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Christians are the most widely targeted religious group in the world

Washington D.C., Apr 23, 2017 / 04:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When it comes to religious persecution, Christians are the most widely targeted community, said a new report released this week.

But despite oppression and threat of violence, the faithful “should not be afraid,” said a Pakistani archbishop.

Pakistan’s Christians have made vital contributions to the country’s history and must not refrain from professing their faith in the midst of the current persecution, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw, OFM of Lahore, Pakistan.

“Even under discrimination or some violent actions,” Christians should take courage, he said, citing the words of Jesus that “people will hate you on account of My name.”

“You are not guilty, but because you are Christians and because you are following the Gospel values…being honest, being more responsible, being more dutiful, more charitable,” he said of Pakistan’s Christians, violence and harassment will follow.

Archbishop Shaw spoke with CNA at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. at the April 20 release of the new report “Under Caesar’s Sword.” The archbishop leads the largest Catholic diocese in Pakistan, with around 500,000 members.

“Under Caesar’s Sword” documents not only the persecution of Christians around the world, but how they choose to respond to persecution. “Christians are the most widely targeted religious community,” the report explained, “suffering terrible persecution globally.”

There are three common responses of Christian communities to violence or harassment, the report noted: “survival,” “strategies of association,” and “confrontation,” which is “the least common response.”

Survival would entail communities choosing to remain where they are in the face of persecution, as minorities have in Iraq and Syria, and either gathering covertly for worship as underground churches do in China, or maintaining a tenuous relationship with regimes in power.

Communities utilizing “association” would develop relationships with other non-governmental organizations or international bodies like the United Nations, or would strengthen their social ties in their country through social services or practicing forgiveness.

Examples of this course of action would be Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt, who acted to protect each other’s churches and mosques from vandalism and violence in 2011.

Another example was in 1996 when, “anticipating martyrdom, Christian de Chergé, leader of the ‘Tibhirine Monks’ of Algeria who were martyred in 1996 during the uprising, wrote a letter to his would-be killers, forgiving them and inviting them to a future of living together in freedom.”

“Christian responses to persecution are almost always nonviolent and, with very few exceptions, do not involve acts of terrorism,” the report stated.

Christians in Pakistan, Archbishop Shaw explained, helped build and unify the country when it was founded in 1947, especially through the health and social sectors and the educational institutions which formed some of the country’s present-day leaders, including the prime minister and the speaker of the National Assembly.

However, following the nationalization of the country’s schools in 1972, Pakistan became “more Islamized” and Christians were marginalized more and more, the archbishop said. They currently only make up around two percent of the country’s population.

Their marginalization includes infringements upon their rights and mob violence. Acts of terror against Christians have also increased, with a suicide bomber killing 72 and injuring 340 last year in an attack on a Christian celebration of Easter Sunday at a park in Lahore.

Additionally, anti-blasphemy laws have resulted in 40 persons on death row or serving life in prison, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The laws, which do not require evidence for an accusation and which carry the harshest of penalties, have been used to harass Christians. Mob violence is utilized to pressure the government and the courts to issue or uphold harsh sentences for Christians for alleged crimes.

Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was convicted in 2010 for alleged blasphemy but the country’s Supreme Court suspended her death sentence and her case is still in question, Archbishop Shaw said.

Today, Christians don’t count as a full person according to the country’s witnessing law, which requires the testimony of two Christian men to equal that of one Muslim man when witnessing to a crime. Women are also considered below men, as four Christian women would have to testify to count as a full witness.

New textbooks in schools have also circulated which contain “hate material,” the archbishop said, which prevents a “harmonious society” from growing.

Archbishop Shaw said he tells Christians “you were born in Pakistan, so God has a special purpose for you to be born in Pakistan,” saying their presence there is no accident.

Christians should not back away from the public square, he insisted, but should be “assertive enough to profess your faith in a very dignified way.”

He exhorted them “not to fight,” in response to violence, “but that does not mean that you let people kill you. You have to be courageous to approach people in a very assertive way to share your values in being human and being a Christian.”

Christians should seek to grow in knowledge of their faith and their “religious traditions,” he said, and should share their faith with others through interreligious dialogue. This last part is key, he said, because if Christians and Muslims can have a “roundtable” to learn each other’s religious values, then they can find common ground.

Some of the worst persecution of Christians occurs in countries where they are isolated and which are largely closed off to outside research, the report said, countries like North Korea, Eritrea, Somalia, and Yemen.

Christians worldwide should seek to implement these practices of dialogue, bridge-building with other members of society, and non-violence, the report said.

“The benefits of these strategies may seem short-term and modest, but from the standpoint of those persecuted, the strategies reflect a kind of divine logic, one rooted not only in hope for reward and fulfillment in the life to come but also in the conviction that should these communities remain true to their faith, there will come a day when the persecuting regime or militant group may pass away and the church spring up and branch out with vigor, as it has done so often in history before,” the report stated, citing the early Christians’ faith amidst the persecutions by the Roman Empire.

“Those who wish to act in solidarity with persecuted Christians can imitate their creative and faithful pragmatism,” the report concluded.

Pope dedicates videomessage to Italian educator

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a video message to a festival organised to promote books and reading, which is taking place in Milan from 19 to 23 April.

The videomessage is dedicated to Don Lorenzo Milani, the prior of Barbiana, and writer of many works including “letter to a professor”.

The Italian priest is also being remembered at the event entitled “Time for Books”.

In the videomessage the Holy Father describes Don Milani as a believer, in love with the Church even though he was hurt, and a passionate educator with a vision for  school life.

He goes on to say that “going to school means opening the mind and heart to reality, to the richness of its aspects, its dimensions.”

The Pope adds that Don Milani displayed a spiritual restlessness, fueled by love for Christ, the Gospel, the Church, society, and school, which he increasingly dreamed of as a "field hospital" to help the wounded, and to help make the lives of the marginalized and discarded better.”

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Mercy is key to the life of faith, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2017 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Divine Mercy Sunday Pope Francis said mercy is essential in living the Christian life, because it not only allows us to understand ourselves and God better, but it also prompts us to recognize and help those in need.

 “Let us never forget that mercy is the keystone of the life of faith, and concrete way with which we give visibility to the Resurrection of Jesus,” the Pope said April 23.

Mercy, he said, is understood as a true awareness of “the mystery” that the Church is living, particularly during the Easter season.

Not only is mercy understood in various ways such as through the senses, intuition and reason, but we can also become aware of it through an act of mercy that we personally experience, he said, adding that “this opens the door of the mind to better understand the mystery of God and of our personal existence.”

“It makes us understand that violence, resentment and revenge have no meaning, and the first victim is whoever lives these sentiments, because it deprives them of their own dignity,” he said.

Additionally, mercy also allows us to open the door of our hearts and draw close to those who are “alone and marginalized,” recognizing those in need and finding the right words to say to comfort them.

“Mercy warms the heart and makes it sensitive to the needs of our brothers with sharing and participation,” Francis said, explaining that in the end, mercy “commits everyone to being instruments of justice, reconciliation and peace.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims during his Sunday Regina Coeli address on Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter. The Regina Coeli is traditionally prayed instead of the Angelus throughout the liturgical Easter season.

In his brief speech, the Pope noted now the Sunday after Easter in the past was referred to as “in albis,” meaning “in white,” as a reminder of the white garments worn by those who had come into the Church on Easter Sunday.

In the time after Easter, he said, Sunday takes on “an even more illuminating” aspect, especially considering the previous traditional custom in which the garment would be worn by the person for the entire week after their baptism until the following Sunday, when they began their new life in Christ and the Church.

Francis then pointed to how the Sunday after Easter was later designated as Divine Mercy Sunday by Pope Saint John Paul II during the Jubilee year 2000.

“It was a beautiful institution!” he said, noting that his own Extraordinary Jubilee for Mercy concluded just a few months ago, on the Nov. 20, 2016, Solemnity of Christ the King.

In wake of the Jubilee, Divine Mercy Sunday “invites us to take up with strength the grace that comes from the mercy of God,” he said, noting that in the day’s Gospel from John, Jesus appears to his disciples in the upper room, and gives them the message: “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you.”

After saying this, Jesus then entrusts them with a special task, telling them “receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.”

“This is the meaning of the mercy that is presented to us on the day of the Resurrection of Jesus as forgiveness of sins,” Pope Francis said, explaining that the Risen Christ gave his Church as a first task “his same mission of bringing to all the concrete announcement of forgiveness.”

Francis said this commission is a visible sign of Christ’s mercy, which brings both peace of heart and the joy of a renewed encounter with the Lord.

He closed his address praying that Mary, the Mother of Mercy, would “help us to believe and live all of this with joy,” and led pilgrims in praying the Regina Coeli.

The Pope then greeted pilgrims from various countries around the world, giving a special shout-out to Spain, where yesterday the priest Fr. Luis Antonio Rosa Ormières was proclaimed a Blessed, and to all youth who had been confirmed or are currently candidates for Confirmation.

He then thanked everyone who sent him messages wishing him a happy Easter before asking for prayers and giving his blessing.

This film shows how mercy can transform your life

Bridgeport, Conn., Apr 23, 2017 / 03:08 am (CNA).- Personal stories about God’s mercy at work in the world today are the focus of a recent Catholic-produced documentary on Divine Mercy.

“These testimonies remind us that Divine Mercy is not just a devotion or theological concept – it is alive, it is present, and it is a force that can transform the world,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson.

The one-hour film “The Face of Mercy” depicts mercy as the antidote to evil even in great difficulty. Narrated by actor Jim Caviezel, the film interweaves history, theology, and testimonials about the importance of mercy in people’s lives.

Testimonies come from Immaculée Ilibagiza, who forgave those who murdered her family in the Rwandan genocide; a New York police officer who works for peace despite having been shot and paralyzed from the waist down; a young widow who forgave the killer of her husband; a baseball player who became a priest; and a former NFL linebacker who now shares Christ’s mercy with the homeless.

The film was produced by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal order with 1.9 million members worldwide.

Anderson said the film “highlights the sort of transformations that are possible in individual lives that embrace the way of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

The film is available at Amazon.com, the Ignatius Press website, and the Knights of Columbus site Knights Gear.

More information is available at faceofmercyfilm.com.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Nov. 17, 2016.

Regina Caeli: With Mercy violence and rancor have no sense

(Vatican Radio) In his Angelus address in a sunny St Peter’s Square, Pope France recalled the Church tradition of calling the first Sunday after Easter “in albis”, an expression he said, meant to recall the rite of those who had received baptism in white on the Easter Vigil. The Pope went on to say that  in the Jubilee of Year of 2000, St. John Paul II established that this particular Sunday was to be dedicated to Divine Mercy.

Listen to our report:

In the last months, the Holy Father said, “we have concluded the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and this Sunday invites us to resume the grace that comes from the mercy of God.”

Drawing inspiration from the  Gospel reading of the day, the Holy Father  reminded those present of Jesus’ words, "receive the Holy Spirit. Those to whom you will forgive sins will be forgiven ".

Here is the sense of the mercy, the forgiving of sins, noted Pope Francis, “that occurs on the day of the resurrection of Jesus.”

The Risen Jesus, he continued  has sent to his Church, as a first task, his own mission to bring to everyone the concrete announcement of forgiveness.

This visible sign of his mercy brings with him the peace of heart and the joy of a renewed encounter with the Lord.

Mercy said the Pope, makes us realize that violence, rancor, and revenge have no sense.

Mercy also opens the door of the heart and allows us to express our closeness, above all to those who are alone and marginalized.

Mercy, in short, said Pope Francis is everyone committed to being instruments of justice, reconciliation and peace. Let us never forget that mercy, he concluded, is the keystone in the life of faith, and the concrete form in which we give visibility to the resurrection of Jesus.

Following the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father remembered the Beatification in Oviedo, Spain on Saturday of Father Luis Antonio Rosa Ormières an educator who lived in the nineteenth century, and founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Guardian Angel.

The Pope also greeted Polish pilgrims on the Feast of Divine Mercy and thanked Caritas Poland for their support of so many families in Syria.

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Virginia bishops welcome commutation of prisoner's death sentence

Richmond, Va., Apr 22, 2017 / 03:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of Virginia welcomed a decision by the governor to commute a prisoner’s death sentence on the grounds that false information was presented during his sentencing.

“We are all children of the same merciful, loving God, and he alone has dominion over all life,” the bishops said April 20.

Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington said they welcomed the decision to commute the death sentence “because we have a profound respect for the sanctity of every human life, from its very beginning until natural death.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Thursday commuted the death sentence of Ivan Teleguz, 38, to life without parole. He was scheduled to be executed April 25.

The governor had denied his petition for a pardon, but said that the sentencing phase was “terribly flawed and unfair.” He said false information about Teleguz was presented during sentencing, including another alleged murder and mob ties.

“In this case, we now know that the jury acted on false information, and that it was driven by passions and fears raised – not from actual evidence introduced at trial – but from inference,” McAuliffe said.

Teleguz was convicted for the 2001 murder of Stephanie Yvonne Sipe, who was the mother of their 23-month-old son. She was stabbed to death in her apartment.

Prosecutors said that Teleguz was angered by an order to pay child support, hired two men to kill the woman for $2,000 and drove them from Pennsylvania to her Harrisonburg, Va. Apartment.

Teleguz’s lawyers have contended that he is innocent. DNA evidence implicated Michael Hetrick as the murderer. He and two others then implicated Teleguz, Richmond’s CBS 6 reports.

The Catholic bishops voiced their “deep sorrow” and prayers for all victims of violence and their loved ones.

“Likewise, we continue to pray for a change of heart and a spirit of remorse and conversion for all those who commit acts of violence,” they said.

The bishops prayed that God would give the grace “to work together for justice, peace and respect for all life in our communities and our Commonwealth.”

 

Who conquers the devil's hatred? God's new martyrs, Pope says

Rome, Italy, Apr 22, 2017 / 11:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The devil’s hatred for Christ and for our redemption is the root cause of all persecution since the beginnings of the Church, Pope Francis said at a special liturgy that focused on modern martyrs.

“The memory of these heroic witnesses, old and new, confirms us in the knowledge that the Church is a Church of martyrs… they have received the grace of confessing Jesus until the end, until death,” the Pope said April 22.

He said that if we look well into history, the root cause of every persecution is “the hatred the prince of this world has toward those who have been saved and redeemed by Jesus with his death and with his Resurrection.”

Pointing to Jesus’ words “Do not be afraid! The world will hate you, but know that before you, it hated me,” from the Gospel passage read at the liturgy, Francis said the use of the word “hatred” is both strong and frightening.

“He, who is the master of love, who liked so much to speak of love, speaks of hatred,” he said, noting that Jesus “always wanted to call things by their name.”

Jesus has chosen and redeemed us as “a free gift of his love,” he said, adding that through this love, we have been saved from “the power of the world, from the power of the devil, from the power of the prince of this world.”

“And the origin of hatred is this: that we are saved by Jesus, and the prince of this world doesn’t want it, he hates us and provokes persecution, which since the time of Jesus and the early Church continues until our days.”

Pope Francis offered his reflections during a special April 22 liturgy honoring the “new martyrs” of the 20th and 21st centuries in the Basilica of St Bartholomew on Rome’s Tiber Island. Overseen by the Community of Sant’Egidio, the basilica was founded at the end of the 10th century and contains a vast number of relics belonging to 20th century martyrs.

The collection was initially gathered after the Jubilee of 2000. A year ahead of the jubilee, Pope John Paul II established the “New Martyrs” commission to study and investigate modern cases of martyrdom in preparation for the event.

As a result, the commission gathered some 12,000 dossiers of martyrs and witnesses of the faith from around the world.

To commemorate the heroic witness of those who had given their lives for Christ, John Paul II in 2002 had a large icon made and placed in the basilica of St. Bartholomew, which sits on the main altar to this day.

In addition to the icon, various relics and items belonging to the martyrs have been placed in each of the basilica’s side chapels, and are divided by either specific points in history, such as the “new martyrs of Nazism,” or geographical locations, including Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe.  

Benedict XVI visited the basilica in April 2008, making Pope Francis the third pontiff to set foot in the basilica, and to keep the papal tradition of honoring new martyrs.

In his homily, Pope Francis lamented the fact that “many Christian communities are objects of persecution!”

However, he noted that often in difficult moments, people call for “heroes.” The Church today also needs the heroic witness of martyrs and saints, he said, explaining that this includes “the saints of everyday life,” who move forward with coherency, but also those who “have the courage to accept the grace of being witnesses until the end, until death.”

“All of them are the living blood of the Church. They are the witnesses who carry the Church forward,” he said. By demonstrating with their lives that Jesus is alive and risen, they also “attest with the coherency of their lives and with the strength of the Holy Spirit that they have received this gift.”

Pope Francis then paused for a moment and deviated from his prepared text. He recalled an encounter he had with a Muslim man he met during his 2016 trip to Lesbos who, along with his three children, had fled his village after his wife, who was a Christian, was killed by extremists.

When the militants came to their home and asked what their religion was, the woman said she was Christian, and, when she refused to throw down a crucifix she that was hanging on the wall, she was killed in front of her family.

This woman, Francis said, is “another crown” that can be added to the rest of the martyrs honored in St. Bartholomew, because “she is looking at us from heaven.”

Pope Francis closed his homily saying the ability to remember the many modern-day martyrs inside a basilica filled with their relics is “a great gift,” because “the living heritage of the martyrs today gives us peace and unity.”

“These ones teach us that, with the strength of love, with meekness, one can fight against tyranny, violence and war and can realize peace with patience,” he said, and prayed, asking that each person present might be a worthy witness of the Gospel and the love of God.

Before giving his homily, Pope Francis heard the testimonies of three people who were relatives or friends of modern-day martyrs.

First was Karl Schneider, son of Paul Schneider, a pastor of the Reformed Church who was killed in the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1939 because he defied Nazism as “irreconcilable with the words of the Bible.”

In his brief reflection, Schneider said his father had been “strongly opposed every temptation to politically influence the Church.”

“All of us, even today, make too many compromises,” he said, “but my father stayed faithful only to the Lord and to the faith. He was a pastor and a spiritual guide. Even in the concentration camp!”

Despite the torture and suffering his he endured, Schneider’s father shouted out from his cell, offering words of comfort and hope from the Bible to the other prisoners.

Recalling words spoken by his elderly mother before her death, Schneider said his mother said her husband “was chosen to announce the Gospel and this is my consolation.” As his son, Schneider said he “I feel this consolation until today.”

Next was Roselyne, sister of Fr. Jacques Hamal, the 85-year-old priest who was murdered by two young ISIS sympathizers in Rouen, France in July 2016.

Speaking to the congregation, Roselyne said that in his old age Fr. Hamal had been fragile, but “he was also strong. Strong in his faith in Christ, strong in his love for the Gospel and for people, whoever it was, and – I am certain – also for his killers.”

His death, she said, “is in line with the life of a priest, which was one of a life given: a life offered to the Lord, when he said ‘yes’ at the moment of his ordination, a life of service to the Gospel, a life given for the church and her people, above all the poorest.

She pointed to the “paradox” that while alive her brother never wanted to be “at the center,” but that after his death, “has given a testimony for the entire world, the greatness of which we cannot measure.”

After her brother died, Roselyne said the reaction of the community was strong. Rather than wanting revenge, there was a desire for “love and forgiveness,” she said, explaining that even Muslims who wanted to show solidarity with Christians came to visit the parish for Sunday Masses in a show of support.

Despite her loss, Roselyne said “it’s a great comfort to see how many new encounters, how much solidarity, how much love have been generated by the witness of Jacques,” and prayed that his sacrifice would “bring fruits, so that the men and women of our time can find the path to living together in peace.”

Finally, a man named Francisco Hernandez gave a brief reflection on his friend William Quijano, killed in El Salvador in 2009 because of his work with youth that sought to promote peace and draw them away from the violence of criminal gangs.

In his reflection, Hernandez said the only crime of his friend was that of “dreaming of a world of peace.”

“William never ceased teaching peace, but rather, his commitment has broken the chain of violence,” he said, recalling how Quijano had always insisted that ending violence begins with the youth, and so dedicated himself to working with children.

Hernandez said his friend “never spoke of repression or revenge against the gangs, but insisted on the need for a change in mentality.”

“In every existential periphery, William bore witness to his hope in a different world, founding himself on the Gospel and the most human virtues, on the centrality of closeness,” he said, adding: “this is the greatest gift of that the small life of William Alfredo Quijano Zetino, my friend.”

Feminists and pro-lifers can join forces – and why they should

Washington D.C., Apr 22, 2017 / 06:12 am (CNA).- On a Monday evening in Washington, D.C., well over a hundred women – and a few men too – gathered together to take up some of the most intense questions from earlier in 2017: Can feminists be pro-life? Can pro-life activists be feminists?

Self-described feminists from both sides of the abortion debate opened a panel discussion this month, continuing a conversation that started when pro-life participants were barred from formal co-sponsorship of the Women’s March on Washington earlier this year.

While there were no easy answers from any of the participants, the women discussed what it means to be a feminist, what it truly means to be pro-life, and how pro-life activists and feminists can work together – even when they may not see eye-to-eye on abortion.

For Aimee Murphy, a pro-life activist and feminist, abortion is directly opposed to the stated aims of feminism.

“It is the ultimate in ‘might makes right’ mentality. It is contrary to nondiscrimination,” she said, arguing that abortion discriminates on the basis of age, sex and ability. “If feminism is truly the support of the equality of human beings, then my question is actually: Is it possible to be pro-choice and feminist?”

Murphy is the founder and executive director of Rehumanize International – formerly known as Life Matters Journal – in Pittsburgh. The organization is an education and advocacy group dedicated to promoting a consistent ethic of life from conception to natural death.

Murphy and other panelists discussed whether one can be both pro-life and feminist during an April 10 event at The Catholic University of America. The panel was hosted by The Institute for Human Ecology and was formulated partially in response to backlash earlier this year on pro-life participation in the Women’s March on Washington.

Also speaking were Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder and president of New Wave Feminists; Megan Klein-Hattori, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts; Robin Marty, pro-choice speaker, activist, and author; Pamela Merritt, co-founder and co-director of Reproaction, a pro-choice activist organization; and Cessilye Smith, from Doulas for Life.

Murphy told the crowd that her pro-life activism and her feminist upbringing in California were intrinsically linked. “I was a feminist before I was pro-life, and I’m honestly pro-life because I’m a feminist.”

Her feminist views were challenged and evolved when she was 16: after being raped by an on-again, off-again boyfriend, she was afraid she was pregnant. Initially, she considered abortion, but then her assailant cornered her and told her she must have an abortion – and if she didn’t, he might kill her and then himself.

After that conversation, Murphy said, “everything changed. I decided that I couldn’t perpetuate the cycle of violence and oppression. I had to be better, I had to choose nonviolence.”  She realized she had to oppose violent forms of oppression – including abortion.

“I realized that if all humans truly are equal, regardless of sex or race or any other circumstance, then that equality must be something inherent in us: part of our essence, not a consequence of circumstances,” she commented.

The realization made her think more deeply about other aspects of feminism, such as the relationship between society’s views of menstruation, pregnancy or childbirth and the marginalization of some groups of people, such as both women and the unborn.

“If the male body is seen as the norm, pregnancy is seen as a disease condition. If the male body is seen as the norm, those of us with wombs will continue to be marginalized.”

These understandings, she said, have further influenced other, more stereotypically feminist positions such as paid family leave and empowering nonviolent birth choices.

Cessilye Smith of Doulas for Life emphasized that there are different varieties of feminism and voiced concern that by making the “barbaric procedure” of abortion “a pillar of feminism,” there is a risk of forgetting the core tenet of feminism: equality.

“As pro-life feminists, we simply extend that equality to the fetus which is just at a different stage of human development,” Smith said.

She added that a feminist perspective can also bring greater focus to the pro-life movement. “In order to be pro-life we need to be consistent, and with that consistency comes a genuine interest in all of humanity,” she said, arguing that cuts to programs that support women facing unplanned pregnancies call into question “how ‘pro-life’ we really are.”

Pro-choice activist Robin Marty said that while she supports the ability to choose abortion, she also wants to help remove obstacles for women who want to parent.

Marty added that she is willing to work with anyone – regardless of their position on abortion – to help create solutions like day care programs, housing for parents on campus, and improved welfare support so that women don’t feel forced into having abortions.

Not all panelists agreed, however, that it was possible to be both a feminist and against abortion. Abortion advocate Pamela Merritt charged that the pro-life movement “seeks to deny women access to abortion, birth control, fertility treatments, give employers the right to deny coverage for the full spectrum of reproductive health care, and defund reproductive health care providers.”

To her, these pro-life actions are contrary to the goals of feminism. “Feminism is an action agenda to secure the social, economic and political equality of women,” Merritt argued. “It is possible to support, find comfort, and feel empowered by parts of feminism without being feminist. It is not possible to support the pro-life movement and be a feminist.”

But Merritt still acknowledged that pro-life activists and feminists can find common ground. “We can still work together,” she said, noting that she works with the Franciscan Sisters of Mary in Missouri to help provide aid to women in need.

For other members of the panel, the question was not whether feminism can include pro-life voices, but whether abortion is distracting from the work women can do together.

“We can allow abortion to be the issue that polarizes and divides women, or not,” said Professor Megan Klein-Hattori. While she believes that abortion is “central to mainstream feminist politics,” she also granted that “feminists have always come from amazingly different standpoints.”

Klein-Hattori lamented how polarization over abortion has overshadowed the “common roots” of feminists in seeking to address “the problematic conditions faced by women living in a system in which wage labor and individual achievement are placed in conflict with reproduction, motherhood, and nurturance.”  

“There are many feminist politics that pro-choice and anti-abortion feminists share, ones that move us closer to having control over all elements of our lives, to being respected by loved ones and community, and to not being second-class citizens.”

“Allowing abortion to polarize hurts these broader feminist politics,” she stressed.

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa of New Wave Feminists agreed. “Labels are killing us, labels are dividing us, labels are polarizing us,” she said.

“It’s not pro-choice when we feel we don’t have a choice,” she commented. “That a woman ever has to choose violence for her child is awful.”

Instead, she hopes that women of all beliefs can work together to “make abortion unthinkable” and remove the economic and social obstacles to parenthood faced by many women with unplanned pregnancies. “There are so many places where we can work together,” she said.

 

 

Pope Francis: 'martyrs are the living blood of the Church'

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday paid tribute to modern day martyrs whom he said “are the living blood of the Church".

The Pope was presiding over a Liturgy of the Word at the Church of St. Bartholomew on the Tiber, a shrine to the martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Speaking during his homily, the Pope had words of closeness for the many Christian communities being persecuted today “because of the hatred of the spirit of this world”.

“How often, he said, in difficult moments of history, have we heard it said: ‘Today our country needs heroes’.? Likewise, we can ask, ‘Today what does our Church need?’ Martyrs, witnesses, that is, everyday saints of ordinary life, lives lived coherently; but we also need those who have the courage to accept the grace to be witnesses until the end, until death”.

He said that martyrs are “the witnesses who carry forward the Church; those who witness to the fact that Jesus is risen, that Jesus is alive, who witness to Him with coherent lives and with the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received as a gift”.

And, speaking off-the-cuff the Pope turned his attention to refugees who have been forced to flee their homelands because of their faith and said that many, today, find themselves in refugee camps, many of which he said, are like concentration camps, while international agreements seem to be more important than human rights.    

Please find below Vatican Radio’s the full translation of the Pope’s homily:

We have come as pilgrims to this Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiber Island, where the ancient history of martyrdom joins the memory of the new martyrs, of many Christians killed by the insane ideologies of the last century, and killed only because they were disciples of Jesus.

The memory of these heroic, old and recent witnesses confirms us in the awareness that the Church is a Church of martyrs. And martyrs are those who, as the Book of Revelation reminds us, "Are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They had the grace to confess Jesus until the end, until death. They suffered, they gave their lives, and we receive the blessing of God for their witness. And there are also many hidden martyrs, those men and women who are faithful to the gentle strength of love, to the voice of the Holy Spirit, those who in their daily lives seek to help their brothers and sisters and to love God without reserve.

If we look hard, we can see that the cause of every persecution is the hatred of the prince of this world toward those who have been saved and redeemed by Jesus through His death and resurrection. In the Gospel we just heard (cf. Jn 15: 12-19), Jesus uses a strong and frightening word: the word "hatred". He, who is the master of love, who so enjoyed talking about love, speaks of hatred. But he always liked to call things by their name. And he tells us, "Do not be afraid! The world will hate you; but know that before it hated you, it hated me. "

Jesus chose us and redeemed us as a free gift of His love. With His death and resurrection He redeemed us from the power of the world, from the power of the devil, from the power of the prince of this world. And the origin of hatred is this: since we are saved by Jesus, and the prince of the world does not want that, he hates us and encourages persecution, which from the time of Jesus and the birth of the Church continues to this day. How many Christian communities are being persecuted today! Why? Because of the hatred of the spirit of this world.

How often, in difficult moments of history, have we heard it said: "Today our country needs heroes."? Likewise, we can ask, "Today what does our Church need?" Martyrs, witnesses, that is, everyday saints of ordinary life, lives lived coherently; but we also need those who have the courage to accept the grace to be witnesses until the end, until death. All these are the living blood of the Church. They are the witnesses who carry forward the Church; those who witness to the fact that Jesus is risen, that Jesus is alive, who witness to Him with coherent lives and with the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received as a gift.

Remembering these witnesses of the faith and praying in this place is a great gift. It is a gift for the Community of Sant'Egidio, for the Church in Rome, for all the Christian communities of this city, and for so many pilgrims. The living legacy of martyrs today gives us peace and unity. They teach us that with the strength of love, with gentleness, one can fight against arrogance, violence, and war - and that peace can be achieved with patience. 

And so we can pray: O Lord, make us worthy witnesses of the Gospel and of your love; pour out your mercy upon humanity; renew your Church, protect persecuted Christians, grant peace to the whole world, soon.

(from Vatican Radio)

Testimonies of family and friends of the "New Martyrs"

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ visit to the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew on the Tiber Island (San Bartolomeo all’Isola) featured a Liturgy of the Word for the Vigil of the “New Martyrs” of the 20th and 21st centuries.

During the Liturgy, family members and friends of three of the many new “witnesses of the faith” offered their testimonies about the witness of their loved ones: Karl Schneider, the son of Reformed Church pastor Paul Schneider, who was killed in Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald; Roselyne, the sister of Fr Jacques Hamel, killed by radical Islamists in France last year; and Francisco Hernandez Guevara, a friend of William Quijano, killed in El Salvador in 2009. Mementos of all three martyrs are preserved by the Sant’ Egidio Community at the Basilica.

Karl Schneider said his father Paul worked to maintain “a Christian orientation” in German society during the Nazi era. Paul Schneider, he said, was killed because he knew that the goals of National Socialism were irreconcilable with the words of the Bible.

Despite his age – he was 85 years old when he was murdered – Père Jacques Hamel was “strong in his faith in Christ, strong in his love for the Gospel and for the people” – including, his sister said, even his murderers.

Finally, William Quijano, who organized “Schools for Peace” in El Salvador, “never spoke of repression or revenge against the violent gangs in his country. His friend, Francisco Guevara, said Quijano “never gave up teaching peace… His commitment broke the chain of violence.”

Below, please find the prepared testimonies of the family and friends of the “new martyrs”:

Testimony of Karl A. Schneider, son of Paul Schneider, Reformed Church pastor, killed at Buchenwald on 18 July 1939

Holy Father, dear Sant’Egidio community, dear Christian community,

I want to offer heartfelt thanks for the great honour you paid today to my father Paul Schneider, and for the fact that my daughter and I are able to be here.

My father was killed in 1939 at the Buchenwald concentration camp because for him the goals of National Socialism were irreconcilable with the words of the Bible. The Church has the task of watching over the State. With this conviction, my father strongly opposed any attempt to influence the Church politically. He committed himself so that the German people might maintain a Christian orientation in the state and in society.

All of us, even today, make too many compromises, but my father remained faithful only to the Lord and to the faith. He was a shepherd and a spiritual guide – even in the concentration camp! Until the end, whenever possible, despite torture and suffering, he cried with courage from the window of his cell in the bunker words of consolation and hope of the Bible to other prisoners. This is why he was called “the Preacher of Buchenwald.”

 

And he did not forget us, his family. In a letter from the concentration camp kept in this church, my father strongly affirms his faith in the Easter victory of life. And he writes knowing that my mother, I, my brothers and sisters, are also under the protection of God. My mother's words, even when she was very old, were: “He was chosen to proclaim the Gospel and this is my consolation.” I, as his son, feel this consolation to this day.

Reading from Revelation 7:11-14):

Lector: And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

*****

Testimony of Roselyne, sister of Père Jacques Hamel, killed in Rouen, 26 July 2016

Holy Father, last year, on July 26, my brother, Jacques Hamel, was killed at the end of the Mass he had just celebrated at Sant’Etienne de Rouvray in Normandy.

Jacques was 85 years old when two young men, radicalized by hate speech, thought they would commit a heroic act by turning murderous violence. At his age Jacques was frail, but he was also strong. Strong in his faith in Christ, strong in his love for the Gospel and for the people, whoever they might be – and, I’m certain, for his killers as well.

As your Holiness said in memory of Jacques, in this difficult time he did not lose his presence of mind when, from the altar, he accused the true author of the persecution: “Begone Satan!” Truly, “killing in the name of God is always satanic.”

His death is in line with his priestly life, which was a “given” life: a life offered to the Lord when he said “yes” at the time of his ordination, a life serving the Gospel, a life given to the Church and for the people, especially for the poorest, whom he always served on the outskirts of Rouen. There is a paradox: he who never wanted to be spotlight bore witness to the entire world, [a witness] whose cannot yet be measured.

We have lived the reaction of all those Christians who have not yet preached revenge or hatred, but love and forgiveness; we have seen it in the solidarity of Muslims who wanted to visit the Sunday assemblies after his death; we have seen it in France, which has shown its unity around the tenderness for this priest. For us, his family, there is surely pain and emptiness. But it is a great comfort to see how many new encounters, how much solidarity, and how much love has been generated by Jacques’s witness. As he wrote, “Our vocation is to participate in building a new fraternity in a new world context.”

Yes, Jacques, my brother, with his life wanted to live as a brother with all those who had been entrusted to him; with his death he became to all. Last September we accompanied Jacques’ breviary which is now preserved in this Basilica, and we are deeply grateful for the memory of the witnesses of the faith here and for the solidarity [we experienced]. May Jacques’ sacrifice bear fruit, that men and women of our time might find the way to live together in peace.

*****

Witness of Francisco Hernandez Guevara, friend of William Quijano, killed in El Salvador on 28 September 2009

Holy Father, my name is Francisco Guevara, and I come from El Salvador in Central America. I am absolutely certain: Love and friendship enlarge the heart; William, too, had a heart enlarged by hope, and this was his strength. He loved life, and in his friendly way he attracted many young people and children to the “School of Peace.”

And on September 28, 2009, he was killed.

What was his crime? He dreamed of a world of peace.

William never gave up teaching peace; indeed his commitment broke the chain of violence. He said, “The world is full of violence, so we must work for peace, beginning with children. We must have the courage to be teachers, because a country without schools or teachers is a country without a future and without hope. The Schools of Peace are sanctuaries that place a barrier in the way of violence and poverty. Security is not only achieved with firmness, but with love.” He spoke to everyone about his dream: “We have the heart [anime], the intelligence and the strength to put ourselves to work. And prayer will sustain us.”

It is surprising that William never spoke of repression or revenge against maras (as the gangs are called Salvador), but insisted on the need for a change of mindset. For everyone. In the children, first of all; and he sought to give them affection in order to show that with the study they could progress, they could have a future – [but he also saw the need for a change in attitude] in young people, in adults.

He had effected just such a change in himself. He could have been one of the many who said, “No, nothing can be done here.” But instead he entered so profoundly into the dream of the Community, the dream of a new humanity, that he wanted to live it to the full. Children could and should change; young people could and should change.

What happened to William, although it is tragic, makes us believe that another Latin America can be built, free from the nightmare of the maras. In the existential periphery, William bore witness to his hope in a different world, based on the Gospel and on more human values, on the centrality of closeness. This is the great gift of the small life of William Alfredo Quijano Zetino, my friend.

 

(from Vatican Radio)