Washington D.C., Jun 3, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Leaders of Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on the Senate to defeat a legislative provision which could reduce the number of U.S. food aid recipients by up to 2 million.
“According to the Administration this proposed change would increase the costs of shipping international food aid commodities by at least $75 million annually and result in at least two million people worldwide losing access to life sustaining U.S. food,” stated a May 28 letter to leading members of a Senate commerce committee.
The letter was signed by Catholic Relief Services president Dr. Carolyn Woo and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the U.S. bishops’ conference.
It was addressed to Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the committee.
The letter discussed Section 318 of H.R. 4005, which mandates that the percentage of food aid to be delivered on U.S. flag-bearing ships must increase from 50 percent to 75 percent.
Woo and Bishop Pates argued that the change would hike shipping costs and result in far fewer recipients of food aid, citing Pope Francis' call to fight the “scandal of hunger” in opposing the measure.
“We know that using U.S. flagged vessels to transport international food aid is much more expensive than using vessels flagged by other nations,” they said.
Their letter cited Pope Francis' December call to end the “scandal of hunger and the irresponsible use of the world's resources,” and stated that global “food aid programs are a key component to answering the Pope's call to help the hungry and we implore you to make the best use of these resources by not increasing cargo preference requirements on them.”
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), defended the measure by saying that a strong U.S. commercial fleet is necessary for wartime and emergencies.
“The secondary reason for food aid is food. The No. 1 reason is military readiness,” he told the Wall Street Journal in a recent interview.
Yet Woo and Bishop Pates maintained that international aid is more important than support of the U.S. shipping industry.
“We understand that some in Congress are motivated to increase cargo preference requirements to help support the livelihoods of U.S. mariners,” the letter said. “However, increasing assistance to U.S. mariners should not come at the expense of two million hungry people.”
Manchester, N.H., Jun 3, 2014 (CNA) -
Recently released, “The One-Minute Aquinas” aims to share the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas in an accessible format to help more people learn from the medieval saint, theologian, and philosopher.
“So much of what he deals with are those perennial or timeless questions: what does it mean to be a human being? What are our potentials, what are our powers? What does God expect of us?” Kevin Vost, the author of the book, told CNA in a recent interview.
St. Thomas Aquinas was a thirteenth century Dominican who authored a vast body of work that continues to influence Catholics, other Christians, and secular thinkers.
Vost said the saint was “one of the greatest, most profound, saintly people in the history of humanity” and “one of the wisest people on earth.”
He “knew a lot about sublime things, because he had that humility to let him learn from others.”
“He also had that boldness that came through faith in God to try his best to deal with these deepest, most important questions.”
He added that the saint wrote about “the things that really matter the most,” such the existence of God and proofs for his existence; what God’s existence means for man; and what it means to follow God, to believe in Revelation, and how this belief “thoroughly transforms our lives.”
Vost’s book, published by Sophia Institute Press, aims to help people read St. Thomas Aquinas in “brief, accessible chapters,” the author said.
“We cut out the deep philosophical language, the jargon, and use common, everyday terms,” Vost said.
“Probably not a lot of people realize how accessible he is, how practical he is, and how useful it is to know what he wrote about.”
“The One-Minute Aquinas” covers the human soul, free will, habits and virtues, human happiness as well as the nature of God, the person of Christ, the sacraments, angels, and prayer.
It also summarizes St. Thomas Aquinas’ answers to questions such as whether science helps or hinders devotion to God, whether it is a sin to belittle oneself, to be boring, to love wine, or to be curious.
The book includes diagrams and charts to help present the information.
“One of the goals here was to cover most topics in a page at most,” Vost said. “Something you could read a few minutes at a time.”
Vost is a former atheist, and said he once believed that faith was “something that opposed reason.”
“Thomas just masterfully shows how that is not the case. Faith does not contradict reason, it rises beyond it.”
Vatican City, Jun 3, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily Pope Francis reflected on how Jesus advocates for us in heaven, emphasizing that he does this by showing the Father his wounds, the price he paid for our sin.
“He shows his wounds to the Father, and Jesus, with his wounds, prays for us as if to say to the Father: ‘But, Father, this is the price of these! Help them, protect them,’” Pope Francis explained to those in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse in his June 3 daily Mass.
“They are your children whom I have saved with these.”
Looking to the day’s readings, taken from the Acts of the Apostles and from the Gospel of John, the pontiff observed how the people of Miletus were sad at the news of Paul’s departure, as were the disciples when Jesus left them before “going to Gethsemane and beginning His Passion.”
Drawing attention to how in his prayer at Gethsemane, Jesus “speaks to the Father and says ‘I pray for them,’” the Bishop of Rome stressed the importance of these words, and noted that Jesus also tells us, “You are all of the Father. And I pray for you before the Father.”
“Jesus does not pray for the world,” but “he prays for us” and he “prays for the Church,” he explained.
Referring to John’s words in the Gospel, the Pope noted that the apostle, in “thinking about these things and speaking of us, who are great sinners,” says “Do not sin, but if any of you do sin, know that we have an advocate before the Father, one who prays for us, defends us in front Father, justifies us.”
“I believe we should really think about this truth, about this reality,” he said. “Jesus is praying for me right now.”
“I can go on in life because I have an advocate who defends me, and if I am guilty and I have so many sins...he is a good defense attorney and will speak of me to the Father.”
Observing that Jesus is “the first advocate” of the Father, the Pope explained that whenever we have problems in life, whether in our family or in our work or our parish, we ought to go to Jesus and ask him to pray for us.
But “How does Jesus pray?” he asked, saying “I don’t believe he talks too much with the Father. He doesn’t talk: He loves.”
“There is one thing that Jesus does today, I'm certain he does this. He shows his wounds to the Father and Jesus, with his wounds, prays for us.”
Going on, the Roman Pontiff explained that the proof of knowing Jesus prays with his wounds is that after the resurrection, Jesus did not “have this glorious body, beautiful with no bruises, no wounds from the scourging, everything nice.”
“There were wounds. The Five Wounds,” he noted, asking, “Why did Jesus want to bring them to heaven? Why?”
“To pray for us. To show the price (he paid) to the Father: ‘This is the price, now do not abandon them. Help them.’”
Pope Francis then drew attention to the importance of having faith, pointing out “that right now Jesus intercedes before the Father for us, for all of us” and that when we pray to him, we must never forget to ask for his prayers.
“Jesus, pray for me. Show the Father your wounds that are mine too, they are the wounds of my sin. They are the wounds of my problem at this moment in time,” he prayed, saying that when we do this, “Jesus the intercessor only has to show the Father his wounds.”
“And this is happening today, at this very moment,” he concluded. “We are confident that he is doing this for everyone. We must have faith in this prayer of Jesus with his wounds before the Father.”
Madrid, Spain, Jun 3, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Spanish bishops' conference has called for prayers for King Juan Carlos and his successor, after the king announced he would abdicate the throne in favor of his son, Prince Felipe.
The conference’s leadership committee recognized Juan Carlos’ career, praising “his generous dedication and his contribution to the recent history of Spain.”
The king said in a televised message June 2 that he began to consider his decision Jan. 6, when he turned 76 years old.
“A younger generation deserves to be at the forefront, with new energies and a new way of confronting today's reality,” Juan Carlos said.
He said Felipe has “the maturity, preparation and commitment necessary” to be Spain’s next head of state. The king called the prince “the embodiment of stability.”
An extraordinary meeting of top officials was scheduled for June 3 to set a course of succession to the Spanish crown.
Juan Carlos has been on the throne for 39 years, having assumed power in 1975, on the death of Francisco Franco.
The bishops acknowledged Juan Carlos’ important contribution to Spain’s transition to democracy following the Nationalist era.
The bishops also expressed their confidence in Felipe.
“We are sure that there will be continuity in the person of Felipe de Borbon y Grecia, Prince of Asturias, who has already proven he is qualified and competent, as we have seen in his different appearances in public life.”
As the country enters a time of change, the bishops called for prayers for Juan Carlos and his wife Sofia “during this new phase in their lives.”
They asked that God would “aid the Spanish Crown in the constitutional service entrusted to it.”
The spokesman for the Spanish bishops, Fr. Jose Maria Gil Tamayo, noted that citizens have “a duty to pray to God for those who govern us, because they are also servants of the common good.”
It is expected that Felipe will succeed as the Spanish monarch by the end of June.
Vatican City, Jun 3, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Ahead of an international summit resisting sexual violence in the midst of conflict, Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See stated that it is a “massive” problem, and has called for justice.
“Man has a very wide armory of cruelty to be applied against fellow man,” Nigel Baker told CNA June 3, adding that the “brutal and cruel” use of sexual violence “is one of the worst forms of violence.”
Baker, who has been the British ambassador to the Holy See since 2011, has been working in collaboration with the embassy and various other international entities to prepare for the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The largest international gathering ever held to address this issue, the summit will take place in London June 10-13 and is being co-chaired by British Foreign secretary William Hague and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees special envoy Angelina Jolie.
Observing that there will be 1,200 delegates and 150 governments represented in the conference, Baker explained that the intention behind the summit “is very simple. It’s to end sexual violence in conflict. To turn the huge political will there is to do something about it into practical action on the ground.”
“It’s a massive, massive problem. It’s something we see applied on a systematic and huge scale nowadays in almost any conflict,” he noted, drawing attention to the current violent unrest in Syria, Bosnia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and South Sudan.
Describing how there have been more than 200,000 documented cases from the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone, the ambassador explained that there are many more undocumented cases that continually go unreported.
“This is 200,000 women whose lives have been destroyed, their villages traumatized, their families wrecked…It’s something we see more and more of,” he observed, “and what’s worse is the perpetrators, very, very few have ever faced justice.”
“We’re determined to see that reversed…we can’t see this massive scale crime continue, we want to stop it dead.”
Explaining the motivations behind the use of sexual violence in conflict, which is often ordered by military leaders, Baker noted that “in many cases it’s used as a weapon to intimidate populations.”
“Sometimes it’s almost an aspect of ethnic cleansing, in a particularly brutal and cruel fashion,” he noted, adding that the majority of women currently coming out of Syria “have either witnessed or suffered rape.”
“It’s something that we see too often,” he continued, stating that if the use of sexual violence in conflict were to come to an end now, “we’ll see it again in the future.”
This, the ambassador pointed out, is because “it’s so difficult to collect evidence, so difficult to prove that it happened,” but “we’re determined that that won’t be the case again.”
Expressing his hope for the outcome of the summit, Baker stated that the ultimate goal is that political will to do something “be turned into a specific action.”
“Of course we don’t want to see conflicts breaking out anywhere, but when the next conflict breaks out this particular weapon in the cruel armory of man will not be used because the potential perpetrators know that they can’t get away with it.”
Another hope, he said, is that “societies know how to respond and how to prevent it from happening. So the aim is never again.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 3, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The winner of the Giro d’Italia cycling race, Nairo Quintana of Colombia, has received the pink championship jersey that Pope Francis blessed before the competition.
Pope Francis blessed the jersey in a private act before the race, as he did in 2013 as well.
The jersey's pink color comes from the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, which created the competition; the paper's pages are pink as well.
The Pope was also given a “very special” pass as a gift from the competition's organizers.
Pope Francis is an avid sports fan and the most prominent follower of the Argentine soccer team San Lorenzo de Almagro.
In his meetings with young people, the Pope has repeatedly made references to soccer, especially during World Youth Day Rio 2013.
There he told three million young people on Copacabana Beach that “Jesus offers us something greater than the World Cup.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 3, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and its affiliated entities filed a lawsuit June 2 challenging federal mandates that require employers to provide or to help provide contraceptive services through their health insurance.
The federal rules force the entities “to violate their religious convictions by either directly supplying, or cooperating in the process to supply, contraceptive services that gravely conflict with Catholic belief,” the archdiocese said Tuesday.
“The court filing disputes the Government's power to order Catholic entities to offer or cooperate in such services.”
The archdiocese and its charitable agencies have filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, and their secretaries.
The lawsuit seeks to block enforcement of the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s mandatory contraceptive coverage for employers. The lawsuit says the mandates violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Department of Health and Human Services mandate requires most U.S. employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause abortions. Many Catholic organizations do not qualify for the narrow exemption from the mandate, despite their religious and moral objections to providing the coverage.
The HHS department mandated the coverage as “preventive care.” Some religious exemptions have been offered, but many Catholic organizations have found them inadequate.
The dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie secured a temporary injunction against the mandate in November 2013.
The mandate has resulted in over 97 legal cases representing over 300 plaintiffs, the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty says.
The plaintiffs include many non-Catholic individuals and organizations and both for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations.
The Supreme Court will rule in two cases before the end of June concerning the application of the mandate to for-profit businesses. The cases, involving Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, focused on statutory protections for religious freedom.
Alexandria, Egypt, Jun 3, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Egypt's Roman Catholic bishop has welcomed the election of Abdel Fattah El Sisi as the country’s new president, saying his leadership will benefit both Christians and Muslims.
“His election gives all Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, cause for hope,” Bishop Adel Zaky, Vicar Apostolic of Alexandria, told Aid to the Church in Need May 30.
“His victory gives us Christians security and a perspective for the future. Better times are coming.”
Sisi, the former head of the Egyptian army, won more than 93 percent of the vote, with voter turnout at around 46 percent.
The election comes after several years of political tensions. Sisi was head of Egypt’s army in July 2013 when it deposed the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohammed Morsi.
Many Christians in Egypt voiced concern about their fate under the Muslim Brotherhood and the previous constitution.
Bishop Zaky said that the new president does not distinguish between Christians and Muslims.
“He is a religious person, but he sees religion as a private matter. His prime concern is his country. He demonstrated this when he saved Egypt from an impending civil war last year.”
Egypt has been politically unstable since the Arab Spring protests of 2011 deposed then-president Hosni Mubarak. A December 2012 referendum approved the country’s previous constitution, though that referendum was boycotted by secular elements of Egyptian society.
Bishop Zaky called on the new president to implement Egypt’s revised constitution, which was adopted in a January 2014 referendum boycotted by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The bishop called the constitution “a carefully formulated document” that, if properly applied, will serve the needs of “all sections of Egyptian society,” including women, workers, Christians, and Muslims.
“Egypt now needs a firm hand,” the bishop said. “For three years the country has been descending into chaos. Someone must apply the laws again and must not discriminate between sections of the population.”
The bishop also rejected criticism of the ousting of Morsi.
"If General Sisi had not been at the head of the military there would have been a civil war. We would have faced the kind of situation that prevails in Iraq.”
“We as a people had no possibility of combating the Muslim Brotherhood. The military only intervened when the people called on it to do so. The army did not act of its own volition.”
Bishop Zaky said that although Morsi had been elected, “the people saw that under him the country was facing ruin” and withdrew their confidence from him “to prevent worse things happening.”
Bishop Zaky's Vicariate Apostolic of Alexandria serves the some 20,000 Latin rite Catholics who live in Egypt.
Most Catholics in Egypt belong to the Coptic rite, and most Christians in Egypt are Coptic Orthodox. Christians compose about 10 percent of Egypt's population.
Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 3, 2014 (CNA) -
The nation's largest archdiocese, Los Angeles, has chosen Catholic News Agency to provide U.S. and global news for its archdiocesan publications, “Vida Nueva” and “The Tidings.”
“For an archdiocese as large as Los Angeles, we rely very heavily on a wire service that can provide for us reporting on national and international events,” editor-in-chief, J.D. Long-García told CNA.
“We continue to choose Catholic News Agency because they're exceptional in providing that for us.”
Long-García explained that it's important for his readers to have access to news that allows them to be “informed Catholics” who are aware of global happenings.
“Pope Francis talked about (how) Catholic media facilitates culture of encounter,” he noted. Through CNA, “we have a way to help our readers enter into that culture so that they can encounter not just their brothers and sisters here in Los Angeles, but their brothers and sisters around the world.”
Through CNA's free Access for Editors service, these archdiocesan publications have access to news concerning the Universal Church from around the world in both English and Spanish.
“The Los Angeles archdiocese serves nearly five million Catholics – we're honored to provide news coverage for their invaluable publications,” said Marianne Medlin, editor-in-chief of CNA.
“This new partnership will enable us to further our mission of providing timely and accessible Catholic news for the faithful worldwide.”
Recently, the agency has expanded to include Spanish and English reporting through its editors' service for publications with bilingual readerships. It includes both translated content from English and original Spanish language reporting from CNA's sister agency ACI Prensa, headquartered in Lima, Peru.
“We've got 'Vida Nueva,' which is monthly, but sometimes the Spanish language reporting isn't as easy to get and especially not on the constant basis that it’s provided by ACI Prensa,” Long-García said.
The Access for Editors service provides full use of CNA's photo library which features pictures from bureaus around the globe, including Rome, Denver, and throughout South America. Additionally, users have access to Getty Images and ANSA Foto, Italy's premier photo journalism agency, at discounted prices available only to the Catholic press.
“The photography that we’ve been able to have access through those services has been great,” he said.
As an editor-in-chief of a major archdiocesan newspaper, Long-García said he appreciates the prompt customer support he receives from using CNA.
“I've received first class customer service,” he said. “I feel like CNA is a part of my staff and understands the deadline pressures faced by diocesan newspapers.”
CNA's Access for Editors is available to any diocesan newspaper or publication that is a member of the Catholic Press Association free of charge.
As the largest diocese in the United States, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles serves around five million Catholics and is home to 287 parishes. Founded in 1895, “The Tidings” has a circulation of 80,000 and reaches an estimated 230,000 readers with its website each week.