Archive of June 2, 2014

Faith can transform Colombia, cardinal says

Rome, Italy, Jun 2, 2014 (CNA) - As Colombians prepare for a second round of voting in presidential elections on June 15, Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota said that faith has the power to transform the nation.

“What is important is that Colombians discover the face of Christ, his love and his mercy.  That we adhere to him through faith and transform our personal lives, our families and society, and build a different country,” Cardinal Salazar told CNA.

The Colombian cardinal was in Rome as vice president of the Latin American Bishops' Council (CELAM) and had lunch with Pope Francis at St. Martha's Residence on May 27.

“The Pope encourages us to continuously seek after the Lord Jesus Christ, and to continuously reach out to others and go to the people most in need to bring the Gospel through the testimony of our lives,” he added.

With regards to the problems of corruption and drug trafficking that have afflicted Colombia for more than 50 years, Cardinal Salazar said that in order to attain a just society, the Church must continue proclaiming “the Gospel and the face of God.”

“When people discover Christ, they undoubtedly will no longer sacrifice everything for money, but instead will seek after justice, brotherhood, solidarity, and they will contribute to the building of a just society,” the cardinal continued.

“We continuously proclaim the need for honesty,” he said. “The Pope has said so clearly, that money definitely needs to be eradicated as the god of today's society, because all of this – drug trafficking, contraband, corruption – precisely comes from the problem of money converted into the ultimate idol.”

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Liberation theology 'archaic', says prominent Mexican bishop

Rome, Italy, Jun 2, 2014 (CNA) - While in Rome last week, the president of the Latin American Bishops’ Council said at a news conference that the Church in the region has fortunately moved beyond liberation theology.

“The relevant figures of liberation theology are all very elderly, and liberation theology as such, as the expression of what it was, is very archaic, if not already dead,” commented Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla May 27 at the offices of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

"There were efforts by some liberation theologians to clarify their theology,” he said. “But that was during the 1970s and 80s, and today, thank God, we have a much wiser theological reflection that does not neglect the necessary, comprehensive, liberation of man.”

"Now it is not about class warfare, with the confrontation between rich and poor, because as we know, for the Church this is not the way to social liberation.”

Archbishop Aguiar explained that liberation theology "had been put forth with a sociological foundation that did not square with theological foundations," and that consequently "that is where it fell apart."

True liberation, he said, "is showing the merciful face of God the Father, the tenderness of God among us”; this strengthens the human condition, the family as the place where the person matures and is educated, and prepares future generations to be leaders in all areas of society, "whether social, economic, or political."

This task, Archbishop Aguiar reflected, “is one that Pope Francis has described in ‘Evangelii Gaudium.’”

The Latin American Bishops’ Council was in Rome May 19-29 for its annual report on its work with Latin American bishops’ conferences and the direction the Church there needs to take.

Archbishop Aguiar also announced that the council will hold in August a preparatory meeting for October’s synod of bishops on the family. Bishops and experts in family ministry from the 22 bishops' conferences of Latin America are expected to attend the meeting.

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Marriage requires love that imitates Christ, Pope says

Vatican City, Jun 2, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his June 2 homily, Pope Francis addressed married couples in the Vatican, pointing to fidelity, perseverance, and fruitfulness as the three characteristics of authentic Christian love.

Using the fidelity of Christ to sinners as the ultimate example, Pope Francis commented: “It is a faithful love. It is a persevering love. He never tires of loving his Church.”

Although Christ’s bride is “beautiful, holy, a sinner, He loves her all the same,” the Pope said, according to Vatican Radio. The Holy Father encouraged married couples to mirror the Lord, saying that Christ’s “faithfulness is like a light on marriage.”

Pope Francis went on to note the importance of perseverance as the driving force against the inevitable difficulties and struggles that all married couples encounter.

“Married life must be persevering, because otherwise love cannot go forward,” he said.

“Perseverance in love, in good times and in difficult times, when there are problems: problems with the children, economic problems, problems here, problems there – but love perseveres, presses on, always trying to work things out, to save the family. Persevering: they get up every morning, the man and the woman, and carry the family forward.”

In addition to fidelity and perseverance, Pope Francis discussed fruitfulness as crucial to Christian love. Just as God commanded Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply,” so too the Pope pointed to fertility as central to the love shared between man and woman.

Pope Francis suggested that couples “look to Jesus and draw on the power of fertility that Christ has with his Church.”

The fruitfulness in a marriage reflects the richness that Christ gives his Church, through the sacraments which she offers in baptism, matrimony, and holy orders, he said.

The Pope mourned the marriages in which children are unwelcome, where material wealth trumps the gift of life in children.

“This culture of well-being from ten years ago convinced us: ‘It’s better not to have children! It’s better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free…it might be better – more comfortable – to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog.’”

But these marriages end with “the bitterness of loneliness,” he said, explaining that such marriages are “not fruitful” and do “not do what Jesus does with his Church: He makes His Church fruitful.”

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Do not cage the Holy Spirit, Pope tells massive Rome gathering

Rome, Italy, Jun 2, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Sunday afternoon Pope Francis told throngs of Charismatic Catholics to not obstruct the work of the Holy Spirit in evangelizing, but make the adoration of God the “foundation of renewal.”

“Go forth into the streets and evangelize, proclaim the Gospel. Remember that the Church was born to go forth, that morning of Pentecost,” the Pope said June 1.

“Let yourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, with that same freedom. And please, do not cage the Holy Spirit!”

He addressed 52,000 people from 55 countries who had gathered in Rome's Olympic Stadium for the national convocation of “Renewal in the Spirit.”

Those gathered included two organizations that coordinate the Catholic Charismatic Renewal: International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships.

The event included praise and worship music, spiritual testimonies, and a “flash mob” event, Vatican Radio reports.

Pope Francis said that adoring God is the “foundation for renewal” and the basis for evangelization, spiritual ecumenism, and attention to the poor and needy.

He stressed the need for “conversion to the love of Jesus” that is life-changing and turns a Christian into “a witness to God’s love.”

“I hope that you will share with all in the Church the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis said. “I expect from you an evangelization with the Word of God that proclaims that Jesus lives and loves all humankind.”

He said he hopes that they will witness to “spiritual ecumenism” with all Christians of other Churches and communities.

“May you remain united in the love that the Lord Jesus asks of all for all mankind, and in prayer to the Holy Spirit to reach this unity, necessary for evangelization in the name of Jesus,” the Pope continued. “Be close to the poor and needy to touch in their flesh the wounded flesh of Jesus. Seek unity in renewal because unity comes from the Holy Spirit and is born of the unity of the Trinity.”

He especially denounced the danger of splits and infighting.

“Where does division come from? The devil! Division comes from the devil,” Pope Francis said. “Flee from internal struggles, please!”

“Teach us not to fight between ourselves over a little more power,” he prayed, adding “teach us to increasingly love the Church that is our 'team', and to keep our hearts open to receive the Holy Spirit.”

The Pope also warned against “excessive organization.”

“Yes, you need organization, but do not lose the grace of letting God be God!” he said.

He urged attendees at the Charismatic gathering to be “dispensers” of God's grace and not “controllers” of it.

The pontiff then answered questions from priests, young people, families, the sick and the elderly.

He told priests to remain close to Christ and to his faithful. He warned young people not to keep their youth “locked away in a safe” but instead to “Bet on great things.” He encouraged the sick to imitate Jesus in their difficulties. He praised the elderly’s wisdom and memory.

Pope Francis prayed that God might grant everyone the “holy intoxication of the Spirit that enables us to speak many languages, the languages of charity, always close to those brothers and sisters who need us.”

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Doubts raised over release reports of Christian woman in Sudan

Washington D.C., Jun 2, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A government official in Sudan is denying claims that a Christian woman sentenced to execution for her faith may soon be freed.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, is recognized as Muslim under Sudanese law because her father was Muslim, despite the fact that her father abandoned the family when Ibrahim was six years old, and she was raised as a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother.

Ibrahim is married to Daniel Wani, a Christian and an American citizen. She gave birth to their second child while imprisoned and in chains on Tuesday.
She was arrested in August 2013; a Khartoum court convicted her May 15 of apostasy from Islam, as well as adultery, on the grounds that marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men is not recognized.

Having been raised a Christian, Ibrahim rejected the charge of apostasy, telling the court, “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.”

Several media outlets reported a June 2 announcement by Sudan’s foreign ministry that “the defense team of the concerned citizen has appealed the verdict ... and if the appeals court rules in her favor, she will be released,” adding that “the government does not interfere in the work of the judiciary because it is an independent body.”

Abu Bakr al-Sideeg, a representative of the foreign ministry, added that he is “not aware that any release is imminent.”

The day prior, an undersecretary at the ministry, Abdullahi Alazreg, had said that Ibrahim would be released “in a few days’ time” and that “authorities in the country are working to release Meriam through legal measures,” according to the BBC, the Guardian and other news agencies.

However, the foreign ministry said Sunday that Alazreg’s statement had been misrepresented by media outlets.

One of Ibrahim’s lawyers, Elshareef Ali Mohammed, commented that Alazreg’s statement was “to silence the international media.”

“This is what the government does. We will not believe that she is being freed until she walks out of the prison.”

Sudan scored an 11 out of 100 in Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, ranking at 174 out of 175 among nations based on the perception of their public sector corruption – ahead of only Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia, which were tied for being perceived as most corrupt.

Ali Mohammed told the BBC that the statement “at least it shows our campaign to free Meriam is rattling them.”

“We must keep up the pressure.”

Wani said the reports of his wife’s release were mere rumors, telling the BBC that “no Sudanese or foreign mediator contacted me … I will wait for the appeal which my lawyer submitted and I hope that my wife will be released.”

Sudan has come under intense and widespread international criticism over the case.

The U.S. State Department has said it is deeply disturbed by Ibrahim’s death sentence, urging Sudan to “respect the right to religious freedom.”

British prime minister David Cameron has said Ibrahim’s treatment “is barbaric and has no place in today’s world. Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right. I urge the government of Sudan to overturn the sentence and immediately provide appropriate support and medical care for her and her children.”

More than 309,000 have signed a petition from the Be Heard Project urging her release; a similar petition at has garnered more than 749,000 signatures.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) has called Sudan’s refusal to recognize religious freedom one motivation for the region’s lengthy civil war.

Sudan fought a civil war from 1983 to 2005 which led to autonomy for southern Sudan, and the formation of an independent South Sudan in 2011. Sudan's population is 97 percent Muslim.

Since 1999, the U.S. State Department has listed Sudan as a country of particular concern due to religious freedom violations.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which advises the U.S. government, said in its 2014 report that Sudan’s government “continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief.” The report noted that the country’s “restrictive interpretation of Shariah law” is imposed on both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide called on the Sudanese government to address the “high degree of societal hostility” towards religious minorities, including “derogatory statements that may address hatred.”

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