Archive of May 17, 2014

Appeal for solidarity marks Jordan’s role in Middle East dialogue

Amman, Jordan, May 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - An appeal issued jointly Wednesday by Vatican and Jordanian officials marks the nations’ friendship and common commitment to foster peace and dialogue in the Middle East.

Following a May 13-14 meeting in Amman on “Meeting Current Challenges through Education,” the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Jordan’s Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies issued an appeal for solidarity on the eve of Pope Francis’ May 24-26 pilgrimage, which they called “a source of hope for all peoples of the Holy Land and the region.”

The statement began by strongly condemning violence, in particular the April kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, “call(ing) or their immediate release, so that they can return to their families and their schools.”

The participants agreed on families and schools as the “fundamental institutions” of education; the importance of religious education in transmitting religious and moral values; the necessity of considering the human person’s dignity; and the trouble of international agreements which disregard religious freedom and other human rights.

It was also stated that “integral education” is necessary, because “religion is not the cause of conflicts, but rather inhumanity and ignorance,” and that “religions, properly understood and practiced, are not causes of division and conflicts but rather a necessary factor for reconciliation and peace.”

The joint statement proposed a “cultural decalogue” for those involved in education, which highlighted the importance of humility; of not being closed-minded; perseverance; trust in reason; and of intellectual curiosity, courage, integrity, autonomy, fairness, and humility.

The “decalogue” also exhorted educators to “consider pluralism as richness, not a threat.”

The joint statement is the latest in Jordan’s steps to affirm its strategic role for peace and dialogue in the Middle East, which has been reinforced over the years by a series of initiatives, many of them involving Ghazi bin Muhammad, one of the nation’s princes.

bin Muhammad helped to organize a 2007 letter to Benedict XVI from 138 Muslim scholars, relaunching a dialogue following his Regensburg address of the previous year.

Since then, bin Muhammad has helped coordinate a series of dialogues between Catholic and Muslim thinkers, including Benedict’s 2009 visit to the Holy Land.

In September, bin Muhammad sponsored a summit of Christian leaders in the Middle East convoked by King Abdullah II to address the widespread emergencies facing Christians in the region; Jordan is widely seen as a protector of Christians in the area.

Abdullah and bin Muhammad met with Pope Francis April 7, to indicate Jordan’s full support for his upcoming visit to the Holy Land.

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Critics warn of bias in UN anti-torture committee member

New York City, N.Y., May 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A U.N. committee member who insinuated that the Catholic position against abortion violates an anti-torture agreement signed by the Holy See should recuse herself or step down on account of bias, several critics have said.

Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with the U.S.-based Catholic Association, said American Felice Gaer should recuse herself from writing the U.N. Committee on the Convention Against Torture’s report on the Holy See because she is “clearly beholden to the interests of the abortion lobby” and has shown “she does not think the Church has a right to its religious teachings.”

“Our own country’s representative to this committee actually argued on more than one occasion that opposition to abortion amounts to psychological torture for women,” McGuire told CNA May 16.

“Not only was this a scandalous violation of religious liberty, an important value outlined in multiple U.N. documents, but it’s plain false. As the Holy See pointed out, the torture in the case of abortion is against the unborn and defenseless child.”

The U.N. committee conducted a hearing with a Holy See delegation in Geneva May 5-6 regarding the Holy See’s adherence to the anti-torture convention.

Gaer, who formerly chaired the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, is now the vice-chair of the anti-torture committee.

She used the May meeting as an occasion to press the Holy See delegation about Catholic opposition to abortion. She said that the U.N. committee has found that laws prohibiting abortion in all circumstances violate the convention.

Arguing that women “should have the right to choose abortion,” she asked the delegation to respond to criticisms that its position against abortion requires pregnant 9-year-olds to give birth.

McGuire said that some committee members, including the committee chair, have shown a “strong ideological preference for abortion” and are being lobbied by “anti-Church and pro-abortion groups” like the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.

“This is nothing but a frontal attack on the Church's moral views and a hijacking of a committee with a clearly-defined purpose,” McGuire said.

The committee also pressed the Holy See delegation on sexual abuse.

McGuire compared the committee hearing to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child’s February 2014 report on the Holy See, which used a discussion of the international children’s rights convention to criticize the Vatican on sex abuse and to condemn Catholic teaching on homosexuality, contraception, and abortion, while calling for changes in Catholic doctrine.

Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has filed a complaint against Gaer, contending that she “compromised her objectivity.”

“Given Felice Gaer’s unquestionable bias toward the Roman Catholic Church, she is not suited to maintain her membership on the Committee Against Torture,” his May 15 complaint said.

Donohue said that she used “incendiary rhetoric” and “highly politicized accusations” taken from the Center for Reproductive Rights’ April 14 report on the Holy See.

Gaer’s claim that the absolute ban on abortion violates the anti-torture convention is similar to language used in the pro-abortion rights group’s report. Gaer cited a quotation from the European Court of Human Rights on abortion that appears in the report, Donohue said. Her comment about Peruvian and Nicaraguan bishops who work against abortion “dovetails exactly” with the report.

Donohue, citing the rules governing treaty body members, said members of committees are required to be and to appear “independent and impartial.” They should avoid any real or apparent bias against states. They should “neither seek nor accept instructions from anyone concerning the performance of their duties.”

McGuire said the committee on the anti-torture convention meeting “should have been a routine country review of the Holy See.”

“That the abortion lobby does not protect the interests of women or children is not news,” she said. “But the fact that they are sending representatives to attack the Church at the U.N. in Geneva shows their extremism and how far they are willing to go.”

“The Church continues to need the laity, especially women, to stand up and defend the Church and explain to the world the truth about abortion hurting women and children.”

On May 2, ahead of the committee hearings, Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office, praised the principles of the anti-torture convention. However, he also warned against NGO pressure groups with a “strong ideological character and orientation” that are attempting to influence both the U.N. committee and public opinion.

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'Love transforms everything,' Pope tells sick, disabled

Vatican City, May 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis met with nearly 5,000 members of apostolates dedicated to the sick and suffering on Saturday, encouraging them to live lives transformed by love and to support others who suffer.

“Jesus teaches us to live the pain by accepting the reality of life with trust and hope, bringing the love of God and neighbor, even in suffering: and love transforms everything,” the pontiff told the members of the Apostolate of the Suffering and the Silent Workers of the Cross on May 17.

Pope Francis met with the members of the associations in the Paul VI audience hall. An estimated 350 attendees were in wheelchairs.

The Silent Workers of the Cross is an association of priests and consecrated persons who work with the suffering members of the Apostolate.

The two associations were founded by Blessed Luigi Novarese, a priest, in the second half of the 20th century to offer persons suffering with illness or disability an opportunity to participate in the work of evangelization. Fr. Luigi was beatified May 11, 2013.

Pope Francis described him as “a priest in love with Christ and with the Church and a zealous apostle of the sick.”

The Holy Father then reflected on one of the beatitudes of Jesus, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

“With this prophetic word, Jesus refers to a condition of life on earth, from which no one is spared. There are those who mourn because they are not healthy, those who mourn because they are alone and misunderstood.”

Although “the reasons for suffering are many,” Christ understands them all, the Pope stressed.

“He gathered human suffering and assumed them in his flesh, he lived them profoundly, one by one. He knew every type of affliction, moral and physical: he experienced hunger and fatigue, the bitterness of misunderstanding, he was betrayed and abandoned, flagellated and crucified.”

Pope Francis emphasized that Jesus did not teach that suffering itself was good, but rather demonstrated how to live suffering in a positive way.

“By saying ‘blessed are those who mourn,’ Jesus does not intend to declare an unfortunate and burdensome condition in life to be happy. Suffering is not a value in itself, but a reality that Jesus teaches us to live with the correct attitude.”

The Pope encouraged those present to take up this transformative attitude in their own lives.

“Your sufferings, like the wounds of Jesus, on the one hand are scandal for the faith but on the other hand are the verification of the faith, a sign that God is love, is faithful, is merciful, is (the) consoler.”

Pope Francis said this positive attitude towards suffering was lived and taught by Blessed Luigi Novarese, who believed in “educating the sick and the disabled to value their suffering through apostolic action, carried out with faith and love for others.”

“He would always say: ‘The sick must feel that they are the authors of their own apostolate,’” recounted the pontiff. “A sick person, a disabled person can become support and light for other people who suffer, in this way transforming the environment in which he lives.”

Pope Francis urged the sick and disabled to give witness to the example of Christ in their own lives. “With this charism, you are a gift to the Church,” he said.

“I encourage you to be close to the suffering of your parishes as witnesses to the Resurrection. This way, you will enrich the Church and collaborate with the mission of pastors, praying and offering your suffering even for them. I thank you very much for this!”

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