Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

200,000 activists tell Europe: stand up for persecuted Christians

Rome, Italy, Oct 20, 2014 / 04:26 pm (CNA).- More than 200,000 people have signed a petition asking European leaders to offer “real help” for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities around the world.

Luca Volonté, a b…

Priest returning to Iraq: ISIS threatens the whole world

Rome, Italy, Oct 16, 2014 / 04:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Iraqi priest who has chosen to return to his city, which lies just six miles from ISIS-controlled territory, said that in the midst of an increasingly desperate situation, the help of world powers is greatly needed.

“The only solution is to return the people to their homes. This is the only solution. How to do it, this depends on the great international powers, because the world needs to intervene,” Fr. Ghazwan Yousif Baho told CNA Oct. 4.

ISIS “is a full threat not only for the Christians of Iraq or our brother Muslims, or this fundamentalist current, but it’s a threat for the whole world. So the world needs to intervene in one way or another.”

Fr. Baho is the parish priest in Alqosh, Iraq as well as a guest professor at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome, where he teaches two months out of the year. While in Rome, he also serves as pastor in the city’s Sts. Joachim and Ann parish.

He was present in Rome to accompany an Iraqi couple, Mubarack and Agnese Hano, to an audience Pope Francis held with elderly and grandparents on Sept. 28. This weekend he will return to Alqosh, which sits only 10 kilometers – around six miles – from the ISIS-controlled city of Qaraqosh.

The militant Sunni Islamist organization was among the rebels fighting in the Syrian civil war. In June it spread its operations to Iraq, taking control of Mosul and swaths of territory in the country’s north and west, as well as in northern Syria.

It has now declared a caliphate, which is defined as an Islamic state controlled by a religious and political leader known as a caliph or “successor” to Muhammad.

In Syria on Aug. 13, ISIS seized a string of towns located northeast of Aleppo and near the Turkish border, including Akhtarin. On Aug. 11 it had seized the Iraqi town of Jalawla, located 90 miles northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province.

All non-Sunni persons have been persecuted by the Islamic State – tens of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims have fled the territory.

“I am not in favor of war, but right now war is a fact. If they continue conquering territory, someone must stop them…the great powers of the world need to intervene, not only the Americans and the British, but all,” Fr. Baho insisted.

“They are a threat to humanity. They are creating hate toward humanity. This needs to stop. We as Christians need to stop them with love, but if they are killing people without reason, it’s difficult.”

Fr. Baho then referenced an Oct. 2-4 summit held at the Vatican with the nuncios to the seven nations of the Middle East, during which Pope Francis and Vatican officials spoke with them about possible responses to ISIS, as well as how to provide humanitarian aid to displaced persons.

“All of the nuncios of that area also live this situation and know very well what is happening. I hope that they make the voice of the poor persecuted people heard, and of all those who don’t have a voice in Iraq or in the other areas, like Syria.”

Right now the situation of all those who have fled ISIS’ violent attacks since their initial June 10 launch in Iraq “has become much, much more difficult than before,” Fr. Baho observed.

Some having been out of their homes for nearly two months or more, many of the refugees are currently living in tents on the street in camps, and winter is approaching.

In addition to the loss of houses and work, children are now beginning to lose their schooling, he explained, because the year is starting and they have nowhere to go.

“Life in refugee camps for these people…one can stand it for one day, two days, 10 days.But after two months, what hope is there for them? It’s true that some help arrives from Caritas, from the U.N., and from so many other organizations. But life in a tent is not a normal life.”

Fr. Baho pointed out how the situation is especially problematic for women, children and the elderly, so their primary concern now is not that they have lost everything, but simply to find a place to live.

“They have lost their work, their houses, their money that they have in the bank that right now they can’t get. So in this situation the people are desperate.”

“We don’t want to leave our land,” he said, but if this situation continues the way it is, “in one month people will begin to lose hope in a future in Iraq.”

Although hopes rose with American and British military intervention, “we have learned in these two months that if we don’t see with our own eyes, and we don’t return to our own cities, there is little hope,” the priest observed.

Further intervention, he said needs to happen on several different levels, the first being to help thousands of refugees who are living “in difficulty.”

“There are thousands. In Iraq maybe more than a million refugees. Christians are more than 100,000. But also our brother Muslims who are not in favor of this current of ISIS, also they find themselves as refugees in Iraq. So the first intervention is to help these ones…everyone, not only some organizations.”

A second intervention would be to stop the advancement of ISIS, “but not only block them, drive them out,” the priest explained.

We also need to create “a way of changing this mentality of hatred toward humanity, to create a mentality of love,” he said, noting how this is the mission that every Christian throughout the world is called to.

“They create hate. We need to create love. This is our war as Christians; not war with weapons but war of creating a society of love, a culture of love, a culture of accepting the other even if he is different.”

“This is very important for us,” he said, however “blocking their advancement depends on world powers.”

[Editor’s note: This article is the second in a series of two interviews with Fr. Ghazwan Yousif Baho. The first story can be found here.]
 

LGBT activist group hopes to influence family synod

Rome, Italy, Oct 15, 2014 / 12:48 am (CNA).- The start of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family has triggered a wave of activism from well-funded LGBT activist groups in the U.S. who are targeting “outspoken” Catholic bishops in hopes of ch…

To Archbishop Kurtz, synod a confidence boost for married couples

Rome, Italy, Oct 12, 2014 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Synod on the Family is an opportunity to assure married couples they can succeed at marriage despite the many challenges facing them, according to Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville.

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Vote or let Bosnia stay mired in instability, bishop warns

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Oct 9, 2014 / 02:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the run-up to national elections, the bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina are encouraging the nation’s citizens to vote for the rule of law, in hopes of bringing the country out of the instability which sparked violent protests earlier this year.

“We need more justice, reconciliation and willingness to work together. We bishops have therefore invited everyone to go to the polls to cast their vote for law and justice and to make sure the country does not get stuck in this disastrous situation,” Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka told Aid to the Church in Need Oct. 7.

Bosnia and Herzegovina will hold national elections Oct. 12, for both members of the bicameral parliament and for the three-member presidency.

The Bosnian presidency is a four-year term, with a rotating chairmanship among the members. One member of the presidency is elected from each of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s main ethnic groups: a Bosniak, a Croat, and a Serb.

Ethno-religious tensions have historically contributed much to instability in the country.

Following its independence upon the break-up of Yugoslavia, the country was embroiled in the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995 in which genocide and ethnic cleansing took place.

The Muslim Bosniaks constitute some 48 percent of the population; Orthodox Serbs 37 percent; and Catholic Croats 15 percent.

Bishop Komarica is concerned that the instability in his country could radicalize some factions there.

“There are people here who could exploit the instability,” he said. “And we mustn’t ignore the dark clouds arising to the south east. Destructive, radical forces from the Arab world can very easily settle and flourish here.”

He said that Bosnians “are living in an absurd situation.”

“Bosnia-Herzegovina is not moving forward, either politically or economically. The country has a number of constitutions which obstruct one another. The number of ministers is astronomical, an indulgence which no other nation allows itself. The people are longing for a new organization of the state.”

In February, protestors in several cities, including Banja Luka, Tuzla, and Sarajevo attacked government buildings, setting fire to them. Hundreds were injured, and police used rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons to quell the protests.

Srecko Latal, of Social Overview Service in Sarajevo, told The New York Times in February that “we haven’t seen violent scenes like this since the war in the 1990s. People are fed up with what has become total political chaos in Bosnia, with infighting over power, a dire economic situation and a feeling that there is little hope for the future. The protests are a wake-up call for the international community not to disengage from Bosnia.”

Bosnians’ complaints include existing unemployment – between 40 and 50 percent – and the protests were sparked by factory closings in Tuzla. Unemployment rates are higher among the youth, with nearly 75 percent unable to find work. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s per capita GDP, adjusted for purchasing power, is less than $9,000.

In Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked 72 – tied with Brazil, Serbia, and South Africa – out of 175 rankings. Its ranking suggests it is slightly more corrupt than Bulgaria and Tunisia, and slightly less corrupt than Italy and Romania.

In the face of these problems, Bishop Komarica stressed his country’s need for political reform, urging the greater international involvement, particularly from the European Union – which Bosnia and Herzegovina is trying to join.
 

Vatican to the world: Displaced immigrants deserve your attention

Geneva, Switzerland, Oct 9, 2014 / 12:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Noting an alarming increase in forcibly-displaced migrants around the world, the Holy See has asked the United Nations to take a more proactive role in working to prevent displacements.

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Don’t expect ‘sound bite solutions’ from synod, US cardinal says

Rome, Italy, Oct 7, 2014 / 03:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While there will not be any quick fixes unveiled at this year’s synod, a fair amount of talk can be expected on the application of the Church’s pastoral practice, predicted Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

“I think one of the things that’s a challenge is that this synod is not going to be offering sound bite solutions. It can’t,” Cardinal Wuerl told CNA Oct. 4.

“We live in a world that loves quick answers, quick fixes, sound bites that take care of having to think through something,” he said, but “that’s not what the Church’s message is all about. It’s something much more beautiful than that, and it’s much more all-inclusive and all-enveloping than that.”

Synod meetings, which began this morning with an address by Pope Francis and the synod’s relator, Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdö, are taking place over the next two weeks in Rome.

The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family reflects on the theme, “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization,” the conclusions of which will form the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or working document, for the Ordinary Synod to take place in 2015.

Cardinal Wuerl is one of three U.S. bishops participating in this year’s synod. He is joined by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, who is the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Although there will most likely be no immediate changes or decisions coming out of this year’s synod discussions, Cardinal Wuerl explained what can probably be expected is talk regarding “two areas in the life of the Church: her teaching and the lived application, the pastoral practice.”

Teaching and pastoral practice, he explained, are “interrelated, but they’re not the same thing. We have to make sure that the teaching is clear, it’s unchanging because it comes to us from God, it comes to us from Jesus.”

“But the effort to live it in all of the human condition today, with all of the challenges and all of the things we have to face today, that’s the pastoral practice, that’s the application,” he observed. “I think we’re going to see a lot of discussion around that.”

Questions that arise will most likely include what to do in situations of dysfunctional families or broken marriages in which a remarried person is attempting to live their faith as best as possible, as well as questions surrounding mercy, the cardinal noted.

“That’s going to be the challenge. Trying to put all of that together in a way that is faithful to the teaching, faithful to the practice, and yet open to the spirit.”

Having the voices of so many from different states in life, including both consecrated and married persons, he said, is “a great opportunity for the Church to present all over again to the world the beautiful vision of marriage, the beautiful vision of family that is a part of God’s revelation.”

Cardinal Wuerl said during the free discussions he will emphasize how the church has “been at this for 2,000 years: proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ revelation of his Father.”

“What a beautiful story. God loves us, God brought into being all that is, created us, there’s a plan in life, he wants us to be happy, he wants us to be with him, and God will make the journey with us through life.”

And the family is one of the most concrete ways we experience God in our lives, he observed, noting how “the family is that wonderful expression of communion, of community, of people coming together.”

“But they come together out of a bond that is rooted in the marriage of the mother and father, and the generation of these children. It’s a beautiful story,” the cardinal said. 

Cardinal Wuerl explained that after doing a two-year evaluation of his diocese in Washington, the local church had many of the same concerns that will be raised during the synod, including how to help young people understand Church teaching regarding marriage and family life. 

“How do we help young people understand that human sexuality is a great and beautiful gift, it’s not just for casual entertainment? How you help people understand that a marriage and children should be the norm for how we carry out our life, even when we don’t live up to the norm?”

“I think that’s all going to be part of it… how do we help people, all of us, live as best we can that Gospel of Christ embraced by the mercy of God?”

The cardinal also said Pope Francis might pay a visit to the diocese of Washington next fall if he comes for the World Meeting of Families, set to take place in Philadelphia.

“I have invited him on a number of occasions now to include Washington in his visit, and I’m regularly told ‘we’ll see,’” he explained. “I’m hearing a little bit more now from voices in the Holy See saying ‘well that could be a very real possibility.’ It would be a great blessing.”

“A visit to Washington in a way is a visit to the country because it’s not only the center of the government of the United States, but so much of the Church is centered there,” Cardinal Wuerl pointed out.

“So it’s a natural, at least I keep telling him that. And I think it would be a great joy for the whole country if he visited the nation’s capital.”
 

True pastoral work never contradicts doctrine, cardinal stresses

Rome, Italy, Oct 5, 2014 / 05:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As bishops from around the world prepare to discuss pastoral solutions to various challenges surrounding the family, German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller explained that these solutions cannot opp…

Taking Gospel seriously on marriage is not ‘rigid’ – it’s love

Rome, Italy, Oct 4, 2014 / 05:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The editor of a high-profile book on marriage said that adhering to Christ’s Gospel teachings on divorce is not harsh and mean-spirited, but rather a form of tough love aimed at the salvation of souls.

“Mercy and truth and justice have to accord with one another,” said Fr. Robert Dodaro OSA, president of Rome’s Patristic Institute, the “Augustinianum,” as well as a specialist in patristics and a consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.

Fr. Dodaro is the editor of “Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church,” being published shortly before the Oct. 5-19 Synod on the Family, which will gather bishops from around the world to Rome, where they will discuss pastoral solutions to challenges facing the family.

The book includes contributions from nine scholars – including five cardinals – who present the biblical foundation and history behind the Church’s long-standing teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

The subject has become a matter of heated speculation leading up to the synod, after German Cardinal Walter Kasper suggested in February that the Church should reconsider its teaching on divorce, remarriage and Communion.

Fr. Dodaro told CNA Sept. 29 that he shares some of Cardinal Kasper’s concerns.

“We would like to see the Church more active in welcoming, embracing, involving divorced and civilly remarried Catholics into the full life of the Church,” he explained. “Where we disagree with Cardinal Kasper is on one point, but it is an important one. The question of admission to the sacraments of penance and Holy Communion.”

As a solution to the problematic situation, Cardinal Kasper has proposed “oikonomia” – a notion prevalent in Eastern Orthodox Churches. The cardinal has suggested that the Catholic Church follow the Orthodox example of “tolerating, but not accepting second marriages,” Fr. Dodaro explained. “We oppose that suggestion.”

As the book points out, the Orthodox Church does not have a unified view on the subject.

“There is no single Orthodox position on divorce, on second marriages, on admission to the sacraments; there is no one position that characterizes the views of all of the various Orthodox Churches,” Fr. Dodaro explained.

“I have not heard any senior Orthodox prelates applauding the Catholic Church for wanting to adopt or even to look more closely at their practice, so I do not know how much our doing so would contribute to ecumenical dialogue,” he added.

Ultimately, the priest discarded “oikonomia” as a valid solution: “We believe that it violates the principle of indissolubility of marriage, because the individuals in question are already married, or at least one of them is. Not just in the eyes of the Church, but in the eyes of Christ. We cannot understand how Cardinal Kasper does not see that.”

Fr. Dodaro suggested that the teaching of the indissolubility of marriage would be in danger, especially in marriage preparation, should Cardinal Kasper’s proposal be accepted.

“So the priest says to a young couple in marriage preparation that the marriage is ‘until death does us part.’ They would reply: ‘Yes, Father, yes, Father, we get that.’ Then after the class, when they leave the rectory, they will say: ‘Ok, mom and dad are divorced and remarried and they go to Communion every Sunday, so what’s the big deal?’”

A change in the discipline of the Church would introduce confusion about the nature of sin and repentance, he said.

“Let’s be clear, we are all sinners, we are not singling out the civilly remarried because they sin. We all sin. Catholics who sin can go to confession and be absolved because they repent of their sin and resolve not to sin again. However, Cardinal Kasper’s proposal would allow civilly remarried Catholics to receive sacramental absolution without resolving to cease having sexual relations, while in the eyes of Christ, they are still married to their original spouses. That is what makes the sacrament of penance impossible for them,” explains Fr. Dodaro.

Cardinal Kasper recently warned against a “rigid” view and stated in an interview that the Gospel is not a “code of penal law,” a phrasing that caught Fr. Dodaro’s attention.  

“I agree with the Cardinal that the Gospel is not a code of penal law. But it is a code of divine law and we have to make a distinction between human laws, the laws that the Church makes up, and laws that are divine.”

 “When Jesus unveiled his teaching on marriage in the Gospels, he triggered incredulity on the part of his disciples. He told them that Moses had permitted divorce because of the hardness of their hearts, adding, ‘but I say to you, in the beginning it was not so.’ This is found in Matthew 19. And then Jesus refers the disciples to Genesis 2:24, where the original divine teaching concerning marriage is found. So if Jesus quotes the Scriptures in order to correct a faulty, permissive divorce practice, then is He a fundamentalist? Is Jesus rigid?”

“How seriously do we take the Gospels? What is left of the Gospel when we start striking out things that Jesus said because we do not want to give them a ‘fundamentalist’ interpretation, we do not want to be rigid?”

Mercy is another key word in the debate. Fr. Dodaro cautioned that “we have to be careful not to confuse mercy with sentimentalism or romanticism. Love is tough love sometimes.”

“So we find mercy by submitting ourselves to the will of Christ, each one of us starting with himself as a sinner, each one of us is called to conversion, each one of us has stuff to figure out in his life.”

Commenting on the book that is being released to explain and defend Church teaching on marriage, Fr. Dodaro rejected claims that it was intended as a personal attack.

“I am a university professor, I write articles, I publish books and sometimes other people write articles and books saying: Dodaro is wrong about something. This is a normal part of academic life,” he said.

“I do not see the book as polemical in the sense of being angry or of trying to ‘gang up’ on the Cardinal, as some journalists have suggested.”

Rather, he said, the book tries to argue objectively and with well-founded arguments, and the dialogue that has arisen is fruitful.

“As a famous university professor, Cardinal Kasper should be used to an academic debate: does his solution fit in terms of the Catholic Tradition and teaching? Is it doctrinally acceptable? Or would it imply a radical change in teaching? That is the nature of the debate.”

Fr. Dodaro holds out hope for the upcoming gathering of bishops in Rome: “The themes of marriage and family concern all Catholics, and I think part of what Pope Francis wants to do is to emphasize the positive role of joy in Christian life.”
 

Cardinal Kasper: Adultery language is offensive, insulting

Rome, Italy, Oct 3, 2014 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In recent interviews, German Cardinal Walter Kasper suggested that while Church doctrine cannot change, it can be adapted and interpreted in different ways, and language can be softened when it is d…

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