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Pope eager to meet Catholic, interreligious leaders in Bangladesh

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 06:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis sent a video greeting to the people of Bangladesh ahead of his Nov. 30-Dec. 2 visit to the country, saying he is looking forward to meeting everyone, especially Catholics and other religious leaders, and to bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“I want to meet the entire people,” he said. “In a special way, I cannot wait to meet the religious leaders in Ramna (Park).” Located in the central part of the capital city Dhaka, Ramna Park has a lake and trees and is considered one of the most beautiful areas of the city.

In the video, published Nov. 21, he also emphasized his wish to reaffirm the Catholic community of Bangladesh in “its faith and in its testimony of the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and calls us to open our hearts to others, especially the poor and needy.”

Francis also said that in his visit he comes as a “minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to proclaim his message of reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace.”

This is a time when we all, both believers and non-believers, are called to promote understanding and respect, and support each other as part of “one human family,” he said.    

The Pope's visit is the second leg of an apostolic trip to the countries of Burma – also known as Myanmar – and Bangladesh from Nov. 27 to Dec. 2.

He will arrive in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, from Burma on Nov. 30 in the afternoon. There will be a formal welcoming ceremony and then he will make a visit to the National Martyr's Memorial in Savar, about 22 miles north-west of the capital.

The National Martyr's Memorial in Savar is the national monument of Bangladesh. It stands in memory of all those who gave their lives in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which brought independence and separated Bangladesh from Pakistan.  

He will also visit the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, which honors the former Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahman, who was assassinated alongside his family in August 1975.

From there he will meet with the President of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid. Afterward he will deliver a speech in a meeting with governmental authorities, leaders of the civil society and with the diplomatic corps.

On Dec. 1, Francis will celebrate Mass and a priestly ordination at Suhrawardy Udyan Park. In the afternoon he will visit the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina and the cathedral.

Later he will give speeches in meetings with the bishops of Bangladesh and with interreligious leaders and an ecumenical group for peace.

In the morning on Dec. 2 he will make a private visit to the Mother Teresa House in the Tejgaon district of Dhaka.

Afterward he will meet and address priests, religious, consecrated, seminarians and novices in the Church of the Holy Rosary, which was built in the late 1600s and is the oldest church building still-standing in Dhaka. The Pope will visit the church and the parish cemetery during his visit.

Francis' final encounter of the trip will be with youth at the Notre Dame College of Dhaka, where he will deliver a speech before leaving for the airport and the official leaving ceremony before departing for Rome. He is expected to land back in Rome at about 11p.m. local time.

Dioceses of Nashville, Jefferson City get new bishops

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday the Vatican announced Pope Francis' appointment of Fr. Shawn McKnight as the next bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, and Msgr. Mark Spalding as the new leader of the Diocese of Nashville.

In a Nov. 21 statement coinciding with the Vatican announcement, Fr. Michael Johnston, who until now has served as Apostolic Administrator for the Nashville diocese, voiced his gratitude to both Pope Francis for the appointment, and to Msgr. Spalding himself for his “generosity” in accepting the role.

Spalding, Johnston said, “is a man filled with enthusiasm and excitement” for his new responsibilities, and is someone who has “a strong work ethic, a deep love for the Lord and his people, and a great desire to lead and serve.”

“He has already expressed such a keen interest in learning about the Diocese of Nashville, in listening to our needs and our hopes and dreams, and then discerning the direction the Holy Spirit wishes to take us,” Johnston said. “With God’s gift to him of this spirit of service and willingness to lead us, we are truly blessed.”

Spalding, 52, who until now has served the Archdiocese of Louisville as Vicar General and pastor of Holy Trinity parish and Holy Name parish, was born Jan. 13, 1965, in Lebanon, Ky.

After graduating from Bethlehem High School Bardstown, he entered St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and was ordained a priest Aug. 3, 1991, in the St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral of Bardstown.

Before his ordination, he studied from 1987-1991 at the American University in Louvain, Belgium, where he obtained a master degree in religious studies and a licentiate in canon law.  

Since then, he has served at a number of parish assignments, including associate pastor at St. Joseph and chaplain at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, associate pastor at St. Augustine in Lebanon, Ky., associate pastor at St. Margaret Mary in Louisville and pastor of Immaculate Conception in LaGrange.

Since 2011 he has served the Archdiocese of Louisville as Vicar General. His ordination and installation as Bishop of Nashville will take place Feb. 2, 2018, at Sagrado Corazon in the Catholic Pastoral Center on McGavock Pike.

In his comments on Msgr. Spalding's appointment, Johnston said Louisville would be losing a “fine priest,” but offered his assurance that the bishop-elect would be “loved and cared for” as he begins his new role.

Fr. McKnight, who was born in Wichita, Kan. In 1968, got a degree in biochemistry from the University of Dallas before entering seminary in 1990.

He carried out his seminary studies at the Pontifical “Josephinum” College in Columbus, Ohio, and was ordained a priest May 28, 1994, for the Diocese of Wichita.

The bishop-elect then obtained a licentiate and doctorate degree in sacramental theology from the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome and published several articles on relevant pastoral and sacramental themes, finishing his studies in 2001.

After his ordination, he served the diocese in various pastoral, teaching and diocesan roles, the most recent being pastor of the Church of the Magdalen Parish in Wichita.

From 2000-2005, McKnight served as Director of diocesan Divine Worship and was a diocesan consultant and a member of the Presbyteral Council. From 2005-2010 he was a faculty member at Saint Meinrad Seminary working in the formation of permanent deacons.

After, from 2010-2015, the bishop-elect served as Executive Director of the USCCB's Office for Clergy and Consecrated Life. In 2015, he was assigned to the Church of the Magdalen parish, where he has served until now.

Tips from a local: What Cardinal Bo recommends for Pope’s visit to Burma

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 05:00 am (CNA).- To prepare for Pope Francis’ trip to Burma, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the first and sole Burmese cardinal in the Church’s history, met with the Pontiff in a private audience Nov. 18.  The cardinal offered the Pope three recommendations for his upcoming trip.
 
Cardinal Bo told CNA that “the meeting lasted about 30 minutes,” and that the Pope took each of his recommendations under consideration.
 
What did Cardinal Bo recommend?
 
First, he asked the Pope not to use the term “Rohingya” in speeches during the trip. Cardinal Bo explained that “the term is controversial.” In the Bengali language it means “a person who comes from the State of Rakhine”, though it is frequently suggested, and a matter of widespread controversy, that Rohingya are “a separate ethnic identity.”  

“Extremists are trying to mobilize a population by using the word Rohingya, thus generating the risk of a possible new interreligious conflict,” the cardinal explained.

The term “Rohingya” often refers to Muslims from in the Rakhine State of Burma, who are not granted citizenship under Burmese law, and thus are stateless. The United Nations estimated that 582,000 Rohingya have fled Burma for Bangladesh. Pope Francis has made a number of appeals for the protection of the Rohingya.

Cardinal Bo said that the correct term is “Muslims of the Rakhine State.” He added that there are other minorities in Burmese territory who are enduring persecution and conflicts, among them the Kachin, Kahn, and Shahn people.  He said these ethnic minorities also face displacement, but the “media are weak in telling their story.”
 
Cardinal Bo’s second recommendation was to include in the Pope’s schedule a meeting with General Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Armed Forces.  Burma functioned as a military dictatorship for more than 50 years, until democratic reforms taking root in 2011.

 Despite newly emerging signs of democratic reform in Burma, also called Myanmar, the military still wields considerable political authority, including the appointment of cabinet ministers, and one-quarter of the nation’s legislature.
 
Although the Pope’s agenda has no meeting scheduled with the general, Cardinal Bo thinks it is important that a meeting take place. “For sixty years,” he said, “the Church has had no dialogue with the Army, while now a relationship has started, and we hope that the dialogue will improve.”
 
Cardinal Bo stressed that “an official meeting between the Pope and the general” would raise some issues, but there could be “a discreet private meeting,” because “neglecting the government during this trip could bring more tensions in future.” Cardinal Bo said that the Pope “would advise the general to work for peace, and have a greater respect for Burmese ethnic minority groups.”
 
Finally, the Archbishop of Yangon offered the Pope the opportunity to include a meeting with some Burmese leaders who promote interreligious dialogue.
 
He told CNA that the group of leaders is composed of “about 15 people, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims (including Muslims of the Rakhine State) and Hindus.” Cardinal Bo suggested the Pope include a meeting with them before one of the Masses the Pope will celebrate in the country. He told the Pope that “the group for the interreligious dialogue cannot be set aside, because this group could give a great contribution to build peace in the country.”
 
All of these suggestions are part of the Church’s effort to bridge communities in Burma. Although Catholics represent just one percent of population, they have become a sort of reference point for the other religions based in Burma, the cardinal said.
 
The cardinal shared with CNA that “Pope’s speeches will touch many issues: the situation of the Muslims of the Rakhine State, but also that of other minorities who are suffering.”
 
He added that “the Pope will speak about the need to work for peace,” but he will also mention the “equal use of natural resources” and environmental issues.
 
Burma is very rich in natural resources, including oil, gas, minerals, precious stones and gems, as well as  timber and forest products. Despite that, about one-quarter of population lives below the poverty line. The exploitation of timber and forests make urgent the need to tackle environmental issues.
 
Burma’s complicated political situation led Cardinal Bo to ask Western world that “there are in fact two government in Myanmar, and the military one is very powerful. The west was very judgmental and strongly criticized Aung san Suu Kyi [a democratic reformer who has been criticized regarding certain human rights issues], but people who criticize don’t know what it means to dialogue with the military.”
 
Cardinal Bo said that “the west should better understand and back Aung San Suu Kyi, as she is trying to do her best to improve the collaboration between the government and military forces.”

English judge applauds man who stole drugs, killed suicidal father

London, England, Nov 21, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An English chemist charged with murder for the 2015 killing of his 85-year-old father, who wished to die, was freed on Friday by a judge who said, “Your acts of assistance were acts of pure compassion and mercy.”

Bipin Desai, 58, was also charged with assisted suicide and two counts of theft. Desai gave his father, Dhirajlal Desai, a smoothie laced with stolen morphine at his home in Surrey on Aug. 26, 2015. Desai soon after injected his father with insulin to speed the morphine's fatal action.

The judge ruled Nov. 17 that because Dhirajlal Desai wished to die, there was no basis for a murder conviction.

Dr. Anthony McCarthy of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children responded to the ruling asking, “Are we now to believe that the killing of an innocent and vulnerable human being who is 'tired of life'  is not to be regarded as any serious crime?”

Bipin Desai pleaded guilty to assisted suicide and the theft of the morphine and insulin from his employer. He was given a suspended nine-month jail sentence, and allowed to go free.

The judge, Justice Green, said that to convict Desai of murder would be “perverse and irrational … Your father had a solid and firm wish to die. For him, being assisted to die would be fulfilling his wish of going to heaven to see his wife and being put out of his misery.”

Green said the evidence “provides no support for the prosecution case, to the contrary it unequivocally supports the defence position that this is assisted suicide but not murder,” and that Desai had been “wrongfully accused of murder.”

According to Desai, his father had been asking to end his life after the 2003 death of his wife and the 2010 death of his dog. Desai's lawyer, Natasha Wong, said in court that “what we have is a man who wanted to die, not because he was terribly ill but, sadly, because he had just had enough of life.”

Though Desai also admitted to stealing the drugs used to kill his father, Green said that “the thefts are trivial and only form part of the fabric of the wider case. The owner of the pharmacy said in his evidence that you were an honest, respectful and decent man.”

“You are free to now go with your family and start the process of rebuilding your life,” he continued.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are both criminal offenses in England and Wales under the Suicide Act 1961, and are punishable by imprisonment.

A representative of the assisted suicide advocacy group Dignity in Dying said the case showed the need for “safe and compassionate” laws which decriminalized assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Peter Saunders of Care Not Killing responded that “This case underlines the need for better support for those caring for elderly and disabled relatives but does not mean the law should change.”

A bill to legalize assisted dying in England and Wales failed in Parliament in 2015 by a vote of 330-118.

The Suicide Act 1961 was challenged in High Court last month by a terminally ill man, Noel Conway, who wanted a doctor to be able to prescribe him a lethal dose. His case was dismissed.

In jurisdictions where assisted suicide or euthanasia are legal, the procedures usually require that the individual have a terminal illness and that the fatal drugs are prescribed by a doctor. In the handful of states in the U.S. which have legalized assisted suicide, the individual must have a terminal illness which would lead to death over the course of the next six months.

The Desai case could add to the growing list of assisted suicide abuses found around the world in which pressure is placed on individuals to kill themselves, or in which patients are held down against their wills during lethal injection.

Anthony McCarthy of SPUC said, “It is shocking that a High Court Judge in this country should speak with such approval of an adult son who 'sends his father to heaven'. Serious crimes can be 'well-motivated'  and indeed, mentally ill parents who kill their healthy children sometimes also talk of 'sending them to heaven'.”

“What now of any respect for laws and investigations which seek to protect the ineliminable value of all human lives, regardless of feelings of sadness and loss on the victim's part which may perhaps respond to loving care and professional help?”

Pope Francis: Cultural colonization ends in persecution

(Vatican Radio) Cultural and ideological colonization does not tolerate differences and makes everything the same, resulting in the persecution even of believers. Those were Pope Francis’ reflections in his homily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, which centered on the martyrdom of Eleazar, narrated in the book of Maccabees from the First Reading (Maccabees 6: 18-31).

The Pope noted that there are three main types of persecution: a purely religious persecution; a “mixed” persecution that has both religious and political motivations, like the Thirty Years War or the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre”; and a kind of cultural persecution, when a new culture comes in wanting “to make everything new and to make a clean break with everything: the cultures, the laws and the religions of a people.” It is this last type of persecution that led to the martyrdom of Eleazar.

The account of this persecution began in the reading from Monday’s liturgy. Some of the Jewish people, seeing the power and the magnificent beauty of Antiochus Ephiphanes (a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire), wanted to make an alliance with him. They wanted to be up-to-date and modern, and so they approached the king and asked him to allow them “to introduce the pagan institutions of other nations” among their own people. Not necessarily the ideas or gods of those nations, the Pope noted, but the institutions. In this way, this people brought in a new culture, “new institutions” in order to make a clean break with everything: their “culture, religion, law.” This modernizing, this renewal of everything, the Pope emphasized, is a true ideological colonization that wanted to impose on the people of Israel “this unique practice,” according to which everything was done in a particular way, and there was no freedom for other things. Some people accepted it because it seemed good to be like the others; and so the traditions were left aside, and the people begin to live in a different way.

But to defend the “true traditions” of the people, a resistance rose up, like that of Eleazar, who was very dignified, and respected by all. The book of Maccabees, the Pope said, tells the story of these martyrs, these heroes. A persecution born of ideological colonization always proceeds in the same way: destroying, attempting to make everyone the same. Such persecutions are incapable of tolerating differences.

The key word highlighted by the Pope, beginning with Monday’s reading is “perverse root” – that is Antiochus Epifanes: the root that came to introduce into the people of God, “with power,” these new, pagan, worldly” customs:

“And this is the path of cultural colonization that ends up persecuting believers too. But we do not have to go too far to see some examples: we think of the genocides of the last century, which was a new cultural thing: [Trying to make] everyone equal; [so that] there is no place for differences, there is no place for others, there is no place for God. It is the perverse root. Faced with this cultural colonization, which arises from the perversity of an ideological root, Eleazar himself has become [a contrary] root.

In fact, Eleazar dies thinking of the young people, leaving them a noble example. “He gives [his] life; for love of God and of the law he is made a root for the future.” So, in the face of that perverse root that produces this ideological and cultural colonization, “there is this other root that gives [his] life for the future to grow.”

What had come from the kingdom of Antioch was a novelty. But not all new things are bad, the Pope said: just think of the Gospel of Jesus, which was a novelty. When it comes to novelties, the Pope said, one has to be able to make distinctions:

“There is a need to discern ‘the new things’: Is this new thing from the Lord, does it come from the Holy Spirit, is it rooted in God? Or does this newness come from a perverse root? But before, [for example] yes, it was a sin to kill children; but today it is not a problem, it is a perverse novelty. Yesterday, the differences were clear, as God made it, creation was respected; but today [people say] we are a little modern... you act... you understand ... things are not so different ... and things are mixed together.”

 The “new things” of God, on the other hand, never makes “a negotiation” but grows and looks at the future:

“Ideological and cultural colonizations only look to the present; they deny the past, and do not look to the future. They live in the moment, not in time, and so they can’t promise us anything. And with this attitude of making everyone equal and cancelling out differences, they commit, they make an particularly ugly blasphemy against God the Creator. Every time a cultural and ideological colonization comes along, it sins against God the Creator because it wants to change Creation as it was made by Him. And against this fact that has occurred so often in history, there is only one medicine: bearing witness; that is, martyrdom.

Eleazar, in fact, gives the witness by giving his life, considering the inheritance he will leave by his example: “I have lived thus. Yes, I dialogue with those who think otherwise, but my testimony is thus, according to the law of God.” Eleazar does not think about leaving behind money or anything of that kind, but looks to the future, “the legacy of his testimony,” to that testimony that would be “a promise of fruitfulness for the young.” It becomes, therefore, a root to give life to others. And the Pope concludes with the hope that that example “will help us in moments of confusion in the face of the cultural and spiritual colonization that is being proposed to us.”

(from Vatican Radio)

'The good Lord has guided me well': 113-year-old nun reflects on blessings

Marseille, France, Nov 21, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At age 113, Sister André is one of the oldest religious sisters in the world.

According to French newspaper Le Parisien, Sister André is the oldest person in France. She told the newspaper that this “very much surprised me because I never even thought about it.”

Sister André, who is blind, currently resides in the Sainte-Catherine-Labouré retirement home for religious in Toulon, a city in southeast France near the Mediterranean.

She was born Lucille Randon on Feb. 11, 1904 in the town of Alès , about 140 miles northwest of Toulon.

The nun told the French daily La Croix that she grew up in a poor Protestant family. Her paternal grandfather was “a pastor, very strict. The services lasted forever and you had to follow the entire sermon without budging or falling asleep! So my parents no longer practiced their religion. But that troubled me.”

When she was 27, she converted to Catholicism. “I gradually progressed, following my Catholic faith,” she said.

During her youth, she worked as a teacher and governess for various families including the Peugeots, who founded and owned the French car manufacturer.

At age 40, she joined the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and took the name André in honor of her brother André, whom she said was like a parent to her.

After World War II began, the nun started working in a hospital in the town of Vichy in central France, taking care of the elderly and children.

“Some of them were orphans, some placed there by their parents because they were no longer able to feed them,” she recalled.

Sister André cared for children in that hospital for nearly 30 years, and said that “some of them have looked me up and still come to see me.”

In 2009, the nun moved into the Sainte-Catherine-Labouré retirement home in Toulon.

“I am really fortunate to be here, because I'm very well cared for here,” she said. “That's very reassuring at my age.”

“When my brothers died when I was 70, I thought that it would be my turn soon,” she said. But several decades later, she is still alive, and grateful for all the blessings God has continued to send her.

Sister André told La Croix that she worked until she was 104 years old. What she misses now is that she can no longer “read, write, draw, embroider and knit.” However, she said that she still enjoys experiencing the nice weather.

“The good Lord has guided me well,” she reflected.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

John Paul II relic given to 2019 World Youth Day

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At a Nov. 17 ceremony at the Polish Embassy to the Holy See, Ambassador Janusz Kotanski delivered a relic of Pope St. John Paul II to Panama’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Miroslava Rosas Vargas.  The relic is a gift from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz to the Church in Panama, as it prepares to host the 2019 World Youth Day.

John Paul II created World Youth Day in 1985 to harness the energy of young people and encourage them to participate in his call for a “new evangelization.” The first World Youth Day gathering took place in Rome in 1986.  The gatherings, held every three years, draw millions of participants from around the world.  The late Pope also created a special “youth section” within the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Laity, charged with coordinating World Youth Days.

In attendance at the ceremony delivering the relic were Polish Cardinal Stanis?aw Ry?ko, former head of the Pontifical Council for Laity and organizer of World Youth Day;  Panamanian Cardinal José Luis Lacunza, and Hondurian Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa and coordinator of the Council of Cardinals called by Pope Francis to advise him in the government of the Church. Cardinal Maradiaga’s presence was a reminder to many of the 2019 World Youth Day’s regional importance.

During the ceremony Cardinal Rylko called John Paul II the "Pope of the youth,” because of the focus on young people that defined his papacy and his pastoral ministry.

Ambassador Kotanski expressed hope that World Youth Day in Panama would continue the “renewed springtime of the Church” called for by the late Pope. He also noted that Polish youth have begun a prayer campaign for the success of the 2019 World Youth Day, and expressed hope that the prayer campaign and relic would be a bridge between Central American and Europe.

Ambassador Vargas of Panama remarked that "to host World Youth Day is a great privilege." The ambassador’s memories of John Paul II included "the sweet and profound look, typical of the saints, the invitation to dialogue and to communication, the faith and missionary zeal so that humanity can live in a better world."

John Paul II’s "values, his principles and his love live still,” Vargas added, giving thanks that the late Pope "will be always present in the prayers of us all."

This article was originally published in Italian by our sister agency, ACI Stampa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Two years later, aunt of drowned refugee child pleads for action

Vancouver, Canada, Nov 20, 2017 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- “We're still grieving” – these are the words of Tima Kurdi, the aunt of the young refugee boy who captured the world’s attention when he drowned trying to cross the Aegean Sea two years ago.

On Sept. 2, 2015, the haunting image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s tiny body laying face down on a Turkish beach made headlines, drawing attention to the stark reality of forced migration, and becoming a global symbol of the ongoing crisis.

 

A year on from Alan Kurdi, we continue to ignore future refugee crises https://t.co/Jegv1nPoKX pic.twitter.com/Ln1UXg5Tyz

— Brigitte Colman (@lakolman) September 1, 2016
In many ways, a global conscience seemed to be awoken as people learned of the tragic fate of Alan, his brother Ghalib and their mother, Rehanna, who decided to make the perilous, 30-minute boat ride from Bodrum, Turkey to the Greek island of Kos, along with their husband and father, Abdullah.

The dinghy, designed for eight passengers but packed with 16, capsized just a few minutes after setting sail. Abdullah lost track of his family in the confusion, and while he was able to reach safety, his wife and sons met a different fate. Only four people survived the voyage.

“After that image, the world woke up,” Tima said. “That’s when people started talking about it, and that’s when I went crying to world leaders: open your heart, open your border, my people are being forced to flee their home, not by choice.”

In wake of the event, global leaders promised the family “that our tragedy would be the last,” she said. “But of course, a few months later, everyone went back to sleep, went back to business.”

And while many countries offered to give Abdullah asylum, he refused. “To him it was, ‘Where were you when my family needed it?’” she said.

Speaking to CNA over Skype from her home in Vancouver, Canada, where she has lived with her husband and son for the past 23 years, Tima shared the story of what led her five siblings to pack up their families and seek refuge elsewhere, and how her life has changed after the death of her nephews.

Ever since the occurrence of what she calls “the tragedy,” Tima has become the public face of her family's suffering and the plight of thousands of others like them, quitting her job in mid-2016 to advocate on behalf of refugees, raising awareness at conferences and universities.

War breaks out

When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, “it was very shocking to the whole country,” Tima said, including to her family, who is from Damascus.

Life before the war was peaceful, and people of different religions lived side-by-side without problems, she said. But once the conflict erupted, things became dangerous very quickly, and many of her siblings lived in areas that were being bombed.

“What would you do as a family if you have children and they are in danger?” she said, explaining that she encouraged her family to flee as the situation worsened. Eventually, the home of one of her sisters was bombed, further cementing the decision to leave.

Tima’s siblings and their families – each with small children – made their way to Turkey, where they hoped to stay temporarily until things in Syria calmed down. But when they got there, they found that the refugee camps were already at maximum capacity, and the family was not able to enter.

Facing the risk of homelessness, Tima’s siblings struggled to find work. Tima helped them find housing and began paying their rent. After hearing about their ongoing struggles, she decided to go in person and see if she could help.

But when she arrived in 2014, she was shocked at what she found. “What we see in the news was not what I experienced,” she said. “It was worse than I could ever have imagined. I saw my people in the streets, families, they have no home, they were in the park. I talked to them personally, I heard heartbreaking stories.”

The experience “changed me a lot,” she said, adding that watching children begging for bread shows the inhumane reality of their plight. “It broke my heart to witness it myself.”

After returning to Canada, Tima began researching how to sponsor her family to come as refugees, but was unable to do so at that time. So when Germany offered to take in some 1 million migrants in 2015, her brother Abdullah, who was struggling to afford even diapers, decided the best option for his family was to leave, and asked Tima for help.

“Of course you discuss it. It’s risky, it’s not good, but they have no choice,” Tima said. “And that’s when they were forced to take that journey.”

“I paid for it. I paid for it,” she said, wiping tears from her face. “The guilt...that’s why I want to keep my voice alive, because that guilt, I will take it to my grave, but I did it with a good intention, because I saw the desperation, I saw my family only eating rice, I saw those children being abused at work rather than being in school, and the world was silent.”

'I want the world to wake up'

Even two years later, Tima said it pains her to talk about the experience, “and that’s why I want the world to wake up. There is no one who will leave their home and leave everything behind just because they want to take advantage of Europe or the Western world.”

She said she rarely watches the news, because she's tired of feeling “hopeless” when she sees the reports and the lack of action.

Tima said she doesn't like to get into politics, and her family doesn't support either side of the war in Syria, but she does condemn the use and sale of weapons, because ultimately, weapons “are what caused those people to flee their homes, weapons killed their loved one.”

Rather than pointing fingers, she wants the world to look at the root cause, because “nobody is talking about it.”

She voiced her admiration for Pope Francis, who often speaks out on the same issues, saying “his message and my message are exactly the same thing, from day one. He is my inspiration.”

A goal of hers, she said, is to one day visit the Vatican and meet the Pope, to discuss how to promote peace.

In her time as a public speaker and advocate, Tima has been asked to speak at various conferences and universities throughout Canada, the U.S., and Europe. She has also given a TED Talk on her story.

However, her preferred venue is the university, because she wants to educate young people to think about the importance of promoting peace.

In addition to her speaking engagements, Tima and her brother Abdullah have launched the Alan and Ghalib Kurdi Foundation to raise money in support of refugee children. Each year on the anniversary of the boys' death, she visits her brother, who is now living in Iraq, to distribute clothes and supplies to the children living in refugee camps.

Abdullah, who was offered a house with free rent in Kurdistan after losing his family, now lives in Erbil, and is still coping with the death of his wife and sons.

“The emotional (stress) really paralyzed him and he’s not doing well,” Tima said, explaining that the first year was especially difficult. When she came to visit her brother on the first anniversary of the tragedy, he didn't want to leave the house.

She offered him $500 to buy “whatever the children wanted” in the camps. Abdullah chose to buy diapers, since he couldn't afford them as a refugee, and often used a cloth or a plastic bag for Alan, who as a result frequently had a rash.

This year, Tima had raised $1,000 for her small foundation at a speaking event held at a Canadian university. She again contributed $500 of her own money as well, helping to buy and distribute 500 pieces of clothing to the refugee children, which she described as “the most beautiful thing we ever did.”

Since the fatal boat ride in 2015, the rest of her family has dispersed. While her father continues to live in Damascus, two of her three sisters are refugees in Turkey, one has moved to Germany, and she was able to sponsor her other brother and his family to come to Canada as refugees.

Of the two sisters in Turkey, one – who has three children – is hoping to either join her 18-year-old son in Germany, or else come to Canada.

The other sister, whose house was bombed, is struggling to move forward. Her family has no home to return to, and her husband recently suffered a stroke, leaving him half paralyzed. Good medical treatment is hard to obtain in the area.  

Tima said she has been offering her sister encouragement, and sending her information about local medical centers that may be able to help her cope with the trauma that she has experienced.

Tima herself often grows discouraged at the lack of international action to help refugees. Her advocacy work takes a tough mental and emotional toll. But it’s worth it, she said, if she is able to help people who are suffering.

“When I go to sleep at night and put my head on the pillow, I always say, ‘Thank God my voice is being heard, you give me power to help others.’ And (I) thank God every moment.”

Where the revolution has led: an interview with Mary Eberstadt

Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic author Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute, and the author of several best-selling books, including Adam and Eve After the Pill and How the West Really Lost God. In the Nov. 6 issue of The Weekly Standard, Eberstadt published “The Primal Scream of Identity Politics,” an essay exploring the contours of contemporary American politics, our search for identity, and the importance of the family.

In an interview with CNA editor-in-chief JD Flynn, Eberstadt offers important insights for all Catholic Americans.

What are identity politics?

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines identity politics as “political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups.” This is not politics as usual. It’s instead an assertion of identity with one or another group that’s said to be oppressed. Believing oneself to be a victim is part and parcel of “identifying” in this way.

Identity politics, as scholars note, has only come into existence in the last thirty years, meaning that it is mostly younger people who believe this is what’s meant by “politics.” The results include theatrical repercussions that we’ve all seen in person or in the news – violent protests, increased numbers of speaker shut-downs on campus, other disruptions on the quad and elsewhere -- whose common denominators are emotionalism and unreason.

I wrote the essay not to dismiss the primal nature of identity politics, but instead to try and understand where all that deeply felt irrationalism is coming from.
 

What do we lose because of the surge in identity politics?
 
For starters, we’re losing an elemental piece of Catholic and other theology: the idea of free will. Identity politics says that biography is destiny – that how you’re born determines your political and moral interests in life. Nothing could be further from the idea that we are made in God’s image, and given the unique power of freely choosing good – or, as the case may be, evil.

The anthropology behind identity politics amounts to a crabbed, crippled, unfree view of the human person. It divides the world into victims and oppressors, leaving no room for free agency or redemption. For that reason alone, Christians above all should be wary, and reject this new way of looking at the world.

Beyond Christians, though, identity politics is toxic across society. The decibel level of unreason makes it hard to advance a civil, rational case about anything. And the Manichean division of the world into victims and oppressors leaves little space for nuance or anything else. All identity politics, all the time, makes for a dumbed-down, dreary conversation out there – just one more reason why figuring out the attraction of such politics in the first place seems like work worth doing.

You say that our “generation-wide descent into psychiatric trouble” is not caused by helicopter parenting, social media, or white racism, all of which are commonly asserted theories. Why are these convenient speculative “causes” for our contemporary political situation? What do they have in common?

The signature moral and social denial of our time concerns the real and widespread fallout of the sexual revolution. The contortions of identity politics are related to that same denial.

Of course there is authentic injustice in the world, as America’s racial history shows; as the Harvey Weinstein and related cases of predation show; and as many other examples could be added to prove. But no single injustice explains what most needs explaining, which is the frantic nature of today’s identity politics across the board.

The same unreason shows up over and over, no matter the grievance: in the mania over “cultural appropriation” that results in censorship of Halloween costumes and lots else; in the social media of identitarians of all varieties, which brims with incivility and, often, rage; in the protests against credentialed, reasonable speakers who challenge anything about the progressive view of the human person, especially on the quad.

This isn’t just protest-as-usual, either. In the essay, I cite the fact that psychiatric problems among the young have been rising for years, and that experts think this isn’t just a matter of better diagnostics; they also believe something new must be afoot.

Isn’t the most obvious culprit here the implosion of the family, the removal from many young people’s lives of a reliable circle of not one, or two, but many reliable, consistent, loving figures in the home? The family has been fractured for many by various familiar factors, among them divorce; the continuing rise in single-motherhood; and the simultaneous shrinking numbers of siblings, cousins, and other extended family thanks to contraception and abortion.

The human ecosystem is a mess. It’s no wonder that denial of the revolution’s record is ubiquitous. But at the same time, for reasons put forth in the essay, that same record is the most obvious probable cause of the hysteria we see out there, literally and figuratively.

To millennials, and I speak as one, intentional self-definition feels like the natural mode of being. It's what we do on social media without even realizing it. Has that not always been so? Aren't existential crises a long-running theme in the past century of modernity? Have they changed, or heightened?

What’s changed is not human nature – everyone asks the same questions about identity. But the familial circumstances in which many contemporary souls now find ourselves are radically changed, and make that quintessentially human question harder to answer.

For most of history, that question, “Who am I?” was answered first in the context of the family: I am a daughter, I am a cousin, a grandmother, a niece, and so on. Identity of a most obvious and unquestionable kind was provided by how any given individual was situated within the family into which he was born. If you didn’t know anything else, you at least knew that.

As of the Pill, though, and its promise of consequence-free sex, family relations have changed fundamentally – and with them, familial identity. Modern contraceptives increased the temptation to people-shop, because so many more people were now sexually available. Bonds like marriage, which once had been seen by most people as immutable, were (and are) extraordinarily strained by this massive sexual consumerism.

As a result, many people now regard “family” as a voluntary association, rather than a primordial set of bonds. That’s why we have such high rates of divorce and single motherhood – higher than ever before in history: because as of the sexual revolution, many people have behaved as if the family is negotiable, rather than given.

In the essay, I give examples of just some of the resulting confusion out there. Are you a stepsister? That depends. What if your mother and your “stepsister’s” father were married once -- and aren’t anymore? Are you still related to that person? What if they were never married in the first place, and you were just living with your mother’s boyfriend’s daughter? Would you have considered her a “stepsister” at all?

Similarly: is that my grandfather? Well, if he’s your mother’s father, probably yes. But what if he’s someone who married your grandmother after she divorced your original grandfather – what then? And so on.

Add to all of these novel existential quandaries the related fact that the family has shrunk, and you can readily see what distinguishes us from our ancestors: we have fewer attachments to family than they did, and the ones that we do have are, for many of us, in constant flux.

How is a communal animal – man – supposed to derive identity from his first community, the family, at such a time? That’s where the barely suppressed hysteria behind today’s identity politics is really coming from, I think: confusion and loneliness and familial deprivation.

You’ve worked on issues related to the sexual revolution for years.  You’ve long said that the sexual revolution is the “moral bedrock” of so many Americans that its views can’t be questioned in public conversation.  In the past, you’ve called it the “new orthodoxy.”  But we’re seeing the wholesale meltdown of Hollywood right now, as the mask of the sexual revolution falls off.  Is it possible this will lead to a resurgence of virtue, and virtue culture?  What would have to happen to make that so?

Backlash looks to be well-underway on several fronts, for this simple reason: we human beings aren’t made to live the way many do now, gorged to obesity on sex and fake sex, and simultaneously isolated from one another and from family life as never before.

That’s not us. We’re social animals. We can’t, and don’t, thrive otherwise. In this we join many other species, especially mammals, that live within kinship structures. We can understand this when we study elephants, say. We just don’t think of applying such knowledge about nature to ourselves. Pretending that we can endure as social isolates and porn potatoes, like pretending we can live happily without more robust families, is making a lot of people out there miserable.

The result is bound to be reaction to all that; and not surprisingly, there are new signs that at least some are starting to have second thoughts about where the revolution has led.

The continuing reaction to Hollywood’s systemic harassment-and-exploitation scandals, as you point out, is one example. The growth of campus groups dedicated to traditional Catholic teaching is another. FOCUS, the Love and Fidelity Network, and like-minded organizations didn’t even exist a couple of decades ago. Likewise, the proliferation of new resources to protect people from pornography is another kind of re-norming that’s part of the nascent pushback to the revolution.

Above all, even as many people have abandoned organized religion, the converts streaming into the churches are being driven in large part by the search for refuge in the world after the Pill – for a more ennobled and inspiring vision of the human person than the inferior one that’s on offer in the sexualized, secular mainstream.

There’s going to be plenty more of all of the above, I’d bet. And if there is another religious awakening ahead, great or small, we can be sure that this is exactly where it will be rooted.


You say that identity politics are the “primal scream” of our time—a “collective human howl…sent up by inescapably communal creatures who can no longer identify their own.” How do believers respond to that howl?  What does the Church need to do, right now, to respond to this crisis?  

The Church needs to do one thing: be the Church. The temptation to bend to the times is prodigious -- and has been ever since the technological shock of the birth control pill.

For clergy and lay believers alike, the temptation to soft-pedal Catholic teaching on sexual morality is probably greater than ever before, because secularist culture has now turned from mocking traditional teaching to attacking it with a ferocity not seen before. No wonder many people within the Church itself seem afraid.

But acquiescing to the times, and tacitly or overtly abandoning the very moral code that is a lifesaver for the family, isn’t going to spell relief from identity politics – or from the social changes that created such a culture of grievance. And soft-pedaling Church teaching also does a great injustice to human beings outside the flock. To acquiesce is to say, in effect, that the secularist alternative is right; that the Church would rather be approved than right; that we really are just prisoners of our color, our erotic desires, our national background, and the rest – the whole dreary list of determinism now found in identity politics.

Two thousand years of teaching says that humanity is better than that. The biggest problem with downplaying the Christian rulebook is that it sends exactly the wrong message to converts and would-be converts. They can find accommodation anywhere – in the secular orbit, in their information silos, in their schools and workplaces, in whatever’s on their phone or laptop, and for that matter, in other churches.

But the outsiders peering into the Church right now for help are not looking for accommodation. They’re looking for capital-t Truth. To borrow from Pope Francis, it would be wrong not to meet them exactly where they are.

If we understand that there’s something authentic about the primal scream we keep hearing, and that the root cause of identity politics is pathos brought on by familial destruction, we might be able to work with some of the damage out there. We might be able to bring some genuine victims – casualties of the revolution -- to a more elevated vision and a better home.

 

 

 

 

Curia reform: Pope Francis reorganizes Vatican Secretariat of State

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has established a third section, or department, of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, which reportedly began its operations Nov. 9. The new section is named “Section for the Diplomatic Staff,” and is tasked with overseeing the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, stationed around the world.
 
Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski has been appointed to helm the third section. Previously the apostolic nuncio to Gabon, in 2015 Archbishop Pawlowski was appointed head of the Office for Pontifical Representations, a sort of “human resources office” within the Secretariat of State.
 
That office has been now elevated into an independent department, alongside the two sections that already constitute the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
 
The First Section of the Secretariat of State oversees the general affairs of the Roman Curia, and is led by the Secretariat’s “substitute,” currently Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu.
 
The second section, the “Section for the Relations with States”, is entrusted with the diplomatic activity of the Holy See. At the helm of the office is the Secretary for Relations with States, often described as the Vatican “foreign minister.”  Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, of Great Britain, holds the post.
 
The Pope established the third section via a letter sent in October to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and delivered to the Apostolic Nunciatures, the embassies of the Holy See, around over the world.
 
In his letter, the Pope expressed that he had “great care for those who assist the ministry of Rome”, both “those who work in the Holy See, and in the Vatican City State, and in the Apostolic See” and its related institutions.
 
The Pope recalled his address to the Roman Curia for the 2013 Christmas greeting, and said that “since the beginning” he proposed the criteria of “professionalism, service, and holiness of life” in order to be a good Vatican official.
 
Pope Francis also underscored that he expressed “vivid appreciation” for the work of “pontifical representatives,” an “important work, that undergoes peculiar difficulties.”
 
He then explained that his decision was motivated by the need to provide “more human, priestly, spiritual and professional accompaniment” to those who are “in the diplomatic service of the Holy See,” whether they are head of mission or even students at the Ecclesiastical Academy, where young priests are trained for diplomatic service.
 
The letter says that “the Office of the Delegate for the Pontifical Representation is strengthened into a Third Section, with the name of Section for the Diplomatic Staff of the Holy See”; the office “will depend from the Secretary of State,” will be given  “a proper number of officials” and will demonstrate “the Pope’s attention to the diplomatic staff.”
 
The Pope’s letter also says that the delegate “will be able to regularly visit pontifical representatives” and will oversee the “permanent selection” of staff as well of “career advancement” for diplomatic personnel.
 
According to a source within the Secretariat of State, this reform is just one step toward a general reorganization of the Secretariat of State.
 
The Council of Cardinals has discussed several times the importance of clarifying and supporting the role of nuncios and diplomatic staff.