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How the Church in Thailand fights trafficking, violence against women

Bangkok, Thailand, Nov 28, 2014 / 04:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church in Thailand observed the Nov. 25 celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women with a seminar helping form networks to end trafficking and other forms of sex-based violence in the country.

The Thai bishops held the seminar Nov. 22 at Xavier Hall in Bangkok, which drew more than 200 participants, including women religious, conscrated laywomen, pastoral workers, teachers, and students.

It urged for collaborative networking and action to end discrimination and violence against women throughout Thailand.

The annual workshop was organized by Caritas Thailand; Talitha Kum, the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking in Persons; and the National Human Rights Commission.

“Women are not slaves or commodities for sale,” Msgr. Vissanu Thanya Annan, executive secretary of the Thai bishops’ conference, said at the meeting.

The bishops are deeply concerned about the issue, he noted, and said they have unrelentingly promoted the mission of the Church to “educate, protect, and uphold the rights and dignity of women and the poor.”

Msgr. Vissanu pointed to Pope Francis’s persistent call for solidarity and his exemplary endeavors in reaching out to the poor and the suffering victims of violence.

According to Sr. Franciose Champen Jiranonda, S.P.C., chairperson of Talita Kum Thailand, “the workshop aimed at fostering collective efforts of networking with the state and private institutions, religious leaders, and citizens to counter violence against women and children.”

Sr. Franciose also drew attention to the contributions of religions whose scriptures teach love and nonviolence, urging that in Thailand they help to reform Thais’ outlooks so as to build-up a violence-free society.

The conference reflected that exploitation and domestic violence against women remains a widespread epidemic in Thailand. With coercion, guilt, and fear, numerous cases also go unreported, putting social stigma on victims, who are also not effectively supported and protected by public authorities.

According to the Asia-Pacific office of UN Women, challenges to equality and women’s impowerment in Thailand remain in “traditional attitudes and stereotypes which underpin domestic violence and violence against women, low participation of women in politics and decision-making positions, discrimination and vulnerabilities of ethnic and rural women as well as women in the informal sector, HIV prevalence, trafficking and exploitation.”

Speaking to the participants at the seminar, Dr. Amara Phongsapich, chairperson of Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission, said that “the anti-violence campaign should be a continuous fight against discrimination and violence to bring social justice and change.”

She recalled that during the past years the country has witnessed numerous cases of violence against women and children.

Testimonies by women victims of violence at the conference evidenced that victims in Thailand lack protection, and that a lack of specialized services for victims of violence and training for professional helpers of victims are both needed.

A colonel in the Thai armed forces, Kanokwan Srichaiya, gave a practical session on safety and self-defense techniques to counter the attacks of muggings.

“The Catholic Church in Thailand is continuously exploring the quest for practical solutions to address these tangible issues concerning human life and the family,” Msgr. Vissanu told CNA.

“Promoting and preserving the gift of human life and dignity is at the core of Catholic teaching,” he added. “It’s important to impress on the authorities the importance of upholding rights protection with legislation, and of promoting education.”
 

Pope authorizes plenary indulgence for Year of Consecrated Life

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2014 / 03:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life that begins this weekend, Pope Francis has allowed the faithful to receive plenary indulgences, under the normal conditions.

“The Holy Father, on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life, will concede plenary indulgences, with the customary conditions, to all members of the institutes of consecrated life and other truly repentant faithful moved by a spirit of charity,” a Nov. 28 statement from the Vatican read.

Called by Pope Francis last fall, the Year for Consecrated will begin the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 30, and will be preceded by a prayer vigil the night before.

The opportunity to receive plenary indulgences will run through the close of the year, Feb. 2, 2016. The indulgence may also be offered for souls in Purgatory.

The indulgence for the Year of Consecrated Life can be obtained in Rome through participation in the meetings and celebrations set in the calendar of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life.

In all the particular Churches, the faithful can obtain the indulgence “during the days devoted to consecrated life in the diocese, and during diocesan celebrations organised for the Year of Consecrated Life, by visiting the cathedral or another sacred place designated with the consent of the Ordinary of the place, or a convent church or oratory of a cloistered monastery, and publicly reciting the Liturgy of the Hours or through a suitable period of time of devout reflection

The Vatican also specified that members of institutes of consecrated life who are unable to visit these sacred places due to health or other “serious reasons” may still obtain the indulgence, if “completely detached from any type of sin and with the intention of being able to fulfil the three usual conditions as soon as possible, devoutly carry out the spiritual visit and offer their illness and the hardships of their life to God the merciful through Mary.”

In each of the ways to obtain the plenary indulgence, the indulgenced act is to be accompanied by the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith (Creed), and invocation of the Virgin Mary.

To help facilitate the process, Apostolic Penitentiary Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, who signed the degree, asked that the canons, members of the Chapter, the priests of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and all others make themselves more available to administer the sacraments.

He encouraged them to “hear confessions,  offer themselves willingly and generously to the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and regularly administer Holy Communion to the sick.”

An indulgence is defined as the remission of the temporal punishment – the unhealthy attachment to created things – due to sins which have already been forgiven.

The usual conditions for an indulgence – which apply to that for the Year of Consecrated Life – are that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the Pope’s intentions. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion, up to about twenty days before or after the indulgenced act.
 

Young Syrian refugee tells Pope, ‘pray for us and pray for peace’

Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 28, 2014 / 11:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Currently a living as a refugee at a Salesian school in Istanbul, 14-year-old Sarah will give Pope Francis a picture that she painted,  and  says that she will ask him to pray for world peace.

“My name is Sarah, and I made this picture in the name of the school to give it to the Pope. This is my picture with Jesus and Don Bosco, and here we have the glow of Don Bosco and the Sun of Jesus,” Sarah told CNA Nov. 27.

Originally from Aleppo, Sarah has been living with her family as a refugee in Istanbul for a year, and is currently enrolled as a student in the Don Bosco center of Istanbul, which is run by religious and attends to the needs of refugees and immigrants.

One of the handful of students who will meet with the Pope for a private encounter just before his Nov. 30 return to Rome, Sarah said that her mother is an artist, and helped her to do the painting, which will be given to the Pope in the name of the school.

“We need peace in our country,” she said, explaining that when she meets Pope Francis she will tell him “to pray for us and to (pray for) the peace of the world, because in Syria we have the war.”

The Syrian conflict began in March, 2011 when anti-government demonstrations sprang up nationwide against Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters. Since then, the violence has morphed into a civil war which has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people.

The civil war is being fought among the Syrian regime and a number of rebel groups, which include moderates, such as the Free Syrian Army; Islamists such as al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State; and Kurdish separatists.

The war has resulted in the flight of more than 3.2 million Syrians as refugees in nearby countries, most of them in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

An additional 8 million Syrian people are believed to have been internally displaced by the war.

Pope Francis is set to meet with the children from the Don Bosco Center on the final day of his trip, after holding a private Mass, praying Divine Liturgy at the patriarchal church of St. George, and signing a joint declaration with Bartholomew I in the morning.

For Pope Francis, human dignity at core of religious dialogue

Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 28, 2014 / 09:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dialogue between religious leaders and the “shared recognition of the sanctity of each human life” in bringing aid to the suffering were at the core of Pope Francis’ Nov. 28 address to Turkey’s Department for Religious Affairs, delivered on the first day of his three-day Apostolic Journey to Turkey.

“Without this openness to encounter and dialogue, a papal visit would not fully correspond to its purposes,” the Holy Father said, noting the custom of a Pope to meet with the  leaders and representatives of other religions whenever he visits another country.

The Department for Religious Affairs (Diyanet) is the highest Sunni Muslim authority in Turkey. Pope Francis addressed the Diyanet on the first of his three days in Turkey. Upon his arrival, he was received Mehmet Gormez, the Diyanet’s presdient, with whom he held a private meeting before delivering his official address.

Recalling Benedict XVI’s 2006 visit to Turkey, he said the relations and dialogue between religious demonstrate “that mutual respect and friendship are possible, notwithstanding differences.”

“Such friendship, as well as being valuable in itself, becomes all the more meaningful and important in a time of crises such as our own, crises which in some parts of the world are disastrous for entire peoples.”

The Pope decried the death and destruction brought about by wars, including “inter-ethnic and interreligious tensions and conflicts, hunger and poverty afflicting hundreds of millions of people, (which also) inflict damage on the natural environment – air, water and land.”

The Holy Father made particular mention of the crisis in the Middle East, most notably in Iraq and Syria. “Everyone suffers the consequences of these conflicts, and the humanitarian situation is unbearable,” he said. “I think of so many children, the sufferings of so many mothers, of the elderly, of those displaced and of all refugees, subject to every form of violence.”

Christians and Yazidis, among other minority groups, have been forced to “leave behind everything to save their lives and preserve their faith,” he said.

“As religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights,” Pope Francis continued.  Because human life, as a gift from God, is sacred, “any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the Omnipotent is the God of life and peace.”

“The world expects those who claim to adore God to be men and women of peace who are capable of living as brothers and sisters, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences,” he said.

In addition to denouncing these violations against religious freedom, effort must be made to find “adequate solutions,” which requires the cooperation of “governments, political and religious leaders, representatives of civil society, and all men and women of goodwill.”

Muslims and Christians, he continued, can recognize the “shared elements” in their respective faiths, “such as the adoration of the All-Merciful God, reference to the Patriarch Abraham, prayer, almsgiving, fasting … elements which, when lived sincerely, can transform life and provide a sure foundation for dignity and fraternity.

Referring to Saint John Paul II’s 1979 address to the Catholic community in Ankara, Pope Francis stressed: “Recognizing and developing our common spiritual heritage – through interreligious dialogue – helps us to promote and to uphold moral values, peace and freedom in society.”

“The shared recognition of the sanctity of each human life is the basis of joint initiatives of solidarity, compassion, and effective help directed to those who suffer most.”

Pope Francis expressed his appreciation for the help Turkish Muslims and Christians have provided for the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflict areas. “This is a clear example of how we can work together to serve others, an example to be encouraged and maintained.”

Finally, the Holy Father noted the good relations between the Diyanet and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.  “It is my earnest desire that these relations will continue and be strengthened for the good of all, so that every initiative which promotes authentic dialogue will offer a sign of hope to a world which so deeply needs peace, security and prosperity.”
 

Pope to Turkish authorities: religious freedom a key factor for peace

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2014 / 07:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis spoke to Turkish authorities on Friday of the need to create a lasting peace – one based on a fraternal solidarity which respects human dignity and man’s essential right t…

A new path for unity – Pope and Patriarch to face world challenges together

Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 28, 2014 / 05:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A common declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew on the issues of ecology and poverty would be natural is foreseeable for the future, a theological advisor of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Costantinople told CNA Nov. 28.

“Today, there is no excuse for indifference or inaction. A joint response between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew can prove both powerful and permanent,” said Fr. John Chrissavgis, who works for the partriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Fr. Chrissavgis spoke on the eve of Pope Francis’ voyage to Turkey, scheduled Nov. 28-30.

During Pope Francis’ Nov. 28-30 trip to Turkey, he will meet with Patriarch Bartholomew for an ecumenical prayer on Saturday night at the Phanar, the Headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.

According to Fr. Chrissavgis, there are thre three main challenges that both the Papacy and the Ecumenical Patriarchate can face together.

First, both should foster “a sense of humility and repentance for the arrogant suspicion and hostile polemics of the past. We should no longer be tempted by isolationism and fanaticism that characterized relations between the two Churches in previous centuries.”

Second, “we should honestly examine the theological differences that continue to separate us, especially the issue of authority and primacy, as well as infallibility and collegiality. Pope Francis has already demonstrated his willingness and openness to explore the common tradition of the early, undivided Church on these matters.”

And finally – Fr. Chrissavgis maintained – “even as we discuss doctrinal matters, we should not ignore the global problems facing people everywhere, including poverty, war, injustice, and the ecological crisis.”

Pope Francis has proven to be very attentive to ecological matters: he already announced he will issue an encyclical on ecology by the beginning of the next year, and often mentioned the notion of human ecology in his speeches – the last time Nov. 25, speaking in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

“The Pope’s love of the poor and vulnerable in society makes him equally sensitive to the natural environment,” said Fr. Chrissavgis.

On the other hand, Patriarch Bartholomew has “worked tirelessly for the awakening of people’s conscience about climate change. Hence the title that he has been given by journalists: ‘the Green Patriarch.”

Fr. Chrissavgis noted that “it is true that natural and human ecology are inseparably linked. The way we treat people, and especially the poor, is directly reflected in the way we respond to environmental issues; and the way we respect God’s creation is manifested in our attitude toward human beings created in the image of God. Indeed, both visionary leaders can discern this truth.”

“It would be wonderful – and natural – for the Pope and the Patriarch to stand together on this issue and sign a common declaration, just as Patriarch Bartholomew co-signed the Venice Declaration with Pope John Paul II in 2002. I can certainly foresee this happening in the near future.”
 

Waiting for the Pope: Istanbul refugee center prepares to welcome Francis

Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 28, 2014 / 05:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- People at the refugee center that Pope Francis will visit this coming Sunday are learning to seek a future, the director of the center told CNA Nov. 27.

“Pope Francis will come here b…

Chinese regime said to intensify persecution of Christians

Rome, Italy, Nov 27, 2014 / 04:43 pm (Aid to the Church in Need).- “We shouldn’t get our hopes up. I don’t see any sign of an immediate improvement in China-Holy See relations.” Thus commented Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop…

Pope: don’t be depressed – despite our ugly reality, we have hope

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2014 / 09:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily on Thursday Pope Francis said that although sin and corruption often seem to win out over good, Jesus gives us a promise of hope which enables us to keep “our heads held high.”

“Do not give way to depression: Hope! Reality is ugly: there are many, many cities and people, so many people who are suffering; many wars, so much hatred, so much envy, so much spiritual worldliness and so much corruption. Yes, it’s true, (but) all of this will fall!” the Pope said on Nov. 27.

The Roman Pontiff offered his reflections to those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse for his daily mass. He began by turning to the day’s readings, which recount the ill fate of the biblical cities of Babylon and Jerusalem.

Both cities fell for different reasons, he said, explaining that Babylon “falls because of its corruption” and warned that when sin accumulates, “you lose the ability to react and you start to rot.”

Corruption gives a person a certain level of happiness, so they feel that they have power and that they are satisfied with themselves, the Pope said, however it leaves no room for God or for conversion.

“(The) word ‘corruption’ says a lot to us today: not only economic corruption, but corruption with many different sins; the corruption of that pagan spirit, that worldly spirit. The worst (form of) corruption is the spirit of worldliness!”

A corrupt culture makes you feel like you are already in heaven, however the truth is that “the corrupt culture is rotten.” Babylon, the Bishop of Rome said, is an example of every person and society who have distanced themselves from God, leading to corruption that eventually gives way to rot.

Jerusalem, on the other hand, falls because she fails to welcome her Bridegroom, the pontiff said. The city was “distracted,” and because of this it fails “to welcome the Lord who comes to her rescue.”

Pope Francis noted that although Jerusalem had the writings of Moses and all the prophets, “She did not feel in need of salvation. She left no room for salvation: her door was closed to the Lord!”

Although the Lord was knocking on Jerusalem’s door, her people were not willing to let him in, listen to him or be rescued by him, the Roman Pontiff observed, so she falls.

He then took the fate of the cities to a personal level, and asked those present which city they identified with: the “corrupt and self-sufficient Babylon (or the) distracted Jerusalem?”

Pope Francis continued, alluding to how the coming end of the Church’s liturgical calendar is a reminder of the end of times and of the Lord’s second coming.

Despite the fate of the two cities in the day’s reading, the pontiff stressed that “the message of the Church in these days does not end with destruction: in both texts, there is a promise of hope,” and Jesus urges us to lift our heads and not to be afraid.

“When we think of the end of time, with all of our sins, with our history, let us think of the banquet which will be freely offered us and let us lift up our heads,” he said, noting that while the world is still full of suffering and hatred, we know it will come to an end.

The Pope explained that the different evils and trials that we face “have their time,” which is now, and that we must endure this time with patience, like Jesus endured his passion and death.

He concluded his homily by praying that the Lord would give to all “the grace to be prepared for the banquet that awaits us, always with our heads held high.”

Islamic State destroys convent in Mosul

Mosul, Iraq, Nov 27, 2014 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Local media are reporting that on Monday, Islamic State militants blew up a convent and St. George’s parish in Mosul, an Iraqi city captured by the Islamists in June.

A resident of Mosul said “that cries of Allahu Akbar ‘God is Great’ rose from many mosques in the city as Islamist militants blew up the church located in one of Mosul’s Arab neighborhoods,” Rudaw, a Kurdish media outlet based in Erbil, reported Nov. 24.

Abouna.org, a site run by Fr. Rif’at Bader of the Latrin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, reported that the convent was the Sisters of the Holy Heart’s Monastery of Victory, in Mosul’s Arab Quarter.

The nuns of the convent, also known as al-Nasir, had fled Mosul in June, according to the BBC.

Islamic State is a caliphate in portions of Iraq and Syria, which has persecuted all non-Sunnis in its territory – Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims have all fled the area.

Thousands of Christians and other minorities fled Mosul after a July 18 ultimatum demanding they convert, pay jizya, or be killed. They went to other towns in Nineveh province and in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Prior to the destruction of al-Nasir convent and St. George’s church, other non-Sunni places of worship and historical or cultural sites had already been destroyed.

Churches have been taken over for use by Islamic State, with their crosses removed, or they have been destroyed entirely. Shiite mosques have been demolished.

The tomb of the prophet Jonah, on which a mosque was built, was blown up by Islamic State in July.

According to Rudaw, Monday’s destruction in Mosul is in retribution for recent military setbacks to Islamic State.

Both the Syrian regime and a US-led coalition frequently bomb Ar Raqqah, a prominent Syrian city held by Islamic State.

Airstrikes killed nearly 100 people in the city on Nov. 25.

Islamic State has displaced well more than 100,000 Christians from their homes. The Catholic charitable organization Aid to the Church in Need has launched a fundraising appeal “United in Faith” for the Christians of Iraq and Syria who have become refugees.

The British branch of the charity is hosting an Advent Carol Service at St Mary Moorfields Church in London on Dec. 2 in order to raise awareness of the suffering of Iraqi Christians and to offer prayers and donations.

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