Archive of March 19, 2014

Underground Chinese bishop in Shanghai dies at 97

Shangai, China, Mar 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, a bishop of Shanghai in the People’s Republic of China who spent decades under arrest for his faith, died March 16 at the age of 97.

The Cardinal Kung Foundation said March 16 that the bishop died “surrounded by some of his faithful parishioners.”

“He died at his home still under house arrest, a sentence that entailed strict surveillance by the government for most of the last two decades,” said the Stamford, Conn.-based foundation dedicated to supporting the Church in China.

In China, the Church is split between an “underground” Church loyal to Rome, and bishops and clergy who are part of the Chinese government’s Catholic Patriotic Association, which refuses to acknowledge the authority of the Pope.

Bishop Fan died after several days of a high fever. An underground priest immediately said a Mass for the repose of the bishop’s soul. Soon afterward, government officials arrived to transfer his body to a funeral home.

Bishop Fan was born in 1918, and baptized in 1932. He joined the Jesuits in 1938 and was ordained a priest in 1951 – two years after mainland China was seized by communist forces.

On Sept. 8, 1955 he was arrested by the Chinese government, spending more than 30 years in jail and forced labor.

He was secretly ordained as coadjutor bishop of Shanghai Feb. 27, 1985, at a time when the city’s bishop, Ignatius Kung, was still in jail.

Bl. John Paul II named Bishop Fan as the legitimate Bishop of Shanghai in March 2000, upon the death of Cardinal Kung.

However, Chinese officials placed him under arrest immediately. He spent the rest of his life as a prisoner, and the government never recognized him as bishop.

More than 2,000 underground Catholics are expected to attend Bishop Fan’s funeral. The Chinese government has denied a request to hold the Mass at Shanghai’s St. Ignatius Cathedral.

Another Shanghai bishop loyal to Rome is also in government custody.

Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin was consecrated a bishop July 7, 2012. At his ordination he announced that he would leave his position with the Catholic Patriotic Association to “devote every effort to episcopal ministry.”

His announcement, made in the presence of several state officials, was seen as a rebuke to the government; many of the congregation applauded the bishop.

Bishop Ma has not been seen in public since his ordination, and is under house arrest at Sheshan Seminary. The Cardinal Kung Foundation said the Chinese government and the Catholic Patriotic Association attempted to rescind his ordination.

In December 2013 the BBC reported he is now being sent to regular political lessons.

The Cardinal Kung Foundation appealed to the Chinese government for Bishop Ma’s immediate release.

“By reinstating Bishop Ma to his rightful office, China will be taking an important step forward in honoring religious freedom, a right that is guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution,” the foundation said. “We urge others to raise their voices and join in this appeal--both organizations advocating for religious freedom and human rights in China, and national governments where freedom of religious belief is central to their current practices or founding tenets.”

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Interfaith leaders launch effort against human trafficking

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic, Anglican, and Muslim leaders have launched an anti-human trafficking network that hopes to eradicate the crime by 2020 through the mobilization of religious communities.

“It’s not politically correct to call this modern slavery a crime against humanity, but we want to arrive at that in national and international law,” said Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Bishop Sanchez was one of several religious leaders who signed a new agreement March 17 at the Vatican press office to collaborate in the fight against human trafficking through the new organization called the Global Freedom Network, Vatican Radio reported.

David Moxon, an Anglican bishop who represents the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See and is director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, signed the document on behalf of the Anglican Communion.

“If you look at the work of Catholic, Anglican and other faith missions over the last three or four decades, they have been engaged in the fight against human trafficking,” Moxon said.

He added, however that a collaborative approach to anti-trafficking work among faith communities has been lacking.

Another signatory to the document was Dr. Mahmoud Azab, a representative of the Cairo-based Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, who leads one of the most important centers of Sunni Islam.

Andrew Forrest, an Australian businessman and founder of the Walk Free Foundation, also signed the document. His foundation aims to galvanize and support anti-trafficking action at local, national and international levels. Its goals include the securing of government endorsements of the establishment of the Global Fund to End Slavery and of business commitments to eliminate slavery from their supply chains.

In November, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences brought together many anti-trafficking experts for a workshop. The workshop highlighted that women and children are disproportionately trafficked, and that the problem is on the rise.

A 2012 report by the United Nations points to International Labor Organization estimates that 20.9 million people were victims of forced labor globally between 2002-2011, although exact numbers are unknown.

While human trafficking is popularly associated with prostitution, labor is also an important factor in the crime. The November Vatican conference noted risk factors such as poverty, lack of education, disintegrated families, and weak or corrupt law enforcement as contributors to trafficking.

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Worldwide Christian persecution a growing trend, report shows

New York City, N.Y., Mar 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a recently-released summary report called “Persecuted and Forgotten?” Aid to the Church in Need has revealed a worldwide growth in discrimination against Christians in scope and frequency.

The persecution of Christians “has increased over the last 10 to 15 years,” said Ed Clancy, director of evangelization and outreach at Aid to the Church in Need, in an interview with CNA last month, adding that “persecution has many faces, unfortunately, and many places.”

Since there is no single threat to Christians across the world, he said, but myriad forms of oppression, “it might become more incumbent on the Catholic Church, and Christians in general, to be aware of the many dangers that Christians face in the world … in other places (than the U.S.) they’re facing many, many challenges.”

Late last year, the international charity issued “Persecuted and Forgotten?” as a nearly 200-page report. The executive summary, which can be read in full here, condenses the information found there into a concise 32-page booklet.

“It’s a matter of delivering it in a format and in a size that allows people to get a good grasp of what’s happening, and to perhaps seek more information,” Clancy explained.

While it may be easy to focus on the oppression of Christians in such places as Syria and Nigeria, the phenomenon is not restricted to the Middle East, the report shows.

“There are place where communism unfortunately is still in control, like Vietnam and Cuba,” he noted. Citing Vietnam as a country unlike “more radicalized places like Iran” where Christians face overt persecution, “there they use bureaucratic red tape, and the power of the government, to control and limit the Church, and essentially bother people.”

“In Vietnam, we have a lot of seminarians, or seminarian candidates, and they could spend 10-15 years waiting to enter seminary while the government reviews their application,” Clancy said.

“That’s something unheard of here in the West: we don’t think of a young man saying, ‘OK, I want to become a priest,’ and then waiting for the IRS and the treasury department to approve them before they can even submit the application. That’s what it’s like in Vietnam.”

He also noted Venezuela, where there is yet another sort of persecution: “they might attack the Church or Church leaders because they speak out against tactics the government is using.”

Also in South America, Clancy pointed to Colombia. “Of all the aid workers in the world who were killed, almost half were killed in Colombia,” he said, saying “there, the attacks are mainly because of drugs and politics,” citing the prominence of drug cartels.

Clancy also focused on de-Christianization “in the Middle East and parts of Africa,” where Christians are emigrating in the face of militant Islamists.

In his forward to “Persecuted and Forgotten?” Gregorios III, Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, wrote that “Christ is on the Cross still, sharing in the pain that the people of God undergo. In all the countries around the world where Christians suffer for their faith, Our Lord is persecuted too.”

The report’s importance is in providing information to spur both prayer and action on the part of Christians who enjoy religious freedom.

“Unlike so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, we are in the fortunate position to be able to express our opinions and views freely. We can stand up for our rights,” the document notes.

“However, persecuted and other suffering Christians do not always have the freedom to stand up for theirs. That is why Christian communities who live in fear need our help to stand with them and speak up for them.”

The text also highlights North Korea as the most restrictive country in the world for Christians; Christian villagers forced from their homes in Laos; and the disappearance of underground Catholics in China.

“Encouraging prayerful support for the suffering Church is one of the key strands of Aid to the Church in Need’s mission,” the report concludes. It encouraged readers to “select a country or person to pray for – especially during Lent.”

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Saint Joseph the model for educators, Pope teaches

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Marking the feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Virgin Mary, Pope Francis called the saint a role model for all fathers and educators during his General Audience this Wednesday at the Vatican.

“Let us look at Joseph as the model for educators, for he guards and accompanies Jesus in his journey of growth ‘in wisdom, age, and grace,’” the Pope urged March 19 in St. Peter’s Square.

Examining these three modes of Jesus’ growth in life, Pope Francis began with his growth in age: “Joseph, together with Mary, took care of Jesus first of all from this point of view, that is, ‘brought him up,’” – with all the worries of providing for necessities that this entails.

“Don’t forget that the faithful caring for the life of the Child led to the flight into Egypt, the harsh experience of living as refugees – Joseph as a refugee, with Mary and Jesus – to escape the threat of Herod.”

Pope Francis noted that in raising Jesus, St. Joseph also taught him his trade of carpentry.

Continuing on to the second dimension of education, that of wisdom, Pope Francis called St. Joseph Christ’s “example and teacher of the wisdom, which is nourished by the Word of God.”

“We can consider how Joseph taught the young Jesus to listen to the Holy Scriptures, especially accompanying him on the sabbath to the synagogue of Nazareth.”

Turning to Jesus’ growth in grace, Pope Francis said that while “here, certainly, the part reserved to St. Joseph is more limited than in the areas of age and wisdom,” nevertheless “it would be a grave error to think that a father and a mother can do nothing to teach their children to grow in the grace of God.”

“To grow in age, to grow in wisdom, to grow in grace: this is the work Joseph did with Jesus, helping him to grow in these three dimensions.”

While noting that St. Joseph’s mission “certainly is irrepeatable, because Jesus is absolutely unique,” in his caring for Jesus as he grew in age, wisdom, and grace, “he is a model for all educators, in particular for all fathers.”

“So I entrust to his protection all parents, all priests – who are fathers --, and those who have an educating role in the Church and in society.”

He greeted all the fathers in the square, telling them he has asked for them “the grace to be always very close to your children, allowing them the room to grow, but being close, close!”

“They need you, your presence, your nearness, your love. Be for them as St. Joseph: guardians of their grow in age, wisdom, and grace.”

“Thank you for all you do for your children: thank you. Best wishes to you, and happy father’s day to all fathers here, to all fathers. May St. Joseph bless you and accompany you.”

Concluding his address, Pope Francis led the crowd in praying an Our Father “for our fathers.”

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Bishops' spokesman urges more humane immigration policy

Washington D.C., Mar 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - President Barack Obama’s recent action on immigration may indicate a move towards a better approach to immigration, a policy expert for the U.S. bishops’ conference says.

“Certainly we need to have a more humane deportation policy,” Kevin Appleby, director of the U.S. bishops’ Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs, told CNA March 18. “We need to reform the system.”

Appleby said that while some changes require that the government “reform the system from Congress,” there are “a lot of things the president can do within his authority” by working within existing laws.

The renewed focus on deportations of undocumented workers, a process that often separates family members from one another, stems from recent statements from the White House.

The White House said in a March 13 statement that President Obama recently met with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Latino lawmakers. After the meeting, the president said that he has asked Johnson to “do an inventory of the department’s current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law.”

“The president emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said March 13.

During the first five years of the Obama administration, two million undocumented immigrants have been deported. This is more than during the eight years of the Bush administration.

Appleby said he hoped that the president would examine the U.S. government’s detention policy. The president could set criteria for whom he “would defer their deportation,” such as those with undocumented children who grow up in the United States.

These children are now given conditional protection from deportation under the DREAM act.

While the president wouldn’t “be able to give people legal status,” Appleby said, “there are other kinds of deportation tools that he doesn’t have to use as much.”

He also suggested that the president “limit deportation and focus on criminals” rather than on law-abiding people working in the United States.

With comprehensive changes, Appleby added, the immigration system should be recalibrated “so that families are reunited more expeditiously, and those who want to come and work--and we need their work--can come safely.”

Appleby said that Catholics in particular are sensitive to the issue of immigration.

“Polls show Catholics are more attuned to this issue than other faiths.”

“First of all we’re an immigrant Church, we grew with the waves of immigration,” he said, adding that because Catholics “serve immigrants in our programs our parishes, our hospitals, our schools,” the Church has a “firsthand knowledge of the broken immigration system.”

Because of the Church’s work across the globe, it also understands "why people are coming and what they’re doing to get here.” The reasons why people feel they have to leave their home countries and the steps they take to relocate would “break your heart,” he said.

Most importantly, though, Appleby said, the Catholic faith has a respect for the humanity of immigrants.

“Christ himself was a refugee,” he said, “a man who had no place to lay his head.” The immigration issue, he added, is “part of our DNA.”

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Pope may give opening lecture of Italian bishops’ assembly

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis will likely be giving the inaugural lecture of the annual general assembly of the Italian bishops’ conference scheduled for May 19-23, according to Italian publication “Il Fatto Quotidiano.”

Customarily, the president of the conference delivers the opening address, after having agreed with the Pope on its main topics, in an audience that takes place the Saturday before the beginning of the assembly.

The Pope, as Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy, is usually invited to make an intervention during the assembly.

Two sources confirmed to CNA March 17 that Pope Francis may well have decided to give the opening address himself. The decision could be attributed to his decision to give a definitive push for his will regarding reform of the Italian bishops’ conference.

It would be the first time that the inaugural lecture will have been given by the Pope.

The decision is being read by Italian observers as a knock against the conference president, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa. It would be the latest in a series of decisions by Pope Francis appearing to marginalize Cardinal Bagnasco.

The Genoan archbishop was not confirmed as a member of the Congregation of Bishops in its Dec. 18 reshuffle: the first time that the president of the Italian bishops’ conference was excluded from the dicastery.

Cardinal Bagnasco was replaced on the congregation by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia.

Pope Francis also chose as the Italian bishops’ general secretary “ad interim” Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano all’Jonio, following informal consultation among the Italian bishops. Bishop Galantino has been entrusted by the Pope with carrying out the modification of the Italian bishops’ conference statutes.

Italy’s bishops’ conference is the only conference the world over whose president is not elected by his peers but is chosen rather by the Pope.

The conference considered the possibility of themselves electing their president, during the 1983 general assembly. In a non-binding vote which was delivered to the Pope, 145 voted to give the bishops the power to elect their president; 36 not to, and four ballots were left blank.

But during an extraordinary assembly the following year, the then-president of the conference, Cardinal Anastasio Ballestrero of Turin, told his fellow bishops that John Paul II had chosen to reserve for his office the appointment of their president and secretary-general.

Pope Francis has asked the Italian bishops to reconsider their statutes. The first discussion on a possible reform of the statutes took place in January, during the last periodic meeting of the presidents of Italy’s regional conferences.

In a news conference held Jan. 31, Bishop Galantino said, “the Italian bishops want to reserve to the Holy Father the freedom of appointing their president.”

Bishop Galantino then added that the bishops “are working on modifications of the statutes in order to participate in the process of selection of the president,” while “before, according to the statutes, the Italian bishops could only applaud after the Pope’s decision.”

In any case, there is seemingly a long way to go for the reform of the statutes, which is reportedly meeting resistance by several of the Italian bishops.

This will have been the reason why Pope Francis may have taken the unprecedented decision of giving the inaugural address of the next general assembly of the Italian bishops’ conference.

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Chicago cardinal in hospital with flu-like symptoms

Chicago, Ill., Mar 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has been in the hospital at Loyola University Medical Center since Friday, after physicians found during a routine checkup that he was dehydrated.

“Cardinal George is expected to be released from the hospital later this week,” the Chicago archdiocese said March 18.

“He asks that people continue to pray for him as he continues to keep people in his prayers.”

He is being treated with an antibiotic, and is receiving intravenous fluids; he is expected to be released from the hospital later in the week.

Earlier in the month, he announced to his local Church that a cancer in his right kidney which had been dormant for more than a year, is “showing signs of new activity.”

“While I am not experiencing symptoms of cancer at this time, this is a difficult form of the disease, and it will most probably eventually be the cause of my death,” he wrote in his most recent column for the Catholic New World archdiocesan paper.

He was advised to enter into an aggressive round of chemotherapy which will take place over the next two months.

The 77-year-old cardinal underwent a medical procedure August 2012 that discovered cancerous cells in his kidney and in a nodule that was removed from his liver.

In his column, Cardinal George also said “I imagine this news will increase speculation about my retirement.” However, the “only certainty is that no one knows when that will be, except perhaps the Holy Father, and he hasn't told me.”

“In the meantime, Lent gives me a chance to evaluate not only my life of union with the Lord but also my life and actions here as Archbishop of Chicago.”

Cardinal George was born in Chicago in 1937, and in 1963 was ordained a priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

He was consecrated a bishop in 1990, serving as bishop of Yakima, and Portland in Oregon, before his 1997 appointment to the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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Filipinos continue to recover from Typhoon Haiyan

Manila, Philippines, Mar 19, 2014 (CNA) - More than four months since the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, the people of the Philippines remain in the process of rebuilding their lives, an aid worker there says.

“Steps to recovery are on their way and huge challenges lie ahead, but our hope is not lost,” said Gilda Avedillo, program officer for Caritas Manila’s disaster risk reduction and management program.

“Now Caritas Manila is organizing meetings and training to discuss, analyze and monitor the plan of action and its steps,” she told CNA March 18.

Caritas, a Catholic relief agency, reached out to victims of Typhoon Yolanda -- as the storm was known locally -- together with its partners immediately, providing priority needs relief assistance, and continuing with various rehabilitation and reconstruction projects.

Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, hit the island nation Nov. 8. Nearly 6,000 were killed by the typhoon, and millions were displaced from their homes. Caritas Manila is focusing its efforts on the areas of Leyte, Samar, Iolio, and Cebu.

“The impact of the destruction is immense and funds are certainly needed,” Avedillo said.

She noted that six chapels in Leyte are being rebuilt, and there are many more proposals for livelihood, scholarship, and reconstruction assistance being considered by Caritas Manila.

In Bohol and other regions, a “cash for work program” has been initiated, as have “livelihood programs” which employ the displaced to clean debris and perform other labor.

Avedillo lamented that “children and youth have been affected the most, with respect to their academic education.”

Considering this, Caritas has partnered with Filipino dioceses to provide scholarship subsidies for students. Children from poor families and those active in pastoral activities have been shortlisted for various technical, vocational, and university courses with the Youth Servant Leadership program.

More than 3,000 students from typhoon-hit regions have been shortlisted for a four-year, $445 scholarship subsidy under the program.

Catholic Relief Services, the international charity organization of the Church in the U.S., has contributed to building more than 20,000 homes, and has provided clean water, sanitization, and livelihood programs to many of the displaced.

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