Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Vatican City, 26 March 2012 (VIS) - Two hundred thousand people today participated in a Mass presided by Benedict XVI at Plaza Antonio Maceo in Santiago de Cuba, to mark the four hundredth anniversary of discovery of the image of "Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre", patron of the Island. Among those attending the ceremony was Raul Castro, president of Cuba.
Before the celebration, which took place under driving rain, the original image of "Nuestra Senora del Cobre" was displayed in the square, before which, to mark the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Holy Father placed a golden rose.
In his homily, the Pope expressed his appreciation for "the sacrifices and the dedication" with which the Cubans have prepared their Marian Jubilee Year. "I was deeply touched to hear of the fervour with which Mary has been invoked by so many Cubans during her journey to every corner of the island", he said.
"These important events in the Church in Cuba take on a special lustre because of the feast celebrated today throughout the universal Church: the Annunciation of the Lord to the Virgin Mary. The Incarnation of the Son of God is the central mystery of the Christian faith, and in it Mary occupies a central place".
"In Mary", the Holy Father explained, "the Son of God is made man. ... The Apostle St. John expresses it in the following way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. The expression, “became flesh” points to our human reality in a most concrete and tangible way. In Christ, God has truly come into the world, He has entered into our history, He has set His dwelling among us, thus fulfilling the deepest desire of human beings such that the world may truly become a home worthy of humanity. On the other hand, when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation’s true vocation to be a space for the covenant, for the “Yes” to the love between God and humanity who responds to Him. And so Mary became the first fruit of believers with her unreserved “Yes” to the Lord.
"For this reason, contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation, we cannot fail to turn our eyes to her, ... seeing how our God, coming into the world, wished to depend upon the free consent of one of His creatures. Only from the moment when the Virgin responded to the angel ... did the eternal Word of the Father began His human existence in time. It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: He almost seems to require it. And we see also how the beginning of the earthly life of the Son of God was marked by a double “Yes” to the saving plan of the Father - that of Christ and that of Mary. This obedience to God is what opens the doors of the world to the truth, to salvation. God has created us as the fruit of His infinite love, and so to live in accordance with His will is the way to encounter our genuine identity, the truth of our being, while apart from God we are alienated from ourselves and are hurled into the void. Theobedience of faith is true liberty, authentic redemption, which allows us to unite ourselves to the love of Jesus in His determination to conform Himself to the will of the Father. Redemption is always this process of the lifting up of the human will to full communion with the divine will".
"The Virgin Mary, by her unique role in the mystery of Christ, represents the exemplar and model of the Church. The Church, like the Mother of Christ, is also called to embrace in herself the mystery of God Who comes to live in her. Dear brothers and sisters, I know with what effort, daring and self-sacrifice you work every day so that, in the concrete circumstances of your country, and at this moment in history, the Church will better present her true face as a place in which God draws near and encounters humanity. The Church, the living body of Christ, has the mission of prolonging on earth the salvific presence of God, of opening the world to something greater than itself, to the love and the light of God. ... I encourage you in this task of sowing the word of God in the world and offering to everyone the true nourishment of the body of Christ. Easter is already approaching; let us determine to follow Jesus without fear or doubts on His journey to theCross. May we accept with patience and faith whatever opposition or affliction may come, with the conviction that, in His Resurrection, He has crushed the power of evil which darkens everything, and has brought the dawn of a new world, the world of God, of light, of truth and happiness. The Lord will not hesitate to bless with abundant fruits the generosity of your commitment.
"The mystery of the Incarnation, in which God draws near to us, also shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life. In His loving plan, from the beginning of creation, God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the most lofty mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church. With this certainty, you, dear husbands and wives, are called to be, especially for your children, a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church. Cuba needs the witness of your fidelity, your unity, your capacity to welcome human life, especially that of the weakest and most needy".
The Pope concluded his homily: "Before the gaze of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, I appeal to you to reinvigorate your faith, that you may live in Christ and for Christ, and armed with peace, forgiveness and understanding, that you may strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God".

Vatican City, 26 March 2012 (VIS) - This morning, the Holy Father took his leave of Mexico, arriving at the airport of Leon at 9 a.m. where the departure ceremony took place.
Addressing Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa, president of Mexico, and other civil and religious authorities who were there to greet him, the Pope noted that his departure was not the end of his affection and closeness to a country so dear to him.
"Recognising the faith in Jesus Christ which I have felt resounding in your hearts, and your affectionate devotion to His Mother, invoked here with beautiful titles like Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Light, a light I have seen reflected in your faces, I wish to reiterate clearly and with vigour a plea to the Mexican people to remain faithful to yourselves, not to let yourselves be intimidated by the power of evil, but to be valiant and to work to ensure that the sap of your Christian roots may nourish your present and your future.
"I have also seen for myself expressions of concern for various aspects of the life in this beloved country, some more recent and others long standing, which continue to cause such great divisions in society. I take them with me as well, as I share in the joys and the suffering of my Mexican brothers and sisters, so as to place them in prayer at the foot of the Cross, in the heart of Christ, out of which flowed the blood and water of redemption.
"In these circumstances, I strongly urge Mexican Catholics, and all men and women of good will, not to yield to a utilitarian mentality which always finishes by sacrificing the weakest and most defenceless. I invite you to a common effort so that society can be renewed from the ground up, in order to attain a life of dignity, justice and peace for everyone. For Catholics, this contribution to the common good is also a requirement of that essential dimension of the Gospel which is the human promotion and a supreme expression of charity. For this reason, the Church exhorts all her faithful to be good citizens, conscious of their responsibilities and concerned for the good of others, of everyone, both in their personal lives and throughout the various sectors of society.
"Dear Mexican friends, I say to you “Adios!” in the traditional sense of this fine Hispanic expression: remain with God! Yes, “Adios!”; for ever in the love of Christ, in which we meet each other and will again meet with one another. May the Lord bless you and may Mary Most Holy protect you!"
Having concluded his remarks the Holy Father boarded his flight for Cuba where he is scheduled to arrive at 2 p.m. local time (9 p.m. in Rome).

Vatican City, 26 March 2012 (VIS) - "I come to Cuba as a pilgrim of charity, to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith and strengthen them in the hope which is born of the presence of God’s love in our lives. I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be, their sufferings and their joys, their concerns and their noblest desires, those of the young and the elderly, of adolescents and children, of the sick and workers, of prisoners and their families, and of the poor and those in need".
These were the words pronounced by Benedict XVI as he began his apostolic trip to Cuba, where he arrived this afternoon from Mexico. The Pope was greeted at the airport of Santiago de Cuba, the island's second largest city, by Raul Castro, president of Cuba, Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez, president of the Cuban Episcopal Conference, and Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of Havana.
In his welcome address the Holy Father spoke of the "indelible mark" left on the island by the visit of Blessed John Paul II. "For many, whether believers or not", he said, "his example and his teachings are a luminous guide for their personal lives and their public activity in the service of the common good of the nation. His visit to this island was like a gentle breath of fresh air which gave new strength to the Church in Cuba, awakening in many a renewed awareness of the importance of faith and inspiring them to open their hearts to Christ, while at the same time kindling their hope and encouraging their desire to work fearlessly for a better future. One of the important fruits of that visit was the inauguration of a new phase in the relationship in Cuba between Church and State, in a new spirit of cooperation and trust, even if many areas remain in which greater progress can and ought to be made, especially as regards theindispensable public contribution that religion is called to make in the life of society".
The Holy Father also referred to the four hundredth anniversary of discovery of the image of "Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre", saying that "since the beginning she has been very much present in the personal lives of Cubans as well as in the great events of the nation, especially since independence, for she is honoured by all as the true mother of the Cuban people.
"Devotion to the 'Virgen Mambisa'", he added, "has sustained the faith and inspired the defence and promotion of all that gives dignity to the human condition and fundamental rights, and it continues to do so today with ever greater strength, giving visible witness to the fruitfulness of the preaching of the Gospel in these lands, and to the profound Christian roots which shape the deepest identity of the Cuban soul. Following in the footsteps of countless pilgrims down the centuries, I too wish to go to El Cobre to kneel at the feet of the Mother of God, to thank her for her concern for all her Cuban children, and to ask her to guide the future of this beloved nation in the ways of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation".
The Pope then went on to refer to the difficult world economic situation, noting that many people see it "as part of a profound spiritual and moral crisis which has left humanity devoid of values and defenceless before the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families. We can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer. On the other hand, real progress calls for an ethics which focuses on the human person and takes account of the most profound human needs, especially man’s spiritual and religious dimension. In the hearts and minds of many, the way is thus opening to an ever greater certainty that the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions, with deep values who will not be manipulated by dubious interests and who are respectful of the unchanging and transcendent nature of thehuman person".
"I am convinced", he concluded, "that Cuba, at this moment of particular importance in its history, is already looking to the future, and thus is striving to renew and broaden its horizons. Of great help in this enterprise will be the great patrimony of spiritual and moral values which created the nation’s true identity, and which are to be found concretely in the work and the life of many distinguished fathers of the country, like Blessed Jose Olallo y Valdes, the Servant of God Felix Varela, and the worthy Jose Marti. For her part, the Church too has diligently contributed to the cultivation of those values through her generous and selfless pastoral mission, and renews her commitment to work tirelessly the better to serve all Cubans".

Vatican City, 27 March 2012 (VIS) - "Rejoice in the Lord always", a verse from St. Paul's Letter the Philippians, is the theme chosen by the Holy Father for twenty-seventh World Youth Day, which is to be celebrated in dioceses throughout the world on Palm Sunday. Extracts from the English-language version of the message are given below.
"This year’s World Youth Day theme comes from St. Paul’s exhortation in his Letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always”. Joy is at the heart of Christian experience. At each World Youth Day we experience immense joy, the joy of communion, the joy of being Christian, the joy of faith. This is one of the marks of these gatherings. We can see the great attraction that joy exercises. In a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty and reliability of the Christian faith. The Church’s vocation is to bring joy to the world. ... In these difficult times, so many young people all around you need to hear that the Christian message is a message of joy and hope!"
1. Our hearts are made for joy
"A yearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and woman. ... This is particularly true for you, because youth is ... a time of openness to the future and of great longing for happiness, friendship, sharing and truth, a time when we are moved by high ideals and make great plans. ... Yet each day we also face any number of difficulties. Deep down we also worry about the future; we begin to wonder if the full and lasting joy for which we long might be an illusion and an escape from reality. ... How can we distinguish things that give real and lasting joy from immediate and illusory pleasures? How can we find true joy in life, a joy that endures and does not forsake us at moments of difficulty?"
2. God is the source of true joy
"Whatever brings us true joy, whether the small joys of each day or the greatest joys in life, has its source in God, even if this does not seem immediately obvious. This is because God is a communion of eternal love, He is infinite joy that does not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God loves and who love Him. ... God wants us to share in His own divine and eternal joy, and He helps us to see that the deepest meaning and value of our lives lie in being accepted, welcomed and loved by Him. Whereas we sometimes find it hard to accept others, God offers us an unconditional acceptance which enables us to say: “I am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God".
"God’s infinite love for each of us is fully seen in Jesus Christ. The joy we are searching for is to be found in Him. ... The cause of all this joy is the closeness of God Who became one of us. ... Christ is the One Who lives and Who overcame evil, sin and death. He is present among us as the Risen One and He will remain with us until the end of the world. Evil does not have the last word in our lives; rather, faith in Christ the Saviour tells us that God’s love is victorious".
3. Preserving Christian joy in our hearts
"The discovery and preservation of spiritual joy is the fruit of an encounter with the Lord. Jesus asks us to follow Him and to stake our whole life on Him. ... Joy is the fruit of faith. ... Learn to see how God is working in your lives. ... Turn your eyes to Him often. He gave His life for you on the cross because He loves you. Contemplation of this great love brings a hope and joy to our hearts that nothing can destroy".
"To seek the Lord and find Him in our lives also means accepting His word. ... God’s word reveals the wonders that He has accomplished throughout human history. ... The liturgy is a special place where the Church expresses the joy which she receives from the Lord and transmits it to the world. Each Sunday at Mass the Christian community celebrates the central mystery of salvation, which is the death and resurrection of Christ".
4. The joy of love
"Joy is intimately linked to love. They are inseparable gifts of the Holy Spirit. Love gives rise to joy, and joy is a form of love. ... To love means to be steadfast, reliable and faithful to commitments. ... If we are to experience the joy of love, we must also be generous. We cannot be content to give the minimum. We need to be fully committed in life and to pay particular attention to those in need. The world needs men and women who are competent and generous, willing to be at the service of the common good. ... Find ways to help make society more just and humane wherever you happen to be. ... I would like to mention one particular joy. It is the joy we feel when we respond to the vocation to give our whole life to the Lord. ... Do not be afraid if Christ is calling you to the religious, monastic or missionary life or to the priesthood. Be assured that He fills with joy all those who respond to His invitation. ... In the same way, God gives great joyto men and women who give themselves totally to one another in marriage in order to build a family. ... A third element that will lead you to the joy of love ... is allowing fraternal love to grow in your lives and in those of your communities".
5. The joy of conversion
"Experiencing real joy also means recognising the temptations that lead us away from it. Our present-day culture often pressures us to seek immediate goals, achievements and pleasures. It fosters fickleness more than perseverance, hard work and fidelity to commitments. ... Experience teaches us that possessions do not ensure happiness".
"God wants us to be happy. That is why He gave us specific directions for the journey of life: the Commandments. If we observe them, we will find the path to life and happiness. At first glance, they might seem to be a list of prohibitions and an obstacle to our freedom. But if we study them more closely, we see in the light of Christ’s message that the Commandments are a set of essential and valuable rules leading to a happy life in accordance with God’s plan. ... At times the path of the Christian life is not easy, and being faithful to the Lord’s love presents obstacles; occasionally we fall. Yet God in His mercy never abandons us; He always offers us the possibility of returning to him. ... Have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation! It is the Sacrament of joy rediscovered".
6. Joy at times of trial
"In the end, though, we might still wonder in our hearts whether it is really possible to live joyfully amid all life’s trials, especially those which are most tragic and mysterious. ... We can find an answer in some of the experiences of young people like yourselves who have found in Christ the light that can give strength and hope even in difficult situations.
"Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati experienced many trials during his short life. ... When Blessed John Paul II presented Blessed Pier Giorgio as a model for young people, he described him as “a young person with infectious joy, the joy that overcame many difficulties in his life”. Closer to us in time is Chiara Badano, who was recently beatified. She experienced how pain could be transfigured by love and mysteriously steeped in joy. ... Authentic Christians are never despairing or sad, not even when faced with difficult trials. They show that Christian joy is not a flight from reality, but a supernatural power that helps us to deal with the challenges of daily life".
7. Witnesses of joy
"To conclude I would encourage you to be missionaries of joy. We cannot be happy if others are not. ... Go and tell other young people about your joy at finding the precious treasure which is Jesus Himself. We cannot keep the joy of faith to ourselves. If we are to keep it, we must give it away".
"Christianity is sometimes depicted as a way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy. But this is far from the truth. Christians are men and women who are truly happy because they know that they are not alone. They know that God is always holding them in His hands. It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring. If the way Christians live at times appears dull and boring, you should be the first to show the joyful and happy side of faith. The Gospel is the “good news” that God loves us and that each of us is important to Him. Show the world that this is true!"


—The Vatican has approved the publication of the "Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb," which will be printed in English and Spanish in a combined booklet and should be available for parishes by Mothers' Day. The U.S. bishops who collaborated on the development of the blessing welcomed the announcement of the recognitio, or approval, by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome.
"I'm impressed with the beauty of this blessing for human life in the womb," said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). "I can think of no better day to announce this news than on the feast of the Annunciation, when we remember Mary's 'yes' to God and the incarnation of that child in her the womb that saved the world."
"We wanted to make this announcement as soon as possible so that parishes might begin to look at how this blessing might be woven into the fabric of parish life," said Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship. "Eventually the new blessing will be included in the Book of Blessings whenthat text is revised."
The blessing was prepared to support parents awaiting the birth of their child, to encourage parish prayers for and recognition of the precious gift of the child in the womb, and to foster respect for human life within society. It can be offered within the context of the Mass as well as outside of Mass.
The blessing originated when then-Bishop Joseph Kurtz of Knoxville, Tennessee (now archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky) asked the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities to see if a blessing existed for a child in the womb. When none was found, the committee prepared a text and submitted it to the USCCB's Divine Worship committee in March of 2008. It was approved by the full body of bishops in November 2008, and then sent to Rome for editing and final approval.


NAIROBI, March 23, 2012 (CISA) -The Catholic Church upholds human life dearly and will go to any extend to protect it, a Catholic priest has said.
“The Church welcomes any move to promote issues pertaining to pro-life and from any quarter,” said Rev Fr Peter Mbaro, a lecturer at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), Nairobi.
The priest, who was representing the Vice Chancellor of the Catholic University, Rev Fr Dr Pius Rutechura at a one day symposium on life, organized by the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum (KCPF), commended the KCPF for embracing family, life, religious freedom and social justice in its objectives.
In his remarks, Charles Kanjama, a lawyer and Vice Chairman of KCPF observed that the new Constitution of Kenya has various components of pro-life.
“But we must be watchful for some people might be tempted to use it for their own goals, some of which could be quite anti life such as advocating for abortion,” he observed.
“The new Constitution means well for the nation and its people but it could be misused by some of us for some anti-life purposes,” he further told the more than 50 participants, drawn from various churches and from various professions.
“We must therefore guard against any misuse of this Constitution and in particular where life, family, religious freedom and social justice are concerned,” he added.
Dr George Njenga from Strathmore Catholic University, Nairobi said abortion was more of a moral issue than a legal one.
“We must ensure that we have morally defended life, before the law comes in to play its part,” he stressed.
Dr Jean Kagia, Convener, KCPF said the organization had lined up various activities, including the official launch of Rescue Homes (Kiotas) for victims of pregnancy crisis, scheduled for Friday, March 23 at Lenana Conference Centre, Lavington, Nairobi and a March for life, scheduled for Saturday, march 25, beginning from Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.


Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
28 Mar 2012

Robert Cusack, Executive Director of St Vincent & Mater Health,
Mrs Ros Packer patron of Friends of St Vincent's,
Governor of NSW Professor Marie Bashir, Cardinal George Pell
Mental health disorders represent the biggest health problem facing young people across Australia. While we have excellent children's hospitals and health resources to successfully treat long term chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, we sadly and badly lag behind when it comes to young people with mental disorders such as bi polar, depression or early psychosis.
"Nothing much has changed in the past 10 years. There are still few resources and assistance for 16 to 25 years olds with mental illness," says Dr Elizabeth Scott, Deputy Director of St Vincent's Private Hospital's Young Adult Mental Health facility which was officially opened today.
With its 20 sub-acute inpatient beds, consulting rooms, state of the art technology and purpose built facilities specifically designed for young people, the unit is the first of its kind in Australia.
The groundbreaking facility which is housed inside the hospital's $46 million O'Brien Centre fills a long overdue and urgently needed gap in services for young people with early onset psychosis, mood disorders and conditions such as bi polar and clinical depression.
The unit also represents what Dr Scott and the team at the facility hope will become the model and flagship of a nationwide private mental health service for young people with a focus on early intervention.

NSW Governor Prof Marie Bashir meets the Director of
St Vincent's Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Program,
Dr Peter McGeorge
Until today, across Australia there was almost nowhere for a young person or their family to turn for help with a mental health disorder.

"Below 18 it is virtually impossible to gain admittance to a public hospital and what few places are available have long waiting lists," says Dr Scott.
Instead when treatment is urgent, the young person will find themselves locked in an emergency unit or adult facility where the focus is for chronically ill older people, containment and restraint and not working out a treatment program for the adolescent, says Dr Scott.
But the new unit at St Vincent's Private hopes to change this and become a model for the mental health care of Australia's young adults
This morning the facility was blessed by the Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell following the official opening of the new facility by the Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir. On hand for the opening of this important medical landmark were renowned adolescent and general psychiatrist and Director of St Vincent's Alcohol, Drug & Mental Health Program, Dr Peter McGeorge who is also Director of the new unit; Professor Ian Hickie, leading authority on mental health and Executive Director of the Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Sydney; Robert Cusack, Executive Director of St Vincent's & Mater Hospitals; and Mrs Ros Packer, Patron of Friends of St Vincent's.
As well as treating in-patients, out-patients and offering ongoing outreach care after young people are discharged from the facility, the unit will also be a hub for teaching and research into young adult mental health disorders.

Cardinal Pell blesses the new unit
"Through our work here and in partnership with research teams at the Brain and Mind Institute and the Black Dog Institute at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, we're hope to have a better understanding of mental health breakdowns among adolescents and what triggers them," Dr Scott says.
It is also hoped that through research, mental health disorders can be flagged and diagnosed at far earlier stages. This way better strategies and treatments can be formulated with interventions carried out at the first sign of the disorder, and better programs developed for the ongoing management of the condition.
While 75% of mental health problems emerging between the ages of 16 and 25, Dr Scott says the reasons for this are not yet fully understood.
"But what we do know is that the brain does not fully develop until around 25. Before this, key regions of the brain are being refined and remodelled to develop into a more adult system. It is a period of great change in the brain and for this reason during adolescence into early adulthood, the mind is particularly vulnerable and can go off track as a result of stress, drugs, sleep deprivation and disturbance from inflammatory processes and other environmental factors," Dr Scott explains.
Other factors may include the breakdown in societal structures, the increasing isolation and vulnerability of young people particularly in Australia's big cities, as well as the tendency for young people to experiment with drugs and alcohol at an earlier age.

For those suffering depression, bipolar or similar conditions, alcohol or drugs can often seem a good escape to deal with loneliness or lack of confidence. However the consequences can be severe with the drugs or alcohol exacerbating the problem, triggering terror, fear, paranoia, violence and psychoses.
Researchers believe early intervention is key, not only to care for young people suffering from mental health issues, but to prevent these issues developing further to become permanent debilitating mental conditions.
Dr Scott says through study, the use of high-tech brain scans and working with young people in the new unit, early diagnosis and early intervention strategies can be developed, and mood disorders arrested, monitored and successfully managed.
"Young people are usually extremely healthy physically. It is their mental health that we need to be looking after," Dr Scott says pointing out that not only is mental ill health amongst young adults a major cause of death and disability, but when the condition is allowed to go untreated in its early stages, will lead to unemployment with long-term social implications such as homelessness.
"There is a high cost to the community quite apart from the cost to the individual and their family where the suffering is enormous," she says.


By John Pontifex on Monday, 26 March 2012
Members of the rebel Free Syrian Army in Homs  (CNS photo/stringer via Reuters)
Members of the rebel Free Syrian Army in Homs (CNS photo/stringer via Reuters)
Almost the entire Christian population of the Syrian city of Homs has fled violence and persecution, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
The mass exodus of 50,000 or more people to villages and towns around the city comes amid reports that the homes of Christians in Homs have been attacked and seized by militants.
The Syrian Orthodox Church has told Fides that 90 per cent of Christians have been expelled amid what it fears is “an ongoing ethnic cleansing”.
Until now, Homs has been home to one of Syria’s largest Christian populations, and Church sources have said the faithful have borne the brunt of the violence, escaping to villages in mountains 30 miles outside the city.
Islamists have reportedly gone from house to house in the Homs’ neighbourhoods of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan, forcing Christians to leave without giving them a chance to take their belongings.
According to other reports, Christians have left their homes voluntarily, in effect making way for others to occupy them to shelter from the violence.
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need today announced an urgent €80,000 aid package providing food and shelter.
The assistance will provide each family with $60 each month for basic food and lodging, with the hope that by the summer they can return home.
ACN is also helping families caught up in a car bomb explosion last Sunday which targeted the Christian quarter of Aleppo, close to the Franciscan-run Church of St Bonaventure.
Overseeing the aid programme, Bishop Antoine Audo SJ of Aleppo told Aid to the Church in Need: “The people we are helping are very afraid.”
Speaking today from Aleppo, the bishop said: “The Christians don’t know what their future will hold. They are afraid they will not get their homes back.
“It is very important that we do whatever we can to help the people.”
In his application for ACN aid, the bishop stated: “Please speed up the implementation of the project because of the difficult circumstances that Christians face in Syria.”
The bishop, who heads Aleppo’s Chaldean diocese, paid tribute to ACN benefactors, adding: “Thank you for helping us. Pray for us and let us work together to build peace in Syria.”
His comments come as fears grow of Syria becoming a “second Iraq”, following a similar pattern of church attacks and forced expulsion and kidnapping of Christians.
If the attacks continue, Syria could suffer the same fate as Iraq where Christians have plummeted from 1.4 million in the late 1980s to perhaps less than 300,000 today.
In both cases, the Church has been targeted for perceived close links with regimes under fire from opposition parties and rebel groups.
The Homs crisis has prompted increased fears that Islamists are gaining influence in the region, filling the power vacuum left when decades-old regimes across the Middle East were overthrown at the start of the so-called Arab Spring.


Agenzia Fides REPORT - The Archbishop of Concepcion, his Exc. Mgr. Fernando Chomali, expressed his condolences for the terrible loss of 6 young volunteers of the group "A Roof for Chile" who died in a car accident while on their way to work in the town of Los Alamos. According to the statement sent to Fides by the Episcopal Conference of Chile, Archbishop Chomali wanted to go in person to to bring a word of comfort to the families of volunteers. "We are deeply saddened by their departure, but think of them as He who gave his life for the poor, Christ. Only he can understand the generosity of these young people in their efforts to work for the poorest province of Arauco", said the Archbishop. The funerals were held yesterday in the Cathedral of Concepcion presided by Mgr. Pedro Ossandon, Auxiliary Bishop of Concepcion.
It remains to be explained, according to the traffic police, how the accident happened: the volunteers’ van collided head-on with a big truck for ground transportation. The Catholic group "A Roof for Chile" is a foundation of the Catholic Church made up of volunteers who build housing for those living in poor neighborhoods, offering them education, social services and microcredit, as well as advice for buying a house (see Fides 10/03/2010). (CE) (Agenzia Fides 27/3/2012)


John 8: 21 - 30

21 Again he said to them, "I go away, and you will seek me and die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come."
22 Then said the Jews, "Will he kill himself, since he says, `Where I am going, you cannot come'?"
23 He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.
24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he."
25 They said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Even what I have told you from the beginning.
26 I have much to say about you and much to judge; but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him."
27 They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father.
28 So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me.
29 And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him."
30 As he spoke thus, many believed in him.


St. Rupert of Salzburg
Feast: March 27

Feast Day: March 27
Died: 27 March 710, Salzburg, Austria
Patron of: Salzburg, The State of Salzburg
First Bishop of Salzburg, contemporary of Childebert III, king of the Franks (695-711), date of birth unknown; d. at Salzburg, Easter Sunday, 27 March, 718. According to an old tradition, he was a scion of the Frankish Merovingian family. The assumption of 660 as the year of his birth is merely legendary. According to the oldest short biographical notices in the "Mon. Germ. Script.", XI, 1-15, Rupert was noted for simplicity, prudence, and the fear of God; he was a lover of truth in his discourse, upright in opinion, cautious in counsel, energetic in action, far-seeing in his charity, and in all his conduct a glorious model of rectitude. While he was Bishop of Worms, the fame of his learning and piety drew many from far and wide. The report of the bishop's ability reached Duke Theodo II of Bavaria, who had placed himself at the head of the current ecclesiastical movement in Bavaria. Theodo sent Rupert messengers with the request that, he should come to Bavaria to revive, confirm, and propagate the spirit of Christianity there. Despite the work of early missionaries, Bavaria was only superficially Christian; its very Christianity was indeed to some extent Arian, while heathen customs and views were most closely interwoven with the external Christianity which it had retained. St. Rupert acceded to Theodo's request, after he had by messengers made himself familiar with the land and people of Bavaria. St. Rupert was received with great honour and ceremony by Theodo in the old residential town of Ratisbon (696). He entered immediately upon his apostolic labours, which extended from the territory of the Danube to the borders of Lower Pannonia, and upon his missionary journey came to Lorch. Thence he travelled to the lonely shores of the Wallersee, where he built a church in honour of Saint Peter, thereby laying the foundation of the present market-town of Seekirchen in the Newmarket district of Salzburg. From the Roman colony there Rupert obtained an account of the ancient Roman town of Juvavum, upon the site of which there still remained many more or less dilapidated buildings, overgrown with briars and brushwood.
Having personally verified the accuracy of this account concerning the place and position, Rupert requested Theodo, in the interests of his apostolic mission to the country, to give him the territory of Juvavum (which was still a place of considerable commerce) for the erection of a monastery and an episcopal see. The duke granted this petition, bequeathing the territory of Juvavum (the modern Salzburg), two square miles in area, to St. Rupert and his successors. At the foot of the precipice of the Monchberg, where once St. Maximus, a disciple of St. Severin, had suffered martyrdom with his companions (476), St. Rupert erected the first church in Salzburg, the Church of St. Peter, in honour of the Prince of the Apostles, as well as a monastery. Upon the lofty prominences (Nonnberg) to the southeast of the town, where the old Roman fortress once towered, he established a convent of nuns which, like the monastery of the Mönchberg, he placed under the protection and Rule of St. Benedict. To set his institutions upon a solid basis, Rupert repaired home, and returned with twelve companions besides his niece Ehrentraud (Erindruda), whom he made abbess over the Benedictine Convent of Nonnberg, while he with his twelve companions formed the first congregation of the famous Benedictine Monastery of St. Peter at Salzburg, which remains to the present day. St. Rupert thenceforth devoted himself entirely to the work of salvation and conversion which he had already begun, founding in connection therewith manny churches and monasteries — e.g., Maxglan, near Salzburg, Maximilianszelle (now Bischofshofen in Pongau), Altotting, and others. After a life of extraordinarily successful activity, he died at Salzburg, aided by the prayers of his brethren in the order; his body reposed in the St. Peterskirche until 24 Sept., 774, when his disciple and successor, Abbot-Bishop St. Virgil, had a portion of his remains removed to the cathedral. On 24 Sept., 1628, these relics were interred by Archbishop Paris von Ladron (1619-54) under the high altar of the new cathedral. Since then the town and district of Salzburg solemnize the feast of St. Rupert, Apostle of Bavaria and Carlnthia, on 24 September.
In Christian art St. Rupert is portrayed with a vessel of salt in his hand, symbolizing the universal tradition according to which Rupert inaugurated salt-mining at Salzburg; this portrayal of St. Rupert is generally found upon the coins of the Duchy of Salzburg and Carinthia. St. Rupert is also represented baptizing Duke Theodo; this scene has no historical foundation. St. Rupert was the first Abbot-Bishop of Salzburg, for, as he established his foundations after the manner of the Irish monks, he combined in his own person the dignities of abbot and bishop. A similar combination of dignities existed also in Ratisbon and Freising. This twofold character of the bishop continued in Salzburg for nearly 300 years until the separation of the dignities was effected in 987 by Archbishop Friedrich I of Salzburg, Count of Chiemgau, the twenty-first Abbot of the Monastery of St. Peter. The period of St. Rupert's activity was until very lately a matter of great discussion. Formerly the opinion was held that the end of the fifth and beginning of the sixth centuries was the age of his missionary work, but, according to the most exhaustive and reliable investigations, the late seventh and early eighth centuries formed the period of his activity. This fact is established especially by the "Brevesnotitiae Salzburgenses", a catalogue of the donations made to the Church of Salzburg, with notices from the ninth century. In these latter Bishop St. Virgil, whose ministry is referred to 745-84, appears as a direct disciple of St. Rupert. It is forthwith evident that the assumption of the end of the sixth and beginning of the seventh centuries as the period of Rupert's activity is extremely doubtful, even apart from the fact that this view also involves the rejection of the catalogue of the bishops of Salzburg and of Easter Sunday as the day of Rupert's death. Many churches and places bearing Rupert's name, serve as surviving memorials of his missionary activity. A successor of St. Rupert, the present scholarly Abbot of St. Peters in Salzburg, Willibald Hauthaler, has written an interesting work upon this subject entitled "Die dem hl. Rupertus Apostel von Bayern geweihten Kirchen und Kapellen" (with map, Salzburg, 1885).
(Taken from Catholic Encyclopedia)


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