Archive of July 18, 2014

Human rights court: Europe cannot be forced to redefine marriage

Strasbourg, France, Jul 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the refusal to recognize same-sex “marriages” does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a July 16 ruling, the human rights court explained that while “some Contracting States have extended marriage to same-sex partners,” European laws establishing the right of men and women to freely marry “cannot be construed as imposing an obligation on the Contracting States to grant access to marriage to same-sex couples.”

The applicant to the high European human rights court brought his petition after Finland refused to recognize the his 2009 sex change from male to female.

Finland, which does not recognize same-sex “marriages,” said it could not recognize the sex change of a person validly married to a person of the opposite sex. The country said it could only recognize the applicant’s new identity if his marriage to his wife was dissolved either by divorce or transformation into a civil partnership.

The applicant claimed that this refusal to accept same-sex “marriages” and its impact on the recognition of his new identity was a violation of his human rights.

However, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights found that Finland’s refusal to recognize same-sex unions does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

While the convention establishes the ability “to marry and have a family” as a right, the court stated that the document cannot be interpreted as requiring marriage to be defined in a way that includes same-sex couples.

The European Convention on Human Rights, the court explained, “enshrines the traditional concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman.”

The court also noted that applicants cannot claim “that there exists any European consensus on allowing same-sex marriages,” given that only 10 member states of the European Union recognize such unions, and the majority of countries recognize marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

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Blogger recounts motherhood as spark that led to conversion

Denver, Colo., Jul 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The conversion from atheism to Catholicism was a rewarding journey full of triumph and trial for Jennifer Fulwiler, as outlined in her recent book, “Something Other Than God.”

Fulwiler told CNA that “before we were Catholic, we were caught up in a very selfish worldview.”

Although they were not trying to be selfish, she explained, atheism contained “a worldview where the self was the center of everything.”

Today, Fulwiler lives in Texas with her husband and five children. She runs a personal blog,, and also blogs for the National Catholic Register.

However, her life was not always focused on faith. Fulwiler’s conversion began with the birth of her first child.

“I hadn’t been part of the full human experience,” she explained. “I was raised in this culture where I was just completely isolated from new life or from babies, this whole cycle of life.”

Having a child compelled her to start asking “the big questions” concerning the meaning of life and its value.

From there, she began her exploration of Catholicism through blogging.

“Blogging was important to me because I hung out in entirely atheistic social circles and I was too embarrassed about the fact that I was exploring religion in my personal life,” she said, explaining that because she had “isolated” herself from most Christians, she had a hard time finding someone to answer her religious question. Her blog became a safe place to “express her views anonymously.”

Gradually, many of her views changed. Among these changes was a radical transformation in her “pro-choice” stance on abortion.

“Seeing the value of my own children and seeing them move and kick on the ultrasound screen made me realize I certainly considered these children I was seeing on the ultrasound screen fully human babies who were worthy of life and had just as much human dignity as I did.”

“Catholicism taught us how to appreciate the value of human life, and our entire worldview…is that there is no greater gift than the gift of a child,” she added.

Fulwiler suffers from a blood disorder, and doctors recommended she take birth control after her second child, as a precaution against complications that could arise if she were to conceive while she was undergoing treatment. When she discovered Natural Family Planning, she recognized it as a great gift that “does involve sacrifice,” but “a sacrifice that is worth it.”

Fulwiler and her husband experienced conversion to Catholicism together. She revealed that her husband learned to detach himself from worldliness and find peace. She “began to crave that kind of detachment and peace” for herself as well.

Although the process has taken time, the spiritual growth has been a huge blessing on her entire family, and a drastic change from the self-centered view it replaced.

“Now that Christ is at the center, it has really taught us how to love ourselves and our family members.”

Fulwiler encourages those considering conversation to “not be afraid to ask the tough questions of the Church.” Doing so, she said, will lead to 2,000 years’ worth of answers.

“Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidently Found It” is available now from Ignatius Press.

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Natural women's health center hailed for affirming life, dignity

Denver, Colo., Jul 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Colorado women’s health clinic seeking to offer natural care that respects human dignity has drawn praise for helping to build up a culture of life.

Authentic women’s care “is essential to the pro-life movement,” said Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, superior general of the Sisters of Life in New York.

“One of the greatest needs now in our culture is to be able to have collaborative relationships with doctors who understand this aspect of a woman’s health, and who are really going to work to bring the woman to full health in ways that are also consistent with our faith,” she told CNA in a recent interview.

“So, this is essential to the pro-life movement. We are very limited when there is no such possibility.”

She praised the work of Bella Natural Women’s Care, a new initiative in the Denver area to combine cutting-edge technology with a natural approach, seeking to identify and solve health problems rather than merely mask them with drugs.

While on a mission trip to Peru, Dede Chism and daughter Abby Sinnett – both nurse practitioners – were touched by their freedom to treat patients in accordance with their dignity, without pressure to offer contraception or abortion as a “solution” to health problems.

Inspired to bring their mission home to Colorado, they decided to start a natural women’s health clinic that would uphold the dignity of women and give them the care they deserve.
Bella will offer comprehensive care for women of all ages, from the onset of fertility to post-menopause. Its founders are working closely with the local archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life, which helps teach Natural Family Planning in accordance with Church teaching.

However, while the practice will be run in full adherence to the Catholic faith, it hopes to have a broader outreach to those of other faiths or none at all. Chism and Sinnett believe the idea of authentic, respectful, natural care will be attractive to women in general.

At the center of their work is a focus on relationship.

“Women have a story,” Chism emphasized. “They have so much pain or joy…and it has become very real to us that every woman, no matter what background she comes from, has a story that we aim to understand.”

Sinnett contrasted this with the growing number of chemical abortions, in which women are given a pill in the presence of a doctor, then sent home to undergo the remainder of the abortion in the isolation of their own home.

In addition to aligning with Church teaching, they believe the natural approach is better for women’s health.

“The philosophy behind this care is getting to the root cause,” Chism said, explaining that rather than automatically expose women to artificial hormones and the myriad complications and side effects that can accompany them, a more natural approach seeks to identify and fix the cause of the problem, contributing to greater wellbeing while minimizing additional health risks.

“Natural does not mean nothing,” she continued. “Natural means what is best practiced to get to the root cause of something in cooperation with someone’s body…That goes from cycles, to healthy weight and nutrition, or menopausal situations.”

The challenges for the two nurses have been daunting at times – from finding a location and securing a doctor to navigating the world of insurance plans. But trusting completely in God and surrounding themselves with the “smartest business people” they know, the duo plans to have Bella up and running by the end of the year.

Chism described the work as “God’s project,” adding that “we’re just a couple of girls that said ok.”

Still, the project has demanded an immense trust and sacrifice on the part of both women.

Chism, married for 35 years, said that the retirement plan for herself and her husband looks a little different than originally planned. “Our bank account is like a water faucet that is just streaming out right now, full blast,” she laughed.

“Some days are overwhelming,” she admitted. “Some days we are just barely holding on, and the Lord is just leading us. But God is blessing this, and He is drawing us closer every day.”

Sinnett added that the journey is exciting, “because God is so in control of it, and when you are so intimately doing what the Lord is asking you, whether it’s scary or stressful or hard or whatever, there is a grace that comes with it.”

She reflected that God has provided each step of the way, “revealing it to us very purposefully in the moments we need it, but not until we are ready for it.”

The nurses hope to build a plan that can be imitated in other dioceses across the country.

“What we hope to do is create a model that is both successful and sustainable – something that can be replicated and a place where doctors would want to come and work,” Chism explained.

The plan involves maintaining reasonable salaries while using the additional income generated by the clinic to offer health care for women who cannot afford it, as well as to fund other local apostolates and ministries throughout the Archdiocese of Denver.

They also hope to be a resource to the community, educating youth and teens, and reaching out to priests and seminarians who may have medical questions when women come to them for advice.

After discussing several possible names for their clinic, the nurses settled on “Bella,” a word which means both “beautiful” in Italian and “war” in Latin. This is fitting, they explained, because they are in the midst of a “beautiful war” for respectful, authentic women’s health care.

Chism and Sinnett are deeply aware of the spiritual aspect of this battle. Their clinic will be located just steps from the office of one of the biggest late-term abortion doctors in the Denver metro area.

Additionally, while the clinic will not have an explicitly religious feel, and employees will not proselytize, a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament will be present for anyone who wishes to visit it.

“Maybe someone who has never sat in a chapel will go in, and they will be captivated, and they will be loved,” Chism reflected.

“Our goal, recognizing that body, mind, and soul all go together, is to work together making women perhaps a little bit more whole.”

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Polygamy, gender identity seen as key challenges for families in Africa

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Representatives from the Pontifical Council for the Family gathered in the Republic of the Congo with over 40 bishops last week to discuss the state of families in Africa, highlighting both strengths and challenges they face.

“The bishops are very glad and positive about the family because it is really the structure of African society,” Fr. Andrea Ciucci told CNA July 11, however “there are some problems not typically African but that Africa is learning from Europe and America.”

A priest of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Fr. Ciucci traveled last week to Brazzaville, the capitol of the Republic of the Congo, along with the council’s president, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, to meet with the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACERAC).

Bishops from each of the six nations composing the ACERAC, Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea, met alongside various other international bishops to discuss the theme of the family in Central Africa.

“The bishops are very glad and positive about the family because it is really the structure of African society,” Fr. Ciucci observed, “but on the other side there are some problems.”

Noting how there are “two typically African problems,” the priest explained that the first “is polygamy and the second one is the difficulty in putting together the three traditional ways of marriage in Africa.”

There is “the traditional marriage, the legal marriage and the religious marriage,” the priest said, describing how central African bishops are trying to unite “these three ways of marriage.”

Traditional marriage in Africa is less of a religious event so much as a cultural tradition where honor is given to the bride’s parents while the bride herself dresses up in flamboyant colors to impress her groom.

Legal marriage is considered to be low-key yet crucially important in order to protect the couple's assets, while the religious wedding is the typically traditional marriage around the rest of the world that takes place in a church with a pastor and a bride wearing white.

In addition to these challenges, Fr. Ciucci explained that gender identity is an increasing problem for the family in Africa, and is something that is not a natural phenomenon, but rather is being learned through technology and the internet.

“(T)his way of understanding life is not an African problem, but all young African people are connected to the internet, so the younger ones are listening to this” and seeing this “way of humanity, sexuality, and the relationship between a man a woman.”

Although the theory of the internet is “just a hypothesis,” the priest explained that questions regarding gender are very common in African youth, and  Church leaders there are “trying to understand this problem and how this culture of gender is penetrating in Africa and in the different generations of Africans.”

Regarding current strategies local Church leaders are using to address these issues, Fr. Ciucci observed, “One of the tasks of the meeting of ACERAC is to produce a strategy, but we are waiting for the final document to see and to read the decision of the bishops” following the conference.

The conference, he said, was particularly important for the family council because “it was a big occasion for the Pontifical Council for Family to meet this local church and to listen to the bishops and the stories of the families in that nation.”

“For us it was a very important meeting, and I think it was also for the local Church, to discuss together and to listen to the perspectives of Rome and of the world on this very important theme, the family, which is also the theme of next year’s synod.”

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Pope Francis makes phone call to Israel, Palestine presidents

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In wake of the rising death toll in Gaza due to increased tensions between Israel and Palestine, Pope Francis made a personal call to both presidents in order to ask for peace.

“Following last Sunday’s heartfelt appeal for continued prayer for peace in the Holy Land, this morning the Holy Father Francis personally telephoned President Shimon Peres and President Mahmoud Abbas,” a July 18 statement from the Vatican read.

During the calls, the Roman Pontiff voiced “his very serious concerns regarding the current situation of conflict involving in particular the Gaza Strip which, in a climate of growing hostility, hatred and suffering for the two populations, is claiming many victims and giving rise to a serious humanitarian emergency.”

Tensions between Israel and Palestine have steadily increased in recent weeks following the murder of three Israeli teenagers, whose bodies were discovered June 30. The day of their funeral, the body of a Palestinian teenager was found, whose death was seen as a retaliation killing.

Israel and Palestinian organization Hamas, seen as a terrorist group whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faulted for murder of the three Jewish teenagers, have continued to exchange rocket and mortar fire despite numerous calls for a ceasefire.

The Vatican statement reveals that in his phone conversations with President Peres and President Abbas, Pope Francis assured of “his ceaseless prayer and that of all the Church for peace in the Holy Land.”

“He reminded the presidents, whom he considers to be men of peace and seekers of peace, of the need to continue to pray and endeavor to ensure that all the interested parties and those who hold political office at local and international level work to bring an end to hostilities, making efforts to promote a truce, peace and reconciliation in the hearts of those involved.”

According to BBC News, Gaza officials report that roughly 267 Palestinians – mostly civilians – have died since the start of the wider Israeli operation July 8, while one Israeli has been killed and several seriously injured.

Last night Israel launched a ground offensive, sending thousands of troops into Gaza on foot who were backed by both tanks and artillery fire.

Among the at least 24 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier who have been killed since the launch of the ground attack are three Palestinian children, who were killed by Israeli tank fire in the north of Gaza, BBC reports.

Pope Francis’ personal phone call to the presidents follows a June 8 Invocation for Peace held in the Vatican Gardens that gathered all three together along with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartolomeo I.

Pope Francis also made a desperate plea for peace during his Sunday Angleus address July 13, urging all parties and “those who have political responsibility at local and international levels to spare a prayer and make some effort to put an end to all hostilities and to achieve the desired peace for the good of all.”

“Now, Lord, help us! Grant us peace, teach us peace, guide us toward peace. Open our eyes and our hearts and give us the courage to say: ‘Never again war!’ ‘Everything is destroyed by war.”

Although the current tensions in the Holy Land have arisen only a month after the invocation for peace at the Vatican, Pope Francis affirmed that it was not in vain.

“No, because prayer helps us not to allow ourselves to be overcome by evil, nor resign ourselves to violence and hatred taking over dialogue and reconciliation.”

He prayed that the Lord give to all the strength and courage “to take concrete actions to build peace...make us willing to listen to the cry of our citizens who are asking us to transform our weapons into instruments of peace, our fears into trust, and our tensions into forgiveness.”

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Despite Gaza violence, Catholic relief agency works for peace

Gaza City, Jul 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Though fighting has escalated between Israel and Palestinian militants based in the Gaza Strip, a Catholic Relief Services spokeswoman has stressed that the agency still aims to advance peace in the region.

“This conflict has dimmed the prospects for peace among Israelis and Palestinians, but as a Catholic organization, we are called to be peacemakers,” Liz O’Neill, Catholic Relief Services’ communications officer for the Middle East region, told CNA July 17.

“We continually advocate for our leaders in Washington to take concrete steps to promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict and reach out to Catholic communities in the United States so they can learn about the situation and pray for peace.”

O’Neill, speaking before the Israeli military started its Thursday night ground offensive, noted the conflict’s effects on both Israel and Palestine, saying violence is “inescapable” in Gaza.

“Drones constantly hover overhead, incoming airstrikes, mortars, tank shells, and naval bombardment are unrelenting, and there is nowhere to run. Entire families have been annihilated in an instant.”

In Israel, she said, “warning sirens disrupt daily life, and in the south, families must regularly take refuge in bomb shelters. Fear and uncertainty are a constant feature of daily life.”

Since July 7 Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip have fired more than 1,300 rockets on Israel, and the Israelis have responded with nearly 2,000 airstrikes. The recent escalation in violence between Israel and Hamas followed the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and the July 2 killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.

Thousands of Israeli soldiers invaded the Gaza Strip July 17 in an effort to destroy Hamas’ weapons arsenals and their tunnels into Israel. Earlier that day, 13 Hamas militants attempted to enter Israel through one tunnel, only to be stopped by an Israeli military strike.

O’Neill lamented the violence.

“The current round of violence has once again definitively highlighted that the status quo is not sustainable, and that the only way out of this cycle of violence is a just, secure, lasting negotiated solution to the conflict,” she said.

“The full extent of the humanitarian crisis will depend on how long this goes on.”

Israeli attacks since July 8 have killed more than 270 Palestinians, at least 75 percent of whom were civilians and 20 percent of whom were children.

Another 1,400 Palestinian civilians have been injured, and some 40,000 have become displaced, according to the U.N.

Hamas' recent attacks have killed one Israeli civilian, and severely injured several.

Before the ground invasion, Catholic Relief Services had planned to distribute essential supplies to 500 families whose Gaza homes had been damaged or destroyed.

“We’re also planning to distribute vouchers to farmers who can no longer grow food because their land has been damaged by Israeli airstrikes,” O'Neill said.

The Catholic relief agency, which is the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency, temporarily closed its Gaza office due to the violence.

The agency has been working in the Holy Land since 1961. Its initial focus on emergency response, food distribution and vaccination programs has now shifted to developing economic and social opportunities.

“Currently, we help plant the seeds for peace by working with grassroots organizations to enhance their ability to advocate for themselves, to hold government accountable and transparent and to give marginalized groups a voice,” O’Neill said.

“All of our work in the Holy Land is geared towards laying the foundation for a peaceful two-state solution and creating the conditions for a viable Palestinian state.”
O’Neill said the agency aims to carry out the U.S. bishops' “long-held position promoting a just, secure and stable two-state solution for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

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Pope laments loss of innocent life in Malaysian plane crash

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following the crash of a Malaysian passenger plane in eastern Ukraine yesterday, Pope Francis has offered prayers for the victims, urging all parties involved in the country’s conflict to work for peace.

“The Holy Father Francis has learned with dismay of the tragedy of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft downed in east Ukraine, a region marked by high tensions,” A July 18 statement from the Vatican read.

“He raises prayers for the numerous victims of the incident and for their relatives, and renews his heartfelt appeal to all parties in the conflict to seek peace and solutions through dialogue, in order to avoid further loss of innocent human lives.”

According to CNN, the plane - a Boeing 777 carrying 298 people, all civilians and including many children - was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and is believed to have been shot down by a surface-to-air-missile.

It crashed Thursday, July 17, between Krasni Luch in the Luhansk region and Shakhtarsk in the neighbouring region of Donetsk, Ukraine. Both sides of the Ukraine conflict have blamed the other side for the incident.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have steadily increased since the February protests that led to the resignation of former pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych.

Following Yanukovych’s leave of office, Russia annexed Ukraine's southeastern region of Crimea. A pro-Russian separatist rebellion launched shortly after and has continued to rage in Ukraine's eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Ukrainian military has struggled to calm the separatist unrest, and the government has accused Russia of passing weapons and military equipment, including tanks, across the border illegally, into the hands of pro-Russian separatists.

In wake of the Malaysian plane’s crash, various nations have ordered their airlines to suspend flights over the area.

According to BBC news, the latest numbers released by Malaysia Airlines reveal that the plane was carrying at least 189 Dutchmen, 27 Australians, 44 Malaysians, including 15 crew members, 12 Indonesians and 9 Britons.

Included in the casualties are several passengers who were traveling to participate in Australia’s international AIDS conference, slated to begin June 20, including renown Dutch researcher Joep Lange.

Following immediate investigations into the downing of the plane, BBC reports that the U.N. Security Council has called an emergency meeting on the incident, which will take place Friday in New York.

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World leaders offer prayers in wake of MH17 crash

Washington D.C., Jul 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following Wednesday's crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, both religious and political leaders from around the world are offering up prayers, and searching for answers about the tragedy.

“Our entire Church prays for the eternal repose of the souls of the innocently killed,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Kyiv-Halyc said in a July 18 statement.

The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church stated that the “tragedy has revealed that evil… is a real threat to peace and security of the whole world,” and prayed for peace and consolation both for “Ukraine and for the entire world.”

“We remain united in our prayers with the families of the deceased and with all those suffering due to this tragedy,” he stressed.

On July 17, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian-Ukrainian border. The have been no signs of survivors of the flight, which was carrying 298 people, among the wreckage.
An estimated 100 victims were HIV/AIDS delegates, including prominent AIDS researcher Joep Lange, on their way to a conference in Melbourne, Australia.

Also among the dead was Sister Philomene Tiernan, an Australian member of the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart and a teacher at Kincoppal-Rose Bay Catholic School.

The plane was flying over Ukraine's Donetsk region when it was shot down, and crashed. The region is home to the pro-Russian separatist organization the Donetsk People's Republic, which is rebelling against the Ukrainian government and army in the wake of earlier unrest in the region.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko called the crash an act of “terrorism” and pledged that those responsible for the attack “will be held responsible.”

The Ukrainian government also released a statement saying that the plane was shut down by Soviet-era “Russian air defence systems” used by pro-Russian separatists. Ukrainian intelligence also have intercepted a phone call allegedly between a separatist leader and a Russian security officer, though the veracity of the call has not yet been verified.

Russian president Vladimir Putin offered his “condolences to the bereaved families” and the home countries of the victims of what he called a “terrible tragedy,” but blamed Ukraine for the event, saying the country “over whose territory it happened is responsible”.

He acknowledged that “renewed hostilities in the south-east of Ukraine” were responsible for the event, and that “this tragedy would not have happened if there was peace on this earth.” Putin stated that the Russian government would support investigations into the crash.

U.S. vice president Joe Biden said in a July 17 statement that the crash was “not an accident,” as the plane was “blown out of the sky” by a surface-to-air missile, according to U.S. intelligence, though officials have yet to conclusively identify the source.

U.S president Barack Obama echoed Biden's observations, saying their "thoughts and prayers are with all of the families of the passengers, wherever they may call home.”

On July 18, during a news conference on the topic, the president added that the crash is a “wake-up call for Europe,” saying that “outrageous event underscores it's time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine.”

Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai called the attack an “outrage against human decency.” Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak pledged that a Malaysian disaster assistance team would be dispatched to the area and that “no stone will be left unturned” in bringing those responsible to justice.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those on board the flight,” Razak concluded. “I cannot imagine what they must be going through at this painful time.”

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands commented that he was “deeply saddened by this horrible news” and that his country’s “thoughts go to the families, friends and colleagues of the victims.”

Bishop Jozef Point of Haarlem-Amsterdam expressed the diocese’s prayers and condolences to the families of the victims, and invited “all believers to pray for the victims and their families,” particularly at a Mass Sunday at the Cathedral to be held in honor of the victims.

Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht also assured families that his archdioceses was praying “for the repose of the people involved in this tragedy,” saying that for loved ones of the deceased “a time of great uncertainty and mourning has come.”

Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas tweeted July 18 asking his followers to “Please keep in your prayers those affected by the tragedy of the Malaysia Airlines plane disaster. Have mercy on them, Lord.”

The Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur expressed their sorrow over the crash in a blog post asking mourners to turn to God rather than revenge, anger, or blame.

The diocese prayed that those responsible may gain a “profound understanding for the evil of their actions,” and seek forgiveness from God, that God may give the families of victims “consolation in their mourning,” and that the victims themselves may find eternal rest and peace in God.

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Catholic cultural renewal advocate Stratford Caldecott mourned

Oxford, England, Jul 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Stratford Caldecott, a Catholic cultural thinker dedicated to literature, theology, and the “second spring” of Catholicism, passed away Thursday, weeks after Hollywood stars took to Twitter to support him in his struggle with cancer.  

Those who mourned his death included his friend Michael J. Lichens, editor of the U.S.-based website Catholic Exchange.

“I don't know anyone who has encountered Stratford Caldecott and not been changed, whether that was by his writing or meeting him in person,” Lichens told CNA July 18.

“His words, his example of love and charity, and his absolute gratitude for life shined through in his writings and also made him an absolute joy to encounter.”

“He was, without a doubt, the most powerful voice for Catholic culture in the Anglophone world.”

Caldecott, known to his friends as “Strat,” died in Oxford, England, on July 17 of prostate cancer.

Leaders with the U.K.-based Catholic Truth Society praised his “encyclopedic knowledge of the faith” and his “authentic talent for spotting gifted writers who, like himself, could explain the riches of the faith to all.”

Among his many roles, Caldecott served as commissioning editor of the Catholic Truth Society’s Compass magazine.

Caldecott wrote on the importance of Catholic culture, education, aesthetics, and theology. He drew inspiration from the luminaries of English-speaking Catholicism: Blessed John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Christopher Dawson.

His wrote various books about the sacraments, Catholic education, Catholic liturgy, aesthetics, and the spiritual vision of Tolkien in “The Lord of the Rings.”

Caldecott was the founder of the Second Spring journal, which takes its name from a sermon by Cardinal Newman that encouraged a Catholic revival in England.

He founded the Centre for Faith & Culture at Westminster College in Oxford, and later became the G.K. Chesterton Research Fellow at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford.

He served as an editor for many journals, including the U.K. and Ireland edition of “Magnificat” and The Humanum Review, the journal of the Center for Cultural and Pastoral Research at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C.

He served on the editorial boards of the journals Communio, The Chesterton Review, and Oasis.

Caldecott was born in South Africa and raised in London. He became interested in mysticism and religion as a teen. He studied philosophy and psychology at Oxford, and later converted to the Baha’i religion. He became involved in Buddhism, but his interest also grew in Christianity.

He recounted his conversion story in an essay in the collection “The Path To Rome – Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church,” published in the U.K. by Gracewing and reprinted on the Patheos blog “Standing on my Head” by Father Dwight Longenecker.

Caldecott had a dream about the Holy Grail that made him realize the importance of stories from his childhood, such as the King Arthur legends, Tolkien’s works, and the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

“All along, my imagination had been built on a Christian foundation, and I had never noticed it before,” he wrote.

He then began to study the Catholic faith. He said that he recognized in Catholic teaching “the God of my interior horizon,” described by St. Thomas Aquinas as “closer to the soul than the soul is to itself.”

“To reject the invitation of that God would have been to deny my true self,” Caldecott wrote.

“I had not expected this. I had intended not to ‘fall in love’ but simply to test Catholicism for its persuasive power, and then break the news gradually to my family, completely prepared in advance to answer all the inevitable objections.”

He was baptized in 1980. His wife Leonie entered the Church two years later.

“I began to realize that no matter how much grace is present in the other religions, it is only Christianity that knows the secret of how grace enters the world,” he said. “Without the cross, no ‘religion’ would suffice – were it founded on the Beatitudes themselves.”

“Christ came not primarily to teach, but to do. He came to die for us.”

While deeply admired by Catholics and others around the world, Caldecott gained his greatest worldwide prominence in his final months due to his lifelong appreciation for comic books about super heroes.

Because of his cancer, Caldecott was too ill to go to the movie theaters to see the Marvel Studios film “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

In May, Caldecott’s daughter Sophie took to the social media site Twitter to ask Marvel to send her father a copy of the movie so he could watch it at home. She enlisted the help of the general public and of  Hollywood movie stars under the hashtag “#CapForStrat”, to encourage Stratford in his final days.

The stars of Marvel Comics films, including Robert Downey, Jr. and Samuel Jackson, posted “selfies” with signs supporting Caldecott. Their photos joined hundreds of other messages of support that Sophie presented to her father.

Marvel then arranged a showing of the movie.

Sophie Caldecott in a May blog post said that her father loved comic heroes “because they inspire hope, and encourage people to fight for the greater good.”

“I think we’ve witnessed a bit of that child-like purity of spirit and good intentions over the past few days,” she added, voicing hope that the hashtag campaign will encourage men at risk of prostate cancer to undergo the proper tests.

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