Archive of May 22, 2014

Vatican newspaper gives voice to women in the Church

Rome, Italy, May 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The co-founder of a monthly insert on women's issues in the Vatican newspaper says its pages offer a valuable platform for female perspectives in the Church.

“The monthly insert was created to give a voice to the many women who work in the Catholic Church and are unknown…we would like them to become known and above all, allow them to be heard,” Lucetta Scaraffia told CNA on April 7.

The professor of contemporary history at Rome's Sapienza University co-founded the L'Osservatore Romano's “Women, Church, World” insert in the summer of 2012, along with another laywoman, Italian journalist Ritanna Armeni.

Both women and men who are interested in women's issues write for the four-page insert, covering topics ranging from missionary efforts in developing nations to questions regarding women in government positions. In January of 2014, the insert began to include a page dedicated entirely to the “theology of women,” as a response to Pope Francis' call to develop this area.

“The goal of this monthly insert is that which involves women in the whole world. We search to broaden our collaborators and also to make inquiries and involve women who belong to the Church,” explained Scaraffia.

The global reach of the insert appears to be effective. “(From) outside of Italy we have received many letters, as well as proposals for collaboration – even from missionaries, from women coming from the rest of the world, and also from men writing to us with proposals for articles, asking or suggesting that we interview someone.”

One page of the insert always includes an interview with “a woman in the Catholic world whom we consider important,” noted Scaraffia. “This is not to say that she assumes a role of power,” but rather one “that has significance in the life of the Church.”

And what is the most significant issue for women in the Church today?

“I think that the most important issue for women who are in the Catholic Church is that of making themselves heard, of being heard,” Scaraffia said.

Despite the wide array of talents displayed by women in the Church, the professor of history feels that many members of the hierarchy have a long way to go in understanding how much women have to contribute. Thus she believes that it “serves the Church to listen to the words of women, the experience of women, the proposals of women.”

Scaraffia noted that recent popes have led the way in hearing the voices of women, both personally and sometimes on a more institutional level.

John Paul II is widely known for being the first Pope to dedicate a formal document to the consideration of women.

His apostolic exhortation, “Mulieris Dignitatem,” “revealed all the richness and potential richness of women in the life of the Church, and therefore recognized the necessity of their presence,” remarked Scaraffia.

She described “Mulieris Dignitatem” as “a document that gives the theoretical foundation for a catholic feminism to the women of today…a feminism in which women do not repudiate motherhood but assume it as an important value to defend and claim.”

John Paul II, who once referred to himself as “the feminist Pope,” had women collaborators. “He wasn’t afraid of women – he made friends with them, he knew them, he embraced them.”

The current Pope also displays a desire to have women visibly present in the Church, noted Scaraffia.

She referred to Pope Francis touching specifically on the problem of women experiencing being outside of decision-making roles. The Pope, she added, “has also said that frequently for women, service is confused with servitude.” Just a year into his pontificate, he has begun to appoint women to Vatican commissions which Scaraffia sees as a “very strong signal.”

But the women's insert in L'Osservatore Romano ultimately owes its existence to Francis' predecessor, retired pontiff Benedict XVI.

“Benedict XVI had a great esteem for women and he wanted women to assimilate themselves into the life of the Church. In fact it was he who asked the director of L’Osservatore Romano to make sure that women were written about” in the newspaper, Scaraffia recounted.

“I began to write thanks to Benedict XVI, and also ‘Women, Church, World’ was born thanks to Benedict XVI who had immediately agreed to do it – he was very happy to do so.”

The professor of contemporary history knew the retired pontiff personally and describes him as “a very sweet man, incredibly spiritual and he had an absolute and total respect in his relationships with women.”

Unlike some prelates who take on “a kind of paternalistic rapport” with women, as if they were “a little inferior,” Benedict XVI “rather, did not. He had a great respect for women, great gentleness.”

“He was an exquisite man and I have a great memory of him,” she concluded.

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Archbishop: Europe’s governments ignore attacks on Christians

Einsiedeln, Switzerland, May 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - European governments and politicians have failed to properly address increasing attacks on Christians, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein said during a talk at a pilgrimage in Switzerland on Sunday.

“Only a few member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe report about cases against Christians within their borders, while discrimination against other social groups are regularly reported,” the prefect of the Papal Household said May 18 at Einsiedeln territorial abbey, according to Korazym’s Rocio Franch.

The pilgrimage to the Benedictine abbey was organized by the Swiss branch of Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity, and attended by at least 600 persons. After his address, Archbishop Gaenswein said Mass, together with Abbot Urban Federer and Bishop Peter Henrici, an emeritus auxiliary of the Chur diocese.

The archbishop noted that the OSCE’s report on hate crimes makes it clear that Christians “are often a target” of hate crimes; he also referred to a 2012 report of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe, which found that of 285 crimes against religion reported in Sweden, 250 were committed against Christians.

He also mentioned acts of vandalism against Christian churches and symbols in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Hungary, and workplace discrimination in the U.K. and Norway against Christians.

Archbishop Gaenswein said that Islamophobic and anti-Semitic acts are “justly denounced by media and politicians” in Europe.

Yet such reactions do not occur when Christian symbols are subject to mockery or blasphemous satire in the public arena, he said, adding that this is something “inconceivable” with respect to other groups.

Archbishop Gaenswein lamented that a radical and “militant secularity” has developed in Europe, one which aims “to silence Christians” and “to marginalize religion, and the family as the foundation of society, which is one of the foremost concerns of the Church.”

He urged that Europe modify its understanding of tolerance, becoming “more sensitive to and appreciate of various religions.”

“Europe cannot survive if we sever its Christian roots, which are its soul.”

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Dominicans turn to music, rosary to evangelize in DC

Baltimore, Md., May 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Music and the distribution of rosaries provided an opportunity to spread the Gospel for a group of Dominicans in the heart of the nation’s capital.

“Music is such a beautiful expression of Gospel joy that it just ‘clicks’ for people,” Brother Gregory Pine, O.P., told CNA, explaining that the music is a way of “re-presenting the attractiveness of the Gospel in another medium.”

“That attraction is just the beginning of a relationship, a dialogue, that pleases God,” he continued.

Br. Gregory was part of a group of Dominican sisters, brothers and priests who took to the streets of downtown Washington, D.C., on May 17 to evangelize and spread the Easter message.

While downtown, the Dominicans sang Marian and Easter hymns, along with bluegrass and spirituals. They reached out to involve those passing by, adding names of people on the street to the song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” and enlisting help from onlookers in singing “Lean on Me” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

The religious brothers and sisters also greeted people walking by, offering rosaries, pamphlets on Marian devotion, and an opportunity to pray and talk more about the Catholic faith. Priests were also available to give blessings.

“People just want joy, they want to smile,” said Sr. Teresa Christi Balek, O.P., who added that “the witness of the joy of the music” is a powerful tool for spreading the Gospel.

Handing out rosaries also prompted conversations about Mary and Christ, she said. While on the streets, Sr. Teresa was joined by Br. Athanasius Murphy, O.P., in speaking to a handful of young Muslim men about Mary, discussing the respect for Christ’s mother present in Islam and Christianity, along with similarities and differences between the two faiths. They also prayed with the young men.

While it was Br. Norbert Keliher’s “first time out” evangelizing in the streets, he said the presence of music and the rosary provided a “doorway for evangelization.”

“People were interested in the singing,” he said, adding that “I didn’t have to sell anything,” but instead was able to have natural conversations about Mary and the Gospels. Br. Norbert added that most people he spoke to “also took rosaries.”

Br. Gregory commented that while the “strangeness of people congregating in strange dress, singing” garnered attention, the Dominican’s choice of song and interest in speaking to people was “received as an invitation,” especially as an invitation to join the brothers and sisters in prayer.

“People, I find, are very willing to share their needs with you,” he said.

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Children's lives worth more than pets, Chilean cardinal tells president

Santiago, Chile, May 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Amid efforts to legalize abortion in Chile, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago reminded President Michelle Bachelet of the intrinsic value of all human life.

Bachelet has announced her decision to push for the legalization of abortion in Chile, while at the same time calling for more “care, control and wellbeing” for pets.

“With all due respect for pets, I think the person and human life are worth much more than that,” Cardinal Ezzati said, according to local media.

Former president Sebastian Pinera said via Twitter that he agreed with Cardinal Ezzati and regretted that the Bachelet administration “seems more concerned about the wellbeing of pets than about the lives and dignity of unborn children.”

Currently, Chile has some of the world’s most pro-life laws. Abortion has been illegal in the country since 1989, making it one of the few countries in the world where the practice is completely outlawed.

However, government officials have recently announced efforts to legalize the practice.

Claudia Pascal, minister of the National Service for Women, said that the goal is “a sexual and reproductive rights law that guarantees autonomy for both men and women over their decisions and access to sexual and reproductive health in our country.”

The first step, she told reporters, is to legalize abortion in cases of fetal inviability, rape or incest, and situations in which doctors say the mother’s life is in danger.

In an article published May 19, Elard Koch, director of the Molecular Epidemiology in Life Sciences Accountability, questioned the effect this would have on the well-being of women.

Koch noted that Chile is internationally recognized “as a country that protects maternity and infancy and that currently has the lowest maternal mortality rate in Latin America, followed on the American continent only by Canada.”

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Catholic scholar calls graduates to 'new moral movement'

Washington D.C., May 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Each human person bears the face of Christ and plays a unique role in history, said Catholic scholar Mary Eberstadt, calling a crowd of new college graduates to embrace Pope Francis’ desire for a “new moral movement.”

Noting Pope Francis’ call “to see in every individual before us the face of Jesus Christ or God,” she emphasized to the young men and women graduating that they “are more important than you know.”

An author and Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., Eberstadt has written numerous books and articles exploring topics including American culture, secularization, and the consequences of the sexual revolution.

On May 19, she delivered the commencement address to the 2014 graduates of the Catholic institution Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.

Monsignor C. Anthony Ziccardi, Vice President for Mission and Ministry at Seton Hall, told CNA that Eberstadt gave a “thoughtful and inspiring speech to the baccalaureate graduates.” In his introduction to her speech, he told graduates that she would “not fail to inspire us all to dedicate ourselves more fully to the intelligent and moral shaping of our future.”

In her address, Eberstadt stressed the important place the graduates hold within their families, as well as their important task as “ambassadors of the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to others.”

The 2014 graduates also have an important role to play in the communities they now join after graduation, especially in their call to “see God in every human being,” she said.

In addition, they are part of the broader American society, and have the possibility to contribute to diversity of thought, she added, warning that an “insidious new intolerance now snakes its way into classrooms, boardrooms, newsrooms, and other places vital to the exercise of free speech.”

“This new intolerance says we must have diversity in all things — except ideas. It says we must all march in ideological lockstep — or feel the snake bite, and be taken by ambulance from the public square.”

She encouraged the crowd to bear witness to the idea that “there is no wrong side of history. There is only the wrong side of truth.”

Continuing, Eberstadt said that most of all, the newly-minted graduates are more important than they know “because of this happy fact: the most underestimated force on the planet may be the power of example, including your own example.”

Centuries from now, she said, their example will inspire those who look up to them as “a coach, a teacher, a neighbor, a friend, a grandfather or grandmother, and much more.”

“The ripples of every human action fan out too broadly and in too many directions for our limited mortal eyes to track or map,” Eberstadt mused.

She told of a priest she knows who “once prayed on his knees in snow outside an abortion clinic,” inspiring a woman watching to cancel her abortion appointment, instead choosing to give birth to the child.

“All because she saw this stranger praying in the snow. That priest, like all of you, mattered more than he knew.”

Eberstadt encouraged the graduates to “defend the defenseless – the destitute, the castaways, the throwaways – against the powerful and predatory,” proclaiming “that human beings have human dignity and that yes, human dignity means that some things are beneath human beings,” pointing to slavery, the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria and the selective abortions of girls.

Defending human dignity means everything from speaking up on behalf of the unborn to “never, ever using the word ‘illegal’ as a noun to describe a human being,” she said.

“In standing up for truths like these, in protesting politely but forcefully on behalf of them, yours are absolutely vital voices in the years ahead.”

This recognition of human dignity and empathy for all is necessary for “the new moral movement that Pope Francis seems to be calling for between the lines of his speeches,” Eberstadt said.

“As graduates of a university that stands by all these things, as foot soldiers and officers in the making of this moral movement now being born, you can be proud of your work on its behalf for all time to come – just as your family and teachers and well-wishers everywhere will never forget how proud we all are of you today,” she stated.

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Pope's Holy Land visit sparks US call for dialogue

Washington D.C., May 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic and Eastern Orthodox leaders in the U.S. celebrated the closeness between the two churches, recommitting to continued dialogue as Pope Francis’ trip to the Holy Land approaches.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the U.S., in issuing a May 15 joint statement rejoicing in the “good fruit” that dialogue has yielded between the churches.  

“Meetings between Popes and Ecumenical Patriarchs and other contacts became more common,” they continued, noting their wish to “reaffirm the dialogue of love initiated by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras and to continue to strive to remove that which separates us.”

The statement came in advance of Pope Francis’ May 24-26 visit to the Holy Land. On May 25, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will meet in Jerusalem.

Archbishop Kurtz and Archbishop Demetrios reflected on the fruits of the 1964 meeting of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem.

During the 1964 meeting, the two Church leaders signed documents nullifying the 1054 A.D. excommunications between the churches and “swept aside centuries of hostility and embraced one another in the city where Christ was crucified and rose from the dead,” the archbishops said.

During the meeting, the Patriarch gifted the Pope with an episcopal pectoral icon and the Pope gave the Patriarch a chalice, a sign “that they were determined to work for the victory of love over enmity, of communion over division.”

This monumental meeting “led to the establishment of an international theological dialogue between the two churches,” Archbishop Kurtz and Archbishop Demetrios explained.  

In the United States and Canada, this dialogue has resulted in a theological consultation between the two Churches, which “has issued 30 agreed statements over the years, carefully examining the issues that still divide us and proposing ways to resolve them.”

The two leaders praised the work of the North American dialogue in the 49 years since its inception.

They voiced hope that the Pope’s meeting with the Patriarch may be an opportunity “to speak with one voice on the pressing issues that our society faces today.”

“We commit ourselves to increased cooperation in these areas, including social, economic, and ethical dilemmas,” said Archbishop Kurtz and Archbishop Demetrios, calling Catholics and Orthodox to “pray for the success of the upcoming meeting between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem for the glory of God and the promotion of Christianity in our wounded world.”

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Remain in God's love, Pope Francis encourages faithful

Vatican City, May 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis has especially encouraged Christians to “remain in the love of God” in a Thursday reflection on the three “key words” of Jesus: peace, love and joy.
“The Christian vocation is this: to remain in the love of God, that is, to breathe, to live of that oxygen, to live of that air,” the Pope said May 22 in his homily to those gathered for Thursday Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

Jesus' love, he noted, is “a love that comes from the Father.”

“The loving relationship between Him and the Father is also a relationship of love between Him and us. He asks us to remain in this love, which comes from the Father,” the Pope said.

He focused on Jesus’ exhortation from the Gospel of John, “remain in my love.” The sign of remaining in this love is “keeping the commandments.”

“When we remain in love,” the pontiff said, “the Commandments follow on their own, out of love.”

Love “leads us to naturally fulfill the Commandments. The root of love blossoms in the Commandments.”

On the topic of peace, Pope Francis noted that Jesus said that he does not give peace “in the same way as the world gives it to us.” Rather, he gives it “forever.”

The Pope also emphasized that joy is “the sign of the Christian.”

“A Christian without joy is either not a Christian or he is sick. There's no other type!” he told the Casa Santa Marta congregation.

“A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian,” he said, repeating his previous criticisms of Christians with “faces like pickled peppers” and long faces.

“A Christian without joy is not Christian. Joy is like the seal of a Christian. Even in pain, tribulations, even in persecutions,” he added.

He noted the joy of the early martyrs who were said to have gone to their martyrdoms “as if going to a wedding feast.”

Pope Francis stressed that the Holy Spirit gives Christians joy. Asking the congregation how many people prayed to the Holy Spirit, he characterized the Third Person of the Trinity as “the great forgotten in our lives.”

“He is the gift, the gift that gives us peace, that teaches us to love and fills us with joy.”

Pope Francis' homily comes ahead of his trip to the Holy Land, which begins on Saturday.

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Search begins for Cardinal George's successor

Chicago, Ill., May 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The initial stages have started in the search to replace Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who is fighting cancer for the third time, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, papal nuncio to the U.S., told Cardinal George that the consultation process has begun, the publication reported May 22. It is expected that the process will be finished in late fall.

In March, Cardinal George revealed that after more than a year of dormancy, the cancer in his right kidney was “showing signs of new activity.”

He made the announcement in a column for archdiocesan newspaper the Catholic New World, explaining that after numerous tests, he would be entering aggressive chemotherapy over the next two months. Still he said, “this is a difficult form of the disease, and it will most probably eventually be the cause of my death.”

During an April 11 press conference, the cardinal announced that he had asked the nuncio to start the process of looking for his successor, the Catholic New World reported.

He explained at the time that “it’s just not fair to the archdiocese to have someone who may not be able to do the job as well as I believe it should be done.”

The cardinal submitted his resignation two years ago, when he turned 75, as is required by Canon Law. As of March, he said that he had not received a response from the Pope. However, he cautioned that due to his cancer treatments, he may not be as active in the archdiocese as he would like to be.

The 77-year-old cardinal has faced cancer twice before. After being diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2006, he underwent a five-hour operation to remove his bladder, prostate gland and sections of his ureters, the tubes which connect the kidneys to the bladder. In August 2012, cancerous cells were discovered in his kidney and in a nodule that was removed from his liver. He underwent chemotherapy, and the cancer cells in his kidney became dormant.

Cardinal George was born in Chicago on Jan. 16, 1937 and is the first native of Chicago to become archbishop of the city. Pope John Paul II named him Bishop of Yakima in Washington State in 1990. After serving for five years, he was appointed archbishop of Portland, Oregon, on April 30, 1996.

Less than a year later, on April 8, 1997, Pope John Paul II named him the eighth Archbishop of Chicago after the See had fallen vacant with the death of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin on Nov. 14, 1996.

The process for choosing a new bishop involves a consultation of priests, laity and religious to examine the state and needs of the diocese. Recommendations are made by the papal nuncio and by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. The final decision is made by the Pope.


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Christian woman in shackles after 'apostasy' death sentence

Washington D.C., May 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Protest is mounting in the case of a pregnant Christian woman who faces a death sentence in Sudan for not renouncing her faith, as her husband recently found her shackled to the wall of her cell.

U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) wrote a May 16 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking that he give “full attention to the outrageous Sudanese court ruling that sentenced Meriam Yaha Ibrahim Ishag to death by hanging for her religious beliefs.”

They urged “full diplomatic engagement” to secure the release of her and her son and to offer her political asylum.

Daniel Wani, a Christian and U.S. citizen, was not able to visit his wife Meriam until this week, according to Tina Ramirez, executive director of the U.S.-based religious freedom group Hardwired.

“Once he was able to, she was shackled and her legs were swollen,” Ramirez told Fox News.

Ibrahim, 26, is eight months pregnant. She is imprisoned with her 18-month-old son in a Sudanese jail after a May 15 court ruling convicted her of apostasy from Islam and adultery.

She is recognized as Muslim under Sudanese law because her father was Muslim. However, she was raised as a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother after her father abandoned the family. She was convicted of adultery because the law does not recognize marriages between Muslim women and Christian men.

Ibrahim rejected the charges and refused to renounce her faith, telling the court, “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.”

According to reports, members of her father’s family reported her to authorities, claiming she had changed her name. They submitted documents they said proved she had been Muslim from birth.

Ibrahim’s attorneys, who are appealing the sentence, said the documents are forgeries.

Wani cannot have custody of his son because the boy is considered a Muslim and is not allowed to be in the custody of a Christian man.

The married couple has several businesses, including a farm, south of Khartoum. Wani has returned to Sudan from New Hampshire, where his brother Gabriel Wani also lives.

“I’m just praying for God. He can do a miracle,” Gabriel Wani told the New Hampshire news station WMUR. “Everyone is depressed. You don’t believe it. It’s shock.”

Ibrahim’s death sentence will not be carried out until she gives birth and finishes nursing her baby.

Her conviction has caused international outcry.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson on May 15 said the State Department is “deeply disturbed” by the death sentence. It urged the Sudanese government to “respect the right to religious freedom.”

“We call on the Sudanese legal authorities to approach this case with the compassion that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people,” the spokesperson said.

Numerous lawmakers and human rights advocates have called for greater action by the U.S. government and international bodies.

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a co-chair of the U.S. Congress’ International Religious Freedom Caucus, called on the State Department to express to the Sudanese government that such a human rights violation “will be taken extremely seriously” and that Sudan must follow its obligations under international treaties.

“Such blatant disregard for the value of human life – and religious freedom – is an indescribable disgrace,” he said May 15.

Senators Ayotte and Blunt asked Kerry and President Obama to reappoint an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, saying this position’s primary purpose is to “monitor, prevent, and respond to this exact type of incident.” The ambassador position has been vacant since October 2013, when the previous ambassador stepped down.

A petition from the American Center for Law and Justice’s Be Heard Project calling for Ibrahim’s release has gathered over 200,000 signatures.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a body that advises the U.S. government, strongly condemned the death sentence and called for Ibrahim’s immediate release.

“This case and the sentencing are a travesty for religious freedom and human rights in Sudan,” commission chairman Robert P. George said May 16.

“International attention to this case is critical to holding the Sudanese government accountable for its constitutional provisions and international commitments to protect and respect freedom of religion or belief not only for Mrs. Ibrahim, but all Sudanese, regardless of faith,” he stressed.

Since 1999, the U.S. State Department has agreed with the commission’s recommended designation of Sudan as a “country of particular concern” on religious freedom issues.

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), a co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, condemned the “draconian” sentence against the woman. He asked President Obama to appeal for Ibrahim’s release and offer her “safe haven.”

“The clock is ticking,” he stressed.


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Mongolian bishop details steady growth of local Church

Ulan Bator, Mongolia, May 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, prefect of Ulaanbaatar – the local Church covering all of Mongolia – spoke with Aid to the Church in Need earlier this month about the Church's growth in the country.

“We started from scratch,” the bishop told the international Catholic charity, describing the return of Catholic missionaries to the nation after the fall of communism.

“The first Holy Masses were read in a hotel. After that we rented apartments and forged initial links with believers through international organizations and embassies.”

The first modern mission to Mongolia had been established in 1922, but under a communist government religious expression was soon thereafter suppressed, until 1992.

When the democratically elected government invited the Church back to Mongolia, then-Fr. Padilla was accompanied there by two other priests of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Ten years later, the Ulaanbaatar mission was elevated to a prefecture apostolic, and Fr. Padilla, who was its superior, was appointed prefect. At that time, there were 114 Catholics in the country.

That figure has slowly, but steadily grown; Bishop Padilla reported that there are now 960 Catholics in the country, while Sister Sandra Garay, a member of the Consolata Missionaries who is serving there, put the figure at 1,200 in an August 2013 interview with CNA.

A little over half Mongolia's population is Buddhist, and most of the remainder is non-religious. Islam, shamanism, and Christianity – primarily Protestantism – have mere footholds among the people.

Buddhism has come to be seen as a part of Mongolian identity, with other religions regarded as foreign.
Minors under the age of 16 can only participate in catechesis with the written consent of their parents, priests cannot be identifiable as such in public, and Christian profession is allowed only on Church premises.

“Mongolia is in a state of upheaval,” Bishop Padilla said. “People are becoming settled and no longer live as nomads. Then there is a growing materialism; many are turning away again from the faith.”

And yet, he added, “since the end of communist rule people have basically opened up to the faith … certainly a lot depends on the dedication of the missionaries, but evangelization has many facets.
Whatever we do, social work, education, humanitarian aid, it all has an impact on society.”

The prefecture apostolic has four parishes, as well as schools and social facilities, “which are expressly desired by the state,” Aid to the Church in Need wrote.

The Church encounters tremendous challenges there – a nation covered by steppes which experience frigid winters, during which temperatures drop to as low as -22 Fahrenheit. Nearly half the country's people live in Ulaanbaatar, and many of the rest are nomadic.

The Church in Mongolia currently has 20 priests, two monks, and 49 nuns serving there, from 12 religious congregations.

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