Lviv, Ukraine, Feb 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Ukrainian Catholic University, located in the far-western city of Lviv, is lamenting the death of one of its lecturers who was killed Feb. 20 during anti-government protests in Kyiv.
Bohdan Solchanyk, who was 29, lectured on modern history at the university and was killed at Independence Square in the Ukrainian capital during protests that have been ongoing since November.
“I really appreciated Bohdan as a creative young lecturer and researcher,” Oleksander Ziatsev, the former chair of Ukrainian Catholic University’s modern history department, told CNA Feb. 20.
“He was a true generator of ideas, had a creative attitude toward his work with students. He initiated a cinema seminar at UCU, where teachers and students discussed Soviet movies from historical and sociological perspectives. I took part in this seminar with great interest.”
Solchanyk was an archivist and sociologist with a special interest in electoral practices in contemporary Ukraine.
A statement on his death, made “with great sadness in our hearts,” was issued by Ukrainian Catholic University, calling Solchanyk “talented at everything, whether it was an amateur theatrical role, or everyday teaching at the university.”
He earned a masters in sociology at Ivan Franko National University in Lviv, and was a Ph.D. candidate at the Graduate Program for Social Research in Warsaw; he taught such courses as “The Soviet Union as a System” at Ukrainian Catholic University and was well regarded among faculty and students.
Solchanyk had a deep concern for Ukraine’s public life, and was reported to have been active in the country’s Orange Revolution in 2004, when hundreds of thousands of protestors occupied Kyiv’s Independence Square, also called “Maidan,” in response to a contested presidential election.
The Orange Revolution was bloodless, but the current demonstrations saw their bloodiest days this week, with reports of up to 100 dead, both protestors and police forces, since Feb. 18; Ukraine's Health Ministry, meanwhile, has confirmed 75 dead, according to the Kyiv Post.
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 Kyiv and at times occupied government buildings.
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.
“We unequivocally affirm that responsibility for the current escalation rests solely on the government – personally Viktor Yanukovych and his ‘hawkish’ command,” the rectorate of Ukrainian Catholic University declared in a Feb. 19 statement.
“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.”
“May the merciful Lord fill us all with hope and courage to sacrificially serve Ukraine during these difficult trials!”
Vatican City, Feb 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Walter Kasper addressed the Extraordinary Consistory on the Family Thursday morning about how to rediscover and proclaim the “gospel of the family.”
Cardinal Kasper spoke to about 150 Catholic cardinals on the morning of Feb. 20 after brief remarks by Pope Francis, who discussed “the beauty of the family and marriage,” as well as the family’s joys, hopes, struggles and sufferings.
Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., the director of the Holy See Press Office, summarized the cardinal’s speech, the text of which will not be released.
Fr. Lombardi said the cardinal discussed everything that is beautiful about the family without avoiding its problems, Vatican Radio reports. The cardinal discussed the need to convey the beauty of the “gospel of the family,” on the grounds that the truth convinces through beauty.
Cardinal Kasper, the past president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, discussed the family as a small “domestic church” that can be a privileged route to evangelization. He discussed this “domestic church” in a broad sense that includes the nuclear family as well as communities, parish groups and other organizations.
Fr. Lombardi said the speech was not an effort to anticipate the upcoming Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which will be held Oct. 5-19. He said the cardinal’s speech was also “in harmony” with Pope Francis’ words.
Cardinal Kasper discussed the rediscovery of the “gospel of the family,” the family’s place in the order of creation and the vision of the family in the Book of Genesis and in God’s plan. The cardinal then discussed the structures of sin within the family, including family problems, tensions between men and women, and the suffering of women and mothers.
He concluded with a discussion of the family in the Christian order of redemption, drawing from the gospels and other New Testament texts about the family, such as St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. He discussed marriage as a sacrament and its sanctifying grace.
The cardinal also mentioned the issue of those who have remarried after divorce. He stressed the need to unite pastoral care, the words of Jesus, and an understanding of divine mercy in responding to these Catholics.
Cardinal Kasper referred to Pope Francis’ Jan. 24 address to the prelates of the Roman Rota, in which the Pope spoke about the validity of marriages and affirmed that the legal and pastoral dimensions of marriage are not opposed.
According to Fr. Lombardi, the cardinal placed great importance on the “law of gradualness,” by which he meant the advancement towards new ways of exploring the mystery of redemption in Christ.
Topeka, Kan., Feb 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Kansas bill to protect the conscience rights of those who morally object to “gay marriage” stalled in the legislature after opponents portrayed it as a discrimination law akin to the Jim Crow laws of the early 20th century.
“Protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience does not infringe on anyone’s sexual freedoms,” said Ryan Anderson, pro-family scholar and co-author of “What is Marriage: Man, Woman, a Defense,” in a Feb. 19 article for National Review Online.
“Americans are free to live and love how they choose, but they should not use government to penalize those who think and act differently,” Anderson argued. “All Americans should be free to believe and act in the public square based on their beliefs about marriage as the union of a man and woman without fear of government penalty.”
The bill sought to ensure conscience protections for individuals, businesses and officials who believed that affirming same-sex “marriage” ceremonies or unions “would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
It would have offered protection to florists, photographers, wedding vendors, adoption agencies, counseling services and other groups with deeply held religious convictions over the nature of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. These individuals and organizations would have been able to decline participation in same-sex wedding ceremonies, receptions and adoptions without fear of legal action.
The bill was proposed in response to numerous lawsuits across the country facing organizations that declined to support same-sex unions for reasons of conscience. However, after passing the state House of Representatives, it died in the state Senate when leaders refused to let it move forward in committee.
Opponents of the bill had adamantly argued against it, claiming that extending religious conscience rights to all individuals involved in weddings would be “essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.”
Columnist Kristen Powers argued in a Feb. 19 article for USA Today that wedding vendors are not “celebrating their wedding union” but instead hired to “provide a service.”
“It's not clear why some Christian vendors are so confused about their role here,” Powers said, charging that “Christianity doesn't prohibit serving a gay couple getting married,” and likening the bill to the Jim Crow laws that enforced racial discrimination in the southern United States before the Civil Rights movement.
Mark Joseph Stern of Slate also objected to the bill in a Feb. 13 article, calling it “anti-gay segregation” and suggesting that it meant that private “employers can continue to fire gay employees on account of their sexuality,” that stores “may deny gay couples goods and services because they are gay” and that businesses that “provide public accommodations – movie theaters, restaurants – can turn away gay couples at the door.”
The Kansas Catholic Conference had worked to reject these claims, arguing that “a campaign of distortion” was being waged to discredit the bill.
Citing the text of the actual legislation, the Catholic Conference clarified that the bill would not permit businesses to discriminate based upon sexual orientation.
“The bill does not create a right for businesses to refuse service to someone just because they are gay,” the conference stressed. Rather, it explained, the proposed legislation covers “a narrow range of conduct” dealing only with the recognition of and participation in same-sex “marriages.”
Anderson reiterated that the bill is not discriminatory, but instead prevents “the kind of coercion that happened under Jim Crow” by protecting “what should be already protected: basic civil liberties such as freedom of association, freedom of contract, and freedom of religion.”
He clarified that the bill “would only protect religious individuals and organizations from being forced to provide services related to marriage” and its celebration, and “would not allow businesses, individuals, or government employees from refusing to serve someone (or a couple) simply because of his or her sexual orientation.”
Furthermore, quoting First Lady Michelle Obama, he said that our “faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well.” For many people, Anderson explained, “being a wedding photographer is not simply being “a vendor,” but utilizing God-given talents to tell the story of a particular couple and their relationship.
“It is understandable why some religious believers would not want the government coercing them into doing that,” he said, adding that the government “shouldn’t enshrine” one view of wedding participation “into law and then coerce those who have a different understanding of what their faith requires.”
Vatican City, Feb 21, 2014 (CNA) -
Pope Francis centered his daily homily today around the importance of Christians having a living, rather than merely theoretical, faith.
“Even we make this mistake many times: ‘But I have a lot of faith,’ we hear it said. ‘I believe everything, everything...’ And maybe the person who says this has a tepid, weak life. His faith is like a theory, but it is not alive in his life,” said Pope Francis on Feb. 21 in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence.
“The Apostle James, when he speaks of faith, speaks properly of doctrine, of that which is the content of faith. But you can know all the commandments, all the prophecies, all the truths of the faith, but if this doesn’t become practice, does not end up in works, it’s no help,” he explained.
The Pontiff went on to point out that theoretical knowledge is no guarantee of true Christianity.
“We can recite the Creed theoretically, even without faith, and there are many people who do it like that. Even the demons! The demons know well what is said in the Creed and they know that it is the truth.”
Pope Francis pointed out that there are many gospel stories which illustrate that people may “know what they must believe, but they don’t have faith,” such as when the pharisees try to trick Jesus by asking about a woman who had married 7 brothers successively, after each of their deaths. “Whose wife will she be in heaven?” they demand.
Such instances reveal a vision of “faith merely as a system of ideas, an ideology.”
Those who hold to such a view, those who “fall into ideologies” and “know the doctrine, “ but are without faith, ”like the demons,” are not living truly Christian lives, noted the Pope.
On the other hand, the gospels also contain stories of “people who don’t know doctrine but have a lot of faith,” such as the Samaritan woman at the well who opened her heart to the Lord because she “met not abstract truth,” but the person of Jesus Christ.
This encounter in faith, explained Pope Francis, always leads a Christian to move outward toward others.
“Faith always leads to witness. Faith is a meeting with Jesus Christ, with God, and it is born from that and leads you to witness.”
Without such fruit, faith is lifeless. “A faith without works, a faith that doesn’t engage you, that doesn’t lead you to witness, isn’t faith. It is words, and nothing more than words,” concluded the Pope.
Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas said the Church is willing to help establish peace in Venezuela, but reminded the government of its duty to rein in armed groups that are violently disrupting peaceful demonstrations.
“There are armed groups that don't seem to belong to the security forces of the State. Why are they acting with impunity when the government is in charge of arms control? The government need to rein in these groups,” he told Venezuelan television Feb. 20.
Cardinal Urosa noted that the constitution protects the right to publicly demonstrate, as long as it is done in a peaceful manner.
He also lamented the death of the 21-year-old model Genesis Carmona in Valencia when an armed group attacked a demonstration.
The Church is against any attempt to overthrow the State, the cardinal clarified, and the bishops “are willing to take part in any effort to achieve peace.”
“We don't have any weapons besides our words for inviting people to abandon violent attitudes, pride and anger. This needs to be eradicated from our hearts,” he said.
A week of demonstrations in Venezuela has left seven people reported dead in various cities, particularly Caracas and Valencia. Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez remains in a military prison outside the capital after being detained Feb. 19.
Criticism is also mounting over the discontinuing of medical treatment for Father Jose Palmar, who was beaten by police officers and National Guard soldiers this week after he tried to prevent them from attacking a group of students who were demonstrating in the city of Maracaibo.
Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
L.A. Archbishop José H. Gomez has called for “interim measures” such as a moratorium on immigration raids and help for undocumented minors in order to bypass immigration reform’s apparent “political dead end.”
“These two proposals are no substitute for true immigration reform — but they would make a big difference in the lives of millions of our neighbors,” Archbishop Gomez said in his Nov. 21 column for the Los Angeles archdiocese’s newspaper The Tidings.
He voiced disappointment in the House of Representatives’ recent decision not to move forward with immigration reform proposals at the current time.
Saying the interim measures would help “ease suffering,” the archbishop called on Congress to approve a moratorium on deportations and immigration raids and arrests, except for violent criminals.
“Since 2008, our government has deported nearly two million people and nearly a half million more are locked up in immigration detention centers,” he said, emphasizing that these are “real people.”
“One in every four persons who is being arrested or deported is being ripped out of their homes — taken away from their children, their wives and husbands, all their relatives,” the archbishop said.
He added that two-thirds of the 11 million undocumented immigrants have been living in the U.S. for at least a decade.
“The vast majority pose no criminal danger to our community. Just the opposite,” he said. “They are going to church and working alongside us, paying taxes, making our country and our communities stronger.”
Archbishop Gomez said the U.S. should also help the “dreamers,” children born in a foreign country but brought to the U.S. by their immigrant parents when they were young. Their name comes from the proposed federal DREAM Act, which would regularize their status.
“It’s cruel, and it serves no purpose, to keep denying these kids any legal status,” he said. “They’ve been here their whole lives. It’s time we welcome them as citizens and give them the opportunities they need to help our country grow.”
He said a just society “cannot punish innocent children for the crimes of their parents.”
The archbishop emphasized that these proposals are not a substitute for “true immigration reform” but would make a “big difference in the lives of millions of our neighbors.”
True reform, he said, would provide “a generous path to citizenship” for the undocumented.
“A just and compassionate society can’t allow an underclass of people to keep growing at the margins of our society, living in constant fear of arrest, without rights or reasons to hope,” he said, urging continued prayers for the United States and its leaders.
He concluded by encouraging Catholics to ask the Virgin Mary to “give us the courage to always do what is right and just.”
New Haven, Conn., Feb 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Knights of Columbus have asked that the faithful join them in reciting the Prayer of St. Francis this coming Sunday, offering as an intention the end to the ongoing violence waging in Ukraine's capitol.
In a Feb. 21 statement, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said the group has “been following the events unfolding in Ukraine,” recalling Pope Francis' words yesterday assuring the country of his “closeness.”
Pope Francis also prayed on Wednesday “for the victims of the violence, for their families, and for the injured,” and urged “all parties to cease every form of violence and to pursue harmony and peace throughout the country.”
Expressing the Knights' solidarity with the pontiff, Catholic Bishops and the Church in the Ukraine, Anderson asked “all of our members around the world to pray the Prayer of St. Francis this coming Sunday that there may be a renewed dialogue and respect and a peaceful resolution to the situation in Ukraine.”
This request comes in wake of deadly protests happening in the Ukraine's capitol, Kiev, which 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.
Since then, protesters have occupied government buildings in Kiev, at times filling the capital’s Independence Square with more than 100,000 people.
Various news agencies have reported that protesters have been beaten by the police, while some young men have thrown fireworks and petrol bombs at officers. Several protesters have been killed in the clashes, while hundreds have been injured. Several police have also been killed.
Ukrainians in the Kiev area and in western Ukraine tend to favor the European Union, while those in the Russian-speaking east tend to have an affinity for Russia. However, protests have begun to spread to the east, where President Viktor Yanukovych’s strongest support is based.
On Jan. 28, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigned in hopes of advancing a compromise, and the country's parliament also voted overwhelmingly to annul controversial anti-protest laws, the BBC reports.
Along with their request, the Knights also sent the words to the famous prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which is as follows:
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.