Today's Catholic

Jerusalem priest to Israel, Palestine: Humanize one another

Posted in Uncategorized by satodayscatholic on August 30, 2014

Following the agreement of an indefinite ceasefire in Gaza earlier this week, a key priest in Jerusalem says the only way for it to last is if both sides overcome dehumanizing prejudices of the other.
“Until there is a real dialogue that starts where the two sides see the other side in its full human reality, we can’t really talk about the beginning of a process that will lead us to peace,” Father Neuhaus told CNA Aug. 28.
One of the patriarchal vicars of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Fr. Neuhaus is also responsible for Hebrew speaking Catholics in his diocese and a large population of migrant workers and asylum seekers in the country.
The long-term ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip was negotiated by Egypt, and took effect at 7 p.m. (4 p.m. GMT) Tuesday, ending seven weeks of fighting which has left more than 2,200 people dead, most of them Palestinians.
According BBC News, Palestinian officials stated that the ceasefire proposal called for an indefinite end to hostilities, an immediate opening of Gaza’s access to Israel and Egypt, and an extension of the area’s Mediterranean fishing zone.
The agency reports that immediately Israel was to end its blockade of Gaza in order to allow aid and building materials in. Further discussion on issues of greater tension, such as Israel’s call for a disarming of militant groups in Gaza, and the release of Hamas prisoners in the West Bank, are set to begin in Cairo within a month.
Despite the great feeling of relief on both sides to have an end to the last 50 days of intense fighting in Gaza – which he expects will take roughly 15 years to fully repair – Fr. Neuhaus said that now begins the great task of Israelis and Palestinians in learning to view each other as neighbors rather than enemies.
The question of putting themselves in each other’s shoes is “a very, very difficult question and perhaps the most difficult question we face,” he said.
In order to come to a position in which Israelis and Palestinians can really speak to one another, we “need a real lesson in language where we will cease to use with such ease the terms that confine the other in an almost satanic role.”
Drawing attention to rapid resolution to past conflicts in South Africa, Father Neuhaus stated that although there is still a long way to go for Israel and Palestine, it doesn’t necessarily mean a “long distance to travel in time.”
“What we need — and this we need desperately — are leaders who are creative enough to propose meaningful discourse to those people who are living in these situations so that they can open their eyes and open their ears and take in the reality of the other.”
However, currently “We live in a society based on the building of walls: the walls that you see and the walls that cannot be seen, which are probably even higher in the hearts of the people who live there,” he said, noting that “Behind those walls is ‘another’ that I don’t want to see.”
Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land in May “was a moment of great triumph of this discourse” of humanization, Father Neuhaus observed, and pointed to the June invocation for peace held in the Vatican with the Pope, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, and the Israeli and Palestinian presidents as a further step forward.
Holding this prayer inside the Vatican was as if the Pope were saying to the presidents, “Please, put yourselves before God. Put yourselves before God as you speak, as you act towards the other and see that as God’s children God has no favorites,” he continued.
“God loves all of God’s children. And it is God who has planted these children right in this land, so they need to find ways to relate to one another.”
As for the length of this latest ceasefire, Father Neuhaus explained that although he is not “not a prophet so I cannot tell how long it will last,” his is “a person of prayer and I pray that it lasts.”
“I pray that it lasts so that people can put their lives together. I pray that it lasts so that people can get some critical perspective on the behavior of their governments on both sides that led us into the escalated violence we’ve just been through. I hope it lasts long enough so that children can get enough sleep and start slowly to get back to the normal life of a child.”
“I think it’s very, very important that we also begin to speak a language of hope,” the priest reflected.
Drawing attention to the important role of the church in fostering this dialogue, he stated that she “does speak and needs to speak even louder a language of possibilities and alternatives.”
She needs to speak “of a prophetic vision for what the Holy Land could be if Jews, Christians and Muslims, if Palestinians and Israelis really could live together and build up that land as a blessing for one and all.

Iraqi refugees working to help each other survive

Posted in Iraq by satodayscatholic on August 29, 2014

Christians and other religious minorities who have fled areas in Iraq that have fallen under Islamic State control are now helping one another to survive as refugees, an aid worker said.
“They themselves have been displaced and they’re going around caring for those who are in need, who are in situations like they are,” Todd Daniels, International Christian Concern regional manager for the Middle East, told CNA Aug. 27.
Last week, Daniels was in Iraq, where it is estimated that more than 1 million people have fled from their homes amid the invasion of the radical Islamic State, also known as ISIS. The militant group has taken control of numerous cities and ordered Christians and other religious minorities to convert, pay a tax known as a jizya, or be killed.
The fleeing Iraqis — including Christians and other religious minorities — have sought refuge in other areas, such as the northern city of Erbil.
Daniels said that while the situation is desperate, there is much hope in the way religious communities and refugees are working to improve life there.
“Probably one of the most striking impressions was just the activeness of the local churches,” he said. “From morning to night they’re out there providing aid, providing relief and actually, a lot of the man power, for the groups we were working with by people who themselves have been displaced.”
Aid groups and local churches are working to provide support, but humanitarian needs are “still very, very great.”
Some refugees hope that international security forces will help create a safe haven for Christians and other religious minorities, while others are just trying to grasp the reality that they will most likely never return to their homes.
“There’s really a feeling of not knowing what to do,” Daniels said.
Schools, parks and even unfinished shopping centers have been transformed into temporary housing, sometimes sheltering as many as 700 people. In what used to be a single kindergarten classroom, 25 families — roughly 100 people — have taken up residence, he said.
In one of the make-shift homes in an old school, Daniels described how he met a mother and her 15-day-old baby on one floor and a 95-year-old woman who fled with three generations of her family on another.
“That was just a really striking portrait of the level of people who have been affected by this that have now left their homes and really been forced to leave with basically nothing more, in many cases, than the clothes on their backs,” he said. “Their lives have been turned upside down by this.”
The most immediate need for the refugees in Erbil is basic humanitarian aid, which International Christian Concern and other groups have been giving in the form of food, clean drinking water, mattresses and medical attention. However, with so many refugees, much more aid is needed than is being provided at this time.
“You treat a few and there’s a dozen more that you just don’t have time or resources to get to,” Daniels said.
He also noted that the refugees will soon face a new challenge. Temperatures in Erbil have been averaging 110°F, but with winter just a few months away, the cold will pose a large threat for those living outside.
Those who are able to help can do so by donating to humanitarian aid groups and charities as well as contacting their governments to encourage them to address the situation.
“It seems obvious that the Kurdish government (and) the Baghdad government on their own are not going to be able to deal with the security threat posed by ISIS as well as the humanitarian response,” he said. “So they are going to need very clear leadership from outside governments.”

Koreans infected with ‘Francis syndrome’ after papal visit

Posted in Korea, Pope Francis by satodayscatholic on August 29, 2014

A former Korean ambassador to the Holy See spoke of the effects of Pope Francis’ recent visit to South Korea, saying that all of Asia now feels a long-term challenge to imitate his humble ways.
“All the media in Korea are already speaking of ‘Francis syndrome,’” former ambassador Thomas Han told CNA Aug. 26.
“The Korean people, having been deeply impressed by Pope Francis’ person and his lifestyle, seriously reflect upon the meaning of their lives and seek to see the things in life that really matter.”
Han explained that leaders “at every level of society” now feel an “unspoken pressure to make their own the leadership style the Korean people have witnessed in Pope Francis.”
“Therefore, it is safe to say that such ‘Francis syndrome’ will surely serve as a momentum for the Koreans to promote the culture of love, thereby contributing to authentic humanization of the Korean Peninsula in the long term.”
Pope Francis traveled to Seoul, South Korea Aug. 14-18, where he met with youth participating in the 6th Asian Youth Day, as well as with government officials, local Church leaders and heads of other faith traditions.
Marking the first time a Roman Pontiff has visited the peninsula since John Paul II went in 1989, the voyage has had an impact on the entire Asian continent, particularly the youth, who were touched by the Pope’s heart-to-heart way of communicating, and those affected by the Sewol ferry disaster that happened earlier this spring.
With the presence of Pope Francis in their midst, Koreans “were excited to verify what they had heard about him through the media,” Han observed.
“In a word, Pope Francis has at last satisfied their quenchless thirst for true leadership. His coherence between words and actions, his simple lifestyle, his humility, the way he embraced the poor, the disabled, the outcasts greatly impressed them.”
It is rumored that following the pope’s visit, many in Korea are now beginning to purchase the compact Kia Soul he chose to pick him up from the airport, following his request to have the smallest car possible.
As the smallest car in Korea, the vehicle was considered unsuitable for such a globally significant figure, and left many chuckling when they saw the pontiff drive away in the boxy car.
What the Korean people saw in the Pope was “a witness to hope,” the former ambassador explained. “The hope that with the leadership of Pope Francis the world can be made a better place to live in.”
Speaking on the particular impact Pope Francis made on the Asian youth, Han noted that they viewed him as the Good Shepherd who came “not to be served but to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.”
“They have been excited to be with Pope Francis who rekindled the very special love that had been displayed by Christ toward the young man in the Gospel” and who “launched them as leading actors in humanization and evangelization of society.”
Drawing attention to how the Asian continent currently is home to over 60 percent of the world’s population, Han noted that along with this number come “flagrant inequalities” both in terms of one’s possessions, as well as in the exercise of political power.
“More than half of the 900 million absolute poor in the world who survive on less than $1.25 a day are in Asia,” he stated, observing also how “Women experience a very low level of gender equality in the world” and “the deprivation of the right to life of the unborn child is widespread.”
Going on, Han observed that many “are denied the right to religious freedom” and that “cultural and religious diversity sometimes leads even to animosity and conflict between peoples.” He also pointed out current threats to peace, including increasing militarization and continuous environmental pollution.
“It is thus timely for Pope Francis to come to encourage the Catholic Church in Asia to strengthen its efforts to humanize and evangelize the Asian continent facing such realities,” he said.
Noting the significance of choosing Korea for his first trip to Asia, the former ambassador explained that Pope Francis’ presence in a country suffering division for 70 years signifies that he came “to Korea and to Asia as Pontiff, that is, as a builder of bridges with God and between peoples.”
He came “as apostle of true peace, to encourage the Catholics and all the other Asians to dialogue and work together to overcome all the inhuman situations that occur on the Continent to build a more equitable society, a more stable peace in the world.”
In this context, Pope Francis’ visit represents “a challenge to Korea as a nation and the Catholic Church therein to assume a greater role in pursuing authentic human development of peoples in Asia as well as in the Korean Peninsula,” Han observed.
“Both Korea and the Catholic Church well deserve to play such a role and (are) ready to embrace such a challenge,” he said. “The Pope’s visit will stimulate the ongoing renewal of the Catholic Church’s determination to take the lead in evangelization of Asia as well as the Korean Peninsula.”
At the same time, he continued, it will serve “as an effective catalyst to Korea’s constant willingness to assume its own responsibility for the humanization of Asia as well as the Korean Peninsula by promoting the culture of love, justice and peace.

No one wins by destroying each other, Jerusalem bishop says

Posted in Uncategorized by satodayscatholic on August 28, 2014

Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem hopes the new indefinite ceasefire in Gaza will hold, cautioning that victory cannot come from violence and that compromise is vital on both sides for it to last.
“This time we are much more hopeful for one important reason: no one is victorious after two months. Two are losers I believe, no one is victorious even if someone says ‘I won.’ No one won,” Bishop Shomali, auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told CNA Aug. 27.
Each has “finally understood that no one can destroy the other” and that “there is a need for a compromise” as well as “a comprehensive solution to the problem,” he said.
The long-term ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip was negotiated by Egypt, and took effect at 7 p.m. (4 p.m. GMT) Tuesday, ending seven weeks of fighting which has left more than 2,200 people dead, most of them Palestinians.
According BBC News, Palestinian officials stated that the ceasefire proposal called for an indefinite end to hostilities, an immediate opening of Gaza’s access to Israel and Egypt, and an extension of the area’s Mediterranean fishing zone.
The agency reports that immediately Israel is to end its blockade of Gaza in order to allow aid and building materials in. Further discussion on issues of greater tension, such as Israel’s call for a disarming of militant groups in Gaza, and the release of Hamas prisoners in the West Bank, are set to begin in Cairo within a month.
Israel originally launched their Operation Protective Edge July 8 with the stated goal of ending rocket fire from Hamas. To date, at least 2,140 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Gaza, BBC reports, while 11,000 have been injured.
U.N. officials state that more than 17,000 buildings in the area have either been destroyed or severely damaged, and that there are at least 475,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), which is over a quarter of the territory’s population.
Of all the needs Gaza citizens are currently facing after 50 days of intense fighting, Bishop Shomali explained that “The greatest need is humanitarian. Medical needs for the wounded, hospitals which are overcrowded.”
“There is also the need for food nourishing these people” and “in the future we need special psychological treatment for traumatized children.”
Currently the situation “is difficult because of the big number of victims,” he said, stating that “Many, many homes were destroyed, many families lost everything; their house, maybe they lost their dear ones in the house. It’s tragic.”
Explaining how patriarchate opened their schools to those seeking shelter and fleeing from the ongoing attacks, Bishop Shomali noted that at least 1,000 people sought refuge there.
Now they are preparing for a new academic year, but there is a lot of work to do in restoring the schools after the presence of so many who were homeless.
“We have to refurnish it, paint it, renew the windows and the doors. It’s been a mess,” he said, revealing that they will also “dispensate” families “from paying any fees because they have no money. So we take care of all of the scholarships of the students, this is a big amount.”
Noting how the Holy See has been helping relief efforts through numerous Catholic aid organizations such as Caritas Jerusalem and Catholic Relief Services, the bishop explained that “we thank the Holy See because they are very aware of the situation.”
“The Holy Father was very close to us, very close to the parish priest of Gaza, so we are really consoled by the proximity of the Catholic Church with us.”

Pope Francis’ Korea visit ignites movement toward unity

Posted in Korea, Pope Francis by satodayscatholic on August 28, 2014

A South Korea-based U.S. missionary who frequently crosses the border to North Korea to bring medicine and support says that Pope Francis’ visit advanced efforts to heal a divided country.
Father Gerard Hammond, an 81-year-old Maryknoll missionary, has lived in South Korea since 1960 and has made 51 trips to North Korea since 1995.
His mission: to stop deaths from Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis in North Korea.
“Due to do the security laws in South Korea, it is very difficult to send humanitarian aid to North Korea without the agreement of the Ministry of Reunification,” the priest told CNA.
Father Hammond can enter North Korea thanks to the Eugene Bell Foundation, a U.S.-based organization allowed admission to enter the country to give humanitarian aid, which includes a “slot” for Catholic missionaries. The latest trip took place this spring from Apr. 21-May 6.
Their work is well-known in the Vatican, and Pope Francis had been informed about them.
“He met each one of the 14 Maryknollers in our Seoul House. When Pope Francis met me, he spoke two words, ‘North Korea-tuberculosis’ and squeezed my arm,” Fr. Hammond recounted.
He stressed that “the visit of our Holy Father was a great blessing for all of us especially for the Korean people that have suffered so much. His visit left a tremendous impression on all Koreans, Catholic and non-Catholic.”
“Now we have to implement the challenge to heal a divided country, society and church,” he said.
“I hope the visit of the Holy Father to be the spark for the beginning a move toward Peace on the Peninsula and for Reconciliation for the peoples of North and South Korea.”
Father Hammond will return to North Korea for a trip this fall from Oct. 13-Nov. 4, saying that “there is no shortage of places and people that need help, whether it is through medicine, diagnostic machines, or other critical supplies.”
Until now, “we delivered medical supplies to patients in 12 treatment centers. Starting early in the morning, we work ceaselessly to make sure all the patients waiting at each center could be tested and we could enroll as many new people as possible.”
Father Hammond explained CNA that the missionaries are able to use six Gene X-perts — state-of-the-art medical devices “that allow us to diagnose Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis within 2 hours and deliver medicine to critically-ill patients without having to wait 6 months until our next trip.”
“On each trip we treat a 1,000 Multi Drug Resistant tubercolosis patients.”
Until now, the missionaries have cured more than 70 percent of their patients, compared with a worldwide cure rate of only 48 percent.
Father Hammond recounted that “for the past few years, we have been providing nutritional assistance to patients to supplement their diet and aid in their quick recovery.”
“Patients receiving nutritional assistance have gained weight, energy, and are better prepared to finish their difficult multi-drug resistant treatment.”
He said he has been “happy to see patients who once had difficulty just holding up their boxes of medicine now happily talking about how they had put on extra pounds.”
For the majority of patients in North Korea who have been “suffering for years” from the condition, “there is no option for treatment” and “reliable testing for MDR-TB is not yet widely available.”
“For the sake of the unreached people of North Korea, we must keep fighting to bring medicine,” Father Hammond said.

Vatican spokesman: ISIS threat to Pope Francis unfounded

Posted in Iraq, Pope Francis by satodayscatholic on August 27, 2014

In response to rumors that the Islamic State may be targeting Pope Francis, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, said there is no reason for concern.
“There is nothing serious to this. There is no particular concern in the Vatican. This news has no foundation,” the spokesman told CNA Aug. 26.
The rumors spread following an Aug. 25 article published in Italian newspaper “Il Tempo,” which said the number of jihadists in Italy is on the rise due to the influx of unidentified immigrants in the country.
According to the article, Islamic fundamentalists led by Al-Baghdadi plan to “raise the level of confrontation” in Europe and alluded to Israeli sources who said that Pope Francis is “also in the crosshairs of ISIS” as “the greatest exponent of the Christian religions” and the “bearer of false truth.”
Al-Baghdadi has been named as Caliph — the head of state and absolute monarch — of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in western Iraq and north-eastern Syria, and is the former head of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
While the reports regarding the threat of attacks in Europe and on the pope appear to be unfounded, an Aug. 20 article published by Italian news agency Rai reveals that Italy is tightening its security.
According to the agency, there have been no targeted threats or specific indications of attacks on Italy. However, a nationwide alert has been issued.

Papal envoy: we must see humanity of each Iraqi refugee

Posted in Iraq by satodayscatholic on August 27, 2014

The international community must view suffering Iraqi refugees not as a collective group, but as individual persons, each with his or her own story and needs, the Pope’s envoy to the country encouraged.
“We should set our sight on every child, every person. When you look at them, sitting on the ground, you don’t think them as a crowd. You think about them as single persons, about each individual story,” Cardinal Fernando Filoni told CNA Aug. 22.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis selected Cardinal Filoni as his personal envoy to Iraq. In addition to his role as the current prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the cardinal served as Papal nuncio to Iraq from 2001 to 2006.
Cardinal Filoni reported to Pope Francis in a private meeting Aug. 20, upon returning from a week-long trip to Iraq, where he had several meetings with the local authorities and spent much time with refugees, learning about the effort of the local Church to help the internally displaced persons.
“According to data I have been given, at the moment in Iraq there are 1.2 million internally displaced persons,” he said, explaining that this includes Christians, yazidis, Muslims and Chaldeans.
The papal envoy commented that there had been “a very strong intolerance, and very often minorities are at risk for discrimination in certain areas.”
The situation grew drastically worse, however, with the advance of the Islamic State army, which suddenly headed north, seizing Mosul and the Nineveh plain and pushing Christian and minorities out of their homes with violence and threats.
“I reported to Pope Francis on the precariousness of these people, who have mostly fled without anything,” Cardinal Filoni said.
He explained that he was deeply touched by the plight of the people — suffering individuals, each with their own story. In particular, he was struck by the suffering children, elderly and yazidi minorities.
The cardinal described seeing “women crouched in a corner, without their husbands,” as well as grown men “crying like children because they do not see any future for their people.”
In addition, the papal envoy was astonished at “seeing benumbed elderly, sitting down not doing anything in the heat.”
“When one is uprooted from his village, where he had his life, his friendships, and is just sitting there, what does he expect? Only death. This is dramatic.”
Cardinal Filoni also stressed the difficult situation of the children who have been uprooted from their homes. He voiced gratitude for those who are sacrificing to make the best of the traumatic circumstances.
“There are volunteers, groups of young people who take care of children, invent games, teach them songs… they are small, pleasant things,” he said.
Among the refugees, there are also newborn babies, born into uncertainty in a time of trauma.
“A child was born two days before my arrival,” the cardinal recalled. “His mom, with her husband and the other child, where there, doing their best to set up their little corner. They lost everything, they lack everything. Their only treasure is this child, who is born and thank God is there.”

Pope: division is the greatest sin of Christian communities

Posted in Pope Francis by satodayscatholic on August 27, 2014

During his weekly general audience Pope Francis spoke on the unity and holiness of the Church, stating that despite the fact we are sinners, we are called to live as a community centered on Christ.
“In a Christian community division is one of the most serious sins, because it does not allow God to act,” the pope said in his Aug. 27 general audience address. “What God wants is that we be welcoming, that we forgive and love each other so as to become more and more like Him, who is communion and love.”
Addressing the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Roman Pontiff explained that as Catholics “we affirm in the Creed that the Church is one and that she is holy.”
“One because she has her origin in the Triune God, mystery of unity and full communion. Holy since she is founded by Jesus Christ, enlivened by his Holy Spirit, and filled with his love and salvation.”
We continue to refer to the church as “one” and “holy” despite the fact that “we know by experience that it is also composed of sinners and that there is no shortage of divisions,” he said, recalling how the night before he was arrested Jesus “asked for the unity of his disciples: ‘that all be one.’”
“We trust in his desire that unity will be one of the characteristic features of our community,” the pope continued, noting that “While we, the members of the church, are sinners, the unity and holiness of the church arise from God and call us daily to conversion.”
Observing how “We have an intercessor in Jesus, who prays…for our unity with him and the Father, and with each other,” the Bishop of Rome drew attention to the sins that often cause division.
“Sins against unity are not only schisms,” he said, “but also the most common weeds of our communities: envies, jealousies, antipathies…talking bad about others. This is human, but it is not Christian.”
These sins “which occur even in our parish communities,” Pope Francis continued, “come about when we place ourselves at the center.”
“God’s will, however, is that we grow in our capacity to welcome one another, to forgive and to love, and to resemble Jesus.”
Explaining how “It’s the devil who separates, destroys relationships, sows prejudices,” the Pope affirmed that “the holiness of the Church” is “to recognize the image of God in one another.”
“The holiness of the Church consists of this: reproducing the image of God, rich in mercy and grace.”
Concluding his address, the Roman Pontiff prayed that all might “examine our consciences and ask forgiveness for the times when we have given rise to division or misunderstanding in our communities, and may our relationships mirror more beautifully and joyfully the unity of Jesus and the Father.”
Following his reflections Pope Francis greeted groups of pilgrims present from around the world, giving special notice to several Cuban bishops who have come for the enthronement of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, patroness of Cuba, in the Vatican Gardens tomorrow.
“I greet with affection all of the bishops from Cuba, who came to Rome for this occasion,” he said, “while at the same time I ask you to convey my closeness and blessing to all of the Cuban faithful.”

Orthodox patriarch denounces ISIS violence, stresses dialogue

Posted in Iraq by satodayscatholic on August 26, 2014

The Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church has spoken out against the persecution of religious minorities in Iraq, calling for dialogue and immediate humanitarian aid.
“Such calamity and cruelty of adherents to one religion can never be defended by cowardly and falsely invoking another religion,” said the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. “Such brutal acts are categorically unacceptable and unjustifiable before both God and humankind.”
“We will not remain indifferent or silent before such irrational persecution, cultural intolerance and appalling loss of life, especially when it is caused by religious hatred and racial hostility,” he said in an Aug. 13 statement.
The persecution and the targeting of tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities, Patriarch Bartholomew stressed, “can never be justified in the name of any religious creed or conviction.”
Brutal violence continues to plague Iraq as militants with the Islamic State, known as ISIS, have taken control of numerous cities and ordered Christians and other religious minorities to convert, pay a tax known as a jizya, or be killed.
Patriarch Bartholomew warned that the violence in Iraq threatens not only religious minorities, but “an entire civilization.”
“The victimization and extermination of women and children, as well as of the elderly and disabled, for any reason whatsoever – much more so in the supposed name of religious conviction – is a repudiation of our own future,” he added.
The patriarch, who is widely known for his contribution to dialogue and peace-building efforts, appealed to all involved religious leaders and political authorities “to promote conversation to resolve dispute, and to support peaceful means to overcome conflict.”
“Violence never is pacified by violence, and hatred is only overcome by tolerance.”
The call to dialogue and encounter is essential for leaders in all conflict-ridden parts of the world, the patriarch said in a Catholic News Agency report, referencing the situation in Gaza and Israel and the interfaith peace summit held at the Vatican in June, at which he and Pope Francis prayed with Presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas.
However, “(t)he situation in Iraq is especially critical,” he noted. “The humanitarian predicament is more urgent than ever. Our response must be immediate and tangible.”
Patriarch Bartholomew called on “every responsible organization and every person of good will — beyond any support through perpetual and persistent prayer — to assist with material and humanitarian resources so that these innocent victims may no longer endure hunger, suffering, and death.

Baghdad bishop: Take a ‘real’ challenge by praying

Posted in Iraq by satodayscatholic on August 26, 2014

A bishop in Baghdad is challenging the faithful across the world to join in 30 minutes of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament on Aug. 26 for peace in Iraq and for refugees of violence in the country.
Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Sirop Hanna of Baghdad issued the challenge in a video posted to Facebook.
“It started days ago, when people from different countries in the world started to challenge each other,” he said, in an apparent reference to the ice bucket challenge that has swept social media and sought to raise money and awareness for ALS, or as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“The phenomenon actually stopped me and let me re-think the meaning of ‘challenge’ in our life,” the bishop continued.
“I think that the real challenge is the challenge of evil and immorality that exists in our world. I think that the real challenge is a spiritual challenge — the challenge of evil that we produce in our hearts, in our minds. My thoughts, my actions, my intentions.”
The first step in countering this evil is faith and prayer, Bishop Hanna stated, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
Addressing his brothers and sisters in the Church throughout the world, he offered his own challenge: to spend 30 minutes in silent prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
Bishop Hanna asked that this take place Tuesday, Aug. 26, at 6 p.m. in Iraq, which is 11 a.m. Eastern Time.
He encouraged people to take pictures of themselves during this time of prayer — either as individuals or groups – and promised to collect these photos and display them on this Facebook page. He also said that he would write a newspaper article about the prayer event.
“We will all be united in prayer for peace in Iraq and for the refugees here in the north of Iraq,” he said. “They are living in very bad conditions. They need our support. They need our prayer.”

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