kevin Lundy, president of Divine Mercy Supportive Care, told CNA Feb. 15.

While acknowledging that “all hospice agencies are made up of wonderful, loving, caring people,” he explained that what distinguishes Divine Mercy Supportive Care is “our focus is on providing those sacramental services … the spiritual end-of-life preparation.”

“We believe in caring for people in a manner consistent with the teachings of the Church.”

Divine Mercy provides charitable, educational, and medical services, offering compassionate care while affirming the dignity and sanctity of human life.

More than 100 supporters attended a Feb. 15 fundraiser for the organization, including Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver and religious sisters from both the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Religious Sisters of Mercy.

The evening began with a Mass said by Fr. Charles Polifka, which was followed by presentations on the importance of having a Catholic hospice available, for spiritual, pastoral and medical reasons.

Archbishop Aquila discussed his own experience with his mother dying in hospice, commenting on the importance of helping “those people who truly desire to have a Christian death, to have a death that is focused on faith.”

The archbishop added that “when I heard about the mission and work of Divine Mercy, and because of my own experience, I very much support the work that they are doing, the ministry they want to do.”

The Catholic Standard of Care which Divine Mercy has adopted ensures it is “Catholic through and through,” Lundy told CNA. These standards for protecting end-of-life dignity come from the U.S. bishops and have been edited by two nationally renowned bioethicists.

Lundy said that the standard guiding the organization “goes beyond just the care of patients – it goes to how we treat our employees, because we believe how you treat your staff is how the care is going to translate down to the patient and their family. That’s the Catholic Standard of Care, that’s what we hang our hat on, and that’s what we’re all about.”

Lundy explained that while many events inspired him to found Divine Mercy, the largest factor was the death of his mother. While in hospice, she and her husband, a deacon, “had a plan in place for how she was going to die, and how he’d be present at her passing.” However, things did not turn out the way they had hoped.

“Despite their plan, when she died, it was at one o’clock in the morning, after my father had already gone to sleep. And the hospice nurse … never took the time to wake him up: she thought it would be better for them if he was just woken up after, so he wouldn’t have to hear the death rally.”

“My father’s a deacon, and I’ve not come across people in my life as faithful and spiritual as my own parents. They made me who I am, I hope I’m half the man my father is one day, and … they had this faith that my mother was transitioning from this life” to her judgement and to eternal life.

That Lundy’s father wasn’t able to accompany her wife as she made a good death “was a very, very sad thing for him,” he said, and “that was part of my inspiration, and through that I went into hospice.”

While working in hospice, Lundy saw how tremendously important it is for many Catholics to have a priest chaplain as they prepare to die, as well as how nuanced Church teaching can be on decisions to be made in caring for those nearing death.

“A lot of different experiences caused me to say it’s necessary for us to have some kind of a Catholic support service organization,” he said. “I got together with some friends of mine, (and) we prayed on it together,” and Divine Mercy was founded.

They found Deacon Alan Rastrelli to be the medical director of the organization; in addition to being a deacon, Rastrelli is a physician with expertise in palliative medicine and anesthesiology.

“We were very, very blessed, which just tells me that this whole experience quite honestly is nothing but the Holy Spirit working,” Lundy said.

Mark Skender, vice president of development at Divine Mercy, also spoke with CNA, and explained that he became part of the project while having coffee with Lundy, who explained the lack of sacraments and priests available to those facing death.

“That gave me goosebumps, it made the hair raise on my arms, and I thought … I need to get involved.”

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To know Jesus we must follow him, says Pope Francis

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2014 (CNA) - In his daily homily, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of Christian discipleship, emphasizing the need for Christians to follow Jesus with their entire lives, not just intellectually.

“Jesus didn’t say to Peter and to his Apostles, ‘Know me!’ he said, ‘Follow me!’ And this following of Jesus makes us know Jesus,” explained Pope Francis on Feb. 20 to those gathered in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta residence.

As the Pope reflected on Peter’s relationship with Jesus throughout the gospels, he noted that it can be seen as “a long road, a road of grace and sin, a disciple’s road.”

Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, “who do you say that I am?” had to be answered not with academic knowledge, but with his life, “after humiliation.”

“Peter went along with Jesus, he saw the miracles that Jesus was doing, he saw his power...but at a certain point, Peter renounced Jesus, he betrayed Jesus,” recounted the Pontiff.

Through these experiences, Peter learned “wisdom - that of weeping, that of tears.”

Like Peter, every Christian must learn “to follow Jesus in our virtue, and even in our sin, but to always follow Jesus.”

The path of discipleship does not exclude intellectual knowledge, however.

“It is important to study and to know” things like the catechism, acknowledged Pope Francis. But knowledge alone “is not sufficient.” Rather, what is necessary is “a daily meeting with the Lord, every day, with our victories and our weaknesses.”

“Many times, Jesus turns to us and asks, ‘but who am I for you?’” said the Pope. In order not to reply with only “that which we have learned in the catechism,” we must recognize our need for divine assistance.

The “long road” of the Christian life is “a journey that we cannot make alone.” Instead, we must turn to the Trinity for aid.

“To know Jesus is a gift of the Father, and he makes us know Jesus. It is a work of the Holy Spirit,” emphasized Pope Francis.

Moreover, the Holy Spirit does not act as a kind of external “union organizer” but rather one who “works in us always. He does this work to unfold the ministry of Jesus” in our lives.

Then the Pope asked the congregation to consider the gospel calling in their personal lives.

“Let us look at Jesus, Peter, the apostles, and let us hear in our hearts this question: ‘Who am I for you?’”

“Like the disciples, let us ask the Father to give us the knowledge of Christ in the Holy Spirit,” he concluded.

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Pope greets 19 prisoners at St. Martha's Residence

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis set aside his schedule Wednesday to meet briefly with 19 inmates from prisons in Pisa and the island of Pianosa, greeting each one individually and blessing them.

According to ANSA, the secretary for the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, had organized the inmates’ visit to the Vatican and was celebrating Mass for them at the Vatican Grottos when the Pope learned of their arrival and decided to invited them to his residence.

He spent a few minutes greeting them at St. Martha’s Residence, where he lives at the Vatican, before going to St. Peter’s Square for the Wednesday General Audience.

“It was a truly beautiful and moving encounter. The Pope wanted to greet and bless each one of them. He encouraged them, and his gesture was one of great spiritual fatherhood,” Archbishop Baldisseri said.

Inmates said the 15 minute-long visit was “very beautiful and emotional.”

Chaplains from prisons across Italy are taking part in spiritual pilgrimages for inmates to Rome to attend the General Audiences with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square.

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Pope Francis urges cardinals to reflect deeply on family life

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis met briefly this morning with cardinals who had gathered for a meeting to reflect on the theme of the family, urging them to consider carefully both the Church’s theology and pastoral practice.

“Our reflections must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality which is so simple and yet so rich, consisting of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings, as is the whole of life,” he said on Feb. 20.

“We will seek to deepen the theology of the family and discern the pastoral practices which our present situation requires.”

After extending the prelates “a warm greeting” and thanking “the Lord who has given us these days of meeting and working together,” Pope Francis issued a caution against “falling into ‘causistry,’” or case-based reasoning in ethics.

The pontiff noted that such a narrow method would “inevitably diminish the quality of our work” considering “the family, the fundamental cell of society. From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply, and so the family is then an image of the Triune God in the world.”

Observing the current situation in which “today, the family is looked down upon and mistreated,” the Pope called upon the cardinals to recognize and proclaim a more positive vision of the family.

“We are called to acknowledge how beautiful, true and good it is to start a family, to be a family today; and how indispensable the family is for the life of the world and for the future of humanity.”

“We are called to make known God’s magnificent plan for the family and to help spouses joyfully experience this plan in their lives, as we accompany them amidst so many difficulties,” he encouraged.

The prelates will also be addressed by the dean of the college of cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and be given an introduction to the theme of the family by Cardinal Walter Kasper.

The extraordinary synod of cardinals on Feb. 20 and 21 comes on the heels of a series of meetings of various cardinal groups gathered earlier this week to discuss Vatican city-state governance and economic issues. On Feb. 22, Pope Francis will create nineteen new cardinals, sixteen of voting age.

The soon-to-be cardinals are taking part in the extraordinary synod, whose theme of reflection on the family anticipates the ordinary synod to be held in October of 2014, with the same theme.

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Pope names Caribbean missionary as new Miami auxiliary bishop

Miami, Fla., Feb 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis has appointed a new auxiliary bishop for Miami: Malta-born Monsignor Peter Baldacchino, an Archdiocese of Newark priest who has served for more than a decade as a missionary in the Caribbean.

Bishop Baldacchino voiced gratitude to the Pope for the Feb. 20 appointment, saying, “I look forward to serving the Archdiocese of Miami and to work with His Grace, Archbishop Thomas Wenski.”

“Pray for me. I am praying for you,” the bishop-designate said at a Feb. 20 press conference, which he addressed in English and in Spanish.

Miami’s Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski praised the bishop-designate.

“As a priest he has worked not as a bureaucrat but as a pastor, not in ivory towers but in the trenches,” the archbishop said. “Bishop-elect Baldacchino has in his priesthood lived out the vocation to be a ‘missionary disciple’ bringing God and therefore joy to the people he has been sent to serve.”

The bishop-designate was born in Sliema, Malta, on Dec. 5, 1960. During philosophy studies at the University of Malta, he became interested in the Neocatechumenal Way, a catechetical apostolate dedicated to Catholic renewal. He then explored his vocation to the priesthood in Newark, N.J., the Archdiocese of Miami said.

He studied at Seton Hall University’s Immaculate Conception Seminary and lived in community at the Neocatechumenal Way’s Redemptoris Mater Missionary House of Formation in Kearny, N.J. He received a master’s degree in divinity from Seton Hall University.

He was ordained a priest for the Newark archdiocese in 1996, after which he served as a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Ridgewood, N.J.

In 1999, he was assigned to the Our Lady of Divine Providence Mission in the Turks & Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. He served as chancellor of the independent mission and also served as pastor of Our Lady of Divine Providence Church on the island of Providenciales.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI named the priest a Chaplain to His Holiness, with the honorary title of Reverend Monsignor.

He is fluent in Maltese, Italian and English.

Archbishop Wenski noted that the bishop-designate’s work in reaching out to Hispanic and Haitian immigrants has equipped him well to serve in the Archdiocese of Miami.

Bishop-designate Baldacchino will be the tenth auxiliary bishop to serve the Archdiocese of Miami and its only auxiliary bishop in active ministry.

The archdiocese has 1.3 million Catholics across three counties. The archdiocese’s 108 parishes and missions celebrate Mass in 17 languages. The archdiocese has 57 Catholic schools.

Archbishop Wenski said he, Bishop-designate Baldacchino and the other clergy and faithful of the archdiocese wish to advance the “new evangelization” in south Florida.

“We wish to invite everyone to know Jesus Christ – for to be a Christian is not a burden but a gift,” the archbishop said. “To have encountered Jesus Christ in his Church is the best thing that has ever happened to us. To share him with others is our joy. ‘Where God is, there is joy.’”

Archbishop Wenski will ordain Bishop-designate Baldacchino to the episcopacy in March.

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Archbishop Cordileone supports constitutional marriage amendment

Washington D.C., Feb 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ marriage defense efforts has offered his support to a suggested constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

“An amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the only remedy in law against this judicial activism that may ultimately end with federal judges declaring that the U.S. Constitution requires states, and consequently the federal government, to redefine marriage,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco.

The archbishop, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, voiced his support for such an amendment in a Feb. 19 letter to Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.).

Last July, Huelskamp introduced a Marriage Protection Amendment in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Amending the U.S. Constitution is a difficult process; only 27 amendments have been ratified in the nation’s history. To be formally proposed, an amendment must first have the support of either two-thirds of both houses of Congress or a national convention called by Congress at the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures. It must then be ratified by either three-quarters of state legislatures or three-quarters of special state ratifying conventions.

In his letter, Archbishop Cordileone pointed to a variety of federal challenges to “the constitutionality of state marriage laws that honor the reality of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

Just this month, he said, “a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled Virginia’s marriage amendment unconstitutional,” following a similar ruling for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

“Both of these decisions are part of a trend that began last December when a judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah declared Utah’s marriage amendment unconstitutional,” the archbishop explained.

Rulings in Kentucky and Ohio also show that states may face increasing pressure for “recognition of out-of-state same-sex ‘marriages,’” he said.

“Given the litigation pending in federal courts around the country,” Archbishop Cordileone warned, “more bad decisions using the U.S. Constitution to strike down state marriage laws may be on the horizon.”

In its proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution, the Marriage Protection Act provides “a needed remedy” to the court attempts to change the definition of marriage, he said.

Such an amendment “would secure in law throughout the country the basic truth known to reason that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” the archbishop explained. “Preserving this elemental truth is necessary for the good of society at large and for the good of children who deserve the love of both a mother and a father, neither of whom is expendable.”

Marriage is unique in that it “unites a man and a woman to each other and to any child conceived of their union,” he emphasized, adding that court opinions that “essentially redefine marriage to be merely a state recognized arrangement of intimate adult relationships ignore the truth about marriage, which deserves the highest protection in law.”


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Wichita's new bishop says he will rely on grace and mercy alone

Wichita, Kan., Feb 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Monsignor Carl Kemme, a priest of Illinois’ Springfield diocese, was announced as the next Bishop of Wichita Thursday, and he said he accepted the assignment “relying solely on God’s grace and mercy.”

“As I will say many times and with utter sincerity, I was not seeking this appointment and in many ways was surprised to learn of it. Over the years, many have mentioned that someday I would be a bishop and I always said, if God is good, that won’t happen. Well, now I’m going to have to rethink and rephrase those words somehow,” Msgr. Kemme stated Feb. 20 at a news conference in Wichita.

“You know the old saying, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans … seemingly God has other plans. And here I am before you today.”

Msgr. Kemme has lived all his 53 years in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois; he was born in Effingham, 90 miles southeast of Springfield.

“I come to you from rather humble beginnings, a farm boy of Central Illinois, a member of a large family,” he told the people of Wichita. “My parents were hardworking farmers who couldn’t give us a lot of things, but gave us the best thing they could, our faith and membership in the Roman Catholic Church.”

“I come to you as one who wanted to be a priest, a parish priest from his earliest days.” Msgr. Kemme attended a high school seminary, and completed his studies for the priesthood at Kenrick Seminary, earning a bachelor of arts and a master of divinity.

“I do not come to you with any advanced theological or canonical degrees other than the ones you would normally receive in the course of seminary formation; I try as best I can to remain current in my ongoing formation through reading and study, but my desire was and always has been to be in the trenches and to help God’s people to find him there in their everyday lives,” he said.

He was ordained a priest in 1986, and served at several parishes, including Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Mount Zion, according to the Vatican Information Service. He has served the Springfield diocese as vicar general, chancellor, and, while it was vacant for a year, as administrator.

Bl. John Paul II named him a monsignor in 2002, and he is also a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. In addition, he is a chaplain for Courage, an apostolate serving persons with same-sex attraction.

Msgr. Kemme began his remarks at today’s news conference with gratitude to God for all his blessings, and thanking Pope Francis “for the confidence he has shown in me.”

He continued, “I know many other priests who are much more qualified than I am, more intelligent, more gifted in language, administrative skills, communication. Without a doubt, Pope Francis could have chosen a far more qualified candidate, at least from a human point of view. But in God’s mysterious plan, he has chosen me, which is a humbling and sobering experience.”

 “I receive all of this though as a sign of how God often chooses the least qualified, the weak and yes even the sinful to accomplish his mission in the world.”

Msgr. Kemme expressed his sadness at leaving Springfield, but told the people of Wichita, “I believe very strongly that bishops are wedded to their dioceses and I want to pledge to you, vow to you, my love, my constant support, my work, my prayers and my pastoral concern.”

His greatest hope as bishop is to support his priests in their pastoral ministry, and to “call others to join us in the priesthood,” he said.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield stated that Pope Francis “has chosen wisely” in appointing Msgr. Kemme as Bishop of Wichita. “His parents, family, friends, fellow clergy and I have known for many years that Bishop-elect Kemme is a man of deep faith and love for the Lord and the people of God.”

Msgr. Kemme will be consecrated a bishop May 1. The Wichita diocese had been vacant since April 2013, when Bishop Jackels was transferred to the Dubuque archdiocese.

In other pontifical acts Feb. 20, Pope Francis appointed Msgr. Peter Baldachhino as an auxiliary bishop of the Miami archdiocese; Fr. Damiano Guzzetti as bishop of Moroto, in Uganda; and Msgr. Olivier Leborgne as bishop of Amiens, in France.

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Catholic patriarch condemns deadly violence in Ukraine

Kiev, Ukraine, Feb 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Ukrainian Greek Catholic patriarch decried the deadly conflict between the government and protesters, calling for prayer and fasting amid increasing tensions.

Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk on Feb. 20 said the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church condemns “all incitements to violence, because they are contrary to God’s law and to the truths of the Gospel.”

“No one can make decisions about sacrificing human lives,” he said, according to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s website.

He also expressed the Church’s desire to be “builders of peace,” rejecting the armed struggle and urging the condemnation of those who shoot unarmed civilians.

Violence continued between Ukraine’s government and protesters in the national capital of Kiev.

At least 21 protesters were killed Feb. 20, according to the BBC. CNN said that protesters’ medical officials claimed that more than 100 people died in Thursday’s fighting. Another 28 people died in clashes on Feb. 18.

The Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders had agreed on a truce on Wednesday.

Protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square have thrown rocks and firebombs at police. At least one protester fired a shotgun in the direction of police lines, CNN reports. The government has accused protesters of killing one police officer and taking about 70 other officers hostage.

Government security forces have been accused of shooting protesters with automatic weapons and at least one sniper rifle. One doctor told CNN she had treated 13 people she believes were targeted by professional snipers, on the grounds that the shots directly targeted victims’ hearts, brains and necks.

CNN video recorded a medic working to help an injured man being wounded by gunfire.

The Medical University of Lublin in Poland has given medical care to 85 victims of the violence, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church reports.

The Kiev mayor has resigned from Ukraine’s ruling party and reopened Kiev’s mass transit system, which the government had shut down to keep protesters from Independence Square, also known as the Maidan.

The Ukraine protests first began after the government’s Nov. 21 announcement that it would not sign a major economic partnership agreement with the European Union, in favor of a $15 billion bailout agreement with Russia. Tens of thousands of protesters have filled the streets of Kiev and at times occupied government buildings.

The conflict has drawn international attention and has increased tensions between Russia, which sides with the government, and the U.S. and the European Union, which are siding with the protesters.

The Lviv-based Ukrainian Catholic University on Feb. 20 said that Bohdan Solchanyk, a lecturer in modern history at the university, was among those killed in the violence. The university’s website described him as “our dear friend and colleague” and expressed “sincere condolences” to his family and friends.

“May his soul rest in peace,” the university said.

Auxiliary Bishop Stanislav Shyrokoradiuk of the Latin-rite Diocese of Kyiv-Zhytomyr told the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that he had gone to Maidan Square after hearing of the deteriorating situation.

“I went there to offer my priestly service and spiritual support to the people in need. We do not make a difference whether someone is Catholic or not. Faithful of all denominations are praying all the time,” he said Feb. 19. “Please pray with us for peace in Ukraine.”

Capuchin friars were helping care for the injured. Many Kiev churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, rang their bells to call people to pray for peace.

Two tents in Independence Square had served as chapels where Christians of all denominations prayed for peace.

However, the chapel tents burned down during the Thursday fighting, though there was no direct attack on them. Just minutes before the fire, the statue of Our Lady of Fatima had been moved to a stage for worship, Bishop Shyrokoradiuk said Feb. 20.

“It is a sign of hope for us,” he said.

Rosary recitations, a longtime feature of the protests, continue daily at 3 p.m.

The bishop said the great solidarity shown among the protesters is comforting. The people are sharing clothing, blankets and food, comforting each other and supporting each other spiritually regardless of religious denomination. Many are donating blood.

St. Alexander’s Cathedral, the main Roman Catholic church in Kiev, is serving as a hospital.

The Ukrainian Catholic University released a Feb. 19 statement in response to Tuesday’s violence, praying for those who died.

“Let the Lord accept them into the kingdom of heaven, let Him heal the numerous wounds with His merciful hand, let Him relieve the pain of the people who have once again been deceived by the authorities!”

The university said responsibility for the escalation “rests solely on the government” and President Yanukovych.

“Every case of escalation, each more striking in its complete absurdity, slashes our hopes for a peaceful and wise solution to the crisis and brings us closer to a humanitarian catastrophe,” the university said.

The university urged efforts to overcome social tensions and stressed the need to be “faithful to God’s commandments.” The university said it aims to be “an island of peace and reliable support to all those who defend the national interests of Ukraine.”

The university said its leadership and faculty are in solidarity with the students’ national strike.

“We live in one community and share the same values.”

The university said it would work to cultivate self-management, saying that universities have to become “a mainstay in the formation of a new framework for education and social life in general.”

The university also prayed for Ukraine, saying “May the merciful Lord fill us all with hope and courage to sacrificially serve Ukraine during these difficult trials!”

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Pope: Our own dependence should spur empathy for weak

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a Vatican workshop addressing aging and disability, Pope Francis reminded participants that every human being is always dependent on others: a reality that should encourage empathy and inclusion.

“One easily forgets that the relations among human beings are always relations of reciprocal dependence, which manifest themselves according to different degrees throughout the life of a person and become indispensable in situations of old age, illness, disability, and indeed suffering in general,” the Pope said on Feb. 20. to members of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

“This requires of all of us our efforts of necessary help through interpersonal as well as community relationships, in an attempt to answer the present need of these persons in their respective situations,” he urged.

The two-day workshop on aging and disability was held in order to respond to a culture where “one encounters the tyrannical dominion forced upon us by a logic of economics that discounts, excludes, and at times even kills our elderly,” noted the Pope.

Dr. Robert Buchanan, a Texas-based neurosurgeon and psychiatrist who has been invited to speak at the workshop, told CNA that the plight of the elderly must be considered as our own.

“At some point in the normal aging process we all will have a decline. By decline I mean that we will confront limitations to how we can interact with our society and with others,” said Buchanan, who serves as member of the pontifical acedemy.

“We all age, we all lose mental prowess, cognitive abilities, and we all die, eventually.”

Buchanan was asked to present the “scientific principles” of cognitive decline, or dementia, in order to “provide a framework for the moralists and theologians and the other ethicists here to help put cognitive decline, all the way to the most severe forms of dementia, into a perspective: a moral perspective, (and) a theological perspective.”

In turn, Buchanan hopes that the collaboration between science and ethics on this topic “will help not only academics but then the general population better deal with what is inevitable for all of us.”  

“This will hopefully shed some light on the importance of personhood with people who are even the most severely demented people.”

The Pope’s morning address also focused on the importance of recognizing the inherent dignity of the person, regardless of their age or diagnosis.

“Health is certainly an important value, yet it does not determine a person’s value,” underscored the Pontiff. “The gravest deprivation experienced by the aged is not the weakening of one’s physical body, nor the disability that may result from this. Rather, it is the abandonment, exclusion and deprivation of love.”

Buchanan noted that the temptation to such abandonment may increase as the number of elderly with healthy bodies but weak minds grows.

“What we’re going to be confronted with in the future are many people living well into their 100s, with their brains still having similar problems that we have today in 2014. That opens up all of the concerns that are raising their ugly heads,” he remarked.

“There will be a knee-jerk response by some in the media, some in the culture, to say that ‘grandma, grandpa, would be better off dead, wouldn’t they? Because their brains just don’t work and they’ve lost their sense of self, their sense of identity.’”

“We would disagree with that, of course, in the Catholic Church.”

Pope Francis stressed that the antidote to such a response is found in family life.

“The family is the mistress, one might say, of acceptance and warm welcome as well as of solidarity...In the family, one learns that the loss of health can never be a reason for discriminating against human life. The family teaches about not falling into an individualism that weighs oneself against the others,” explained the Pope.

Moreover, the family helps society to recognize the aged person as someone “who has a mission to fulfill, and about whom it is always false to say he or she receives without offering anything in return.”

The Pope closed his remarks by thanking the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life for their work which “mindfully joins together scientific rigor and respect for the human person.”

“I implore you to preserve this same spirit throughout the course of your on-going service to the Church and the entire human family. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady protect you always,” he concluded.

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Indian chaplain in Holy Land lauds woman’s bravery

Jerusalem, Israel, Feb 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - An Indian-born caregiver in Israel who rushed into a burning apartment building in a heroic attempt to save her sick employer is now at hospital battling for her own life.

Mrs. Anadavally, who is about 53 and hails from the southwestern Indian state of Kerala, was rescued together with her employer Jan. 1 by firefighters and paramedics in Haifa.

“It is a sad tragedy of a poor working woman,” Fr. Tojy Jose, OFM, head of the Indian Chaplaincy of the Holy Land, told CNA Feb. 20.

Fr. Jose said Anadavally “bravely risked” flames in the apartment to try to save her Alzheimer’s suffering employer, who is 73.

She sought help from her neighbors, but to no avail, and then rushed to shift her employer from the fire, as he is also of limited mobility. In Anadavally’s attempt to save him, she was struck by a charred beam.

“She showed a dedicated faithfulness to her duty and to her employer,” reflected Fr. Jose. “She did not want the man to die, and tried to save him at any cost, as she felt he was like a father to her.”

Anadavally suffered second-degree burns covering more than 40 percent of her body, and has been recovering at Haifa’s Rambam Hospital. Her employer died recently, having failed to recover from the conflagration.

Anadavally “hails from a Hindu religious background but is a believer in Jesus Christ,” said Fr. Jose.

She comes from a poor family and is its breadwinner: her husband suffers from a heart ailment, and her son is in school in their hometown near Kottayam.

Acting bravely as a good Samaritan, Fr. Jose said, Anadavally has in part been neglected since her heroic act, but generous fellow migrant workers are trying to raise funds for her further treatment.

“She needs help and support,” he reiterated.

According to Fr. Jose, there are some 6,000 Catholic and 2,000 Hindu migrants from India serving in Israel, many of them as caregivers or domestic workers. There are also many such migrants from African countries, Poland, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.

The friar explained that many migrants face challenges of being lured by false and fake employment recruitment agents, maltreatment at work, being duped by fake agencies or private moneylenders.

He added that people can plunge into great debt at the hands of moneylenders and have to pay large sums in interest while barely making ends meet.

A migrant worker in Jerusalem told CNA, “we work hard, and also contribute to the local community and economy.”

The chaplaincy led by Fr. Jose was established in 2010 to care for the spiritual and pastoral care of migrants living under the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

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