Archive of April 15, 2014

Pauline monk appointed bishop of rural Australian diocese

Forbes, Australia, Apr 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis appointed Saturday Fr. Columba Macbeth-Green, a Pauline Father, as Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes, a rural diocese in the Australian state of New South Wales.

“If someone told me a month ago that I would be appointed Bishop of the Wilcannia-Forbes diocese, I would have said they were joking. I still can't believe it's actually happened,” Fr. Macbeth-Green said April 12.

“When I became a monk I never thought that I would minister to people in my home diocese. I’m humbled by this appointment and also excited about going home and giving something back to the people who gave me so much.”

The diocese had been vacant since the 2009 resignation of its last ordinary, Bishop Christopher Toohey.

“For the Australian bishops, I extend warm congratulations,” said Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, who is president of the Australian bishops' conference. “I welcome the announcement of Fr. Columba Macbeth-Green, OSPPE, as the seventh bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes.”

“His appointment after a long interval will be warmly welcomed by the people as an indication of Pope Francis’ love and care for them.”

Archbishop Hart added that “since his ordination in 1997 for the 800 year-old Order of St. Paul the First Hermit, Fr. Macbeth-Green has worked with distinction at the Shrine of Marian Valley in Queensland and in Tarcutta and Marian Hills.”

“He has engaged spiritually with many people and his priestly goodness and wise guidance will be warmly welcomed by the people of his new diocese.”

Bishop Michael Kennedy of Armidale, who also served as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes from 2012 until Fr. Macbeth-Green's appointment, said the bishop-elect “has a well-grounded faith and possesses the human attributes that will equip him to be a good Pastor to the people of this rural and outback Diocese.”

“With his experience in country parishes he understands the joys, struggles and challenges of country parishes and their people. I am confident that Bishop Elect Macbeth-Green will be a true Shepherd after the heart of Jesus Christ.”

Fr. Macbeth-Green was born in Forbes in 1968, and educated at Red Bend Catholic College in the town. Upon leaving school, he taught music and joined Australia's army reserve as a piper.

He joined the Order of St. Paul the First Hermit in 1990, and studied for the priesthood at Vianney College in Wagga Wagga. He made solemn profession in the order in 1996, and was ordained a priest the following years.

The Pauline Fathers are a semi-contemplative order founded in 1215 in Hungary who observe the Rule of St. Augustine. They are based in Poland and are custodians of the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

They are also present in Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Italy, and the U.S., and entered Australia in the Wollongong diocese in 1982.

As a Pauline Father, Fr. Macbeth-Green has served as administrator of Tarcutta, and from 2002 to 2004 was subprior of the shrine of Our Lady of Mercy, after which he was administrator of Moss Vale.

He also served as a local police chaplain, and then from 2006 to 2011 was police chaplain at police headquarters in Brisbane, the Australian capital, and then for all of South East Queensland.

At the time of his appointment, he was the Pauline Fathers' provincial vicar for Australia and rector of the shrine of Mary, Help of Christians.

The Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes covers 160,000 square miles and is home to 111,300 persons, of whom 34,000 are Catholic. In 2010, the diocese had 16 diocesan priests, and 5 religious.

The diocese's last leader, Bishop Christopher Toohey, resigned in 2009 at the age of 57; he later admitted to behavior inconsistent “with that required of a good person” in his relationships with some young adults in the early years of his ministry. He no longer exercises public ministry within the Church.

The date of Fr. Macbeth-Green's consecration as bishop and installation has yet to be released.

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Amid backlash after resignation, Mozilla says it respects diverse views

Mountain View, Calif., Apr 15, 2014 (CNA) - The controversial resignation of Mozilla Corporation CEO Brendan Eich prompted thousands of negative comments at the Web browser company’s website, though the company now says it accepts those who do not support a redefinition of marriage.

Since Eich’s April 3 resignation from Mozilla, the producer of the popular Firefox Web browser, tens of thousands of people have left negative comments on the Firefox feedback page. Many have said they will no longer use the Firefox browser because of Eich’s resignation.

Mozilla said that Eich voluntarily resigned and was not asked by the board of directors to do so. The board responded to his resignation by asking him to take another position at the company, but Eich declined the offer, Mozilla said on its blog April 5.

“The board respects his decision,” the company stated.

Mozilla rejected claims that the resignation of three members of the board of directors was due to concern about Eich’s beliefs on marriage.

Eich, the inventor of the JavaScript programming language and a Mozilla co-founder, was named CEO of Mozilla Corporation on March 24.

Eich’s appointment soon came under criticism from “gay marriage” advocates because of his $1,000 donation in 2008 to the Proposition 8 California ballot measure campaign that defined marriage in the state as a union of one man and one woman. The ballot measure won in the 2008 election, though a disputed 2013 Supreme Court decision resulted in it being invalidated.

Backers of “gay marriage” targeted Mozilla for boycott and encouraged hostile media coverage.

Eich said March 26 that he was committed to making sure that Mozilla is “a place that includes and supports everyone.”

However, the controversy continued, leading to Eich’s resignation April 3. He said that he could no longer be “an effective leader” under the circumstances.

Mozilla on April 5 said that while the company has a statement of support for “marriage equality,” it does not require this view to be held by employees, leaders, volunteers and supporters, known as “Mozillans.”

“There is no litmus test to work at Mozilla,” the company said April 5, voicing its commitment to the goal of “protecting and building an open web.”

Some supporters of Eich announced their own boycott of the Firefox Web browser, and the resignation has prompted many reflections on what the case means about whether supporters of traditional marriage may face future political intimidation and threats to their livelihoods.

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John XXIII and the beginning of the fall of the Iron Curtain

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - While Pope, Bl. John XXIII began a dialogue with the Soviet Union that led to the eventual fall of the Iron Curtain during the pontificate of his successor John Paul II, both of whom will be canonized April 27.

In 1961, the birthday of “Good Pope John” became the occasion for the first communication between the Soviet Union and the Vatican since the October Revolution of 1917.

Semen Kozyrev, the Soviet ambassador to Italy, sent birthday greetings to the Pope which read:  “On behalf of Khrushchev, I have been entrusted with the task of communicating to His Holiness, Pope John XXIII, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, my congratulations and sincerest wishes for good health and success in the continuation of the noble aspiration of contributing to the strengthening and consolidation of peace on earth and the solution of international problems through candid pronouncements.”

John XXIII wrote a reply by hand, on paper headed with his coat of arms; the reply was returned to Kozyrev through Archbishop Carlo Grano, who was apostolic nuncio to Italy.

“His Holiness Pope John XXIII,” his reply read, “extends his thanks for the wishes and expresses for your behalf and for the entire Russian people also, his cordial wishes for the growth and consolidation of universal peace, through the mutual understanding of human fraternity: for this he fervently prays.”

This exchange opened a channel of communication between the states, and when the Cuban missile crisis emerged the following year, John XXIII used it to send a message to the Soviet Union, as well as to the U.S.

The message concluded by begging “all governments not to remain deaf to this cry of humanity. That they do all that is in their power to save peace. They will thus spare the world from the horrors of a war whose terrifying consequences no one can predict. That they continue discussions, as this loyal and open behaviour has great value as a witness of everyone’s conscience and before history. Promoting, favouring, accepting conversations, at all levels and in any time, is a rule of wisdom and prudence which attracts the blessings of heaven and earth.”

The message was delivered to both the American and Soviet embassies, was broadcast on Vatican Radio, and was also published on the front page of Pravda, the official voice of the Soviet communist party.

Bl. John XXIII’s diplomacy also resulted in the release of Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, Ukrainian Archbishop of Lviv, from a gulag Jan. 25, 1963.

Cardinal Slipyj had been arrested by the Soviets in 1945, and spent much of his time since then in Siberian gulags.

The Holy See had long advocated for his release, but it was not until into John XXIII’s pontificate that the cardinal was released by Khrushchev.

A month later, Alexei Adzhubei, editor of the Soviet government’s newspaper Izvestia and Khrushchev’s son-in-law, was visiting Rome and wished to meet the Pope.

Even though many Vatican prelates were against the meeting, on the advice of Cardinal Siri of Genoa, Bl. John XXIII chose to meet Adzhubei and his wife, Rada, March 7, 1963.

This series of events paved the way for Paul VI’s policy of Ostpolitik, by which he engaged in dialogue with officials from the Warsaw Pact to improve conditions for Christians in those nations.

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'I can't leave my people': Priest killed in Syria hailed as martyr

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Days after Dutch priest Fr. Frans van der Lugt S.J. was murdered in Syria, a close young friend recalled his saintly life, noting both his personal holiness and extraordinary advances in Christian-Muslim relations.

Wael Salibi, 26, recalled how when the Christian area in Homs was taken over by rebels, 66,000 of the faithful "left their home, and just few of them stayed there. He was the only priest, he stayed in his church.”

“Just months before he died, he said ‘I can’t leave my people, I can’t leave my church, I am director of this church, how can I leave them?’” Salibi told CNA on April 11.

Salibi, who hails from the now-ravished city of Homs, grew up as a close friend and pupil of Fr. Frans, who was brutally killed on April 7.  Days before his 76th birthday, an unknown gunman entered his church, beat him and shot him in the head.

For the past three years Syria has been embroiled in conflict which sprang up after citizens protested the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president and leader the country's Ba'ath Party.

Since then, the violence has morphed into a civil war which has claimed the lives of an estimated 140,000 people. There are currently 2.6 million Syrian refugees in nearby countries, most of them in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, and an additional 6.5 million Syrian people are believed to have been internally displaced by the war.

Currently a refugee living and studying in Rome, Salibi fled his city just a year and a half ago – following a two-week religious visit to Europe – after receiving a call from his mother telling him not to return.

Recalling his life growing up with the priest, Salibi explained that because Fr. Frans had been living and working in Syria since 1966, his family formed close ties with the priest, who would often visit after celebrating Christmas Mass in order to wish his father a happy birthday, and was at one point the spiritual director for his sister.

“This is what makes Fr. Frans special,” Salibi noted, “because he influenced thousands of people, and he remembered all people with little details, and he listened to others.”

On how the priest worked tirelessly for the unity amongst Christians and Muslims in the area, Salibi said that he advanced these relations through two main projects he began during his nearly 50 years of ministry in the country.

The first initiative of Fr. Frans was a project entitled “Al-Maseer” meaning “marching,” Salibi continued, in which groups of 300 at a time, would come from various regions around Syria to work together and discover new parts of the country.

Convening every 2 to 3 months, the group would usually walk together over the weekend and frequently went to little-known areas in order to discover different parts of the country, Salibi went on to say, recalling how one summer the group made a ten day trip in which they walked over 60 kilometers and slept in both churches and mosques along the way.

“I know Syria and I love Syria because of him,” Salibi expressed, observing how “we never felt like he wasn’t Syrian. I think he’s Syrian more than anyone I know.”

Often when the group felt tired because of all the walking, they would be surprised because Fr. Frans was “70 years old and he was the first one to arrive,” Salibi observed, recounting how the Dutchman would always tell them “ilal amam,” meaning “keep going.”

“He always told us…it didn’t just give us like, power, he also made us keep going with our lives,” the young Syrain explained, emphasizing that “I will never forget that word from him. He told us how to be strong.”

Referring to the second project Fr. Frans initiated, Salibi explained that the name was “Al-ard” meaning “the earth” or “the land,” which took place in the countryside outside of Homs, and is a place where the priest would bring handicapped from all the area, both Muslim and Christian, and provide different work and activities for them to do.

Before working in the project, Salibi explain that “I was afraid of” handicapped people, but that after working in the project “I felt like oh my God there is no difference, no difference between religion, no difference between handicapped people, no difference between humans.”

“He taught me how much humility and love, and how we can find love, God, in the love of people.”

Fr. Frans also built an area of prayer for the project that was “not a church, not a mosque,” but a place where all people went “just to pray,” the young Syrian recounted. “People from all Syria, and also outside of Syria, went there to relax, to find their peace, to be closer to God.”

“We didn’t know when we (were) suffering, when we lost the road, who was walking with him, whether he was Christian or Muslim, we are just sons of God and sons of this land, Syria,” Salibi went on to say, observing how “that was his target, to put Muslims and Christians together.”

Recalling how when the war broke out in 2011 Fr. Frans opened the doors of his church to both Muslims and Christians, the priest’s friend noted that he would give them food, saying “‘I didn’t come to Syria to help just Christians.’”

“And he stayed there. And he stayed there in the ending before he died just with 24 Christians, he didn’t leave them, and when he died, the Muslim people were sad more than the Christians in that neighborhood.”

Describing a previous conversation Fr. van der Lugt had with another youth at the base of a famous tomb in the area, Salibi recounted how when the youth asked the priest if he wanted to be buried in Syria or in Holland, “Fr. Frans looked at him with a very serious look, and told him of course here in Syria.”

“My friend now he understands why he looked at him in that way. It was not a joke. And that’s what happened. Fr. Frans died there and they put him in his church…where we used to drink coffee with him, and where he listened to thousands of people with love, with interest.”

“He changed the lives of thousands of people… he taught us the meaning of love not just with words, but with life.”

When he was murdered, Salibi  highlighted that the people “didn’t think about who killed him, they thought about sadness and accepted the love because of the teaching of Fr. Frans, who taught them don’t hate, don’t take revenge, and death is not the ending, it’s just passing to be with God. So that’s what we learned from him.”

The night before he died, Salibi revealed that the priest wrote a reflection on how we are preparing ourselves for Easter, saying that “’This feast is the way to pass from this to the life.’”

“’We see the life from deep, dark hole, but the people in this dark, black hole can see this huge light. We wish this to rise up to Syria and ‘ilal amam,’ ‘keep going.’”

“That’s the last thing he wrote, like he knew he would send us this message,” his young friend observed.

“It’s not important if he died in that way, by assassin (or if) he be martyr,” Salibi affirmed, “his life and the way he loved and spent his life is enough to make him a Saint, and he died in that way so I think he is extra-Saint.”

Explaining how everyday there are hundreds martyrs in Syria like Fr. Frans, including his own cousin who three months ago was killed outside of the village for being a Christian, Salibi explained that Fr. Frans’ story “gets this attention because all people loved him a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot.”

“I think he wants also with his death to send this message to people, because he wrote a few months ago, ‘we love to live. We don’t love to die. We love to live. We have (the) right to live a normal life,’” Salibi went on to say.

Continuing, he emphasized his belief that with his death Fr. Frans also wants to remind those “who are used to this war in Syria and everyday death… how important (it is) to try everything can do to stop this war, this tragic war. And especially in a very peaceful way,” and to “forgive.”

“We don’t want any war in Syria, we don’t want more war,” he said, “we just want to say everyone push for peace. To make this peace.”

In the midst of the continuous conflict, Salibi revealed that he finds hope in the last thing that Fr. Frans wrote, saying that we are preparing ourselves for Easter, and that “this is a symbol of passing from death to life. The life around us (is a) very deeply dark hole, but people around us they look to the huge light coming from up.”

“He taught us this. Always we have hope, we shouldn’t say no, now Fr. Frans died and there is no hope,” the Syrian observed.

“No, he gives us with his death more hope than before. Like he still supported the peaceful solution until his death, until he died, and go ahead. That’s the last word he says, keep going.”

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Pope Francis will give Gospels to the imprisoned for Holy Week

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy See announced earlier today that those incarcerated at the Roman prison “Regina Coeli” will receive a pocket-sized copy of the Gospels as a gift from Pope Francis for Easter.

According to the Vatican’s announcement, 1200 copies of the small Gospels will be delivered to the “Regina Coeli” prison on Wednesday of Holy Week, the day before the Easter Triduum begins.

It is the same copy that the Pope handed out to the participants of his April 6 Sunday Angelus address in St. Peter's Square, and to the faithful who attended Mass celebrated by the Pope in the Church of St. Gregory the Great the same day.

Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, Almoner of His Holiness, will be responsible for the distribution of the Gospels, which also contain the Acts of the Apostles, during a visit to the prison.

On April 17, Holy Thursday, Archbishop Krajewski will celebrated Mass “In Cena Domini” at the “Isola dell'Amore Fraterno,” which is a voluntary association that was founded in 1996 and that works to provide preventative measures, solidarity and assistance for detainees, ex-convicts as well as the socially marginalized or those who are estranged from their families.

Pope Francis’ activities for Holy Thursday include presiding over a Chrisim Mass inside of St. Peter’s Basilica at 10:30 a.m., as well as a visit to the St. Mary of Providence Centre later that evening, where he will also celebrate Mass with the center’s patients.

As a residential rehabilitation site for disabled persons in Rome, the center contains 150 beds for patients who require rehabilitation because of neuro-motor impairment and which is operated by the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation.

Saturday, April 19, the Pope will preside over the Easter Vigil at 8:30 p.m. in St. Peter's Basilica, and on Easter Sunday he will hold a public Mass in St. Peter's Square at 10:15 a.m.

Following the Mass, the Roman Pontiff will give the traditional “Urbi et Orbi,” which is a special blessing given “to the city and to the world,” from the Basilica's central balcony.

For the Second Sunday of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday, which takes place on April 27, Pope Francis will preside over a public Mass in St. Peter's Square at 10 a.m., during which he will canonize both Bl. John Paul II and John XXIII.

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Obama says Pope Francis is a reminder of human dignity

Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Speaking at the 2014 Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama reflected on his recent meeting with Pope Francis, whom he described as an inspiration.

“I’ll tell you, I felt this spirit when I had the great honor of meeting His Holiness, Pope Francis,” the president said, recalling his March 27 meeting with the Holy Father at the Vatican.

“I think it’s fair to say that those of us of the Christian faith, regardless of our denomination, have been touched and moved by Pope Francis,” he said, explaining that this is partly because of the pontiff’s words, which offer “a message of justice and inclusion, especially for the poor and the outcast. He implores us to see the inherent dignity in each human being.”

“But it’s also his deeds, simple yet profound – hugging the homeless man, and washing the feet of somebody who normally ordinary folks would just pass by on the street. He reminds us that all of us, no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously, and that we all have an obligation to live humbly.”

Obama said that he “had a wonderful conversation with Pope Francis, mostly about the imperatives of addressing poverty and inequality.”

He noted that he invited the Holy Father to visit the United States, and quoted from the Pope’s apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium,” which the pontiff gave to him as a gift.

Reports on the private meeting between the president and the Pope, which lasted nearly an hour, indicated that they discussed topics including immigration, human trafficking, and religious freedom, which has become an increasing concern for the U.S. Church under the Obama administration.

In his remarks at the prayer breakfast, the president also reflected on the April 13 shooting outside a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kan. He called on the people of America to unite against violence and remember that “we’re all children of God. We’re all made in His image, all worthy of his love and dignity.”

He also praised the ministry work done by various groups to promote peace, as well as “justice and dignity and inclusion.”

“So this Easter Week, of course we recognize that there’s a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we’re also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God,” he said.

“We’re reminded how He loves us, so deeply, that He gave his only begotten Son so that we might live through Him. And in these Holy Days, we recall all that Jesus endured for us – the scorn of the crowds and the pain of the crucifixion, in our Christian religious tradition we celebrate the glory of the Resurrection – all so that we might be forgiven of our sins and granted everlasting life.”

Obama said that the story Christ’s passion, death and resurrection “inspires us still today.”

“We are drawn to His timeless teachings, challenged to be worthy of His sacrifice, to emulate as best we can His eternal example to love one another just as He loves us.” 

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Expert says social media changes are evangelization opportunity

Rome, Italy, Apr 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The internet and social media have caused major changes in human communication, but also create a “tremendous opportunity” for evangelization, a communications expert with the U.S. bishops has said.

“The new social media built off of the internet and the web are really changing how we understand ourselves as humans and how we understand communications,” Helen Osman, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ communications secretary, told CNA April 9.

The new technologies’ impact is at least as significant as the printing press, and perhaps as significant as the alphabet, on our shared concept of what it means to be human, what it means to communicate, and what it means to be a communicator, she explained.

Osman took part in a roundtable panel discussion on mass media and new social media at the Listening to America Conference, held at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome April 7-9. The conference focused on various aspects of culture, media and faith in the Americas.

Osman told CNA that technological change has affected evangelization “in multiple ways.” She suggested the new technologies might mean a return to how the first Christians learned about the faith - “more through a story-telling and narrative approach.”

While there can be a “dark side” to the internet, she acknowledged, “for Christians I think it can give a tremendous opportunity and witness in catechizing and evangelizing.”

Social media has been “a bridge-builder,” helping people to communicate with family and friends around the world, she said.
Internet and social media use among minority groups in the U.S. can help the Catholic Church “reach people that have perhaps been marginalized in the past,” including Spanish-speakers and the disabled, and “bring them into the center of the conversation.”

“It also means that we have to be more aware of the fact that these various populations, different groups of people, are using social media more and more than perhaps we thought,” she said.

Almost every American now has access to a cell phone, which Osman called a “huge change” from the past.

“It literally means that we have the world in our back pocket, and the ramifications of that are multiple. It’s going to take us awhile to unpack that,” she said.

Osman also noted that some bishops are hesitant to use new forms of communication, in part because of “a generational change” between older and younger Catholics.

“It’s something we don’t know, so it’s new to us, and we feel a bit uncomfortable with that.”

She suggested there is some reluctance “to take the Gospel into an environment that may be a little bit messy, may be a little bit loud.”

“You know, there are some voices on the internet that are distinctly un-Christian,” Osman said. “Pope Benedict spoke several times about the need for missionaries on the digital continent. Again, I think if we think of ourselves as missionaries in this digital culture we can bring some wisdom, and some witness that is greatly needed.”

She said many people are not aware of Catholic material available on the internet. Though this is “slowly changing,” she observed, “they aren’t finding the Catholic content as quickly as they are finding other content.”

“There’s definitely a bit of a gap between how people use the internet for other parts of their life – banking, education, communicating, health care – and their faith life.”

While there are “terrible things” on the internet, such as pornography, violence, hatred, and bullying, she said most people see the internet as “a positive part of their life.”

“It’s enabled them to find information that they might not have otherwise found, to be able to communicate with family and friends, to stay connected, to participate in government, social organizations, so it’s been a positive aspect overwhelmingly for most people.”

Osman said the U.S. bishops’ conference is trying to integrate faith resources on the internet.

The bishops’ conference, in cooperation with the Greek Orthodox Church of America, has launched the website to provide a Christian perspective on digital literacy for children.

The site, geared toward parents, guardians and teachers, helps them “work with these digital natives and help them find ways to navigate the world and to move perhaps from innocence to wisdom,” Osman explained, stressing the need for parents to help their children “be wise and Christian digital citizens.”

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