28 April 2009

Former US Ambassador to Vatican declines top award from University of Notre Dame

Zenit reports today that ‘the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon, sent a letter today to Notre Dame's president, declining to accept the university's Laetare Medal award.‘Glendon, currently the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, wrote to Father John Jenkins, that she was "profoundly moved" when she was first informed of the decision to award her the medal at this year's commencement ceremony.’

The Laetare Medal is the highest award given by the University of Notre Dame.

Fr John I. Jenkins CSC; Mary Ann Glendon

Here is the text of Mrs Glendon’s letter to Father Jenkins CSC, President of the University of Notre Dame:

April 27, 2009

The Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”
• “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.
Yours Very Truly,

Mary Ann Glendon

Mary Ann Glendon is Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. A member of the editorial and advisory board of First Things , she served as the US Ambassador to the Vatican from 2007 to 2009.

St Gregory the Great with St Ignatius of Loyola and St Francis Xavier
Guercino, c.1626

One can see only a willful betrayal of the gospel in the decision of Notre Dame to give an honorary degree to a politician, albeit the elected president of the USA, whose pro-abortion record is utterly appalling. One can only rejoice that a new sense of direction, of purpose, of courage, is awakening in the Catholic Church in the USA and elsewhere.

The decisions of a number of ‘Catholic’ universities to honour persons who promote the killing of the pre-born child, some of them like Vice-President Biden calling themselves ‘Catholics’, remind me of what St Francis Xavier wrote to St Ignatius from India: Very many out here fail to become Christians simply because there is nobody available to make them Christian. I have very often had the notion to go round the universities of Europe, and especially Paris, and to shout aloud everywhere like a madman, and to bludgeon those people who have more learning than love, with these words, Alas, what an immense number of souls are excluded from heaven through your fault and thrust down to hell!' (This is part of the Office of Readings for the feast of St Francis Xavier).

What would this great missionary think of some of his Jesuit brothers in Georgetown University, Washington DC, giving an award last week to a ‘Catholic’ Vice-President of the USA who sees no justification ever for violence against women and children but who actively promotes abortion?

26 April 2009


Anzac, the Landing 1915, by George Lambert

Yesterday was ANZAC Day, a holiday in Australia and New Zealand that commemorates the members of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corp (ANZAC) who fought in the Great War (World War I). The landed at Gallipoli, Turkey, at dawn on 25 April 1915 and many were slaughtered. The ANZAC soldiers came to be known as ‘Anzacs’.

I happened to be in Australia for the 75th anniversary of that landing, 1990, and, as I recall, it was a moment when ANZAC Day received a new momentum, the young generation in particular, taking a fresh look at what had happened. The Australian government arranged for all veterans of Gallipoli who were well enough to travel to go to Gallipoli again. As far as I know, many Australians now visit Gallipoli on 25 April each year.

I don’t know what influence Peter Weir’s movie of 1981, Gallipoli, has had on Australians. It stars Mel Gibson. I first saw it in Toronto, where I was doing a year’s study, and it is one of the greatest movies I have ever seen, ever single scene a gem, with a magnificent and moving sound-track and the minor characters remaining in my memory.

ABC TV of Australia produced a documentary that I watched yesterday and today, Lost in Flanders, that shows how the remains of three Australian soldiers found in recent years in Belgium were identified through DNA tests. The programme reminds us that it wasn’t only in Gallipoli that Australian soldiers died in that awful war but also on the Western Front. One of the Belgians who discovered the remains was moved to tears when he saw that one of the soldiers had clearly been buried with special reverence, his arms crossed on his breast and his eyes, as it were, looking at you. It turned out that he had been buried by his older brother who survived the war.

I’m familiar with the area in Flanders featured in this documentary and located the grave of my great-uncle Corporal Larry Dowd who was killed near Ieper on the feast of the Transfiguration, 6 August, 1917, not long before the deaths of the five Australians featured in this programme.

Scottish songwriter Eric Bogle wrote The Band Played Waltzing Matilda in 1971. It evokes the terrible scars of war on some of those who survive. It's sung here by Irish singer Liam Clancy.

Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey

25 April 2009

'No excuse for violence against a woman or child' -VP Biden. (But it's OK to kill a child before birth).

This is a 'PS' to my previous post.

Two quotes from US Vice-President Joseph Biden:

'The next Republican that tells me I'm not religious I'm going to shove my rosary beads down their throat....( 22 October 2005);

'You know there is no excuse for violence against a woman or child. There is no excuse,' said Biden in his speech at the Law Center of Georgetown University, Washignton DC, a 'Catholic' school, on 23 April, when he was given an award.

Clearly a wonderful Catholic of whom we should be proud.

By the way, he's all in favour of the ultimate form of violence against women and children, abortion. Too bad that none of the 47,000,000 children legally aborted in the USA since Roe v Wade in 1973 have never been able to hold rosary beads in their hand, never mind shove them down anyone's throat.

And too bad that none of them will be ever able to make any choices because of his, Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama's perverted understanding of what a choice is.

'Reproductive Rights' include the 'right' to abortion: Hillary Clinton

Last Wednesday US Secretary of State clarified at a congressional hearing what most of us have known for a long time: 'Reproductive Rights' include the 'right' to abortion.

You can see a video of part of the hearing.

Mrs Clinton is mealy-mouthed in her praise of Congressman Jeff Fortenberry for having raised five daughters who would probably be 'pro-life' - her words. I wonder if she reflected that the opposite to 'pro-life' is 'pro-death' or 'anti-life'. She saw the Fortanberry girls as making a choice.

Unfortunately, girls and boys who have been aborted aren't in a position to make any choice.

She also condescendingly told Congressman Chris Smith that he and other pro-lifers had the right to speak their opinion anywhere in the world, just as pro-abortion people did.

Yes, I can share with the whole world that my choice is strawberry ice-cream, even if yours is chocolate ice-cream. After all, it's a free world.

And it's also officially part of the Obama-Clinton policy to work for the 'right' of women in every part of the world to abort her child. It's interesting that these two people - the president who is the first 'African-American' holder of the office and his secretary of state - are admirers of Margaret Sanger who said, among other things, 'The most merciful thing a family does for one of its infant members is to kill it.' And Congressman Fortanberry pointed out to the secretary of state: 'She [Sanger] advocated for the elimination of the disabled, the downtrodden, and the Black child. I don't believe these ideologies have a place in our pluralistic society.'

Here is a full report from LifeSiteNews:

Secretary of State Clinton Admits Obama will Work to Dismantle Abortion Laws around the World

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 23, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was confronted on her avowed commitment to eugenicist Margaret Sanger's global agenda, and asked whether the Obama administration would work to overturn pro-life laws around the world - a priority that Clinton confirmed.

In a hearing to discuss the Obama administration's foreign policy, New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith questioned Clinton on her statements upon receiving Planned Parenthood's Margaret Sanger award on March 27. Clinton had said she was "really in awe" of the Planned Parenthood founder.

"The 20th century reproductive rights movement, really embodied in the life and leadership of Margaret Sanger, was one of the most transformational in the entire history of the human race," Clinton had said. She also said that Sanger's work "is not done."
Smith yesterday asked Clinton about her praise for Sanger's eugenic agenda, saying "it is extraordinarily difficult [to see] how anyone could be in awe" of Sanger, who "made no secret whatsoever" of her views.

"With all due respect, Madam Secretary, Sanger's legacy was indeed transformational, but not for the better if one happens to be poor, disenfranchised, weak, disabled, a person of color, and unborn child, or among the many so-called undesirables Sanger would exclude and exterminate from the human race," said Smith.

"Sanger's prolific writings dripped with contempt for those she considers to be unfit to live," he continued. "Sanger was an unapologetic eugenicist and racist, who said, and I quote, 'The most merciful thing a family does for one of its infant members is to kill it.'

"She also said, on another occasion, quote, 'Eugenics is the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems.'"

Smith asked, "As part of Sanger's work that remains undone," whether the Obama administration seeks "in any way to weaken or overturn pro-life laws and policies in African and Latin American countries, either directly or through multilateral organizations, including and especially the United Nations, African Union, or the OAS, or by way of funding NGOs like Planned Parenthood?"

Clinton replied: "It is my strongly held view that you are entitled to advocate and everyone who agrees with you should be free to do so anywhere in the world, and so are we."

Clinton confirmed that the Obama administration's definition of "reproductive health" includes abortion, and that, "We are now an Administration that will protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care."

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska also told Clinton he was "stunned" by her commitment to Sanger, and that he was "deeply grieved" at her answer to Congressman Smith.
"She [Sanger] advocated for the elimination of the disabled, the downtrodden, and the Black child," Fortenberry objected. "I don't believe these ideologies have a place in our pluralistic society."

Decrying taxpayer funding of abortion overseas as "a form of neo-colonialism" that is "elitist, paternalistic, and an assault on the dignity of the poor," Fortenberry challenged Clinton to instead pursue foreign policy that "upholds the genius of womanhood and the life nestled within her."

Clinton responded by emphasizing that the "choice" to carry or kill an unborn child should be available "for all women."

Commenting in a later statement on Clinton's remarks, Smith said: "It is evident that Mrs. Clinton and President Obama want to force the tragedy of abortion upon women around the world especially and including in countries where democratically elected leaders want to continue to protect their unborn children.

"There are other ways in which both mother and baby are protected, cared for and helped - with food, nutrition, clean water and life-affirming healthcare," he said.

"Secretary Clinton's inability to see this will mean more babies will die and more women will suffer the consequence of abortion as a result of U.S. foreign policy overseas."

See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:

Secretary Clinton "In Awe" of Racist Eugenicist Margaret Sanger

24 April 2009

'I Dreamed a Dream'

For a real treat, if you haven't seen it already, watch this video. It proves beyond all doubt that you can't judge a book by its cover. Susan Boyle, a 47-year-old unemployed single woman from central Scotland, has become internationally known as a result of her appearance on Britain's Got Talent.

What surprised me is that this story has appeared on a number of Catholic news agencies. Here is that of CiNews from Ireland, based to some extent on an interview with her parish priest, Fr Basil Clark. Knock, in the west of Ireland, is where our Blessed Mother appeared in 1879.

Overnight sensation has sung many times in Knock

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Just before Easter a quiet woman from a small village in Scotland - a devout Catholic and long-term member of the church choir - came to London to sing in a competition, stating that her dream was to be like Elaine Paige.

When she came on the stage the audience snickered and the judges of Britain's Got Talent either rolled their eyes or allowed their blank expressions to betray their bemused scepticism.

When Susan Boyle began to sing I Dreamed a Dream, from the musical Les Miserables, they were spellbound and shocked by the beauty of her voice and rose to their feet in applause.

Back in Scotland Fr Basil Clark, who watched the show on television at his home in Broxburn, was not surprised.

He had seen the situation unfold many times before, having regularly accompanied Susan, 47, on the annual Legion of Mary pilgrimage to the Marian shrine in Knock, Ireland.

'When I watched the judges' faces it reminded me of what I was like when I first saw Susan singing - absolutely blown away by the quality of the singing and by that fantastic voice,' said Fr Clark.

'Anyone who sees her for the first time behaves the same way. I have never heard her sing badly, though she might lose the words if the stress gets too much,' he told the Catholic News Service.

Fr Clark said, 'When she gets up to sing it can either be wonderful or you can get the unpredictable eccentric behaviour, but it is to do with the fact that she has learning difficulties.'

He said that local people who knew her, the youngest of nine children of a family descended from Irish migrants, were 'enormously proud of her and wish her the best but they are aware of the risks she is running', adding that her behaviour has previously drawn cruel taunts from children.

'People are slightly worried about what might happen after this bout of fame,' he explained.

'I am quite worried for her,' he added. 'I think it's great at one level. It might just be the thing that will make her, but she is a very vulnerable person and it could be quite difficult.

'It is a great opportunity for her and as far as I am concerned she should make the best of it, and if it lasts, it lasts, and if it doesn't, then it's still more than almost any one of us will ever achieve," he added. "It is important in sustaining her and making sure this is all a very, very beneficial experience.'

He described Susan as 'a woman of great faith' who was often 'very gentle and very caring' .

Part of her attraction is that she appears to be such an unlikely candidate for stardom. She said on TV that she has 'never been kissed' and has lived alone with her cat since her mother died in 2007.

She received a standing ovation at her parish’s Easter Sunday Mass.

Her fame spread on the Internet, and in just a week she had attracted more than 26 million YouTube viewings of her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream.

23 April 2009

Father Michael Cody RIP

Please pray for Father Michael Cody, the Columban Regional Director in Chile since 2007, who died on Tuesday. He will be buried today, Thursday, 23 April, in Santiago.

Father Mike was from Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts, and was ordained in 1973. He spent the earlier and latter years of his priesthood in Chile while serving in the USA in between. His death is a real shock. He was admitted to hospital on Holy Saturday and was diagnosed as having terminal cancer of the liver. He had shown no symptons of illness before that except for some tiredness.

Father Mike was aware of his situation and grateful for the prayers of his Columban colleagues and friends. But getting word of his death only a day after learning of his illness is a great shock to those of us who knew him.
I first met Father Mike when he was still in the seminary and met him once or twice in later years.

May her rest in peace.

You can read an obituary by Fr Michael Hoban, a Columban from New York City who has spent many years in Chile, on the website of the Columbans in that country. The same obituary is also on the website of the Archdiocese of Santiago. The obituary notes that Father Mike was the son of immigrants from Ireland, Jeremiah Cody and Mary Cashman, and that his father was a firefighter. The firefighters in Boston and New York City include a very high percentage of members with an Irish background.

Father Mike, for me, bore a remarkable facial resemblance to the great English comedian, Eric Morecame, on the right in the photo, with his comedy partner, Ernie Wise. Morecambe and Wise were two funny men. May they too, with Father Mike, enjoy the light of heaven.

21 April 2009

The Nine Tasks of Marriage

The Boulevard, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Philippines

I spent last weekend in San Jose, Negros Oriental, near Dumaguete City, as part of a team giving a Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend. The three WWME priests in the Diocese of Dumaguete were all tied up with parish activities. It was a seven-hour bus journey from Bacolod. We were somewhat delayed by road works approaching Dumaguete.

Before Easter Jackie Parkes featured this item. She got it from Robert Colquhoun’s blog, Love Undefiled. Although there’s no reference to the sacrament of matrimony there’s a lot of wisdom in what Judith Wallerstein, an American psychologist and researcher, writes. The very first point clearly reflects Gen 2:24: Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.

This text is put into the mouth of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and is also quoted by St Paul. I believe it’s one that needs to be constantly reflected on by couples and by priests, so that a married couple will always see their spousal relationship as their basic vocation from God. It’s only within that relationship that God calls them to be parents.

St Catherine's Cathedral, Dumaguete City

The Nine Tasks of Marriage (Judith Wallerstein).

1. To be in a marriage is to be a guardian of the other person's solitude.When a couple marries they find that, although they may not be aware of them, there is a series of sequential psychological tasks to address together. Achieving these tasks helps the couple to deal with the inevitable major changes - accidental or developmental - that will occur and that have the potential for weakening or re-enforcing the relationship throughout the marriage.The nine tasks of marriage are:1. To detach emotionally from the families of childhood, commit to the relationship, and build new connections with the extended families.

2. To build togetherness through intimacy and to expand the sense of self to include the other, while each individual carves out an area of autonomy. Identification with the other provides the basis for bonding but within the new unity, there must be room for autonomy; otherwise there is no true equality.

3. To expand the circle to include children, taking on the roles of parenthood from infancy to adulthood, while maintaining the emotional richness of the marriage and keeping a balance between raising the children and nurturing the couple's relationship.

4. To confront the inevitable developmental challenges and the unpredictable adversities of life, including illness, death, and natural disasters, in ways that enhance the relationship despite stress and suffering. Every crisis carries within it the seeds of destruction as well as the possibility of renewed strength.

5. To make the relationship safe for expressing difference, anger and conflict, all of which are inevitable in any marriage. All marriages involve love and anger, connectedness and disruption. The task is to find ways to resolve the differences without exploiting each other, being violent, or giving away one's heart's desire.

6. To establish an imaginative and pleasurable sex life. Creating a sexual relationship that meets the needs and fantasies of both people requires time and love and sensitivity. The stresses of work and family life, changes in sexual desire over time, mean that this aspect of the marriage requires special protection in order to flourish.

7. To share laughter and humour and to keep interests outside the marriage alive in the relationship. A good marriage is alternately playful and serious, sometimes flirtatious, sometimes difficult and cranky, but always full of life.

8. To provide the emotional nurturance and encouragement that all adults need throughout their lives, love, sympathy, restoration of battered self-esteem, especially in today's isolating urban communities and high-pressure workplaces, is hugely important to the relationship.

9. To sustain the innermost core of the relationship by holding on to the early idealisations while realising one is growing older, remembering the images and fantasies of courtship and early marriage and maintaining that joyful glow over a lifetime.

From The Good Marriage by Judith Wallerstein.

17 April 2009

'Doubting' Thomas or a man of great faith?

Doubting Thomas, Guercino (1591-1666)

Second Sunday of Easter

Readings: New American Bible (Philippines, USA), Jerusalem Bible (Ireland, England and Wales, Scotland, Australia).

Every year on this Sunday preachers talk about St Thomas’s ‘lack of faith’. Indeed he's known to us as 'Doubting Thomas'. I’m not so sure about that. When he puts his fingers in the marks of the nails on the body of the Risen Lord her makes the clearest expression of faith in the whole Bible: ‘My Lord and My God’. I learned these words when I was very young and we often said it quietly, as I recall, after the consecration in the Old Mass, if I may use that term. Indeed, in Ireland it is one of the approved acclamations after the consecration.

When I celebrate Mass with the Deaf here in Bacolod City many of the hearing people who attend use St Thomas’s words after the consecration of the bread and of the wine. One of my confreres, Father Terence Bennett, who recently retired to Ireland after spending most of the past 57 or so years here in the Philippines, encouraged this too in the various parishes where he worked.
Another saint who gets a ‘bad press’ from preachers is St Martha because of what Jesus said to her when he visited her and her sister Mary (Lk 10:38-42): But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her."

Yet it was the same Martha who expressed her faith in Jesus so clearly after the death of her brother Lazarus (Jn 11:21-27): Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; * he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."

Another aspect of this Sunday’s gospel is that it highlights the fact that the Risen Lord carries the scars of his death and life. In our chapel in Espinos Village, Bacolod City, where I live, there is a statue of the Risen Jesus over the altar. However, I noticed after some time here that the scars weren’t to be seen. They are now. Whatever form our suffering takes, when united with that of Jesus it brings his life to others and brings us closer to sharing in his Resurrection: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints (Col 1:24-26).


I'm off this morning to Dumaguete City, in the southeast of Negros island, about six hours by bus from Bacolod City, where I live, to be part of a team giving a Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend. Please pray for us.

15 April 2009

Easter Wednesday

Today's Mass has a feast of God's word: the wonderful story of the healing of the paralytic by St Peter, invoking the name of Jesus, and the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, an event that mirrors what happens at Mass - listening to the Word of God, celebrating the Sacrifice and receiving the Risen Lord in Holy Communion.

St Peter and St John Healing the Cripple, Albrecht Dürer, 1513

Acts 3:1-10

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, "Look at us." And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Supper at Emmaus, Caravaggio, 1606

( This is more subdued than his painting of 1601-02)

Lk 24:13-35

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles * from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see." And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?" And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

14 April 2009

Happy Easter!

Resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia!
He is risen as he said, alleluia!

I'll let the smile of my young friend Charlotte, who recently graduated from kindergarten here in the Philippines. express my 'Happy Easter!'

11 April 2009

More than 800 unsolved murders in 'crime-free' Davao City, Philippines

On St Patrick's Day in Ireland my Columban colleague, Fr Shay Cullen, received the Humanitarian Award at the annual Meteor Ireland Music Awards. The award includes €100,000 which Father Shay will be able to use for his work at Preda, in Olongapo City, Philippines.

He also writes a weekly column, Reflections, and I'm posting his latest here.

How I was Saved from the Davao Death Squad

Fr Shay Cullen's columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and online.

There have been many concerned people from around the world who expressed their anguish, shock, and are deeply angry at the injustice committed against the children and youth of Davao City and elsewhere that has been revealed by the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The courageous chairperson of the commission, Leila De Lima, who led the public enquiry last week said the majority of victims are very young, mostly youth, terribly poor, semi-illiterate street children. Few if any had been arrested, charged and found guilty of any crime. Their living presence is the embarrassing evidence of gross social inequality and injustice.

The chairperson of the CHR calls this ‘selective vigilantism’. It is not the rich and wealthy drug pushers, traffickers, dealers, and powerful criminals that are assassinated but hundreds of the ‘throwaway children’. ‘I share the view that no big-time criminals, like drug lords or rich drug pushers and drug users, appear among the victims of the so-called "Davao Death Squad"’, De Lima told journalists.

Even when the skulls and bones of women and children we dug up near a police firing-range, as earlier reported in this column, there was little or no civic response or alarm. The community believed wrongly, that they were safer because of the Davao Death Squad and so the atrocities continued. Perhaps they were too frightened to take a stand for human rights, the dignity of the human person and the right to life, our Christian duty.

Fear can be the poison of the human spirit but there are those in Davao City who are brave and courageous and took a stand against the Death Squad. Some have been killed. When I was charged with libel by Mayor De Guzman in 1999 because I had called on good-hearted defenders of human rights around the world to speak out and write to him to end the killings, he claimed that I blamed him for the killings.

When I was to be arraigned before the court, I flew in to Davao City expecting the worst, a shooter on a motor bike could to be waiting for me. As I stepped out of the airport, what a shock awaited me: there was a group of fifty or more street children waiting with banners, home-made drums and welcome placards. They burst into a cheering noisy mob of well wishers and surrounded me with a protective shield of their own bodies. No shooter was going to get me. They expected me to be shot, it is what happened to many of their friends and their courage and dedication brought a lump to my throat. They escorted me, led by the brave Davao Human Rights Workers, to the car park where several hired jeepnies were waiting and I was whisked off to the safety of the Maryknoll Missionaries’ house.

When I stood in the courtroom waiting to be arraigned, the Mayor sent a message to the court to say he was withdrawing the charges and would busy himself caring for the citizens. The case was dropped with much jubilation from the supporters. The Davao Diocesan Social Action directors had listened to the mounting concern of the true Christians and persuaded the Mayor, who was coming up for reelection, to drop the case. That was my dangerous brush with the Davao Death Squad.

Months later, the Department of Justice decided positively on my petition to dismiss the charges. It was too late to be of any help other than to prove I was innocent and that there was no evidence that I had libeled the mayor.

It just shows how important it is for us to take a stand for the most important thing there is - the dignity and rights of every human person no matter how poor and powerless they are. Jesus taught us that. ‘Blessed are the poor, the Kingdom of God is for them’. That's why the politicians arrested Jesus, tortured and executed him like a criminal without a fair trial. That's why he is risen and alive today - to inspire us to take a stand for the downtrodden and lift them up to a new life. END

Visit http://www.preda.org/ for more related articles.
Contact Fr Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, 2200 Olongapo City, Philippines.
Email: preda@info.com.ph

The photo on the left is that of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City who claims that Davao is 'peaceful' despite more than 800 unsolved murders in less than ten years, many of them of children. When you land at Davao Airport you read signs telling you that it's a crime to smoke in the streets of Davao. Apparently it's not a crime to murder children or petty criminals.

I came across two chilling news reports on the blog of Fr Amado Picardel CSsR who is based in Davao City. Father Picx, as he is known, is no stranger to violence himself as a Good Friday reflection on his blog yesterday shows:

Why have you forsaken me? Thirty-six years ago, after I was arrested, tortured and imprisoned for seven months during the early years of martial law, I felt so alone and isolated. I felt abandoned by friends, by my family. God seemed so distant … even absent. It was the first time in my life when I doubted the reality of God’s existence.I got a similar feeling twenty-four years ago, while I was alone on top of a mountain grieving after my mother was brutally killed, by military men.

One report mentioned by Father Picx is from Al Jazeera TV and the other from ITV-CNN. Draw your own conclusions from what Mayor Duterte says. In the latter report the mayor is shown breaking the law by not wearing a crash-helmet while riding his motorcycle.

Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao ordered that at every Mass for a year, starting on Ash Wednesday, an Oratio Imperata - 'mandated prayer' - be said. He noted, 'it is to be done after communion because Jesus is still sacramentally present, and on bended knees as a sign of humility.' Here is the text of the prayer:

'Heavenly Father, our city is wounded in its soul. Our people’s wounds are deep and wide. These wounds are the hatred and dislike of drug addicts and drug pushers, the senseless disregard of due process of law, the violent killing of mere suspects, the crash taking of the law into one’s hands, the lustful greed in the hooded killers on motor bike, the baseless claim that there are no witnesses, the inhuman disrespect for life of the unborn from womb to tomb, and the unjust socio-political system that tolerates all these to happen.

'Lord, on bended knees, we too confess that our souls and spirit are wounded by our anger and desire for revenge. Yes, we are angry because our loud protests and public outcry have fallen on deaf ears. Our souls are nourishing irresponsible suspicions and rash judgments on the real perpetrators of the crimes. We are wounded by our disunity and hopelessness which imprison our hearts and weaken our willpower. Most of all, Heavenly Father, our souls are wounded by our stark ignorance that we too are responsible for the existence and perpetuation of the systems that promote, condone and abet these social wounds in the soul and spirit of our people. For all these, Lord, we are deeply sorry and beg your mercy and forgiveness.

'God of power and mercy, since our collective efforts at peaceful protests have proven fruitless, we come to you for help. Yes, Lord, we come to ask for healing. Heal our souls and spirits of all the violent animosities that weaken our society and life. Give us light, give us strength, give us courage to believe and to trust in you. Make us realize that in each of us from every walk of life there is an inherent and inborn goodness. You planted this goodness and it is not and cannot be erased by our sin and crime. This is our reason for hope.

'For this reason, Heavenly Father, we beg you to give us your healing touch. Touch the hardened hearts of criminals, drug addicts, drug pushers, drug lords, law enforcers, and the hearts of us all. Open them to the healing power of your love and compassion. Give the grace of courage to the eyewitnesses of crimes. Awaken in us all a collective consciousness and support which are urgently needed by the witnesses and the grieving families of victims. Convert us to you and to one another. Reconcile us to you and to one another through sincere repentance and mutual forgiveness. For without forgiveness, there is no future for our city.“In this penitential season of Lent – and even beyond – give us courage and strength to make reparation for all our sins and crimes by means of voluntary acts of penance and self-sacrifice symbolized by your cross. We believe that when these are offered together with your own sacrifice on the cross, they can save us, heal us, and restore us to your friendship (“by his wounds we have been healed” 1 Peter 2:24). Make us overcome the evil in the system by the power of goodness in us all who are within the system, the goodness that is rooted in you alone.

'We make this humble prayer together with the Blessed Virgin, our Mother, so that as one united family in the bond of love, we may all experience the soothing joy of your presence and the healing balm of your love, you who live and reign with the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.'
Mayor Duterte isn't too happy with this prayer

10 April 2009

32 million excess males in China - because of abortion

President 'above my pay grade' Obama, who, despite being head of the most powerful nation on earth doesn't know when life begins and has a well-documented career of preventing the births of pre-born children, and his abortion-pushing Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who while on her way to pick up an award from the abortion-promoting Planned Parenthood in Texas, recently asked in Guadelupe, Mexico, who had painted the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron of the Pro-Life movement, might take a look at the AFP story in MSN News today: Selective abortion causes 32mln excess China males

Good Friday Bombing and Crucifixions in the Philippines

Every year at this time both the local media here and the international media have stories about crucifixions in the Philippines on Good Friday.

Typical of these is an Agence France-Press (AFP) story on MSN News today, Flagellants Kick off Easter in the Philippines. Those who take part do so as a penance, but not with the blessing of the Catholic Church.

The AFP story is basically accurate in locating this kind of activity in the province of Pampanga, north of Manila. But one sentence is highly inaccurate: Across this South East Asian archipelago nation of some 90 million of which 85 percent are Catholic the same ritual will be played out in many towns and villages culminating in crucifixions on Good Friday.

That is simply not true. I've been here in the Philippines most of the time since 1971 and have never seen flagellants or people being crucified - none of these die, by the way. Crucifixions are pretty much confined to just one province, as far as I am aware. Some officials try to make them tourist attractions.

Good Friday and All Saints' Day are the only two days in the Philippines when practically every place closes down, though I saw our local McDonalds and Dunkin' Donuts open this morning when I was on my way to and from a funeral. Both of these days are connected with death, as Filipinos anticipate All Souls' Day by going to the cemetery on All Saints' Day.

AFP also has a story this evening on MSN News about a bomb going off early this morning, Good Friday, in Kalamansig, a town in the province of Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao. Mindanao is larger than Ireland, about the size of Iceland. Most Filipinos are islanders in the sense that most mainland British and Irish people are, not in the sense that the people of the Aran Islands in Ireland or the people of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland are considered 'islanders' in that part of the world. I visited Kalamansig about 20 years ago when the parish was run by the Marist Fathers. Thank God that nobody was hurt in this attack.

Easter Reflection on Video

You can watch a video of Fr Thomas Rosica CSB, giving a reflection on Easter here.

You can find out more about this Toronto-based Basilian priest from Rochester, New York, here and here.

Pope Benedict on the Easter Triduum

On the Holy Triduum

"Hope Is Nourished in the Great Silence of Holy Saturday"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. * * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Holy Week, which for us Christians is the most important week of the year, offers us the opportunity to be immersed in the central events of Redemption, to relive the Paschal Mystery, the great mystery of the faith. Beginning tomorrow afternoon, with the Mass "In Coena Domini," the solemn liturgical rites will help us to meditate in a more lively manner on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord in the days of the Holy Paschal Triduum, fulcrum of the entire liturgical year.

Full text.

08 April 2009

Easter Triduum

Some resources for reflection during the Easter Triduum
Jesus Washing the Feet of the Apostles, Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-11

Holy Thursday, Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper


Biblical Reflection by Fr Thomas Rosica CSB

The Bare Facts and Bare Feet of the Last Supper

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, chief executive officer of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network in Canada, is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He can be reached at: rosica@saltandlighttv.org . His Biblical Reflections are from http://www.zenit.org/

On the Net: Salt and Light Website


Background information on Holy Thursday from http://www.catholicculture.org/

Chrsit Holding the Cross, El Greco, 1602-07

Good Friday

Biblical Reflection by Fr Tomas Rosica CSB

Embracing the True Science of the Cross

Background information on Good Friday
The Deposition from the Cross, Centre Panel, Rubens, 1612-14

Holy Saturday

Biblical Reflection by Fr Thomas Rosica CSB

Between the Sadness of the Cross and the Joy of Easter

Background information on Holy Saturday

Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, Francesco Bassano, 1580s

Judases and Herods in US Senate

Taking of Christ, Caravaggio, 1598

There seems to be a schism in the Catholic Church in the USA. On the one side are Catholics who accept the teachings of the Church and who respect basic human rights. On the other are those who do not accept the teachings of the Church, especially those about basic human rights, and who are promoting the ultimate form of child abuse in other words, Judases and Herods.

On 2 April ‘a majority of Catholic Senators rejected a conscience protection law proposed by Senator Tom Colburn that would protect health care workers who object to abortions from participating in the procedure’, according to Catholic News Agency .

Here is how the 25 voted, nine Catholics and 16 sham-Catholics (Judases and Herods).

‘16 Catholic Senators still voted against the protection of these human rights including: Begich (D-AK), Dodd (D-CT), Kaufman (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Harkin (D-IA), Landrieu (D- LA), Collins (R-ME), Mikulski (D-MD), Kerry (D-MA), McCaskill (D-MO), Menendez (D-NJ), Gillibrand (D-NY), Reed (D-RI), Leahy (D-VT), Cantwell (D-WA), Murray (D-WA).

‘The nine Catholic Senators that voted for the amendment were: Murkowski (R-AK), Martinez (R-FL), Risch (R-ID), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Vitter (R-LA), Johanns(R-NE), Voinovich (R-OH), and Casey (D-PA).’

Not only have the sixteen sold their souls, but they want to trample on the consciences of those committed by their very professions to life and who refuse to be involved in the ultimate form of child abuse.

Massacre of the Innocents, Matteo di Giovanni, 1482

Today’s gospel, Mt 24:14-25

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, 'The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.'" And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover. When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so."

04 April 2009

A Palm Sunday Reflection on Death and Hope

The Raising of Lazarus, Rembrandt, c 1630

Fr Catalino Arevalo SJ is a distinguished Filipino theologian. Here is a reflection he wrote for Palm Sunday and that I've received in a number of emails, It can be found in other places on the internet.

PALM SUNDAY – AND THE BASICS by Fr Catalino Arevalo SJ

September 11 forced many of us, even unwillingly, to reflect on, or at least think of, death. The novelist, Leo Tolstoy wrote that for anyone, who is over 40, not to think upon death, is to be foolish.

It is a salutary exercise, especially in Lent, to reflect upon our death. "The two great mysteries that confront us are God and death," Richard Holloway writes. "And the life of Jesus Christ illuminates the darkness of both."

The raising of Lazarus is a good starting point. Jesus then told us: "No man has seen but only the Son." He revealed his Father as unconditional and compassionate love.

And (again, citing Holloway) "Jesus also lit up the other great mystery that confronts us –death ---by irradiating the awfulness of death with the power of his own life."

Martha, who wept at his dead brother's grave, said Lazarus would "rise again, in the resurrection on the last day." "I am the resurrection and I am life," Jesus responded.

But Jesus' reply is not about the last day; it is about the now; it is about himself, even now, as life. "If someone has faith in me, even though he dies, he shall come to life, "Jesus responds. "And no one, who is alive, and has faith, shall ever die. Do you believe this?"

A recent nationwide survey found that only about 30 percent of young Filipinos (from age seven to 21) believe in life after death, in heaven, or in hell.

Those who conducted the survey --- people with excellent academic credentials -- -were shocked by these findings. "Those who believe there is no resurrection" are majority of the young around us.

Believing Christians fail very badly to communicate to the young what they repeat every Sunday in the Creed: "We believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come." Many of the young, in most countries throughout the world, have no idea of what the words, "I am life" tell us.

But in Lazarus' raising, we meet the Jesus' pledge "which has accompanied Christians in their death, since the dawn of the Church." In his first letter the Corinthians, Paul writes: "O death, where is your victory. Death, where is your sting?"

Paul does not mean there is no natural death for those whom the redemptive work of Christ delivered from the power of sin. No. But the Christian, in faith and hope, does not encounter death as a mystery of darkness, of threat, fear-even terror.

The Christian, in faith and hope, meets death as his final freeing, even joyous encounter, with the Christ who died and rose again for him, to be with him, especially in the last hour of his earthly life. The saint of Lisieux, the Carmelite nun Thérèse Martin, said of her death: "I do not die; I enter into life."

Death is going home to a loving and forgiving Father. It is something like Jesus' dying in the Gospel of Luke: "Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit."

A writer has said that Jesus' last words on the cross, in Luke, are aptly "translated" by the child's bedtime prayer: "Now I lay me down to sleep/ I pray thee Lord, my soul to keep/ And if I die before I wake/ I pray thee Lord my soul to take."

Imprisoned in Rome, and facing execution, Paul wrote to the Philippians: "For to me life is Christ and death is gain...and what I long for is to depart and be with Christ."

Death is not darkness, for Paul. Nor is it threat or terror. It is going into the fullness of life. Therese wrote: "I do not die. I enter into life..." For the saints, Christ has become a "blazing reality" waiting for them...loving infinitely more than time-bound earth-bound lovers.

One great blessing of the priesthood (is) how often we meet Christians, who come to death with the same longing of Paul:

Just in the last few years ---a classmate, brought by long illness from a less-than-exemplary life to peace, at the end, convinced of God's gentle mercy for him; a dying grandmother I gave communion to, could not contain her longing to be with the Lord; a nun, with cancer pains tearing her apart, saying: "Jesus will be there, at the bend of the road."

"I am the resurrection and I am the life. "That life Jesus gives us, not at the end of our lives only, but even now. That life, which is his own, and will never die in us, but only come to fulfillment in death. "No one who lives, and has faith, will ever die."

Most of us do not love God with the "blazing fire" of the saints. We have not come to look on death they way they did. We're caught in the secularized world's attitudes towards death--fear, even terror, or the sad studied indifference of those who cannot bring themselves to face it.

"One reason I am a Christian, "a famous preacher said, "is because I want to know how to die." One of Church's purposes is to reach us how to die-how to give up the earthly things and earthly-loves we hold on to, so passionately.

Thus, when the final letting go is asked of us, at the end of our life's journey, we shall have, at last, gathered in our hearts, some true longing for the lasting beauty, "ever ancient, ever new."

It awaits us, "after this our exile." Perhaps, we can learn to say with Thérèse, even half-haltingly, even with poorer faith: "I do not die. I enter into life'.

03 April 2009

Does emigration destroy families?

Photo: Filipinas in Hong Kong registering to vote in next year's elections in the Philippines (Sunday Examiner).

The following item appears in the Mabuhay section of the 22 March issue of Sunday Examiner , the English-language weekly of the Diocese of Hong Kong edited by my Columban colleague from Australia, Fr Jim Mulroney. ‘Mabuhay’ [maBOOhi] is a Tagalog word meaning ‘Long Live’ and is used in such phrases as ‘Mabuhay ang Pilipinas’, ‘Long live the Philippines’, and ‘Mabuhay ang Santo Papa’, ‘Long live the Holy Father’.

I’ve dropped the name of the person featured in the item, written by Lynn C. Salinas of the Love of God Prayer Group, Choi Hung, since I’m focusing on the values in the article. ‘NN’ is a Filipina working in Hong Kong.

Forty-four-year-old NN is a softly-spoken mother of five lovely daughters and a faithful wife to her husband. She has been working abroad for 12 years. During that time, her daughters were left in the care of her husband, who has been their father and mother.

NN’s faith was put to the test when the man whom she trusted gave in to the temptations of the flesh, while she worked away from home.. Upon learning this, she stood firm in her faith and prayed for the strength to confront him.

Full of humility, she forgave her husband’s infidelity for the sake of their daughters and the vow they made in matrimony before God. Her patience and understanding somehow helped to open his eyes and pushed him to work harder as the father and mother of the family.

He has been fortunate of late and got a job as a skilled worked in Canada. Their eldest daughter is now working in Dubai. NN has never regretted giving her husband a second chance. She said, ‘If our hearts have no space for stubborn refusal to forgive, revenge or anger, the blessings of the Lord will flow easily into our lives’.

Amid trials, she has shown her unshakeable trust in the Lord by dedicating he time to humble service of others. Currently she is the coordinator of the Love of God Prayer Group.
NN longs to be with her husband and children soon. However, life is full of uncertainties, so she just surrenders everything to the will of Our Father for her family.

The January issue of Inside the Vatican carries an interview with Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv of the Latins, Ukraine, in which he is asked ‘You often say that the family is a big problem in Ukraine . . .’

The archbishop replied, ‘It’s true. There is a sky-high divorce rate in Ukraine. It is a big social and moral problem. Families split up on account of emigration, especially the emigration of women who leave the country in search of a job. Children are often left with their fathers. The family is then one of our greatest concerns. We therefore promote movements to act in support of the family, like the Family Oasis and the Family Movement, and provide spiritual assistance for children and young people.’

I would welcome comments on the above.

Filipino Red Cross worker released by kidnappers

Today’s Philippine Daily Inquirer carries the good news of the release of Mary Jean Lacaba (far left in photo), the Filipina Red Cross worker abducted on 15 January in Sulu in the southern Philippines along with Italian Eugenio Vagni and Adreas Notter. The report carries no news about their whereabouts. See post on 1 April.

Meanwhile, CBCPNews yesterday carried a request from Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), for the nation to pray for the safety of the hostages:
Nation asked to pray for abducted ICRC workers

MANILA, April 2, 2009—The public is asked to pray for the three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who are being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf since January.

For the next following days, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), in a statement, said they are encouraging the faithful to pray for victims’ safety.

“We exhort our Filipino brothers and sisters to reach out to both kidnappers and their hostages with prayers. Let it be a whole nation praying that all may experience true freedom and security,” CBCP President Angel Lagdameo said Wednesday.

“May healing and forgiveness take place, hostilities cease and peace prevail,” he added.

Filipino Mary-Jean Lacaba, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Swiss Andreas Notter were abducted by the al-Qaeda-linked group on January 15 in Jolo, Sulu.

“We join people of good will in condemning these kidnappings, such as those that recently happened in Jolo, Zamboanga and Ipil, even as we sympathize with the victims and their families and beg the Lord to touch the hearts of the kidnappers,” Lagdameo said.

The CBCP also appealed to both the kidnappers and the authorities “to use every peaceful means to address through peaceful process whatever is at the root of this ongoing problem of kidnapping in order that there may be peace in Jolo, in Mindanao and the whole country.”

“We appeal to all groups of kidnappers in the name of our common humanity and in the name of the One Merciful and Just God whom we worship to grant freedom to their captives,” it added. (Roy Lagarde)
Please continue to pray for the safety of Eugenio Vagni from Italy and Andreas Notter from Swizerland.

02 April 2009

Persecution of Church continues in China

Recent news from China is discouraging. While the Vatican Commission for the Catholic Church in China began its second meeting on 30 March, China has stepped up its persecution of the Church, as AsiaNews.it reports.

The term 'Underground Church' refers to those Catholics who have remained faitheful to the Holy Father and to the unity of the Church down the years. The Patriotic Association was set up by the Communist authorities not long after they took over power in 1949 in an effort to control the Church. However, the reality is far from being black-and-white and most of the bishops linked to the Patriotic Association are now in union with Rome, very often quietly. Those connected with the Patriotic Association are usually referred to as the 'Official Church'. That is what they are from the point of view of the government. However, the vast majority of Catholics in China today were born after 1949 and have inherited a situation they didn't create.

The current instances of persecution are in one particular area, as is often the case in such situations.

There are two reports by Fr Bernardo Cervellera.

Persecution in China as Vatican meeting on China opens

An underground priest is arrested in Hebei for celebrating Mass. Controls are tightened ahead of the anniversary of the death of Mgr Joseph Fan Xueyan, killed under torture in 1992. Like him many underground bishops and priests have disappeared or ended up in camps. Official bishops are also under pressure to submit to the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

The Commission for the Catholic Church in China begins a meeting today in the Vatican.

Rome, 30 March (AsiaNews) – The Commission for the Catholic Church in China began its second meeting today in the Vatican. In the meantime in China believers and members of the underground Church are subjected to ever more repression with several bishops and priests under arrest and tighter controls on state-controlled Churches

Sources told AsiaNews that the squeeze is on underground communities in Hebei province near Beijing (home to the highest concentration of Catholics in the country), including on people who meet just to celebrate Mass.

In fact a few days ago, 55-year-old Fr Paul Ma, a priest in Dung Lü, was arrested for celebrating the Eucharist with a few underground parishioners. Full report.

Father Cervellera has another related story the following day.

Police arrest underground Zhengding Bishop Jia Zhiguo

He was taken from his home by 5 police officers. For weeks, he had been under surveillance 24 hours a day, to prevent him from meeting with the official bishop, with whom he had reconciled on instructions from the Vatican. A blow to the Holy See's strategy of unifying the Chinese Church, while the meeting of the Plenary Commission on the Church in China continues at the Vatican. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was also taunted by the police. Full report.

Please pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in China.