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Monday, October 31, 2011

A Young Martyr's Letter to His Girlfriend, 1936 Spain

A Martyr's Letter to His Girlfriend  
"Let My Memory Always Remind You There Is a Better Life"

MADRID, Spain, NOV. 9, 2007 ( Here is a translation of a letter from Bartolomé Blanco Márquez, written to his girlfriend from prison the day before he was executed during religious persecution in 1930s Spain. Márquez was beatified Oct. 28; the letter is published in the "Summarium Super Martyrio" of his beatification cause.

Bartolomé Blanco Márquez was born in Cordoba in 1914. He was arrested as a Catholic leader -- he was the secretary of Catholic Action and a delegate to the Catholic Syndicates -- on Aug. 18, 1936. He was executed on Oct. 2, 1936, at age 21, while he cried out, "Long live Christ the King!"

* * *

Provincial prison of Jaen, Oct. 1, 1936

My dearest Maruja:

Your memory will remain with me to the grave and, as long as the slightest throb stirs my heart, it will beat for love of you. God has deemed fit to sublimate these worldly affections, ennobling them when we love each other in him. Though in my final days, God is my light and what I long for, this does not mean that the recollection of the one dearest to me will not accompany me until the hour of my death.

I am assisted by many priests who -- what a sweet comfort -- pour out the treasures of grace into my soul, strengthening it. I look death in the eye and, believe my words, it does not daunt me or make me afraid.

My sentence before the court of mankind will be my soundest defense before God's court; in their effort to revile me, they have ennobled me; in trying to sentence me, they have absolved me, and by attempting to lose me, they have saved me. Do you see what I mean? Why, of course! Because in killing me, they grant me true life and in condemning me for always upholding the highest ideals of religion, country and family, they swing open before me the doors of heaven.

My body will be buried in a grave in this cemetery of Jaen; while I am left with only a few hours before that definitive repose, allow me to ask but one thing of you: that in memory of the love we shared, which at this moment is enhanced, that you would take on as your primary objective the salvation of your soul. In that way, we will procure our reuniting in heaven for all eternity, where nothing will separate us.

Goodbye, until that moment, then, dearest Maruja! Do not forget that I am looking at you from heaven, and try to be a model Christian woman, since, in the end, worldly goods and delights are of no avail if we do not manage to save our souls.

My thoughts of gratitude to all your family and, for you, all my love, sublimated in the hours of death. Do not forget me, my Maruja, and let my memory always remind you there is a better life, and that attaining it should constitute our highest aspiration.

Be strong and make a new life; you are young and kind, and you will have God's help, which I will implore upon you from his kingdom. Goodbye, until eternity, then, when we shall continue to love each other for life everlasting.

[Translation by ZENIT]


Heroic Witness
Love letter from prison proof of martyrdom of Spanish youth

Blessed Bartolome Blanco Marquez

Madrid, Oct 29, 2007 / 10:38 am (CNA).- Bartolome Blanco Marquez is one of the youngest of the group of 498 martyrs beatified by Pope Benedict XVI this past Sunday at the Vatican.  A committed Catholic, the 22 year-old layman wrote a moving letter to his girlfriend Maruja just hours before his death.
"Your memory will go with me to the tomb, and as long as my heart is beating, it will beat with love for you," he told Maruja. "God has desired to exalt these earthly affections, ennobling them when we love each other in Him."
Therefore, although in my last days God is my light and my longing, this does not keep the memory of the person I most love from accompanying me until the hour of my death," he wrote in his letter.

His story

Bartolome was born in Pozoblanco on November 25, 1914.  Orphaned as a child, he was raised by his aunt and uncle and worked as a chair maker.  He was an outstanding student at the Salesian school of Pozoblanco and also helped out as a catechist.  At the age of 18 he was elected secretary of a youth division of Catholic Action in Pozoblanco.
He was imprisoned in that city on August 18, 1936, when he was on leave from military service.  On September 24 he was moved to a prison in Jaen, where he was held with fifteen priests and other laymen.  There he was judged, condemned to death and shot on October 2, 1936.
During his trial, Bartolome remained true to his faith and his religious convictions. He did not protest his death sentence and told the court that if he lived he would continue being an active Catholic.
The letters he wrote on the eve of his death to his family and to his girlfriend Maruja show his profound faith.
"May this be my last will: forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness; but indulgence, which I wish to be accompanied by doing them as much good as possible.  Therefore, I ask you to avenge me with the vengeance of a Christian: returning much good to those that have tried to do me evil," he wrote to his relatives.
On the day of his execution he left his cell barefoot, in order to be more conformed to Christ.  He kissed his handcuffs, surprising the guards that cuffed him.  He refused to be shot from behind.  "Whoever dies for Christ should do so facing forward and standing straight.  Long live Christ the King!" he shouted as he fell to ground under a shower of bullets.

On Purgatory - BXVI



Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 12 January 2011



Saint Catherine of Genoa
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After Catherine of Siena and Catherine of Bologna, today I would like to speak to you about another Saint: Catherine of Genoa, known above all for her vision of purgatory. The text that describes her life and thought was published in this Ligurian city in 1551. It is in three sections: her Vita [Life], properly speaking, the Dimostratione et dechiaratione del purgatorio — better known as Treatise on purgatory — and her Dialogo tra l'anima e il corpo (cf. Libro de la Vita mirabile et dottrina santa, de la beata Caterinetta da Genoa. Nel quale si contiene una utile et catholica dimostratione et dechiaratione del purgatorio, Genoa 1551). The final version was written by Catherine's confessor, Fr Cattaneo Marabotto.

Catherine was born in Genoa in 1447. She was the youngest of five. Her father, Giacomo Fieschi, died when she was very young. Her mother, Francesca di Negro provided such an effective Christian education that the elder of her two daughters became a religious.

When Catherine was 16, she was given in marriage to Giuliano Adorno, a man who after various trading and military experiences in the Middle East had returned to Genoa in order to marry.

Married life was far from easy for Catherine, partly because of the character of her husband who was given to gambling. Catherine herself was at first induced to lead a worldly sort of life in which, however, she failed to find serenity. After 10 years, her heart was heavy with a deep sense of emptiness and bitterness.

A unique experience on 20 March 1473 sparked her conversion. She had gone to the Church of San Benedetto in the monastery of Nostra Signora delle Grazie [Our Lady of Grace], to make her confession and, kneeling before the priest, "received", as she herself wrote, "a wound in my heart from God's immense love". It came with such a clear vision of her own wretchedness and shortcomings and at the same time of God's goodness, that she almost fainted.

Her heart was moved by this knowledge of herself — knowledge of the empty life she was leading and of the goodness of God. This experience prompted the decision that gave direction to her whole life. She expressed it in the words: "no longer the world, no longer sin" (cf. Vita Mirabile, 3rv). Catherine did not stay to make her Confession.

On arriving home she entered the remotest room and spent a long time weeping. At that moment she received an inner instruction on prayer and became aware of God's immense love for her, a sinner. It was a spiritual experience she had no words to  describe ( cf. Vita Mirabile, 4r).

It was on this occasion that the suffering Jesus appeared to her, bent beneath the Cross, as he is often portrayed in the Saint's iconography. A few days later she returned to the priest to make a good confession at last. It was here that began the "life of purification" which for many years caused her to feel constant sorrow for the sins she had committed and which spurred her to impose forms of penance and sacrifice upon herself, in order to show her love to God.

On this journey Catherine became ever closer to the Lord until she attained what is called "unitive life", namely, a relationship of profound union with God.

In her Vita it is written that her soul was guided and instructed from within solely by the sweet love of God which gave her all she needed. Catherine surrendered herself so totally into the hands of the Lord that she lived, for about 25 years, as she wrote, "without the assistance of any creature, taught and governed by God alone" (Vita, 117r-118r), nourished above all by constant prayer and by Holy Communion which she received every day, an unusual practice in her time. Only many years later did the Lord give her a priest who cared for her soul.

Catherine was always reluctant to confide and reveal her experience of mystical communion with God, especially because of the deep humility she felt before the Lord's graces. The prospect of glorifying him and of being able to contribute to the spiritual journey of others alone spurred her to recount what had taken place within her, from the moment of her conversion, which is her original and fundamental experience.

The place of her ascent to mystical peaks was Pammatone Hospital, the largest hospital complex in Genoa, of which she was director and animator. Hence Catherine lived a totally active existence despite the depth of her inner life. In Pammatone a group of followers, disciples and collaborators formed around her, fascinated by her life of faith and her charity.

Indeed her husband, Giuliano Adorno, was so so won over that he gave up his dissipated life, became a Third Order Franciscan and moved into the hospital to help his wife.

Catherine's dedication to caring for the sick continued until the end of her earthly life on 15 September 1510. From her conversion until her death there were no extraordinary events but two elements characterize her entire life: on the one hand her mystical experience, that is, the profound union with God, which she felt as spousal union, and on the other, assistance to the sick, the organization of the hospital and service to her neighbour, especially the neediest and the most forsaken. These two poles, God and neighbour, totally filled her life, virtually all of which she spent within the hospital walls.

Dear friends, we must never forget that the more we love God and the more constantly we pray, the better we will succeed in truly loving those who surround us, who are close to us, so that we can see in every person the Face of the Lord whose love knows no bounds and makes no distinctions. The mystic does not create distance from others or an abstract life, but rather approaches other people so that they may begin to see and act with God's eyes and heart.

Catherine's thought on purgatory, for which she is particularly well known, is summed up in the last two parts of the book mentioned above: The Treatise on purgatory and the Dialogues between the body and the soul. It is important to note that Catherine, in her mystical experience, never received specific revelations on purgatory or on the souls being purified there. Yet, in the writings inspired by our Saint, purgatory is a central element and the description of it has characteristics that were original in her time.

The first original passage concerns the "place" of the purification of souls. In her day it was depicted mainly using images linked to space: a certain space was conceived of in which purgatory was supposed to be located.

Catherine, however, did not see purgatory as a scene in the bowels of the earth: for her it is not an exterior but rather an interior fire. This is purgatory: an inner fire.

The Saint speaks of the Soul's journey of purification on the way to full communion with God, starting from her own experience of profound sorrow for the sins committed, in comparison with God's infinite love (cf. Vita Mirabile, 171v).

We heard of the moment of conversion when Catherine suddenly became aware of God's goodness, of the infinite distance of her own life from this goodness and of a burning fire within her. And this is the fire that purifies, the interior fire of purgatory. Here too is an original feature in comparison with the thought of her time.

In fact, she does not start with the afterlife in order to recount the torments of purgatory — as was the custom in her time and perhaps still is today — and then to point out the way to purification or conversion. Rather our Saint begins with the inner experience of her own life on the way to Eternity.

"The soul", Catherine says, "presents itself to God still bound to the desires and suffering that derive from sin and this makes it impossible for it to enjoy the beatific vision of God". Catherine asserts that God is so pure and holy that a soul stained by sin cannot be in the presence of the divine majesty (cf. Vita Mirabile, 177r).

We too feel how distant we are, how full we are of so many things that we cannot see God. The soul is aware of the immense love and perfect justice of God and consequently suffers for having failed to respond in a correct and perfect way to this love; and love for God itself becomes a flame, love itself cleanses it from the residue of sin.

In Catherine we can make out the presence of theological and mystical sources on which it was normal to draw in her time. In particular, we find an image typical of Dionysius the Areopagite: the thread of gold that links the human heart to God himself. When God purified man, he bound him with the finest golden thread, that is, his love, and draws him toward himself with such strong affection that man is as it were "overcome and won over and completely beside himself".

Thus man's heart is pervaded by God's love that becomes the one guide, the one driving force of his life (cf. Vita Mirabile, 246rv). This situation of being uplifted towards God and of surrender to his will, expressed in the image of the thread, is used by Catherine to express the action of divine light on the souls in purgatory, a light that purifies and raises them to the splendour of the shining radiance of God (cf. Vita Mirabile, 179r).

Dear friends, in their experience of union with God, Saints attain such a profound knowledge of the divine mysteries in which love and knowledge interpenetrate, that they are of help to theologians themselves in their commitment to study, to intelligentia fidei, to an intelligentia of the mysteries of faith, to attain a really deeper knowledge of the mysteries of faith, for example, of what purgatory is.

With her life St Catherine teaches us that the more we love God and enter into intimacy with him in prayer the more he makes himself known to us, setting our hearts on fire with his love.

In writing about purgatory, the Saint reminds us of a fundamental truth of faith that becomes for us an invitation to pray for the deceased so that they may attain the beatific vision of God in the Communion of Saints (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1032).

Moreover the humble, faithful and generous service in Pammatone Hospital that the Saint rendered throughout her life is a shining example of charity for all and an encouragement, especially for women who, with their precious work enriched by their sensitivity and attention to the poorest and neediest, make a fundamental contribution to society and to the Church. Many thanks.


Fears of 'unchecked Islamic persecution' in IraqRSSFacebookOctober 31, 2011

A year after the massacre at the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad left 58 dead, an Assyrian news agency is expressing concern about the future of Iraq's Christian community.

"For Assyrians in Iraq, the scheduled departure of U.S. forces at the end of December, 2011 is of great concern," the Assyrian International News Agency stated in an article commemorating the massacre. ["Assyrian" is a term that includes members of separated Eastern churches (the Assyrian Church of the East and the Syrian Orthodox Church) and Eastern Catholic churches in communion with the Holy See (the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Syrian Catholic Church).]

"The Shiite Maliki government is under the influence of Iran and the Shiites have not been friendly to Assyrians in Iraq, as they have engaged in the persecution and killing of Assyrians since 2004," the agency continued. "Without the US presence as a deterrent, Assyrians face the danger of unchecked Islamic persecution."

EGYPT: Christian student murdered for wearing cross

Egypt: Christian student murdered for refusing to remove crucifixRSSFacebookOctober 31, 2011

Ayman Nabil Labib, a 17-year-old Coptic Christian student, was murdered by Muslim classmates after refusing to remove a crucifix he was wearing, the Assyrian International News Agency is reporting.

The murder, which took place on October 16 in the central Egyptian town of Mallawi, took place after a teacher asked Labib to cover up a tattooed cross on his wrist. Labib refused, instead uncovering a cross necklace.

"The teacher nearly choked my son, and some Muslim students joined in the beating," said Labib's father.

"They beat my son so much in the classroom that he fled to the lavatory on the ground floor, but they followed him and continued their assault," the victim's mother added. "When one of the supervisors took him to his room, Ayman was still breathing. The ambulance transported him from there dead, one hour later."

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bangkok: entire areas submerged, evacuation of areas at risk continues
by Weena Kowitwanij
The floods have so far caused 370 deaths, also affected the national economy with growth estimates slashed. The airport of Don Muang flooded, some hospitals cleared. 27 districts affected by floods. The governor of the Bank of Thailand assures: banks will remain open.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - The mass exodus of Bangkok residents continues, while whole areas of the capital are under water. The combined effect of the floods caused by monsoon rains and the high tide of the ocean is likely to exacerbate an already critical situation. The floods have so far caused over 370 deaths and heavy losses are reported as well in the national economy, with forecasts of growth estimates for the fiscal year slashed. Meanwhile the governor of Bangkok Sukhumbhand Paribatra has ordered the evacuation of Thawi Wattthana, the fourth district affected by the mandatory order after Don Muang, Bang Phlat and Sai Mai.

The water has now spread to cover the entire Don Muang airport, which is used for internal connections. The airport has been closed for days and flights have been transferred to Suvarnabhumi International Airport, which operates on a regular basis. The Civil Protection Department (Froch, located in Don Muang district) has moved to the National Stadium in downtown Bangkok. Currently there are 27 flooded districts in Bangkok several roads and link roads are impassable or unusable because submerged by water.

Several hospitals at risk in the capital have had to transfer patients to safer structures, to spare them from the floods. There are also reports of damage to an estimated 2794 temples, shrines and historic houses destroyed or damaged by seepage. The Ministry of Culture ordered the emplacement of sandbags around important monuments and is providing shelter and assistance to victims. The government has not ruled out extending the bank holidays - so far from 27 to 31 October - in order to better address the emergency.

The monsoon rains have also caused damage to the Thai national economy, which has had to revise growth estimates. The governor of the Bank of Thailand Prasan Triratworakul said that "banks will not close" to avoid "giving rise to panic" among people. He adds that the printing of money is "guaranteed", but the crisis begins to be felt in terms of the economy: GDP growth forecasts have in fact been lowered, passing from the initial 4.1% in early October to the current 2.6%.

How 'sola scriptura' is at odds with the Bible messageRSSFacebookOctober 28, 2011

In an instructive essay that looks forward to the October 31 celebration of Reformation Day, Francis Beckwith—who became a leading Evangelical scholar before returning to his boyhood Catholic faith—explains how his study of Scripture led him back to the Catholic Church. His reflections, he notes, convinced him "that sola scriptura was a 16th-century invention and, therefore, not an essential Christian doctrine."

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Philadelphia abortion-clinic employees plead guilty to murderRSSFacebookOctober 28, 2011

Two workers at a Philadelphia abortion clinic have entered guilty pleas on murder charges, in the first concrete results of a case involving multiple charges against an abortionist.

The guilty pleas were entered by employees of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, whose clinic in West Philadelphia was cited by authorities for substandard hygiene, improper care, and the deliberate killing of babies who were born alive following botched abortions. Gosnell and six other employees still face criminal charges.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

AUSTRALIA: X Factor star gives credit for success to Catholic mom

X Factor star gives credit for success to Catholic mom
By David Kerr
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.- Even though he is only 17 years old, Emmanuel Kelly has taken Australia by storm this fall with his X Factor performances. But he says all of his success could not have happened without his Catholic mom, Moira Kelly.
"My hero would have to be my mother. She worked extremely hard to change my life hugely," Emmanuel told X Factor judges before his first performance in September.

Moira, 47, has given her adult life to helping disadvantaged children around the world, including working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta.

"Moira is very determined, very single-minded and, sometimes, challenging too," chuckles Margaret Smith, a good friend of Moira's for over 27 years, who also serves as chief executive of her charity, the Children First Foundation.

"Her Catholic faith has been her driving force to keep going and keep doing all this in New York's Bronx, Calcutta, the Kalahari, Western Australia and all around the world."

The Foundation describes its mission as transforming "the lives of children who need us most by giving hope, exceptional care and pathways to a brighter future." Their "Miracle Smiles" program brings children in need of life-saving or life-changing surgery from the developing world to Australia to receive the care they need.
Because of her desire to help children in such dire straights, Moira went to war-torn Iraq in the mid 1990s. While she was there Moira came across Emmanuel and his brother Ahmed in an orphanage run by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. The baby boys had been found by the nuns in a shoe box in a Baghdad park. Both were suffering from limb deficiencies because of chemical warfare.

"It was like looking at an angel when mum, Moira Kelly, walked through the orphanage door," Emmanuel told the talent show judges. "She brought us both to Australia for surgery originally and then mum sort of fell in love with both of us."

Soon thereafter, Moira became legal guardian for both boys.

"I think one of the most wonderful things about Moira is that she accepts every child is accepted for who they are," said her friend Margaret. "It takes a gutsy person to devote their life in this way rather than go out and earn a big salary."

With the love and support of Moira, 19-year-old Ahmed has now set his sights on a swimming gold in the 2012 Paralympics in London. Meanwhile, Emmanuel is contemplating a music career, despite his exit this month from X Factor.

"Moira is thrilled to bits. We all are," said Magaret, "it's been a wonderful exercise for him.

"He knows he's going to have to work at it very hard but we've always known he's got a wonderful voice." 

WISDOM in Christ and Tradition

From the book of Wisdom
Wisdom is the image of God

Now God grant I speak suitably
and value these endowments at their worth:
For he is the guide of Wisdom
and the director of the wise.
For both we and our words are in his hand,
as well as all prudence and knowledge of crafts.
For he gave me sound knowledge of existing things,
that I might know the organization of the universe and the force of its elements,
The beginning and the end and the midpoint of times,
the changes in the sun's course and the variations of the seasons.
Cycles of years, positions of the stars,
natures of animals, tempers of beasts,
Powers of the winds and thoughts of men,
uses of plants and virtues of roots-
Such things as are hidden I learned and such as are plain;
for Wisdom, the artificer of all, taught me.

For in her is a spirit
intelligent, holy, unique,
Manifold, subtle, agile,
clear, unstained, certain,
Not baneful, loving the good, keen,
unhampered, beneficent, kindly,
Firm, secure, tranquil,
all-powerful, all-seeing,
And pervading all spirits,
though they be intelligent, pure and very subtle.
For Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion,
and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity.

For she is an aura of the might of God
and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nought that is sullied enters into her.
For she is the refulgence of eternal light,
the spotless mirror of the power of God,
the image of his goodness.
And she, who is one, can do all things,
and renews everything while herself perduring;
And passing into holy souls from age to age,
she produces friends of God and prophets.
For there is nought God loves, be it not one who dwells with Wisdom.
For she is fairer than the sun
and surpasses every constellation of the stars.
Compared to light, she takes precedence;
for that, indeed, night supplants,
but wickedness prevails not over Wisdom.

RESPONSORY Colossians 1:15-16; Wisdom 7:26

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation,
for in him, all things were created.

He is the brightness of the eternal light
and the image of God's goodness.
For in him, all things were created.

Second reading
From a discourse Against the Arians by Saint Athanasius, bishop
Wisdom's likeness and image is in God's works

An impress of Wisdom has been created in us and in all his works. Therefore, the true Wisdom which shaped the world claims for himself all that bears his image, and rightly says: The Lord created me in his works. These words are really spoken by the wisdom that is in us, but the Lord himself here adopts them as his own. Wisdom himself is not created, because he is the Creator, but by reason of the created image of himself found in his works, he speaks thus as though he were speaking of himself. Our Lord said: He who receives you receives me, and he could say this because the impress of himself is in us. In the same way, although Wisdom is not to be numbered among created things, yet because his form and likeness is in his works, he speaks as if he were a creature, and says: The Lord created me in his works, when his purpose first unfolded.

The likeness of Wisdom has been stamped upon creatures in order that the world may recognize in it the Word who was its maker and through the Word come to know the Father. This is Paul's teaching: What can be known about God is clear to them, for God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature has been there for the mind to perceive in things that have been made. Accordingly the Word is not a creature, for the passage that begins: The Lord created me… is to be understood as referring to that wisdom which is truly in us and is said to be so.

But if this fails to persuade our opponents, let them tell us whether there is any wisdom in created things. If there is none, why does the apostle Paul allege as the cause of men's sins: By God's wisdom, the world failed to come to a knowledge of God through wisdom? And if there is no created wisdom, how is it that the expression a multitude of wise men is found in Scripture? And again, Scripture testifies that the wise man is wary and turns away from evil, and by wisdom is a house built. Further, Ecclesiastes says: A wise man's wisdom will light up his face. He also rebukes presumptuous persons with the warning: Do not say, "How is it that former days were better than these?" For it is not in wisdom that you ask this.

So there is a wisdom in created things, as the son of Sirach too bears witness: The Lord has poured it out upon all his works, to be with men as his gift, and with wisdom he has abundantly equipped those who love him. This quality of being "poured out" belongs not to the essence of that self-existent Wisdom who is the Only-begotten, but to that wisdom which reflects the only begotten one in the world. Why then is it beyond belief if the creative and archetypal Wisdom, whose likeness is the wisdom and understanding poured out in the world, should say, as though speaking directly of himself: The Lord created me in his works? For the wisdom in the world is not creative, but is itself created in God's works, and in the light of this wisdom the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims the work of his hands.

RESPONSORY Wisdom 7:22,23; 1 Corinthianss 2:10

In wisdom dwells a spirit,
intelligent, holy, unique, manifold,
subtle, active, loving all that is good, and irrestistible.
This is an all-powerful spirit, surveying all and pervading all spirits.

The Spirit penetrates the depths of all that is,
even the depths of God.
This is an all-powerful spirit, surveying all and pervading all spirits.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

ISRAEL / PALESTINE: Melkite archbishop urges Christians to support Jews and Palestinians

Melkite archbishop urges Christians to support Jews and Palestinians

Archbishop Chacour (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Deborah Gyapong
Catholic News Service

OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) -- Years ago, Melkite Byzantine Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour flew to Washington, D.C., to make an unannounced visit to the home of then-Secretary of State James Baker.

The archbishop of Haifa, Israel, was having trouble getting a government-issued building permit to expand a school, a problem that had repeated itself many times over the years as he built schools and summer camps for impoverished Christian and Muslim villagers.

To his surprise, Baker's wife, Susan, answered the door because she was expecting a group of women for a Bible study, Archbishop Chacour told an Oct. 21 conference on The Future of Christianity in the Middle East.

She invited him into the kitchen for a glass of iced tea, explained her husband was not at home and added she was about to start a discussion of the Eight Beatitudes with the 20 ladies in her living room.

She ended up inviting the archbishop to lead the Bible study for her, the archbishop recalled. He spent the next two hours explaining the beatitudes to the women, noting they are about following Jesus to the cross, not "be-happy attitudes" as some described them. He said he also told the women to convince their husbands "to get their fingers dirty" in the work of building peace and justice in the Middle East.

That unannounced visit led to a friendship between the Bakers and the archbishop that not only got Archbishop Chacour the building permit he sought, but also eventually brought the Bakers to visit his archdiocese as "an act of solidarity."

"Are you ready when you visit the Holy Land to make that act of solidarity?" he asked the audience at St. Paul University's Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, which co-sponsored the conference with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

Archbishop Chacour said anyone expecting him to be for or against Palestinians or Jews "will be disappointed."

A renowned peace-builder, the archbishop described himself as a Palestinian, an Arab, a Christian and an Israeli citizen who is proud of each one of his identities.

But he said Christians all over the Holy Land are seeking to leave and find opportunities elsewhere. He urged visitors to get out of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher -- a prominent pilgrimage spot in Jerusalem -- and go to Galilee to understand Jesus as a man of the resurrection and to listen, console and provide companionship to Christians there.

He also stressed that the Christian communities originally grew in the region because of the love they showed, not the weapons they used.

"I am not here to beg for money," Archbishop Chacour said. "I'm here to beg you to give me your friendship and solidarity."

He urged people to stand with the Jews in friendship but not to be against the Palestinians.

"We have been labeled a nation of terrorists," he said. "We have been a nation terrorized for over 70 years."

If people sympathize with the suffering of Palestinians in refugee camps, or struggling under the occupation in Gaza or the West Bank, or as second-class citizens in Israel, they might decide "to be on our side," he said.

"If being on our side with the Palestinians, being for us, means being against the Jews, we do not need your friendship," he said. "You reduce yourselves to being one more enemy."

Archbishop Chacour said his parents taught him never to hate, even though, when he was 8, the Israeli military ordered his family to leave their home in their ancestral village. Expecting to be allowed to return, his family and other villagers lived for two weeks in the hills. Then the family heads went to speak with Israeli authorities about returning to their homes. Instead of inviting them back, the military herded them onto military trucks "like cattle" and dropped them off across the border at Nablus, West Bank, and told them not to return.

Though Archbishop Chacour's father managed to return after several months, most of the others never came home. Those who were compelled to leave Israel by what he called a form of ethnic cleansing became the "famous Palestinian refugees" who ended up in refugee camps or remained stateless in surrounding countries.

In 1953, his home village was razed and the land confiscated by the Israeli government, he said. But he does not use these experiences as a pretext for hatred or violence. Instead, he has devoted his life to reconciliation and building peace among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

"We Palestinians and Jews do not need to learn how to live together," he said. "We just need to remember how we used to live together for centuries and centuries."


READ IT ! It'll blow your mind ...


"Thank You, Lord Jesus! Thank You for Your Fidelity"

ROME, JUNE 24, 2011 ( Here is an unofficial Vatican Radio translation of Benedict XVI's homily for the feast of Corpus Christi, celebrated Thursday in Rome.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The feast of Corpus Domini is inseparable from the Holy Thursday Mass of Caena Domini, in which the institution of the Eucharist is also celebrated. While on the evening of Holy Thursday we relive the mystery of Christ who offers himself to us in the bread broken and wine poured out, today, in celebration of Corpus Domini, this same mystery is proposed for the adoration and meditation of God's people, and the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the streets of towns and villages, to show that the risen Christ walks among us and guides us toward the kingdom of heaven. Today we openly manifest what Jesus has given us in the intimacy of the Last Supper, because the love of Christ is not confined to the few, but is intended for all. This year during the Mass of Our Lord's Last Supper on Holy Thursday, I pointed out that the Eucharist is the transformation of the gifts of this land -- the bread and wine -- intended to transform our lives and usher in the transformation of the world. Tonight I would like to return to this point of view.

Everything starts, you might say, from the heart of Christ, who at the Last Supper on the eve of his passion, thanked and praised God and, in doing so, with the power of his love transformed the meaning of death, which he was about to encounter. The fact that the sacrament of the altar has taken on the name "Eucharist," "thanksgiving," expresses this: that the change in the substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the fruit of the gift that Christ made of himself, a gift of a love stronger than death, divine love that brought him to rise from the dead. That is why the Eucharist is the food of eternal life, the Bread of life. From the heart of Christ, from his "Eucharistic Prayer" on the eve of his passion, flows the dynamism that transforms reality in its cosmic, human and historical dimensions. All proceeds from God, from the omnipotence of his love One and Triune, incarnate in Jesus. The heart of Christ is immersed in this love; because of this he knows how to thank and praise God even in the face of betrayal and violence, and thus changes things, people and the world.

This transformation is possible thanks to a communion stronger than division, the communion of God himself. The word "communion," which we use to designate the Eucharist, sums up the vertical and horizontal dimension of the gift of Christ. The beautiful and eloquent expression "receive communion" refers to the act of eating the bread of the Eucharist. In fact, when we carry out this act, we enter into communion with the very life of Jesus, in the dynamism of this life that is given to us and for us. From God, through Jesus, to us: a unique communion is transmitted in the Holy Eucharist. We have heard as much, in the second reading, from the words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ"(1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

St. Augustine helps us to understand the dynamics of holy Communion when referring to a kind of vision he had, in which Jesus said to him: "I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me"(Confessions, VII, 10, 18). Therefore, while the bodily food is assimilated by the body and contributes to sustain it, the Eucharist is a different bread: We do not assimilate it, but it assimilates us to itself, so that we become conformed to Jesus Christ and members of his body, one with him. This is a decisive passage. Indeed, precisely because it is Christ who, in Eucharistic communion, transforms us into him, our individuality, in this encounter, is opened up, freed from its self-centeredness and placed in the Person of Jesus, who in turn is immersed in the Trinitarian communion. Thus, while the Eucharist unites us to Christ, we open ourselves to others making us members one of another: We are no longer divided, but one thing in him. Eucharistic communion unites me to the person next to me, and to the one with whom perhaps I might not even have a good relationship, but also to my brothers and sisters who are far away, in every corner of the world. Thus the deep sense of social presence of the Church is derived from the Eucharist, as evidenced by the great social saints, who have always been great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, recognize their brother who suffers, who is hungry and thirsty, who is a stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned, and they are attentive to every person, committing themselves, in a concrete way, to those who are in need.

So from the gift of Christ's love comes our special responsibility as Christians in building a cohesive, just and fraternal society. Especially in our time when globalization makes us increasingly dependent upon each other, Christianity can and must ensure that this unity will not be built without God, without true Love. This would give way to confusion and individualism, the oppression of some against others. The Gospel has always aimed at the unity of the human family, a unity not imposed from above, or by ideological or economic interests, but from a sense of responsibility toward each other, because we identify ourselves as members of the same body, the body of Christ, because we have learned and continually learn from the Sacrament of the Altar that communion, love is the path of true justice.

Let us return to Jesus' act in the Last Supper. What happened at that moment? When he said: This is my body which is given to you, this is my blood shed for you and for the multitude, what happened? Jesus in that gesture anticipates the event of Calvary. He accepts his passion out of love, with its trial and its violence, even to death on the cross; by accepting it in this way he transforms it into an act of giving. This is the transformation that the world needs most, because he redeems it from within, he opens it up to the kingdom of heaven. But God always wants to accomplish this renewal of the world through the same path followed by Christ, indeed, the path that is himself. There is nothing magic in Christianity. There are no shortcuts, but everything passes through the patient and humble logic of the grain of wheat that is broken to give life, the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God. This is why God wants to continue to renew humanity, history and the cosmos through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament. Through the consecrated bread and wine, in which his Body and Blood is truly present, Christ transforms us, assimilating us in him: He involves us in his redeeming work, enabling us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live according to his same logic of gift, like grains of wheat united with him and in him. Thus unity and peace, which are the goal for which we strive, are sown and mature in the furrows of history, according to God's plan.

Without illusions, without ideological utopias, we walk the streets of the world, bringing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation. With the humble awareness that we are simple grains of wheat, we cherish the firm conviction that the love of God, incarnate in Christ, is stronger than evil, violence and death. We know that God is preparing for all people new heavens and new earth where peace and justice prevail -- and by faith we glimpse the new world, that is our true home. Also this evening as the sun sets on our beloved city of Rome, we set out again on this path: With us is Jesus in the Eucharist, the Risen One, who said, "I am with you always, until the end of world "(Mt 28:20). Thank you, Lord Jesus! Thank you for your fidelity, which sustains our hope. Stay with us, because the evening comes. "Jesus, good shepherd and true bread, have mercy on us; feed us and guard us. Grant that we find happiness in the land of the living." Amen.

Egyptian government does not respond to Coptic pleasRSSFacebookOctober 26, 2011

Coptic Christian leaders have been unable to persuade Egyptian government leaders to strengthen protection for the country's Christian minority.

Coptic Pope Shenouda III has met with military leaders, showing them video footage of the massacre at Maspero, in an attempt to demonstrate that peaceful Christian protesters were deliberately targeted by armed troops. The Coptic Church has called for a government investigation of the killings—to date, without success.

In Egypt, Islamic groups have the legal right to build a mosque on any site. Christians require explicit permission from the president to build a church.

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Filipino guest worker faces Saudi blasphemy chargesRSSFacebookOctober 26, 2011

A Filipino guest worker has been arrested on blasphemy charges in Saudi Arabia.

The 32-year-old man was taken into custody after a supervisor at his workplace reported that the Filipino Catholic planned to dishonor Mohammed. The complaint was lodged shortly after the man had been engaged in a dispute at work.

The bishops of the Philippines have appealed to the Saudi government to release the accused man, and have asked for an objective investigation of the case. They observed that with thousands of Filipinos now working in Saudi Arabia, the case could have enormous impact.

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Israeli prelate challenges Catholics to visit, support Christians in Holy LandRSSFacebookOctober 26, 2011

A Melkite Catholic archbishop has urged Canadian Catholics to visit the Holy Land and show their support for Christians there.

Speaking to an audience in Ontario, Archbishop Elias Chacour of Haifa said that he was "here to beg you to give me your friendship and solidarity." He asked: "Are you ready when you visit the Holy Land to make that act of solidarity?"

Archbishop Chacour identified himself as an Arab, a Palestinian, a Christian, and an Israeli citizen. All these identities are compatible, he insisted. The archbishop observed that Christians, Jews, and Muslims have lived together in the Holy Land for centuries, and despite their differences he insisted that they can learn to live together peacefully again.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Yueyue, the two year old hit by two trucks and left to suffer, dies
The small girl hit by a truck, was not rescued by passers-by. Another vehicle broke her legs and left her in a coma. The video of her tragedy has sparked millions of comments on the immorality and materialism that dominate today's China.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A two year old girl hit by two vehicles and ignored by at least 18 passers-by, died this morning at a hospital in Foshan (Guangdong). The images of the tragedy, spread on the internet, have inflamed the minds of millions of bloggers who criticize the materialism and immorality of the Chinese society.

CCTV images dating to Oct. 13 show the little Wang Yue (familiarly called Yueyue) being hit by a truck that fails to stop to care for her, leaving her bleeding on the road.

In the following seven minutes, there are dozens of people who pass by on foot or by bicycle and nobody stops to help her. Another truck strikes her and breaks her legs. Only a woman sweeper drags her to the edges of the road until her mother, a migrant who runs a small shop, rushes to her (see the tragic video here).

Taken to the hospital, the doctors declared small Yueyue, in a coma, would not survive. Today, the declaration of death for "systemic organ failure."

The accident and now her death has caused millions of blog comments that call into question the morality of China. "I hope - says a comment - that this little angel who was discarded by society can act as a wake-up call to the nation about the importance of moral education."

The two drivers who hit Yueyue are in prison. The Communist Party of Guangdong is planning to pass a law requiring people to help those who are in obvious difficulty. But bloggers say that education is needed before laws.

It must be said that many in China many are reluctant to help people in need because sometimes "good Samaritans" are accused of being guilty and obliged to pay those whom they helped.

In any case, for many bloggers, the death of small Yueyue is the confirmation that the traditional values of China have by now been totally consumed and materialism has dried up every impulse of compassion and morality.

VIETNAM: Church, young people, challenging atheistic materialism

Vietnamese Church with young people, against atheist and materialist "red capitalism" 
by Thanh Thuy
In the month dedicated to the Rosary, Catholics are encouraged to overcome the logic that looks only at money and material goods. Bishops and priests witnesses of solidarity of the Church towards the marginalized. The faithful celebrating the fourth visit of the papal representative Mgr. Girelli. 

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - In the month dedicated to the Rosary, the Vietnamese Church is inviting young people to defeat the atheistic and materialistic logic that dominates the world today. Instilled with a "red capitalism", new generations are increasingly desire money and goods that go beyond strict necessity. Catholics, however, are entrusted with the task of transmitting values that are a sign of solidarity, of encounter and of mutual faith and witness. Within this context the recent visit of Mgr. Leopoldo Girelli, non-resident papal representative to Vietnam, took place during which he met with various communities - even in remote areas of the country - bringing the greetings of the Pope and the universal Church.

Some academics interviewed by AsiaNews confirm that "the young generation in Ho Chi Minh City, including Catholics, follow the 'red capitalist mentality' from an early age and are subjected to brainwashing" because they think only of " money and how to live happily in a materialistic society". The Church, however, proposes a different development model that does not negate well-being but unites it to solidarity between people and a greater focus on the needs of all citizens.

In October, the month dedicated to the Rosary, Msgr. Hoang Oanh Đức, of the diocese of Kontum - Central Vietnam - sent a letter to the faithful, particularly young people, students and their parents, in solidarity with their reality and the difficulties they face in everyday life. The prelate has repeatedly shown, in the past, his commitment to social issues and the environment: at Catholic processions, he personally took part in collecting garbage along the way, moreover he also has journeyed to remote areas, along torturous roads and through thick forests, to celebrate masses.

But the greatest sign of communion and friendship with Vietnamese Catholics was the recent visit - the fourth, in a few months since his appointment – of Msgr. Leopoldo Girelli, non-resident papal representative in Vietnam, in the country. The Vietnamese will not forget the images of the prelate, who has already visited 21 dioceses, met with Catholics across 25 different parishes, dozens of congregations and thousands of religious and seminarians, as well as millions of faithful. The Pope's representative brings with him the communion and solidarity of the universal church, greeting a group of nuns in the Vietnamese language and inviting them to witness the beauty of Christ and love for all. He also addressed a special invitation to seminarians, asking them - immersed in a materialistic and consumerist society - to prepare adequately for the tasks and responsibilities arising from the priesthood. A religious, said Msgr. Girelli, lives in contact with God and in a spirit of communion with the Church. And this is what we need in our society today.