Archive of June 20, 2014

Ratzinger Prize honorees show intellectual vitality, cardinal says

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Camillo Ruini praised Tuesday the two winners of the 2014 Ratzinger Prize for their academic accomplishments and their commitment to the faith.

At a June 17 press conference announcing the prizes, the vicar general emeritus of the Diocese of Rome, said scripture professor Anne-Marie Pelletier is a person of “great importance” in French Catholicism today, saying she “brings together an earned scientific prestige with a great and versatile cultural vitality and a genuine dedication to causes very important for Christian witness in society.”

He praised Monsignor Waldemar Chrostowski, a Polish biblical scholar, for combining “academic rigor with passion for the Word of God, in service to the Church and with care for interreligious dialogue.”

Cardinal Ruini is president of the scientific committee of the Joseph Ratzinger Vatican Foundation, which awards the Ratzinger Prize.

The prize was begun in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Ratzinger, the theologian who became Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Ruini told CNA June 17 that Pelletier, who teaches at Paris’ Notre Dame Seminary, “stood out,” praising her competence as a biblical scholar and as a student of comparative literature, as well as her “sharp intellectual capacity” and her strong commitment to “very important causes” such as women’s relationship with the Church.

Pelletier has taught biblical studies at the European Institute of Religious Sciences and served as vice-president of the Jewish-Christian Documentation Information Service in Paris. She has participated in several Vatican-sponsored conferences and was an auditor at the 2001 synod of bishops. She is the first woman to win the prize.

Msgr. Chrostowski has headed the Polish Association of Biblical Scholars since 2005. He is the general editor of the journal Collectanea Theologica, and was an expert at the 2008 bishops’ synod.

He is a specialist in the prophetic books of the Old Testament, expert in rabbinical Judaism and its relationship with Christianity. He has worked to advance Christian-Jewish relations.

Cardinal Ruini said the monsignor has a “very large” record of scientific production and has “done a lot to spread the Word of God, in the biblical apostolate and in the apostolate in general.”

“He is truly an apostle.”

Cardinal Ruini said that the prize committee consciously sought out an honoree from Poland and a woman, as the prize had never gone to such winners previously.

The cardinal said the committee has invited Benedict XVI to the awards ceremony.

“We hope that he comes, but this depends on him.”

While some have compared the Ratzinger Prize to the Nobel Prize in theology, the cardinal said the honor does not yet have this “prestige.”

“We hope that by making good choices, it will achieve greater authority,” he said of the prize.

Past Ratzinger Prize honorees include Notre Dame University theology professor Father Brian Edward Daley, S.J., French lay philosopher Remi Brague, Italian patristics scholar Manlio Simonetti, Anglican professor Richard Burridge of King’s College London, and German theology professor Christian Schaller.

The June 17 press conference also spoke about preparations for the Ratzinger Foundation’s fourth conference, to be held Oct. 23-24 at the Pontifical University Bolivariana in Medellin, Colombia. Its theme will be “respect for life, the way to peace.”

The Ratzinger Foundation was founded with Benedict XVI’s approval in 2010 to promote, distribute, and study his writings.

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St John Paul II relic to tour East Coast, starting in Boston

Boston, Mass., Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A relic of St. John Paul II will begin a tour of the U.S. in Boston on Saturday, giving the Catholic faithful in several major cities the chance to venerate one of the Church’s newest saints.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston said St. John Paul II “meant so much to the people of the Archdiocese of Boston and around the world, enlivening in them the presence of God’s grace and love.”

The relic, a vial of St. John Paul II’s blood, will be displayed for veneration at Boston’s Holy Cross Cathedral June 21 from 3 to 4:30 p.m., and after the 4:30 p.m. anticipated Mass.

On June 22, veneration of the relic will take place after the 11:30 a.m. Mass said by Cardinal O’Malley.

“We pray that those who come to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross this weekend will be inspired to carry out great works of mercy through evangelization as the Holy Father exemplified during his years as Pope and priest,” Cardinal O’Malley said June 17.

Boston was the first U.S. city in which St. John Paul II said Mass – during his October, 1979 visit at Boston Common, with 400,000 persons in attendence.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow gave the relic to the Knights of Columbus for the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., which is co-sponsoring the tour along with the Knights.

“We are grateful to the Knights of Columbus and Saint John Paul II National Shrine for making it possible for people of faith to pray before the relic of Saint John Paul II,” said Cardinal O'Malley. “He meant so much to the people of the Archdiocese of Boston and around the world ,enlivening in them the presence of God’s grace and love.”

The relic tour will include a July 12-13 visit to New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral and a July 19-20 visit to Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. The tour will end in Baltimore at a date to be determined.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson noted St. John Paul II’s frequent visits to the U.S.

“St. John Paul spent more time in the United States than any other Pope before or since, shaping an entire generation of Catholics here and throughout the world,” Anderson said.

“Bringing his relic to communities throughout this country will recall for many Catholics his saintly life, his unswerving commitment to the dignity of every human person, and his emphasis on the call to holiness for each one of us.”

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Archbishop hopes Colombian president will work for peace

Rome, Italy, Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Colombian bishop has said the country’s newly re-elected president, Juan Manuel Santos, has the difficult mission of confronting new violence amid continued security problems and guerrilla attacks.

“I would ask the president to work first to define the issue of peace,” Archbishop Oscar Urbina Ortega of Villavicencio told CNA June 13 in Rome.

“I think there has been a lot of progress, although we don't have everything yet, and what is decided should be put to a referendum in the country.”

“But we do want the war to be over, because the cost of the war is extremely high, and that takes energies and resources away instead of investing them in education, housing, health care, and in jobs for Colombians. I think that is an important issue that has repercussions in the development of those regions that have the opportunity.”

Archbishop Urbina was in Rome to attend the annual meeting of the Administrative Council of the Populorum Progressio Foundation for Latin America, being held June 11-13. He said that the recent uptick in violence in Columbia is not due solely to the decades-long conflict between rebel groups and the state.

“The issue of peace is essential, but along with it there are other concerns the people have that we would like the president to resolve. Ten percent of the violence is because of the conflict, the other 90 percent is other kinds of violence, beginning with violence among families.”

On June 15, Colombians gave Santos 50 percent of their votes for president. His opponent, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, won 45 percent. Santos has been president since 2010.

The archbishop also discussed the talks between the government and the rebel group FARC, which have been ongoing for than a year in Havana with no results.

Archbishop Urbina said there needs to a balance between doing justice for those affected by the violence and offering concessions that will secure peace for the country.

“After 60 years of conflict, it is only fair that we now have years of peace, especially for the new generations, who are charged with moving the country forward.”

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Bosnian school seeks to strengthen interethnic relations

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Catholic school founded in Sarajevo, Bosnia during the country’s recent war has made it their goal to teach children to embrace ethnic differences, without letting them hinder interpersonal relations.

“During such terrible times the Catholic Church opened and established the St. Joseph Catholic School Center just to show, not by empty words and proclamations, that it’s possible to cherish your own identity and at the same time your own identity must not be an obstacle to live and work together” Ivica Mrso told CNA June 17.

“That is our mission and that is what we’ve been trying to do for the last 20 years.”

Mrso oversees the Saint Joseph Catholic School Center in Sarajevo, Bosnia, which was the host for a recent Oasis conference discussing the theme “The Temptation of Violence: Religions between War and Reconciliation.”

Founded during the Bosnian War of 1992 – 1995, the school is unique in the sense that it is free of charge for the parents and children who attend, but most of all because it is both a multiethnic and interreligious school.

“Our Catholic school unique” because “we are a truly multiethnic and interreligious school here” Mrso noted, pointing out that “Almost one-third of the professors and the students are not Catholics.”

This is a significant fact, he explained, because of the ethnic tensions that drove the Bosnian War just 20 years ago.

Coming as the result of the breakup of Yugoslavia, the war began after the multiethnic Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina pushed for independence from the Yugoslav territory, which was recognized on an international level just before the war broke out.

Bosnian Serbs, who were practicing orthodox and who had the support of neighboring Serbia, rejected the referendum of independence and formed an army within Bosnia to fight against the country’s Muslim Bosniak and Catholic Croat populations.

As a result, the Serbs began a policy of ethnic “cleansing” in large areas of Bosnia inhabited by non-Serbs, and Muslim, Croat, and Serb residents opposed to the army were cut off from food, utilities and communication.

Observing how the whole country of Bosnia and Herzegovina is still “divided by the last terrible war,” Mrso noted that the founding of the school during the time when Sarajevo was still “under siege” is significant.

“Probably in people’s minds were two things, two thoughts: first to survive, and another one to get out of Sarajevo and to get out of Bosnia and never come back.”

However “During such terrible times the Catholic Church opened and established the St. Joseph Catholic School Center just to show…that it’s possible to cherish your own identity and at the same time your own identity must not be an obstacle to live and work together,” he said.

“We are trying to be a sign of hope, but also a sign of contradiction or opposition to those who believe that since we are different” there is nothing in common, the director explained.

“But we have also so many common things” Mrso noted, stating that “I am Catholic, I am Croat, and I am proud of that, so I share so many common things in this country, with Bosniaks, with Serbs, those who regard themselves as atheists, etc.”

Regarding the significance of hosting a conference on the temptation of interreligious violence at the school, the director explained that “it’s a nice message. It’s a symbol.”

“It’s not just empty talk, because for the last 20 or 30 years” all political parties in Bosnia, Croats, Muslims and Bosniaks, “everyone will talk about dialogue, tolerance, respecting each other, etc. But in reality it doesn’t work.”

However “we mean what we say in the Catholic School” he stated, explaining that “we are a living example that it’s possible to have a normal, good school” where those who differ can live side by side.

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Pope: problem of drug use is not solved by other drugs

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a message for an international conference on enforcing drug laws, Pope Francis denounced the trend of offering addicts narcotics as a substitute for hard drugs, stating that it only worsens the problem.

“Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs! Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise” the Pope declared in his June 20 message to the conference participants.

“To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem” he said, adding that “Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.”

Pope Francis made his declaration during the 31st International Drug Enforcement Conference, which took place in the convention center of Rome’s Cavalieri Hotel June 17 – 19, and gathered together the heads of anti-drug agencies worldwide.

Opening his address, the pontiff thanked participants for their presence and work “in combating this most serious and complex problem of our time.”

He expressed his hope that those gathered would accomplish their goals of discovering more effective policies on anti-narcotic drugs as well as finding better methods to share information and developing a working strategy to fight the ongoing drug trade.

Referring to the trade as a “scourge” on society, the Bishop of Rome explained that it “continues to spread inexorably,” and is “fed by a deplorable commerce which transcends national and continental borders.”

“As a result, the lives of more and more young people and adolescents are in danger” he said. “Faced with this reality, I can only manifest my grief and concern.”

Going on, the Roman Pontiff condemned the efforts of some who seek to legalize milder drugs in order to lure addicts away from the hard stuff, saying that the legalization of “recreational drugs” is both questionable from a legal point of view, and fails to solve the problem.

“Substitute drugs are not an adequate therapy but rather a veiled means of surrendering to the phenomenon” he went on.

“Here I would reaffirm what I have stated on another occasion: No to every type of drug use. It is as simple as that. No to any kind of drug use.”

But in order to say this no, “one has to say ‘yes’ to life, ‘yes’ to love, ‘yes’ to others, ‘yes’ to education, ‘yes’ to greater job opportunities” the Pope explained, adding that “If we say ‘yes’ to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, for alcohol abuse, for other forms of addiction.”

Observing how the Church follows Jesus’ command to go out and meet those who are suffering, hungry, thirsty and imprisoned, Pope Francis emphasized that it “does not abandon those who have fallen into the trap of drug addiction,” but rather “goes out to meet them with creative love.”

“She takes them by the hand, thanks to the efforts of countless workers and volunteers, and helps them to rediscover their dignity and to revive those inner strengths, those personal talents, which drug use had buried but can never obliterate, since every man and woman is created in the image and likeness of God.”

Those who are already in the process of overcoming drug addiction and working to re-build their lives serve as a powerful example and help us to have hope for the future

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Salesians back humane solutions for asylum seekers in Italy

Rome, Italy, Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Two Salesian groups in Italy launched an initiative Friday to coordinate their activities for immigrants, many of whom are refugees, both in Italy and in their home countries.

The June 20 launch date marks World Refugee Day, established in 2000, which is meant to raise awareness about refugees throughout the world.

The initiative of the Salesians' International Volunteering for Development and Salesians for Social Issues to encourage the formation of more, and smaller, more welcoming reception centers for Italian immigrants.

It is inspired by the special attention Pope Francis has given to refugees and immigrants in Italy, most of whom are fleeing humanitarian crises in Africa.

Shocked by the news of a ship of migrants which sank, leading to the death of hundreds, Pope Francis visited the Italian island Lampedusa last July. There, he shed light on the suffering of migrants who get to the small island.

With a capacity of 801 people, the Lampedusa reception center is only meant to house people for 76 hours before transferring them to the mainland for in-depth asylum screening.

In fact, the quota of people has often been exceeded by the numerous immigrants, and houses them far longer than the intended 76 hours.

The Italian bishops' “Migrantes” foundation estimates that from the beginning of this year, some 50,000 immigrants have already arrived in Sicily.

The Salesians operate in this framework, searching for a dignified solution for the immigrants.

Its groups launched an appeal to Italian institutions, saying it would be better to facilitate “smaller reception centers” where the migrants will be better welcomed “in a family-like way.” At the same time, they ask the institutions to accelerate the screening of immigrants in the mainland.

Fr. Giovanni D’Andrea, president of Salesians for Social Issues, told CNA June 19 that “very often, migrants who get to Italy spend 10 to 18 months in the Italian reception centers, before being interviewed by territorial commissions which will decide whether or not to consider them refugees.”

Even if praising the Italian government effort, Fr. D’Andrea says that “more commitment is required to accelerate the release of documents certifying the refugees status, thus permitting the migrants to get to the European countries they would like to go to.”

Nico Lotta, president of the International Volunteering for Development, underscored that “reception centers for a sustainable number of migrants, from 20 to 50, should be supported and backed,” but “nowadays we are facing the building and establishments of huge reception centers with the capacity for hundreds and sometimes thousands of people, with no prospect of integration.”

The Salesians' initiative comes as the U.N. announced that the number of refugees worldwide – 51.2 million – is at its highest figure since World War II.

This represents an increase of 6 million people living as refugees since the year prior, with much of the increase fueled by the Syrian civil war and the conflicts in South Sudan and Central African Republic.

Pope Francis himself drew attention to the situation at his June 18 General Audience, saying “millions of families, millions, refugees from many countries and of every religious faith are experiencing in their stories the dramas and wounds that can only with difficulty be healed.”

“Let us make ourselves their neighbours, sharing their fears and their uncertainty and concretely alleviating their suffering. May the Lord sustain the people and institutions that are working with generosity to ensure refugees acceptance and dignity, and to give them reasons to hope.”

“Let us think of how Jesus was a refugee, he had to flee for his life to be saved, with St Joseph and Our Lady, he had to go away to Egypt. He was a refugee. Let us pray to Our Lady, for the pain of refugees, that she be close to these of our brothers and sisters. Let us pray together to Our Lady for our refugee brothers and sisters.”

“Mary, mother of refugees, pray for us.”

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Archbishop Cordileone calls for a 'civilization of truth and love'

Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Kicking off the “March for Marriage” on June 19, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco invoked the witness of the early Christians to call for families rooted in “truth and love.”

“Let us, then, take our cue from the best our predecessors in faith have inspired, and not humanity’s frequent failings and sins,” the Archbishop addressed his audience in Washington, D.C. “Like them, we now in our own time need to proclaim and live the truth with charity and compassion as it applies to us today: the truth of a united family based on the union of the children’s father and mother in marriage as the foundational good of society.”

The Archbishop addressed the March for Marriage after local and state politicians, as well as LGBT activists and religious leaders, called for him to withdraw his participation in the event, claiming that some sponsors were “virulently LGBT.” Archbishop Cordileone responded that the march is “not anti-anyone or anti-anything” and that his duty is to speak “the truth about marriage.”

This truth, he made clear, is that “every child comes from a man and a woman, and has a right, a natural human right, to know and be known by, to love and be loved by, their own mother and father.” This truth must be spoken with love, he insisted.

“Love is the answer. But love in the truth. The truth is that every child comes from a mother and a father, and to deliberately deprive a child of knowing and being loved by his or her mother and father is an outright injustice. That is our very nature, and no law can change it.”

The Archbishop hearkened to the example of the early Christians who bore witness to love in the truth. “I would call our attention to those first generations of Christians in the city of Rome, who were so often scapegoated by the powerful pagan Roman government,” he said. “But when a plague would strike the city and the well-to-do fled to the hills for safety until the plague subsided, it was the Christians who stayed behind to care for the sick, at great risk to their own health and very lives. And not just the Christian sick: all the sick, regardless of religion, of how they lived their lives, or even what they thought of the Christians themselves.”

He emphasized that today, Christians must love and support all: single mothers and fathers, those struggling with chastity, and especially those who not only oppose Church teaching, but malign faithful Christians who do.

“But even those from whom we suffer retribution – and I know some of you have suffered in very serious ways because of your stand for marriage – still, we must love them. That is what our ancestors in faith did, and we must, too.” He added that “we must not allow the angry rhetoric to co-opt us into a culture of hate.”

The Archbishop implored Christians not to lose heart though public opinion may be currently in favor of same-sex marriage, and he pointed to the resurgence of the pro-life movement as an example. In the 1970s, he explained, public opinion had been fast moving in favor of legalized abortion but now “the pro-life movement is flourishing like never before.”

In time, he added, many will “figure out that a child comes from a mother and a father, and it’s good for the child to be connected to his or her mother and father.” This is because, he stated, the truth “is in our nature.”

“So take heart: the truth spoken in love has a power over the human heart,” he implored his audience.

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Pope warns against false securities of wealth, vanity, power

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his homily at Friday's Mass, Pope Francis cautioned attendees not to place their security in false treasures which enslave and weigh us down, but rather in the treasures of heaven that lead to freedom.

“Here is the message of Jesus: ‘if your treasure is in wealth, in vanity, in power, in pride, your heart will be chained there! Your heart will be enslaved by wealth, vanity, pride,” the Pope explained in his June 20 Mass.

“And what Jesus wants is that we have a free heart! This is today's message.”

Speaking to those present in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the Roman Pontiff centered his reflections on the day’s Gospel, in which Christ warns his disciples not to store up treasure on earth.

This is “a prudent counsel” stated the Pope, noting that when Christ speaks of earthly treasure there are “mainly three,” and Jesus “always came back to the same subject.”

“The first treasure: gold, money, richness. But you are not secure with this because, maybe, they will steal it from you, no? I am not secure with these investments!”

“Maybe the stock market crashes and you remain with nothing! And then tell me, does one more dollar make you happier or not? Wealth, (it is a ) dangerous treasure, dangerous … ”

Acknowledging that although money “serves to do so many good things, to advance the family,” the Bishop of Rome explained that “if you build it up as a treasure, it will steal your soul!”

“Jesus in the Gospel returns to this topic, on wealth, on the danger of richness, on putting one's hope in riches” he noted, stating that two other great temptations are those of vanity and power, which stem from pride.

On the contrary, Christ wants us to have “a free heart” the Pope observed, pointing out that “this is today's message… 'please, have a free heart,' Jesus tells us. He speaks to us of the freedom of the heart.”

Going on, he emphasized that “you can only have a free heart with the treasures of heaven: love, patience, service to others, adoration of God.”

“These are the true riches that cannot be stolen. The other riches weigh down the heart. They weigh down the heart: they chain it, they do not give it freedom!”

Pope Francis then referred to Christs' words that “the lamp of the body is the eye” and that “if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.”

“A luminous heart that is not chained, a heart that advances also ages well, because it ages like good wine: when good wine ages it's a fine aged wine” the Roman Pontiff noted, explaining that on the other hand “the heart that is not illuminated is like the not-so-good wine.”

“Time passes and it breaks down and becomes vinegar” he stated, praying that God would give us the “spiritual prudence to understand better where my heart is at, and to what treasure my heart is attached.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed that the Lord give to all the strength “to unchain” our heart if it is chained, “so that it becomes free, becomes bright and give us this beautiful joy of being children of God: that true freedom.”

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Brazilian diocese offers foreign language Masses during World Cup

Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte – one of the 12 Brazilian cities hosting World Cup matches – has announced a program of multi-lingual Masses and cultural events for those attending the tournament.

Under the theme “Play for Life,” the archdiocese will provide activities throughout the soccer tournament throughout its duration, from June 12 to July 13, it said in a statement released in Portuguese, Spanish, and English.

In addition to Masses and concerts, the archdiocese is also organizing seminars and educational campaigns to help fight human trafficking.

Masses and Confessions are being offered in Spanish, German, Arabic, and English, as well as in Portuguese.

Daniel Cote, a Colombian journalism student who visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy, said, "coming here is like being in heaven. After arriving here, I had no doubt that I was on holy ground, a sacred place."

On June 18, Bishop Joao de Medeiro Silva, an auxiliary of Belo Horizonte, said Mass at the Archdiocesan Sanctuary for Perpetual Adoration to begin an all-night vigil, which was attended by hundreds of faithful. The archdiocese announced that “all there prayed taht the World Cup would be a moment of fraternity among the nations, furthering their peace and harmony.”

Belo Horizonte is located 270 miles north of Rio de Janeiro; the archdiocese serves 3.3 million faithful, some 70 percent of the population.

So far in the tournament, Brazil beat Croatia 3-1 and drew against Mexico. They will play Cameroon June 23.

The U.S. beat Ghana 2-1 on June 16, and is scheduled to play Portugal June 22.

On June 20, Italy lost to Costa Rica 1-0; Switzerland is matched against France; and Honduras will play Ecuador.

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Pope Francis decries persecution of Christians

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis on Friday lamented continued persecution against Christians and other religious believers, encouraging scholars and governments to defend religious liberty.

“Nowadays, persecution against Christians is stronger than it was in the first centuries of the Church, and there are more Christian martyrs than in that time,” the Pope said June 20 in the Vatican's consistory hall will participants of the conference “International Religious Liberty and the Global Clash of Values.”

The June 20-21 conference being held in Rome is co-sponsored by the School of Law at St. John’s University in New York and by the law department at Rome’s Università Maria SS. Assunta.

Pope Francis said it is “incomprehensible and worrisome” that there continue to be discrimination and restrictions of rights on the sole basis of religious profession. He said persecution motivated by religious affiliation is “unacceptable.”

“It gives me great pain to see that Christians around the world suffer the most from such discrimination.”

Research institutions such as the Pew Research Center have found that religious hostilities involving religion reached a six-year high in 2012, while government restrictions on religion have increased in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

In his comments to religious liberty scholars, Pope Francis reflected on Catholic teaching, citing the Second Vatican Council's declaration on religious freedom, “Dignitatis humanae.”

“Every human is a ‘seeker’ of truth on his origins and destiny,” the Pope said. “In his mind and in his ‘heart,’ questions and thoughts arise that cannot be repressed or stifled, since they emerge from the depths of the person and are a part of the intimate essence of the person. They are religious questions, and religious freedom is necessary for them to manifest themselves fully.”

He called religious freedom “a fundamental right of man.” It is “not simply freedom of thought or private worship,” but “the freedom to live according to ethical principles, both privately and publicly, consequent to the truth one has found.”

“Legal systems, at both national and international level, are therefore required to recognize, guarantee and protect religious freedom, which is a right intrinsically inherent in human nature.”

Religious freedom is also “an indicator of a healthy democracy” and “one of the main sources of the legitimacy of the state,” the Pope continued.

Pope Francis said that the globalized world also faces a “great challenge” and a “sickness” in which “weak thought even reduces the general ethical level, in the name of a false concept of tolerance that ends up persecuting those who defend the truth about humanity and its ethical consequences.”

The Pope told the religious liberty conference participants that he hoped they would show with depth and rigor the reasons that religious freedom should be respected and defended.

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Euthanasia case heads to French high court

Paris, France, Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - An official with France’s highest court has said that a minimally conscious, severely injured man should be denied food and hydration, countering prior rulings that doing so would violate his right to life.

Remi Keller, public rapporteur with France’s Council of State, issued a recommendation that Vincent Lambert, 39, had no hope of recovery or enjoying a positive effect from the food or hydration that is keeping him alive.

Keller’s recommendation now goes to the court’s highest panel, composed of 17 judges. They will issue a final decision June 24 concerning whether to end Lambert’s life, the BBC reports.

Lambert was incapacitated in a car accident six years ago.

His fate has become the center of a legal controversy. Lambert’s wife and physicians have said that his intravenous food and water should be removed.

His parents and two of his siblings took the case to court to continue his nourishment.

In January a panel of nine judges in Chalons-en-Champagne ruled that Lambert should continue to receive food and hydration. Removing food and hydration is “a grave and clearly illegal attack on the fundamental right to life,” the panel said.

They added that Lambert is “neither sick nor at the end of his life.”

Euthanasia is illegal in France. However, a 2005 law allows physicians to refrain from using “disproportionate” treatments “with no other effect than maintaining life artificially.”

French president Francois Hollande, a member of France’s Socialist Party, plans to change the law next year to allow medically assisted suicide.

The bishops of France reiterated Catholic teaching against euthanasia in a January 2014 document, stating that God’s commandment “thou shall not kill” is “the foundation of all social life respectful of others, especially the most vulnerable.”

The bishops pointed out the contradiction in seeking to prevent suicide in society while also allowing it in some cases.

While Catholic ethics does not require extraordinary means to preserve life, it recognizes the provision of food and hydration as ordinary standard care.

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Marriage matters for society, says homilist at national Mass

Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Marriage, an institution between one man and one woman for the rearing of children, is designed by God and is the backbone of society, clergy proclaimed at Thursday's national Mass for Marriage.

“Society didn’t create it: society cannot re-create it”said Msgr. Edward Filardi, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Bethesda, Md., of marriage in a June 19 homily for the Mass for Marriage.

The Mass, held at a Capitol Hill parish in Washington, D.C., was held before the national March for Marriage – a peaceful demonstration celebrating the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Msgr. Filardi explained that the charge to defend marriage is “not a battle against people.”

“It’s a battle to uphold something beautiful.”

The “culmination of creation is the creation of man and woman,” he said, noting that man and woman were created for one another and commanded to be fruitful in their union.

In seeking to “re-make” marriage, society runs “the risk of mocking God himself by denying this truth of marriage’s purpose,” the monsignor continued.

However, “while our faith points us to supernatural truths, it grounds us in natural realities,” Msgr. Filardi pointed out.  

He said it is “right for a child to be nourished by both its father and its mother,” noting the variety of gifts complimentary parents bring to a relationship.

He also praised and encouraged friendship between persons of all sexes and orientations, but noted that “only the unique love of a man and a woman is equipped for marriage because only a man and a woman can enter into one flesh.”

Rejecting the reality of the one-flesh union through the use of “unintended orifices,” the monsignor added, makes an “imitation of marriage.”

“When marriage comes to mean almost anything, so it comes to mean almost nothing,” he warned.

In closing, the monsignor urged the faithful to speak up in defense of marriage.

“Don’t be intimidated by being on the wrong side of history: you’ll never be on the wrong side of nature and the only fear is to be on the wrong side of God.”

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On World Refugee Day, bishops implore U.S. to address Syria

Seattle, Wash., Jun 20, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration declared the refugee situation in Syria a “humanitarian disaster” and called on the U.S. to increase resettlement in a statement for World Refugee Day.

“The Syrian refugee crisis in the Middle East has reached a point of humanitarian disaster,” stated Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, the auxiliary bishop of Seattle, on June 20. “Although the United States has provided overseas support to these refugees, other forms of relief, including possible resettlement of the most vulnerable, should be seriously considered.”

According to a United Nations estimate, approximately three million Syrians have fled the country since the civil war began there. Catholic Relief Services reported that 4.5 million Syrians have been “internally displaced” in the conflict. 

In addition, Bishop Elizondo declared the surge in child migrants to the U.S. from Central America and Mexico to be a refugee situation. “These children are indeed fleeing for their lives and must be looked at through a protection lens, not through an enforcement lens,” he said. “We must not send them back if they have valid protection claims. It would be akin to sending them back into a burning home.”

The Bishop’s declaration of a refugee situation follows what experts told CNA June 19 that at least some of the migrants could be considered refugees and thus be granted asylum. The number of unaccompanied child migrants has reportedly doubled each year since 2011. An estimated 47,000 have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border so far in 2014.

The chief factor driving the migration of the children is violence in the region, reported the bishops’ office of Migration and Refugee Services. The report cited another study by the bishops’ conference, which stated that “violence and coercion, including extortion, kidnapping, threats, and coercive and forcible recruitment of children into criminal activity are perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations and gangs have become part of everyday life in all these countries, exerting control over communities.”

The Bishops have called on the U.S. to respond to both crises, asking the government to grant an emergency increase in the number of Syrian resettlements to 15,000 for the 2014 fiscal. In addition, the bishops pleaded for the U.S. to work for a ceasefire in Syria and “initiate serious peace negotiations.”

In regard to the migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border, Bishop Elizondo asked Congress to set aside just under $3 billion for the Office of Refugee Resettlement for the 2015 fiscal year to prepare for the increase in migrants to the U.S., and establish an interagency fund to address the root causes of the migration and preempt children from their “perilous, unauthorized migration” by providing “safe and legal avenues” for them.

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