Wednesday, January 16, 2013



Vatican City, 16 January 2013 (VIS) -Salvation history, that is, the account of God's saving interaction with humanity, was the theme of the Holy Father's catechesis during this Wednesday's general audience.
The Old Testament narrates how, after creation, God, in spite of original sin, again offers human beings the possibility of His friendship "through the covenant with Abraham and the path of a small people, of Israel, whom He chooses not according to the criteria of earthly power but simply out of love. … For this task He used mediators, like Moses and the prophets and judges, to communicate His will to the people. They recalled the necessity of faithfulness to the covenant and kept alive the hope of the full and definitive realization of His divine promises."
God's revelation reaches its fullness in Jesus of Nazareth. In Him, "God visits His people, He visits humanity in a way that goes beyond all expectations. He sends His Only Begotten Son; God himself becomes man. Jesus does not tell us something about God's nearness, doesn't simply speak of the Father: ... He reveals the face of God to us." Within Jesus' statement, "'Whoever has seen me has seen the Father' ... the newness of the New Testament is contained. … God could be seen, God has revealed His face, He is visible in Jesus Christ."
Benedict XVI recalled the importance of the search for the face of God throughout the Old Testament, that is, for "a 'You' who can enter into relationship, who is not locked away in His heaven, looking down on humanity from on high. Certainly, God is above all things, but He turns toward us and listens to us: He sees us, speaks, extends covenants, and is capable of loving. Salvation history is the story of God with humanity. It is the story of this relationship of God who progressively reveals Himself to mankind."
"Something completely new occurs, however, with the Incarnation. The search for the face of God is unimaginably changed because this face can now be seen. It is that of Jesus, of the Son of God who is made man. In Him God's path of revelation, which began with the call of Abraham, is fulfilled. He is the fullness of this revelation because He is the Son of God as well as 'the mediator and the fullness of all revelation'. In Him coincide the content of Revelation and the One who reveals … Jesus, true God and true man, is not simply one of the mediators between God and humankind, but is 'the mediator' of the new and eternal covenant. … In Him we see and encounter the Father. In Him we can call God by the name of 'Abba, Father'. In Him we are given salvation."
"The desire to truly know God, that is, to see the face of God, is inherent to every human being, including atheists. Perhaps we also, unconsciously, have this desire to simply see who He is. … But this desire is fulfilled in following Christ thus … we finally see God as a friend. What is important is that we follow Christ not only when we need Him or when we find a minute of time among our thousands of daily tasks. … Our entire existence must be directed toward meeting Jesus Christ, toward love for Him. In such an existence, love for our neighbour must take a central position; that love that, in light of the Crucifix, allows us to recognize the face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, and in those who are suffering."
Vatican City, 16 January 2013 (VIS) – After his Wednesday catechesis, Benedict XVI noted that the day after tomorrow, Friday 18 January, will begin the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year its theme is "What does God require of us?", inspired by a passage from the prophet Micah. The Pope invited all "to pray, asking insistently of God, for the great gift of unity between all of the Lord's disciples. May the Holy Spirit's limitless strength arouse us to the sincere commitment to seek unity, so that we might all profess together that Jesus is the saviour of the world."
Vatican City, 16 January 2013 (VIS) - Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for the Holy See's Relations with States, was interviewed by Vatican Radio on the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in several cases relating to freedom of conscience and religion.
"On 15 January, the European Court of Human Rights published its judgements on four cases relating to the freedom of conscience and religion of employees in the United Kingdom. Two of these cases concern employees’ freedom to wear a small cross around their neck in the workplace, while the other two concern the freedom to object in conscience to the celebration of a civil union between persons of the same sex and to conjugal counselling for couples of the same sex."
Some time ago, the Holy See’s Mission to the Council of Europe published a Note on the Church’s freedom and institutional autonomy. The archbishop explained the context of the Note as "the issue of the Church’s freedom in her relations with civil authorities," which "is at present being examined by the European Court of Human Rights in two cases involving the Orthodox Church of Romania and the Catholic Church. These are the Sindacatul 'Pastorul cel Bun' v. Romania and Fernandez Martinez v. Spain cases. On this occasion, the Permanent Representation of the Holy See to the Council of Europe drew up a synthetic note explaining the Magisterium [official Church teaching] on the freedom and institutional autonomy of the Catholic Church."
"In these cases," the archbishop said, "the European Court must decide whether the civil power respected the European Convention on Human Rights in refusing to recognize a trade union of priests [in the Romanian case] and in refusing to appoint a teacher of religion who publicly professes positions contrary to the teaching of the Church [in the Spanish case]. In both cases, the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression were invoked in order to constrain religious communities to act in a manner contrary to their canonical status and the Magisterium. Thus, these cases call into question the Church’s freedom to function according to her own rules and not to be subject to civil rules other than those necessary to ensure that the common good and just public order are respected. The Church has always had to defend herself in order to preserve her autonomy with regard to the civil power and ideologies. Today, an important issue in Western countries is to determine how the dominant culture, strongly marked by materialist individualism and relativism, can understand and respect the nature of the Church, which is a community founded on faith and reason."
Faced with this situation, "the Church is aware of the difficulty of determining the relations between the civil authorities and the different religious communities in a pluralist society with regard to the requirements of social cohesion and the common good. In this context, the Holy See draws attention to the necessity of maintaining religious freedom in its collective and social dimension. This dimension corresponds to the essentially social nature both of the person and of the religious fact in general. The Church does not ask that religious communities be lawless zones but that they be recognized as spaces for freedom, by virtue of the right to religious freedom, while respecting just public order. This teaching is not reserved to the Catholic Church; the criteria derived from it are founded in justice and are therefore of general application."
"Furthermore, the juridical principle of the institutional autonomy of religious communities is widely recognized by States that respect religious freedom, as well as by international law. The European Court of Human Rights itself has regularly stated this principle in several important judgements. Other institutions have also affirmed this principle. This is notably the case with the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] and also with the United Nations Committee for Human Rights in, respectively, the 'Final Document' of the Vienna Conference of 19 January 1989 and 'General Observation no. 22 on the Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion' of 30 July 1993. It is nevertheless useful to recall and defend this principle of the autonomy of the Church and the civil power.
Vatican City, 16 January 2013 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father appointed Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino as apostolic nuncio to Malaysia and to East Timor and as apostolic delegate to Brunei. Archbishop Marino, titular of Natchitoches, was previously apostolic nuncio to Bangladesh.



Religious tensions grow in Maharashtra
Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

Police have opened cases against eight women for alleged rioting after attacking tribal Christians in a western Indian town.
A mob of some 200 women allegedly assaulted the Christians on Monday for playing hymns and gospel music on a mobile phone in the village of Manor, in Maharashtra state’s Palghar district.
The assault follows an attack on December 30 in which Christians were assaulted while praying in a house church in the village. Christians were also subjected to a recent boycott in which Hindus refused them access to water and other necessities.
“An investigation into the attack is ongoing,” said Inspector Vijay Pawar, who is probing the incident.
No one has been arrested yet in the case, he said on Wednesday.
Activists say there is currently a high degree of anti-Christian sentiment in Palghar district.
“There is much animosity in the area. The place is a strong breeding ground for anti-Christian groups,” Joseph Dias, president of the Catholic Secular Forum, told on Wednesday.
Dias, a rights activist who campaigns for tribal Christians, said the Christian community fears more attacks will take place in the run-up to state elections next year.
“Hindu fundamentalists want to consolidate the Hindutva vote. That might be the motive behind these moves against Christians,” he added.
He said his organization has started training volunteers to help Christians file police complaints in case of persecution.
Local media reports say the tensions began after Christians stopped attending and contributing towards traditional tribal rituals and festivals in the village.
Christians say tension has been building in the region over the last two years, and has been largely ignored by the police.



Cardinal warns against self-centredness, urges compassion for others |  Aid to the Church in Need, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Fr Werenfried van Straaten,

Cardinal Placenza
A warning against self-centredness and a call to renew compassion for people who suffer has come from a senior Cardinal marking an important anniversary for a leading Catholic charity.
In a letter to the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need, which helps persecuted and other suffering Christians, the organisation’s president, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, praises Fr Werenfried van Straaten, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this coming Thursday (17 January).
Saying that Fr Werenfried “saw service of the poor as a ‘sacramental’ action,” the Cardinal writes: “By his preaching, Fr Werenfried ruffled the false sense of security of whose who thought they could save themselves without thinking of their neighbour.”
The Cardinal, who reports directly to Pope Benedict XVI, continues: “We need to become ‘poorer’, more genuine and less interested in our own words, thoughts, feelings and actions so that…through us God can carry out his own works.”
Stressing that when he started up Aid to the Church in Need , Fr Werenfried tasked his charity with “proclaiming without compromise the law of love”, Cardinal Piacenza recalled how in early post-war Europe, Fr Werenfried invited people to put aside differences and help German refugees.
He stated: “[Fr Werenfried] sought to dry the tears of the poor and bind up the wounds of the suffering.”
Cardinal Piacenza’s comments come as Aid to the Church in Need benefactors, volunteers and staff around the world hold celebrations marking Fr Werenfried’s centenary with memorial Masses, talks and events taking place in many of the charity’s 17 national offices.
Committing himself afresh to the charity’s work in the years ahead, the Cardinal writes: “[The suffering people’s] gratitude is the gratitude of Christ himself and thus the sole guarantee of God’s blessing on Aid to the Church in Need and its work.
“[This] we shall continue to fulfil with renewed love for him and in his name.”
The letter of Cardinal Piacenza, who is President of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, appears in Aid to the Church in Need ’s January 2013 Mirror newsletter sent to benefactors around the world.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, the Director of Aid to the Church in Need (UK), said: “I was privileged to know Fr Werenfried. He was a man of indefatigable spirit who challenged all those whom he encountered to respond to Christ’s love.
“His pastoral ‘Dear Friends’ Mirror newsletter called upon the friends of the suffering Christians to storm heaven with prayer and live charity in compassion. People warmed to his humour and humanity – and many thousands of kind friends of Aid to the Church in Need came to recognise the immense value of his prophetic work.”
Born in 1913, Philip van Straaten left his native Holland in 1934 to join the Norbertine Abbey of Tongerlo, Belgium, taking the name Werenfried, which means “Fighter for peace”. Ordained priest in 1940, the initiative for what became Aid to the Church in Need began at Christmas 1947 with Fr Werenfried’s appeal on behalf of refugees, prompted by a general request for help made by Pope Pius XII.
Fr Werenfried’s first appeal for help among Flemish farmers led to donations of large hunks of meat, earning him the nickname ‘the Bacon Priest’, which stuck with him for life. Fr Werenfried mobilized ‘rucksack priests’ and ‘chapel trucks’ for displaced people and soon risked his life by visiting embattled Catholic communities suffering behind the Iron Curtain in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe.
He called on the Church to refuse to compromise with communism and he fulfilled “promises of love”, providing aid for bishops, priests, Sisters struggling to carry out pastoral work in very difficult, even dangerous, circumstances. In response to a request from Blessed Pope John XXIII, Fr Werenfried expanded his work to Latin America and India in the early 1960s and by the end of the decade the charity was active in Africa.
By the time Fr Werenfried died aged 90 in January 2003, the charity was at work in more than 130 countries around the world, annually fulfilling at least 5,000 projects – aid for refugees, training for seminarians, cars and other transport for priests, churches and other religious buildings, Catholic radio and other media and Child’s Bibles.
By then a crucial new venture was underway after Fr Werenfried responded to a request by Blessed Pope John Paul II to help Christians emerging after more than 70 years of Soviet oppression.


Agenzia Fides) – His Exc. Mgr. Mario Enrique Rios Mont, CM, Apostolic Administrator of the Apostolic Vicariate of Izabal in Guatemala, has strongly condemned the behavior of the community of Puerto Barrios, that lynched two thieves caught stealing after they had been arrested for theft and the next day released. "This attitude is contrary to the law of God that clearly says not to kill," says the Bishop’s text, sent to Fides Agency. "The Vicariate is engaged in the permanent Continental Mission - he continues - so hopefully this period is an opportunity for repentance and conversion for a better quality of personal, family and social life. One cannot live a worthy life killing his brother."
Later Mgr. Rios states: "We call on the authorities to proceed with the necessary investigation and to administer justice." Then he continues: "we invite all the communities of the Vicariate: Castellas, Garifunas and Q'eqchies, to refrain from taking the law into their own hands. As a Church we must seek the path of dialogue to resolve the problems."
According to local media, the story dates back to the year 2012: two people were stopped by the community of Puerto Barrios and handed over to the police for stealing in the area. For unknown reasons, these people were released the next day. Despite the warnings of the community, they committed the crime again, beating up a merchant, so the crowd took the law into their own hands. (CE) 


Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
15 Jan 2013
Asylsum seekers protest over conditions in Nauru where they are still being forced to live five to a tent
Attempted suicides, self harm, hunger strikes and increasing despair among the almost 600 men, women and children held at detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru should come as no surprise, says Father Jim Carty, Co-ordinator of Marist Asylum Seeker and Refugee Services.
"The conditions in which they are living are intolerable. Some are forced to live in tents in sweltering conditions. Others are living in temporary dongers. Temperatures are above 40 degrees but there is no air conditioning, little shade and no freedom."
Fr Carty who has worked with asylum seekers and refugees for more than 35 years, says the Government knew when implementing its No Advantage Policy on 13 August and re-opening the detention centres on Nauru and Manus Islands what the effect on those held there would be.
"Everything that is now happening was predictable. But this didn't deter the Gillard  Government even though it knew from the countless psychiatric studies and reports during the Howard era that people forced to live in harsh conditions on islands in the middle of nowhere quickly leads to complete mental breakdown and despair," he says. "We also know that deterrents such as these do not work and have not, and will not stop the boats."
Behind high fences and razor wire on Manus where asylum seekers including children may be forced to stay for five years or more
Despite this and the fact that the two hastily-opened detention centres on Manus and Nauru have few facilities, little shade and where inmates are permitted no freedom of movement, almost 600 men, women and children are being forced to sleep in non-air conditioned dongers or sweltering army tents and endure day after day of tropical heat.
"Not only are they living in appalling conditions on islands in the middle of nowhere but they have been warned that it will be months before their claims for refugee status are processed and that they may have to remain in detention for five years or longer under the No Advantage Policy," Fr Carty says.
He points out that although almost 9000 asylum seekers have arrived on our shores since the Government's adoption of its off-shore No Advantage policy, just 570 of this number, or less than 6%, have been sent off-shore to endure the deprivation and mental anguish of Nauru or Manus.
"The Government is yet again using asylum seekers as political footballs and forcing a small number of already traumatised people, including children, to endure deprivation in off shore hell holes simply to make a point," Fr Carty says and predicts that these inhumane and cruel measures adopted by the Government are likely to escalate in the coming year when Labor and the Coalition will battle to be elected as Australia's next government.
Children on Manus live in temporary dongers with no proper school and no freedoms
"It will be a race to the bottom with both sides whipping up fear and using asylum seekers as a major electoral plank. Each will try to out-tough the other in their treatment of asylum seekers and both will ramp up the debate by pretending Australia is being swamped by asylum seekers," he says and warns Australians not to be taken in and not to be blinded by such rhetoric.
"Politicians continue to beat up the issue and act as if we are being invaded by a constant wave of boats. Admittedly the number of asylum seekers reaching our shores is a serious problem that should be addressed. But it is not as large or certainly not as overwhelming as politicians would have us believe," he says.
Fr Carty also points out that the 14,000 asylum seekers who arrived in Australia last year is nowhere near the millions of displaced people fleeing conflict and persecution in the Middle East and seeking save havens and resettlement in Europe.
Interior of a tent for male asylum seekers on Manus Island
"I still believe a regional solution is the answer. Malaysia currently has 100,000 asylum seekers and Indonesia has many thousands as well. But asylum seekers in these countries have no rights. A regional solution would aim at giving protections and rights to asylum seekers and refugees throughout the region. With rights there would not be the desperation to find a safe haven like Australia where they could work, earn money and make a life."
Fr Carty says despite the long list of recommendations of the Government's Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, led by Angus Houston, the Government has simply cherry picked what suited its political agenda.
The result is cruel punitive measures for the 170 which include 30 children aged between 7 and 18 on Manus and the 400 men living in tents on Nauru.
Fr Carty visited Manus during the Howard era and calls it a hell hole
"Australia's inhumane treatment of these asylum seekers is an abrogation of our responsibilities under the UN Refugee Convention and the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child," he says and cites the Government's early mantra that no child would be kept in detention.
"Not only are there more than 700 children in detention on mainland Australia but the Government is now warning that those in off-shore detention, including the 30 children held on Manus, in all probability will remain there for at least five years."
Fr Carty is deeply concerned about these children who have no freedoms and only a makeshift school held in a non-airconditioned donger for a few hours a day that is so hot and uncomfortable, most parents have refused to let their children attend.
"Holding children in detention is bad enough but to keep them in a hellhole like Manus Island where it looks like they will be forced to remain for five years or more is abhorrent" he says.
Manus Island detention centre no place for children
The situation on Manus continues to deteriorate. At the weekend an Iraqi father in his 30s tried to hang himself. Another two Iraqi men tried to commit suicide by climbing the camp fence and walking into the sea. The fate of the Iraqi man who is believed to be in his 30s and the father of children still in Iraq, remains unclear with the Department of Immigration reporting only that a male detainee had been taken to the medical facility on the Island with injuries after banging his head on a fence.
The other two men who attempted to drown themselves were rescued by G4S guards before they came to any harm. Yesterday, five more detainees on Manus attempted self harm.
"It's déjà vu all over again. Australia has learned nothing from its previous experience with off shore processing and the destruction of lives we saw then is happening once more," Fr Carty says.



The attack took place yesterday afternoon. The attackers destroyed a parish hall and community center. They were under construction. Spokesman for the Catholic Church: "By now attacks are on the agenda."

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Hundreds of Islamists have demolished a building owned by the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. George Taymah in the diocese of the Fayyum (central Egypt 133 km south of Cairo). According to the Egyptian news agency Middle East Christian News the incident occurred yesterday afternoon. The reasons for the assault are currently unknown. The two buildings, a meeting room and a center for parish events were under construction.

Fr. Rafic Greiche spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, points out that these facts have become commonplace in Egypt ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood. "This week - he says - another three buildings were attacked in other parts of Egypt." The priest said these events happen in rural areas and are often linked to disputes between the Coptic and Muslim communities. Religious hatred is just an excuse. In addition, the climate of impunity and insecurity, which in recent years has allowed many families linked to crime to act unscathed.

After the fall of President Mubarak and the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, attacks against churches and Christian buildings have increased. In the poorest areas of the country, but also in the capital, cuts to public security and the army have left them powerless in the face of these attacks instigated by Salafis. With their money and their promises, the extremists urge residents to drive Christians out to take over their lands, taking advantage of the absence of a clear law that regulates the construction of religious buildings.

On 7 July 2011 a hundred extremists armed with sticks and iron bars occupied an area located a few meters from the church of St. Mina in Shubra al-Kheima in the heart of Cairo. As in the case of Taymah a new center for parish meetings was under construction. Amid police indifference, Islamists presided over the area for more than 24 hours and hoisted a banner reading "Mosque Ebad al-Rahman." Another case is that which took place in May 2011 in Merinab (Aswan - Upper Egypt) where more than 3 thousand Muslims incited by the local imam set fire to the small Coptic church in the village accusing the Christians of building it without the permission of the authorities. (S.C.)



Mark 1: 29 - 39

29And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.30Now Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her.31And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them.32That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.33And the whole city was gathered together about the door.34And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.35And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.36And Simon and those who were with him pursued him,37and they found him and said to him, "Every one is searching for you."38And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out."39And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.


St. Berard of Carbio
Feast: January 16

Feast Day:January 16
Carbio, Umbria, Italy
Died16 January 1220, Morocco
Canonized:1481, Rome by Pope Sixtus IV
Of the noble family of Leopardi, and a native of Carbio in Umbria, Berard was received into the Franciscan Order by the Seraphic Patriarch  himself, in 1213. He was well versed in Arabic, an eloquent preacher, and was chosen by St. Francis, together with two other priests, Peter and Otho, and two lay-brothers, Accursius and Adjutus, to evangelize the infidels of the East. On the conclusion of the Second General Chapter in 1219, St. Francis believed that the time had then come for the religious of his order to extend their apostolic labours beyond the Italian peninsula and Northern Europe; and, choosing for himself and twelve other religious the greater part of Syria and Egypt, he allotted to Berard and his companions the missions of Morocco. The five missionaries set sail from Italy, and after sojourning some time in Spain and Portugal finally arrived in the Kingdom of Morocco. Their open preaching of the Gospel there and their bold denunciation of the religion of Mahomet soon caused them to be apprehended and cast into prison. Having vainly endeavoured to persuade them to abandon the true religion, the Moorish king in a fit of rage opened their heads with his scimitar, and thus were offered to God the first fruits of the blood of the Friars Minor. Berard and his companions were canonized by Sixtus V, in 1481. The feast of the martyrs of Morocco is kept in the order on the 16th of January.