Archive of July 16, 2014

Indian cardinal appeals for peace after crucifix vandalized

Mumbai, India, Jul 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - After a statue of a crucifix in Mumbai was vandalized in the early hours of Monday morning, the city's archbishop has appealed for peace and prayers.

“The Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, appeals to the Christian community to remain peaceful, calm and lift up the perpetrators of this crime in prayer,” the Archdiocese of Bombay stated July 14.

“We urge the police to investigate the crime with full earnestness and to provide police protection to this sacred image.”

The historic crucifix, located on Swami Vivekanand Road near the Life Insurance Corporations building in Vile Parle West, a Mumbai suburb, was found by locals to have been attacked. The miscreants had hacked off the statue's hands.

The Archdiocese of Bombay said it was “deeply pained” by the desecration, and noted that this was the second time, in less than a year, that the crucifix has been vandalized.

“Till date no updates have been provided to the Christian community at Vile Parle or to the Archdiocese of Bombay with regards to the investigation of the previous vandalisation which took place on December 15, 2013,” the archdiocese noted, lamenting local law enforcement's slow response to the two acts of vandalism.

Bombay Catholic Sabha, a lay association of the Bombay archdiocese, has lodged a complaint with the local police station.

The crucifix, which was erected in 1880, is visited regularly by the faithful, who offer prayers and floral gifts, and is also generally treated with reverence by Mumbaikars of other religions.

A Hindu lawyer, who spoke to CNA July 14 on condition of anonymity, condemned the crucifix' vandalization, saying, “such disgusting violent trespass on a religious community or symbols of faith is highly disgraceful and demonstrates deficiency of intellectual, spiritual, and cultural sensitivity.”

He added that “the Catholics in India are generally a peace-loving and law-abiding community.”

“Progress cannot be achieved through hatred and war,” he reflected.

Laura D’Souza, a local Catholic, told CNA “we are hurt”, but added that “it’s premature, and difficult to speculate about any politics or fundamentalist forces who generally tend to use provocative means to incite communal tensions and threaten public peace.”

“We pray that peace triumphs, and hope that all communities learn to live in harmony and share a common platform for the public good.”

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Jesuits working to free abducted priest in Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghanistan, Jul 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - More than a month after the kidnapping of Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar, S.J. near the Afghan city of Herat, his order continues to advocate for his release.

“During this painful time, we have worked quietly to resolve this difficult situation. We have been in close contact with the Afghan authorities and the Indian Consul General in Herat, Afghanistan,” Fr. Peter Balleis, S.J., international director of Jesuit Refugee Service, stated July 7.

“Although we still have not heard from him or his captors, we live in hope. All the information we have continues to suggest that he is alive and he remains in Afghanistan.”

Fr. Kumar, 47, is from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and is Afghanistan director for Jesuit Refugee Service; he was abducted June 2 while accompanying teachers on a visit to a school for refugees in the village of Sohadat, some 500 miles west of Kabul.

“We remain committed as well to doing everything in our power to ensure Fr Alexis Prem Kumar's safety,” Fr. Balleis said, “and hope that by the end of Ramadan those who have taken him will release him as a festive Eid al-Fitr gift.”

The fasting month of Ramadan in Islam is concluded by Eid al-Fitr, a holiday during which Muslims are particularly encouraged to forgive one another and to make gifts of charity to the poor. Eid al-Fitr will fall this year on or around July 28.

“This past month has been a painful time for Prem's family, his Jesuit confreres across the world, and for all of us in JRS,” Fr. Balleis stated. “We are grateful for the outpouring of prayerful support that we have received from many quarters … we are particularly grateful to the advice and assistance offered by several humanitarian aid agencies.”

“These past weeks have, without a doubt, been trying and difficult ones for Prem. We are concerned about his health, but know that his spiritual strength and personal warmth will guide him through this trial.”

Fr. Balleis lamented that June's presidential election in Afghanistan could make securing Fr. Kumar's release “more complicated than we had imagined.”

The Jesuit Refugee Service international director noted that the school in Sohadat will re-open when Fr. Kumar is released, and added that they have already re-opened most of their educational programs in Afghanistan.

“We remain committed to accompany our Afghan students and their families in their desire for quality education and re-opening our schools is a clear sign of that commitment.”

Jesuit Refugee Service provides education, health care, and social services to more than 500,000 refugees and internally displaced persons annually; Fr. Kumar has been working with them in Afghanistan since 2011.

In 2013, the agency assisted more than 6,000 Afghans who were returning from Iran and Pakistan, working in Kabul, Herat, Bamiyan, and Day Kundi. Fr. Kumar has been in Afghanistan since 2011.

He hails from the town of Variyanvayal, located fewer than 18 miles northeast of Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu, and belongs to the Madurai province of the Society of Jesus.

He attended secondary school in Devakottai, and studied theology in Chennai and Delhi.

Before his time in Afghanistan, Fr. Kumar had worked with Sri Lankan refugees and with indigenous peoples and dalits in Tamil Nadu.

Many tribespersons and volunteers in Kodaikanal, where Fr. Kumar served at Sacred Heart College from 2001-2006, have offered prayers and had Masses said to procure his safe release.

His family have appealed to the Indian government to assist in locating and securing the priest, and Tamil Nadu's chief minister has written to the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, on his behalf.

A friend who attended school with Fr. Kumar said he had wanted to serve others since childhood.

“He used to talk about the plight of poor and downtrodden people when other students would be discussing cinema,” A. Thadeus told the Times of India.

Fr. Kumar's brother, Manoharan, said through NDTV: “I appeal to all in Afghanistan with folded hands, whoever it may be, to release my brother Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar as early as possible so that the agony what we are going through may end.”

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Soccer stars to play inter-religious friendly match for peace

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 16, 2014 (CNA) - Retired soccer star Javier “Pupi” Zanetti, who was captain of the Argentinean national team and of Inter Milan in Italy, will soon don his cleats again to take part in an inter-religious friendly match for peace.

The Argentinean soccer player will join Roberto Baggio of Italy and Zinedine Zidane of France for the first “Inter-Religious Match for Peace.” Lionel Messi, Francesco Totti, Gianluigi Buffon and Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho may also take part, according to L’Osservatore Romano.

Zanetti, who is Catholic, was chosen to organize the symbolic game with collaboration from the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences.

Zanetti said the game, scheduled for Sept. 1 at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, was the “explicit wish of Pope Francis,” and that soccer players from various faiths would be invited to play in the name of peace and dialogue.

“How many values can we bear witness to simply by playing a game?” Zanetti stated.

He described the upcoming soccer match as “a symbolic gesture to help people understand that it is possible to build a world of peace, based on dialogue and respect for others.”

Those who “have ideas different from my own are not my enemies but an occasion for growth and enrichment,” he added.

The academy said it expects numerous international soccer stars to take part in the match, although no official rosters have been complied as of yet.

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Official song released for papal visit to South Korea

Seoul, South Korea, Jul 16, 2014 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Seoul in South Korea has revealed the official song for Pope Francis’ visit to the country, scheduled for Aug. 14-18 to coincide with Asian Youth Day.

The video for the song was recorded at the Cathedral of Myeongdong in Seoul, one of the country’s largest churches, and features 36 national celebrities, many of whom have an international following in the country’s K-Pop music genre.

The song is entitled “Koinonia,” a Greek word meaning communion. The lyrics focus on the relationship of love between God and the members of the Church.

According to the archdiocese, the song aims to convey the message that Pope Francis’ visit is a gift from God for the entire nation.

“We wanted to dedicate this video to the Holy Father as a gift,” said Huh Young-yeop, a spokesman for the organizing committee.

The K-Pop genre of music – Korean pop with various musical influences – gained international attention in recent years due to “Gangnam Style,” a song by South Korean singer Park Jae-sang, known as PSY, which gained more than 2 billion views to become the most-watched video on YouTube.

While PSY is not among the celebrities who appear in the papal visit song and video, the director of one of his own videos, Cha Eun-taek, did take part.

“Koinonia” was composed by K-Pop singer Noh Young-Shim and produced by Won Dong-Yeon.

“We created this song keeping in mind the most vulnerable among us, who are one of the main concerns of the Pope. All of the celebrities felt honored to be a part of this project,” Dong-Yeon said.

The video will be shown at the main events Pope Francis will attend during his visit, including Asian Youth Day.

The trip to South Korea will be the third time a pontiff has visited the peninsula.

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North Carolina lawmakers stand by 'Choose Life' plates

Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Several lawmakers in North Carolina have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a censorship case related to pro-life specialty license plates in the state.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed the appeal on Friday on behalf of Thom Tillis, speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, and Phil Berger, president pro tempore of the North Carolina Senate.

“State governments have a right to advance messages consistent with their public policies,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox in a recent statement.

“The Supreme Court has already affirmed that right. North Carolinians support protecting life and helping pregnant women in need; the First Amendment does not require the state to bow to demands that it censor the 'Choose Life' message.”

The North Carolina General Assembly authorized the specialty license plates featuring the phrase “Choose Life” in 2011. The plates would have been available for an additional $25 fee, $15 of which would support the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, which serves pregnant women in North Carolina.

The state offers more than 100 other special-interest license plates, ranging from the Knights of Columbus to more than a dozen NASCAR options. All specialty plates fund causes that benefit the state and are consistent with its public policies.  

Before the state could begin issuing the plates for hundreds of interested citizens, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on First Amendment grounds. The ACLU argued that the “Choose Life” plates must be censored because North Carolina did not also issue a specialty place encouraging abortion.  

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ruled in favor of the ACLU, barring North Carolina from distributing the “Choose Life” plates. In February, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision.

“The 4th Circuit's decision is at odds with other circuits that have upheld the rights of states to issue such plates,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman.

“As the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed as recently as 2009, the government ‘has the right to speak for itself…and to select the views that it wants to express.’”

Specialty license plates expressing a pro-life message are available in 29 states.

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Vatican lauds wide reach of #PAUSEforPeace campaign

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In wake of the Vatican’s viral campaign urging faithful worldwide to pause for a moment of silence during the World Cup final, officials have expressed their hope that the fruits will continue to grow.

“For me it has been a true surprise to see how a tweet launched with such a short amount of time managed to involve the communities, parishes, religious and laymen that united in this initiative,” Msgr. Melchor told CNA July 15.

“I never imagined that it would go so far.”

Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Msgr. Melchor Sánchez de Toca Alameda, played a key role in launching the council’s #PAUSEforPeace campaign last Friday.

The goal of the initiative was to achieve a moment of silence during the final game of the World Cup, which took place Sunday between Germany and Argentina in Rio de Janiero, in order to remember those affected by warring countries.

In a matter of hours, the campaign went viral on social media, where the hashtag "PAUSEforPeace" was tweeted by more than 25,000 users.

According to the analytical and digital monitoring tool Social Bro, from Friday afternoon to Monday morning local time in Rome, the message #PAUSEforPeace reached 48,000 people all over the world, with over 500 media organizations writing about it, including The New York Times, New York Daily, Huffington Post, Drudge Report, and Telegraph.

“Although the effectiveness of our work cannot be measured in purely quantitative parameters, there was no doubt it was a media success,” Msgr. Melchor explained.

“If we had launched it a few days earlier, we might have achieved enough critical mass to convince FIFA to decide on a minute of silence for peace.”

Despite the fact that there was no official pause for peace during the final game, the priest emphasized that the power of prayer has no limits.

“If this is the strength of a small media campaign, there is nothing that can't be achieved by a prayer chain in which all the members of the Body of Christ are united to ask for something in the name of Jesus, like he told us,” he observed.

“If the scripture says that 'the prayer of the righteous does much,' the prayer of many righteous together will be more powerful still.”

Msgr. Melchor personally supported the campaign through his own twitter account @MelchorST, as did the president of the Pontifical council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who encouraged faithful to #PAUSEforPeace throughout the campaign on his account @CardRavasi_en.

The last tweet appearing on the cardinal’s page is his July 14 message the day after the game, quoting author R.L. Stevenson saying, “Don't judge each day by the harvest you gather, but by the seeds that you plant.”

Beto Anda, the graphic designer who created the logo for #PAUSEforPeace, explained to CNA that “to see so many people and media who have used this image for such a special cause as world peace, has meant a lot to me. It was unforgettable.”

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Catholic News Agency launches mobile app

Denver, Colo., Jul 16, 2014 (CNA) - Catholic News Agency has announced the launch of its new app, offering direct access to all of its content, free of charge.

“Our readers have come to expect free, timely coverage of the Universal Church on our website,” said Marianne Medlin, editor-in-chief of CNA.

“Now we’re making that available to them on their phone or tablet.”

The app provides news stories, columns, and faith resources from the Catholic News Agency website.

In addition, users can watch CNA’s YouTube videos, browse photos from the agency’s journalists around the world, and stay up-to-date on Facebook and Twitter posts.

One of the fastest growing religious news providers of the last decade, Catholic News Agency has offices and correspondents in the United States, Rome, Spain, Peru, Chile, Brazil and Southeast Asia.

“Our hope with this app is to enhance our global coverage of the Church by providing an integrated experience for our readers,” said South American bureau chief Ryan Thomas. “That means providing written content, photos, videos and social media in a convenient format.”

“This is the next step in our continuing mission of responding to St. John Paul II’s call for a New Evangelization.”

The free Catholic News Agency app is available now for both iOS and Android.

Click your operating system to download the free CNA App

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Papuans in Australia celebrate feast of Bl. Peter To Rot

Sydney, Australia, Jul 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Papua New Guinean community in Sydney celebrated recently the feast day of Bl. Peter To Rot, himself a Papuan who was martyred during World War II for his defence of marriage.

On July 6, Papua New Guineans gathered at St. Brigid's parish in Marrickville, a Sydney suburb, to celebrate their blessed with a Mass and with traditions of their native home.

“We are deeply touched by the enormous faith of the Church in Papua New Guinea, represented by these visitors,” local parishioners commented.

St. Brigid's is under the care of the Passionists, who also run parishes in the Papua New Guinean capital, Port Moresby, as well as its suburb of Boroko.

Papua New Guinean emigrants were joined in the celebration by more than 50 visitors from Boroko and other parts of the Melanesian nation; local Sydney politicians; and a group of Sisters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

A choir from Papua New Guinea sang as a procession was held, and Mass was concelebrated by priests from Papua New Guinea; Fr. Tomas McDonough, Passionist provincial; and Fr. John Pearce, pastor of St. Brigid's.

Following the Mass a “bung kaikai” – potluck – and “sing-sing”, or Papuan intertribal gathering with dance and music, were held.

Bl. Peter To Rot was born in Rakunai village in 1912 to converts, who had their son educated by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Following his education, Bl. To Rot was appointed a catechist, and when the Japanese invaded New Guinea in 1942, interning foreign missionaries, he was left in charge of his parish.

He married at the age of 24 and had three children, one of whom is still alive.

He continued to lead prayer meetings and to administer the sacraments of baptism and marriage even when the Japanese prohibited all religious activities and promoted polygamy and licentiousness.

After denouncing a local policemen who wanted to practice polygamy, Bl. To Rot was incarcerated, and then was executed by the Japanese, by lethal injection, in the summer of 1945.

He is now venerated as the patron of the youth of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

He was beatified by St. John Paul II during a Mass in Port Moresby said Jan. 17, 1995; the Pope said the beatification “opens a new period of Christian maturity” for the Church in Papua New Guinea.

“In the history of the local Church in any country, the first native-born martyr always marks a new beginning.”

St. John Paul II noted the martyr's example for married couple, saying he “had the highest esteem for marriage and, even in the face of great personal danger and opposition, he defended the Church’s teaching on the unity of marriage and the need for mutual fidelity.”

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Faith leaders join in condemnation of UK assisted dying bill

Rome, Italy, Jul 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Various religious leaders have joined their voices to denounce a bill seeking to legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill in parts of the U.K., stating that doing so violates human dignity and opens the door to coercion.

“Every human life is of intrinsic value and ought to be affirmed and cherished. This is central to our laws and our social relationships; to undermine this in any way would be a grave error,” said a July 16 joint statement signed by the leaders.

The proposed bill would change the laws in England and Wales, which presently punish assisted suicide by up to 14 years in prison. Introduced by Lord Falconer, a peer with the Labour Party, the legislation would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to seriously ill patients who request them and who are believed to have less than six months to live.

Having its first reading in the House of Lords June 5, the bill’s principles will be debated, and perhaps voted on, for the first time when it receives its second reading on July 18.

In a joint statement, a variety of religious figures expressed their fear that the bill “would have a serious detrimental effect on the wellbeing of individuals and on the nature and shape of our society.”

The statement was signed by 24 leaders of different faith traditions, including Catholic Cardinal Vincent Nichols, a Jewish Rabbi, an official of Britain’s Hindu Forum and a Muslim.

Actively assisting in ending the life of another does not lead to “a compassionate and caring society,” they observed, stating that those who are vulnerable “must be cared for and protected,” even if others must make sacrifices.

“Each year many thousands of elderly and vulnerable people suffer abuse; sadly, often at the hands of their families or carers,” and are “perceived as a burden or as a financial drain,” they noted, stating that this “terrible affliction” often leads many “to passivity, depression and self-loathing.”

“The desire to end one’s life may, at any stage of life, be prompted by depression or external pressure; any suggestion of a presumption that such a decision is ‘rational’ does not do justice to the facts.”

Going on, the faith leaders voiced concern that the bill would increase pressure to the vulnerable and terminally ill, which would then enhance the risk “of distress and coercion at a time when they most require love and support.”

Citing “serious lapses of trust” that have happened within the country’s National Health Service regarding caregivers, the faith leaders argued that legalizing the bill would only increase the chances of abuse.

“It is naïve to believe that, if assisted suicide were to be legalized, proposed safeguards would not similarly be breached with the most disastrous of consequences, by their nature irrevocable.”

Questioning what sort of society they would like to become, the signatories encouraged individuals to foster a society “in which every person is supported, protected and cherished even if, at times, they fail to cherish themselves.”

The faith leaders then called for increased access to better quality palliative care, as well as greater support for those who assist the terminally ill.

These things, they explained, “will be among the hallmarks of a truly compassionate society and it is to those ends that our energies ought to be harnessed.”

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Senate rejects bill to end employer conscience protections

Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday rejected a bill that opponents warned would have stripped conscience protections for businesses, drawing a response of cautious relief.

“While the outcome of today’s vote is a relief, it is sobering to think that more than half the members of the U.S. Senate, sworn to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States, would vote for a bill whose purpose is to reduce the religious freedom of their fellow Americans,” said the U.S. bishops’ director of government, Jayd Henricks.

The procedural motion to move the bill along fell four votes short of achieving the 60-vote majority needed to continue. Sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the bill would have forced employers with group health plans to provide all “health items” mandated by federal law, including all FDA-approved contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act.

This would counter the Supreme Court’s recent decision that closely-held businesses like Hobby Lobby are protected by federal law from the federal birth control mandate, given their religious objections.

The controversial mandate requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions. It has been the subject of religious freedom lawsuits from more than 300 plaintiffs across the country.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston – heads of the bishops’ religious freedom and pro-life committees, respectively – had cautioned against the proposed legislation in a letter to all U.S. Senators. They said that it “does not befit a nation committed to religious liberty. Indeed, if it were to pass, it would call that commitment into question.”

The bishops had argued that the bill would go far beyond the Hobby Lobby decision. If health care mandates were expanded in the future to include the abortion pill RU-486 or late-term abortions, employers would be forced to cover those and would have no recourse to conscience protections, they said.

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Women speak out against 'extreme' abortion bill

Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A federal bill to remove almost all abortion regulations is drawing strong opposition from critics who say that it would be devastating to health and safety of both women and their children.

U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), a registered nurse of over 40 years, expressed “grave concerns” about the negative effects that the proposal could have on health and safety standards.  

In a July 15 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Black warned that the bill – entitled the Women’s Health Protective Act – is actually harmful to women.

“Abortions not only pose serious physical health risks, but endanger a women’s mental health as well,” she said.

Introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the legislation would ban many restrictions on abortion, including laws to require certain credentials or testing of abortion doctors and laws to prohibit telemedicine abortions, in which the doctor is not in the same room as the patient receiving the abortion pill.  

It would also prevent laws against sex-selective abortion and bans on abortion after the baby is developed enough to live outside the womb.

After “considering the many health care risks that can occur as a result of abortion,” Black emphasized her strong opposition to the bill and to “any other effort that would undermine current laws that exist to protect the health and well-being of women and unborn children at the federal, state, and local level of government.”

“Abortion is brutal,” she stressed, “to both the mother and the unborn child. It is not healthcare.”

Black’s criticisms were echoed by pro-life and pro-women advocates across the country.

In a June 15 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders, a group of 40 state legislators – all of them women – voiced alarm at the “extreme and unwarranted measure.”

If passed, they said, the potential law would void “any and all efforts to provide legislative response to abortionists like Kermit Gosnell,” the Philadelphia abortion doctor who was convicted last year of three first-degree murder charges for killing babies who had been born alive at his abortion clinic.

Investigations found that Gosnell operated under filthy and dangerous conditions, while testimony indicated that he and his staff snipped the necks of more than 100 infants who survived abortion. He was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient who died of an overdose from drugs administered at the clinic.

Passing the “rash and ill-considered” Senate proposal would foster more abuses like those perpetrated by Gosnell, the women cautioned in their letter.

In addition, they said, it would further undermine women’s health by removing informed consent protections and allowing non-physicians to carry out abortions, they said.

It would also allow for the abortion of children “merely on account of their sex – in nearly all cases because they are, like us, female.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, also blasted the bill in a July 15 statement.

“Not only will the Senate vote to force religious Americans to pay for the abortion drugs of others, the bill under consideration today would invalidate hundreds of pro-life, pro-woman laws,” she said. “The effect? This would enshrine abortion on demand up until birth.”

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Archbishop calls slated black mass offensive, horrendous

Oklahoma City, Okla., Jul 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop of Oklahoma City Paul Coakley called a black mass scheduled to take place in the city's civic center an “obviously horrendous” act meant to offend much of the state's community.

“There are common standards of decency that civic-minded people uphold that are necessary for constructive public discourse, and this violates all of those standards,” he told CNA July 16. “This is a mockery of one faith, a hostile act toward a significant faith community, the Catholic community.”

It would be “truly offensive to a significant segment of their population, that is the Catholic, and the Christian community at large,” the archbishop added.

“Oklahoma is a very church-minded community; there are not many Catholics here, but a great majority are Christian, and this is really an affront to all Christian believers, and I think the more people are recognizing that, the more they're willing to speak up.”

The occult group Dakhma of Angra Mainyu has scheduled to hold a black mass at the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall Sept. 21. A black mass is a sacrilegious ceremony that invokes Satan and mocks the Mass, involving the desecration of the Eucharist, generally by stealing a consecrated Host from a Catholic church and using it in a profane, sexual ritual.

“I give the benefit of the doubt to those who allowed this civic center to be booked by a satanic group for the purpose of a black mass, because my suspicion is that whoever booked it had no idea what a black mass is, how offensive such a thing is,” Archbishop Coakley reflected. “Initially there was ignorance, I think, about what they were getting into.”

When CNA spoke on July 3 with Jennifer Lindsey-McClintock – the music hall's public information manager – about the nature of the event, she cited the hall's neutrality policy saying it's “not for us to judge…whether it is appropriate or not.”

Archbishop Coakley said that “my hope is that through prayer, and through continued communication with the civic officials here, they will come to recognize this is not a prudent course, not a good course, for the city.”

He added that he supposes “that if someone desired to rent the civic center to have a public burning of a Quran, or a blatantly anti-semitic sort of program, that the city would rightly find some way to prevent that from happening. And they should. That would be very clear.”

“My question, is why can't they recognize that this is equally offensive to the Catholic community, and act accordingly to prevent such a black eye on the community, such an affront to the Catholic and to the Christian community?”

Lindsey-McClintock, however, claimed that as a city-funded facility, they must “operate in a position of neutrality.” She said that this policy would mean the center would host racist or anti-Jewish events “as long as it was not hosting something specifically illegal in nature, or that during the production they were taking part in illegal activities…we do not discriminate against any group based on the content of their message.”

Archbishop Coakley remarked that to note how the civic center is, in the name of tolerance and non-discrimination, intending to host an event that is by its nature disrespectful and intolerant of Christians and Catholics, would be “hitting the nail on the head.”

“I think the more people here in Oklahoma, as well as around the country, have heard about this, and reflected upon what exactly it entails, the more outraged, and upset, people have become,” he added.

Black masses, he said, are a “grievous sacrilege and blasphemy of the first order…taking what is most sacred to us as as Catholics, and mocking it, desecrating it, in vile, often violent and sexually explicit ways.”

“It's obviously horrendous…what they intend to do with that consecrated Host is offensive beyond description.”

Archbishop Coakley called it a “terribly disturbing development in our community, and I think one of the things people need to realize, is this is inviting very dark and evil forces into our community. I think I have an obligation, we have an obligation, to do what we can do to prevent that from happening – unleashing spiritual influences which are harmful and destructive.”

Noting the recently planned black mass at Harvard, another satanic group's attempt to place a satanic monument at the Oklahoma capitol, and this planned black mass, the archbishop said that “perhaps if anything, it's a manifestation that these kinds of groups are becoming emboldened because of a certain kind of increasing tolerance for an increasingly outrageous mode of conduct in our culture.”

“I hope to be meeting in the near future with civic officials,” he added, saying “we'll continue to explore ways of dialoguing with civic officials.”

“Obviously for us as people of faith, as Catholics, we're praying for a change of heart, that something will shift, and that there will be a change of direction, and a recognition that this cannot be allowed.”

He noted that there have been a number of petitions against the event on Facebook and other sites, not organized by the archdiocese, but “very much a grassroots thing.”

“My role in this,” Archbishop Coakley said, “is simply to provide a voice, and leadership, drawing attention to it, and encouraging people to pray, and to voice their concern to civic officials.”

Should the black mass not be canceled, the archbishop said the Catholic community will “find a way to lift up the Eucharist in a way that shows our love for Christ in the Eucharist, our respect and honor for the gift of the Blessed Sacrament.”

Whether through Masses of reparation, holy hours, or processions, “we will do what we can do to bear witness to our faith in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”

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