Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In a hearing before members of Congress, victims of North Korea’s human rights abuses and experts on the dictatorship’s harsh practices asked for support in bringing an end to the country’s harsh treatment of political dissenters.
Rep. Chris Smith, chairman of the House subcommittee on global human rights, explained in a June 18 hearing that “in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, we see a state that seeks to control all aspects of the lives of its citizens, not only their political lives, but also that innermost sanctuary we call conscience as well,” using starvation, torture, imprisonment and death against political and religious dissidents of the totalitarian, atheistic stance of the North Korean government.
“Enough is enough. We need to do far more,” Smith urged.
The hearing, entitled “Human Rights Abuses and Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea”, featured testimony from Lee Jong-hoon, South Korea's Ambassador-at-Large for Human Rights; Andrew Natsios, co-chair of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea; Shin Chang-Hoon, director of the Center for Global Governance Asian Institute for Policy Studies; and Shin Dong-hyuk, a survivor of a North Korean prison camp.
“My situation is one where I cannot go back to my home” explained Shin, who escaped from the prison camp he was born in as well as the country of North Korea eight years ago.
He spoke of a life “not fit for human beings or even for animals”, where his first memories were of guards in uniform carrying guns, and being taught by those guards to distrust his parents, who were political prisoners.
“As soon as I was born, I too became a political prisoner as well,” he said, saying that he and other children of political prisoners were required by guards “to pay for our crimes” in the work camps.
“We could only eat the things given to us, we could only wear the things given to us, and we could only doing the work given to us by the prison officials.”
When he was 14, Shin reported his mother and older brother, who were considering escape.“I was rewarded with terribly indescribable and cruel torture,” he said, and his mother and brother were publicly executed.
“The torture I bared, the scars I earned from that time, I still bear today.”
“I am here to exhort all of you to save my brothers and sisters who are dying,” Shin added, saying that U.S. government and international institutions are capable of helping the people of North Korea.
Lee stated that around the globe, “there has to be a much increased awareness of what’s going on.”
He said that specifically, the international human rights community should focus on increasing awareness about North Korea’s relationship with China. North Korea, Lee said, is “very dependent on China” for financial support, resources and food, and has the power to change the regime.
In addition, he noted, Chinese youth are starting to question their country’s support “of this state that’s an embarrassment to the world,” and the international community has a strong evidence to support saying that on the Korean Peninsula, a “peaceful and free unification is beneficial to China.”
Lee also advocated inventive ways of informing North Koreans of the outside world’s support, such as dropping in USB drives with documents on them.
Natsios urged the use of stronger language and international support, saying that current policy negotiations “have been an abject failure,” and that North Korea has continued its nuclear proliferation and human rights violations despite “moderately” phrased declarations decrying the regime’s tactics.
Smith praised the accuracy of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry report on North Korea, which said the country “does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people, but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorizes them from within.”
“We have always lived in a wounded world, but today the tourniquets required to stop all the bleeding the world over would tax even the most compassionate of souls,” Smith contemplated.
“Yet it is precisely this exhaustion of compassion that we must fight against, and we must summon the necessary conviction to address the sufferings of the people of North Korea.”
Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Defenders of marriage from around the United States came to Washington, D.C. Thursday for the March for Marriage to support the institution as one between a man and a woman.
“We’re here to affirm that marriage matters – it’s the foundation of society,” Jenn Do of Rockville, Md., who came to the March with her children, told CNA June 19.
Do also said that she hoped her kids would learn from the march, and be “not afraid to speak the truth about what marriage is.”
She added that while some court cases might rule against the definition of marriage, she refused to “swallow that it’s a lost battle.”
“People shouldn’t give up hope.”
The march was the second national demonstration recognizing marriage’s unique role as an institution that unites a man and a woman. Participants met in front of the U.S. Capitol for a rally, and then walked three quarters of a mile to the Supreme Court building, where the group gathered in prayer and song.
Those who could not physically attend the march were invited to join in prayer and fasting, along with a live webstream of the event.
The first March for Marriage was held in March 2013, as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that eventually ordered the federal government to accept redefinitions of marriage in states that choose to redefine the institution.
In its June 2013 decisions, the high court also discarded a case defending a California amendment approved by voters to defend the definition of marriage on procedural grounds. Because it was discarded by the high court, a lower court’s ruling that the amendment was unconstitutional to stand.
“It’s good to be here” said Tom Pell, a senior at Providence College in Rhode Island who came with the Love and Fidelity Network, a group of college students who promote the traditional understanding of love and sexuality.
The effect of the changing definition of marriage “can be seen on college campuses” in the breakdown of relationships on campus and the rise of the hookup culture, he added.
Angelina Rivera, a young married mother from Patterson, N.J., told CNA that she was “here to demonstrate that we have a voice”
Her husband, David, told CNA that children “need that balance” – a balance in approach to parenting “that can only come from a mother and a father.”
David also said that their experiences as young parents inspired them to come to the march, saying that their children are already “getting the same things we’re getting for speaking the truth about marriage,” from school classmates.
Angelina said they “teach our children not to discriminate and to love others,” even while having different understandings of the world
Jack Anderson from Baltimore, Md., told CNA that he came because of the unique pressure surrounding this issue.
“I don’t know any other word that’s being re-defined,” he said. “It’s a religious term. It’s one of the sacraments.”
Elloise Dessaussoure of South Carolina said that she hoped that the wide participation in the March for Marriage would “send a signal that we may have differences” but ultimately, in the cause of defending marriage, that the “foundation is love.”
Vatican City, Jun 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During his one day his visit to Italian town Cassano all'Jonio, Pope Francis met with the priests of the diocese, speaking of the joy of the priesthood, but also of the dangers of an individualistic culture.
“I would first of all like to share with you the joy of being priests. The ever new surprise of having been called by the Lord Jesus. Called to follow him, to be with him, to go to others bringing him, his word, his forgiveness,” the Pope stated in his June 21 address to the priests.
“There is nothing more beautiful for a man that this, right?”
Cassano all’Jonio is a small town in the province of Cosenza of Calabria, located in the south of Italy. The Vatican confirmed the pontiff’s visit there in April, following a statement made by the town’s Bishop Nuncio Galantino, secretary-general of the Italian Episcopal Conference, who had said that the pontiff had voiced his intention to visit the nuncio's diocese.
Opening his speech to the priests, the Bishop of Rome thanked them for their welcome, revealing that he has “greatly desired this encounter with you who bear the burden of daily parish work.”
Drawing their attention to the “joy of being priests,” Pope Francis explained that there is no greater happiness than being called by God and to bring his word and mercy to others.
“When we priests are in front of the tabernacle, and we stop there for a moment, in silence, then we feel the gaze of Jesus upon us once again, and this gaze renews us, revives us” he said, observing that making this pause is not always easy.
“It's not easy because we have taken on so many things, so many people” he noted, “but sometimes it's not easy because we feel a certain discomfort, Jesus' gaze troubles us a bit, also puts us in crisis...but this does us good!”
Being in prayerful silence allows Jesus to show us whether “we are working as good laborers, or (if) perhaps we have become a like ‘employees,’” the Roman Pontiff explained.
He reveals to us “If we are open ‘channels’ through which his abundant love flows, or if we put ourselves at the center,” the Pope observed, stating that if this happens “instead of being ‘channels,’ we become ‘screens’ that don't help to encounter the Lord, or the light and strength of the Gospel.”
Moving to a second point, Pope Francis called the attention of those gathered to “the beauty of brotherhood: of being priests together.”
It is the beauty “of following the Lord not on our own, one-on-one, but together, despite the wide variety of gifts and personalities” he said, explaining that this variety “only enriches priests, this providential variety, of age, of talents...and all lived in communion, in fellowship.”
Going on, the Roman Pontiff pointed out that doing this is also not easy or immediate, “because we priests are also immersed in the subjective culture of today, this culture that exults the self until the point of idolization.”
There is also the problem of “a certain pastoral individualism that unfortunately is widespread within our dioceses” the Pope noted, encouraging the priests to “react to this with the choice of brotherhood.”
“I intentionally say ‘choice.’ It can't be a thing left to chance, or favorable circumstances...No, it's a choice that corresponds to the reality which constitutes us, to the gift that we have received but that should always be welcomed and cultivated: communion in Christ in the presbytery, around the bishop.”
Describing how this fraternity ought to be put into practice through concrete means that adapt to the times and the needs of their region, the pontiff explained that it must also always be done “in an apostolic perspective, with a missionary style, with brotherhood and simplicity of life.”
Pope Francis concluded by drawing the priests’ attention to one final aspect of their current ministry, which he stated is the importance of “your work with families and for the family.”
“It's a work that the Lord asks us to do in a particular way in this time, which is a difficult time for both the family as an institution, and for families, because of the crisis” he said.
However “just when the time is difficult, God makes his closeness felt, his grace, the prophetic power of his Word” the pontiff observed, “and we are called to be witnesses, mediators of this closeness to families and of this prophetic strength for the family.”
“May we go forward, animated by our common love for the Lord and for the Holy Mother Church” he prayed, and “may the Virgin Mary protect and accompany you. May we remain united in prayer.”
Vatican City, Jun 21, 2014 (CNA) -
In the first major meeting of his 12-hour pastoral visit to the Calabria region of southern Italy today, Pope Francis spoke to the inmates and staff of the district prison about the importance of re-integration, accomplished through both human and divine action.
“A true and full reintegration of the person does not happen as the end of a solely human path. On this journey, the meeting with God also comes into it, the capacity to let ourselves be seen by the God who loves us, who is able to understand us and forgive us our sins,” Pope Francis told the staff and inmates of the “Casa Circondariale di Castrovillari” prison in Calabria, Italy on June 21.
“The Lord is a master of reintegration: he takes us by the hand and brings us back into the community,” he assured them.
Human rights must always be respected, particularly for those in prison, the Pope urged. Yet there also should be real efforts towards “effective reintegration into society.”
If this end is lost, the sentence becomes only an “instrument of punishment and social retaliation, at times damaging to the individual and society.
Pope Francis also took the opportunity of his visit to the prison to denounce the crime-related violence in the region.
“Never any more violence against children. May it never happen again that a little one must undergo these sufferings,” he said, referencing the death of 3 year old Coco Campolongo last January. The little boy was shot and killed alongside his grandfather, and their bodies burned – victims of the Ndrangheta crime syndicate in the Calabria region.
Coco’s father, an inmate at the prison, was at today’s encounter with Pope Francis. “I pray for him continually, do not despair,” Pope Francis assured him.
In his speech, Pope Francis also noted that accepting the love of God is not always easy. “It is more difficult to allow ourselves to be looked upon by God than to look upon God. It is more difficult to allow ourselves to be encountered by God than to encounter God.”
Yet God “always forgives, always accompanies, always understands.”
The Pope underscored the importance of frequenting the sacrament of confession, because “we are fragile.”
He encouraged those present to make their incarceration “a precious time” during which they could “seek and obtain” the grace of God.
Pope Francis concluded by asking for Mary’s intercession on the inmates and their families, that God may give them “serenity and peace.”
Vatican City, Jun 21, 2014 (CNA) -
In his homily at the Saturday evening anticipated Mass during his day trip to Italy’s Calabria region, Pope Francis denounced the dishonesty and violence perpetrated by members of the local mafia.
“When adoration of the Lord is substituted by adoration of money, the road to sin opens to personal interest ... When one does not adore the Lord, one becomes an adorer of evil, like those who live by dishonesty and violence,” Pope Francis said June 21 at the outdoor Mass in Sibari, Italy.
“Your land, which so beautiful, knows the signs of the consequences of this sin. The ‘Ndrangheta (Calabrian mafia) is this: adoration of evil and contempt of the common good. This evil must be fought, must be expelled. It must be told no,” he urged.
Those who have chosen the “evil road, such as the mobsters” are “not in communion with God. They are ‘excommunicated’,” he said.
His homily, preached for the feast of the Corpus Christi focused on the importance of adoring God alone.
“And, for this faith, we renounce Satan and all of his temptations; we renounce the idols of money, vanity, pride and power. We, Christians, do not want to adore anything or anyone in this world except Jesus Christ, who is present in the Holy Eucharist,” he emphasized.
Christians adore God “who is love” and who “in Jesus Christ has given himself for us, who has offered himself on the cross for the expiation of our sins and by the power of this love is risen and lives in the Church.”
A Christian’s adoration of Jesus present in the Eucharist will also bear fruit in fraternal charity, noted Pope Francis. “The people that adores God in the Eucharist is the people that walks in charity.”
The Holy Father urged the congregation to “witness to concrete fraternal solidarity” in families, parishes, and ecclesial movements.
“The Lord Jesus does not cease to raise up gestures of charity in his people who are journeying!” he exclaimed.
Furthermore, it is the Eucharist that unites the followers of Jesus, making them “one family, the People of God gathered around Jesus, the bread of life.”
“If you adore Christ and walk behind him and with him, your diocesan Church and your parishes will grow in faith and in charity, in the joy of evangelization,” he encouraged.
“You will be a Church in which fathers, mothers, priests, religious, catechists, children, the elderly, (and) young people walk together, one alongside the other, supporting one another, helping one another, loving one another as brothers, especially in moments of difficulty.”
The pontiff also repeated his much-used encouragement to young people. “I have said it before and I say it again now: do not let your hope be stolen!” he exclaimed. “Adoring Jesus in your hears and remaining united to him you will know how to oppose evil, injustice, violence with the force of good, truth and beauty.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily by invoking Mary, the “woman of the Eucharist,” who will “help you remain united, also by means of your witness, so that the Lord will continue to give life to the world.”
Salina, Kan., Jun 21, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The twin steeples of Sacred Heart Catholic Church tower over the green summer cornfields just outside of Paxico, Kansas.
Inside, a simple scripture verse painted on the walls of the sacristy surrounds the high altar.
“Come to me, I will give you rest.”
This peaceful country parish filled to over capacity on Friday, June 20, for the funeral of Fr. Kenneth Walker. Friends and family of the deceased were joined by dozens of young priests from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), to which Fr. Walker belonged, who came to pray for and say goodbye to their brother priest.
Fr. Walker, 28, was shot and killed while coming to the aid of Fr. Joseph Terra, who was attacked at the rectory of Mater Misercordiae Mission in Phoenix. Fr. Terra, 56, suffered several injuries but was released from the hospital Monday.
A priest for just two years, Fr. Walker completed studies at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in 2012. The homilist for the funeral Mass, Fr. John Berg, was a professor at the seminary, and knew Fr. Walker as a smart but humble student.
“He was not infrequently the most knowledgeable man in the room,” Fr. Berg said, “but he would be the last one to step forward and put himself in the spotlight.”
Fr. Berg, who is now general superior of the FSSP, also noted that while the media is often quick to portray the Church and priests in a negative light, they have been “suddenly and resoundingly respectful in recognizing the life of a steadfast priest who simply served his flock.”
While it is always hard to understand death and necessary to grieve, it is a comfort that Fr. Walker’s Christ-like qualities will continue drawing others back to God, Fr. Berg said.
“From our limited, all-too-human vantage point, this tragedy is simply abhorrent,” Fr. Berg said. “But in the plans of God, Fr. Walker’s life and death have spoken louder and has reached a larger number of souls than most priests who serve for 50 years.”
Drawing people to Christ was the conviction that led Fr. Walker to become a priest. Fr. Berg recalled that on his seminary application, Fr. Walker wrote:
“The only vocation that I could be satisfied with would be one which would be dedicated to bringing people to salvation.”
He was well suited to the post. Parishioners at his Requiem Mass in Phoenix on Monday described Fr. Walker as a good and holy priest who was close to the families in his parish.
“He came to our home on numerous occasions and would pray the rosary with my children and our family,” Mary Langlois told CNA June 16.
Fr. John Rickert is the pastor of St. John Vianney parish in nearby Maple Hill, where Fr. Walker’s parents attend Mass. He told CNA after the funeral that he remembered Fr. Walker as being quiet and smart, “a really good fellow.”
The strong faith of Fr. Walker’s family has also helped to carry them through this time, Fr. Ricker said.
“The family is doing well, by the grace of God,” he said.
After the funeral, family and friends drove to Mount Calvary cemetery on a hill overlooking St. Mary’s, Kan. A gentle breeze blew through the Jesuit cemetery as one by one, all of the priests sprinkled holy water on the grave and gave Fr. Walker a final blessing.
“It’s fitting that he’s buried in a Catholic cemetery that also has a lot of brother priests buried there,” Fr. Rickert said.
As the only house of formation for the FSSP in the United States, Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Nebraska hopes to establish a permanent cemetery for the priests of the society of apostolic life.
During the homily, Fr. Berg commented on the urgent duty of the priestly fraternity and of the faithful to offer prayer and sacrifice for the repose of Fr. Walker’s soul. On Monday, priests were already offering Mass for him throughout the world and around the clock.
Fr. Berg also said that while the faithful pray for Fr. Walker’s soul, they in turn hope he will intercede for them once he meets Christ in heaven.
“I know how our Fraternity needs such an intercessor in heaven,” Fr. Berg said.
“And given how Fr. Walker was never one to waste words, I’m fully confident that Our Lord will be keen to listen when he does pipe up and ask for attention.”