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These six priorities for our Church’s life and mission are: Evangelization,Ongoing Faith Formation, Liturgy and Worship, Building and Sustaining Community, Justice and Peace and Strengthening the Unity of our Diocese.

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Explosions in Lebanon: Development and Peace – Caritas Canada accepting donations to support hardest hit populations

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 13:34

By Development and Peace staff

Development and Peace / Caritas Canada recently conveyed solidarity with the Lebanese people and with all of its partners in Lebanon, after the tragic explosions that shook the capital of Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4, 2020.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the people affected by this disaster and those who have lost loved ones,” says a statement on the Development and Peace website. 

Since the explosions, Lebanon has been plunged Lebanon into a state of catastrophe which calls for our solidarity. This is yet another trial for a people already struggling with an unprecedented economic, social and political crisis threatening the food and social security of its people. This event comes at a time when hospitals, already short of resources, were trying to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through its membership in the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Development and Peace will be participating in the Humanitarian Coalition appeal to support people of Lebanon through this crisis. The government of Canada will match every dollar donated by individuals to the Humanitarian Coalition and its members between August 4 and August 24, up to a maximum of $2 million. Donations to Development and Peace marked for the Beirut explosion emergency response will be matched.  Online Donations: LINK

Urgent needs

The shock wave was immense, and the needs of local communities are growing.

Development and Peace’s partners on the ground are already working to assess the situation and help those impacted by this disaster. Affected communities will need food, clean water, health care and shelter. The explosions destroyed a large proportion of the seed stored in the port, leading to fears of increased food insecurity in a context that was already greatly unstable due to the crisis.

“The disaster is unimaginable. We are facing a real human and humanitarian disaster. The whole Adyan team is doing well. We are now organising ourselves to help.” – Fadi Daou, President and CEO of Adyan, a Development and Peace partner.

Development and Peace partners quickly mobilizing 

Development and Peace partners in Lebanon need help to reach as many people as possible. For this country already struggling with COVID-19 and economic collapse, each donation makes a difference.

“It is a terrible and disastrous situation and today we live in a total confusion. The situation is critical. It is apocalyptic, but we don’t stop and we will carry on in order to help all those in difficulty. The wounded are received in our primary care centres which are overwhelmed, the hospitals are incredibly crowded. They lack everything, including food to support the affected population.”  – Rita Rhayem, Director of Caritas Lebanon, a Development and Peace partner.

Following the explosions, Caritas Lebanon staff immediately acted to assist survivors of the explosion. Young volunteers are mobilized and go in search of the wounded. The Caritas confederation is launching an emergency plan coordinated by the Caritas Internationalis General Secretariat to provide immediate assistance to the victims.

Read more about Caritas Internationalis response: LINK

How can Canadians help? 

Canadians can help by contributing to the Development and Peace “Emergency Fund – Crisis in Lebanon” to support the people hardest hit by this disaster: DONATE ONLINE.

Through its membership in the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Development and Peace will be participating in the Humanitarian Coalition appeal to support people of Lebanon through this crisis.

The government of Canada will match every dollar donated by individuals to the Humanitarian Coalition and its members between August 4 and August 24, up to a maximum of $2 million. Donations to Development and Peace marked for the Beirut explosion emergency response will be matched.

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In Exile – A column by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI: Suicide and Melancholy

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 06:00
Suicide and Melancholy

By Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI

We no longer understand melancholy.

Today we lump all forms of melancholy together into one indiscriminate bundle and call it “depression.” While a lot of good is being done by psychiatrists, psychologists, and the medical profession in terms of treating depression, something important is being lost at the same time. Melancholy is much more than what we call “depression.” For better and for worse, the ancients saw melancholy as a gift from God.

Prior to modern psychology and psychiatry, melancholy was seen precisely as a gift from the divine. In Greek mythology, it even had its own god, Saturn, and it was seen as a rich but mixed gift. On one hand, it could bring soul-crushing emotions such as unbearable loneliness, paralyzing obsessions, inconsolable grief, cosmic sadness, and suicidal despair; on the other hand, it could also bring depth, genius, creativity, poetic inspiration, compassion, mystical insight, and wisdom.

No more. Today melancholy has even lost its name and has become, in the words of Lyn Cowan, a Jungian analyst, “clinicalized, pathologized, and medicalized” so that what poets, philosophers, blues singers, artists, and mystics have forever drawn on for depth is now seen as a “treatable illness” rather than as a painful part of the soul that doesn’t want treatment but wants instead to be listened to because it intuits the unbearable heaviness of things, namely,  the torment of human finitude, inadequacy and mortality.

For Cowan, modern psychology’s preoccupation with symptoms of depression and its reliance on drugs in treating depression show an “appalling superficiality in the face of real human suffering.” For her, apart from whatever else this might mean, refusing to recognize the depth and meaning of melancholy is demeaning to the sufferer and perpetrates a violence against a soul that is already in torment.

And that is the issue when dealing with suicide. Suicide is normally the result of a soul in torment and in most cases that torment is not the result of a moral failure but of a melancholy which overwhelms a person at a time when he or she is too tender, too weak, too wounded, too stressed, or too biochemically impaired to withstand its pressure.

Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, who eventually did die by suicide, had written earlier about the melancholic forces that sometimes threatened to overwhelm him. Here’s one of his diary entries: “the force which drew me away from life was fuller, more powerful, and more general than any mere desire. It was a force like my old aspiration to live, only it impelled me in the opposite direction. It was an aspiration of my whole being to get out of life.’”

There’s still a lot we don’t understand about suicide and that misunderstanding isn’t just psychological, it’s also moral. In short, we generally blame the victim: If your soul is sick, it’s your fault. For the most part that is how people who die by suicide are judged. Even though publicly we have come a long way in recent times in understanding suicide and now claim to be more open and less judgmental morally, the stigma remains. We still have not made the same peace with breakdowns in mental health as we have made with breakdowns in physical health. We don’t have the same psychological and moral anxieties when someone dies of cancer, stroke, or heart attack as we do when someone dies by suicide. Those who die by suicide are, in effect, our new “lepers.”

In former times when there was no solution for leprosy other than isolating the person from everyone else, the victim suffered doubly, once from the disease and then (perhaps even more painfully) from the social isolation and debilitating stigma. He or she was declared “unclean” and had to own that stigma. But the person suffering from leprosy still had the consolation of not being judged psychologically or morally. They were not judged to be “unclean” in those areas. They were pitied.

However, we only feel pity for those whom we haven’t ostracized, psychologically and morally. That’s why we judge rather than pity someone who dies by suicide. For us, death by suicide still renders persons “unclean” in that it puts them outside of what we deem as morally and psychologically acceptable. Their deaths are not spoken of in the same way as other deaths. They are doubly judged, psychologically (If your soul is sick, it’s your own fault) and morally (Your death is a betrayal). To die by suicide is worse than dying of leprosy.

I’m not sure how we can move past this. As Pascal says, the heart has its reasons. So too does the powerful taboo inside us that militates against suicide. There are good reasons why we spontaneously feel the way we do about suicide. But, perhaps a deeper understanding of the complexity of forces that lie inside of what we naively label “depression” might help us understand that, in most cases, suicide may not be judged as a moral or psychological failure, but as a melancholy that has overpowered a suffering soul.

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Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher, and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. He can be contacted through his website  www.ronrolheiser.com.

Now on Facebook www.facebook.com/ronrolheiser

Find Fr. Rolheiser’s past columns online, along with an explanation for the column’s title “In Exile”: RonRolheiser.com/ARCHIVE

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Knights of Columbus to report on Christian persecution in Nigeria

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 10:02

By Catholic News Agency staff

[New Haven, Connecticut – CNA] – The Knights of Columbus announced a new initiative Aug. 6 to report on Christian persecution in Nigeria, where at least 60,000 Christians have been killed in the past two decades.

Since 2014, the Catholic fraternal and charitable organization has spent more than $25 million on behalf of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities targeted for elimination in the Middle East, the organization says, which includes the rebuilding of the majority-Christian town of Karemlesh on the Nineveh Plain.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and the demographics overall are almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims.

Nigeria’s Christians, especially in the northern part of the country, have for the past several decades been subjected to brutal property destruction, killings, and kidnappings, often at the hands of Islamic extremist groups.

“The effort is similar to what we have done in Iraq and is based in the hope that greater attention by American diplomacy and humanitarian aid can make a difference there,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson in an Aug. 6 announcement of the new initiative.

Multiple Nigerian Catholics have told CNA in recent days that attacks on Christians by Fulani Muslim herders, as well as by the militant group Boko Haram, have not slowed in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The worst of the persecution, in the north, comes at the hands of Muslim terrorists against the majority-Christian population, CNA has been told.

Such incidents include attacks in late July on four Christian villages in Southern Kaduna, in which more than 62 Christians were killed by Islamic terrorists. Last month, an Islamic extremist group boasted of killing five international aid workers, three of whom were known employees of Christian aid agencies.

In other areas, many Christians, especially clergy, suffer kidnappings at the hands of terrorists seeking ransom. In many cases, for kidnapped priests, their parishioners band together to raise the ransom money.

In a high-profile case from earlier this year, gunmen abducted four seminarians from Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna, holding them for random. The kidnappers eventually released three of the seminarians, but killed 18-year-old Michael Nnadi after he refused to renounce his faith.

Fr. Charles Uganwa, communications director of the south-central Issele-Uku diocese, said six priests of the diocese have been kidnapped by Fulani herdsmen in the past two years. The most recent priest kidnapping took place in June.

“He was released after about four days in captivity. He was so injured. He was beaten with clubs and with stones, with the butt of their gun. He was seriously injured. He had to be in the hospital for many weeks,” Uganwa told CNA.

Fr. Joseph Fidelis, a priest of the northeastern diocese of Maidugui, told CNA this week that he estimates that since 2009, Boko Haram has driven out half of the 300,000 Catholics who used to live in the diocese. Though Catholics there still celebrate Mass openly, they have to take stringent security measures against suicide bombers.

“Boko Haram is still very active, not in the city so much [as] in the outskirts…They still do the kidnapping, they still do the bombing. They still set mines on the road,” Fidelis said.

The problem of internally displaced people (IDP), mostly Christians who have been driven from their homes, is especially acute in the north, where thousands of the destitute live in refugee camps.

“Around here, around Maiduguri, over 1.2 million are displaced. About 1.4 million, and the number keeps rising on a daily basis. [In] the entire country, you have over 2.4 million people internally displaced. Now that’s quite huge,” Fidelis said.

Part of the problem, Nigerian Christians have told CNA, is that the Muslim-controlled government has largely responded slowly, inadequately, or not at all to the problem of Christian persecution.

“The most important issue is that unfortunately, the government in Nigeria does not show enough will, either in speech or in action, to help to curb the violence and the bloodshed that we see, either from the terrorists or from bandits or from a headsman, because we have so many sorts of groups running riots all over the Northeast of Nigeria,” Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of the southern diocese of Oyo told CNA.

Bishop Badejo said although his diocese is more peaceful than some in the north, with Muslims and Christians largely co-existing peacefully, there are some means of persecution that are more systemic and subtle, with government appointments and written laws seeming to favor Islam over Christianity.

“It’s no secret that in Nigeria, especially with the [President Muhammadu] Buhari government, there are all written laws that have not favored Christians at all, that have favored, in other words, the Muslims,” Badejo said.

“The Christian Churches have protested, Christian leaders have protested, but the federal government has not said any word in order to show any desire to protect the Christian religion.”

The Knights hope to raise greater awareness of Nigerian Christians’ plight by means of their new initiative.

In addition to financial aid, the Knights of Columbus have in the past advocated for persecuted Christians before the U.S. government, sending researchers to Iraq in 2016 to compile a 300-page report on the crimes of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) against Christians in the country.

Anderson has also testified multiple times before Congress, urging action to protect the Middle East’s Christians from potential extinction.

Later that year, both houses of Congress unanimously passed resolutions declaring ISIS’ targeting of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East to be a genocide.

Christianity had been present in the Nineveh plain in Iraq – between the city of Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, and Iraqi Kurdistan– since the first century. ISIS’ brutal invasion six years ago displaced at least 125,000 Christians from the area, and to date only about 40,000 have been able to return.

The Knights have worked closely with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to ensure funds reach persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

The Knights are in the midst of their 138th annual convention, which this year is being held virtually for the first time, due to restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Founded in New Haven in 1882, the Knights of Columbus was originally intended to assist widows and their families upon the deaths of their husbands. It has grown into a worldwide Catholic fraternal order, with more than 2 million members carrying out works of charity and evangelization across the globe. The Knights also offer life insurance policies to their members.

The convention comes a few months after the Vatican announced that Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, will be beatified following Pope Francis’ approval of a miracle attributed to his intercession.

END

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Figure of Christ added to the cross at the Cathedral of the Holy Family

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 15:43

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A sculpted figure of Christ was raised onto the empty cross at the Cathedral of the Holy Family Aug. 4, transforming it into a crucifix.

Bishop Hagemoen said that the new crucifix – created by adding the “corpus” or figure of Christ to the cross – is a reminder for him of two significant scripture passages, namely:

  • Philippians 3:10-11  – “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,  if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
  • Galatians 6:14  –  “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Archbishop Donald Bolen of the Archdiocese of Regina (former bishop of Saskatoon), artist Gregory Furmanczyk of Toronto, and Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon (l-r) examined the life-sized figure of Christ before it was placed on the cross at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon Aug. 4. (Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

History of the project

Constructed between 2009-2012, Saskatoon’s cathedral first opened with a stylized cross in the sanctuary, created by Phil Rapin and manufactured in the workshop at adjacent St. Joseph’s High School.

The figure of Christ sculpted by Canadian artist Gregory Furmanczyk – and now suspended in front of the original cross built by Rapin – has transformed the cathedral cross into a crucifix, fitting the design of the building, and meeting the liturgical requirement for a crucifix, says Bishop Mark Hagemoen.

“Since my arrival in Saskatoon, I have received many comments regarding the need for a corpus (figure of Christ) in the sanctuary of the Church,” Hagemoen said. Discussions at the diocesan Liturgical Commission included confirmation that the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) indicates the requirement of a crucifix in a Roman Catholic Church, the bishop noted, adding this “was all the more significant an issue for the cathedral of the diocese.”

“This was one of the ‘unfinished elements’ of the building… in the meantime, we used the wonderful hand-carved wooden processional crucifix,” he said.

The life-sized figure of Christ ultimately selected for the cathedral cross came via the efforts of Fr. Stefano Penna, rector at St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral in downtown Saskatoon. During his time in Edmonton, Fr. Penna had employed Canadian artist Gregory Furmanczyk to develop a similar corpus for the new Newman College Chapel in the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

“Fr. Penna also assisted in identifying an interested and supportive donor,” said Bishop Hagemoen.

(Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Artist’s vision

Artist Gregory Furmanczyk described how this particular corpus was originally a private commission. The client did not take possession of the finished piece, but requested that it be donated to a church.

Furmanczyk, a portrait artist and sculptor born born in Papineau County, Quebec, and now based in Toronto, portrayed Jesus in a style echoing Michelangelo’s Pieta. “Artists have been done that for centuries,” the artist said.

“This emphasizes the youth of Christ, it makes Christ look like he’s in his early 30s rather than (having) a big grandfather beard.”

 

Artist Gregory Furmanczyk, Bishop Mark Hagemoen, and recently appointed cathedral Pastor/Rector Fr. Gerard Cooper (l-r) watch as the carved figure of Christ is raised onto the cross at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon Aug. 4, 2020. (Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Features of the new crucifix

Bishop Mark Hagemoen described working with the parish pastoral council and finance council on the details of the installation this spring. “We are very pleased with the result,” he said, noting the beautiful design of the figure.

“The last words of Jesus  – “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30) – are clear in the expression on the face of the Lord,” the bishop observed.

“The face of the Lord tilts toward the east – the direction of the rising sun and light of the world. Christ’s face turned toward the east from Calvary also signifies awaiting Christ’s return from the East and His Second Coming. This direction in our Cathedral is the place of the ‘Glory’ stained glass window by the artist Sarah Hall. It is also the direction of the location of our Blessed Sacrament Chapel.”

Bishop Hagemoen also noted that the wound by the soldier’s lance on Christ’s right side – “where blood and water poured out (Jn 19:34) from His pierced side – ‘pours’ in the direction of our altar.”

In addition, the texture and colour of the finished plaster “is a wonderful complement” to the feature white Jerusalem limestone wall on which it is mounted, the bishop said.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen, standing before the new crucifix at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. (Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Gallery of images from installation day Aug. 4, 2020

 

 

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In wake of Beirut explosion, CNEWA Canada launches emergency campaign for Lebanon

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 12:28

News release from CNEWA

[Ottawa – Aug. 6, 2020] – Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) has launched an emergency campaign to rally prayers and funds for Lebanon.

“The Lebanese people are going through a major crisis,” says Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada.

“The Beirut blast comes on the heels of a political crises, overwhelming debt, financial collapse, unemployment, the COVID-19 pandemic as well as successive waves of regional conflict. We direct our prayers to the people of this country with whom we Canadians have so many ties. We invite all to join us. The Lebanese people need our help.”

While the cause of the blast remains unknown, the impact has sent shockwaves throughout the country – and the world. The toll grows by the day. More than a 100 people are confirmed dead; thousands are injured; countless remain missing, presumably buried under rubble.

Lebanon’s health care facilities have been overwhelmed. Three Christian hospitals close to the port, including the 600-bed St. George Hospital, have been severely damaged and evacuated. The injured are being rushed to medical centers miles from Beirut.

“Our staff, as with the entire city, is really shaken,” said Michel Constantin, CNEWA’s Beirut-based regional director.

“Our building was damaged, our offices are filled with shattered glass that could have been deadly had we not left for the day. Lebanon is on the brink of economic, political and social collapse. This will not stop us from doing our work. More than ever, the people of Lebanon need our help and, most especially, the help of their local and universal church.”

CNEWA Canada will leverage most of its resources to support the campaign – social media, website, advertisements and personal and general appeals to its generous donor base. Funds raised will be directed to the CNEWA office in Beirut which, in turn, will share with local churches that offer essential health and emergency services and pastoral outreach.

“With all the major issues devastating Lebanon, this week’s horrific incident only deepens what many describe as an existential catastrophe not only for Lebanon as a nation, but for the existence of a culturally and religiously diverse Middle East,” said CNEWA president Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari. “CNEWA recalls the words of St. John Paul II, who reminded the world that Lebanon is not just a country, but a message.”

CNEWA has been at the service of the churches and peoples of Lebanon for decades, providing relief to all who are suffering and those who have fallen through the cracks, especially those facing homelessness and in need of medical care and food.

Donations can be made online at cnewa.ca, selecting [Lebanon] as the recipient region for the gift, or by phone at 1-866-322-4441.

Cheques can be mailed to CNEWA Canada at 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, ON K1H 6K9, marked “Lebanon”. Tax receipts will be issued for donations of $10 or more.

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About CNEWA

An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches throughout the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Ukraine. Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWA provides pastoral and humanitarian support to the churches and people of the East. CNEWA Canada was incorporated as a registered charity by Canada Revenue Agency in 2003.

 

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Lebanese priest: ‘We need your prayers’ after Beirut explosions

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 14:13

By Catholic News Agency Staff

[CNA – Aug. 4, 2020] – A Lebanese Catholic priest has asked believers around the world to pray for the people of his country, after two explosions in Beirut injured hundreds of people and are reported to have left at least 10 people dead.

“We ask your nation to carry Lebanon in its hearts at this difficult stage and we place great trust in you and in your prayers, and that the Lord will protect Lebanon from evil through your prayers,” said Fr. Miled el-Skayyem of the Chapel of St. John Paul II in Keserwan, Lebanon, in a statement to EWTN News Aug. 4, 2020.

“We are currently going through a difficult phase in Lebanon, as you can see on TV and on the news,” the priest added.

Raymond Nader, a Maronite Catholic living in Lebanon, echoed the priest’s call.

“I just ask for prayers now from everyone around the world. We badly need prayers,” Nader told CNA Tuesday.

Explosions in the port area of Lebanon’s capital overturned cars, shattered windows, set fires, and damaged buildings across Beirut, a city of more than 350,000, with a metro area of more than 2 million people.

“It was a huge disaster over here and the whole city was almost ruined because of this explosion and they’re saying it’s kind of a combination of elements that made this explosion,” Antoine Tannous, a Lebanese journalist, told CNA Tuesday.

Officials have not yet determined the cause of the explosions, but investigators believe they may have started with a fire in a warehouse that stored explosive materials. Lebanon’s security service warned against speculations of terrorism before investigators could assess the situation.

According to Lebanon’s state-run media, hundreds of injured people have flooded hospital emergency rooms in the city.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has declared that Wednesday will be a national day of mourning. The country is almost evenly divided between Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and Christians, most of whom are Maronite Catholics. Lebanon also has a small Jewish population, as well as Druze and other religious communities.

END

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Catholic social teaching is ‘fundamental’ to tackling world issues, Pope Francis says

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 14:01

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis said Aug. 5 that Catholic social teaching is fundamental to healing the issues faced by the world today.

“Although the Church administers the healing grace of Christ through the sacraments, and although she provides health services in the most remote corners of the planet, she is not an expert in the prevention or treatment of the pandemic,” Pope Francis said at his general audience Aug. 5, 2020.

Speaking via livestream from the library of the Vatican’s apostolic palace, the pope stated that the Church “helps with the sick, but she is not an expert. Nor does she give specific socio-political indications.”

“However, over the centuries, and in the light of the Gospel, the Church has developed some social principles that are fundamental principles that can help us move forward, which we need to prepare the future,” he continued.

Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of faith in Jesus Christ, who heals not only physical ailments, but also spiritual.

The Holy Father pointed to the Gospel’s many accounts of miraculous healings performed by Jesus during his public ministry, including the healing of the paralytic at Capernaum, who had to be lowered through a hole in the roof by his friends.

Quoting the Gospel of Mark, Pope Francis said: “Jesus, having regard to their faith, said to the paralytic: ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’.”

“And therefore, Jesus heals,” he noted, “but does not simply heal paralysis: Jesus quashes everything, forgives sins, renews the life of the paralytic and his friends.”

“So, we ask ourselves: how can we help heal our world today? As disciples of the Lord Jesus, physician of souls and bodies, we are called to continue ‘his work, a work of healing and salvation’ in a physical, social and spiritual sense,” Francis said, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The pope said this work of healing is facilitated through the closely related principles found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church; he listed the principles of the dignity of the person, the common good, the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity, and care for the earth.

“All these principles express, in different ways, the virtues of faith, hope and love,” he explained.

“In the coming weeks, I invite you to tackle together the pressing issues that the pandemic has highlighted, especially social diseases,” he said.

“And we will do it in the light of the Gospel, the theological virtues, and the principles of the Church’s social doctrine. We will explore together how our Catholic social tradition can help the human family heal this world that suffers from serious diseases.”

END

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Ahead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing 75th anniversary, US bishops pray for peace

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:21

By Catholic News Agency Staff

[Washington, DC – CNA] – Just days ahead of the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, the president of the United States Catholic bishops’ conference mourned the loss of innocent lives in the attacks, lamented the long-term suffering caused by the bombs, and prayed for peace among nations.

“My brother bishops and I mourn with the Japanese people for the innocent lives that were taken and the generations that have continued to suffer the public health and environmental consequences of these tragic attacks,” Archbishop Jose Gomez said in a July 30 statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The world’s only wartime uses of nuclear weapons took place in 1945 with the Aug. 6 attack on Hiroshima and Aug. 9 attack on Nagasaki by the United States of America.

The Hiroshima attack killed around 80,000 people instantly and may have caused about 130,000 deaths, mostly civilians. The attack on Nagasaki instantly killed about 40,000, and destroyed a third of the city.

Related: “Hiroshima survivor keeps fighting spirit”

Pope Francis has spoken out against the use of nuclear weapons multiple times, including during a November 2019 visit to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

“How can we propose peace if we constantly invoke the threat of nuclear war as a legitimate recourse for the resolution of conflicts?” Pope Francis asked Nov. 24, 2019 in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park.

“May the abyss of pain endured here remind us of boundaries that must never be crossed. A true peace can only be an unarmed peace,” Pope Francis added.

Since St. John Paul II’s visit to Japan in 1981, the Catholic Church in Japan has annually observed Ten Days of Prayer for Peace beginning Aug. 6.

The U.S. bishops’ conference Committee for International Justice and Peace issued a statement on July 13, 2020, encouraging Catholics in the United States to join Japan in prayer by offering intentions of peace at Mass on Sunday, Aug. 9. The committee has also compiled resources for further reflection, study and prayer for the occasion on its website.

In his July 30 statement, Gomez noted that the bishops of the U.S. “join our voice with Pope Francis and call on our national and world leaders to persevere in their efforts to abolish these weapons of mass destruction, which threaten the existence of the human race and our planet.”

“We ask our Blessed Mother Mary, the Queen of Peace, to pray for the human family, and for each one of us. Remembering the violence and injustice of the past, may we commit ourselves to being peacemakers as Jesus Christ calls us to be. Let us always seek the path of peace and seek alternatives to the use of war as a way to settle differences between nations and peoples.”

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Thousands of refugees and migrants dying and suffering extreme human rights abuses on journeys between West and East Africa and Africa’s Mediterranean coast, new UNHCR/MMC report shows

Sun, 08/02/2020 - 11:50

By UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency staff

[News release – July 29, 2020] –  Thousands of refugees and migrants are dying, while many are suffering extreme human rights abuses on irregular journeys between West and East Africa and Africa’s Mediterranean Coast.

A new report released by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) at the Danish Refugee Council, titled ‘On this journey, no one cares if you live or die’, details how most people taking these routes suffer or witness unspeakable brutality and inhumanity at the hands of smugglers, traffickers, militias and in some cases even state officials.

“For too long, the harrowing abuses experienced by refugees and migrants along these overland routes have remained largely invisible,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“This report documents killings and widespread violence of the most brutal nature, perpetrated against desperate people fleeing war, violence and persecution. Strong leadership and concerted action are needed by States in the region, with support from the international community, to end these cruelties, protect the victims and prosecute the criminals responsible.”

Collecting accurate data on deaths in the context of irregular mixed population flows controlled by human smugglers and traffickers is extremely difficult as many take place in the shadows and away from the view of authorities and their formal systems for managing data and statistics.

However, the report’s findings, primarily based on MMC’s 4Mi data collection programme, and data from additional sources, suggest that a minimum of 1,750 people died on these journeys in 2018 and 2019. This represents a rate of least 72 deaths per month, making it one of the most deadly routes for refugees and migrants in the world.

These deaths are in addition to the thousands who have died or gone missing in recent years attempting desperate journeys across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe after reaching north African shores.

Around 28 per cent of deaths reported in 2018 and 2019 happened as people attempted to cross the Sahara Desert. Other hotspots for fatalities included Sabha, Kufra, and Qatrun in southern Libya, the smuggling hub of Bani Walid south-east of Tripoli and several places along the West African section of the route including Bamako and Agadez.

While most reports and data are still coming in for 2020, at least 70 refugees and migrants are known to have died in 2020 already, including at least 30 people were killed at the hands of traffickers in Mizdah in late May.

The men, women and children who survive are often left with lasting and severe mental health issues as a result of the traumas they faced.

For many, their arrival in Libya is the final staging post on a journey characterized by horrific abuses including random killings, torture, forced labour and beatings. Others continue to report being subjected to brutal violence, including being burnt with hot oil, melted plastic, or heated metal objects, electrocution and being tied in stress positions.

Women and girls, but also men and boys, are at high risk of rape and sexual and gender-based violence, particularly at checkpoints and border areas, and during desert crossings. Some 31 per cent of respondents interviewed by MMC who witnessed or survived sexual violence in 2018 or 2019 did so in more than one location.

Smugglers were the primary perpetrators of sexual violence in North and East Africa, accounting for 60 per cent and 90 per cent of the reports from the respective routes. However, in West Africa, the primary perpetrators were security forces/military/police officials, accounting for a quarter of reported abuses.

Many people reported being forced in to prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation by traffickers. Between January 2017 and December 2019, UNHCR recorded over 630 cases of trafficking of refugees in eastern Sudan, with nearly 200 women and girls reporting being survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

Once inside Libya, refugees and migrants are at risk of suffering further abuses, as the ongoing conflict and weak rule of law means smugglers, traffickers and militias are often able to act with impunity.

UNHCR welcomes recent steps taken by the Libyan authorities against armed groups and traffickers, including raiding a smuggling ring and freezing the assets of various traffickers. The agency calls on the international community to provide more support to the authorities in their fight against human trafficking networks.

Many who attempt the sea crossing to Europe are intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libyan shores. More than 6,200 refugees and migrants have so far been disembarked in Libya in 2020, suggesting the final figure for the year will likely eclipse the 9,035 returned in 2019. They are often taken and held arbitrarily in official detention centres, where they face daily abuses and appalling conditions. Others end up in ‘unofficial centres’ or warehouses controlled by smugglers and traffickers who subject them to physical abuse in order to extract payments.

“The careless treatment of refugees and migrants we witness along these routes is unacceptable,” said Bram Frouws, Head of the Mixed Migration Centre. “The data we provide also once again shows that Libya is not a safe place to return people to. Sadly, this may not be the last report documenting these violations, but it adds to the mounting evidence base that can no longer be ignored.”

Pockets of progress have been achieved in recent years to address the situation, with some of the criminals responsible for the abuses and deaths placed under sanctions or arrested.

There has also been a reduction in the number of people being held in official detention centres in Libya. UNHCR has repeatedly advocated for an end to arbitrary detention of refugees and asylum seekers and stands ready to support the Libyan authorities in identifying and implementing alternatives to detention.

Overall, greater efforts are needed to strengthen the protection of people travelling these routes and to provide credible, legal alternatives to these dangerous and desperate journeys.

Greater cooperation is needed between states to identify and hold accountable the criminal perpetrators of these horrific abuses at different points along the routes, share key information with relevant law enforcement agencies, dismantle smuggling and trafficking networks and freeze their financial assets. National authorities should also take greater steps to investigate reports of abuses by state officials.

These measures must go hand in hand with efforts to address the root causes that drive these journeys and an unequivocal commitment to ensuring that no one rescued at sea is returned to danger in Libya.

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The report and multimedia content including photos, video testimonies and b-roll footage are available at this link: https://www.unhcr.org/5f1ab91a7  

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B.C. filmmaker led to Church by Fatima now bringing Fatima to big screen

Sat, 08/01/2020 - 10:45

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

[Vancouver, B.C. – Canadian Catholic News] – For British Columbia film producer Natasha Howes, Fatima is more than just her latest screen project.

The Kelowna-based filmmaker credits the miraculous events in rural Portugal a century ago for her conversion to Catholicism and her devotion to Mary.

The Blessed Virgin’s appearances before three children are the driving force behind two films Howe has produced: her 2009 film The 13th Day and the just-completed Fatima.

Fatima was set to be released in April, but the pandemic and the closing of theatres delayed that plan. The film is now set for a simultaneous release in select theatres across North America and on streaming sites including Apple iTunes and Amazon Prime beginning Aug. 28, 2020.

The film is based on the real-life events of 1917 when the Virgin Mary appeared to three children with messages of peace, having a significant impact on their country and the Catholic Church.

Howes hopes Fatima and the story of Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia will inspire everyone, Catholic or not.

“This is a film for everybody,” Howes told The B.C. Catholic.

“I have developed a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother through my interaction with this story,” she said. “The story of Fatima is multi-layered and very, very deep.”

In the new film, “We’ve taken key facets of that story and woven it” into a “deeply human, emotional, personal journey.”

Fatima dives into the events from the point of view of Lucia, a girl growing up during the time of the First World War as she tends her family’s sheep along with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta.

Lucia was 10 when she and her cousins began seeing visions of Mary, who delivered messages about the power of prayer and fasting to bring about peace. Their testimony rocked their families, neighbours, religious leaders, and the secular government as all tried to make sense of what was happening.

The number of people interested in seeing Mary for themselves grew, and on Oct. 13, 1917, thousands gathered to witness strange events in the sky described as the Miracle of the Sun and recorded by several sources, including non-religious newspapers.

Francisco and Jacinta died young, but Lucia would go on to become a Carmelite nun and record the events in her memoirs. She died in 2005 at the age of 97.

Everybody on the set of Fatima, filmed in Portugal, had a story to tell about the miraculous events, says producer Natasha Howes. (Photo by Picturehouse – CCN)

Howes said Fatima tells “the human story behind the story of the apparitions and the miracle” with particular research and emphasis on the “human psychology” of each key player in the story.

Developing the script was an “intricate and sensitive” process that involved working with an advisory committee from Portugal’s Shrine of Fatima, consulting Sister Angela Coelho, postulator for the canonization cause of Francisco and Jacinta, and reading eyewitness accounts and Lucia’s memoirs.

Fatima is not meant to be a documentary, said Howes. Although inspired by true events, it does not follow them exactly. For example, only four of the six apparitions reported by the children are depicted.

Fictional elements were also inserted to add historical context. In the film, Lucia’s brother is sent off to fight in the war, when in reality he was never conscripted. As a narrative device, it “heightens the emotional dynamic” within Lucia’s family and helps place them firmly in that era, said Howes.

The team behind the film is working with Picturehouse, a film distribution company whose personnel were behind The Passion of the Christ.

Howes hopes the new film will inspire audiences to learn more about the history and impact of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. It certainly had that effect on those behind the scenes of Fatima, which was filmed entirely in Portugal.

“It is part of the lifeblood of the Portuguese identity,” she said, “and that’s so incredible to me.”

“Everybody on set had a story to tell about Fatima,” she said. “Everybody I knew, their uncle, aunt, or grandparent was there to experience the Miracle of the Sun.”

The Shrine of Fatima, Portugal’s largest pilgrimage site, “holds a very close and special place in my heart and life,” said Howes, who travels to Portugal frequently to work with various Fatima organizations.

“The Shrine of Fatima – the square there – it’s so deeply moving. The Spirit is palpable there.”
Now, in a world not rocked by a world war but by pandemic, fear, discrimination, and division, the visionaries’ message of prayer and peace is as relevant as ever, said Howes.

“We actually have a movie here with key themes of faith, hope, and love, and this is a primary time to release an inspirational movie.”

She hopes Fatima can “meet the audience where they are and give them many opportunities to experience and see this Fatima movie in this much-needed time.”

Fatima is directed by Italian cinematographer Marco Pontecorvo (a director of photography for Game of Thrones) and stars Joaquim de Almeida (Queen of the South), Goran Višnjić (Beginners), Stephanie Gil (Terminator: Dark Fate) and Lúcia Moniz (Love, Actually).

It also includes music performed by Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli and original music by Italian composer Paolo Buonvino.

It has the endorsement of officials at the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal, who advised the filmmakers during the script-writing process. In a statement, they said Fatima shows “it is still possible for humanity to believe in divine intervention, even in our contemporary world.”

The film “conveys with dignity and integrity the actions of those who experienced the Fatima event” and “leads us to reflect that 100 years later, the light of God that the Virgin Mary shined upon Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia still lights the way for those who commit to a life of faith in the Gospel.”

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COVID-19 takes heavy toll on Catholic Missions in Canada

Sat, 08/01/2020 - 10:43

By Quinton Amundson, The Catholic Register

Fr. David Reilander spent the early days of the COVD-19 shutdown alongside Catholic Missions in Canada (CMIC) financial and administration director Lina Kim diagnosing the potential impacts the pandemic would have on its operations.

Reilander and Kim pondered the damage to Catholic Missions’ ability to fundraise and raise awareness for its mandate to bring the Good News to poor and remote Canadian communities, with a particular emphasis on First Nation reserves, as parishes across the nation were closed down. They also contemplated how the virus would take a heavy financial toll on the roughly 10,000 reliable donors of the non-profit organization.

“As the weeks passed we began to realize that this would be a long-term issue,” said Reilander, president of Catholic Missions In Canada. “We began to worry about what would happen to our revenues. In April, we had our annual general meeting and the board of directors looked at the numbers we presented and decided we needed to cut back on the grants that were allocated and limit disbursement to one area only, which is missionary sustenance.”

About 600 missionaries are financially supported each year by Catholic Missions. Historically, about $4 million is budgeted for this. Kim said $4.7 million was originally targeted this year for mission communities, but $1.4 million has been pulled from that total to help navigate the uncertain months ahead.

The cancellation of the annual Taste of Heaven Gala in late April represented the first major blow to Catholic Missions’ fundraising efforts. Kim expected the Toronto celebration featuring Italian cuisine, entertainment and a silent auction would raise approximately $250,000, specifically for its goal to rebuild St. Francis Xavier Church in Attawapiskat, Ont.

While $155,000 of the $250,000 was lost, Reilander and Kim are grateful for the sponsors and ticket buyers who insisted Catholic Missions keep their money.

“We were very willing to offer a refund, but they were very willing to donate,” said Kim.

Reilander and Kim say the fall and winter months will provide a better snapshot of the economic impact of COVID-19 as the revenue-generating potential is higher during those months than the opportunities available during the summer. Catholic Missions accrues approximately $850,000 from diocesan collections, with 40 per cent of the organization’s revenue in November, December and January coming from church baskets.

But with dioceses struggling themselves in the face of the pandemic, those numbers are expected to fall.

Reilander expects he might not be invited to speak and make monetary appeals in parishes because of the current economic climate.

“In terms of our fundraising and awareness campaigns, when I go out on weekends to preach, no one’s going to want me to come as pastors won’t want money going out of the parishes because they’re hurting so badly and bishops won’t want me coming because the dioceses are hurting so much also,” he said.

“When we can’t get out to fundraise, people can forget about us and we don’t reach new people.”

While hoping for an uptick in fortunes, Reilander says the organization endeavours to remain compassionate about the difficulties their donors face.

Aside from making individual calls to benefactors, Catholic Missions is hoping the fall edition of its quarterly magazine will inspire some donations.

A financial update will be provided to the board in August for 2021. It could lead again to only sustaining missionaries.

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Virtual Lac Ste Anne Pilgrimage draws Indigenous Catholics close in spirit

Sat, 08/01/2020 - 09:50

By Andrew Ehrkamp,  Grandin Media

[Archdiocese of Edmonton – Canadian Catholic News] – The screens, small and big, will be turned off as this year’s Lac Ste Anne Pilgrimage comes to a close, but organizers say the spiritual power and connection it has generated remains long afterwards.

For the first time in generations, the five-day pilgrimage which attracts thousands of mostly indigenous people from across Canada was spiritual and not physical, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilgrimage has been an official, annual event for more than 130 years, and First Nations people have had the tradition of coming to the lake for spiritual and physical healing for generations before that.

The year’s in-person pilgrimage July 25-29 was cancelled in an effort to maintain social distancing, protect pilgrims — many of whom are elderly or in poor health — and avoid the spread of COVID-19.

In a normal year, an estimated 35,000 people make a pilgrimage to the lake, an hour’s drive west of Edmonton, camping on the grounds, wading into the lake or fill canisters with its healing water.

Instead, organizers worked to keep alive the enduring spirit of the healing and spiritual renewal pilgrimage with a virtual Lac Ste Anne event that included live-streamed Masses celebrated by bishops from Alberta and the Northwest Territories, video messages, and other programming.

Preliminary figures show that the virtual pilgrimage had 15,346 views on Facebook and 2,417 on YouTube.

This year’s virtual pilgrimage included recorded and live events from across Western Canada including the Way of the Cross prayer service from the Northwest Territories led by Bishop Jon Hansen, CSsR, the live opening flag-raising ceremony by Chief Tony Alexis of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, as well as daily Masses broadcast live from the dioceses of Mackenzie-Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories, Keewatin Le-Pas in Manitoba and Grouard-McLennan in northern Alberta.

Fr. Susai Jesu, pastor of Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton, offers the final blessing July 29 at the conclusion of this year’s Lac Ste Anne Pilgrimage. (Photo by Lincoln Ho, Grandin Media – CCN)

One of the traditional events that was offered online this year was the Twelve Step Pledge and Prayer for inner healing, which was pre-recorded by Archbishop Emeritus Sylvain Lavoie of Keewatin-Le Pas.

Based on the principles of Alcoholic Anonymous, pilgrims make a sobriety pledge. Pilgrims pledge that they will give up whatever addictions that challenge them – smoking, drinking or other ills – and, at the pilgrimage, to keep praying to Ste Anne for her intercession to heal them.

Normally it’s a three-hour event that goes well into the night. Instead, Archbishop Lavoie asked pilgrims online to make those pledges in silence, and if they are able, to hold a lit candle in their hand. He will then pray for those making pledges to Christ instead of laying hands on them.

“The focus is on inner healing,” Archbishop Lavoie said. “It brings people to a deeper level and opens them up to receive that inner healing that God is waiting to give us if we come and ask Him for it.”

Archbishop Lavoie introduced the Twelve Step Pledge and Prayer to the pilgrimage. He has written Walk A New Path, a book about the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, which he has been a part of since the 1970s. He noted he’s used the AA program himself for his own personal growth and healing.

Archbishop Lavoie has been attending the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage for more than 40 years. He is the spiritual director and chaplain of the Spirit of the North Retreat Centre in St. Albert, AB.

Even if pilgrims had to participate online, instead of onsite, First Nations leaders say the spirit of the pilgrimage – and its healing – continued this year.

“Our great-grandfather, the one who signed the treaties, brought us to this area for a reason because he said the healing begins in this area,” said Chief Rod Alexis, the former chief of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and the grandson of the last hereditary chief.

The Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation call it Wakamne, or “God’s Lake,” and to the Cree it’s Manito Sahkahigan or “Spirit Lake.” Lac Ste Anne was renowned for its healing waters and for its spiritual significance to indigenous people long before Catholic missionaries arrived in Alberta.

“The pilgrimage, in a spiritual way, took place because all of us I believe prayed and were united in these days,” said Fr. Les Kwiatkowski, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy church in Enoch. “We were together.”

Elder Yvonne Rain says First Nations have a close connection with the Creator and won’t lose faith. (Photo by Matthew Bodnarek, Grandin Media – CCN)

“We don’t have to be here but we can be spiritually connected to this holy place,” said Yvonne Rain who was born and raised on the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation. “One thing that I know our First Nations people have is a real close connection with the Creator. And they won’t lose faith.”

Rain was one of a group of elders that gathered at the Lac Ste Anne site to record the praying of the rosary Cree, Dene, Nakoda and English – one of the new events at this year’s pilgrimage. A great-grandmother, Rain said she’s inspired by St. Anne, mother of Mary, grandmother of the Christ and the namesake of the lake that attracts First Nations pilgrims from across Canada to its healing waters.

Fr. Les Kwiatkowski says the pilgrimage, in a spiritual way, took place because everyone was united in prayer. (Photo by Matthew Bodnarek, Grandin Media – CCN)

Fr. Kwiatkowski said he never imagined that the in-person would be cancelled, and he recalls the sombre meeting of the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage trustees where the decision was made.

“People understand that we can’t celebrate this year, but they say that they understand and they pray and, in a spiritual way, they are with us and we are with them,” Kwiatkowski said.

There was mixed reaction from pilgrims, ranging from sadness to resignation and some anger, when the announcement was made. It was an additional adjustment after the temporary cancellation of all Masses with a congregation. Masses have since resumed under certain conditions to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

“We’ve had that experience in the past few months where we couldn’t have physical Mass and people say they need the Eucharist, they need the place especially for native people, being physical, touching, being together is so, so important. This is a different experience for all of us,” Kwiatkowski said.

“I miss when thousands of people are coming and camping. There’s life here. There’s very much life here. Obviously it will not be the same but in a spiritual way we can connect.”

In spite of that news, faith leaders came together to provide a full slate of events and Masses.

“That’s the beauty and the spirit of this place and of the people who come here to celebrate the pilgrimage every year,” Kwiatkowski said. “In the spirit we are united. We so many priests and bishops who feel the same way that we are connected and we can have this celebration in a different way.

“They pray for the people who normally gather here. There is that contribution and the connection to the people whose hearts are here.”

Elder Ella Arcand has attended the Lac Ste Anne pilgrimage from the time she was a child. (Photo by Matthew Bodnarek, Grandin Media – CCN)

“I thank the good Ste Anne for allowing us to meet once more time,” said elder Ella Arcand who has attended the Lac Ste Anne pilgrimage for decades from the time she was a child.

“It is here that a lot of us relate to prayer. Before there was the Catholic Church here, my grandma – she lives three miles from here – she said there was a trading post, a school here, a post office, the Metis their settlement, the native people gathered,” she said.

“They are the ones who saw that figure on the lake. They said it was the good Ste Anne. It is a beginning, that we did not lose the spirit of Ste Anne to take care of us. Ayhai (Thank you!)”

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Four bishops appointed to revamped Development and Peace council

Sat, 08/01/2020 - 09:28

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

A nearly three-year process of investigation and review at the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace / Caritas Canada has resulted in a slimmed-down national council with four bishops appointed to the development agency’s governing body.

Calgary Bishop William McGratton, Pembroke Bishop Guy Desrochers, Ste.-Anne-de-la-Pocatiére Bishop Pierre Goudreault and St. John’s, Nfld., Archbishop Peter Hundt will represent the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) on the new national council, according to a joint release July 28, 2020, from the CCCB and Development and Peace/Caritas Canada. The remaining 11 representatives will be elected by Development and Peace’s 10,000 members.

Following the recommendations of a Deloitte LLP organizational review, the national council will go from 21 to 15 members.

“The necessary changes to be made, as well as the good will and hard work they entail, will help the Church radiate its mission to the world.” – Archbishop Richard Gagnon, president of the CCCB

The new governing structure is the result of an extensive review of the D&P into claims that some of its partner organizations supported abortion. Twelve bishops subsequently suspended their financial support, although it was reinstated provided no money went to partner agencies under review. That was followed by the CCCB and D&P hiring Deloitte Canada to conduct a review and recommend reforms to ensure D&P meets the goals of the bishops.

The Deloitte review came up with 14 recommendations for a reformed Development and Peace – Caritas Canada:

  • Stronger governance and defined roles for the governing bodies;
  • A new composition of the national council that includes CCCB representation;
  • A smaller national council;
  • A more clearly defined partnership policy, with roles for staff, management and the national council in choosing partners;
  • An updated partnership policy;
  • An “international partnerships committee” of the national council;
  • Reporting procedures in line with the new structure of the national council;
  • Clearly stated financial objectives and standards of performance;
  • A confidentiality policy;
  • Coordination with the CCCB on communications;
  • More contact between Development and Peace regional directors and the bishops in their areas;
  • Coordination with the CCCB on crisis responses;
  • Internal cultural change beginning with Development and Peace leadership;
  • Articulation of the steps to be taken in reforming Development and Peace’s internal culture.

The four new bishop representatives on the national council will be spread out over four new committees charged with implementing the Deloitte recommendations. CCCB staff will also serve on these committees.

“We all agree on the vital importance of preserving the identity of our organization as rooted in the Church’s social teachings and embodied in and through acts of solidarity,” said national council president Evelyne Beaudoin in a joint CCCB-Development and Peace press release. “And we agreed to move forward in the vision of Pope Francis of a synodal Church.”

CCCB president Archbishop Richard Gagnon called the process of investigations and negotiations over the last three years “collaborative conversations and joint meetings.”

“The necessary changes to be made, as well as the good will and hard work they entail, will help the Church radiate its mission to the world,” Gagnon said in the release.

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75th anniversary of bombing: Hiroshima survivor keeps fighting spirit

Sat, 08/01/2020 - 08:46

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Setsuko Thurlow, 88, isn’t just disappointed. She’s choking back tears of frustration and grief as she describes the response she’s had from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on nuclear disarmament over the last four years.

“That’s extremely, extremely disappointing — so disturbing,” said the Hiroshima survivor who has been actively campaigning against nuclear weapons for more than 60 years. “It’s not just me. There’s a lot of people disappointed. And that’s not the way the prime minister should be behaving. If this is a democracy, he (Trudeau) should be sharing his ideas and encouraging debate.”

The world is marking the 75th anniversary this month of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima (Aug. 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9, 1945 – events that still haunt and propel Thurlow in her passion for the disarmament cause.

Related reflection: “Sombre anniversary calls for better choices”

Related: “Ahead of 75th anniversary of bombings, US bishops pray for peace”

On June 22, 2020, Thurlow sent a letter to Trudeau asking that he acknowledge that Canada helped to produce the first atomic weapons and has copied the letter to all 338 parliamentarians in Ottawa. She is still waiting for a reply.

So far the only time Trudeau has ever spoken about nuclear weapons policy was to mock efforts to declare the weapons illegal, Thurlow said.

“There can be all sorts of people talking about nuclear disarmament, but if they do not actually have nuclear arms, it is sort of useless to have them around, talking,” Trudeau told the House of Commons in 2017. “It is well-meaning, as the NDP often are, but we are actually taking real, tangible, concrete steps that are going to make a difference in moving towards a nuclear-free world.”

Trudeau was not in attendance later that year when Thurlow accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Nor did anyone in his government congratulate her. The Trudeau government fell in line with U.S.-dictated NATO policy and refused to participate in United Nations negotiations leading to the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons in 2017.

Canada voted against the treaty while 122 nations voted it in. Since then 40 states, including the Vatican, have ratified the treaty. Once 50 countries have ratified it, the treaty comes into legal force.

As one of a dwindling number of hibakusha, or survivors of the first two nuclear weapons, Thurlow has become an important face of the treaty and the campaign that brought it to the UN.

Her drive for a nuclear-free world began almost from the moment she woke up amidst the rubble left by the bomb that killed at least 70,000 people in a flash of heat and blinding light in Hiroshima.

She was then a 13-year-old school girl, bused downtown with 30 classmates to help crack coded messages for the Japanese military. She woke up to a world of pain under a pile of debris that morning of Aug. 6, 1945.

“I remember a sensation of floating in the air. As I regained consciousness in the total silence and darkness, I realized I was pinned in the ruins of the collapsed building,” she recalled. “Gradually, I began to hear my classmates’ faint cries for help. ‘Mother help me!’ ‘God help me!’ Then suddenly I felt hands touching me and loosening the timbers that pinned me. A man’s voice said, ‘Don’t give up! I’m trying to free you! Keep moving! See the light coming through that opening? Crawl toward it and try to get out.’ ”

She got out and kept moving toward the light. Educated by Methodist missionaries, “teachers who helped us to heal our own wounded hearts and spirits,” Thurlow had to overcome her doubts before she could accept baptism. She was one of  just three students from her class who survived the bomb that killed at least 140,000 people in the city — a bomb dropped on civilians by a self-proclaimed Christian nation. Three days later, another 70,000 or more died in the bombing of Nagasaki.

“My mind was full of questions,” she said.

She married United Church of Canada missionary James Thurlow, came to the University of Toronto for two years of studies in social work, then returned to Japan for five years with James as an educational missionary. In 1962 she and James were back in Toronto, where she began a career in social work.

In the early 1980s, as then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau began meeting with world leaders to urge a consensus for disarmament, Thurlow was again publicly involved in disarmament activism. Inspired by Fr. Tom McKillop, she took up work with Fr. Massey Lombardi to get the Peace Garden built in front of Toronto City Hall. When Pope John Paul II came to light the eternal flame and bless the peace garden, Thurlow was there to greet him.

“He held my hand so tight. He wanted to pray for those who perished in Hiroshima. Once again I had tears. I am most grateful,” she said.

A new generation of activists behind the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons sought Thurlow out as their work picked up steam. Again, Thurlow felt the support of a pope. She was invited to a Vatican conference in advance of the UN vote for the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons. She was encouraged when the Holy See became one of the first states to sign and ratify the treaty. When Pope Francis travelled to Japan last year, Thurlow was a special invited guest for the Pope’s address in Hiroshima.

“All of us in ICAN feel so supported by the Catholic Church, starting with the Pope,” Thurlow said.

Pope Francis’ 2017 declaration that even owning nuclear weapons, let alone threatening to use them, is gravely immoral was an important step, Thurlow said. Canada’s bishops backed the Pope last year with an eight-page “Statement on Nuclear Weapons.”

To mark the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Canadian Council of Churches — which includes the Catholic bishops — sought to put the moral argument at the centre of any talk about nuclear war.

“We believe that nuclear weapons are evil and that they present a unique, existential threat to humanity,” said a July 8 letter to Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne from the council, which includes churches representing about 80 per cent of all Canadian Christians. “We want our country to join the growing community of states which have rejected nuclear weapons entirely. We appeal to you to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”

Churches, particularly the Catholic Church, have an important role in pushing nuclear powers to act, said retired senator and former Canadian ambassador for disarmament Doug Roche.

He praises “the courage and the strength of the Canadian Catholic bishops in supporting, in giving complete and unreserved support to Pope Francis’ condemnation of the possession of nuclear weapons.”

Roche is disgusted by the U.S. bishops’ “weak and pusillanimous” statement on the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which fails to even allude to the Pope Francis statement on the morality of owning nuclear arms or the American government’s commitment to spend $1.5 trillion modernizing its nuclear arsenal.

“This is primarily a deep moral issue of the highest order. The bishops are called to lead,” Roche told The Catholic Register.

A Catholic Church in Nagasaki, destroyed by the Aug. 9, 1945 atomic bombing of the city. (Catholic News Agency – public domain)

Thurlow sees that morality first in terms of an examination of conscience. She’s asking Trudeau to recall that Canada was a full partner in the Manhattan project that produced the bomb.

Thurlow isn’t asking for a full-blown apology, just an acknowledgment of the known history and an expression of regret.

She isn’t angry just with Trudeau and his government. Even the Japanese government of Shinzō Abe doesn’t want to hear from the hibakusha, Thurlow said. Even worse is all the citizens who just don’t want to know.

“The majority of the world really doesn’t wish to hear our voices, and they haven’t heard us,” Thurlow said. “They choose not to hear us. That’s disappointing. They are just allowing these leaders to pile up the money, invest the money in armaments, to massacre human beings — mass killing. That’s a crime.”

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Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Sombre anniversary calls for better choices

Fri, 07/31/2020 - 21:21

By Roma De Robertis, SCIC, Saint John, NB

This year marks the sombre 75th anniversary of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, 1945.

Throughout the nuclear era, Canada has participated heavily in the global nuclear cycle, in part by selling radioactive uranium internationally.  Both nuclear-generated electricity and nuclear weapons rely on uranium as fuel.

The Catholic Church condemns possession and use of nuclear weapons.  While Canada does not possess such weapons, it still has not signed the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  As a NATO member, Canada claims it needs the protection of the huge nuclear arsenal of the United States.

Pope Francis, however, has condemned the doctrine of nuclear deterrence.  This refers to building and possessing nuclear weapons to deter other states from using theirs.  Addressing a Vatican conference on nuclear disarmament in November 2017, the pope said both the threat of the use of nuclear weapons, “as well as their very possession, are to be firmly condemned” (National Catholic Reporter, Nov. 10/17).

Japan’s Catholic bishops have gone further to call for an end to nuclear power.  In 2011, their country was ravaged by an earthquake which triggered a tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdown in Fukushima.  Japanese people and their environment have known extreme suffering and destruction from two atomic bombs and a major nuclear accident.

Pope Francis publicly highlighted the Japanese bishops’ call to ban nuclear energy during his visit to Japan in November 2019.  According to Reuters news agency, after his visit he also told reporters, “In my personal opinion, I would not use nuclear energy until there is total security.  There is not enough security to guarantee that there will not be a disaster.”

Now New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan are using public funds to help finance a costly new generation of nuclear reactors which will take at least 10 years to build and operate.  The nuclear industry promises carbon-free electricity generation to address climate change from these so-called small modular nuclear reactors.  The Canadian federal government is also enthusiastically in favour of such nuclear expansion.

However, proponents of nuclear-free renewable energy emphasize the urgent need for climate action now – not 10 or more years from now when the new reactors might be ready.  They call for increased energy efficiency and investment in energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and small hydro.

Highlighting advantages to human health and the environment from renewables, they also note that jobs and other economic benefits will flow to rural as well as urban communities from renewable energy.  They point out that no safe solution has been found for permanent storage of nuclear waste, which remains dangerously radioactive for countless generations.

Two nuclear technology companies from the United Kingdom and the United States have established offices in Saint John, New Brunswick.  They each received millions of dollars in public funds to develop prototypes of next generation nuclear reactors which may be mass produced and sold worldwide.

Canada would be an initial testing ground for this unproven and unnecessary technology.  Instead, investment in renewables is a far better choice to create jobs, while safely and efficiently meeting present and future energy needs.

Remembering bitter lessons of history, Canada needs to show courageous leadership by signing the vital UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons.  It also needs to avoid nuclear energy expansion for the sake of present and future generations of humanity and all creation.

Advocating in this way, people of faith can join other caring global citizens to promote peace and respect earth, our common home.

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Roma is a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception who participates with CRED-NB:  Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (https://crednb.ca).  Earlier, she served in the Saskatoon diocese.

 

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Report indicates more Canadians are asking for euthanasia

Fri, 07/31/2020 - 17:55

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – A mandated report into Canada’s euthanasia system says that two per cent of all deaths in 2019 were medically-assisted and that most Canadians who decided they wanted to commit legal suicide had also received some form of palliative care.

There were 5,631 reported legal assisted suicide deaths in Canada in 2019, an increase of 26 per cent over 2018, according to the first annual report on the Canadian system of euthanasia (known as “Medical Assistance in Dying” or “MAiD”).

While the report published by the federal health ministry in July 2020 says that two per cent of all deaths in Canada in 2019 were recorded through the assisted suicide/ euthanasia system, the percentages by province were higher in B.C. (3.3%) and Quebec (2.4%).

The report also says that cancer-related illnesses were by far the most common cause of seeking euthanasia (67.2%), that the gender of those using MAiD is evenly split between males and females, and the average age of Canadians who committed suicide with the help of a doctor was 75.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a message released with the report that while she has “heard many heart-warming stories from Canadians describing how MAiD granted their loved ones a calm, compassionate and peaceful ending,” the federal government acknowledges that there are critics of the system of legal euthanasia.

“I have also heard voices of concern from other Canadians, worried there are insufficient protections for those who may be vulnerable to coercion or abuse, or who may request MAiD out of a sense of hopelessness associated with their personal situation,” Hajdu said.

“Supporting individual autonomy to choose how one wishes to address intolerable pain and suffering, while ensuring the decision is made freely and not the result of external pressures or a temporary period of despair, underpins MAiD legislation in Canada,” she said.

Critics and opponents of legal medically-assisted suicide/ euthanasia in Canada, which has been in effect since 2016, have long argued that better and more palliative care should be the focus of how to meet he needs of Canadians nearing the end of life.

The Health Canada report claims that “the majority of persons who received MAiD in 2019 were reported to have received palliative care services (82.1%) and that the majority (60.8%) received these services for one month or more.” The federal report says that indicates “requests for MAiD are not necessarily being driven by a lack of access to palliative care services.”

However, Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said the federal report does not indicate what kind of palliative care is being accessed and that citing registration for palliative care is a “smokescreen.”

“The reality is the report does not give any understanding of what that palliative care was,” Schadenberg told Canadian Catholic News in a phone interview

“The (federal) report just gives numbers as reported by MAiD practioners,” he said. “It doesn’t have any independent analysis of what is actually being provided.”

The federal report does acknowledge that more information is needed about the meaning of the palliative care numbers in relation to euthanasia cases.

“It is important to note that while the data provide insight into whether palliative care has been received, it does not speak to the adequacy of the services offered,” the federal report said. “This may be an area for future study.”

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Pontifical Academy for Life expresses concern over pandemic aggravating inequalities

Tue, 07/28/2020 - 09:14

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – The Pontifical Academy for Life recently released a document that expresses concern that the coronavirus pandemic is aggravating global inequalities.

“Though all, rich and poor, are vulnerable to the virus, the latter are bound to pay the highest price, and to bear the long-term consequences of lack of cooperation,” states the Vatican document published July 22, 2020.

“It is clear that the pandemic is worsening the inequalities that already are associated with processes of globalization, making more people vulnerable and marginalized without health care, employment, and social safety nets,” it states.

The nine-page document, “Humana Communitas in the Age of the Pandemic: Untimely Meditations on Life’s Rebirth,” is the second reflection released by the Pontifical Academy for Life on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pontifical academy stressed the importance of solidarity and international cooperation in the face of the pandemic, highlighting in particular the role of the World Health Organization.

“Solidarity extends also to any efforts in international cooperation. In this context, a privileged place belongs to the World Health Organization (WHO). Deeply rooted in its mission to lead international health work is the notion that only the commitment of governments in a global synergy can protect, foster, and make effective a universal right to the highest attainable standard of health,” the document states.

“The narrow-mindedness of national self-interests has led many countries to vindicate for themselves a policy of independence and isolation from the rest of the world, as if a pandemic could be faced without a coordinated global strategy. Such an attitude might pay lip service to the idea of subsidiarity, and the importance of a strategic intervention based on the claim of a lower authority taking precedence over any higher one, more distant from the local situation,” the document continues.

It goes on to say that isolation from the international community in the name of national self-interest “also results in the widening of inequalities and the exacerbation of resource imbalances among different countries.”

After the United States, Brazil and India have the next highest number of documented coronavirus cases. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Brazil has more than two million cases and India has 1.19 million cases of COVID-19.

“When compared to the predicament of poor countries, especially in the so-called Global South, the plight of the ‘developed’ world looks more like a luxury: only in rich countries people can afford the requirements of safety,” the document states.

The Vatican document also offers reflections on human fragility, environmental considerations, and personal responsibility for those in need.

“COVID-19 may affect everyone, it is especially harmful for particular populations, such as the elderly, or people with associated diseases and compromised immune systems. Policy measures are taken for all citizens equally … They ask for sacrifices from many people who depend on public interaction and economic activity for their living. In richer countries these sacrifices can be temporarily compensated, but in the majority of countries such protective policies are simply impossible.”

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Pope Francis asks young people to ‘send a hug’ to the elderly

Tue, 07/28/2020 - 09:07

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Francis has asked young people to reach out to the elderly, especially those in nursing homes, to send a message of encouragement amid the loneliness of the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the memory of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, I would like to invite young people to make a gesture of tenderness towards the elderly, especially the most lonely ones in homes and residences, those who have not seen their loved ones for many months,” Pope Francis said after the Angelus prayer on July 26, 2020.

“Dear young people, each of these elderly people are your grandparents. Do not leave them alone. … They are your roots,” added the Holy Father.

Pope Francis suggested that young people can use the “inventiveness of love” to “send a hug” to an elderly person in their community by making a phone or video call, sending a card, or making a visit when safety measures allow.

The Roman Catholic Church commemorates St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of the Virgin Mary, on July 26. They have been a part of the Church’s liturgical calendar for many centuries.

The pope said that their memorial is an opportunity to give grandparents “a big round of applause.” Connection with one’s roots is important, he said, quoting the Argentine poet Francisco Luis Bernárdez, who wrote: “The blossom of a tree comes from what it has underground.”

Reflecting on Sunday’s Gospel, Pope Francis said that Jesus “proposes to involve us in the building of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

He pointed to the example of the merchant who finds the pearl of great price and the person who finds treasure buried in a field in Jesus’ parables in the Gospel of Matthew.

“Both the man and the merchant in these two parables sell everything they have, thus renouncing their material security,” he said. “From this it can be understood that the building of the Kingdom requires not only the grace of God, but also the active willingness of humanity.”

“Everything is done by grace, everything! We need only have the willingness to receive it, not to resist grace: grace does everything, but it takes my responsibility, my willingness,” he said.

Today people’s lives can become “mediocre and dull” when a person is content with “attractive but fleeting things” and does not go in search of real treasure, the pope said.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is the opposite of the superfluous things that the world offers, the opposite of a dull life: it is a treasure that renews life every day and leads it to extend towards wider horizons. Indeed, those who have found this treasure have a creative and inquisitive heart, which does not repeat but rather invents, tracing and setting out on new paths which lead us to love God, to love others, and to truly love ourselves,” Pope Francis said.

“We are called upon to assume the attitude of these two Gospel figures, so that we too may become healthily restless seekers of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a matter of abandoning the heavy burden of our worldly sureties that prevent us from searching and building up the Kingdom: the covetousness for possession, the thirst for profit and power, and thinking only of ourselves,” he said.

One sign that a person is on the path to the Kingdom of Heaven is “creativity,” the pope explained. “Creativity is what …  gives life,” he said, “And it gives, and gives, and gives… It always looks for many other ways to give life.”

“Jesus, who is the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value, cannot but inspire joy, all the joy of the world: the joy of discovering a meaning in life, the joy of committing oneself to the adventure of holiness,” Pope Francis said.

After his Angelus prayer, Pope Francis said that he was praying that a new ceasefire agreement concerning the Donbass region “will finally be put into practice.”

There have been more than 20 ceasefires declared since 2014 in the ongoing conflict between Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian military which has killed more than 10,000 people.

“While I thank you for this sign of goodwill aimed at restoring the much desired peace in that tormented region, I pray that what has been agreed will finally be put into practice, also through an effective process of disarmament and mine removal. This is the only way to build trust and to lay the foundations for the much needed and long awaited reconciliation by the population,” the pope said.

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Update from Mexico: difficulties worsened by COVID-19 pandemic

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 20:12

By Paul Wheeler, St. Augustine Parish, Saskatoon

Hola amigos.

Ely and I are doing fine here in Aguascalientes, Mexico. We are getting to see family as well as help out some of the families in the low income neighborhood.

The underprivileged folks down here are having great difficulty. Many of the sources of their meager incomes have dried up with the pandemic and life is pretty difficult. Nonetheless, those whom we know seem calm and accepting, placing their fate in the hands of Christ and Guadalupe, the Holy Mother.

Related Article – The Colony: Walking together as children of God

Thanks to the generosity of the Knights of Columbus in Viscount, SK, we were able to help out five families with monetary gifts and some household goods to help in these difficult times. Social programs are scarce and these people have difficulties with basics like food and medicines.

Please put the people of the Vicente Guerrero neighborhood in your prayers. These are good Catholic families who are struggling right now.

 

(Photo submitted by Paul and Ely Wheeler)

(Photo submitted by Paul and Ely Wheeler)

(Photo submitted by Paul and Ely Wheeler)

(Photo submitted by Paul and Ely Wheeler)

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Voices of Courage: Catholics with same-sex attraction speak about chastity, isolation, and finding freedom

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 19:47

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic
(*Surnames withheld by request)

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – Grace* never stays in one church for long.

One Sunday, she might make a trip into Vancouver’s downtown core to blend into the crowds at Holy Rosary Cathedral. The next week, she’ll look up the Mass times for another parish.

She chooses anonymity in fear of the rejection and shame she expects to face if people find out her secret: Grace experiences same-sex attraction.

“My faith is very important to me. I’m Catholic, I was baptized as a baby, and I’ve gone to church all my life,” Grace told The B.C. Catholic.

She is also attracted to women, a fact she has worked hard to hide over decades. She yearned to be active in a Catholic parish, but feared the inevitable questions from near strangers at church functions: do you have a boyfriend? Are you married? Why not?

Taboo topic

It’s not easy to start conversations in the church about LGBTQ issues. Ask Deacon Hilmar Pabel, who has been yelled at by people who misunderstand the Church’s teaching on same-sex attraction, who say the Church hasn’t gone far enough to accept everyone, or who are unwilling to discuss the issue at all.
It’s a taboo subject, he admits, but “I’m not shy about talking about it.”

Deacon Pabel heads the Vancouver chapter of Courage, an international Catholic ministry for people with same-sex attraction. It was founded 40 years ago in Manhattan and landed in the Archdiocese of Vancouver in 1988.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says “homosexual acts” are not “approved” and calls on Catholics with same-sex attraction to live in chastity, striving for inner freedom through prayer, self-mastery, friendship, and seeking God’s will in their lives.

The Catechism also says people with same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

In light of this teaching, Courage founders established five goals for its members to live by: chastity, prayer, fellowship, support, and living lives that serve as good examples to others. Participation is voluntary. Members are not asked to change their orientations.

Deacon Pabel said he’s made it his mission to raise awareness of Courage and to start conversations in the Church that few others are willing to start.

“This is not a ministry to keep in the basement of a church. There are people who are lonely and hurting and this should not be hidden.”

Keeping it secret

For Grace, secrecy started taking her down a dangerous path.

“It weighs heavy on your psyche, on your mind, and on your spirit. It’s not healthy. It pushed me that I have to do something or I’ll go crazy, I’ll get sick, I might even want to kill myself. These are the consequences that would happen if I do not deal with it and come to face with it.”

So in 2003, Grace sought someone to talk to. Afraid of being exposed to someone she recognized, she went outside the Catholic church, to a multi-denominational Christian ministry in Vancouver at the time.

“I was anxious and afraid to ask for help,” she said.

After the group helped her become more comfortable with talking about the issue, she found out about Courage and gathered the strength to give the leading chaplain a call.

That was 15 years ago. Now, Grace said she has found some inner peace, but still hops from one church to the next for Mass in fear of being ostracized.

She is not alone. All members of Courage who recently agreed to speak with The B.C. Catholic about their experiences with Church and same-sex attraction said one of their single biggest challenges is acute loneliness.

“The challenge of being gay is you are all alone,” said Dennis*, who experiences isolation despite being an active member of his parish.

“A community that is able to encourage you, or somebody who can actually relate to you, that’s one thing I have been missing.”

Dennis kept secret his attraction to men, until he found the isolation too much to bear. One year ago, while surfing the internet looking for some Catholic resources, he discovered Courage.

Courage has five chapters in Canada. Deacon Pabel took over the Vancouver chapter in 2016 and, by offering spiritual direction, regular group meetings, and preaching on the subject, has seen the number of members increase by 15.

A third option

Rachel* realized she was attracted to women while in high school. She confided in one family member, who responded with compassion and told her it was a phase that would pass.

Now in her twenties, Rachel has realized it was not “just a phase.” She can trace the beginnings of same-sex attraction to her childhood and expects it may be with her for the rest of her life.

“The loudest voices are ‘all gays go to hell’ or ‘love who you love.’ It’s only two extreme arguments. So people who want to be faithful, but also can’t deny that they have same-sex attraction, are very stuck in the middle, and it is a very tight spot,” she said.

“If you join the gay culture, because of your faith you’re going to be ostracized for not being gay enough. Or ‘you’re just judging us; you think you’re higher above us because you have a religion; you’re not really loving who you love; you’re not living the true gay lifestyle.’”

On the other side, she said, “you have people [in the Church] closing off any discussion with you and you have to tell them, ‘I’m not involved in relationships, I don’t support this lifestyle, and I didn’t choose these attractions. None of us do.’”

Rachel feels pressured to start dating and find a husband.

“There’s also this option: you don’t have to be married. That’s one of the main pressures of the LGBTQ same-sex attraction debate: the right to get married. At the deepest heart of it, it’s because we all want intimacy and we grow up knowing that kind of intimacy is only in marriage. But to learn that intimacy can be found in friendships and doesn’t have to be physical or sexual in nature, it’s very freeing. There is an alternative.”

Vincent* knows that pressure well. He tried to keep his attraction to men a secret, but his efforts to strike a balance with his faith and his attractions eventually burst. He began living life with one foot in the Church and the other foot in a lifestyle he had been trying hard to avoid.

“I came out to my friends and they welcomed me with open arms. It was a beautiful testimony, that they accepted me for that part of who I am. But there was also a caveat: ‘Therefore you will live this way. That’s the way we think you should live because we think (this is the way) you will be happy as an authentically gay person.’”

Vincent responds, “But maybe our identity is tied up to more than our sexuality. It’s who we are in God’s eyes. That’s our real, authentic self.”

It took him seven years to realize, “I was never satisfied.” He feared that turning back to his Catholic faith would leave him a loner, but he took a leap and contacted Courage, the only resource he could find.

“All of those stories I created in my mind were debunked quite quickly. I felt a sense of community and connection,” he said.

“Really what Courage is doing is creating a space to allow us to live what the Church teaches in its fullness. That’s what sanctity is all about, right?”

Family members are missing

Isolation and misunderstanding are only a few trials Catholics with same-sex attraction are facing today, and alone. One person interviewed by The B.C. Catholic said through tears that a man molested him when he was only a few years old, a trauma he still can’t bring himself to tell family members.

Another said she feels the need to be vigilant even in the Church; on several occasions women who perceived her as having same-sex attraction have touched her inappropriately.

“I’ve been involved in church, and some of them are very loving. They understand me, respect me, and love me, but there are some who know my issue and they avoid me,” said Grace.

She suspects this is why a number of people in the gay community describe themselves as former Christians: they have been driven out of their faith communities by suspicion, chastisement, or mistrust.

“The Church is supposed to be the family of God. There are many missing family members of God who are same-sex attracted.”

To show love to these missing family members, Grace suggests starting with the basics.

“Just look at the person you know who is same-sex attracted as made in the image of God. Start there first. Don’t go into controversial issues or tell them they can change. Our focus, each one of us, whether you are straight or gay, is that we are God’s children and God wants us to know him. He knows us and he loves us,” she said.

“I have to know that God loves me and created me, and start from there. Many of us, our self-image is so low and poor. We don’t need to have more negative ideas about us.”

Vincent has one request: “Pray for us, love us, and know what the Church teaches.”

As for people with same-sex attraction who are suffering alone in their secrets, shame, and fear of judgment from the people next to them in the pews, Dennis has some advice: “Always seek God, look for him. Because he will never leave you alone … If you seek God, he will reveal himself to you. Constantly look for him, look for guidance, and you can never be wrong.”

More information is available at www.rcav.org/courage-encourage.

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