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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Pope leads prayers for migrants, trafficking victims

Marking the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a former slave, Pope Francis urged Christians to help victims of human trafficking and migrants, especially the Rohingya people being chased from Myanmar.

For the Catholic Church, St. Bakhita's feast day, Feb. 8, is a day of prayer for victims of trafficking.

Pope Francis asked government officials around the world to "decisively combat this plague" of human trafficking, paying particular attention to trafficking in children. "Every effort must be made to eradicate this shameful and intolerable crime."

Describing St. Bakhita as a "young woman who was enslaved in Africa, exploited, humiliated," Pope Francis said she never gave up hope and, finally, she was able to migrate to Europe.

Holding up a booklet with a photograph of the Sudanese saint, who died in Italy in 1947, the pope continued telling her story. In Europe, he said, "she heard the call of the Lord and became a nun," joining the Canossian Daughters of Charity.

"Let us pray to St. Josephine Bakhita for all migrants and refugees who are exploited and suffer so much," the pope said.

"And speaking of migrants who are exploited and chased away, I want to pray with you today in a special way for our Rohingya brothers and sisters," the pope continued. "These people, thrown out of Myanmar, move from one place to another because no one wants them."

Pope Francis told the estimated 7,000 people at his audience that the Rohingya, who are Muslim, "are good people. They are our brothers and sisters. They have been suffering for years. They have been tortured, killed, just because they want to keep their traditions and their Muslim faith."

He led the audience in praying the Lord's Prayer "for our Rohingya brothers and sisters."

In a report released Feb. 3, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said since October, there had been escalating violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar. The report cited eyewitness reports of mass gang-rape, killings -- including of babies and young children -- beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by the country's security forces.

An estimated 66,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since October, the report said.

The recent violence, the U.N. said, "follows a long-standing pattern of violations and abuses; systematic and systemic discrimination; and policies of exclusion and marginalization against the Rohingya that have been in place for decades in northern Rakhine state."

In his main audience talk, Pope Francis continued to discuss the characteristics of Christian hope, which should be both tender and strong enough to support those who suffer and despair.

The Gospel does not call Christians to pity the suffering, but to have compassion, which means suffering with them, listening to them, encouraging them and offering a helping hand, the pope said.

The Gospel calls Christians "not to build walls, but bridges, not to repay evil with evil, but to defeat evil with goodness (and) offense with forgiveness, to live in peace with all," he said. "This is the church. And this is what Christian hope accomplishes when it takes on the strong and, at the same time, tender features of love."
 
  • Published in Vatican

'Stand for What You Believe In'

For the 29th year in a row, people of all faiths are urged to observe a national day of prayer for the African-American family Feb. 5 as part of Black History Month, observed every February.
 
The tradition of declaring the first Sunday of February as the prayer day was begun in 1989 by Franciscan Father James E. Goode, one of the nation's leading African-American Catholic evangelists.
 
Visitors to the website of Solid Ground, www.solidgroundministry.com, will find a link to a brochure, a prayer and further information to share with others. Father Goode is pastoral director of Solid Ground, a Franciscan ministry with African-American families. The priest also is the founder and president of the National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life.
 
"Stand for What You Believe In" is the theme of this year's prayer. The prayer brochure suggests families worship together "at the Eucharistic table," pray as a family, celebrate a meal together and "tell your family story."
 
It also suggests families set aside time to discuss together "what you are willing to stand for," such as respect for life; justice and peace; "the end of racism and hate;”  the end of abortion "and all acts of violence;” respect for the elderly, women and children; and for the protection of the environment and all creation. "Or pledge to stand with the poor and oppressed, the forgotten, unwanted and unwelcome," it says.
 
The prayer, composed by Father Goode, reads in part: "God of mercy and love, we place our African-American and African families before you today. May we be proud of our history and never forget those who paid a great price for our liberation. Bless us one by one and keep our hearts and minds fixed on higher ground. Help us to live for you and not for ourselves, and may we cherish and proclaim the gift of life."
 
In addition to Solid Ground and the National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life, several other groups are supporters of the special day of prayer, including the Black and Indian Mission Office, the Josephites, the Society of the Divine Word, the Order of Friars Minor, the Archdiocese of New York's Office of Black Ministry, the Venerable Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund, the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the National Black Sisters' Conference and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church.
 
  • Published in Nation

Quebec mosque shooting

Faith and political leaders condemned a Quebec City shooting at Quebec's main mosque that left at least six people dead.
 
Vigils were scheduled Jan. 30 in Quebec City and Montreal, the evening after a man entered the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center and opened fire, killing at least six men who were praying and injuring 19 more. Police later said they had arrested a suspect in the attack, the motive for which remained unclear.
 
Pope Francis met with Quebec Archbishop Cardinal Gerald Lacroix in Rome Jan. 30 and assured him of his prayers for the victims of the attack on the mosque. A Vatican statement said the pope highlighted the importance of Christians and Muslims remaining united in prayer in these moments.
 
Afterward, the cardinal immediately departed for Canada.
 
Archbishop Christian Lepine of Montreal said: "Nothing can justify such murderous acts aimed at innocent people. We are called to say again that, whatever our beliefs are, as human beings we are all brothers and sisters, all equal in dignity."
Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, Ontario, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, condemned the shooting, calling it "an assault on the right and freedom of the members of all religions to gather and pray in the name of their deepest beliefs."
 
The Anglican bishops of Quebec City and Montreal were in Canterbury, England, when the attack occurred.
 
In a joint statement on the shooting, Coadjutor Bishop Bruce Myers of Quebec and Bishop Mary Irwin-Gibson of Montreal said: "Along with our grief and prayers we are called as disciples of Jesus to express our solidarity with our neighbors who are Muslim."
 
"We wish to express directly to our Muslim neighbors in Quebec our grief and repugnance at this brutal act of violence against another community of faith, and one in the midst of prayer. When one is attacked, we are all attacked, and our whole society is diminished," they insisted.
 
Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, British Columbia, expressed shock and sadness about the attack and sent condolences to members of the cultural center and to Canada's entire Muslim community.
 
"Be assured we will continue to reach out in solidarity to the Muslim community, united in prayer with our Muslim brothers and sisters for the victims of this attack," Archbishop Miller said in a statement Jan. 30.
 
Over the years, the mosque had been targeted by hate crimes. A few months ago, a pig's head was left at the front door, sparking indignation throughout the city.

Quebec City is the capital of the province and its second-biggest city, with more than 500,000 people. It has 6,100 Muslims.
 
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to be in Quebec City Jan. 30.
 
"It was with tremendous shock, sadness and anger that I heard of this (Jan. 29) evening's tragic and fatal shooting," he said. "We condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a center of worship and refuge."
 
Quebec Mayor Regis Labeaume stayed up all night to assess the situation. "My first thoughts go to the victims and their families hit while they were gathered to pray. Quebec is an open city where all must be allowed to live together in security and respect," he said.
 
"I invite the population to come together and stand united. Quebec is strong, Quebec is proud, Quebec is opened to the world," he added.
 
  • Published in World

March for Life

Tens of thousands of pro-lifers filled the grounds near the Washington Monument and marched up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 27 as both a protest of legalized abortion and a celebration of successful pro-life efforts across the country.
 
In years past, the March for Life -- which takes place on or near Jan. 22 to mark the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that legalized abortion virtually on demand -- has been almost a battle cry for the uphill and constant fight faced by those in the pro-life movement hoping for more abortion restrictions and ultimately an end to abortion.
 
This year's March for Life, under mostly sunny skies and 40-degree temperatures, was decidedly more upbeat, in part because one of the first speakers was Vice President Mike Pence; this was the first time a vice president attended the rally.
 
Pence, who has marched at the event before as a participant and addressed it as a congressman, repeatedly told the crowd -- huddled together in winter coats and hats in front of the stage -- that "life is winning" and assured them the Trump administration was behind them.
 
Kellyanne Conway, special adviser to Trump, and the first on the speakers' list to address the group -- holding aloft placards but none of the usual giant banners, which were banned for security reasons -- similarly got plenty of cheers when she said: "This is a new day, a new dawn for life."
 
The scheduled presence of the vice president, only announced the day before, required the rally perimeter to be fenced in and the crowd to enter through long lines that had formed at security checks.
 
Participants seemed unfazed by the required wait, taking it in stride with the day. Some pulled out their pre-packed lunches and started eating, others prayed the rosary. These marchers are used to plenty of hardships from weather conditions alone at the annual march.
 
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, noted that the group has been marching in all types of bad weather over the years. She also pointed out that amid recent discussion about crowd size at events in Washington, it was hard to measure the number of people that day or for the total who have come out for the annual march over the past four decades. "The only number we care about is the 58 million" lost to abortion since it was legalized, she said.
 
As in years past, the crowd was primarily young, with a lot of high school and college-age groups. It was something the speakers took note of, saying this generation would not only keep the pro-life movement going but bring about changes.
 
Mary Ann Vann, a retiree who made the trip from Trussville, Ala., for her sixth march, said the most exciting thing for her each time she has taken part is seeing the young people.
 
Vann, a parishioner at Holy Infant of Prague Parish in Trussville, said she hoped the energy at the march could be channeled into everyday support for the pro-life movement, something she is involved with on a regular basis with sidewalk counseling, volunteering at crisis pregnancy centers and helping young mothers with basic needs. She also said she is disheartened by hearing those who say pro-lifers are only concerned about babies because she and her fellow volunteers not only bring pregnant women to their doctor's appointments but also help pay their medical costs.
 
Jim Klarsch, a member of St. Clement Parish in St. Louis, who came with a busload of eighth-graders, also is involved with pro-life work with the Knights of Columbus at his parish. In Washington on his second march, he said the experience was "empowering."
 
Standing alongside Constitution Avenue waiting for the march to begin, he said the crowd, which was already filling the street to each side and behind him as far as the eye could see, reinforced his feeling that "this is not just a day but a lifelong mission."
 
Many of the march signs were pre-made placards with messages such as "I am pro abundant life" or "Defund Planned Parenthood" and "I am the pro-life generation."
 
 
 
  • Published in Nation
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