Vatican City, Aug 29, 2014 / 02:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a brief encounter with Pope Francis following his general audience yesterday, former Pakistani minister Paul Bhatti discussed persecuted Christians and invited the pontiff to visit their countr…
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Vatican City, Aug 27, 2014 / 04:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A South Korea-based U.S. missionary who frequently crosses the border to North Korea to bring medicine and support says that Pope Francis’ visit advanced efforts to heal a divided country.
Father Gerard Hammond, an 81-year-old Maryknoll missionary, has lived in South Korea since 1960 and has made 51 trips to North Korea since 1995.
His mission: to stop deaths from Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis in North Korea.
“Due to do the security laws in South Korea, it is very difficult to send humanitarian aid to North Korea without the agreement of the Ministry of Reunification,” the priest told CNA.
Fr. Hammond can enter North Korea thanks to the Eugene Bell Foundation, a U.S.-based organization allowed admission to enter the country to give humanitarian aid, which includes a “slot” for Catholic missionaries. The latest trip took place this spring from Apr. 21-May 6.
Their work is well-known in the Vatican, and Pope Francis had been informed about them.
“He met each one of the 14 Maryknollers in our Seoul House. When Pope Francis met me, he spoke two words, ‘North Korea-tuberculosis’ and squeezed my arm,” Fr. Hammond recounted.
He stressed that “the visit of our Holy Father was a great blessing for all of us especially for the Korean people that have suffered so much. His visit left a tremendous impression on all Koreans, Catholic and non-Catholic.”
“Now we have to implement the challenge to heal a divided country, society and church,” he said.
“I hope the visit of the Holy Father to be the spark for the beginning a move toward Peace on the Peninsula and for Reconciliation for the peoples of North and South Korea.”
Fr. Hammond will return to North Korea for a trip this fall from Oct. 13-Nov. 4, saying that “there is no shortage of places and people that need help, whether it is through medicine, diagnostic machines, or other critical supplies.”
Until now, “we delivered medical supplies to patients in 12 treatment centers. Starting early in the morning, we work ceaselessly to make sure all the patients waiting at each center could be tested and we could enroll as many new people as possible.”
Fr. Hammond explained CNA that the missionaries are able to use six Gene X-perts – state-of-the-art medical devices “that allow us to diagnose Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis within 2 hours and deliver medicine to critically-ill patients without having to wait 6 months until our next trip.”
“On each trip we treat a 1,000 Multi Drug Resistant tubercolosis patients.”
Until now, the missionaries have cured more than 70 percent of their patients, compared with a worldwide cure rate of only 48 percent.
Fr. Hammond recounted that “for the past few years, we have been providing nutritional assistance to patients to supplement their diet and aid in their quick recovery.”
“Patients receiving nutritional assistance have gained weight, energy, and are better prepared to finish their difficult multi-drug resistant treatment.”
He said he has been “happy to see patients who once had difficulty just holding up their boxes of medicine now happily talking about how they had put on extra pounds.”
For the majority of patients in North Korea who have been “suffering for years” from the condition, “there is no option for treatment” and “reliable testing for MDR-TB is not yet widely available.”
“For the sake of the unreached people of North Korea, we must keep fighting to bring medicine,” Fr. Hammond said.
Vatican City, Aug 27, 2014 / 05:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his weekly general audience Pope Francis spoke on the unity and holiness of the Church, stating that despite the fact we are sinners, we are called to live as a community centered on Christ.
“In a Christian community division is one of the most serious sins, because it does not allow God to act,” the Pope said in his Aug. 27 general audience address. “What God wants is that we be welcoming, that we forgive and love each other so as to become more and more like Him, who is communion and love.”
Addressing the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Roman Pontiff explained that as Catholics “we affirm in the Creed that the Church is one and that she is holy.”
“One because she has her origin in the Triune God, mystery of unity and full communion. Holy since she is founded by Jesus Christ, enlivened by his Holy Spirit, and filled with his love and salvation.”
We continue to refer to the Church as “one” and “holy” despite the fact that “we know by experience that it is also composed of sinners and that there is no shortage of divisions,” he said, recalling how the night before he was arrested Jesus “asked for the unity of his disciples: ‘that all be one.’”
“We trust in his desire that unity will be one of the characteristic features of our community,” the Pope continued, noting that “While we, the members of the Church, are sinners, the unity and holiness of the Church arise from God and call us daily to conversion.”
Observing how “We have an intercessor in Jesus, who prays…for our unity with him and the Father, and with each other,” the Bishop of Rome drew attention to the sins that often cause division.
“Sins against unity are not only schisms,” he said, “but also the most common weeds of our communities: envies, jealousies, antipathies…talking bad about others. This is human, but it is not Christian.”
These sins “which occur even in our parish communities,” Pope Francis continued, “come about when we place ourselves at the center.”
“God’s will, however, is that we grow in our capacity to welcome one another, to forgive and to love, and to resemble Jesus.”
Explaining how “It’s the devil who separates, destroys relationships, sows prejudices,” the Pope affirmed that “the holiness of the Church” is “to recognize the image of God in one another.”
“The holiness of the Church consists of this: reproducing the image of God, rich in mercy and grace.”
Concluding his address, the Roman Pontiff prayed that all might “examine our consciences and ask forgiveness for the times when we have given rise to division or misunderstanding in our communities, and may our relationships mirror more beautifully and joyfully the unity of Jesus and the Father.”
Following his reflections Pope Francis greeted groups of pilgrims present from around the world, giving special notice to several Cuban bishops who have come for the enthronement of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, patroness of Cuba, in the Vatican Gardens tomorrow.
“I greet with affection all of the bishops from Cuba, who came to Rome for this occasion,” he said, “while at the same time I ask you to convey my closeness and blessing to all of the Cuban faithful.”
Vatican City, Aug 27, 2014 / 04:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The international community must view suffering Iraqi refugees not as a collective group, but as individual persons, each with his or her own story and needs, the Pope’s envoy to the country…
Vatican City, Aug 26, 2014 / 12:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Participants in the annual Ratzinger “schulerkreis” study group were overjoyed at seeing the retired pontiff in good health, noting that they were deeply moved by his homily on the triumph of God’s love.
“The homily was very moving. It was the Gospel of the day about Cesarea of Philippi where Jesus asks the apostles, ‘Who do you say I am?’” Father Vincent Twomey recalled to CNA Aug. 25.
“Peter answered ‘you are Christ, son of the living God,’” to which Jesus responds: “you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.”
Fr. Twomey was one of the participants of this year’s Ratzinger “schuelerkreis,” or “students’ circle,” which has met annually to discuss topics in theology and the life of the Church since 1978, when their professor Josef – later to become Pope Benedict XVI – was tapped to become a bishop.
This year’s encounter was held at Castel Gandolfo Aug. 21-24, with German theologian Karl-Heinz Menke serving as relator. During the main meetings he gave a presentation on the “Theology of the Cross.”
Following the normal discussions, Fr. Twomey explained that on Sunday the group traveled to the Campo Santo Teutonico chapel in the Vatican for Mass, where the main celebrant was retired pontiff Benedict XVI.
The main points of Benedict’s homily, the priest explained, were that “today people are always asking who is Jesus Christ.”
“They say he was a great man, a teacher, a revolutionary perhaps. People outside see him in different ways. And that’s not a bad thing; that means that Jesus image has spread throughout society and religions,” he went on, “But, to recognize him as the Son of God is a gift of faith.”
Noting how “Our Lord didn’t build his Church on a theory or a statement, but on a person, relationship with Jesus,” Fr. Twomey stated that Benedict’s words were “very moving because the Church where we celebrated was near the place where Peter himself gave his final witness.”
“Benedict XVI talked about how the gates of hell would never prevail. The Church is always the weak player, always under attack but the Church always survives because it is not a human, but a divine entity.”
“The cross is the way to the resurrection. The good news is God’s love triumphs over evil. Evil will never triumph over good,” the priest continued, explaining that after the Mass participants had a special reception with Fr. Stephan Horn, 80, who is the key organizer of the annual schuelerkreis.
“What struck us all is that despite being older each year,” Benedict XVI “looks much better, fresher. He’s very clear in his mind,” he noted, observing how the former pontiff stood for nearly an hour and a half during the mass even though a chair was provided for him.
“He was in good form. There was a good spirit about him.”
Echoing Fr. Twomey’s sentiments is Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture Mons. Barthélemy Adoukonou, who also participated in the study circle.
“It was extraordinary. As always, it amazed us that in spite of age, and without a prepared text, the Pope (emeritus) gave a homily at a great level, with an extraordinary clarity of mind for his age.”
Composed of about 50 people who studied for their doctorates under Ratzinger, the schuelerkreis usually takes place with the 25 to 30 who are able to make it to any given year’s meeting.
The circle has enlarged in recent years, establishing a “youth branch” composed of academics who had not studied with Ratzinger, yet who are studying and developing upon his theological work.
The topic of the meeting varies each year; last year was the question of God amid secularism, and the year prior to that, ecumenism was the subject chosen.
Vatican City, Aug 26, 2014 / 08:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In response to rumors that the Islamic State may be targeting Pope Francis, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. said there is no reason for concern.
“There is nothing serious to this. There is no …
Vatican City, Aug 25, 2014 / 08:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A priest and close friend of Pope Francis says the pontiff’s idea for an upcoming inter-religious soccer match for peace shows his keen interest in promoting the topic on all levels of society.
“The hope is that after this football match, this sports event, there will be an impact that raises awareness for peace,” Father Guillermo Karcher told CNA Aug. 25, explaining to other journalists that “the Pope’s concern for peace is very great.”
“He sees in this event, this punctual message of the match for peace, a very positive element that gives a contribution, because it’s necessary to try to build peace from all sides; from the political and diplomatic point of view,” he said.
Fr. Guillermo Karcher is a close friend of Pope Francis, and was present for the Aug. 25 launch of the Inter-religious Match for Peace.
Set to take place at 8:45 p.m. local time on Sept. 1 in Rome’s Olympic Stadium, the match will draw together past soccer players who represent different cultures and religions, including Buddhists, Christians – Catholic and Protestant – Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Shintos.
The game is being organized by retired Catholic soccer star Javier “Pupi” Zanetti, who was captain of the Argentinean national team and of Inter Milan in Italy. He was chosen to organize the symbolic game, which he has stated was the “explicit wish of Pope Francis,” in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences.
The Scholas Occurrentes initiative and Italy’s Fundazione PUPI are the two key organizations assisting in the organization of the match, which is being sponsored by organizations such as Fiat, Italian tire company Firelli, FIFA and various media outlets including Italian agencies Rai, Ansa and Vatican Radio.
Explaining how the idea was born, Fr. Kracher told journalists that it came from “the knowledge that Pope Francis already had when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, with Zanetti.”
The friendship that was generated between the two during that time “was consolidated,” and the two began to search for ways “to launch this message of building a world of peace.”
After a private meeting between Pope Francis and Zanetti earlier this summer “it was no longer between him and Bergoglio, but with the Holy Father, and this brought a universal dimension, more global,” the priest observed.
“The Holy Father continued to support it, and now comes this very beautiful nuance, which is to invite everyone to believe in peace.”
Also present for the launch of the match was Cristian Ledesma, a midfielder for the Serie A club in Italy’s Societa Sportiva Lazio, who is one of the players slated to participate in the match. He holds a dual citizen of Argentina and Italy, and has represented the latter in an international capacity since November 2010.
Ledesma explained to journalists that “it’s a great honor” to play for an Argentinian Pope, and that “this initiative is most important because putting together a game like this, with so many people from different religions, is a wonderful thing.”
Noting how soccer has a special power because “it is one of the most loved sports in the world,” the Ledesma drew attention to how many countries, including the poor children of Africa, feel its impact.
“For a child it’s enough to just give them a ball and they are able to have fun for even just a moment,” he said. “I believe that soccer is a very strong tool with which to give a good message. With this game I believe that we can help many children.”
Others among the 50 players participating in the inter-religious friendly match are Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi, Brazilian Marcos Senna Da Silva and Ethiopian captain Degu Gebreyes.
Captains will be Zanetti and Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who serves as captain for both the Serie A club Juventus and the Italy national team.
Vatican City, Aug 25, 2014 / 05:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican countered media reports that it protected a former nuncio who faces sex abuse charges through diplomatic immunity, saying instead that the Holy See acted justly and swiftly in the case.
Father Federico Lombardi, director of Holy See Press Office, stated that former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic Josef Wesolowski – following charges and a guilty verdict of sexual misconduct – has been removed from his post as nuncio, and thus no longer has diplomatic immunity.
The former nuncio may “be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him” in the Dominican Republic, Fr. Lombardi said in an Aug. 25 statement.
Though there is no extradition treaty between the Vatican and the Dominican Republic, Vatican officials in September expressed their willingness to hand over Wesolowski to civil authorities in the Dominican Republic.
Fr. Lombardi added that the case is one that Pope Francis “wishes to address justly and rigorously.”
In June, 2014, Vatican officials ruled that Woesolowski was guilty of accusations that arose in late 2013 that the former nuncio had engaged in sexual misconduct,which had previously led him to resign from the position of nuncio to the Dominican Republic on Aug. 21, 2013. After the printing of the original accusations, a 13-year-old boy came forward with further allegations that Wesolowski had solicited him for sexual favors in exchange for money.
The nuncio was then taken into protective custody by Dominican Republic officials.
After the guilty verdict, the Vatican ruled that Wesolowski would be laicized, “most serious canonical sentence of a return to the lay state,” Fr. Lombardi said. He would no longer being able to celebrate the sacraments. Wesolowski has appeal against the decision.
“The appeal will be judged without delay over the course of the coming weeks, most likely in October 2014,” Fr. Lombardi added.
Wesolowski’s penal trial before Vatican authorities will begin after the appeal is considered and the canonical sentence is definite. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith also needs to complete the verification of the charges levied against him.
The Vatican, Fr. Lombardi said, has “from the very first moments that this case was made known to them, moved without delay and correctly in light of the fact that former nuncio Wesolowski held the position of a diplomatic representative of the Holy See,” particularly in recalling the former nuncio to Rome for canonical trial.
The recall of Wesolowski to the Vatican for trial and the consideration “demonstrates the full and direct undertaking of the Holy See’s responsibility even in such a serious and delicate case,” Fr. Lombardi said.
Vatican City, Aug 25, 2014 / 12:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Though the Church and others are doing much to help Ebola victims, “extraordinary measures” are needed to halt the epidemic, a Vatican advisor on health issues has said.
“For example, in a health care center with a capacity of 70 patients, there is need for at least 250 health workers, and now there is a lack of them,” Monsignor Robert Vitillo told CNA.
“The countries and the NGOs in the region are now searching for international volunteers to strengthen the professional response to the outbreak in those countries.”
Msgr. Vitillo is special advisor to the Rome-based Catholic relief organization confederation Caritas Internationalis on HIV/AIDS. He also heads Caritas’ delegation to the United Nations in Geneva and collaborates with the Holy See.
He stressed that religious congregations are “very active” in Africa, with many religious brothers and sisters hailing from different countries.
However, at present there is no structured network of volunteers.
“We simply try to get in touch with doctors who already now with Caritas. And there are doctors who have expressed to Caritas their wish to go to help respond to the outbreak, and we put these doctors in touch with directors of the hospital.
“We still have to think about the possibility of organizing this kind of initiative,” Msgr. Vitillo explained.
Amid the Ebola outbreak, the Church will exercise its moral suasion to encourage pharmaceutical companies to reduce medicine prices and make health care more accessible, the monsignor stressed.
“The Catholic Church certainly has a moral strength, and it has always promoted the solidarity and equitable justice which encourages pharmaceutical companies to reduce the price of medicines and to ensure that there is no research in the Global South if these medicines are not shared when developed,” he explained.
Msgr. Vitillo took part in an Aug. 12 meeting called by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva. The meeting included representatives of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone as well as representatives of the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders to discuss the Ebola outbreak.
During the meeting, Dr. Micaela Serafini, a physician of Doctor Without Borders Switzerland, stressed that the Ebola epidemic “has gone out of proportion.”
“Today, we can say that it is completely outside of the capacity of the humanitarian aid; the international community must make a global effort,” he said.
The death toll in the Ebola outbreak is still increasing. According to the World Health Organization, 142 new confirmed or suspected cases of infection were reported between Aug. 19 and Aug. 20. Of these, 77 died.
Globally, 1,427 people have died since the surge of the epidemic due to confirmed or suspected Ebola infection.
The news that two people arrived from Nigeria have been hospitalized in Voecklabruck, Austria, for suspected Ebola infection has raised the fear that the epidemic could spread in Europe, as well.
Msgr. Vitillo said that the epidemic “has become very grave,” above all because “many of the health facilities of the involved countries are already poor, and it is difficult to immediately respond to this kind of emergency.”
“The four countries involved in the infection need international solidarity. As Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, stressed in the Aug. 12 humanitarian affairs meeting, the outbreak is unprecedented for its size, severity and complexity,” he continued.
“We need extraordinary measures to address this.”
The Aug. 12 meeting emphasized that the border areas including Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are crucial. This “hot zone” has been isolated. Nearly one million people are affected in the border areas and they need daily support, including food.
“There is always the danger that the infection should be spread in other countries, and this is the reason why we have talked about the needed preparation of the border countries to prevent the possibility,” Msgr. Vitillo maintained.
However, Msgr. Vitillo is optimistic, since “at the moment, the cases of infection are limited to these four countries, and in Nigeria it is just limited to the federal state of Lagos, which is very positive.”
There is a need of medicines, and especially of possible vaccines for the disease, but “at the moment there is not such a big supply of experimental medicines.”
“There was a pharmaceutical company that had decided to send remaining doses to Liberia, and this is a step forward. But they don’t have other doses,” said Mgr. Vitillo.
In the Aug. 12 humanitarian affairs meeting, World Health Organization officials pointed out that there is no approved treatment for Ebola. There are some experimental vaccines and there is an experimental treatment based on “mono-chromosomal antibodies.”
The World Health Organization decided that the experimental therapy can be used, as long as the patient is fully informed about the risks and gives full consent.
The procedure chosen is “very ethical and precise,” according to Msgr. Vitillo.
Vatican City, Aug 25, 2014 / 07:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a letter sent to the family of a U.S. journalist killed by ISIS last week, Pope Francis assured his closeness, and prayed for reconciliation and peace throughout the world.
“The Holy Father, deeply saddened by the death of James Wright Foley, asks you kindly to convey his personal condolences and the assurance of his closeness in prayer to James’ loved ones,” the letter states.
Signed by Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the letter was read aloud on Sunday during a memorial mass for Foley, which was held at the family’s Catholic parish, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Rochester, New Hampshire.
Continuing, the letter states that Pope Francis “commends James to the loving mercy of God our Father, and joins all who mourn him in praying for an end to senseless violence and the dawn of reconciliation and peace among all the members of the human family.”
“Upon the Foley family, and upon his friends and colleagues, he invokes the consolation and strength borne of our hope in Christ’s Resurrection.”
On Aug. 19, the Islamic State (ISIS), a militant group that controls territory in Syria and Iraq, released a graphic video entitled “A Message to America,” that shows the beheading of Foley, who was abducted in Syria in 2012. U.S. officials have confirmed the authenticity of the video.
Members of ISIS have stated that Foley’s execution was an act of retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq, and warned that they have another missing American journalist in captivity, Steven Joel Sotloff, saying that his life depends on U.S. President Barack Obama’s actions.
Pope Francis has also made a personal phone call Foley’s family offering his condolences, which was confirmed by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi in an Aug. 21 email to CNA.
Previously detained for six weeks in Libya in 2011, James Foley wrote a letter to his alma mater, Marquette University, a Catholic university in Wisconsin, revealing how he turned to prayer, specifically the Rosary, during his captivity, and how the prayers of family and friends also gave him strength.
“I began to pray the Rosary.” he wrote. “It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Mary’s between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Mary’s off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.”
When he was first allowed to call home after over two weeks in captivity, Foley said his mother told him about the prayers others have offered up for him. This news made him wonder if instead of his own prayers, “it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat.”
“If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom,” Foley said, “an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us.”
According to the Daily Mail, Foley’s parents have voiced gratitude for the prayers offered for their son and the entire family.
“We thank God for the gift of Jim. We are so, so proud of him,” said Diane, adding that they prayed to God for strength and were grateful that “God has given us so many prayers” throughout James’ captivity.
“Jim would never want us to hate or be bitter. We’re praying for the strength to love like he did,” she said.
“It’s not difficult to find solace in this point in time,” John stated. “We know he is in God’s hands, and we know he’s done God’s work.”
“We need the courage and prayers now to continue without him.”