Rome, Italy, May 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Abraham Skorka, an Argentine rabbi who has long been a friend of Pope Francis, has told a Jesuit magazine of the background of their upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which will occur May 24-26.
“We dreamt of being together in front of the Western Wall of the Temple of Jerusalem and to embrace … and that I would accompany him to Bethlehem, to be on his side in such a meaningful moment for him,” Skorka told Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of La Civilta Cattolica, in an interview published May 17.
Pope Francis will be joined in his Holy Land trip by Skorka as well as by Omar Abboud, a sheikh from Buenos Aires.
Skorka and the Pope discussed the possibility of such a trip at their first lunch after Bergoglio’s election as Bishop of Rome.
The two have wanted to underscore their special friendship as a sign that dialogue between religions is possible.
“When Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope, it was clear to me that our friendship had to become public,” Skorka told La Civilta Cattolica. “It was needed, after centuries of discord between Jews and Christians, and because conflict too often wins out over dialogue.”
Before their June 13 lunch, Skorka and Pope Francis recorded a joint message for an Israeli TV broadcast. “It was very short, but very meaningful,” Skorka recounted, saying that they expressed that their friendship and dialogue is a sign that Rome and Jerusalem can find peace with each other.
Their joint message “considerably grabbed the attention of the Israeli population; particularly Jews,” the rabbi said.
Skorka’s dialogue with Bergoglio during his pontificate has developed on two other occasions, as well.
He was in Rome Sept. 25 – Oct. 2, living in the Domus Sanctae Marthae and dining daily with Pope Francis.
“We spoke continuously about the relations between Judaism and Christianity,” he said. “How could we deepen the dialogue? What should the next step be? And we spoke about the opening of Pius XII’s archives, the crisis of current society and how to face it, the trip to Israel … it was a special period.”
They met again in January, when Skorka visited Rome with a delegation of Jews from Argentina, speaking of their joint commitment to peace in the Middle East.
“Pope Francis can focus his efforts on this goal,” Skorka said, because as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict draws “special attention”, its “worthy and just conclusion would work as a paradigm for the resolution of other conflicts” in the world.
In their meetings together, Skorka and Pope Francis have also discussed about how to foster relations between Catholicism and Judaism, he said.
“During my second visit to the Vatican, I asked Pope Francis what should be, in his view, the next step of Jewish-Catholic dialogue. He promptly responded: ‘Theological.’”
Such a terse response is typical of Pope Francis, the rabbi said.
“Given his Jesuit formation, he responded to my question, and left in my hands the development of the response.”
When Skorka asked what he ought to read, Pope Francis gave him two recommendations: “The Promise,” by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, who was Archbishop of Paris from 1981 to 2005; and “Two Roads, One Redemption,” by Yoel Ben Arye.
“Bergoglio sees and feels Judaism as the mother of his faith,” Skorka said. “It is not a mere intellectual perception: it is a sentiment which constitutes an important part of his personal faith.”
New Delhi, India, May 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholic bishops in India have said they have nothing to fear from the country's new government following the landside success of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies.
“It is true that sometimes small groups of fanatics can give us concern, but the Church will continue in its mission to pray for the new government and contribute to the common good of the nation, supporting democracy, respect for pluralism, the rights of all and a secular concept in the political agenda,” Archbishop Albert D'Souza of Agra, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, told Fides news agency.
He said the elections were “a great test of democracy” and their result “highlights a strong government that will lead India into a new phase of economic development and progress, observing and ensuring democratic and constitutional values.”
Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar, in central Madhya Pradesh state, was also confident. “I believe that the Catholic Church will have nothing to fear from the new government.”
In the national elections concluding May 12, the National Democratic Alliance, led by the BJP, won over 330 seats of the 543 in India's lower house of Parliament, a decisive victory over the ruling Indian National Congress party. Over 500 million ballots were cast, with voter turnout estimated at 66 percent, Reuters reports.
Key issues in the elections included corruption, economic issues, women's safety, and national security.
Narendra Modi, the BJP candidate for prime minister, has been associated with economic prosperity but he is also accused of failing to stop anti-Muslim rioting in Gujarat, where he is chief minister.
In the late 2000s, BJP members and party leaders in northeastern Orissa state also faced accusations of enabling the persecution of Christians.
Bishop Chirayath said that India has a heritage of ancient cultures, traditions and religions that “no government can damage.”
“Christians are part of all this and are proud. It is true that small extremist groups sometimes use violence against Christians: but are deviations which do not alter the reality of a nation that is democratic and tolerant and has a long tradition of harmony between different, ethnic, cultural and religious component.”
He said that the Church in his BJP-governed state has good relations with local political leaders and many Hindu children attend Catholic schools.
“There is no animosity, but only friendship.”
Bishop Stanley Roman of Quilon in Kerala state, where the Christian presence dates back to the apostle Thomas, said that minorities like Muslims and Christians are an “integral part” of India.
“Minorities are protected by the Constitution, I believe that the new government cannot and will not want to go against the Constitution. As Christians we are confident,” Bishop Roman told Fides.
The Global Council of Indian Christians stressed the importance of limiting “the violent action of Hindu extremist groups.”
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, congratulated the BJP on its “convincing victory.”
“We hope and wish that the new government will continue to uphold the eternal values, secularism and principles of democracy to lead the nation on the path of development,” he said on behalf of the bishops’ conference May 18.
The bishops noted the new government’s responsibility to ensure the security of minority groups and to show “special consideration” towards the country’s weaker sections, the Times of India reports.
“The Catholic Church in India will continue to extend its creative support to the activities of the government in the process of nation building,” the cardinal said.
The bishops encouraged the Indian National Congress party to learn from experience and to act as “a creative force in the opposition.”
Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, the party’s campaign leader, both offered their resignations after the defeat, though party leaders rejected the offer unanimously, the BBC reports.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay, also congratulated the BJP on its victory. He prayed that God will bless the government with “wisdom, courage and selflessness” and that it will work for all people of India, especially the poor, the marginalized and minorities.
“The Church will always continue to work for the welfare of our people,” the cardinal said.
Washington D.C., May 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A teenage girl whose family members were murdered by members of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram is sharing her story in hopes that it will spur action against the Nigerian terrorist organization.
“I was in shock. I didn’t know what was happening,” 15-year-old Deborah Peters said, growing visibly emotional as she recalled witnessing the murders of her father and brother at the hands of Boko Haram militants two and a half years ago.
Peters spoke May 13 at a discussion on Boko Haram hosted by Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute.
The event was held in Washington, D.C., amidst a rising interest in Boko Haram, whose name translates roughly as “Western education is sinful.” The group recently made international headlines when it abducted more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Northern Nigeria several weeks ago. Efforts are currently underway to find and rescue the girls.
Peters, a Chibok native, described the attack on her own family three days before Christmas in 2011. She and her brother were at home when they heard shooting outside in the town. Three men knocked on the door, asking for her father, who was a Christian pastor at a nearby church. The church building had been destroyed several weeks before, but Peters said her father “didn’t give up” and had worked to rebuild it, drawing the animosity of Boko Haram.
The men “told him that he should deny his faith,” Peters said, explaining that her father “told them that he can’t deny his faith, so they told him that they were going to kill him if he didn’t.”
“But he told them that he should rather die than to go to hellfire,” she said. “So my dad refused to deny his faith, and then they shot him three times in his chest.”
The three men then discussed whether or not they should kill her brother as well. One of the men suggested that they should spare his life, because he was young, but the others decided he might “grow up and become a pastor” like his father.
Consequently, the men also shot Peters’ brother three times and restrained her, eventually leaving her in shock with the dead bodies.
After the murders of her father and brother, Peters tried to come to the United States. Initially, the State Department denied her visa because of her lack of relatives in the country. However, she has since gained a visa and is currently attending school in the U.S.
Peters said that she “wanted to help other people with what was happening in Nigeria” and hoped that by sharing her story, she could inspire others to “stand strong” against the violence in her home country.
Joining Peters at the Hudson Institute discussion was Emmanuel Ogebe, an international human rights lawyer and U.S.-Nigerian relations expert.
Ogebe warned that Boko Haram is the “second most deadly terrorist group in the world,” after al-Qaeda, and said that the group seems to be intensifying its attacks.
“In the past they were attacking empty schools,” Ogebe said, adding that the group acted as “gentlemen terrorists” and spared the elderly, women and children.
Recently, however, “the terrorist group is more energized,” he said, speculating that the militants, encouraged by the media attention their crimes have attracted, will continue to commit acts of violence that gain high levels of attention and outcry.
Ogebe also called for a greater response from the international community, pointing out that Boko Haram has been carrying out attacks for months without ceasing, yet Nigeria has only recently received international attention and aid.
Boko Haram’s attacks have killed thousands since 2009; human rights groups estimate they have killed more than 1,500 in 2014 alone. The U.N. estimates that the attacks have led to more than 470,000 internally displaced persons in Nigeria.
The U.S. government has come under fire in recent years for its treatment of Boko Haram. The U.S. State Department designated the group as a “foreign terrorist organization” in November 2013, only after a lengthy campaign from human rights and religious freedom groups calling for the designation years earlier.
In addition, critics argue that the Obama administration has downplayed the religious ideology driving Boko Haram and instead classified the group as being composed of rebels or individuals acting out against poverty.
“These are not rebels. They are anarchists, jihadists,” Ogebe emphasized. “We do not have a cure for extreme fanatical Islamism. Containment, not appeasement, is the solution.”
Boko Haram will continue to act until they have achieved their goals for Africa, which include “an Islamist theocracy over northern Nigeria,” he warned.
“You cannot achieve that when the population is 50 percent Christian. You cannot achieve that without massive genocide.”
He added that “they want a very extreme version of Shariah law. They want public beheadings in a stadium where people can gather. They don’t want the process with a court and trials – that is too slow and boring.”
Ogebe emphasized that when dealing with Boko Haram, the conflict “must first be properly framed in the lens of global jihad.”
“We were facing an administration that was denying the religious discrimination of Christians in Nigeria,” he said, commenting on his reason for speaking out on the topic.
“We wanted to put a face to the atrocities that were going on in Nigeria.”
Vatican City, May 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his daily homily Pope Francis cautioned attendees not to place their security in the worldly peace of wealth, vanity or power, but rather in that offered by Jesus, which is the only one that lasts.
“Money does not give you a definitive peace. Just think, metal also rusts! What does it mean? A stock market crash and all your money is gone! It is not a secure peace: It is a superficial temporal peace,” the Pope explained in his May 20 homily.
Centering his reflections on the Gospel, taken from John, in which Jesus speaks of his coming passion and death, the pontiff drew the attention of those gathered in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse to Jesus’ words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”
The peace that the world gives is completely different from that of Jesus, the Pope noted, because “it is somewhat superficial” and may offer a “degree of calm, even a certain joy,” but only “up to a certain point.”
“For example, it offers us the peace of wealth: ‘I am at peace because I have everything I need, everything organized for my whole life, I do not have to worry,’” he continued, adding “this is a peace that the world gives.”
“Do not worry, you won’t have any problems because you have so much money ... the peace of wealth.”
However Jesus warns us “not to trust this peace,” the Roman Pontiff observed, recalling that “with great realism he tells us: ‘Look, there are thieves ... thieves can steal your wealth!’ Money does not give you a definitive peace.”
Going on, the Bishop of Rome pointed out that there is another worldly peace which is that of “power,” but that this also fails to satisfy because “a coup can take it away” at any moment.
Recalling what happened to the “peace of Herod” when the Magi told him about the birth of Jesus, the King of Israel, the pontiff explained that when he heard the news “that peace vanished immediately.”
Also drawing attention the false peace that arises out of vanity, which he referred to as a “peace of conjecture,” Pope Francis said that it too falls short of true peace because one day you can be praised and loved and the next rejected, “like Jesus between Palm Sunday and Good Friday.”
But the peace that the Lord gives is totally different because “the peace of Jesus is a Person, the Holy Spirit!”
“On the same day of the Resurrection, He comes to the Upper Room and His greeting is: ‘Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit,’” the Pope went on, stating, “This is the peace of Jesus: it is a Person, it is a great gift.”
“And when the Holy Spirit is in our hearts, no one can remove His peace. No one! It is a definitive peace!”
“So what is our task?” he asked, explaining that it is “to custody this peace. Safeguard it!” because “it is a great peace, a peace that is not mine, is belongs to another Person who gives it to me, another Person who is in my heart and accompanies me all the days of my life. The Lord has given it to me.”
Noting how we obtain this peace when we receive the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, the Roman Pontiff affirmed that we must welcome it “like a child who receives a gift…without conditions, with an open heart.”
Pope Francis cautioned attendees that we must safeguard the Holy Spirit without “imprisoning him,” and that if we truly “have this peace of the Spirit” and are aware of it, “let not your heart be troubled.”
“Be sure! Paul told us that we must first pass through many tribulations to enter the Kingdom of heaven,” the Pope continued, observing that “we all, all of us, we have so many, everyone!”
“Some bigger, some smaller…But ‘let not your heart be troubled,’ and this is the peace of Jesus.”
The pontiff concluded by reiterating how it is “the presence of the Spirit that makes our heart be at peace. Not anesthetized, no! At peace! Aware, but at peace with the peace that only God's presence gives.”
Juba, South Sudan, May 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Catholic religious congregations of South Sudan have urged their countrymen to reject violence, calling on the country’s leaders to honor the terms of a recent peace agreement.
“We say ‘No!’ to all kind of violence or whatever action that degrades human life and its dignity,” the religious congregations’ leaders said in a May 15 message. “Too much blood has been shed in this land. Too many lives have been lost. Too much destruction has taken place. We want peace, stability and development to all citizens of our young nation.”
Father Daniele Moschetti, a Comboni Missionary and chairman of the Religious Superiors’ Association of South Sudan, signed the message. The association represents 29 Catholic religious congregations who serve in Church schools, hospitals, parish pastoral work and missionary work.
South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, breaking from the Republic of Sudan eight years after the 2005 conclusion of a 20-year-long civil war. Violence in the new country broke out in mid-December 2013, intensifying a power struggle between forces loyal to South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and those allied behind former vice president Riek Machar.
Violence has continued in the country despite a peace accord signed May 9.
Thousands of people have been killed and more than 1 million have been displaced by the violence. Almost 5 million people are in severe need of humanitarian assistance, the British newspaper The Independent reports.
Fr. Moschetti said the religious leaders “wish to send a message of solidarity, peace and hope to the people of South Sudan in this time of crisis and violence.”
They voiced prayers for the victims of violence and support for the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their homes and are “still lacking what is basic for a decent life.”
Members of Catholic religious congregations have also been affected by the violence, especially in the towns and cities of Malakal, Leer, Ayod and Renk. Some suffered harassment, while others “narrowly escaped death” and had their homes, churches, hospitals and radio stations attacked, looted or destroyed. Clergy and other church staff have suffered similar injustices.
“I have witnessed the affliction of my people... and have heard their cry... I know well what they are suffering,” the religious congregation leaders said, quoting the Book of Exodus.
They condemned all violence and atrocities committed by government forces and rebel troops. They also rejected looting and the supplying of weapons for the violence.
“The blood of thousands of innocent people cries for justice,” Fr. Moschetti said. “We cannot remain indifferent to the cry of the poor and the innocent who have lost their lives or are going through deep suffering and pain.”
The message voiced appreciation and gratitude to churches and humanitarian agencies who are helping the afflicted. They also praised efforts to make peace and to secure access for humanitarian aid to those “desperately in need.”
The message called on President Kiir and Riek Machar to honor the peace agreement and to “seek sustainable peace and reconciliation through political dialogue,” while keeping their military forces “disciplined and under full control.”
“We remind all South Sudanese that God created people of every clan, tribe and nationality to live in peace, harmony and unity. We ask God to forgive our sins for the times we failed to live in peace and to heal our wounds and help us to be reconciled with one another,” the message said.
“Let us refrain from violence and seek justice, peace and reconciliation through the right channels and in a non-violent way”
The religious congregation leaders promised their full collaboration to help secure “justice, peace and true reconciliation,” asking God to bless South Sudan.
Washington D.C., May 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A survey of men to be ordained in the U.S. in 2014 shows a slightly younger ordination class, though the U.S. bishops still hope to increase the number of priests and specifically Hispanic priests.
“The number of new priests remains steady and the quality of the new priests is stellar. They have a solid educational background to minister in the contemporary U.S. Church,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said May 15.
“However, we need more priests and we need them especially from the Hispanic community,” the Raleigh, N.C., bishop said, according to the U.S. bishops’ conference reports.
Bishop Burbidge remarked upon a new survey from the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The center surveyed men set to be ordained, known as “ordinands,” in 2014. About 77 percent of the estimated 477 ordinands responded to the survey, representing 114 dioceses and archdioceses and 31 religious orders.
About 67 percent of the respondents said their primary race or ethnicity is “Caucasian / European American / White,” 15 percent said they are Hispanic or Latino, while 11 percent said they are Asian or Pacific Islander.
The U.S. bishops’ conference said that the percentage of Hispanic new priests represents about half of the Catholic Hispanic population, about 30 percent. However, a report on Hispanic ministry in Catholic parishes released earlier this month by Boston College and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate suggests that Hispanics make up 40 percent of Catholics in the U.S.
Bishop Burbidge said the U.S. bishops have made fostering more vocations to the priesthood, especially among Hispanic Catholics, their “top priorities.”
“We encourage all the faithful to pray for these special intentions,” he said.
The survey of 2014 ordinands found they have a median age of 32, a slight decrease from 2013. About 30 percent of the new priests were born outside of the U.S., with Mexico and Vietnam being most represented.
About 10 percent were converts to Catholicism, mainly from a Protestant tradition.
About half attended a Catholic elementary school, 41 percent attended a Catholic high school and 45 percent attended a Catholic college. Eighty percent served as an altar server and about half served as a lector. About 68 percent regularly prayed the rosary while 70 percent participated in Eucharistic adoration regularly before entering the seminary.
Ordinands said they first considered a vocation to the priesthood at the average age of 17. Seventy-one percent were encouraged in their vocations by a priest, and some were also encouraged by friends, parishioners and family.
Sixty percent said they had some type of full-time work experience before entering seminary, and about 54 percent finished college before entering.
Some 26 percent of ordinands had education debt when they entered seminary, with an average school debt of around $21,000.
Vatican City, May 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his address Monday at the opening of the Italian bishops’ general assembly – the first time a Pope has delivered the inaugural lecture – Pope Francis reflected on the nature of episcopal ministry.
The Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy began his May 19 talk at the Vatican’s Synod Hall by reflecting on Christ’s exhortation to St. Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, to “follow me,” saying, “this is important! It’s very important for us. I am always, always struck by this.”
The assembly, which will conclude May 23, is meeting to discuss amendments to their statutes, as Pope Francis has asked; guidelines for proclamation and catechesis in Italy; and Christian education.
The Pope did not refer to the discussion about amending the statutes of the conference, which is the only one in the world whose president is appointed by the Roman Pontiff rather than being elected by his peers.
“I would like to offer some reflections which review the ministry,” he told the bishops, “that it might conform always more to the will of he who has made us the leader of his Church.”
“The people look to us. They look to us for help in grasping the singularity of their daily lives in God's providential plan,” he said, exhorting the bishops to know both Christ and their flock.
He focused on being pastors of the Church in three respects: as the community of the Risen One; as the body of the Lord; and as the anticipation and promise of the Kingdom.
Pope Francis began, focusing on faith, asking the Italian bishops to reflect on Christ’s meaning in their life.
“Faith is the living memory of an encounter nurtured by the fire of the Word that shapes the ministry .. without faith, without constant prayer, the Pastor is exposed to the danger of being ashamed of the Gospel, and ends up defusing the scandal of the Cross in worldly wisdom.”
To counter the temptations in their ministry, he reminded them that “if we turn away from Jesus Christ … we can only feel the sterility of our words and initiatives.”
The spiritual life “cannot be reduced to some religious moments,” he said, but we must train ourselves to look “to the One who does not pass away: spirituality is a return to the essentials, to the good which no one can take away, the one thing that is necessary.”
“Do not grow tired of seeking for God – of being sought by him,” Pope Francis said, because “we are called to offer he who is most precious to our people, so as not to leave them at the mercy of a society of indifference, indeed desperation … following the path with him, we discover that we are a people, to the point of recognizing with wonder and gratitude that everything is grace, even the difficulties and contradictions of human life, if they are lived with a heart open to the Lord.”
Turning to the Church as the body of the Lord, he again mentioned the temptations against unity facing pastors, including a “tendency to seek the lost security of the past, and the claims of those who wish to defend unity by denying diversity, thus humiliating the gifts with which God continues to keep his Church young and beautiful.”
“The ecclesial experience is the best antidote in relation to these temptations,” said the Pope, noting its root in the unity of the Eucharist.
Pope Francis also exhorted the bishops to care for their priests, teaching them not to make a cost-benefit analysis in all they do, and for the religious.
Bishops should also love the faithful, he said, and “trust in their sense of faith and of the Church, which is manifest in many forms of popular piety. Have faith that the holy people of God has the pulse to find the right roads. Accompany with breadth the growth of lay coresponsibility; recognize areas of thought, planning and action for women and for youth.”
He quoted St. Therese of Lisieux, who said “love him and be loved.” This, he said, is the “core of the guidelines which proclamation and catechesis will face in these days.”
Addressing the bishops’ role as pastors of the Church as the anticipation and promise of the Kingdom, Pope Francis again mentioned the temptations facing them, including a spiritual sterility.
Counter to these temptations, “the Church is continually converted by the Kingdom it proclaims,” he said, and so “serving the Kingdom means living a life decentered from oneself, striving for the encounter that is the path for truly rediscovering what we are: proclaimers of the truth of Christ and his mercy.”
“Truth and mercy: do not divide them. Never!”
“Without truth, love is an empty box that anyone can fill according to his will,” he said, then quoting his predecessor Benedict XVI, who wrote in his 2009 encyclical “Caritas in veritate” that “a Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance.”
“With this clarity, brothers, may your proclamation be cadenced by the eloquence of gestures,” Pope Francis urged.
“As shepherds, live a simple life, poor and merciful, not putting anything between you and others.”
He said that “among the 'places' in which your presence seems to me to be most necessary and meaningful ... there is, first and foremost, the family. Nowadays, the domestic community is strongly penalized by a culture that privileges individual rights and transmits a logic of the temporary.”
“Promote the life of the unborn child as well as that of the elderly. ... And do not forget to tend, with the compassion of the Samaritan, to those who are injured in their affects and whose plans for life are compromised.”
Pope Francis then turned to the unemployed, calling it “a historic emergency, that appeals to the social responsibility of all: as a Church, let us not give in to catastrophism and resignation, instead supporting with every form of creative solidarity the efforts of those who, without work, feel deprived even of their dignity.”
“Finally, there is the welcoming embrace to migrants: they flee intolerance, persecution, a bleak future. May no one turn their gaze away.”
He also called attention to “the current model of development that exploits creation, sacrifices people at the altar of profit, and creates new forms of marginalization and exclusion,” calling on the bishops to be “attentive to and involved in” the situation.
Having said all that, he called on the bishops to a “communal discernment” throughout the coming year.
“Reach out toward whoever asks to reason for the hope that is in you: welcome their culture, offer them respectfully the memory of faith and the company of the Church, the signs of brotherhood, gratitude, and solidarity, that anticipate in man's days the reflections of the Sunday without end.”
London, England, May 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis on May 20 appointed Bishop Ralph Heskett of Gibraltar to become the next Bishop of Hallam in England’s South Yorkshire county.
Hallam’s retiring bishop John Anthony Rawsthorne commended him to the prayers of the faithful in a May 20 message posted to his diocese’s website.
“I have no doubt at all that you will welcome him with great warmth and will rejoice with me at his appointment,” said Bishop Rawsthorne.
Bishop Heskett was born in March 1953 in the northeast English city of Sunderland. He was ordained a priest in July 1976. He is a member of the Redemptorist religious congregation, which he has served as a local superior.
In addition to serving as a parish priest in Liverpool’s Parish of Our Lady of the Annunciation-Bishop Eton and in the South London parish St. Mary’s Clapham, he supervised the formation of Redemptorist postulants, preached parish missions and gave parish retreats.
He was ordained a bishop on July 10, 2010 for the Diocese of Gibraltar, the overseas U.K. territory at the western entrance to the Mediterranean. The predominantly Catholic island has a territory of less than three square miles.
The Diocese of Hallam has more than 60,000 Catholics out of a population of over 1.5 million people. The diocese has 61 priests, 14 permanent deacons and 56 vowed religious.
Bishop Rawsthorne, who is now 77, submitted his resignation upon reaching the age limit of 75 set by canon law. He had headed the Diocese of Hallam since 1997.
Rome, Italy, May 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The U.S. embassy to the Holy See has partnered with women religious in a new anti-human trafficking campaign being launched ahead of July's World Cup in Brazil.
“Combating this scourge is an important goal of both the United States and the Catholic Church,” U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Ken Hackett stated in comments read aloud by the embassy’s public affairs officer Antoinette Hurtado during a May 20 press conference.
“The U.S. Embassy is proud to be here today to support Talitha Kum’s campaign to combat trafficking of persons during this year’s World Cup.”
Announced during the press conference earlier this morning, the new campaign is entitled “Play for life, against trafficking,” and is being organized by the international organization Talitha Kum.
Meaning “little girl, arise,” Talitha Kum is an international network of consecrated women fighting against human trafficking at all levels, and has organized this campaign to mirror a 2010 initiative that was launched in South Africa with the same goals.
Continuing in his address, Hackett observed how both Pope Francis and U.S. officials have spoken out against the trafficking of persons, with the pontiff referring to it as “a crime against humanity” and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying that there is “no greater threat to human dignity…than the evil of human trafficking.”
Drawing attention to how the crime victimizes “as many as 27 million” people, the ambassador explained that “like so many other 21st century challenges,” the trafficking of persons “does not exist in a vacuum.”
“It is interconnected with so many of our other foreign-policy concerns, from environmental sustainability to advancing the lives of women and girls to combating transnational crime.”
Explaining how the U.S. Department of State works “hand-in-hand” with various other entities, both religious and non-religious, to free trafficked individuals, Hackett recalled a recent announcement by that the department will begin working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “in order to map and coordinate the church’s efforts on a global basis to combat this crime.”
“Recognizing the broad reach of the Catholic Church, we hope this partnership will be another method to share best practices and identify caregivers and advocates,” he went on.
“And we hope it will ramp up out capacity around the world to be able to identify victims and get them the help they need.”
Giving thanks to Sr. Estrella Castalone, who lives in Rome and is in charge of the international organization of the campaign, as well as the other sisters who are involved, the U.S. ambassador referred to them as “the unsung heroes of this work” who are “doing the most important job of directly aiding those most in need.”
In comments made to CNA during the May 20 conference, Sr. Castalone explained that the reason Talitha Kum chose the World Cup as an occasion to launch the campaign is that “there is a lot of human mobility during big events like this and the risk of trafficking becomes greater.”
So the main goals, she said, are “to raise the consciousness of many young people especially not to accept indiscriminately job offers,” and secondly to work so that there might “be less persons available in the sexual market.”
“What do we hope for? We hope that those who go to Brazil during the world cup will enjoy the games and nothing else. Not the sexual pressure, not the drugs that have been carried by trafficked young people.”
Noting how they are all for “the enjoyment of the games…that’s why the slogan says play football, in favor of life,” but “denounce trafficking,” Sr. Castalone emphasized that “practically that’s what we’re aiming at.”
“That the World Cup will be a matter of enjoying and promoting life and that trafficking would be put at the stall. We don’t know if it will be eradicated during the World Cup, but hopefully it will be stable.”