Grieving Pope Francis phones family of slain U.S. journalist Foley

Pope Francis from a video screen grab after communion on the Mass at beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs.

Pope Francis from a video screen grab after communion on the Mass at beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs.

Pope Francis, himself grieving over relatives’ death and injury in an accident, phoned the family of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Syria.

James Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, in a television interview said the pope’s gesture was “so kind” especially since he was grieving the death of  the wife and two young children of his nephew, 35-year-old Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, in a car crash Aug. 19 in Argentina. Bergoglio was critically injured, reports Catholic News Service (CNS).

Its story Pope Phones Family of Slain Journalist reported Pope Francis called because he wanted to console the family.

US intelligence judged as authentic a video released by Islamic State (IS) militants showing the beheading of Foley.

In June, al-Qaeda-inspired forces attacked Iraq areas and since then IS has taken control of territories in Syria and Iraq aiming to turn the entire region into a caliphate (Islamic nation). IS said beheading Foley, who had been seized in Syria in 2012, was retaliation for U.S.’s recent intervention in Iraq. 

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Grand Mufti: Terrorism has no place in Islam
Indonesia’s Counterterrorism Chief Concerned About Hate Speech

 

 

Pope Francis to visit Madhu Shrine, spend time with war victims, orphans? – Sri Lanka web news

Archdiocese of Colombo website photo

screenshot – Archdiocese of Colombo website photo

Pope Francis would visit the historical Madhu Shrine during his stay in Sri Lanka in January next year, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo reportedly announced in Madhu.

The Pope will arrive in Sri Lanka on the 13th of January 2015, and celebrate mass at the Galle Face Green on the 14th morning before heading to Mannar District in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, reported EyeSriLanka online newspaper.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu in the district of Mannar is considered one the holiest Catholic shrine in Sri Lanka, and is a place of worship for both the Sinhalese and the Tamils and has been considered a symbol of unity between the two communities.

Bishop Rayappu Joseph, said Pope Francis would visit the Madhu shrine during his January visit and bless the war victims at a special mass at the shrine.

Bishop Joseph along with Cardinal Ranjith blessed thousands of pilgrims who gathered there from various parts of the island for the August festival last Friday, Aug. 15 . It was the first time the arrival of the Pontiff was officially announced.

“Pope Francis will be the first Pope to travel out of Colombo,” Bishop Joseph is quoted saying. The Pope is expected to interact with the war widows, disabled persons and orphans, he added.

Read EyeSriLanka report

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Concern about Pope Francis’ Sri Lanka visit mounts with militant climate vs. religious minorities
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What can Asia expect of upcoming papal visits?
Ruki Fernando out of detention – is he free?

Slavery, World Day of Peace 2015 theme – Why is it relevant today?

(Vatican Radio)  The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has announced the theme selected by Pope Francis for the upcoming World Day of Peace.  The theme, “Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters” will be the title of the Message for the 48th World Day of Peace, celebrated on 1 January 2015.  It will mark the second time Pope Francis celebrates the Day of Peace since he has risen to the papacy.

Read the note from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on why the theme is relevant today…

Asian bishops, clergy, pastoral workers and lay leaders through the tenth plenary assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences  (X FABC Plenary Assembly) in Vietnam in 2012 had expressed concerns over old and “new forms of slavery,” including the abuse of human rights of refugees and migrant workers, as well as age-old traditions and cultural practices involving women and the girl child.

Strength from faith, Rosary – American journalist Foley slain by IS

Photojournalist James Wright Foley who the US government confirmed has been executed by Islamic State captors had reportedly said his faith and praying the Rosary during captivity made him feel close to God and his family.

Stories about how their Catholic faith and the Rosary carried him and his family through agonizing days of his captivity spread after the the National Security Council announced on Aug. 19 that the U.S. intelligence community judged as authentic, a gruesome video of Foley’s beheading released Tuesday on social media by the Islamic State movement.

Read the full story of how faith and praying the Rosary gave Foley and his family strength in the face of death

Related sites

Find James Foley website

Find James Foley Twitter

Free James Foley Facebook

West India state bans Hindu vigilante groups

The government of Goa has banned a Hindu right wing group, which is infamous for its moral policing tactics, from entering the western Indian state.

“We have banned Sri Ram Sena,” Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told the state legislative assembly on Wednesday.

Sri Ram Sena (the Army of Lord Rama) chief Pramod Mutalik had announced in June their plans to set up a branch in Goa in September.

Founded in the late 1960s, the organization won media attention in 2009 when its members attacked women for going to a pub in Mangalore, a coastal town in neighboring Karnataka state.

Read full report in Matters India

More than 35 percent of the 1.76 million people in the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman in a 2006 report were listed as  Catholics.

Pope Francis Mass for Peace and Reconciliation in Korea – Full Text

Bridge and mountains at Yosemite National Park. - NJ Viehland Photos

Bridge and mountains at Yosemite National Park. – NJ Viehland Photos

I ask you, as ambassadors of Christ and ministers of his reconciling love (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-20), to continue to build bridges of respect, trust and harmonious cooperation in your parishes, among yourselves, and with your bishops. – Pope Francis

Full text of Pope Francis’ homily at the Mass for Peace and Reconciliation

Myeong-dong Cathedral, Seoul

August 18, 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As my stay in Korea draws to a close, I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon this beloved country, and in a special way, upon the Church in Korea. Among those blessings I especially treasure the experience we have all had in these recent days of the presence of so many young pilgrims from throughout Asia. Their love of Jesus and their enthusiasm for the spread of his Kingdom have been an inspiration to us all.

My visit now culminates in this celebration of Mass, in which we implore from God the grace of peace and reconciliation. This prayer has a particular resonance on the Korean peninsula. Today’s Mass is first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us how powerful is our prayer when two or three of us join in asking for something (cf. Mt 18:19-20). How much more when an entire people raises its heartfelt plea to heaven!

The first reading presents God’s promise to restore to unity and prosperity a people dispersed by disaster and division. For us, as for the people of Israel, this is a promise full of hope: it points to a future which God is even now preparing for us. Yet this promise is inseparably tied to a command: the command to return to God and wholeheartedly obey his law (cf. Dt 30:2-3). God’s gifts of reconciliation, unity and peace are inseparably linked to the grace of conversion, a change of heart which can alter the course of our lives and our history, as individuals and as a people.

At this Mass, we naturally hear this promise in the context of the historical experience of the Korean people, an experience of division and conflict which has lasted for well over sixty years. But God’s urgent summons to conversion also challenges Christ’s followers in Korea to examine the quality of their own contribution to the building of a truly just and humane society. It challenges each of you to reflect on the extent to which you, as individuals and communities, show evangelical concern for the less fortunate, the marginalized, those without work and those who do not share in the prosperity of the many. And it challenges you, as Christians and Koreans, firmly to reject a mindset shaped by suspicion, confrontation and competition, and instead to shape a culture formed by the teaching of the Gospel and the noblest traditional values of the Korean people.

In today’s Gospel, Peter asks the Lord: “If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” To which the Lord replies: “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy times seven” (Mt 18:21-22). These words go to the very heart of Jesus’ message of reconciliation and peace. In obedience to his command, we ask our heavenly Father daily to forgive us our sins, “as we forgive those who sin against us”. Unless we are prepared to do this, how can we honestly pray for peace and reconciliation?

Jesus asks us to believe that forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation. In telling us to forgive our brothers unreservedly, he is asking us to do something utterly radical, but he also gives us the grace to do it. What appears, from a human perspective, to be impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant, he makes possible and fruitful through the infinite power of his cross. The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to reestablish the original bonds of brotherly love.

This, then, is the message which I leave you as I conclude my visit to Korea. Trust in the power of Christ’s cross! Welcome its reconciling grace into your own hearts and share that grace with others! I ask you to bear convincing witness to Christ’s message of forgiveness in your homes, in your communities and at every level of national life. I am confident that, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation with other Christians, with the followers of other religions, and with all men and women of good will concerned for the future of Korean society, you will be a leaven of the Kingdom of God in this land. Thus our prayers for peace and reconciliation will rise to God from ever more pure hearts and, by his gracious gift, obtain that precious good for which we all long.

Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people.

Before leaving Korea, I wish to thank the President of Republic, the civil and ecclesiastical authorities and all those who in any way helped to make this visit possible. I especially wish to address a word of personal appreciation to the priests of Korea, who daily labor in the service of the Gospel and the building up of God’s people in faith, hope and love. I ask you, as ambassadors of Christ and ministers of his reconciling love (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-20), to continue to build bridges of respect, trust and harmonious cooperation in your parishes, among yourselves, and with your bishops. Your example of unreserved love for the Lord, your faithfulness and dedication to your ministry, and your charitable concern for those in need, contribute greatly to the work of reconciliation and peace in this country.

Dear brothers and sisters, God calls us to return to him and to hearken to his voice, and he promises to establish us on the land in even greater peace and prosperity than our ancestors knew. May Christ’s followers in Korea prepare for the dawning of that new day, when this land of the morning calm will rejoice in God’s richest blessings of harmony and peace! Amen.

[as published in NEWS.VA]

 

Update: video – Augustinian Recollects stay in Sierra Leone mission facing Ebola threat

Updated Aug. 21

View video of Interaksyon’s online interview here
Augustinian Recollects in mission in Sierra Leone - Photo courtesy of Recoletos Communications Inc.

Augustinian Recollects in mission with children in Sierra Leone – Photo courtesy of Recoletos Communications Inc.

 Augustinian Recollect missionaries are staying put in their Sierra Leone mission that is under the order’s Philippines Province to offer people there encouragement, accompaniment and help in battling the lethal Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the Order announced.

Father Lauro Larlar, Order of Augustinian Recollects Philippines Provincial told Catholic in Asia its Sierra Leone mission members serve in two separate parish communities in the Diocese of Makeni in West and northern Africa, one of the high risk areas of the country for Ebola infection.

“We are appealing to everyone to pray for our brothers in Sierra Leone, for all people working to stop the spread of the Ebola virus, and for people they serve, especially in high-risk places” Father Larlar said on Aug. 18.

By then, the World Health Organization (WHO) had reported at least 1,145 people have died from the outbreak of the disease among 2,127 confirmed probable and suspected cases recorded by ministries of health of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The actual number of cases could run much higher, the WHO statement added. 

Father Larlar said the Recollects working in Kambai and Kamalo communities arrived at the decision to stay after they discussed the situation and needs of the people with the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Makeni.

He said four of the missionaries are Filipinos – Brother Jonathan Jamero and Fathers Roy Baluarte, Dennis Castillo and Russell Lapidez. The two other missionaries are Spanish priests Fathers Jose Luis Garayoa and Rene Gonzales.

“They are a young group, with one of the Spanish priests as the eldest – around 60 years old,” Larlar said. “The youngest would be two years ordained, so around 27 or 28 years old. The rest would be around 35-40 years-old.”

Three other Recollect missionaries who were on vacation in the Philippines could not re-enter Sierra Leone because of travel prohibitions, the Provincial added.

African government and airline authorities have restricted travel after cases of Ebola heaemorrhagic fever were reported on the continent. According to WHO Ebola outbreaks’ case fatality rate has reached 90 percent. 

Outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa near tropical rainforests where the virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids. There is no licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals, WHO added.

Apostolate of presence

Father Larlar said while the missionaries have been watching the crisis for months, they waited for Makeni Apostolic Administrator Xaverian Father Natalio Paganelli to return from Rome so they could discuss with him and other clergy about the situation and needs of the Church in Makeni.

Philippines-based Recollects advisers “simply asked them to first dialogue with the Apostolic Administrator, be sensitive to the needs of the people, and pray for the light of the Holy Spirit. So they gathered, met and prayed until they arrived at this decision,” Father Larlar said.

He said Paganelli gave the missionaries freedom and respected the decision of the group. The missioners decided not to leave because they believe they can help more by remaining with the people, Father Larlar said.

“They are attending to the people, they administer the sacraments, hold daily prayer with the people. That’s what we call the apostolate of presence – so people will feel they are not abandoned,” the Provincial Superior explained.

“People who are exposed to this virus will feel they are accompanied, that the Church suffers with them, the Church works for them,” he added.

Missonary’s experience of outbreak

In a report to their provincial headquarters in Quezon City, northeast of Manila, Father Lapidez shares his own experiences and those of people he encounters in missio . 

The missionary said people directly involved in caring for the sick and other sources have noted government’s delayed imposition of strict control of movement of people in the borders of Sierra Leone after the first Ebola infection from Guinea and Liberia were reported. He said he first heard of an outbreak of Ebola infection in April.

People also disregarded warnings against eating monkey or bush meat saying ancestors and elders have eaten these meat over time and they never got sick with Ebola disease.

They only began to recognize the fatal effect of the virus after Sheik Umar Khan, the only virologist in Sierra Leone and the head of the task force fighting EVD outbreak, died from infection last July, Father Lapidez observed. 

Traditional washing or ritual cleansing of dead bodies in people’s homes left family members susceptible to infection, Lapidez added citing the 16 year-old boy who took care of his sick mother then got infected and died of Ebola virus disease.

Later, three medical doctors and over 20 nurses who cared for patients caught the infection and died also. Father Lapidez said poor health facilities and shortage of trained personnel for handling Ebola infected patients contributed to these deaths. Medical staff said they left the work in protest of government’s neglect.

Because of stigma against people infected or suspected to be infected patients turned away from hospitals in favor of traditional healers. As a result, they transmitted the disease to healers, Father Lapidez reported.

He also wrote about family members of a woman who was admitted to a hospital in Freetown and confirmed to be carrying the Ebola virus who tried to forcibly take their relative out of the hospital. In the Ebola treatment Centre at Kenema, a group of people rioted outside the facility after a woman declared that Ebola does not exist.

Mission context

Recollect mission in Sierra Leone started sometime in 1997, but was cut off by the civil war. “After the war, when things were calmer, we returned – around 2004,” Father Larlar recalls.  

The two parish communities Kamabai and Kamalo entrusted to the order are located in the interior isolated areas. “One is 45 minutes drive from the capital, the other is about 2 to 3 hours from the capital depending on the road, whether it’s raining or not,” the Philippines head explained.

The parish has numerous chapels, even though Catholics are the minority. Majority of the population is Muslim, Father Larlar said, adding they live poorly and their relations with the mission have been “very peaceful”.

He said Recollect missionaries were concerned that if they left the people would feel abandoned and rejected because there is no other priests’ community there to take on their work. “Native priests are few. Most of the priests attending to the parishes are religious, many of whom also decided to stay,” Father Larlar said.

“There is so much intramurals among the tribes,” Father Larlar added. For years, the diocese has had no bishop “because they (locals) live there by rules of tribes, and after the bishops’ consecration they wouldn’t let him enter because he comes from a different tribe and hails from southeast of Sierra Leone,” Larlar explained.

Strong tribal practices are evident even at Mass and other Church activities. For example, when the priests celebrate Mass in a chapel, people of various faiths come. “We welcome them because Mass is a gathering of people, and in Africa the people are fond of gatherings. They just do not receive communion,” Father Larlar said.

Holy Spirit’s work

The Order’s head admitted their missionaries’ decision to stay “surprised us.”

“We appreciate and recognize that this must be the work of the Spirit inspiring them. We did not expect this decision. We had told them that if they feel they have to evacuate the place, we are ready to assist them with that.” Instead, “they surprised us and we are very happy with the decision and the readiness to suffer with the people, though we are worried.”

To show support, fellow Recollects in the Philippines keep constant contact with the missionaries. “We assured them of that, and to send financial assistance, just in case they would need more funds.

“Of course we offer our prayers and our sacrifices for them, tell people about their work and ask for their prayers as a way of accompanying our brothers in Sierra Leone,” Father Larlar continued.

END

Read also 

Ebola can’t drive Philippines missionaries from Sierra Leone

Updated: Pope backs use of force vs Islamic militants attacking religious minorities in Iraq – Fox News

Read full AP report from Fox News about what Pope Francis says about stopping an “unjust aggressor“, Aug. 18, 2014

A Vatican-approved transcript of Pope Francis’ airborne Press Conference from Korea records the pope saying, “It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor.  I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means.”

Pope Francis Philippines visit : Pope wants to eat with the poor – Bishop Du

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

CEBU CITY, Philippines—Bad news for politicians and rich people who hope to rub elbows with Pope Francis during his first visit to the Philippines in January.

Here’s what Inquirer says about preparations for the January papal visit and plans to have a typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivor who lost his whole family stand beside the pope so he will feel he is not alone…

Charity and Compassion is the theme of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines.

Haiyan survivor Mark Anthony Lacanaria who joined People Surge alliance of typhoon survivors told Catholic In Asia in Manila in April how he survived the "super typhoon" that flattened communities in Leyte, central Philippines last Nov. 8, 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

Haiyan survivor Mark Anthony Lacanaria who joined People Surge alliance of typhoon survivors told Catholic In Asia in Manila in April how he survived the “super typhoon” that flattened communities in Leyte, central Philippines last Nov. 8, 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

Juan Gagarino and wife Eugenia returned to their hometown of Guiuan, Samar to stretch his pension of 6,000 pesos. They are back in Estero urban poor community in Legarda after typhoon Yolanda ( Haiyan ) wrecked their Samar house and small store last November. By NJ Viehland

Juan Gagarino and wife Eugenia returned to their hometown of Guiuan, Samar to stretch his pension of 6,000 pesos. They are back in Estero urban poor community in Legarda after typhoon Yolanda ( Haiyan ) wrecked their Samar house and small store last November. By NJ Viehland

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Pope Francis’ Homily at Concluding Mass for 6th Asian Youth Day – full text

Pope Francis at the Mass near Gwanghwamun Gate, central Seoul, South Korea on Aug. 16 during the beatification of 124 martyrs who were killed between 1791 and 1888, because of their faith. - screenshot from live stream coverage

Pope Francis at the Mass near Gwanghwamun Gate, central Seoul, South Korea on Aug. 16 during the beatification of 124 martyrs who were killed between 1791 and 1888, because of their faith. – screenshot from live stream coverage                                       

  “Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love!”

              – Pope Francis at Concluding Mass for 6th Asian Youth Day

                 Haemi Castle Square, South Korea, Aug. 17, 2014

 

Dear Young Friends,

The glory of the martyrs shines upon you!

These words – a part of the theme of the Sixth Asian Youth Day – console and strengthen us all. Young people of Asia: you are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ. He is the light of the world; he is the light of our lives! The martyrs of Korea – and innumerable others throughout Asia – handed over their bodies to their persecutors; to us they have handed on a perennial witness that the light of Christ’s truth dispels all darkness, and the love of Christ is gloriously triumphant. With the certainty of his victory over death, and our participation in it, we can face the challenge of Christian discipleship today, in our own circumstances and time.

The words which we have just reflected upon are a consolation. The other part of this day’s theme – Asian Youth! Wake up!– speaks to you of a duty, a responsibility. Let us consider for a moment each of these words.

Participant leads prayers of the faithful at Mass presided by Pope Francis on the closing of 6th Asian Youth Day Aug. 17, 2014. - screen shot of news coverage.

Participant leads prayers of the faithful at Mass presided by Pope Francis on the closing of 6th Asian Youth Day Aug. 17, 2014. – screen shot of news coverage.

First, the word “Asian”. You have gathered here in Korea from all parts of Asia. Each of you has a unique place and context where you are called to reflect God’s love. The Asian continent, imbued with rich philosophical and religious traditions, remains a great frontier for your testimony to Christ, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). As young people not only in Asia, but also as sons and daughters of this great continent, you have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies. Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life!

screen grab live coverage of the Mass closing 6th Asian Youth Day in Korea Aug. 17, 2014 led by Pope Francis.

screen grab live coverage of the Mass closing 6th Asian Youth Day in Korea Aug. 17, 2014 led by Pope Francis.

As Asians too, you see and love, from within, all that is beautiful, noble and true in your cultures and traditions. Yet as Christians, you also know that the Gospel has the power to purify, elevate and perfect this heritage. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit given you in Baptism and sealed within you at Confirmation, and in union with your pastors, you can appreciate the many positive values of the diverse Asian cultures. You are also able to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith, what is contrary to the life of grace bestowed in Baptism, and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt, and lead to death.

Returning to the theme of this Day, let us reflect on a second word: “Youth”. You and your friends are filled with the optimism, energy and good will which are so characteristic of this period of life. Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love! This is the path you are called to take. This is the path to overcoming all that threatens hope, virtue and love in your lives and in your culture. In this way your youth will be a gift to Jesus and to the world.

Religious men and women joined the closing Mass of the 6th Asian Youth Day led by Pope Francis Aug. 17, 2014 in Korea. - screen grab from live coverage.

Religious men and women joined the closing Mass of the 6th Asian Youth Day led by Pope Francis Aug. 17, 2014 in Korea. – screen grab from live coverage.

As young Christians, whether you are workers or students,whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present! You are the present of the Church. Keep close to one another, draw ever closer to God, and with your bishops and priests spend these years in building a holier, more missionary and humble Church – a Church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalized.

Delegate prays for Churches in Asia during Prayers of the Faithful of the Mass led by Pope Francis at the close of 6th Asian Youth Day Aug. 17 in Korea. - screen grab live coverage

Delegate prays for Churches in Asia during Prayers of the Faithful of the Mass led by Pope Francis at the close of 6th Asian Youth Day Aug. 17 in Korea. – screen grab live coverage

In your Christian lives, you will find many occasions that will tempt you, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, to push away the stranger, the needy, the poor and the broken-hearted. It is these people especially who repeat, today, the cry of the woman of the Gospel: “Lord, help me!” The Canaanite woman’s plea is the cry of everyone who searches for love, acceptance, and friendship with Christ. It is the cry of so many people in our anonymous cities, the cry of so many of your own contemporaries, and the cry of all those martyrs who even today suffer persecution and death for the name of Jesus: “Lord, help me!” Let us respond, not like those who push away people who make demands on us, as if serving the needy gets in the way of our being close to the Lord. No! We are to be like Christ, who responds to every plea for his help with love, mercy and compassion.

Thousands of young Catholics from around Asia gathered for Mass led by Pope Francis at the close of 6th Asian Youth Day, Aug. 17, 2014 near Haemi Shrine, South Korea. - screen grab from live coverage.

Thousands of young Catholics from around Asia gathered for Mass led by Pope Francis at the close of 6th Asian Youth Day, Aug. 17, 2014 near Haemi Shrine, South Korea. – screen grab from live coverage.

Finally, the third part of this Day’s theme – “Wake up!” –Wake up! speaks of a responsibility which the Lord gives you. It is the duty to be vigilant, not to allow the pressures, the temptations and the sins of ourselves or others to dull our sensitivity to the beauty of holiness, to the joy of the Gospel. Today’s responsorial psalm invites us constantly to “be glad and sing for joy”. No one who sleeps can sing, dance or rejoice. It’s no good when I see young people who are asleep. No! Wake up. Go. Go. Go ahead. Dear young people, “God, our God, has blessed us!” (Ps 67:6); from him we have “received mercy” (Rom 11:30). Assured of God’s love, go out to the world so that, “by the mercy shown to you”, they – your friends, co-workers, neighbors, countrymen, everyone on this great continent – “may now receive the mercy of God” (cf. Rom 11:31). It is by his mercy that we are saved.

Dear young people of Asia, it is my hope that, in union with Christ and the Church, you will take up this path, which will surely bring you much joy. Now, as we approach the table of the Eucharist, let us turn to our Mother Mary, who brought Jesus to the world. Yes, Mother Mary, we long to have Jesus; in your maternal affection help us to bring him to others, to serve him faithfully, and to honor him in every time and place, in this country and throughout Asia. Amen.

Young people, Wake Up!

Bombay’s Cardinal Gracias’ Greeting to Pope – full text and photos

India's Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) led the opening Eucharist for the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly . The Holy See approved the statutes of the voluntary association of episcopal conferences in South, Southeast, and East Asia Nov. 16, 1972. The federation has been created to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia, and to promote and defend whatever is for the greater good. Later, Churches in Central Asia also joined FABC. Filipino Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales (rear) served as Pope Benedict XVI's official representative to the 10th Plenary assembly in Xuan Loc and Ho Chi Minh City from Dec. 10-16, 2013 (N.J. Viehland Photo)

India’s Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) led the opening Eucharist for the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly Dec. 10-16, 2012 in Xuan Loc, Vietnam. The Holy See approved the statutes of the voluntary association of episcopal conferences in South, Southeast, and East Asia Nov. 16, 1972. The federation has been created to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia, and to promote and defend whatever is for the greater good. Later, Churches in Central Asia also joined FABC. – N.J. Viehland Photos)

[updated Aug. 18, 2014, 4:45 p.m.]

…in many ways Asia is very central for the future of the world and for the future of the Church…”

                                                             – Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai (Bombay)

                                                             President, Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences

                                                             Pope Francis’ meeting with Asian Bishops, Haemi Shrine

                                                             Aug. 17, 2014

Most Holy Father,

At this moment, our minds and hearts go back to that historic occasion forty four years ago when the Bishops of Asia met together in Manila on the occasion of Pope Paul VI’s historic visit to the Philippines in 1970. It was the first time that so many Bishops from Asia – around 180 were present – came together to exchange experiences and to deliberate jointly on pastoral issues facing this vast continent rich in its diversity.

Thrilled by this experience, the Founding Fathers established the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) with the blessings of Pope Paul VI. FABC today has 19 member conferences comprising 27 countries, and 9 associate members besides: Churches which do not yet have Episcopal Conferences.

Bishops, staff and office heads comprising clergy and lay people posed during the Xth FABC Plenary Assembly held in Xuan Loc, Vietnam  from Dec. 10-16, 2012 - NJ Viehland Photos

Bishops, staff and office heads comprising clergy and lay people posed during the Xth FABC Plenary Assembly held in Xuan Loc, Vietnam from Dec. 10-16, 2012 – NJ Viehland Photos

Asia is a continent experiencing the hopes and joys of a constant rebirth in the Spirit. Sixty percent of the world’s population lives in Asia.

It is a young continent with a majority of the population young. Hence in many ways Asia is a very central for the future of the world and for the future of the Church.

Before Mass, Vietnamese Catholic youth cheerfully await a delegation of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) visiting their parish as part of X FABC Plenary Assembly activities in Dec. 2012. - NJ Viehland Photos

Before Mass, Vietnamese Catholic youth cheerfully await a delegation of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) visiting their parish as part of X FABC Plenary Assembly activities in Dec. 2012. – NJ Viehland Photos

Globalization has impacted Asia and this has brought new challenges to the Church: Asian people are religious by nature, yet a spirit of secularism and materialism is creeping in. Family ties once considered so important and so deeply rooted in Asian society are slowly being eroded.

Our Lady of Vietnam on wood. By NJ Viehland

Our Lady of Vietnam on wood. By NJ Viehland

Again, while the Asian soul treats life as sacred, there are rising threats to life that are disturbing in many ways. The Asian seeks and enjoys community. Now this too is being impacted upon with a strong sense of individualism.

We are in this beautiful land of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and his companions. During this week 124 more martyrs are being beatified. It is the blood of these holy martyrs that has been the seed for the growth of the Church here.

The Asian Youth Day has shown how vibrant and enthusiastic the Korean youth are. Korea is a land where the laity has played a special role in Evangelization and this becomes a model for many of our Churches. We wish to be touched by the infectious passion of the Korean Church as we go back to our dioceses.

Young Catholics listen to Pope Francis' homily for the Mass at the close of the 6th Asian Youth Day, applauding when he declared, "You are the present of the Church!" - screen grab, live stream coverage

Young Catholics listen to Pope Francis’ homily for the Mass at the close of the 6th Asian Youth Day, applauding when he declared, “You are the present of the Church!” – screen grab, live stream coverage

Most Holy Father we thank you for this visit to Korea, your first to Asia. You have brought the person of Jesus to us by your Message. You have inspired us by your example. We thank you for your leadership and we pray for the continuous assistance of the Spirit to you and God’s protection on your Petrine ministry. While we ask you to bless and pray for us, we commit ourselves to make the person of Jesus and His Message continuously more known, more understood, more loved and more followed. This we will do by our word, by our lives and by our work. Bless the Church in Asia, bless us the leaders of the Church. May Mary the Star of New Evangelization, our Mother and the Mother of Asia continue to guide, protect and intercede for us.

Thank you.

Pope Francis’ address to Asian bishops in Korea – full text

A Vatican translation of the text of the address Pope Francis gave today, Aug. 17, during his meeting with Asian bishops at the Haemi Martyrs’ Shrine 

Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm and fraternal greeting in the Lord as we gather together at this holy site where so many Christians gave their lives in fidelity to Christ. Their testimony of charity has brought blessings and graces not only to the Church in Korea but also beyond; may their prayers help us to be faithful shepherds of the souls entrusted to our care. I thank Cardinal Gracias for his kind words of welcome and for the work of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in fostering solidarity and promoting effective pastoral outreach in your local Churches.

On this vast continent which is home to a great variety of cultures, the Church is called to be versatile and creative in her witness to the Gospel through dialogue and openness to all. Dialogue, in fact, is an essential part of the mission of the Church in Asia (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 29).

But in undertaking the path of dialogue with individuals and cultures, what should be our point of departure and the fundamental point of reference which guides us to our destination? Surely it is our own identity, our identity as Christians. We cannot engage in real dialogue unless we are conscious of our own identity. Nor can there be authentic dialogue unless we are capable of opening our minds and hearts, in empathy and sincere receptivity, to those with whom we speak. A clear sense of one’s own identity and a capacity for empathy are thus the point of departure for all dialogue. If we are to speak freely, openly and fruitfully with others, we must be clear about who we are, what God has done for us, and what it is that he asks of us. And if our communication is not to be a monologue, there has to be openness of heart and mind to accepting individuals and cultures.

The task of appropriating and expressing our identity does not always prove easy, however, since – being sinners – we will always be tempted by the spirit of the world, which shows itself in a variety of ways. I would like to point to three of these. One is the deceptive light of relativism, which obscures the splendor of truth and, shaking the earth beneath our feet, pulls us toward the shifting sands of confusion and despair. It is a temptation which nowadays also affects Christian communities, causing people to forget that in a world of rapid and disorienting change, “there is much that is unchanging, much that has its ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Gaudium et Spes, 10; cf. Heb 13:8). Here I am not speaking about relativism merely as a system of thought, but about that everyday practical relativism which almost imperceptibly saps our sense of identity.

A second way in which the world threatens the solidity of our Christian identity is superficiality, a tendency to toy with the latest fads, gadgets and distractions, rather than attending to the things that really matter (cf. Phil 1:10). In a culture which glorifies the ephemeral, and offers so many avenues of avoidance and escape, this can present a serious pastoral problem. For the ministers of the Church, it can also make itself felt in an enchantment with pastoral programs and theories, to the detriment of direct, fruitful encounter with our faithful, especially the young who need solid catechesis and sound spiritual guidance. Without a grounding in Christ, the truths by which we live our lives can gradually recede, the practice of the virtues can become formalistic, and dialogue can be reduced to a form of negotiation or an agreement to disagree.

Then too, there is a third temptation: that of the apparent security to be found in hiding behind easy answers, ready formulas, rules and regulations. Faith by nature is not self-absorbed; it “goes out”. It seeks understanding; it gives rise to testimony; it generates mission. In this sense, faith enables us to be both fearless and unassuming in our witness of hope and love. Saint Peter tells us that we should be ever ready to respond to all who ask the reason for the hope within us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15). Our identity as Christians is ultimately seen in our quiet efforts to worship God alone, to love one another, to serve one another, and to show by our example not only what we believe, but also what we hope for, and the One in whom we put our trust (cf. 2 Tim 1:12).

Once again, it is our living faith in Christ which is our deepest identity; it is from this that our dialogue begins, and this that we are asked to share, sincerely, honestly and without pretence, in the dialogue of everyday life, in the dialogue of charity, and in those more formal opportunities which may present themselves. Because Christ is our life (cf. Phil 1:21), let us speak “from him and of him” readily and without hesitation or fear. The simplicity of his word becomes evident in the simplicity of our lives, in the simplicity of our communication, in the simplicity of our works of loving service to our brothers and sisters.

I would now touch on one further aspect of our Christian identity. It is fruitful. Because it is born of, and constantly nourished by, the grace of our dialogue with the Lord and the promptings of his Spirit, it bears a harvest of justice, goodness and peace. Let me ask you, then, about the fruits which it is bearing in your own lives and in the lives of the communities entrusted to your care. Does the Christian identity of your particular Churches shine forth in your programs of catechesis and youth ministry, in your service to the poor and those languishing on the margins of our prosperous societies, and in your efforts to nourish vocations to the priesthood and the religious life?

Finally, together with a clear sense of our own Christian identity, authentic dialogue also demands a capacity for empathy. We are challenged to listen not only to the words which others speak, but to the unspoken communication of their experiences, their hopes and aspirations, their struggles and their deepest concerns. Such empathy must be the fruit of our spiritual insight and personal experience, which lead us to see others as brothers and sisters, and to “hear”, in and beyond their words and actions, what their hearts wish to communicate. In this sense, dialogue demands of us a truly contemplative spirit of openness and receptivity to the other. This capacity for empathy enables a true human dialogue in which words, ideas and questions arise from an experience of fraternity and shared humanity. It leads to a genuine encounter in which heart speaks to heart. We are enriched by the wisdom of the other and become open to travelling together the path to greater understanding, friendship and solidarity. As Saint John Paul II rightly recognized, our commitment to dialogue is grounded in the very logic of the incarnation: in Jesus, God himself became one of us, shared in our life and spoke to us in our own language (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 29). In this spirit of openness to others, I earnestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship, may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all.

Dear brother bishops, I thank you for your warm and fraternal welcome. When we look out at the great Asian continent, with its vast expanses of land, its ancient cultures and traditions, we are aware that, in God’s plan, your Christian communities are indeed a pusillus grex, a small flock which nonetheless is charged to bring the light of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. May the Good Shepherd, who knows and loves each of his sheep, guide and strengthen your efforts to build up their unity with him and with all the members of his flock throughout the world. I commend all of you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and I cordially impart my blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.

[Translation by the Vatican]

 

Asian bishops, youth pitch in to build, renew Church

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) walking during the welcome procession for delegates of the X FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc Pastoral Center compound Dec. 11, 2012. - N.J. Viehland Photos

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) greets Vietnamese welcome team during the procession for delegates of the X FABC Plenary Assembly on opening day, Dec. 11, 2012 in Xuan Loc Pastoral Center complex. – N.J. Viehland Photos

[updated Aug. 18, 2014, 1:15 pm] 

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of  Mumbai (Bombay), who serves in the 9-member Council of Cardinal Advisers Pope Francis established in April 2013, carries out official tasks in the 6th Asian Youth Day (AYD) that closes near Haemi Castle, South Korea today because he is also President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

The Youth Desk of the decades-old voluntary association of Bishops’ conferences in the continent has coordinated the overall AYD events since the gathering of youth ministers and Catholic youth in Asia was launched in the 1990s. The host for AYD, however, serves as the team coordinating implementation of activities and events, explained Father Ramond O’Toole, a Scarboro missionary priest who serves as FABC’s Secretary General.

Cardinal Gracias was to address several of the events during the Korea visit, including AYD’s Aug. 15 Mass at 6:30 a.m. when he was to deliver the homily, Father O’Toole told Catholic in Asia on Aug. 10.

“The cardinal will also speak when the Holy Father meets with the Asian Bishops, and also at the closing mass of AYD to thank the Holy Father and to announce the venue of the next AYD,” FABC’s Secretary General added. Both of these events are scheduled today.

Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle who has chaired the FABC’s Office of Theological Concerns since 2007, Hong Kong’s bishop Cardinal John Tong-Hon, the only Chinese cardinal to be born in Hong Kong, and a host of other bishops serving as presidents of bishops’ conferences in their countries, as heads of various dioceses around the region, or in the Vatican are also expected to join the pope’s meeting with Asian bishops.

For AYD, however, Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Bishop Chairman of the Office of Laity and Family (OLF) will represent the FABC Youth Desk, which comes under OLF. Filipino Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, member of OLF responsible for Youth Desk, and Bangladeshi Fr. Patrick Simon Gomes FABC Youth Desk Secretary also form part of the FABC’s delegation to AYD 2014.

Father O’Toole who is now with the FABC team in Korea had told Catholic in Asia organizers invited 2,000 people from across Asia to attend Youth Day activities, “but with the Pope’s visit, this number may increase.” 

A report from the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), for example, estimated a crowd of 6,000 youths joined the Aug. 15 AYD gathering which Pope Francis addressed.

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Seoul wrote:

There is something in the manner of Pope Francis that seems to win people over, Catholics and non-Catholics, wherever he goes. And he has done it again here in South Korea.
His lack of formality has shone through. On Friday he stopped in the middle of a prepared speech to a gathering of young Catholics and said he wanted to “speak directly from his heart, without reading from a piece of paper,” but that his English was not good enough”. “No!” shouted the 6,000 teenagers in one voice.

FABC’s statutes as a voluntary association of bishops’  conferences in the region approved by the Holy See in 1972 established the association to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in the region that now includes Central Asia in addition to the original membership from southeast, south and east Asia.

“The Asian Church, especially under the leadership of the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan of Seoul, wanted to have the local Churches of Asia in the various countries, first of all to appropriate the Second Vatican Council, (Vatican II1962-1965) and what were the new initiatives and the new directives of that Council with regard to the local Churches. That was the main purpose,” Filipino Jesuit theologian Father Catalino Arevalo said in a 2012 interview for FABC’s 40th anniversary.

Father Arevalo recalled Cardinal Kim, other bishops and priests at an initial meeting wanted to set up a permanent structure where the leaders of the Asian Churches, beginning with the bishops, but not just the bishops, would gather together regularly to share their experiences, to develop within the group itself what the local Churches (Churches in every country) would do to bring the realities of Vatican II into action in the Asian region.

“That was the beginning purpose of it. Therefore also, to find what was the vision in the Asian Churches precisely with regard to how to make the Second Vatican Council as effective and as creative within the local Churches of Asia and that the local Churches of Asia would begin also to see what they had in common,” Father Arevalo added. They also looked into how they could collaborate with each other in bringing the movements inside the Church that they had in common flourish to make Vatican II a reality in the local Churches of Asia.

Members of Missionaries of Charity, which is among those whose houses of charity were ruined by Typhoon Haiyan in Palo archdiocese, Leyte filled many pews on the Day of Lament and Hope service led by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in San Fernando de Dilao Church, Paco, Manila Nov. 16. NJ Viehland Photo

Philippine community members of India-based Missionaries of Charity joined prayers on the Day of Lament for victims of calamities led by Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila in San Fernando de Dilao Church, Paco, Manila Nov. 16. NJ Viehland Photo

He considers that meeting held when Pope Paul VI was making his first visit to Asia as the foundation of FABC, “and then it took about 2 or 3 years for it to come into realization, in the first meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Taipei in 1974.” 

By 1991, during the World Youth Day in Czestochowa (Poland), representatives from over 30 Asian countries attended the Third International Youth Forum during which they expressed their hopes of establishing different channels and networks for various kinds of exchanges and organizing activities especially designed for Catholic youths in Asia.

Later, youth representatives at the 1993 youth consultation conference in Bangkok, Thailand suggested that a youth working group be formed as a parish-based subsidiary of FABC to gather support for youth leaders within the organization and to enhance mutual cooperation and links among youth parish groups from Asian countries.

FABC’s Youth Desk was officially established in 1994 forming the team that has since  then organized a series of activities for Asian youths and youth leaders, including the Asian Youth Gathering during the World Youth Day, Asian Youth Ministers’ Meeting and AYD.

Multi-media publications and documentation of activities of Philippine Conference on New Evangelization were produced daily with help from young volunteers. By NJ Viehland

Multi-media publications and documentation of activities of Philippine Conference on New Evangelization were produced daily with help from young volunteers. By NJ Viehland

 

AYD is the coming together of Catholic youths from different Asian countries in weeklong activities including formation programs, workshops, prayer and worship, Bible sharing and sharing with people from other religious groups.

This year’s program centers on the theme: “Asian Youth! Wake Up! The Glory of the Martyrs Shines on You.” 

Asia and the Pacific are reportedly home to 45 percent of the world’s youth amounting to 700 million young people, but disparities exist. For example, South Asia is home to 26 percent of the world’s entire youth population representing up to 20 percent of the south’s population, but in East Asia, only 17 percent of the population fall in the youth sector.

 

“Moving” beatification of Korean martyrs by Pope Francis – Cardinal Tagle

On Saturday morning, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the Beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs who were killed between 1791 and 1888 because of their Catholic faith

Here’s what Pope Francis said in his homily for the Mass

Pope Francis at the Mass near Gwanghwamun Gate, central Seoul, South Korea on Aug. 15 during the beatification of 124 martyrs who were killed between 1791 and 1888, because of their faith. - screenshot from live stream coverage

Pope Francis at the Mass near Gwanghwamun Gate, central Seoul, South Korea on Aug. 16 during the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs – screenshot from live stream coverage

Among those at the Mass was the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle who told Vatican Radio he was  “very much moved [when I realized] we had Asian ancestors here who were willing to pay the cost of being a Christian, and if needed they would offer their lives. This is an inspiration for all of us.”

Some of the thousands of people who came to join the Mass presided Aug. 15 by Pope Francis in Seoul, South Korea during the beatification of 124 Martyrs received common from scores of priests on the ground. - screenshot from live stream

Some of the hundreds of thousands of people who came to the Mass presided Aug. 16 by Pope Francis in Seoul, South Korea during the beatification of 124 Martyrs received communion from priests on the ground. – screenshot from live stream

Listen to Vatican Radio’s interview with Cardinal Tagle:

 

Sri Lanka Court stops deportation of Pakistanis

[updated Aug. 16, 11:41 p.m.]

Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal has ordered the suspension of deporting Pakistani asylum seekers back to their country, until  August 29, Colombo Gazette reported.

 Most asylum seekers from Pakistan belong to religious minorities – including Ahmadiyya Muslim, Christian and Shia – who are often discriminated against and subjected to violent attacks, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák, is quoted telling the Gazette.

The asylum seekers flee their country in South Asia along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, and head southeast beyond India to the island country of Sri Lanka. 

Last year, 687 persons belonging to religious minorities were reported killed in over 200 attacks in Pakistan. 

However, Sri Lanka government reportedly deports them despite being registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and having their first instance interviews still pending.

Read the full report on the court decision here 

Refugees from Pakistan reportedly obtain a 30-day tourist visa to Sri Lanka online and stay on after registering with UNHCR, which reviews their case.

 The Sri Lankan government says the Pakistanis are part of an influx of economic immigrants in the past year who have become a burden on the country’s resources and potentially compromised state and regional security.

Receiving no help from Sri Lanka’s  government, Pakistani families are driven to seek aid from the Catholic church or a mosque in the area.

Various human rights activists have written about the plight of asylum seekers in Pakistan and in Sri Lanka.

Earlier this week, Sri Lankan human rights activist Ruki Fernando decried his government’s “inhumane” response to asylum seekers and shared his personal experiences with Pakistani families in Sri Lanka.

Aside from the government, people in Sri Lanka who support repatriation of these asylum seekers “are just as deplorable,” the Catholic human rights defender added.

Read the full text of Fernando’s commentary posted on Ground Views citizen journalist blog site.

Fernando is a Sri Lankan human rights activist who participated in the protective fellowship scheme at University of York’s Center for Applied Human Rights in 2012-2013. He has been involved in international advocacy and protection of human rights defenders who are facing risk, and worked on issues such as freedom of expression and enforced disappearances. 

Pope Francis’ Address to South Korean Authorities – Full Text

“…diplomacy, as the art of the possible, is based on the firm and persevering conviction that peace can be won through quiet listening and dialogue, rather than by mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms and displays of force…” – Pope Francis 

Read full text of the pope’s address to South Korean authorities on Aug. 14, after he celebrated  a private Mass at the apostolic nunciature of Korea and made a courtesy visit to President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea. 

North Korea, hours before the pope arrived in Korea, reportedly fired three short-range rockets into waters off the country’s east coast leading journalists to connect the missile firing to either a visit by Pope Francis or upcoming U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

 

Korean martyrs’ descendants feel pride and burden

Korean martyr Paul Yun Ji-chung screenshot from Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea's website. http://www.koreanmartyrs.or.kr/sbss124_en_view.php?num=1

Korean martyr Paul Yun Ji-chung screenshot from Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea’s website. http://www.koreanmartyrs.or.kr/sbss124_en_view.php?num=1

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — They died well over a century ago, but the 124 Korean Catholic martyrs who will be honored by Pope Francis this week still have a hold over many of their descendants — even some who learned of their sacrifices only in recent years, or whose families are now Buddhist or Protestant.

Read what it’s like to be descendant of a Korean martyr

Resources – Papal visit to Korea to be broadcast live for 124 hours

[updated Aug. 117, 2014, 3:40 a.m.)

Screen shot of slide from main page of host broadcaster for 2014 Pastoral visit of Pope Francis to Korea - http://pope.kbs.co.kr/pc/eng/main/main.php

Screen shot of slide from main page of host broadcaster for 2014 Pastoral visit of Pope Francis to Korea – http://pope.kbs.co.kr/pc/eng/main/main.php

The official Korean broadcast site Station KBS will be covering Pope Francis’ Korea visit Aug. 14-18, 2014.It begins broadcasting coverage of the event at 4:00 PM, Aug. 14 Korea time. 

Screen shot of slide from main page of host broadcaster for 2014 Pastoral visit of Pope Francis to Korea showing the theme of the papal visit inspired by Isaiah 60:1 - http://pope.kbs.co.kr/pc/eng/main/main.php

Screen shot of slide from main page of host broadcaster for 2014 Pastoral visit of Pope Francis to Korea showing the theme of the papal visit inspired by Isaiah 60:1 – http://pope.kbs.co.kr/pc/eng/main/main.php

Screen shot of main page of Station KBS that will broadcast beginning Aug. 14  its coverage and updates on Pope Francis' 2014 pastoral visit. - http://pope.kbs.co.kr/pc/eng/main/main.php

Screen shot of main page of Station KBS that will broadcast beginning Aug. 14 its coverage and updates on Pope Francis’ 2014 pastoral visit. – http://pope.kbs.co.kr/pc/eng/main/main.php

The US- based CathoicTV has included the Visit to South Korea in its Papal programming broadcast over various Catholic television networks in the world.

Tom Fox, author of Pentecost in Asia: A New Way of Being Church, will also be posting updates on National Catholic Reporter’s Francis in Korea section.

Catholic News Service provides analyses and perspective in addition to news coverage.

Official information from the Korea Catholic Church is posted on its  popekorea website

Information on the 6th Asian Youth Day, which Pope Francis will join will be included in AYD2014 website 

 

Seoul cathedral: site for papal reconciliation Mass

Seoul’s cathedral is a 19th-century Gothic structure that seats an estimated 1,000. It sits on top of a small hill, one of the many in the capital city of South Korea. The cathedral, known locally as the Myeong-dong Cathedral, was the first parish in Korea.

National Catholic Reporter’s Tom Fox gives a feel of the cathedral and grounds as Korean Catholics await Pope Francis’ arrival.

Korea’s Arirang News in this video reports on the last leg of preparations for the visit.

 

Text of CBCP President’s call to a day of prayer for peace in Iraq

Most people who joined the 2012 Grand Mission Congress in Marikina City last April were students, teachers, professionals and workers from the youth sector. (N.J. Viehland Photos)

Students, teachers, professionals and workers from the youth sector joined in prayer at the 2012 Grand Mission Congress in Marikina City – N.J. Viehland Photos

The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, echoing Pope Francis’ recent Angelus prayers, has asked his fellow prelates to offer all their Masses on August 18 for peace in Iraq. 

Following is the text of his appeal sent to Catholic In Asia:

This Monday August 18, 2014 at the conclusion of his apostolic visit to Korea, Pope Francis will preside at Mass at the Myeong Dong Cathedral for Peace and Reconciliation. In recent days, we have been made aware of the perilous and life threatening situation that our Christian brethren in northern Iraq are going through.

At the Angelus prayer on July 20th, Pope Francis cried with pain: “Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are pushed out, forced to leave their homes without the opportunity to take anything with them.  To these families and to these people I would like to express my closeness and my steadfast prayer. Dearest brothers and sisters so persecuted, I know how much you suffer; I know that you are deprived of everything.  I am with you in your faith in Him who conquered evil!”

The Pope also appeals to the conscience of all people, and to each and every believer he repeats: “May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation.  Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence …. Mary Queen of peace, pray for us!”

Therefore as a gesture of spiritual unity with our persecuted brethren in northern Iraq and in response to the call of the Holy Father that all the faithful in the whole Church raise a voice of ceaseless prayer for the restoration of peace, I request my archbishops and bishops in the Philippines to offer all our Masses on August 18 as Votive Mass for Peace and Reconciliation in Iraq. It is humbly requested that the archbishops and bishops also disseminate this information to all the priests and mandate the priests to offer the same prayers in all their Masses on August 18. 

It would be opportune for our school children to be asked to pray the rosary in school on August 18 for the healing of Iraq. Let us be united with Pope Francis in this quest for peace. 

Let there be peace!

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Manila, August 12, 2014 

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

 Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

 CBCP President

 

 

Concern about Pope Francis’ Sri Lanka visit mounts with militant climate vs. religious minorities

Militant actions of an ultra-nationalist group of ethnic Sinhalese Buddhists against minority religious groups in Sri Lanka are raising concern among sectors involved in Pope Francis’ visit to the island country next year, a report from Italy says.

Paolo Affato in an article for Vatican Insider online newspaper revealed growing concern over the papal visit as he discussed recent “disturbance” reportedly created by extremist Buddhist monks with other protesters against a workshop organized by Families of the Disappeared people in the 26-year ethnic Tamil separatist war that ended in 2009. 

Center for Society and Religion, an institution of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate’s (OMI)  Colombo Province hosted the workshop. Organizers invited about 30 families to the Center for a “sharing” with members of civil society groups, NGO and foreign diplomats on the disappearance of their relatives in connection with the war.

A joint statement of embassy officials of France, Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland posted on the UK government website reported that “an organized group including monks…made forced entry into the room where the discussions were taking place, shouting violently.” 

Their country’s representatives were in the  workshop venue with family members who had travelled from the Northern Province where the war with minority Tamils centered. “All those present felt that their security was under threat,” the officials at the meeting reported.

Affato in his article discussed the incident in the context of a “climate of hostility and revenge” fueling anti-Christian propaganda and violence blamed on radical Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS, Buddhist Power Force). For example, days after official announcement of dates of the 2015 papal visit, the group’s leader Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara Thero demanded that the pope during his visit apologize to Buddhists for attrocities committed by Christian colonial rulers of the island.

However, the national movement to protect the Catholic religion in the country days later said the demand for apology is part of a plan to disrupt the papal visit, and listed other features of the alleged scheme.

The Holy See announced July 29 that the Pope would make his apostolic visit to Sri Lanka Jan. 12-15, 2015.

“These radical Buddhist groups – whose actions are fueled by fervent nationalism colored by faith and culture – have been targeting Muslims and also Christian Evangelicals and Pentecostals for some time now,” Affato wrote.

He explained, “These religious (Christian) groups are seen as advocates of a strong religious proselytism. Now, these groups (radical Buddhists) seem to be targeting Catholics as well.”

According to Affato, “This has sparked concern among bishops, civil authorities, the Nunciature of Colombo and other European embassies ahead of the Pope’s visit.” 

His article details how Buddhist extremists oppose Pope’s visit to Sri Lanka 

In their joint statement, the foreign officials declared, “The embassies of France, Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland strongly condemn the disruption,” of the Aug. 4 meeting.

“We strongly urge the government to ensure and respect freedom of assembly and expression in Sri Lanka,” they added. They  also expressed their hope that the government would assure meeting participants from the North of their security during their return travel.

Sri Lanka’s Cabinet spokesman , however, has reportedly accused the Western diplomats of “double standard” citing the foreigners’ condemnation of the protests against the meeting by people equally entitled to  freedom of assembly and speech.

“There is a feeling that one sector of people are being taken care by some interested parties with western interests,” Minister Keheliya Rambukwella is quoted saying.

Father Rohan Silva, Superior of OMI Colombo Province,  explained in a media statement that the meeting was part of the Center’s commitment to promote the values of democracy, defend social justice, peace and equality for all citizens. The Center has also worked to promote dialogue among Sri Lankas and non-Sri Lankans, the priest added.

Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, has urged Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Myanmar where they are the majority of the population, to stop violence against Muslim minorities. BBS rejects the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader. 

====================

Full text of Father Silva’s statement on the Aug. 4 meeting disruption follows:

As the Provincial Superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (Colombo Province), I wish to express my feelings of deep disappointment and frustration over the deplorable and despicable incident that transpired at the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR), at 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, on Monday, August 4, 2014.

CSR is the social justice arm of the Oblate religious order and has always championed the cause of the poor and the marginalized, whatever be their race or creed. It has fearlessly raised its voice on behalf of the voiceless victims of injustice during more than 40 years of its existence. CSR’s unwavering concern has always been the liberation of the poor and marginalized people and it always remained open to whatever was good and true irrespective of its source. Its discussion forums on vital issues have always been open to diverse views. Freedom of expression has been one of CSR’s hallmarks. Since its inception, the Centre has been an open forum for all ethnic communities and religions, a haven for opinion makers and academicians, and politicians of all hues to express their views and be heard on the most crucial issues affecting the Nation and her people. It was and continues to be a centre for research and a meeting place for both the powerful and the powerless on equal grounds without fear or favour.

The said incident occurred at a workshop organized by the Families of the Disappeared with the intention of listening to and learning the agonies of those whose loved ones had been the victims of involuntary disappearance irrespective of whether they were from the North or the South. It is also worthy of note that this gathering was reserved for invitees only and a number of foreign diplomats were in attendance at this meeting.

The fact that this meeting had been organized at the CSR is of special significance in this instance. The CSR, founded by the late Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, OMI, has earned the respect and recognition of all political parties and all religious denominations as an institution that promoted the values of democracy and for years had stood for the defence of social justice, peace, equality for all citizens in every sphere of life. Even during some of the darkest moments of the Nation’s history, the CSR remained an oasis where a modicum of sanity prevailed.

It is indeed most unfortunate that these time tested values of the CSR were transgressed and its hallowed precincts violated by a group that forced itself into the premises uninvited and instilling fear and intimidation among those participating in a meeting on purely humanitarian grounds. The CSR is an organization that has created democratic space for dialogue among Sri Lankans and non-Sri Lankans as well and such space has often proved beneficial to generate discussion on social, political and economic issues and clear the air of bias and false rumours that may prove detrimental to society in general and to governments in particular. That democratic space has now being sullied by elements that contribute little to demonstrate to the world that Sri Lanka is a land where kindness and compassion are hallmarks of our national identity. We live in a world where humanitarian concerns transcend national boundaries, hence the presence of non-Sri Lankans should not be construed as external interference.

The CSR premises lie contiguous to a place of worship. Trespassing such sacred space by the use of force and unbecoming and destructive behaviour is simply a violation of the Church’s guaranteed fundamental rights and of those who use those premises for humanitarian and peaceful purposes. The CSR has always held in high esteem all religions and those espousing their values and welcomed all organizations working for humanitarian concerns. In this context, those responsible for the CSR strongly condemn the illegal intrusion into its premises and urge, in no uncertain terms, the law enforcement authorities to bring the law of the land to bear on those who have acted contrary to its tenets, irrespective of their social status.

We also appeal to the leaders of the Church and other peace loving organizations to send out a firm call to the powers that be to bring to a halt the blatant violations of the fundamental and civic rights of the citizens of this country.
Very Rev. Fr. Rohan Silva OMI
Provincial Superior,
Oblates of Mary Immaculate (Colombo Province)

Pope Francis sends ex-Philippines nuncio Filoni on mission of support, aid to Iraq Church

Pope Francis has sent  former nuncio to the Philippines, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to Iraq to deliver a message of support and aid to Christians suffering amid sectarian violence there.

Cardinal Filoni served as nuncio to the Philippines from 1992 to 2001. He served much of this term from Hong Kong where he also participated in the Holy See’s “Study Mission” that reached out to China’s bishops, official and non-official Churches and bishops, reconciling the vast majority to the Holy See.

“My mission in Iraq is to give moral, spiritual and psychological support” he is shown saying in Italian in an interview with Rome Reports.

What is happening in Iraq?

Pope Francis has repeatedly decried the violence in Iraq and Gaza, and called Catholics to pray for peace in these places.

Archbishop Louis Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, offers this prayer to help Catholics worldwide join their  brothers and sisters in Christ in Iraq in daily prayer

 

Retired Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi, former CBCP president, dies

Retired Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi of Caceres, a member of the Dominican order who had served as president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, here with emcee, movie and tv actress and host Boots Anson-Roa during the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization at Pontifical University of Santo Tomas in Manila Oct. 17, 2013  talked about his prayers to Our Lady of Penafrancia while he battles cancer. NJ Viehland Photo

Retired Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi of Caceres, a member of the Dominican order who had served as president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, here with emcee, movie and tv actress and host Boots Anson-Roa during the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE) at Pontifical University of Santo Tomas in Manila Oct. 17, 2013 talked about his prayers to the Lady of Penafrancia while he battles cancer. NJ Viehland Photos

Former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Caceres Archbishop Emeritus Leonardo Z. Legaspi of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), 78,  passed away at 5am Aug. 8,  Feast of Saint Dominic, at University of Santo Tomas (UST) Hospital after losing his battle with cancer, CBCP News reported.

Archbishop Legaspi underwent chemotherapy after doctors found tumors in his lungs in January 2009 and said he had stage three lung cancer, the prelate had announced.

In a press conference organized by Caceres Archdiocese in the Archbishop’s residence in August 2010, the ailing archbishop reported that the tumors had disappeared. He said the Lady of Penafrancia, patroness of the Bicol region where his archdiocese lies, healed him of his tumors.

Read the full Philippine Daily Inquirer report on Bicol’s ailing archbishop claims to have been healed by Virgin Mary 

Last October, Archbishop Legaspi told thousands of participants gathered in the campus of the Dominican-run UST for the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization the story of his devotion to the Lady of Penafrancia, its impact on his life and ministry, especially in surrendering to the Lord and preparing to join his creator. 

This, he said, he continued to do at UST where the prelate lived after turning over leadership of Caceres to his successor, Archbishop Rolando Tria-Tirona, in Nov. 2012.

Following announcement of his death,  colleagues in the CBCP cited among notable endeavors his leadership in Philippine Church renewal after taking over as CBCP president  the year after the 1986 “People Power” uprising that deposed the late President Ferdinand Marcos and restored democratic institutions in the country.

CBCP News quotes Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani, Jr. describing Archbishop Legaspi as “A giant among bishops – a leader with vision and integrity and with huge achievements, especially initiating and leading the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II).”

Legaspi presided over  PCPII, a gathering of more than 470 Church leaders and members – bishops, religious, laity from Jan. 20-Feb. 17, 1991 in  San Carlos Pastoral Formation Complex in Makati, Metro Manila to study changes brought about by Vatican II, the context of Church in the Philippines and discern a path to reform and renewal.

Rest in peace and pray for us, Archbishop Legaspi.

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Commentary: Beatification of Martyrs may intensify Koreans’ reunification hopes – Hector Welgampola

The division of Korea into two countries was never the work of Korean people. It was a cruel accident of history. In the aftermath of World War II, it was imposed on them as part of the division of war spoils. American control of Japan spilt over to Korea’s southern region, while the Soviets’ influence via north Asia got stuck alongside their ideological control of the northern region. The divided country’s political elites did not take long to fall victim to the ideological syndromes.

Despite political estrangement in and after the long prolonged Korean War, the people’s yearning for togetherness still becomes quite palpable whenever families from North and South are permitted to reunite. Seniors from both sides of the sad divide still cherish memories of the past. But as they age, lingering memories begin to weaken. So do hopes of reunification, except for few shared links such as the Catholic Church.

Up until this day, the Korean Catholic Church has known no North/ South divide. The divided nation’s Catholics belong to the Catholic Church of Korea, not of North Korea or of South Korea. And as a symbol of that unity, the archbishop of (South Korea’s) Seoul archdiocese has been the administrator of (North Korea’s) Pyongyang archdiocese.

Whenever possible, the Church prefers to give leadership responsibility to local people. And in consonance with that policy, in 1943, the administration of Pyongyang was delegated to a Northerner: Bishop Francis Borgia Hong Yong-ho. In 1962, despite the 56-year-old apostolic prefect’s disappearance, Saint John XXIII elevated him as head of the diocese.

The one-time flourishing diocese, known as Jerusalem of the East, had some 50,000 Catholics. But while estimates now vary from zero to about a thousand, the bishop and clergy have gone missing since the Korean War. They are assumed to have been martyred under the rule of Kim Il-sung, grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong-un.

Pope Francis’ visit and upcoming beatification of 124 Martyrs, have revived questions about the fate of the long-disappeared Bishop Hong, who would have been 108 years old if still alive. While the Korean Church has asked Rome to beatify the bishop and his companions, faith links across the Demilitarized Zone border keep fanning people’s dreams of reunification.

Even if the hope of seeing such recent martyrs raised to the altar may be remote as of now, the long litany of early martyrs includes several Northerners. 

The social dynamics of such realities will continue to contribute toward upbuilding the Korean Nation’s collective consciousness. They can be part of a process of resource building toward the goal of national reunification that Christians have long desired and strived for. The build-up goes on slow, yet steady. It gathers momentum at its own pace – rather at God’s own pace. As much as that momentum is blessed by the Martyrs’ fragrance of sanctity, it continues to be sustained by everyday witness of God’s people. The laity-founded Korean Church’s now flourishing lay network of Small Christian Communities may offer a timely grace of outreach to Northern compatriots.

A Korean friend recently wrote to me about another small but prophetic move, though some may consider it controversial. He wrote to me about poet Kim Chi-ha‘s reported change of political stance. The dissident Catholic Korean poet is well remembered for his faith-inspired poems as well as for his life witness through imprisonment and harassment under the rule of strong-man Park Chung-hee since 1974. However, reportedly, the literary giant has come out in support of the strongman’s daughter, current President Park Guen-hye. The former prisoner of conscience has claimed that he now wishes to help reunite the politically divided country. No doubt, Kim has drawn inspiration from the faith saga of his nation’s ancient Martyrs as from the witness of his faith contemporaries such as late Catholic president Kim Dae-jung and late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, whom Koreans called “the conscience of the Korean Nation.”

Cardinal Kim persistently promoted the Church’s liberative role in Korean society. A regular patron of people’s rights, he supported groups such as the Korean Catholic Farmers’ Movement as part of an ecumenical church of the people, popularly known as“Hyonjanj” (field) church. His focus was always on the broad picture of Church role in the Nation, not on the numbers game that often fantasised Korea’s growing Catholic population. He was quite dismissive of that phenomenon, whenever I asked him about conversions. “They come, they go!” was his unenthused reply. Even as his country now prepares to beatify 124 more Martyrs, his enduring legacy would still be the event’s spiritual impact on reunification hopes of God’s “minjung,” the struggling masses of the still divided nation.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka  retired Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Bangkok. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka retired Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Bangkok. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook

Vietnam’s new bishop of My Tho acknowledges laity’s role in vibrant Church

Catholic women's groups members prepare to welcome a delegation of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) assigned to visit their parish during the Xth FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc on Dec. 2012. - NJ Viehland Photos

Catholic women’s groups members prepare to welcome a delegation of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) assigned to visit their parish during the Xth FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc on Dec. 2012. – NJ Viehland Photos

Newly appointed Vietnamese Bishop of My Tho, Peter Nguyen Van Kham, has acknowledged the need for formation for lay Catholics who he said must play  a “greater role” in the Church.

Laity bring about vibrancy for the life of the Church, Bishop Kham, former Ho Chi Minh diocesan pastoral center director, was quoted saying in a report of Catholic News Agency (CNA).

Before Mass, Vietnamese Catholic youth cheerfully await a delegation of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) visiting their parish as part of X FABC Plenary Assembly activities in Dec. 2012. - NJ Viehland Photos

Before Mass, Vietnamese Catholic youth cheerfully await a delegation of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) visiting their parish as part of X FABC Plenary Assembly activities in Dec. 2012. – NJ Viehland Photos

Bishop Kham reportedly shared this reflection on his ministry in Ho Chi Minh in an email to CNA after Pope Francis appointed the former auxiliary of Ho Chi Minh as bishop of My Tho in the Mekong Delta on July 26.

Read CNA’s full report on Vietnamese bishop joyful to lead, evangelize new flock

My Tho diocese covers the provinces of Long An and Tiền Giang and two thirds of Đồng Tháp province spread across a land area of 9,262 square kilometers, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam reported on its website.

As of December 31, 2010, the diocese’s 120,300 Catholics among its total population of 4,776,036 were living in areas within its 85 parishes and 34 subparishes and mission stations. Some  124 priests, 242 religious, 41 seminarians, 10 seminary candidates and 366 catechists serve in the diocese.

Xuan Loc was created in 1965 from places under the pastoral care of Ho Chi Minh City archdiocese. In 2010, more than 35 percent of the 2.34 million people living in the diocese had been baptized Catholics. Today, more than 1,700 women religious are helping in Church ministries diocesan officials say. Many of them contributed to discussions, services and operations in support of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences Dec. 10-16, 2012. (N. J. Viehland Photo)

Many of the thousands of Vietnamese religious women contributed to discussions, services and operations in support of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences Dec. 10-16, 2012. (N. J. Viehland Photo)

 

Pope Francis to visit PH Jan. 15-19, 2015 after Sri Lanka – Cardinal Tagle

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

MANILA – Pope Francis will visit the Philippines from Jan. 15 to 19.

Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila announced the schedule of the visit in a press briefing Tuesday at the Manila archdiocese headquarters in Intramuros.“Accepting the invitation of the Civil Authority and the bishops, His Holiness, Pope Francis, will make an apostolic visit to Sri Lanka from January 12 to 15 and to the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2015,” Cardinal Tagle said.Following the cardinal’s announcement, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. welcomed the news of the pope’s visit, especially since it will mark the 20th anniversary of the World Youth Day in the country in 1995.

“President Aquino is calling on all concerned government offices and the citizenry to work closely with the papal visit committee in ensuring the success of the apostolic visit of Pope Francis,” Coloma added. He said the president designated Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. as the government’s lead person for the visit.

Read full report

Empowering Asia’s laity – new book

Screenshot of cover of recently published book on Catholic laity in Asia by Charles Bertille.

Screenshot of cover of recently published book on Catholic laity in Asia by Charles Bertille.


Charles Bertille, the former director of Institute of Formation Fondacio Asia (IFF Asia) recently published his book “Empowering Asia’s Laity”.
Missiologist Father James Kroeger of the Maryknoll Fathers who has spent most of his 40 years as a missionary  in Asia based in the Philippines, described the book as a “labor of love, written by a dedicated Christian layman who has a deep missionary commitment, particularly to the emergence of a dynamic laity within the local Churches in Asia.”
Father Kroeger found in the book solid theology, Asian perspectives on ecclesiology, concrete approaches to evangelization, a vision of ministries–especially lay ministries–in the Churches. The book also offers insights into formation for missionary evangelization, Father Kroeger added.
Since 1997, the American missioner has taught and been engaged in formation work at the Jesuits’ Loyola School of Theology and Mother of Life Catechetical Institute in Quezon City, northeast of Manila. He also has served as a visiting professor at the Major Seminary in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Bertille’s book is sold at Claretian Communications Inc. in the Philippines and Herald Publications SDN BHD in Kuala Lumpur. Proceeds from sales will go to formation of laity and youth.
Young lay Church workers sing at their program closing their formation and leadership training program organized by Fondacio Christians for the World, in their former center in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. (N.J. Viehland Photo)

Young lay Church workers sing at their program closing their formation and leadership training program organized by Fondacio Christians for the World, in their former center in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. (N.J. Viehland Photo)

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Iglesia ni Cristo anniversary draws ‘thank you’ from Aquino, guidelines from Catholic bishops

preached at the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral for his 75th birthday and his creation as cardinal by Pope Francis  last Feb. 22. - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato preached at the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Cotabato’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral for his 75th birthday and his creation as cardinal by Pope Francis last Feb. 22. – NJ Viehland Photos

President Benigno Aquino III  celebrated with a throng of members and friends in events related to the centennial of homegrown Iglesia ni Cristo (INC, Church of Christ) whose teachings contradict Catholic doctrine, a Catholic bishops’ primer on the INC says.

INC celebrated the centennial of its foundation on July 27 mainly in Philippine Arena, a 55,000-seater dome arena legally owned by its New Era University. 

Iglesia officials said more than 1 million people joined their celebration in the arena in Ciudad de Victoria (Victory City), a 75-hectare tourism complex it built in Bocaue town, Bulacan province just north of Manila.

Aquino in his address to  the July 22 gathering of members and friends for the arena’s inauguration thanked the group for the service the arena and the group provide Filipinos.

Officials of INC  endorsed the candidacy of Aquino and his vice president in the 2010 elections. Regarded among “influential” religious groups in the country, INC rules that its 5-8 million member voters  elect its leaders’ choices. 

Last week, House Representatives endorsed the third impeachment complaint filed against the president over use of discretionary funds that the Supreme Court has ruled as unconstitutional.

Iglesia Ni Cristo was registered in the Philippines on July 27, 1914 by Felix Y. Manalo, a Catholic who became a protestant preacher then established his own religion after claiming to be  the last Messenger of God. The group does not publicize the number of its members in the Philippines and abroad.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, who heads the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith had  issued in March a primer  explaining conflicting beliefs of the Catholic Church and Iglesia ni Kristo.

The document hoped to offer guidance particularly to catechists and Catholic educators and formators.

“The respect we give to the religious beliefs of others should motivate us to get to understand those beliefs deeply, as this is demanded by the requirements of sincere dialogue. Differences in what we believe in do not make us distant from those who hold those beliefs, because as J. Maritain put it, among ideas contradictions are inevitable, but not among persons,” Cardinal Quevedo wrote.

Notheless, he stresses, “We cannot close our eyes to the fact that there are serious and deep differences between the Christian Faith and the doctrines of the Iglesia ni Cristo.”

Read A Primer on the Beliefs of Iglesia ni Cristo with the full text of Cardinal Quevedo’s introduction

Nuns reach out to sex workers in fight against prostitution in the Philippines

The mobile phone is an invaluable tool Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries Junior Sister Joy Culaiban uses so women and girl sex workers who want help in leaving prostitution can contact her. - NJ Viehland Photos

The mobile phone is an invaluable tool Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries Junior Sister Joy Culaniban uses so women and girl sex workers who want help in leaving prostitution can contact her. – NJ Viehland Photos

Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries have been encountering sex workers in the field (bars and brothels) for years. The sisters reach out to women and offer them love and listening and, if they want, shelter and a way out of the business, which is driven by poverty. They are also working to prevent entry into prostitution by educating women in rural areas, and they recently have been talking about their work at other dioceses so that the efforts can expand.

Read full report

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Philippines cardinals team up to promote Eucharistic Congress

Four Philippines cardinals with nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto (in black) helped Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, 51st IEC Chairman, and his team present the congress to media at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros. - NJ Viehland Photos

Four Philippines cardinals with nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto (in black) helped Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, 51st IEC Chairman, and his team present the congress to media at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros. – NJ Viehland Photos

MANILA – The four Philippine cardinals who faced media last month drew the connection between everyday life and the 51st International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Cebu, central Philippines, in 2016.

The first International Eucharistic Congress held in the Philippines was in 1937.Cardinals Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato and Luis Tagle of Manila, with retired Cardinals Gaudencio Rosales and Ricardo Vidal, at a June 10 press conference in the Manila archdiocese’s chancery building helped launch the theme, logo, prayers and the song for the meeting, which will be held Jan. 24-30, 2016.

With nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, they shared reflections on the meeting’s theme, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The cardinals and Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu (chairman of the gathering), priests and lay partners answered media’s questions, watched popular Philippine singer Dulce and her son sing the congress song and viewed videos, including a promotional video in which Tagle, Quevedo, media personalities, an actress and Congresswoman Grace Poe appear.

The International Eucharistic Congress is a church event where people from different parts of the world gather to celebrate the Eucharist, reflect its richness and pray before it.

Bringing the faith to the people: The 1975 "Thrilla", was in fact the legendary Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier boxing match. Easter Recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle on April 21,2013 ended with Mass for Good Shepherd Sunday. N.J. Viehland Photos [Product logos are not an endorsement by this blog.]

Bringing the faith to the people: The 1975 “Thrilla”, was in fact the legendary Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier boxing match. Easter Recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle on April 21,2013 ended with Mass for Good Shepherd Sunday. – N.J. Viehland Photos

More than 130 priests and bishops concelebrated at the closing Mass of the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila”, October 3, 2013 at the chapel of Rockwell Power Plant Mall in Makati City. N.J. Viehland Photo

More than 130 priests and bishops concelebrated at the closing Mass of the “First Gathering of the Clergy of the Metropolitan See of Manila”, October 3, 2013 at the chapel of Rockwell Power Plant Mall in Makati City. –  N.J. Viehland Photos

Children, teachers, staff, volunteers, nuns, novices, joined in thanksgiving at Mass onFatima Center for Human Development's 30th foundation anniversary / N J Viehland Photo

Children, teachers, staff, volunteers, nuns, novices, joined in thanksgiving at Mass onFatima Center for Human Development’s 30th foundation anniversary – N J Viehland Photos

Read the full report and insights of the Church leaders on the upcoming congress, the first to be held under Pope Francis.

Bishops’ conference not part of latest complaint to impeach Aquino, CBCP

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan walks back to the plenary hall at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after a break in the 2012 plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines which he now serves as President. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan walks back to the plenary hall at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after a break in the 2012 plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines which he now serves as President. – NJ Viehland Photos

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan signed the impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III on Monday as an individual and does not represent the position of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), conference president Archbishop Socrates Villegas stressed in a statement shortly after the filing.

Archbishop Cruz joined 27 other individuals in filing the complaint and petitioning the House of Representatives to impeach Aquino over a funds disbursement program called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that the Supreme Court has ruled as unconstitutional. 

“I have no doubt that the good Archbishop himself will like it clarified that his decision to be one of the complainants is his alone, in the exercise of his discretion and as a result of his personal discernment,” Archbishop Villegas wrote.

He added that the position that any bishop takes on any particular issue is not necessarily that of the CBCP.

Villegas said the CBCP as the highest assembly of Catholic bishops in the Philippines “neither supports the filing of any impeachment complaint against the President” nor will it “begrudge anyone, member of the clergy, or laity, the exercise of constitutionally and statutorily recognized rights.”

Acknowledging today’s “difficult and confusing times,” the prelate reiterated his call for everyone to submit to the Constitution as the prime expression of the covenant by which the Filipino people have determined the form and the operations of their government adding that there is a very important distinction between what is popular — or appear to be so — and what is right.

Following is the full text of  Archbishop Villegas’ statement sent to Catholic in Asia:

Through the media, I have been informed that Archbishop emeritus Oscar V. Cruz is one of the signatories of an impeachment complaint filed with the House of Representatives against the incumbent President.

I have no doubt that the good Archbishop himself will like it clarified that his decision to be one of the complainants is his alone, in the exercise of his discretion and as a result of his personal discernment.  As in the past, Archbishop Cruz has exhibited a lively interest in the events of our day, as should all Catholics.

It should also be clear, however, that the position that any bishop takes on any particular issue is not necessarily that of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines. That is to say that the CBCP as the highest assembly of Catholic bishops in the Philippines neither supports the filing of any impeachment complaint against the President, but it will neither begrudge anyone, member of the clergy, or laity, the exercise of constitutionally and statutorily recognized rights.

These are difficult and often confusing times.  We reiterate our earlier call for all to submit to the Constitution as the prime expression of the covenant by which the Filipino people have determined the form and the operations of their government.  There is a very important distinction between what is popular — or appear to be so — and what is right.

I pray that all our officials ever be cognizant of this important difference so that all may resist the temptation of pursuing a course of action only because it seems to be popular.  We urge respect for the breadth and the limits of constitutionally allocated powers between the great branches of government.

In the wake of recent events of which the public has been made aware through the media, we stand for an independent judiciary. To insist that ours be a government of laws and not of men is not to subordinate the human person to the law, but to uphold the equality of all before the law so that the powerful may not trample upon the week and so that all enjoy the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

Let the government show the citizenry that the law is at all times to be obeyed, for only under such a regime are rights and liberties safeguarded.

We urge our citizens to keep themselves informed, to be circumspect in their actions and in their statements, and to allow their discernment at all times to be inspired by the Gospel, and governed by the law of love.

July 21, 2014

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP

Read also

Catholic bishop, missionary priest among those seeking Philippines president’s impeachment

Catholic bishop, missionary priest file impeachment complaint vs Aquino

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan (right) chats with Franciscan Fr. Robert Reyes at Manila Hotel during a break in the August 26, 2013 forum on the Priority Development Assistance Fund that has since then been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. - NJ Viehland Photos

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan (right) chats with Franciscan Fr. Robert Reyes at Manila Hotel during a break in the August 26, 2013 forum on the Priority Development Assistance Fund that has since then been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. – NJ Viehland Photos

Former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) who is chief judge of the Church’s national marriage appeals court and a Sacred Heart missionary priest joined 26 other individuals who signed on July 21 the complaint seeking President Benigno Aquino III’s impeachment over a funds disbursement program that the Supreme Court has ruled as unconstitutional.

Complainant Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a canon lawyer who retired in 2009 as archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan serves as Judicial Vicar of the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal and directs the CBCP’s Legal Office. 

However, CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas has stressed that his predecessor as Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan in filing the complaint is acting “alone, in the exercise of his discretion and as a result of his personal discernment.”  

Archbishop Villegas in a statement issued shortly after the complaint was filed in the House of Representatives said that the 124-member CBCP, as the “highest assembly of Catholic bishops in the Philippines neither supports the filing of any impeachment complaint against the President.”  

Co-complainant priest Fr. Benjamin Alforque of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) is a biblical theologian who has been teaching Sacred Scriptures in various theology schools and formation houses in the Philippines and lecturing abroad on this and various topics, including promoting justice, peace and integrity of creation.

He co-chaired the Justice and Peace Commission of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (JPC_AMRSP) and the ecumenical group Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR). A political detainee under Martial Law (1972-1981), Fr. Alforque became a founding member of the association of former political detainees in the Philippines (SELDA) and founding member also of the human rights group, KARAPATAN.

Read full text of the impeachment complaint the clergy filed with House Representatives, leaders of civil-society groups, anti-corruption and anti-pork activists, and other concerned citizens.

Read also 

Catholic bishop, missionary priest among those seeking Philippines president’s impeachment

Pork tales

 

Malaysia Airlines MH17 – more than a story of political strife

Youth sitting in front of the altar in the candle-lit San Fernando de Dilao church, Paco where Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila led the archdiocese's Day of Lament and Hope prayer service for victims and survivors of recent calamities in the Philippines. By NJ Viehland

Youth sitting in front of the altar in the candle-lit San Fernando de Dilao church, Paco where Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila led the archdiocese’s Day of Lament and Hope prayer service for victims and survivors of recent calamities in the Philippines. By NJ Viehland

Social media offer the public a peek into the hearts and minds of people who were on the doomed Malaysian airlines flight that crashed in East Ukraine  on Thursday reportedly killing all 298 passengers and crew.

Malaysia Airlines released the full flight manifest Saturday of the persons on board the flight MH17 that was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and urged family members and friends to contact the airline.

View MH17 flight manifest here

Passenger Ariza Ghazalee posted on Facebook  a picture of 15 pieces of luggage on a sidewalk about to be loaded into a car that would take her family to Schiphol Airport, the Netherlands for the flight to Malaysia and a new life, a July 18 post on the Wallstreet Journal blog reports.

The blog describes photos, the story of the Ghazalees’ European vacation, plans to migrate from Kazakhstan to Malaysia, and even reports a Taylor University’s (Malaysia) confirmation that her son was on the flight that was believed to have been downed by a surface-to-air missile.

Read the WSJ full blog here

Their plane that reportedly left Amsterdam at 12.15 pm, local time was believed to have been shot down by the missile causing it to crash into grasslands and flower fields in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia rebels.

As authorities investigate the alleged attack, relatives and friends of passengers anxiously await information on their loved ones.

Filipino fatality Irene Pabillon Gunawan was reportedly traveling with her husband, Hadiono, and their two children to join a family reunion in Quezon Province, northern Philippines. Her family is reportedly waiting anxiously for instructions from the Department of Foreign Affairs on the remains of their  loved ones.

Relatives in the Philippines have spoken with Rappler social news network about their grief and sense of loss in the death of a loving, generous and caring person.

A text message that came in to her sister-in-law’s cell phone had Irene signing off as passengers were boarding the plane. “Be careful always that the trees won’t fall on you…” she added in her text message in Tagalog language.

Parts of the Philippines was suffering from the effects of typhoon Glenda (International Name Rammasun) then. 

Irene who had spent around 30 years in the Netherlands with her Indonesian husband who worked for Malaysian Airlines was reportedly sending siblings and a nephew through school. Kim, the nephew, recalls one of Irene’s Facebook posts in which she comments on relatives plans for a night of drinking and videoke. She reportedly asked them to wait for her so they can have a videoke concert and go drinking.

Reading WSJ and Rappler’s full story on MH17 passenger Irene Pabillon Gunawan and family pinches the heart, and reminds one that MH17 is not just a story of geopolitics , but is more so a story of persons, many of whom are ordinary, non-politicized people who are unfamiliar with issues and conflicts outside their own context. 

Sadly, missiles and weapons of war in this age strike down more than just their physical targets. They shatter countless lives, hopes and future of innocent people and their families across the globe, far away from the center of the conflict.

To join “Prayers Are Awesome’s” Facebook prayer for MH17 Ukraine victims, click prayer sharing

Warning to public on Philippines papal visit racket

Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines (second from left), watching presentations at the dinner honoring Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato on his 75th birthday and creation as cardinal in Cotabato City on March 2014. Left to right he sat with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Auxiliary Bishop Collin Bagaforo of Cotabato, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro and Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines (second from left), watching presentations at the dinner honoring Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato on his 75th birthday and creation as cardinal in Cotabato City on March 2014. Left to right he sat with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Auxiliary Bishop Collin Bagaforo of Cotabato, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro and Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. – NJ Viehland Photos

Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Guiseppe Pinto has asked the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to warn the public about unauthorized sale of tickets to Masses and events during Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines next year.

In a letter addressed to CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Pinto revealed the “unpleasant information” the nunciature has received about groups who might wish “to take advantage of the papal visit to exploit innocent people and enrich themselves.”

Expressing regret in his letter dated July 8, he called on Villegas to “announce to the Filipino people that no tickets will be sold for any of the papal gatherings.”

END

Related reports

CBCP Document: Pastoral Letter to Prepare for 2015 Papal Visit

What can Asia expect of upcoming papal visits?

“United in Grief” over Malaysia Airlines 17 crash – Najib Razak

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speaking at a press conference televised from Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, July 17, expressed shock and sadness over  Malaysian Airlines flight 17’s crash allegedly after being shot down over eastern Ukraine.

Following is the text of Razak’s statement in which he vowed thorough investigation into the tragedy that has thrown people of various nationalities together in grief…

Yesterday evening, I was informed of the terrible and deeply shocking news that a Malaysia Airlines jet went down in eastern Ukraine.

Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the jet was Malaysia Airlines flight 17, which was on a scheduled flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The flight departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm, local time. It was scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 6.10 am, local, Malaysian time.

The aircraft was a Boeing 777-200.

The aircraft’s flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

And International Air Transportation Association has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions.

Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the aircraft did not make a distress call.

The flight was carrying a total number of 295 people – comprising 280 passengers and 15 crew members.

Malaysia Airlines is in the process of notifying the next-of-kin of the passengers and crew. All possible care will be provided to the next-of-kin.

The Government of Malaysia is dispatching a special flight to Kiev, carrying a Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team, as well as a medical team.

According to information provided by Kiev Air Traffic Control, the location of the plane’s emergency locator beacon is 48 degrees 7 minutes and 23 seconds North; and 38 degrees 31 minutes and 33 seconds East.

The Ukrainian authorities believe that the plane was shot down.

At this early stage, however, Malaysia is unable to verify the cause of this tragedy.  

But we must – and we will – find out precisely what happened to this flight.

No stone can be left unturned.

If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice.

Emergency operations centres have been established. In the last few hours, Malaysian officials have been in constant contact with their counterparts in Ukraine and elsewhere.

And I will be speaking to a number of world leaders over the coming hours.

I have had several conversations with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

I have also spoken to the President of Ukraine. He has pledged that there will be a full, thorough and independent investigation, and Malaysian officials will be invited to take part.  

The Ukrainian president also confirmed that his government will negotiate with rebels in the east of the country, in order to establish a humanitarian corridor to the crash site.

Just now, I received a call from President Obama.

He and I both agreed that the investigation must not be hindered in anyway.

An international team must have full access to the crash site.

And no one should interfere with the area, or move any debris, including the black box.

This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia.

As we work to understand what happened, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those on board the flight.

I cannot imagine what they must be going through at this painful time.

The flight’s passengers and crew came from many different countries.

But today, regardless of nationality, we are all united in grief.

-

A bulletin posted by Malaysia Airlines listed the number of passengers and crew according to nationality as follows:

Nationality Total
Netherlands 154
Malaysia 43 (including 15 crew & 2 infants)
Australia 27
Indonesia 12 (including 1 infant)
United Kingdom 9
Germany 4
Belgium 4
Philippines 3
Canada 1
Unverified 41
Total 298

 

 

Pope Francis, visit war-torn areas and survivors – Tamil Civil Society Groups

Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF) has called upon Pope Francis to visit war-torn areas in the North and East and visit the survivors of the “war  against Tamils”, as part of his visit to Sri Lanka in 2015.

TCSF – a network of Tamil civil society social activists from the North and East including Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar, aired their appeal in a letter to the Pope on Sunday. It requested him to openly call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to genuinely address grievances of Tamils during his meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The text of the letter is published on Eye Sri Lanka

Address grievances of all factions – human rights, justice and peace advocate

In her presentation to last month’s International Conference on Politics and International Affairs in Athens, Salma Yusuf, pointed out that while the defeat of the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) in May 2009 ended the three decades-long conflict, its root causes remain.

Yusuf, university lecturer and adviser to programs on human rights law, transitional justice, comparative social justice and peace-guilding, stressed that grievances of all factions in the conflict have to be addressed. 

“When advocating reconciliation and unity, the fears and anxieties of all communities must be acknowledged, understood and addressed,” Yusuf said.

She warned, “An over-emphasis on the grievances of the Tamil community alone which is the natural tendency can lead to new waves of conflict and at must be avoided at all costs.” 

Read full text of her presentation  titled Sri Lanka: Reconciliation is Both a Process and a Goal 

Related posts

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist-Muslim Clashes Reveal the Evil of Politicising Religion

Ruki Fernando Out of Detention, Is He Free?

What Can Asia Expect from Upcoming Papal Visits?

 

Korea will give Pope Francis a peep into the mosaic of Asian Christianity, by Hector Welgampola

The Churches of the global South have begun to feature pretty well on the agenda of Pope Francis’ early travels. His first trip was to attend the World Youth Day activities in Brazil. Then came his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May. Come August, the pope will travel to South Korea. He is due to attend the Asian Youth Day there and the beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs.

Korean martyr Paul Yun Ji-chung screenshot from Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea's website. http://www.koreanmartyrs.or.kr/sbss124_en_view.php?num=1

Korean martyr Paul Yun Ji-chung screenshot from Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea’s website. http://www.koreanmartyrs.or.kr/sbss124_en_view.php?num=1

 Outreach to North Korea?

Brazil offered Pope Francis a brief encounter with groups of youth worldwide: the future Church. In South Korea he will meet with the future Church of Asia. His visit venue is 200 kilometres away from the venue of the recent ferry disaster. But, the tragic tales of the ferry martyrs will be even more palpable than distant memories about the beati Martyrs. Yet, more eloquent than the silence of all these dead is the muffled cry of living martyrs.  The first Asian visit can offer Pope Francis an opportunity for pastoral outreach to the entire Korean Nation, which was divided six decades ago by outside intervention. Just as Pope Paul VI spoke to the Chinese Nation from Hong Kong in 1970, no doubt, Pope Francis could reach out to all Koreans of North and South with a reconciliatory message. Exposure to the last vestiges of political ideology that still linger in Asia may also help alert him to newer threats of neo-racism sprouting in the region.

Catholic Korean lay volunteers and Sisters of Mary nuns from Korean Boys Town and Girls Town joined Filipino Sisters of Mary and other Catholics led by Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in celebrating the 20th death anniversary of Fr. Aloysius Schwartz in Cavite Province. - NJ Viehland Photos

Catholic Korean lay volunteers and Sisters of Mary nuns from Korean Boys Town and Girls Town joined Filipino Sisters of Mary and other Catholics led by Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in celebrating the 20th death anniversary of Fr. Aloysius Schwartz in Cavite Province. – NJ Viehland Photos

Laity-founded Church

The laity-founded Korean Church has been unique in many ways. Like most early Asians, Koreans revered the written word. Some Korean scholars visiting China about 300 years ago, brought home Scripture texts including those of Jesuit missioner Matteo Ricci. Laypeople’s study of these texts led to further visits to China where they sought Baptism in 1784. Scripture-based faith sharing sustained the priestless lay Church. And when missioners first arrived nearly 50 years later, they were surprised to find a faith community of 4,000 Catholics.

Integrated faith and witness

Lay spirituality has been the backbone of the Korean Church. During the last century, the virility of Korean laity’s faith became evident in the founding of lay groups such as the Korean Catholic Farmers’ Movement and the Woori Theology Institute. Woori’s young lay theologians have engaged in theological research and sociological surveys related to the everyday life of the local Church. Their research projects have helped improve the effectiveness of pastoral programs. As need arose, these lay movements worked alongside the Korean Priests’ Association for Justice. The Jesuari prayer movement met another aspect of people’s spiritual needs.

Such faith witness was encouraged by the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, whom Koreans often described as “the Nation’s conscience.” The first Korean to receive the red hat, he prided that his Myeongdong Cathedral had become the rallying point of striking workers of various faiths. The Korean Church integrated people’s faith witness with solidarity in people’s struggle for human rights in a fast industrialised society.

Lay saints

In many countries, canonisation is considered a privilege of clergy and Religious. But the vast number of Korean saints are laypeople. In 1984, Saint John Paul II canonised 103 Korean Martyrs. And on the upcoming visit, Pope Francis will participate in the beatification of another 124 Martyrs. They all personify the faith journey of mostly laity among some 8,000 Catholics persecuted for their faith through 18th-19th centuries. More importantly, although the country is divided as North and South Korea, the Church is not. And so the martyrs include Northerners as well as Southerners.

While celebrating the faith integrity of such witnesses who died for the faith, the Church needs more the integrity of those who live it out in service. The late president Kim Dae-jung’s long political struggle as well as the earlier faith witness of poet Kim Chi-ha are just two examples of such Eucharistic service as bread broken to feed people’s contextual hunger for justice, peace.

Lived witness

Jesus’ multiplication of loaves “shows the future Heaven,” said Kim Chi-ha in the “Declaration of Conscience” he wrote in prison in his early years. This reality is further depicted in his poem:

“Food is heaven As you can’t go to heaven by yourself Food has to be shared Food is heaven As you see the stars in heaven together Food is to be shared with everybody When the food goes into a mouth Heaven is worshipped in the mind Food is heaven Ah, ah, food is to be shared by everybody.”

Kim’s earlier poetry was similar to that of Latin American Ernesto Cardinale, which cannot be unfamiliar to Pope Francis. More than any recent pope, he is equipped with the grace to grasp the native wavelength of people’s yearnings that are variedly tagged in Asia as Korea’s Minjung theology, Japan’s Burakumin theology or India’s Dalit theology, all of which reflect the Gospel’s call for sharing and justice. Will he listen to these Southern voices of the Spirit, which some Church leaders have heard but not heeded? END

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka  retired Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Bangkok. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka retired Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Bangkok. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook

Vatican’s new ‘media czar’ no stranger to Asians

Lord Chris Patten, Britain’s last Governor of Hong Kong before the European state handed over its colony to the Chinese in 1997, has been appointed to head the mixed committee of Vatican staff and international experts created to propose reforms over the year in Vatican’s media operations.

Edward Pentin in his blog for National Catholic Register called Patten the Vatican’s new “media czar.”

He cited Patten’s as “one of the most interesting appointments” in Australian Cardinal George Pell’s July 9 announcement of developments in Pope Francis’ efforts to reform the Roman Curia. The pope has appointed the Australian cardinal prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, which is auditing and supervising offices of the Roman Curia, the Vatican City State and institutions connected to the Holy See. 

Hong Kong is both part of China and outside of it as defined in the 1984 Joint Declaration, the treaty under which Britain handed over its former colony. Seventeen years after the hand over, the struggle for power and control continues between the Special Administrative Region and the Beijing government.

 

Franciscan Sisters’ school expands education to Aeta

Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Sr. Mary Francis Borje, 75, looks in on the culture class of the indigenous Aeta cultural group of students at St. Francis Learning Center in Subic, Zambales, which she started and coordinates, after serving four years in mission among Dayak tribespeople in Indonesia. She was assigned to Subic in 1990, more than a decade after returning to the Philippines.. (N.J. Viehland)

Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Sr. Mary Francis Borje, 75, looks in on the culture class of the indigenous Aeta cultural group of students at St. Francis Learning Center in Subic, Zambales, which she started and coordinates, after serving four years in mission among Dayak tribespeople in Indonesia. She was assigned to Subic in 1990, more than a decade after returning to the Philippines.. (N.J. Viehland)

Coming to Subic just before the rampage of Mt. Pinatubo volcano was more than coincidence. The Lord knows many things I do not know. – Sister Mary Francis Borje, SFIC

Read full story   Franciscan Sisters’ school expands education to Aeta

 

CBCP Document: Pastoral Guidance on Reproductive Health Law

(Updated July 10, 11:23 pm)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has released a pastoral guide on the implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) law to properly inform Catholic health workers, government officials and employees, educators and the faithful about their rights in relation to the Supreme Court’s recent decision that paved the way for the implementation of the controversial law.

Quezon City hospital doctors and nurses - NJ Viehland Photos

Quezon City hospital doctors and nurses – NJ Viehland Photos

The Supreme Court in April ruled that Republic Act No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act is not unconstitutional as petitioners asserted, except with respect to certain provisions.  

Bishops reflected on these developments during their seminar last week ahead of their July 5-7 semi-annual plenary assembly in Manila, finalized the document titled Pastoral Guidance on the Implementation of the Reproductive Health Law on July 7 and released it to media.

Following is the full text of the pastoral guide:

Pastoral Guidance on the Implementation of the Reproductive Health Law

“Truly children are a gift from the Lord;
the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps 127:3).

OUR dear brother priests, Catholic physicians and health care workers, government officials and employees, educators and fellow Church workers:

While we would have wanted the Supreme Court to nullify the RH Law (Republic Act No. 10354), we must now contend with the fact that it has ruled rather to strike down important provisions of the law in deciding Imbong v. Ochoa, G.R. 204819 (April 8, 2014) and companion cases.

It is our pastoral duty to pass the necessary information and instruction to our Catholics who, as health care workers (physicians, nurses, midwives, medical aides, medical technologists, etc.), are employed in health facilities, whether public or private, so that they may know what their rights are under the law as passed upon by the High Court. The same duty is owed to our Catholic government officials and employees who, in the discharge of their public duties, may be asked to enforce the RH Law. The Supreme Court majority opinion alone is 104 pages long and many may not have the patience nor the skill to make their way through the legal argumentation involved.

As teachers of the faith and morality, assisted by our legal experts, we are presenting an outline of the salient points in the Supreme Court decision which we think may be helpful for our pastoral ministry and discernment:

1. The Supreme Court points out that the whole idea of contraception (as the means to control population growth) runs through the RH Law. It is in fact the governing and overarching principle of the RH Law. Other provisions such as skilled birth attendance, maternal care including pre- and post-natal services, prevention and management of sexually-related diseases and sicknesses are already provided for in the Magna Carta for Women. In rendering its decision in the Imbong case, the Court affirms the principles of “no-abortion” and “no-coercion” in the adoption of any family planning method.

2. The right to life is grounded on natural law and is inherent in a person, and therefore not a creation of, or dependent upon a particular law, custom or belief. The right to life precedes and transcends any authority or the laws of men.

3. Abortifacients are prohibited by the RH Law. An abortifacient is any drug or device that: a) induces abortion; or b) induces the destruction of a fetus inside the mother’s womb; or c) prevents the fertilized ovum to reach and to be implanted in the mother’s womb.

In this regard, it is important to point out that the Supreme Court has invalidated two related provisions in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Law for inserting the modifier ‘primarily’ in the definitions of “abortifacient” and “contraceptive”. The Court notes that the word “primarily” (which is not found in the RH Law itself) would HAVE INTRODUCED THE SURREPTITIOUS INTRODUCTION OF DRUGS AND DEVICES THAT, THOUGH PRIMARILY NOT ABORTIFACIENT, WERE ALSO ABORTIFACIENT IN USE AND IN EFFECT. The Court clarifies that, consistent with the no-abortion spirit of the RH Law, even contraceptives that have no such primary intention, but have the secondary effect of destroying the fetus or preventing nidation (attaching of the fertilized egg to the uterine wall), should be considered as abortifacients and are, therefore, banned.

4. No contraceptive that harms or destroys the life of the unborn from conception or fertilization, either as a primary or secondary effect, can be allowed under the law, even if it be advertised, categorized, distributed and announced as a contraceptive. The determining factor therefore is whether or not the supposed contraceptive also prevents nidation, or the attaching of the fertilized egg to the uterine wall, or destroys the zygote, embryo, blastocyst or fetus. If it does, then it cannot be allowed under the law.

5. In the distribution by the Department of Health of contraceptive drugs and devices, the provisions of an existing law, R.A. 4729, must be complied with. Said law makes it unlawful for any person, partnership or corporation to sell, dispense or otherwise distribute, whether for or without consideration, any contraceptive drug or device, unless such sale, dispensation or distribution is by a duly licensed drug store or pharmaceutical company and with the prescription of a qualified medical practitioner.

TO OUR KNOWLEDGE, NO SINGLE CONTRACEPTIVE HAS YET BEEN SUBMITTED TO THE FDA PURSUANT TO THE RH LAW.

6. The Court expresses itself very strongly on the following point: “At this point, the Court is of the strong view that Congress cannot legislate that hormonal contraceptives and intra-uterine devices are safe and non-abortifacient. The first sentence of Section 9 that ordains their inclusion by the National Drug Formulary in the Essential Drug List (EDI), by using the mandatory ‘shall’ is to be construed as operative only after they have been tested, evaluated and approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA). The FDA, not Congress, has the expertise to determine whether a particular hormonal contraceptive or intrauterine device is safe and non-abortifacient.” We urge our Catholic doctors, for example, the Association of Doctors for Life, to demand from the FDA the testing and evaluation of all contraceptive drugs and devices, including those that are already being presently sold and made available to the public, as to whether they are safe, legal, and non-abortifacient.

7. When a health care worker who objects, on religious or moral grounds, to contraceptives is compelled by the law to refer the patient seeking information on modern reproductive health products and services to another who may be willing to supply such information or services, this obligation to refer already burdens the objector to do something that his conscience forbids him to do. The premise of this holding is the inviolability of the human conscience.
Put more directly, when a health-care worker, whether practicing on his own or as part of a public or private healthcare facility, objects, on the basis of conscience, to artificial contraception, such a health-worker is NOT OBLIGED AND MAY REFUSE to refer a patient to anyone else (health-care worker or facility) from where the contraceptives may be obtained.
The Supreme Court observes that “though it has been said that the act of referral is an opt-out clause, it is, however, a false compromise because it makes pro-life health providers complicit in the performance of an act that they find morally repugnant or offensive.”

8. The same rule therefore applies to non-maternity specialty hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious groups and health care service providers. While, originally, Section 24 compelled such institutions, under pain of penalty, to refer patients to facilities or institutions that can render contraceptive services, the Court struck down this COMPULSORY REFERRAL as UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

9. Section 5.24 of the RH – IRR reads: “Provided, that skilled health professionals such as provincial city or municipal health officers, chiefs of hospitals, head nurses, supervising midwives, among others who by virtue of their office are specifically charged with the duty to implement the provisions of the RPRH Act and these rules cannot be considered as conscientious objectors.”

THE COURT RULES THAT THIS SECTION OF THE IRR IS DISCRIMINATORY AND IN VIOLATION OF THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE of the Constitution. What this means therefore is that the right to conscientious objection can be claimed and exercised even by health-care workers in the employ of the government. Obviously, Catholics should not, on moral grounds, seek employment in the very government agencies that promote artificial contraception. But if circumstances compelled them to be employed in such agencies, or if they were already employees at the time the agencies adopted a pro-RH policy, said Catholics should be aware that they cannot be forced to promote, distribute or dispense artificial contraceptives against their religious or moral conviction.

10. The accommodation granted the conscientious objector, however, does not extend to emergency cases, as when the mother’s life is in danger. When a patient, for example, is rushed to the emergency room who has, with the help of a backstreet abortionist, commenced the abortion procedure that is botched, although the fetus has already been destroyed, with the result that she is bleeding profusely, the health-care providers cannot refuse intervention or treatment on the ground of conscientious objection but must take all steps necessary to save the life of the mother. This exception is based on natural law, which calls for the preservation of human life.

11. FAITHFUL TO THE STATE POLICY TO PROTECT THE FAMILY, the Court has ruled that when a married person seeks an irreversible form of contraception (vasectomy and tubal ligation provide the most ready examples), BOTH SPOUSES must give their consent, and when the spouses disagree, the procedure may not be performed. This is in marked contrast to the original provision of the law that would have allowed the choice of the person who was to undergo the procedure to make the final call. But this, the Supreme Court rightly rules, would have directly eroded family cohesion that the Constitution obligates the State to protect and to promote.

Delegates view posters of programs and concerns of colleagues and various groups in Asia during the 7th Asia-Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights in Manila on Jan. 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Delegates view posters of programs and concerns of colleagues and various groups in Asia during the 7th Asia-Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights in Manila on Jan. 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

12. The Court also emphatically holds that EVEN IF THE MINOR IS ALREADY A PARENT OR HAS HAD A MISCARRIAGE, she will still need the consent of her parents in order to receive surgical or non-surgical family planning services. The Court reasons that parental authority over the minor is not lost by the incidence of a miscarriage or premature parenthood.
“It is precisely in such situations when a minor parent needs the comfort, care, advice and guidance of her own parents. The State cannot replace her natural mother and father when it comes to providing her needs and comfort. To say that their consent is no longer relevant is clearly anti-family. It does not promote unity in the family. It is an affront to the constitutional mandate to protect and to strengthen the family as an inviolable social institution.”
By way of an exception, the Court upholds the right of the minor to receive information about family planning services, and to undergo emergency surgical procedures in life-threatening situations.

13. The Court recognizes the right of private educational institutions to be excluded from the mandatory reproductive health program under Section 14, on the ground of the recognition of the academic freedom of private educational institutions especially with respect to religious instruction. Our Catholic schools then are not obliged to propagate the reproductive health curriculum of the government, although, consistent with church teaching, they must prepare our youngsters to be responsible parents.

14. Our Catholic brethren employed in the different local government units and performing non-medical functions should also be informed that they have the right not to support or participate in the implementation of reproductive health program, based on religious or ethical ground. The Supreme Court has voided the provision in the RH Law that compels them to implement the Law regardless of their religious or ethical beliefs.

15. Significantly, the Court says: “Be that as it may, it bears reiterating that the RH Law is a mere compilation and enhancement of the prior existing contraceptive and reproductive health laws, but with coercive measures xxx All the same, the principle of ‘no abortion’ and ‘non-coercion’ in the adoption of any family planning method should be maintained.”
The salutary measures taken by the Supreme Court to strike down what it found to be the constitutionally infirm provisions of this dangerous law will be for naught unless we pass on this necessary information to our Catholic brethren who are impacted by the law.

It is therefore strongly suggested that each diocese organize seminars and symposia at which our Catholics employed or exercising their professions in hospitals, clinics and similar facilities, public or private, and those working in local government units whose functions may involve the implementation and promotion of the RH Law, are in attendance and where they may receive proper instruction on this important decision of the Supreme Court and their rights following from the said ruling.
It is good to keep in mind that the RH Law also mandates the government to promote and support Natural Family Planning, particularly if this is demanded by local communities.

The Episcopal Commission on Family and Life as well at the CBCP Legal Office will be available to give formation seminars in the various ecclesiastical circumscriptions upon the invitation of the bishops. May Mary Mother of Life guide our every step in protecting the dignity of human life and protecting every human life from harm! “Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps 127:3).

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+SOCRATES VILLEGAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP
July 7, 2014

Priests apologize for shaming of unwed mom

The priest who harangued and scolded an unwed teenage mother during the baptism of her baby has apologized and his religious order has promised to discipline the priest.

Screenshot of Fr. Obach's letter of apology.

Screenshot of Fr. Obach’s letter of apology.

The baby’s grandmother recorded the incident on her cellphone and later uploaded it to her Facebook page. She also wrote about the humiliation the priest subjected her daughter to.

Read full report

The baptizing priest, Father Romeo Obach belongs to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) – Cebu Province  which issued on July 8 its statement on Fr. Obach, CSsR

Following is the full text of the Redemptorists-Cebu statement :

CONGREGATIO SS. REDEMPTORIS
Provincial Superior
Cebu Province
Provincial Office
Don Ramon Aboitiz St.
6000 Cebu City, Philippines

1. We, the Redemptorists of the Province of Cebu are deeply saddened by the incident that happened on July 6, 2014 at the Sacred Heart Chaplaincy in Jagobiao, Mandaue City. The said incident involved one of our confreres, Fr. Romeo Obach, CSsR. We were made aware that the incident was videoed and uploaded on social media and has since gone viral.

As a religious community we DO NOT CONDONE such an UNACCEPTABLE ACT as it is contrary to the Charism and Mission for which our Congregation was founded – compassion especially to the poor and the most abandoned. We sincerely feel for the family and to them we extend our heartfelt apology.

2. An INTERNAL INVESTIGATION is underway. Rest assured that appropriate SANCTIONS on the part of the involved will be applied once the investigation is complete so that justice may prevail.

3. We will reach out the aggrieved family at the appropriate and most opportune time to address this particular matter. We respect their situation at the moment and sympathize with their hurt and anger over this matter.

4. The Redemptorist Community has always upheld the rights of the poor and disenfranchised since the first missionaries arrived here in Cebu in 1906. And this has been our conviction through the decades. It is but unfortunate that the incident involving Fr. Obach occurred, as he has been a good missionary for many years. He has served in many capacities and various places heeding the challenges of the congregation, yet he is also human and prone to lapse of judgment and imprudence.

5. We appeal for calm and sobriety from everyone even as we try to assess both the outcome of the investigation of our confrere and at the same time reach out to the family. We appreciate that if you have further concerns, address them to the SUPERIOR of the Redemptorists.

6. May this also serve as a reminder to us in the religious life and the clergy of our role as pastors: that we are called to serve and not be served and to offer our lives for all (cf. Mt. 20:28). On behalf of the Redemptorist Community of Cebu, we extend our sincere and humble apologies.

Fr. Alfonso Suico, Jr, C.Ss.R
Media Liaison

 

Catholic Bishops’ national body explains why it cannot protect accused scam mastermind

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) explained in a statement today why it cannot grant the request of accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet-Lim Napoles to be placed in their protective custody saying the CBCP is not qualified for the role under civil law.

“The CBCP appreciates the trust that Ms. Napoles has in the CBCP,” Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the CBCP said in a statement on the matter.

“We are not sure that under civil law we are qualified for such a role as Ms. Napoles would wish us to assume,” he added.

According to Villegas existing Church laws also do not allow an Episcopal conference to stand as guarantor before civil courts that the accused will not abscond and will be available at every trial date.

In early June, the office of the Ombudsman filed  charges of plunder against businesswoman Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the racket that involved the diversion of billions of pesos worth of livelihood projects and farm inputs intended for poor farmers into ghost NGOs and kickbacks. 

Thirty-seven others, including 3 senators and their staff, have been similarly charged before the anti-graft court.

Napoles had reportedly written a letter to the CBCP asking them to take her into its custody saying she believes she would be safer with clergy.

Following is Villegas’ full statement sent to Catholic in Asia titled, CBCP Reply to the REQUEST of Ms. Napoles for Custody Under CBCP:

The CBCP appreciates the trust that Ms. Napoles has in the CBCP.
 
With regard to her request that the CBCP take her under protective custody, we face obstacles from both Church and State laws.
 
Existing Church laws do not allow an episcopal conference to stand as guarantor before civil courts that the accused will not abscond and will be available at every trial date. Furthermore, we are not sure that under civil law we are qualified for such a role as Ms. Napoles would wish us to assume.
 
Then too there is the important issue of establishing a precedent. Once we allow CBCP’s offices to take recognizance of Ms. Napoles, we must, to be fair, accept similar requests from all other accused. Not only would this strain CBCP’s resources. It would render impossible the discharge of its principal functions.
 
We shall however continue to be vigilant that the rights of Ms. Napoles, as of all accused, are respected and safeguarded; in the same measure that we urge government prosecutors to be resolute and non-selective in the indictment of offenders and in holding them accountable for all their actions.
 
From the CBCP, Manila, July 8, 2014
 
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
   Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

Napoles was reported to be close to clergy and supportive of Church projects and programs.

In May retired Manila priest Father Josefino Ramirez also issued the following statement sent to Catholic in Asia about a newspaper report whose headline claimed “priests got pork manna”:

May 22, 2014 

STATEMENT OF MSGR. JOSEFINO S. RAMIREZ ON ARTICLE,  “Priests Got Pork Manna”, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 22, 2014

            This refers to the article written by Nancy C. Carvajal entitled “Priests got pork manna” published on 22 May 2014 by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The article alleges that Ms. Janet Lim-Napoles “handed out generous donations to priests and nuns using allocations from the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) [as shown by the] digital records of her former finance officer, [Mr. Benhur Luy].”

            The article further states that I received the following from Ms. Napoles:

  1. P2.5M through a Metrobank check (per entry in the records of Benhur Luy for May 10, 2007);
  2. P434,451 for travel to Europe (per entry for October 16, 2008);
  3. P800,000.00 for donations on several occasions;
  4. P310,550 for my birthday party;
  5. P9,000.00 for “guard of Monsi for Jollibee”; and
  6. Stipends totaling P344,000 on several occasions for “priests/nuns, deacons” from 2004 to 2010.

            For clarity, please allow me to state the following:

            a.         The Magdalena Luy Lim Foundation in the service of the Divine Mercy was established by the children of Magdalena Luy Lim in memory of their deceased mother.  During her lifetime, Magdalena Luy Lim, a Chinese, was an ardent devotee of the Divine Mercy. She used to help my charities since 2004, most especially the apostolate for China because this is the only way that she can thank the Lord for the gift of her Catholic faith as a Chinese.

             b.         Before she died, Magalena Luy Lim requested her children to continue helping the apostolate projects of the Divine Mercy in the Philippines and in China, through the Magdalena Luy Lim Foundation.

             c.         Hence, donations were made by the Magdalena Luy Lim Foundation for the various projects of the Divine Mercy in the Philippines and in China.

            d.         As Coordinator for Divine Mercy, Asia, appointed by the Church, I received the donations of the Foundation as well as from other donors with the sole intention of using the same for the projects of the Divine Mercy.The donations were received in utmost good faith and without any knowledge as to the source of the funds.

            Herein below are my comments on the allegations made in the article published by the Inquirer today:

Amounts Received PerInquirer Article Comment
1. P2.5M through a Metrobank check (per entry in the records of Benhur Luy for May 10, 2007); The amount of P2M, not P2.5M, was donated by Mrs. Napoles to the CARITAS SALVE Savings and Livelihood with Values Education Credit, a micro-finance program under Caritas Manila.
2. P434,451 for travel to Europe (per entry for October 16, 2008) The amount was donated for my airplane ticket as the Coordinator of the Divine Mercy for Asia, and the plane tickets of 4 Chinese priests representing China to theWorld Apostolate Congress of Mercy (WACOM) in Rome.
3. P800,000.00 for donations on several occasions The amount was spent for the following expenses incurred by 14 batches of Chinese priests and nuns taking Church renewal courses in the Philippines from Dec 2011 – Aug 2013.a. Food Expenses in  the amount of P57,143.00/month for each batch consisting of 20 priests and nuns;b. Honorarium for Lecturers; andc. Electricity and Water Expenses.
4. P310,550 for my birthday party The Napoles Family hosted a surprised birthday party for me and invited approximately 300 friends and former parishioners as guests. I have no knowledge of the exact amount spent for the said party.
5. P9,000.00 for “guard of Monsi for Jollibee” Food/meals from Jollibee were purchased by the host for the drivers of the guests who attended the party. I have no knowledge of the exact amount spent for the said foods/meals for the drivers.
6. Stipends totaling P344,000 on several occasions for “priests/nuns, deacons” from 2004 to 2010.  Since I met Ms. Napoles only in 2007, I can only attest to the fact that from 2007-2010, stipends were given to priests and nuns invited during special occasions, such as office anniversaries, the funeral Mass of Mrs. Magdalena Luy Lim, her death anniversary and other memorable occasions The priests, who were friends of Napoles family, and nuns were invited from various provinces and congregations. They were given stipends for their Charities and transportation.

 

            I hope that I have clarified the matters stated in the article published by the Inquirer.

            Thank you.

                                                Very truly yours,           

                                                 (SIGNED)      MONSIGNOR JOSEFINO S. RAMIREZ

In May, Villegas, visited  Napoles when she was confined in Ospital ng Makati. “The family of Mrs. Janet Napoles requested for prayers and blessings for fast recovery. As a priest I went there,” Villegas said.

He said he reminded the accused woman that “the blessing [would] only give healing if she [told] the whole truth without being selective.” 

END

CBCP Document : Pastoral Letter to Prepare for 2015 Papal Visit

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines officially announced Pope Francis’ visit to the country next year and recommended ways for Filipinos to prepare for the visit spiritually and socially, in the spirit of “mercy and compassion” underlying the visit.

Following is the full text of the document issued July 7 in Manila …

 

A Nation of Mercy and Compassion

Miserando atque Eligendo (Lowly but Chosen)

Pastoral Letter to Prepare the People of God for the Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan walks back to the plenary hall at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after a break in the 2012 plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines which he now serves as President. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan walks back to the plenary hall at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after a break in the 2012 plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines which he now serves as President. – NJ Viehland Photos

MY dear people of God:

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Philippines officially announces the visit of the Holy Father, Pope Francis to the Philippines, God willing at the beginning of next year, 2015. His visit carries a message of pastoral love, mercy and compassion from a Pope with the scent of a Good Shepherd (cf. John 10). Even though, this will be the fourth papal visit to our nation, for Pope Francis he will be the third Pope to visit our country. As the Successor to the Chair of Peter, the Holy Father is coming to strengthen his brothers and sisters (cf. Luke 22:32).

The underlying spirit of this Papal visit is the theme of “mercy and compassion” the cherished ideals of Jesus. In this regard, Matthew 9:36 tells us that Jesus “seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” In this context, Pope Francis comes to revive our “drooping spirit” and to lead us to greener pastures (cf. Psalm 23). Hence, he is bringing to us “the joy of the gospel” enshrined in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

Usually, our first reaction to the news of a papal visit is understandably one of euphoria and thanksgiving. The excitement of seeing Pope Francis in the Philippines is rising as the year 2015 gets nearer. However, we must prepare the nation to receive the Holy Father by setting our minds and hearts in communion with our dear Pope Francis, the messenger of peace, love, and the apostle of the poor. Our compassionate shepherd comes to show his deep concern for our people who have gone through devastating calamities, especially in the Visayas. He comes to confirm us in our faith as we face the challenges of witnessing to the Joy of the Gospel in the midst of our trials.

This is an eloquent way of showing mercy and compassion. Accordingly, in his Apostolic Exhortation, he has already voiced this concern in these words: “some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting” (Evangelii Gaudium 54). And the Pope comes to bring hope to our excluded Philippines. He brings a message to the poor among us.

A PEOPLE EAGER TO WELCOME

Let us allow Pope Francis himself to prepare us for his visit. How? The guiding motto of our dear Pope Francis is Miserando atque eligendo (meaning ‘lowly but chosen’). The literal translation from Latin is ‘by having mercy, by choosing him’. We can equally adapt this to be the motto of our nation as well. Though we are lowly among the nations, yet we have been chosen to receive the blessings of the Vicar of Christ. In this regard, Pope Francis reminds us that “the Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium 114).

Consistent with this, the Holy Father has clearly laid out his wish that the main objective of his visit is to bring Christ’s compassion for our suffering people still struggling to rise from the devastations wrought by the earthquake and typhoon that hit the Visayas.

This demand of Pope Francis is also consistent with Daniel 4:24 (NAB) which says: “Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” Accordingly, it is not the logistics, security and infrastructure that best prepare us for the papal visit. Let us be like Pope Francis in his humility and his compassion. Let us make his apostolic journey of mercy to be ours even before he arrives.

A POPE RICH IN MERCY

In connection with the recent canonization of Saint John Paul II, and the remarkable emphasis Pope Francis has been giving to this particular element in Christian life, may we choose MERCY, incarnated, embodied, symbolized in the poor amongst us, to be placed at the center of this spiritual preparation for the papal visit.

It was Saint John Paul II who wrote deeply and movingly of God Our Father as “Dives in Misericordia”. In that profound encyclical, “mercy” was his name for God. Pope Francis, from the first days of his pontificate, has been preaching insistently and passionately on God’s constant and untiring mercy, and on the primacy of the Church’s mission of mercy and compassion in the world of our time.

It is noteworthy that perhaps the first major doctrinal-spiritual book of Pope Francis, which has been published in English bears the title, “The Church of Mercy”. The book “presents the heart of his teaching on the most fundamental themes of his vision of a new way of being Church.”

In it, the Holy Father asks: “Are we a Church that really calls and welcomes sinners with open arms, that gives courage and hope, or are we a Church closed in on herself? … Are we a Church which is a house for everyone, where all can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by God’s love, the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, those who feel discouraged or lost? … Are we a Church where the face of God dwells, where one cares for the other, where one prays for the other?”

EMBRACING THE MERCY OF GOD

From Pope Francis’ teaching, two aspects of mercy may be singled out.

First, the mercy and the patience of God toward sinners are made manifest in Jesus. Jesus is “the visible face of the mercy of God.” As the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, “God is there always, always waiting for us; he never grows tired. Jesus shows us the merciful patience of God.” And “this patience of God calls forth in us the courage to return to him, however many the sins and mistakes there may be in our lives.” Like Thomas in the gospel, “we too can enter into the wounds of Jesus; we can actually touch him. This happens every time we receive the sacraments with faith.” “It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his Heart.”

Secondly, we encounter Jesus in living out his own compassion and mercy towards our bothers and sisters in need and poverty, in suffering, loneliness, in hopelessness. “To meet the living God we must tenderly kiss the wounds of Jesus in our hungry people, in the sick and in imprisoned brothers and sisters. Study, meditation and mortification are not enough to have us encounter the living Christ. Like the apostle Thomas, our life will only be changed when we touch Christ’s wounds present in the poor, the sick and the needy. The path to our encounter with Jesus is his wounds. There is no other.” (Pope Francis, 3 July 2013)

A question then arises. In our Christian lives, where may we in fact draw the profound spirituality of mercy that can truly help us prepare spiritually for the papal visit? “They will look upon him whom they have pierced” (John 19: 37, NAB). The Fourth Gospel, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote, sums up the whole Christian spirituality. In this great image we see the whole story of our salvation in Jesus. We see God’s faithful love and mercy shining forth from the Cross. And we see the human response to that merciful love also in the pierced Heart of Christ.

A PEOPLE RICH IN MERCY

The most distinctive way to prepare spiritually for the coming of Pope Francis is for the Philippines to become a people rich in mercy. Let us make mercy our national identity. Trust in God’s mercy is part and parcel of our traditional Filipino Christian culture. Let us make the practice of mercy our gift to the Pope when he comes to visit us.

Concretely, in this period of preparation for the visit of Pope Francis, we are bidden to turn to the fountain of all mercy, Jesus, and encounter the Divine Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And having received such mercy we in turn practice acts of mercy.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read: “The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbour in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all of these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.” (CCC 2447)

At the societal level, let us also not forget to address justice and mercy issues in the root causes of poverty and inequality in our country – such as the protection of the environment, the completion of agrarian reform, and the continuing challenges of good governance, peace-building, and inclusive growth for all.

A PREPARATION RICH IN MERCY

Mother sleeps with her toddler during a break from selling outside the convent of Sisters of St. Claire in Quezon City. NJ Viehland Photos

Mother sleeps with her toddler during a break from selling outside the convent of Sisters of St. Claire in Quezon City. NJ Viehland Photos

We encourage you our dear people to resolve to make an act of mercy every day.

You can reach out to a lonely stranger. You can tell the story of Jesus to a child eager to understand and feel the love of God. You can advise a confused co-worker. You can forgive someone who has wronged you.

You can give food to a hungry beggar. You can contribute to building homes for the typhoon victims. You can visit those in jail or prison. You can visit the charity ward of hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers, homes for the elderly and orphanages. You can condole with the grieving families whose loved ones just died. You can give alms to the poor.

You can show mercy by making it a habit to say “please”, “thank you” or a kind word of appreciation. Refraining from cursing and using hurting words is an act of mercy. Being polite to the children and infants, to the sick and the elderly are great acts of mercy.

As we prepare for the coming of the Pope we are asked to have more access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and encourage our priests to increase their availability and visibility at the confessional, and turn earnestly to fervent participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice and even spend more time in Eucharistic adoration and to zealously be involved in making our Basic Ecclesial Communities and other faith-communities as venues for mercy and reconciliation. Let us prepare to see the Pope by reviving personal and family prayer. Pope Francis has challenged us to restore family prayer and devotion in our homes.

All of this opens to, nourishes, and sustains in our lives the gift of Mercy from the Heart of Jesus! May our Shrines of Divine Mercy be the source of inspiration and strength for our families.

When the Pope comes, he will bring with him the message of the mercy and compassion of God. When he meets us, may he see in us a people touched by the mercy of God, living out the compassion of God, a people truly rich in mercy and compassion and grateful to those who have shown mercy to us especially after various calamities hit our country.

May Mary, Our Mother of Mercy prepare us to meet Jesus in Pope Francis!

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, July 7, 2014

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President
7 July 2014

CBCP mourns student death in hazing, stresses challenge to Catholic educators

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued July 6 its Letter on the practice of violent initiations (hazing) that has led to deaths of students seeking membership in school-based fraternities.

At the time the Letter was released, Philippine National Police and Philippine National Bureau of Investigation were probing the death of 18 year-old Guillo Cesar Servando on June 28,  due to hazing. Three other students suffered bruises and other injuries in the hazing incident in connection with their application for membership in Tau Gamma Phi-College of St. Benilde Chapter.

St. Benilde is a college of De La Salle University owned and administered by Brothers of the Christian Schools.  

Following is CBCP’s Letter to Catholic Colleges and Universities on fraternity hazing sent to Catholic in Asia …

“Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Gen 4:10) 

LETTER
TO OUR CATHOLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
ON THE PRACTICE OF HAZING
IN SCHOOL BASED FRATERNITIES
 
My brothers and sisters in Christ in our Catholic schools:
 
Once more we must, as a nation, mourn the demise of a student of a Catholic school who lost his life at the hands of his supposed ‘brothers’ in a fraternity.  After Cain had lifted his hand against his brother, Abel, God called out to the murderer: The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. It is one of the most detestable ironies of our time that we must so often real from the devastation of brother killing brother in clandestine organizations like many fraternities are!
 
If, as the Church has always insisted, our Catholic schools are to be heralds of the saving news, there is nothing more contradictory to the message our schools exist to teach than the senseless loss of young lives because of ‘initiation rites’.  We therefore condemn in the strongest possible terms all officers, members and abettors of fraternities and sororities — and other organizations by whatever name they may call themselves — that, with disordered reason, believe that violent initiation rites assure loyalty and solidarity!  To incur this moral culpability, it is not necessary to have actually hurt, maimed or killed anyone.  The preparedness and willingness to participate in violent rites of initiation is in itself already a moral wrong!
 
Aside from the vigilance that is incumbent on all schools, however, it is important to understand somehow why youngsters seek membership in clandestine organizations.  Often students who find themselves adrift in our campuses, or lost in their new environments will seek the assurance of ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ who will be there for them — to protect and to aid them in time of need.  They become easy prey for recruiters of fraternities and sororities. 
 
What this should tell our Catholic school administrators is that the licit organizations and recognized affiliations that we presently offer them are not interesting enough and do not give them that sense of security and solidarity that fraternities and like organizations seem to offer.  The Catholic school itself ought to be the community where each member finds the welcome, acceptance, affirmation and empowerment that we all need.  And the school must nurture those forms of association that strengthen bonds of friendship and love, mutual support and care, among members, so that none in the academic community may be lured to seek acceptance in shady societies.
 
The challenge therefore to our Catholic school administrators is to foster those organizations where there is genuine care, where the charity of Christ truly prevails, and where each is concerned that none is in want of anything that can be supplied!  The success of our World Youth Day celebrations amply demonstrates that such youth organizations inspired and founded on the Gospel and its values are possible.
 
But the hazing phenomenon has yet another ugly facet: the delight in the exercise of raw power.  Even the title by which some of the overlords of clandestine organizations — Master — are called already suggests that it is the unprincipled arrogation of power that leads to such condemnable displays of ascendancy over others as the violence that comes with many initiation rites.  All teachers and professors who recruit students for secret societies that include violence of any form in their initiation rites should be dismissed from our Catholic schools, after observing the demands of due process.  A Catholic school ought to be a basic ecclesial community.  But whoever has murder, injury or indignity in his heart for his brothers or sisters has thereby severed himself from such a community!  It is not acceptable for school administrators and faculty members to be members, much less officers, of societies that practice violence — especially when this is known to their students.  Not only does such membership lend a semblance of legitimacy to clandestine organizations; it is also a counter-sign of the evangelical values that ought to manifest themselves in the conduct and deportment of our Catholic school teachers who are called to be “salt of the earth, light of the world”.
 
“I no longer call your servants but friends…” and if we are friends of the Lord Jesus, we cannot but be friends towards each other, and one never kills or hurts or maims a friend!
 
“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.
 
From the CBCP, Intramuros, Manila, July 6, 2014
 
 
 
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
   Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
   CBCP President

Will Pope Francis meet with ‘comfort women’ during his Aug. trip to Korea?

Korean news agencies citing an announcement by the Korean papal preparatory committee are reporting that women forced to work at Japanese military brothels during World War II have been invited to a Mass that Pope Francis will celebrate on Aug. 18 during his planned visit to South Korea.

Addressing the “comfort women” – and possibly meeting with them – could have international implications, as the issue remains highly charged in Asia,  a National Catholic Reporter blog says.

Around 200,000 women, mainly from Korea but also from Philippines, China, Taiwan and Indonesia among others, were forced into sexual slavery for imperial troops as Japan stormed across Asia before and during World War II.

 

CBCP Document: Our Moral Response to the Unconstitutionality of DAP

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

The Supreme Court has ruled that many government acts under the Development Acceleration Program (DAP) are without constitutional authority. Earlier, it ruled the Priority Assistant Development Fund (PDAF), more popularly known as the ‘pork-barrel fund’ also unconstitutional.

Why this Statement

The just distribution of the resources of the nation in accordance with the prescriptions of law and the tenets of morality is an issue of social justice. It is therefore a concern of the CBCP — and of the entire Church in the Philippines — as well.

Both DAP and PDAF involve enormous sums and while it is claimed by the government officials involved that these went into projects that benefited the people, there are serious allegations that we cannot summarily dismiss and ignore. Three senators have been charged, together with others, for the illegal use of pork-barrel funds. It is claimed that a considerable part went into ghost NGOs set up precisely to facilitate the conversion of public funds for personal and other illegal and immoral uses.

Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan joined women legislators, whistleblowers, students and other members of Babala (warning) movement for the abolition of pork barrel and prosecution of legislators and public officials guilty of graft, corruption and plunder. NJ Viehland Photo at St. Scholastica's College museum.

Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan joined women legislators, whistleblowers, students and other members of Babala (warning) movement for the abolition of pork barrel and prosecution of legislators and public officials guilty of graft, corruption and plunder. NJ Viehland Photo at St. Scholastica’s College museum.

Communal Guilt

But there is no reason to direct our ire only at the three senators, nor at those presently accused, for we must humbly recognize that the propensity to make use of what is not ours to better the lives of our families or to gain access to luxuries that would otherwise be beyond us will be found in all of us.

We are all guilty by attitude and by our disposition.

We renew our call for national conversion — the conversion not only of individuals but of institutions as well! It will be well for us to remember that conversion is our response to the ceaseless call of Love Incarnate, Jesus, to ‘turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel’.

We must pray together for the grace of conversion, because the prosecution and punishment of a few will not rid the nation of the propensity to corruption that is found in us all!

Appeal to Government

We call on the Commission on Audit and on the Office of the Ombudsman to tell the nation where DAP funds went. While, indeed, in many cases, it would be impractical, unhelpful even, to undo every project funded by what the High Court has ruled to be unconstitutional means, we must nevertheless know how these monies were used, for where there was illegal and immoral application of funds, there must be restitution.

There must be accountability.

We reiterate our position that investigation and inquest cannot and must not be selective, for public perception that some are shielded while others are persecuted detracts from the confidence people must repose in their institutions.

A government that professes to tread the straight path must remain true to that profession and must be willing to let go of the corrupt in its own ranks! We in the Church will do the same.

Many of our bishops have already established systems for the accountability of our pastors and parish leaders. We have issued guidelines so that we may be more vigilant about the provenance of donations and grants. This way, we in the Church strive to respond to the demands of honesty and fairness.

Let us restore integrity in our land.

From the Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila, July 4, 2014

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, CBCP

Pope Francis appoints Filipino as new Vatican rep to the UN

MANILA, PHILIPPINES Pope Francis has appointed Filipino Archbishop Bernardito Cleopas Auza, the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, as the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York.

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India diocese withdraws ad for larger families

Thiruvananthapuram: A Catholic diocese in Kerala, India, has withdrawn an advertisement in local media to encourage its people to raise large families, the India news service mattersindia.com reported.

Irinjalakuda diocese in Thrissur district has withdrawn its announcement of  a reward of 1,000 rupees (US$ 17)  for the fourth child in a family. The diocese would pay the amount until the child reaches 20 years. Church-managed institutions would sponsor the child’s education.

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