Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
Founded in 1981 by Bob Hentzen and his brothers Jim (d. 1993) and Bud, their sister Nadine Pearce, and friend Jerry Tolle (d. 1995), CFCA is dedicated to the principles of Catholic social teaching. From the beginning, the founders saw sponsorship as a perfect opportunity to both provide ongoing assistance to the poor and allow the poor to share their gifts with sponsors in the United States.
CFCA sponsors and the children and elderly people they support exchange letters and photographs, building a long-distance relationship.
For Carr and Kaiser, though, long distance wasnt enough. Like many sponsors, they decided they would meet their children in person. They left Salt Lake City Oct. 10, and returned Oct. 23.
Kaiser has been a CFCA sponsor for three years, supporting Sumanth Bala (8). She and Carr set out for India together, but when they reached Hyderabad, their ways separated. Carr, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, traveled further south through Bangalore to a village in the Kolar gold fields where the girl she has sponsored for five years, Jaya Rakani, 15, lives.
Sumanth lives in a village outside Hyderabad. Neither child lives in a home with electricity or running water. Their American visitors stayed in nearby retreat houses and convents.
Before going to Sumanths home to meet him, lunch was planned at the CFCA Hyderabad office, and to Kaisers surprise, Sumanth and his mother came to the lunch to greet her. Later, they would travel to Sumanths house in a rural village in Warangal Province.
I was amazed to find out that my visit to Sumanth had become a family celebration, said Kaiser. When I arrived in the rural village with Father Gade Prakesh, the door to their house opened and 24 family members came out. I was overwhelmed.
She said it was very strange to walk into the house and find a picture of herself hanging on the wall.
Both Carr and Kaiser were surprised that some 8,000 people were in Hyderabad to greet the Americans, most of them mothers of children who were sponsored.
So much is done for these children and for CFCA by the mothers groups, Carr said. They had arranged lunch for us and hours of entertainment. People did so many dances for us. How they must have practiced!
Everywhere they went, Carr said, they were mobbed by children, some who have sponsors, many who need them.
They live in tiny homes, so spare, but neat, added Carr.
Kaiser said she was impressed with the annual report supplied for every sponsor, and that CFCA Hyderabad has a folder for each sponsored child. In each folder is an exact accounting of every $30 donation.
Both women spent days near the villages where their sponsored children live. They were shown the CFCA printing shop and book binding enterprise.
Carr, who teaches pre-school special education at Provos Farrer School, was most interested in the Indian educational system. She also saw a community center where tailoring is taught.
The Salesian fathers and brothers do so much for the abandoned street children in Bangalore, Carr said. And the Kolar gold fields used to be very profitable, but with prices what they are now, the fields are closed and the slums are very close by.
Jaya and her mother, Carr learned, live with Jayas uncle in a house that has a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes. Like Sumanth, Jaya is shy and has a beautiful smile.
After spending days with their sponsored children, the American sponsors met again in Delhi, where they saw the Taj Mahal. They shared their experiences Kaiser had visited a leper colony where whole families live together.
There was so much to see when we were among the poor that I felt a little out of place at the Taj Mahal, Kaiser said. It was an amazing trip, and I came home feeling closer to Sumanth. When I went there, I took him a little red fire truck that he carried everywhere he went.
I felt a strong sense of community among the mothers, she said.
Carr, who has spoken to groups about CFCA since she returned, is also sponsoring two more children, one in Mexico and one in Liberia.
The 40-year-old Calvesbert is preparing to watch his pride and joy leave Westbourne Sports College. “Seeing Terri leave school is a huge deal, I am so proud of her,” Calvesbert, of Ipswich, Suffolk says. “I never thought I would see her start school let alone get to this stage.
“In the early days I never thought I would see Terri grow up but she is a real fighter. She has exceeded everyone’s expectations.”
Terri is both excited and anxious about the next stage in her life “It is fairly scary, leaving school. I have made some great friends – they have always looked out for me,” she added.
She says that her last day at Westbourne Sports College will be full of mixed emotions.
Terri suffered drastic injuries as a baby when a fire broke out in her bedroom shortly before her second birthday. The fire was started by a cigarette her mother, Julie Minter, left by her cot. Terri was left with burns covering 90 percent of her tiny body, from her face, scalp, neck and chest to her back, arms and legs.
Fourteen years on, she is set to tackle her next big challenge; an animal studies qualification at Otley College, near Ipswich.
“When I was younger I wanted to work in a hospital helping people, or as an ambulance driver,” said Terri. “I think it’s because I spent so much time at Broomfield Hospital when I was little. Then I decided I wanted to work with children and then I realized animals would be easier to work with than kids. It is fairly scary, leaving school. I will miss it, I have always enjoyed school,” she says.
“We have our school prom to look forward to before it all ends, I can’t wait. I already have my dress sorted.” Terri admitted other children “can be mean” but added “I can cope with them, its reactions from adults that are harder. They should know better.”
“Growing up has been difficult at times; it was harder when I was younger when it was just me and dad,” Terri says, noting she undergone more than 50 agonizing operations to stretch her taut skin damaged in the fire.
When she reaches the age of 18, doctors at the specialist Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, have said they can begin the process of rebuilding Terri’s face.
Various operations will see medics reconstruct her nose, a procedure that requires they wait until her face has fully grown. “I don’t want my head to get any bigger between now and then,” Terri jokes.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
“The report confirms we should have done more before the famine was declared,” U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Philippe Alizarin says. “Warnings that began as far back as the drought in 2010 did not trigger sufficient early action,” he said in a statement.
Statistics were tallied by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network.
“Famine and severe food insecurity in Somalia claimed the lives of about 258,000 people between October 2010 and April 2012, including 133,000 children under five,” the report said. The data was the first scientific estimate of how many died.
Somalia was the African nation hardest hit by the drought in 2011 that affected over 13 million people across the Horn of Africa. Famine was first declared in Somalia’s Southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions, but later spread to other areas, including Middle Shabelle, Afgoye and inside camps for displaced people in war-ravaged Mogadishu.
“An estimated 4.6 percent of the total population and 10 percent of children under five died in southern and central Somalia,” the report said. The deaths were on top of 290,000 “baseline” deaths during the period, and double the average for sub-Saharan Africa.
About 2.7 million people are currently in need of life-saving assistance and support to build their livelihoods.
The United Nations declared the end of the famine in February of last year. Famine implies that at least a fifth of households face extreme food shortages, with acute malnutrition in over 30 percent of people, and two deaths per 10,000 people every day.
Uprooted by nearly uninterrupted civil war for the past 20 years, Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers. Security has slowly improved in recent months, with Islamist fighters linked to Al-Qaeda on the back foot despite launching a deadly bombing campaign.
The aid agency Oxfam said the “deaths could and should have been prevented. Famines are not natural phenomena, they are catastrophic political failures,” Oxfam’s Somalia director Senait Gebregziabher said in a statement.
“The world was too slow to respond to stark warnings of drought, exacerbated by conflict in Somalia and people paid with their lives.”
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
The images show Egyptian police officers standing by as protesters fire guns, wield machetes, and throw stones at Christians. The Muslims were attacking a Coptic funeral who were mourning the death of another who was killed in a previous clash with Muslims.
Another image shows officers standing by as a protester burns a Holy Bible. What would happen if the roles were reversed?
The government’s response has been embarrassingly lukewarm at best. Four Copts were arrested.
Christians in Egypt are facing increasingly hostile discrimination and the government is not only failing in its obligation to protect them, it seems to be helping militant Muslims attack them.
Unfortunately, this is typical behavior for militant Muslims and those than enable them. These Muslims are not content with diversity and instead insist on destroying any institution that is not their own. Ever since a new, supposedly democratic government was formed in Egypt, the Muslims have taken advantage of every opportunity to discriminate against and suppress Coptic Christians.
The participation of the police in the religious violence does much to implicate the government in crimes against Christians. It is also quite revealing that four Christian mourners were arrested while the Muslim attackers who initiated the violence were aided by police.
There is now a growing sense in Egypt that the government cannot contain religious influence and clashes between varying sects within the state. The government of Mohamed Morsi is fast losing credibility with the people.
It must be understood that militant Muslims want to do genuine harm to Christians and they will do as much harm as they are permitted to do. If Mohammed Morsi fails to see justice done in this case, more violence can be expected from the religion of peace.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
John Paul II, Oscar Romero And The Politics Of Making SaintsDavid Gibson ("Huffington Post," April 24, 2013)
Reports this week that the late Pope John Paul II may be on the verge of sainthood after a second miracle was credited to his intercession aren’t a huge surprise: When he died eight years ago, crowds were already clamoring for his canonization, and Pope Benedict XVI quickly waived the usual five-year waiting period to get the process rolling.
But the news that Pope Francis, just six weeks on the job, has cleared the way for the long-stalled canonization of martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero is a stunner that sends another important signal about the new pope’s priorities.
“Sainthood is often as much about politics and image as anything else,” said the Rev. Harvey Egan, a Jesuit priest and professor emeritus of theology at Boston College.
“It’s not surprising to me that this present pope being from South America, having the same inclinations as Romero, would unblock the process and say ‘Push his cause through,’ and I think rightly so.”
Almost from the moment that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was chosen as the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere, hopes soared among Romero’s many supporters that the Argentine pope’s dedication to the poor would make him a believer in Romero’s sainthood.
Romero was a vocal champion of the poor and for human rights in El Salvador; during the country’s bloody civil war, he was gunned down by a right-wing death squad in 1980 while celebrating Mass. He was immediately hailed as a martyr, becoming an icon of the church’s struggle for social justice and against oppression.
But that support also raised red flags at the Vatican, where Pope John Paul II and his top doctrinal cop, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — the future Benedict XVI — thought the devotion to Romero was too closely tied to left-leaning causes like liberation theology.
As a result, Romero’s cause for canonization never gained momentum. The process was formally opened in 1997, but even those involved in the case said nothing was happening.
But after Benedict’s surprise resignation and Francis’ even more surprising election a month later, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Vatican official charged with pushing Romero’s cause, announced on Sunday (April 21) that he had met with Francis the day before, and Romero’s cause was now “unblocked” and could proceed.
Because Romero was assassinated, he could be declared a martyr if the Vatican determined that he was killed because of his faith rather than solely for political reasons. If classified a martyr, the church could bypass the normal rules and beatify him. Then he’d need only one miracle — not the normal two — to be named a saint.
These days, the miracles are usually unexplained medical cures; in 2005, a French nun was reportedly cured of Parkinson’s disease after prayers were said to John Paul on her behalf. That miracle led to his beatification in 2011, the step before formal canonization as a saint. This week an Italian Catholic magazine reported that a Vatican panel of seven medical experts approved the verdict of a miraculous healing of an unnamed woman.
The report has prompted speculation that John Paul could be named a saint as early as this October, around the 35th anniversary of his 1978 election.
Pairing the canonizations of John Paul and Romero is a scenario that would raise eyebrows, but the idea is not unprecedented in the politics of saint-making.
In 2000, John Paul himself beatified both Pope Pius IX, a staunch traditionalist considered an enemy of modernity, and Pope John XXIII, who convened the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and helped usher the church into the modern era.
In 2009, Benedict paired an announcement advancing the canonization process for his controversial wartime predecessor, Pius XII, with a similar decree regarding John Paul II, who was considered a great friend to the Jewish community.
Pairing the canonizations of the patron saint of liberation theology with the pope who tried to suppress it would be unconventional — but perhaps not for Francis, who already has proven himself to be the most unconventional of popes with a set of priorities all his own.
A series of one-month contract “marriages” are often used to fund their own genuine wedding.
Shiraz Amina Khan of Hyderabad’s Women and Child Welfare Society, said there were up to 15 “contract marriages” in the city every month and that the number is rising.
“They come to Hyderabad because it has maximum downtrodden families. Thirty to forty per cent of families are going for the option of contract marriages to relieve their poverty. It has to be stopped,” she said.
One such victim, Nausheen Tobassum says she escaped from her home last month after her parents pressured her to consummate a forced marriage to a middle aged Sudanese man who had paid for her to be his “wife” for four weeks.
She told police she had been taken by her aunt to a hotel where she and three other teenage girls were introduced to a Sudanese oil company executive. The 44-year-old “groom” Usama Ibrahim Mohammed, married with two children in Khartoum, later arrived at her home where a Qazi performed a wedding ceremony.
According to Inspector Kumar he had paid the girl’s aunt, who in turn paid 70,000 Rupees to her parents, 5,000 Rupees to the Qazi, and 5,000 Rupees to an Urdu translator and kept 20,000 Rupees herself.
The wedding certificate came with a “Talaknama” which fixed the terms of the divorce at the end of the groom’s holiday.
“The next day he came to the house of the victim girl and asked her to participate in sex but she refused. She is a young girl and the groom is older than her father,” Inspector Kumar told journalists.
Tobassum ran out of their tiny one room home in Hyderabad’s Moghulpuri neighborhood and was rescued by a police patrol. The police arrested the groom, the victim’s aunt and the Qazi, and issued a warrant for her parents arrest. Nausheen is a minor under Indian law and cannot marry until she reaches 18 years of age. Her parents are now in hiding but will be charged with arranging a child marriage, “outraging the modesty” of a woman, and criminal conspiracy.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
Fifteen Days in Rome: How the Pope Was PickedStacy Meichtry & Alessandra Galloni ("The Wall Street Journal," April 14, 2013)
On Feb. 27, a mild, dewy morning, Alitalia Flight 681 landed at Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome after 13 hours in the air. A balding man with gray-white wisps of thin hair stepped out of coach class. He wore thick-rimmed brown glasses, black orthopedic shoes and a dark overcoat. He had a slight limp, and his back was stiff from the long flight. His belly was a bit swollen, due to many decades of cortisone treatments to help him breathe after he had lost part of a lung as a young man. No one could see the silver pectoral cross he wore under his coat, though it was the symbol of his authority.
Back home in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a prominent figure, the highest-ranking Catholic prelate in his country and to many a beloved figure known especially for his work in the city’s teeming slums. Here he was one of 115 cardinals converging on Vatican City for important business: the election of a new leader for the Catholic Church.
Two weeks earlier, Pope Benedict XVI had suddenly announced his resignation from office, becoming the first pontiff in 600 years to renounce a job traditionally held until death. In church teaching, the position had been handed down for two millennia, starting when Jesus said to St. Peter, “On this rock I will build my church.”
Cardinal Bergoglio expected his trip to be brief. He was already carrying in his black leather briefcase the airplane ticket that would return him home in time for Holy Week, the most important week of the year for a Catholic prelate. His Easter Sunday homily was already written too, and in the hands of parishioners back home.
The Argentine prelate checked into the Domus Internationalis Paulus VI hotel for priests. Named after Catholicism’s 1960s “pilgrim pope” and housed in a 17th- and 18th-century stone palazzo that once served as a Jesuit college, the Domus is a modest affair. The floors are made of marble, but the rooms are sparsely furnished. Meals are served in a cafeteria-style hall decorated with large paintings of Biblical scenes.
What drew Cardinal Bergoglio to the Domus was its location. Positioned right in the heart of Rome, near its busiest byways and cafes, the hotel is across the Tiber River and quite a distance from Vatican City. That allowed for long walks over cobblestone piazzas and bridges, past peddlers, street performers and throngs of tourists, as he commuted to the General Congregation, the secret deliberations being held inside Vatican City in the days before the conclave began on March 12. In his dark overcoat covering his pectoral cross, he blended in with the crowd. He didn’t wear his red cardinal’s hat, instead letting his wispy white hair flutter in the wind and rain.
Though the public paid little notice to Cardinal Bergoglio, his name had made the rounds among a small group of cardinals who had descended upon Rome from different parts of the globe to choose a new pope. Though he had drawn support in 2005, in 2013 he was definitely a dark-horse candidate. There were a dozen or so more high-profile cardinals regarded as papabili, or “popeables,” being touted in headlines world-wide as possible successors to Pope Benedict. These men, who included Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Angelo Scola of Milan, were accompanied by assistants and journalists. They quickly became the toast of the town, attending sumptuous private dinners with fellow cardinals and kissing babies at Mass before batteries of TV cameras. Their crimson vestments, golden pectoral crosses and sizable entourages stood out.
The Italian cardinals were chauffeured to and from the walled confines of Vatican City in jet black Mercedes marked with Holy See license plates. They were greeted as “Your Eminence” whenever they set foot inside the city’s best trattorias. The Americans tooled around Rome in white minivans and lodged at the sprawling Pontifical North American College, a seminary nestled on a hill just above the Vatican.
Inside the Synod Hall of the General Congregation, however, the cardinals blended into one red-hued assembly. Erected in the postwar era, the space is distinguished among Vatican architecture for its lack of majesty. Its uniformly beige interior is as sterile as a community college lecture hall. Eight years earlier, when they gathered in the same room after the death of John Paul II, the princes of the church had mainly looked for a candidate who could guarantee doctrinal continuity with the late Polish pope. But Pope Benedict’s resignation had opened the door to a flurry of unusually frank discussions. This time, cardinals had no pope to mourn, and they spent little time worrying about how to preserve his legacy.
Instead the deliberations swiftly turned to the biggest challenges facing the churchâthe rise of secular trends in Europe and the U.S., the need to address a shift in Catholicism’s demographics toward the Southern Hemisphere and the dysfunction of a Vatican bureaucracy that had become too mired in scandal to do anything about these problems.
Veteran cardinals who had cast ballots for Cardinal Bergoglio in 2005 saw a chance to float his candidacy again. His earliest supportersâa coalition of cardinals from Latin America, as well as Africa and Europeâviewed him as a consummate outsider. He had never worked in the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s governing body, and he was critical of Rome’s apparent disconnect with far-flung dioceses. The challenge was getting Cardinal Bergoglio the 77 votes he needed, representing two-thirds of the conclave, to become pope. He would need support from many different circles, including the so-called Ratzingerian blocâmen who were already lining up behind two candidates closely associated with the German pope emeritus.
In the years leading up to Pope Benedict’s resignation, the pontiff had positioned two princes of the church as possible successors. In June 2010, he transferred Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet from the Archdiocese of Quebec to the Vatican in order to run the Congregation for Bishops, the Curia office that vets and advises the pope on bishop appointments world-wide. The naming of bishops is among a pope’s most important administrative powers. Bishops are his bridge to the rest of the world, tending to local flocks and implementing directives from Rome. Cardinal Ouellet’s move, therefore, ensured that cardinals from every corner of the planet would be vying for his attention.
A year later, Pope Benedict appointed Cardinal Angelo Scola as archbishop of Milan. Not only was Milan among the biggest archdioceses in Catholicism, it had a centuries-old reputation as a way station to the papacy. Cardinal Scola’s predecessors in Milan ranged from Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, who became Paul VI in 1963, to Cardinal Giuliano Angelo Medici, who was elected as Pope Pius IV in 1559.
Both men were adherents of Pope Benedict’s school of thought. As young priests, each had worked on “Communio,” the theological journal co-founded by Rev. Joseph Ratzinger, as Benedict XVI was then known, as a reaction to the liberalizing forces unleashed by the Second Vatican Council. As alumni of “Communio,” they were seen as standing firmly in opposition to secular trends rather than trying to adapt church teaching to modern life.
Cardinals Scola and Ouellet were among the names frequently discussed over private dinners among cardinals. Such meals had become a staple for cardinals seeking an intimate setting to sound out their colleagues ahead of the conclave. All cardinals entering the General Congregation are required to swear an oath never to reveal its proceedings. Even then, cardinals did not consider the Congregation a place to let their guard down. The atmosphere inside the Synod assembly hall was fine for broad debate over the future of the church. But the forum was too formalâand porousâfor the delicate matter of discussing actual candidates. When cardinals vote on a potential pope, they are backing a man they think is best-suited to serve as a spiritual pastor to 1.2 billion Catholics. But they are also picking their next boss. That is partly why cardinals vote anonymously in the Sistine Chapel, masking their handwriting and burning the ballots. Cardinals do not want to be on record voting against a future pope.
The private dinners, therefore, are regarded as the conclave within the conclave, an ostensibly casual setting that serves in fact as a high-stakes testing ground for candidacies. “Every night it’s something different,” said Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George. “So there are different conversations going on.”
At age 76, Cardinal George walks with a pronounced limp and has shed most of his hair. Yet the Chicagoan has a keen eye for the art of politics. His knowledge of Italy’s intrigue-laden political system, from the machinations of the postwar Christian Democrats to the more recent antics of Silvio Berlusconi, runs deep. Going into the 2013 conclave, Cardinal George’s second, he was widely regarded by his colleagues as one of a handful of cardinals who would play the role of kingmaker. As such, he remained tight-lipped about his dinnertime whereabouts. In the case of one meal in particular, he claimed to have no memory of the evening at all.
On March 5, after a long day of speeches at the Congregation, a group of cardinals arrived at the Pontifical North American College under the cover of night and were directed through long quiet corridors to a pair of double doors, upholstered in crimson leather. On the other side was the Red Room.
Named after a Vatican drawing room where prelates of past centuries once waited for news of whether they had been named a cardinal, the Red Room of the college offered a splendorous showcase of American Catholicism to the dinner guests. A shimmering chandelier lighted a salon trimmed with red marble pilasters and oil paintings depicting late eminences such as Richard J. Cushing of Boston and John F. O’Hara of Philadelphiaâcardinals who dominated the church in post-World War II America.
Before those portraits, some of the most powerful churchmen in the English-speaking world lounged on velvet settees. They ranged from Cardinals George Pell of Sydney and Thomas Collins of Toronto to Americans such as cardinals Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Cardinal Dolan of New York, once the North American College’s rector.
American cardinals are an important group in papal elections. They run archdioceses that are among the biggest donors to the Catholic Church and to the papacy. And as a potential bloc of votes inside the conclave, the Americans are very powerful because they’re outnumbered only by cardinals from Italy, said British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who attended the dinner. Often they’re even more influential because the Italians are characteristically divided over whom to support.
Sitting down at a long banquet table, the cardinals began to discuss a half-dozen papal candidates. Saucers of soup were served. The candidacies of Cardinals Ouellet and Scola were weighed. Then someone dropped Cardinal Bergoglio’s name into the conversation. “His name began to be thrown into the ring: Maybe this is the man?” recalls Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor.
The name didn’t generate much buzz among the Americans and their guests. As the evening wore on, and glasses of red and white wine began to flow, it became clear that, this time around, the Americans were not united in their thinking about papal contenders. “I thought the American cardinals were quite divided about where to go,” said Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, who didn’t enter the conclave because he is above the voting-age limit of 80 years.
Some princes of the church believed Cardinal Bergoglio, at 76, was probably too old to become pope, especially after Benedict XVI had specifically cited his age and frailty as reasons for his resignation. “We came into this whole process thinking: The next pope has to be vigorous and therefore probably younger,” said Cardinal George. “So there you have a man who isn’t young. He’s 76 years old. The question is: Does he still have vigor?”
Two days after the dinner, however, something clicked. And it happened in the span of four minutesâthe length of Cardinal Bergoglio’s speech when it was his turn to address the General Congregation. On March 7, the Argentine took out a sheet of white paper bearing notes written in tiny tight script. They were bullet-pointed.
Many cardinals had focused their speeches on specific issues, whether it was strategies for evangelization or progress reports on Vatican finances. Cardinal Bergoglio, however, wanted to talk about the elephant in the room: the long-term future of the church and its recent history of failure. From its start, Pope Benedict’s papacy had been focused on reinforcing Catholicism’s identity, particularly in Europe, its historic home. Amid a collapse of the church’s influence and following in Europe, the German pontiff had called on Catholics to hunker down and cultivate a “creative minority” whose embrace of doctrine was sound enough to resist the pull of secular trends across the continent. That message, however, had been overshadowed by the explosion of sexual-abuse allegations across Europe and rampant infighting in the Vatican ranks.
The notes on Cardinal Bergoglio’s sheet were written in his native Spanish. And he could easily have delivered the remarks in Spanishâ19 of the cardinals voting in the conclave came from Spanish-speaking countries and a team of Vatican translators was on hand to provide simultaneous translations in at least four other languages.
But he spoke in Italian, the language cardinals most commonly use inside Vatican City and the native tongue of Italy’s 28 voting-age cardinals, the most of any single nation. He wanted to be understood, loud and clear. The leaders of the Catholic Church, our very selves, Cardinal Bergoglio warned, had become too focused on its inner life. The church was navel-gazing. The church was too self-referential.
“When the church is self-referential,” he said, “inadvertently, she believes she has her own light; she ceases to be the mysterium lunae and gives way to that very serious evil, spiritual worldliness.”
Roman Catholicism, he said, needed to shift its focus outward, to the world beyond Vatican City walls, to the outside. The new pope “must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the church to go out to the existential peripheries, that helps her to be the fruitful mother, who gains life from the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”
The word he used, periferia in Italian, literally translates into “the periphery” or “the edge.” But to Italian ears, periferia is also a term loaded with heavy socioeconomic connotations. It is on the periphery of Italian cities, and most European ones, that the working-class poor live, many of them immigrants. The core mission of the church wasn’t self-examination, the cardinal said. It was getting in touch with the everyday problems of a global flock, most of whom were battling poverty and the indignities of socioeconomic injustice.
German Cardinals Reinhard Marx of Munich and Walter Kasper, an old Vatican hand, perked up. So did Cardinals Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Lima and Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino of Havana, who promptly asked the pope for the notes of his address. For days they had heard speeches about “new evangelization,” a term from past popes that many cardinals used to honor their memory while disagreeing over what it meant. Suddenly, they were hearing someone speak about justice, human dignity. And it was simple, clear, refreshing.
“He speaks in a very straightforward way,” said Cardinal George. “And so perhapsâmore than the contentâit was simply a reminder that here is someone who has authenticity in such a way that he’s a wonderful witness to the discipleship.”
To Cardinal Cipriani Thorne of Lima, Peru, the address was vintage Bergoglio. For years, the Peruvian had heard his fellow Latin American cardinal deliver similar remarks. And like those earlier speeches, his message to the General Congregation walked a very fine line. Many cardinals, including Cipriani Thorne, were stern opponents of any rhetoric that appeared to invite class warfare. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI had reined in liberation theology, the teachings of Latin American priests who embraced Marxism, and churchmen like Cipriani Thorne had supported the crackdown. But Cardinal Bergoglio’s message to cardinals deftly sidestepped those ideological pitfalls by grounding his message in a call to model the modern church on the humility of its origins.
“He’s not relating this to ideology, to let’s say, rich against poor,” Cardinal Cipriani Thorne said. “No, no, nothing like that. He’s saying that Jesus himself brought us to this world to be poorâto not have this excessive consumerism, this great difference between rich and poor.”
What many thought Cardinal Bergoglio was offering the churchâafter a decade of struggling to overcome the sexual-abuse crisis and years of internal bickering over issues like the liturgyâwas a new narrative. He was telling a story of modern Catholicism that focused less on its complex inner workings and more on its outreach to those most in need.
“We’ve been arguing intra-ecclesia,” Cardinal Cipriani Thorne said. Cardinal Bergoglio’s speech was a call to stop “messing around” and “get to the point: It’s Jesus.”
By Sunday, March 10, two days before the start of the conclave, a new narrative was taking hold among the cardinals. Cardinal Bergoglio was now a contender, and even the Argentine was starting to feel the pressure of being papabile.
Late that night, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian priest, was walking along the edge of Rome’s Piazza Navona when he ran into Cardinal Bergoglio making his way back to the Domus hotel. Streetlamps illuminated the contorted stone figures of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s 17th-century Fountain of Four Rivers. The sound of trickling water accompanied the clerics.
“Pray for me,” Cardinal Bergoglio said, grasping the priest’s hands.
“Are you nervous?” Father Rosica asked.
“A little bit,” the cardinal said.
Cemetery desecration signals power of Libyan IslamistsGeoffrey York ("The Globe and Mail," April 11, 2013)
With his 9-millimetre pistol tucked in his belt, bleary-eyed volunteer guard Naser al-Werfali is the last line of defence for the windswept graves of the âDesert Ratsâ who defeated the Nazis in North Africa.
More than 150 graves, including that of a Canadian war hero, were smashed or desecrated last year by a mob of Islamist extremists who invaded the Commonwealth war cemetery in Benghazi. Months later, the cemetery was attacked again, wreaking further destruction to the graves and memorial crosses.
Now the lone guard is asking for help. âAs long as Iâm alive, Iâll protect this place,â he told an early morning visitor in February, as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. âI keep asking for more support and security, and nobody helps. Iâm risking my life, and nobody cares.â
The assaults on the cemetery, where at least nine Canadians are among the 1,200 soldiers buried or commemorated, are a sign of the persistent power of the hard-line Islamist militias that control much of Libya since the demise of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Nobody has been brought to justice for the destruction of the war graves. The Islamists operate with impunity. They are a small minority in Libya, yet they are so heavily armed and aggressive that few people are willing to tangle with them, and the Libyan government is too weak to restrain them.
With their purist views on religion, radical Islamists have attacked Coptic and Orthodox churches, assaulted priests, fired grenades at Red Cross offices that were accused of proselytizing and destroyed dozens of shrines of the Sufi sect of Islam. Under the influence of the same ideology, Libyan military authorities arrested more than 50 Egyptian Copts and other foreign Christians in Benghazi on suspicion of proselytizing or distributing Christian pamphlets.
This year alone, a Coptic church in Misrata was bombed, killing two Egyptian Christians, and a Coptic church in Benghazi was torched, nearly killing its priest.
The Canadian government is among those who have protested against the attacks. âCanada is deeply concerned about the recent attacks on religious minorities in Libya and condemns the recent burning of a Coptic Christian church in Benghazi,â said a statement last month by Michael Grant, the Canadian ambassador to Libya.
When the mob attacked the Benghazi war cemetery in February last year, one of the headstones that they smashed was on the grave of Flying Officer Martin Northmore, a pilot from Toronto whose fighter plane crashed in 1943 as he was escorting a convoy in the Allied campaign against the Nazi forces in North Africa.
Before going overseas, Mr. Northmore was stationed on Prince Edward Island, where he had eloped while on leave. The RCAF officer, who died right before his 26th birthday, was buried inside Benghazi War Cemetery.
That month, the Toronto Star reported, his aunt, Leila Bishopp Martin, wrote a poem titled Broken Fight mourning his loss.
Your love so fond â your spirit true and gay,
Soared high to reach the stars beyond the night;
But groping still â along our dusty way â
We search the skies, above a broken flight.
A video posted on YouTube shows a mob of armed men deliberately toppling the yardâs gravestones, targeting Christian and Jewish graves, and destroying a large âCross of Sacrificeâ memorial. âCrazy people did it â extremists with beards,â Mr. al-Werfali said. âThe extremists donât like to see crosses.â
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, based in Britain, promised to replace the destroyed headstones and memorial cross, but Benghazi was considered too dangerous for foreign workers so the restoration was delayed for most of the past 14 months. A replacement cross and headstones were sent to the cemetery to be installed, but the cross was attacked again and smashed into rubble.
Leaders of Libya Shield, one of the biggest Islamist militias in Benghazi, deny any knowledge of the cemetery attacks. They said the attacks were âtotally wrongâ â the work of âilliterateâ people. But they could not explain how the mob was able to assault the cemetery so openly, in broad daylight, with nobody stopping them and nobody punished for the attack, and then were able to repeat the assault a few months later.
Although the Islamist radicals are a minority of public opinion in Libya, their military muscle and ability to intimidate their rivals could be crucial over the next year as Libya tries to draft a post-Gadhafi constitution. A key question is whether the constitution will enshrine Islamic sharia law as the supreme law of the land.
The attacks on Christian and Sufi sites are part of a larger struggle for power by the Islamists across Libya, observers say. âBehind the scenes, theyâre trying to take control of the government, the country,â said Abdullah Banun, a prominent Sufi lawyer and head of a Sufi teaching centre in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
Mr. Banun, who has endured death threats and attacks on his family, says the anti-Sufi campaign is spearheaded by Salafist radicals who follow the agenda of extremists in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. âTheyâve already succeeded in taking control of the mosques,â he said in an interview. âTheyâve expelled many imams and replaced them with younger imams who agree with them. Theyâre all filled with Salafist ideas, and theyâre strongly attacking the Sufis.â
Some towns in eastern Libya, such as the town of Derna near Benghazi, have turned into âIslamist emiratesâ under the control of the radicals, Mr. Banun said. âThey donât want the country to stabilize. Whether they seize power or not, theyâre very organized and they have weapons, and the Libyan military canât stop them. My biggest fear is that theyâll take over the country. Their understanding of sharia law is just chopping off hands.â
Syria, Iran, and North Korea voted against the treaty, accusing the framers of composing a treaty that unfairly targeted their countries.
The treaty enjoyed broad support from African nations that were concerned about how the influx of weapons into their countries, particularly via the black market, affected their political stability.
Although the United States voter in support of the treaty, the treaty was widely opposed in the U.S. and by the National Rifle Association (NRA) on the grounds that it could have a controlling effect on domestic arms sales. They see the treaty as potentially interfering with Second Amendment rights of citizens.
Several U.S. politicians from the Republican Party have also criticized the treaty.
The treaty will however, link the sales of arms to the human-rights records of the buyers. It is hoped that the potential of political embarrassment will dissuade suppliers from dealing with shameful buyers with poor human rights records.
Chances are, however, that such dealers and suppliers have little concern or this. Despite the broad international support for the treaty, like most things passed by the UN, this treaty has no enforcement mechanism.
The treaty will now have to be ratified by the United States Senate.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
Lawyers in China protest after rights lawyer detained after defending Falun Gong practitioner(AP, April 5, 2013)
BEIJING â Several prominent lawyers in China have signed a letter urging a court to explain its detention of a rights lawyer after he defended a practitioner of the banned Falun Gong movement.
Wang Quanzhang was detained Wednesday at the end of a trial at Jinjiang People’s Court in eastern Jiangsu province. According to other lawyers he is the subject of a 10-day judicial detention. Under Chinese law, a court is entitled to issue warnings, fines or order the detention of those who fail to follow court rules.
In a statement posted online, judicial officials said Wang was in violation of a court order and the circumstances were “serious,” but gave no further details.
“The detention arouses the anxieties of the lawyers and makes them feel unsafe when defending in court in the future,” said Li Fangping on Friday. He is one of the signatories of a letter sent to court officials and lawyers associations urging the court to suspend and explain Wang’s detention and release the court video of proceedings.
A statement posted by Wang’s assistant Huang Dejia on Sina Weibo said that during the trial the judge confiscated Wang’s mobile phone after he took a photo of evidence.
Calls to Jinjiang People’s Court rang unanswered Friday. It said on Wednesday that Wang was detained after defending a person charged with “using an evil cult to undermine implementation of the law.