Honiara, Solomon Islands, Apr 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
After heavy rains led to flooding on the island of Guadalcanal which has caused 23 confirmed deaths, the bishops of Solomon Islands have appealed for prayerful support for their people.
“We are experiencing a moment of a true Way of the Cross,” said Bishop Luciano Capelli of Gizo in a statement this week.
“Just remain close and if you can, also give us a hand,” the bishop added.
Several days of heavy rain led to flash floods and landslides on Guadalcanal, which resulted in the Mataniko river, which runs through the capital city Honiara, jumping its banks April 3.
“The cathedral and the hill of Holy Cross in Honiara are full of refugees,” said Bishop Capelli.
He added that “at Gizo and Malaita,” which are on neighboring islands, “things are more calm, but the water is abundant -- there are power cuts and people live in fear.”
Archbishop Adrian Smith of Honiara said April 7 several bridges connecting parishes on Guadalcanal have been destroyed, adding that “east of Honiara has been the cause of much worry for me.”
“The Good Samaritan Hospital at Tetere lost their ambulance,” he lamented. “It seems that it was on a rescue mission and was swept away by the flood.”
Several schools on Guadalcanal have been flooded – the students of St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School are being sheltered in the parish hall of Kukum.
Institutions in Tenaru are damaged, but have reportedly not been destroyed; these include St. Martin’s rural training center, the Nazareth Apostolic Centre, and Holy Name of Mary Seminary.
Bishop Capelli reported that the parish of Tetre is “totally submerged” under water, but parishioners have been safely evacuated.
"A very sad and depressing atmosphere looms all around us,” Fr. Ambrose Pereira, a Salesian serving in Honiara, told CNA April 7, as he described walking along the bank of the Mataniko in the city’s Chinatown.
“The Mataniko metal and wood bridge is completely destroyed,” he said, adding that “the concrete bridge, the lifeline that links Henderson with Honiara, has been severely damaged.”
“With people displaced, infrastructure down, and a limited food supply, the weeks and months ahead will be difficult,” Fr. Pereira said.
The Salesians’ Don Bosco Technical Institute has postponed its reopening, he said, while adding that “with a little more than 40 percent literacy rate, education is the key to a brighter future in Solomon Islands -- that cannot be compromised.”
“The floodwater is receding,” he said, “but the country has yet to come to terms with the full extent of the damage.”
“We ask you to lift us in prayer that we make the right decisions for the good of the students and the future of Solomon Islands,” Fr. Pereira concluded.
The death toll is expected to rise, and some 10,000 Solomon Islanders have been left homeless by the flooding; 50,000 are currently displaced.
Government officials have emphasized the grave damage to infrastructure across Guadalcanal.
Disease on the island is spreading, with sewer systems and water supplies damaged or destroyed. The national disaster management office has said dengue fever, dysentery, and malaria are all risks.
Forty percent of Honiara remained cut off from clean water April 8, including many evacuation centers, according to the Solomon Islands Water Authority.
The flood damage was compounded by a magnitude-6.0 earthquake which struck Solomon Islands April 4.
Australia has pledged US$ 2.8 million for relief, and New Zealand has pledged US$ 1.3 million. The New Zealand air force has already delivered water containers, tarps, and medical supplies to the area.
Solomon Islands, which lies in Melanesia east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu, is one of the world’s more impoverished countries, with an adjusted per capita gross domestic product of $3,200. The population is more than 90 percent Christian, with Catholics accounting for nearly 20 percent of the population.
The country has suffered extensive ethnic tensions, which led to open combat from 1998 to 2003.
Gizo Island was struck by a tsunami and an 8.0 magnitude earthquake in 2007, from which the country has yet to recover.
South Bend, Ind., Apr 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In an April 5 ceremony, Notre Dame University honored prominent U.S. pro-life congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), and his wife, Marie, who is also a pro-life advocate, with its 2014 Evangelium Vitae Medal.
In a speech thanking the university for the recognition, Rep. Smith said that pro-life individuals have the responsibility to “speak truth to power, no matter the sacrifice or cost.”
Real change “will only be achieved by persevering prayer, fasting and hard work,” he said. “It falls to us to promote and establish a sustainable culture of life both here and overseas.”
Since 2011, the Evangelium Vitae Medal has been awarded annually by Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture. The medal was inspired by Bl. Pope John Paul II's papal encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae.”
The award is given to those who have worked to help build a culture of life and respect for the sanctity of life from its earliest stages. Previous recipients have included the Sisters of Life, George Mason University law professor Helen M. Alvaré, and the U.S. bishops’ conference associate director of pro-life activities, Richard Doerflinger.
The 2014 award was given to the Smiths at an April 5 dinner and Mass, celebrated at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame by Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit.
“In their work and in their persons, Congressman Chris and Marie Smith are extraordinary witnesses to the inalienable dignity and matchless worth of every member of the human family, born and unborn,” said Carter Snead, director of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture.
“One could not imagine more worthy recipients of the Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal, the most significant and prestigious award for those whose lives have been devoted to building a culture of life,” Snead continued in a statement on the award.
“It is likewise fitting that Congressman and Mrs. Smith should receive this award at Notre Dame, an institution that proudly affirms the equal dignity of every human life from conception to natural death.”
Rep. Smith serves as a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and as the chairman of its subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.
He co-chairs the House bipartisan Pro-Life Caucus and has been the sponsor of numerous bills protecting life and human dignity, including the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005, which established programs for ethical stem cell research.
Marie Smith directs the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues, a pro-life global outreach organization that seeks to unite with pro-life groups, religious leaders and lawmakers to promote a culture of life in both law and society.
In his acceptance speech, Rep. Smith commented that the current age is one of “Orwellian-like double speak” where what “was once construed as right and honorable and good, now, all of a sudden, is labeled wrong.”
“To defend Judeo-Christian values in modern times, especially in the public square, makes both our message and our mere physical presence unwanted and unwelcomed.”
In the United States, he went on, the “passage of time hasn’t changed the fact that abortion is a serious, lethal violation of human rights, and that women and children deserve better,” and abroad, “the culture of death has made recent inroads in many parts of the world.”
“It falls to us to warn others in the world of the deception and lies so skillfully employed by the abortion industry,” Rep. Smith stressed. “We need to admonish policy makers worldwide that the legacy of abortion in America has been 40 years of victims – dead babies, wounded mothers, shattered families.”
The congressman also pointed to St. Patrick of Ireland, as an example for “Notre Dame – home of the 'Fighting Irish.'”
He noted that “St. Patrick faced huge obstacles and dangers and challenges in his day,” but that the saint turned to God “and His mercy to heal and restore and sanctify not only individuals and families but nations as well.”
St. Patrick wrote, during his time evangelizing in Ireland, that God watched over him and “He protected me and consoled me as a father would his son.” Rep. Smith continued to quote from the saint, saying that therefore, “I cannot keep silent,” because “our way to repay Him is to exalt Him and confess His wonders before every nation under heaven.”
“We can’t be silent either,” the congressman urged. “All of us must persevere in the defense of life. We have a duty to protect.”
Vatican City, Apr 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Secretariat for the Economy appointed Saturday Franco Dalla Sega as “ad interim” special adviser to the extraordinary section of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.
“Aside from assisting the secretary of APSA in the conduct of the activities of the Section, Professor Dalla Sega will be assigned specific tasks and projects and may be asked for specific advice on the reorganisation of APSA in accordance with the broader revision of the economic-administrative structure of the Holy See,” the secretariat announced in an April 5 communique.
Dalla Sega, 53, is a lecturer at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan and a member of the oversight council of Intesa San Paolo, an Italian bank.
The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See serves “to administer the properties owned by the Holy See in order to provide the funds necessary for the Roman Curia to function,” according to the apostolic constitution Pastor bonus, which governs Rome’s curia.
The extraordinary section, to which Dalla Sega has been assigned, “administers its own moveable goods and acts as a guardian for moveable goods entrusted to it by other institutes of the Holy See.”
The assets administered by the section consist of cash, financial instruments, and other goods. It may exceptionally carry out financial transactions on behalf of individuals, with the approval of its president, but never for the staff of the administration.
The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See is led by its president, Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, and its secretary, Fr. Luigi Misto.
“Reading in depth the press release, it is highly probably that Dalla Sega will be involved in rewriting APSA’s regulation, to fit it to the role of a ‘sui generis’ central bank,” a source familiar with Vatican finances told CNA April 7.
That a wider reform was in the offing was demonstrated by the Oct. 15 announcement made by the administration that a “due diligence” review by Promontory Financial Group had begun; due diligence is the evaluation of risks in investments and loans, particularly with regards to the clients in a bank.
However, APSA is not a bank. The Holy See told evaluators from Moneyval, the European Council committee that evaluates adherence to anti-money laundering standards, that while APSA holds some accounts, such banking-type activity is minimal and will be closed.
The Holy See, in fact, has neither a market nor banks.
According to the source, “the final aim of the Holy See was that of presenting and shaping APSA as a central body of the Catholic Church,” while at the moment, “the new vision is going to give APSA the shape of a true central bank,” even while maintaining its peculiarities.
Vatican City, Apr 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During his general audience Pope Francis began a new catechesis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, drawing specific attention to wisdom and noting that it illuminates our actions and draws us closer to God.
“We need to ask ourselves if our lives have the flavor of the Gospel; if others perceive that we are men and women of God; if it is the Holy Spirit that moves our lives,” the Pope insisted in his April 9 General Audience address.
Speaking to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square to hear the weekly discourse, the pontiff announced initially that “Today we begin a series of catechesis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
Observing how “The Spirit is himself the ‘gift of God,’” the Pope emphasized that he is also “the presence of God’s love in the Church and in our hearts.”
“Based on a messianic prophecy of Isaiah, the Church has traditionally distinguished seven gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord,” he continued, noting that “the first of these is wisdom.”
Highlighting how “This is not the fruit of knowledge and human experience,” the Roman Pontiff explained that it “consists of an interior light that only the Holy Spirit can give and that enables us to recognize the imprint of God in our lives and history.”
It is a grace, he said, “enabling us to contemplate all things with the eyes of God and a heart docile to the promptings of the Spirit.”
Born out of “intimacy with God” and a closeness to him “in prayer and loving communion,” this gift “makes a Christian contemplative” and “helps us to recognize with joyful gratitude his providential plan for all things,” the Pope went on to say.
“Everything speaks of God and everything is seen as a sign of his love and a reason to give thanks.”
Observing how “this does not mean that Christians have a response for everything,” Pope Francis emphasized that it does mean “they have a ‘taste’ and a ‘flavor’ of God, so that everything in their hearts and in their lives speaks of God.”
“Christian wisdom is thus the fruit of a supernatural ‘taste’ for God, an ability to savor his presence, goodness and love all around us,” he continued, encouraging those present to ask themselves whether or not their lives have the “flavor of the Gospel,” and if it is really “the Holy Spirit that moves our lives.”
“How much our world needs the witness of such wisdom today!” the pontiff expressed, insisting that “What is important is that our communities have Christians that, docile to the Holy Spirit, have experienced the things of God and communicated his tenderness and love to others.”
“Let us pray for this gift,” the Pope concluded, “so that, rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, we can be true men and women of God, transparently open to his own wisdom and the power of his saving love.”
Pope Francis concluded his audience by extending greetings to groups present from various countries around the world, and by encouraging all to begin preparing for Holy Week.
“I invite all to intensify the spiritual preparation for the coming feasts of the Passover of the Lord, so that the action of the Holy Spirit produce in us true fruits of conversion and holiness. May God bless you.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Attorneys working for human rights at the United Nations and other global organizations note a growing trend to introduce “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” language – as well as abortion rights – into international law.
A “newer theme that we see in international law is what we call the SOGI movement, or the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity movement,” British attorney Paul Coleman told CNA on March 23.
“It's been around for the last decade and it is seeking to promote the terms 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' on an international level; seeking to provide protections, seeking to change international laws to include those terms and having a series of knock-on effects in a number of different areas.”
Coleman, who specializes in international litigation with a focus on European law, does legal advocacy in international institutions of governance like the the United Nations, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Union.
“The terms 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' are terms that aren't particularly well understood,” explained the attorney, who serves as legal counsel in the Vienna office of the international organization Alliance Defending Freedom.
“That's part of the issue with this sort of terminology – that its so fluid, that it changes – it can mean whatever people want it to mean.”
As a result, the language becomes a kind of tool for incorporating certain beliefs into law.
“In effect, 'sexual orientation' is a 'code word,' so to speak, for homosexuality and homosexual behavior, and 'gender identity' is a 'code' for transsexualism or people who feel they are not male or female, but are something different, something in between, or nothing at all,” Coleman said.
In addition to the SOGI movement, Coleman noted an “attempt to create a right to abortion” in international law – an effort which which he says has been around since the early 1990s and continues to grow in “force” each year.
This attempt also uses key language to place these ideas in global law, he added.
“It's one of the major trends that we now see...there are many documents that are discussed at the United Nations where the phrases 'reproductive health and rights' and 'sexual reproductive health and rights' appear constantly.”
“No matter what the issue is that's being discussed, they'll always find a way to include those issues.”
Neydy Casillas, an attorney and former law professor from Mexico working in the Organization of American States and Latin America, lamented the heavy international focus on issues of sexuality rather than difficult situations faced by many around the globe.
“Sadly in these organizations, where they should be talking about the problems that exist in the world, like poverty, lack of access to health care in general, lack of education, etc., – problems that will affect the development of nations – discussion has focused solely on the (question of) what is life, to try to legalize abortion in all circumstances.”
“They also work very hard on the homosexual agenda,” added the attorney who also does advocacy work for Alliance Defending Freedom, “as if they were the problems the world is experiencing – completely ignoring other problems that exist and affect the entire world and truly help development.”
Coleman cited three different groups at the United Nations advancing the language and goals of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
The “primary drivers” are the “activist organizations,” followed by “liberal, predominantly western countries,” and then “the institutions themselves at the UN: people that work for the UN itself.”
When the three are aligned, Coleman warned, the results are powerful.
“That is why terms like 'gender identity' were completely unknown ten years ago and now they're being pushed on many different levels today even though there isn't a single UN treaty that mentions the terms 'sexual orientation' or 'gender identity,'” he explained.
Those who advocate for SOGI work “day and night” in order to “convince delegates or representatives of countries participating in these organizations that this is what people want,” said Casillas.
The result is that many countries “change their laws.”
Coleman noted that such a process is often very complex, since it involves the reinterpretation of international treaties.
“Where international treaties say, for example, that people have the right to health, that's being interpreted as saying 'well, health includes reproductive health, reproductive health includes abortion – therefore, there is a right to abortion.’”
“Or, for example,” he continued, “where a treaty says that everyone has the right to marry: the treaties actually say men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry. And that's being re-interpreted as saying, well, although it says 'men and women,' we should really interpret it in modern-day circumstances, so it should 'men and men' and 'women and women.'”
Treaties are not only reinterpreted, said Coleman, but sometimes ignored completely.
“Instead of these treaties which have been signed by nations, which have been approved at the very highest level, we find that lots of other documents are drafted and approved with very little scrutiny, with very little input from outside parties – and certainly not from citizens of countries.”
Many of these documents “are not strictly binding on countries,” yet “they have the air of being official and they are used as a tool to kind of force nations to change their laws,” explained Coleman.
Although nations may refuse, many “want to appear as if they are keeping up with their 'human rights obligations' – they don't want to be constantly harassed by the United Nations or the European Union.”
The influence of Western countries, he said, can be very commanding.
The British attorney noted that “the United Kingdom has said that it will withhold aid to third world countries if those countries do not change their laws on homosexuality.”
He added, “we see in America President Obama saying that it is a foreign policy priority to promote homosexuality across the world. These are powerful countries with huge international aid budgets, and they're helping to push this issue around the globe.”
“If (nations) are told constantly, 'you need to change your laws on abortion. You need to change your laws on homosexuality,' then that pressure can lead to change at a domestic level.”
Moreover, such ideas have very practical import, or “knock-on effect,” Coleman said, citing Facebook's recent decision to include 50 different gender options for profiles instead of male or female, as well as something like the winter Olympic games.
“They are defined as the men's competitions and the women's competitions. Well, what do you do if you have someone who wants to compete in the women's competitions who isn't a woman?”
“On a deeper level, on another level, it can have a huge impact on religious freedom,” he added, citing a case in the U.K. in which a diocese was sued for 50,000 British pounds because the bishop declined to hire a practicing homosexual man for a youth minister position.
People who believe that humanity is male and female, and who want to act on those beliefs, will face “a conflict within the law,” noted Coleman.
“We're going to see more religious liberty cases where people are being sued, being threatened legally because they're clinging to the belief that there is male and female.”
Vatican City, Apr 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In comments made following his general audience address, Pope Francis lamented the killing of a Jesuit priest in Syria, and appealed to the country’s leaders to foster peace and respect human dignity.
“Please, silence your weapons, and end the violence! No more war! No more destruction!” the Pope exclaimed in comments made April 9.
Fr. Frans van der Lugt S.J., aged 75 and a native of the Netherlands, was killed April 7 after he was beaten and shot dead by gunmen in the city of Homs, where he was caring for the fewer than 30 Christians who remain in the Old City district, which has been blockaded by the Syrian regime for nearly two years.
The priest had worked in Syria since 1967. He was a psychotherapist and was involved in interreligious dialogue. In the 1980s, he built a spirituality center in Homs which housed some 40 children with mental disabilities.
Speaking to pilgrims in Italian, the pontiff described Fr. van der Lugt as a man who “always did good to all, with gratuity and love,” and who was “loved and admired by both Christians and Muslims.”
“His brutal murder has filled me with profound pain and made me think again of the many people who suffer and die in that martyred country - my beloved Syria! - which has already for too long been gripped by bloody conflict, which continues to reap death and destruction.”
Pope Francis also expressed that the priest’s violent death makes him think “of the many people who have been abducted, Christians and Muslims, Syrians and those from other countries, among whom there are bishops and priests.”
“We ask the Lord that they will quickly return to their loved ones and to their families and communities,” he prayed.
The pontiff once again entreated the Syrian leaders to work and pray for peace.
He also asked that there might be a greater “respect for humanitarian law, care for the people who need humanitarian assistance and may the people reach the desired peace through dialogue and reconciliation.”
Fr. van der Lugt had often lamented the lack of medicine, food, and aid to civilians trapped in Homs by the Syrian regime's siege, and repeatedly called for intervention on the civilians’ behalf.
In a statement issued by the Vatican, spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi reflected that the slain priest “died as a man of peace” and acted “with great courage in an extremely dangerous and difficult situation.”
Given the siege, his body cannot be recovered.
Colombo, Sri Lanka, Apr 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Sri Lankan Catholics accorded a traditional welcome to their newly appointed apostolic nuncio, who arrived in Colombo to begin his diplomatic duties April 3.
Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Tot as apostolic nuncio to Sri Lanka March 22, 2014. Archbishop Nguyen Van Tot succeeds Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, who served in Colombo from 2009 and who was transferred to Ivory Coast in October.
Archbishop Emeritus Oswald Gomis of Colombo led a delegation on behalf of the national bishops' conference in receiving and welcoming the new papal ambassador at Katunayake Airport Thursday.
The Church in Sri Lanka welcomed him with floral garlands as a percussion band and dancers processed, preceded by a lit oil lamp.
Among the delegation were Msgr. Renato Kucic, secretary to the apostolic nuncio; Sarath Kumara Gunaratne, a government official; and Fr. Jude Samantha, an official of the nunciature.
Archbishop Nguyen Van Tot was born in Vietnam in 1949, and was ordained a priest of the Phu Cuong diocese shortly before his 25th birthday.
He is an alumnus of the Pontifical Urban University, and published his thesis on “Buddha and Christ: Parallels and similarities in the canonical literature and Christian apocrypha” in 1987.
He was appointed nuncio to Benin and Togo in 2002, and was consecrated a bishop the following year.
Archbishop Nguyen Van Tot then served as apostolic nuncio to Chad and Central African Republic from 2005 to 2008, when he was transferred to Costa Rica. He served there until his current assignment.
In 2012, he wrote a letter to the Church in Costa Rica called “Sobre el recto desempeño del servicio pastoral,” or “On the right discharge of pastoral service,” which addressed the importance of the Eucharist and of its reverent distribution and reception.
His time in Africa and Central America, as well as that in his native Vietnam, has exposed him to war and to a variety of cultures.
Sri Lanka suffered a civil war for nearly 30 years, which ended only in 2009. Over 70 percent of the 20.4 million people in Sri Lanka are Buddhists, and Christians make up an estimated eight percent of the population.
Manila, Philippines, Apr 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Orlando Beltran Quevedo, O.M.I., the newest cardinal from the Philippines, is a dedicated servant of the poor who has advocated for peace between Christians and Muslims in the country.
The cardinal archbishop of Cotabato told the Philippines news site MindaNews in February that he was not happy when he first learned he had been named a cardinal. Rather, he had a “sense of fear” and a “feeling of inadequacy” upon hearing the news.
He said he prayed that as a cardinal he would be “holy, wise, humble, zealous, generous.”
The Filipino prelate was one of 19 new cardinals created in Pope Francis’ Feb. 22 consistory.
Cardinal Quevedo, 75, suggested that the Pope selected him due to his interest in poverty, social justice issues and basic ecclesial communities. He also credited the work of past Filipino cardinals who advocated for a cardinal from Mindanao, the southernmost major island of the Philippines which has never had a prelate in the College of Cardinals.
The new cardinal has worked for peace during times of tensions between Christian and Muslim Filipinos, especially the Muslim Moro people native to Mindanao.
In an influential 2003 paper, he said the root cause of the Moro Muslim insurgency was “injustice” toward the Moro people’s identity, their political sovereignty, and their “integral development.” He examined the mistreatment of the Moro people and historic tensions with Spanish and American colonialism and with Filipino Christians.
He called for the overcoming of “prejudices and biases,” with Muslim and Christian leaders needing to play “a major role.” He credited a change in his own understanding of the situation to his time teaching, advising, conversing and being with Muslim students and professionals.
The cardinal’s elevation was honored at a March 2014 banquet in the Philippines’ Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The region’s vice governor, Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, said that the cardinal is “not only a man of God but also a champion of Muslim human rights,” the Manila Bulletin reports.
Cardinal Quevedo was born March 11, 1939, in the Philippines province of Ilocos Norte on the northern island of Luzon, but moved with his family to the Ililo province in the Philippines’ Western Visayas region.
He was ordained for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in June 1964 at the age of 25 in Washington, D.C.
The cardinal has several United States connections - he spent his novitiate in the Texas town of Mission in the mid-1950s, and received his bachelor’s degree in sacred theology and his master’s degree in religious education from the Oblate College of the Catholic University of America in the mid-1960s. He also studied the theology of religious life through Missouri’s St. Louis University in the 1970s.
He is the past president of both the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, where he served for two terms, and Cotabato City’s Notre Dame University.
In addition, he served on the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 1990-1994.
Cardinal Quevado was ordained as Bishop of Kidapawan, the capital of Cotabato province, in 1980. He was named Archbishop of Nueva Segovia, an archdiocese in the northern Philippines island of Luzon, in 1986.
Pope John Paul II named him Archbishop of Cotabato in 1998.
There are three other living cardinals in the Philippines: Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila; Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Archbishop emeritus of Manila; and Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, Archbishop emeritus of Cebu.
Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Challenging a modern culture which supports isolation and an indifference to poverty requires a personal connection with others, particularly the poor, as children of God, development expert Dr. Jonathan Reyes has said.
Reyes, who is executive director of the justice, peace, and human development department of the U.S. bishops' conference, explained April 8 that Pope Francis' statements on poverty and charity reveal a concern that “there's something about the modern age that isolates people, is indifferent to human beings, that sets them aside.”
To counter this indifference, particularly to the poor, “we simply have to make time in our lives for the priority of encountering the poor,” and be “always committed to seeing the other person in the way they were made.”
Reyes, who was previously president of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver and co-founder of the Augustine Institute, was speaking at a Theology on Tap in Washington, D.C.
Pope Francis' writings and speeches about poverty and charity have focused on the modern world's “culture of indifference” and the Christian call to respond by creating a culture of “encuentro” – or deep personal encounter – and of missionary discipleship, Reyes said.
These means of evangelization “are part of a mission for those that are forgotten,” he added.
Speaking to the bishops of Brazil at World Youth Day, Pope Francis explained that while globalization has connected people from across the world to one another, it has also led to a “loss of a sense of life's meaning, inability to love” and a “culture fundamentally of indifference, a culture that isolates people and leaves them alone.”
Reyes added that he himself had seen this indifference in his own life experiences. While living in Caracas, for example, he was shocked to learned that the families living in the shanty-towns on the hillsides above the city got their electricity by climbing up electrical poles and attaching wires from the main poles to their houses. While many people died in the process, and the dangerous practice was common knowledge among locals, no one intervened to help the poor from dying.
He continued, saying this sort of indifference to the plight of the poor and the lonely is common throughout the world, including in the West, and that “some of the most isolating environments in the world are major cities.”
Reyes added that recent Popes, as well as Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, have all commented that “the greatest poverty is isolation: the feeling of being unloved and unwanted,” and that instead of reaching out to those in need, “culturally we put people who are different or have problems – we put them away,” especially if there are the funds to do so.
Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken out on this “culture that discards people” and treats interactions as a form of “transaction,” Reyes said, adding that the Pope has explained how “we fix this by creating a culture of encuentro.”
“When you have an encuentro, you engage someone on the level of their humanity. This theme is essential what it means to be a Church.”
Pope Francis explains that if one gives to the poor without reaching out to them, or asking them their name, “then you have not encountered them.”
“All you've done is tossed them some charity.”
The Pope, he said, is very direct in talking about Christians' need to care for the poor. “He says you cannot say you don't have enough time,” adding that “none of you can say you're too busy” to care for the poor. In addition, Reyes, continued, “the Bible is pretty clear: how you treat the least of these is how you treat me.”
Reaching out to the poor and the lonely, though, “does not take time, it takes attention.”
He said that to engage in an encounter with other persons, it is important to remember that “every human being was made for a greatness that surpasses anything that you can accomplish in this life” – that they have immortal souls and are made in the image and likeness of God.
Reyes encouraged people “to take care of our own encuentro,” explaining that “to be people who are capable of encounter, we need to encounter Christ”; both in the sacraments and “in the particular disguise, the distressing disguise, of the poor.”
People should also lessen their attachment to “the type of stuff that would enthrall us” in order to follow Christ: “we need to live simpler lives.”
While one should be thankful for their blessings, “we ourselves need to be free from the very things that attract us,” Reyes added.
Most importantly, he said, Christians should aim to live lives of service that fulfills the greatness God intends for his people.
“If you don't donate your life, you haven't achieved the greatness that God has given.”