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New Pre-kindergarten to Grade 8 St. Frances Cree Bilingual School announced

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 20:12

Media release from Government of Saskatchewan

SASKATOON – A brand new facility for St. Frances Cree Bilingual School is planned for the near future after the Government of Saskatchewan announced a confirmed location in Saskatoon Sept. 2.

Deputy Premier and Education Minister Gordon Wyant was joined by representatives from Greater Saskatoon Catholic School Division, Saskatoon Tribal Council and parents of St. Frances students to announce $34.5 million in funding for a brand new elementary school for the community.

“The new facility will provide space for approximately 700 students, to support the growth and development of the families and students in Saskatoon’s St. Frances community for years to come,” Wyant said.  “The new St. Frances Cree Bilingual school will continue to ensure an equitable and inclusive system that benefits all learners.”

Currently, St. Frances Cree Bilingual School is being offered at two separate locations as a temporary solution to their significant enrolment growth since its establishment in 2007.

The new facility will be located at 2010-7th Street East in Saskatoon, the site of the former Sion Middle School.  It is expected to provide space for 700 Pre-kindergarten to Grade 8 students, which will reduce enrolment pressures on the growing St. Frances Cree Bilingual School.  It will also provide 70 new child care spaces for young Saskatoon families.

“There are a lot of smiling faces knowing a new St. Frances Cree Bilingual School is that much closer to becoming a reality,” Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools Board of Education Chair Diane Boyko said.

“It has been a long journey for students, families, staff, and for our board to get a school facility that is representative of the learning that happens inside and out.  Longer still is the journey of reconciliation with the Indigenous community, and this is a very tangible indication of our commitment along that journey.”

While planning and design for the new facility is still underway, the Ministry of Education is working with the school division, Saskatoon Tribal Council, parents and community members to ensure that a shared vision is incorporated into an inclusive design for all learners.

St. Frances Cree Bilingual School is built upon community engagement, and was developed in partnership with Saskatoon Tribal Council.

“Our Elders have taught us that to fully understand our traditional culture, we must begin by learning our inherent languages,” Saskatoon Tribal Council Tribal Chief Mark Arcand said.

“For the past 14 years, the seven member communities of Saskatoon Tribal Council have collaborated with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools to provide leadership and direction at St. Frances Cree Bilingual School.  With today’s announcement, we have reached another milestone in our work.  Although colonization has negatively impacted our ability to access our language and culture, we continue to move forward with great perseverance and resolve.  Our young people are the fastest growing population in Saskatchewan, and a new St. Frances Cree Bilingual School will offer a long-overdue solution to the space issues that have been created as a result of our success.”

Since 2007, the province has committed more than $1.9 billion toward school infrastructure projects, which includes 85 major school capital projects and numerous smaller projects such as portable classrooms and preventative maintenance and renewal.


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Season of Creation: Pope Francis says pandemic is “a wake-up call” to care for creation

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 11:31

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis released a message Sept. 1 for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in which he called for repentance for humanity’s broken bonds with God’s creation and with others.

“Today we hear the voice of creation admonishing us to return to our rightful place in the natural created order — to remember that we are part of this interconnected web of life, not its masters. The disintegration of biodiversity, spiralling climate disasters, and unjust impact of the current pandemic on the poor and vulnerable: all these are a wake-up call in the face of our rampant greed and consumption,” Pope Francis wrote in the message published Sept. 1, 2020.

“For the world was made to communicate the glory of God, to help us to discover in its beauty the Lord of all, and to return to him,” the pope said.

Pope Francis suggested that the coronavirus pandemic presented a “decisive moment” for people to examine their habits of energy usage, consumption, transportation, and diet, to eliminate the superfluous and destruction aspects of our economies in favor of “life-giving ways” to trade, produce, and transport goods.

“In some ways, the current pandemic has led us to rediscover simpler and sustainable lifestyles. The crisis, in a sense, has given us a chance to develop new ways of living. Already we can see how the earth can recover if we allow it to rest: the air becomes cleaner, the waters clearer, and animals have returned to many places from where they had previously disappeared,” the Holy Father said.

“Today we need to find just and sustainable ways of living that can give the Earth the rest it requires, ways that satisfy everyone with a sufficiency, without destroying the ecosystems that sustain us.”

The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation was established following the publication of the encyclical Laudato si’ in 2015. Pope Francis said in his 2020 message that the period from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4 — the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi — is being celebrated as a “Season of Creation.”

As part of the “Season of Creation,” online webinar discussions will be held throughout September focused on sustainable development in different regions of the world. Live translation will be provided.

The pope added that he was pleased to learn that the theme for this year’s “Season of Creation” is “Jubilee for the Earth,” because a jubilee is a time to “remember, return, rest, restore, and rejoice.”

“A Jubilee is a time to return to God our loving Creator. We cannot live in harmony with creation if we are not at peace with the Creator who is the source and origin of all things. As Pope Benedict observed, ‘the brutal consumption of creation begins where God is missing, where matter has become simply material for us, where we ourselves are the ultimate measure, where everything is simply our property,’” he said.

Pope Francis pointed to specific steps that countries can take to care for creation. These included biodiversity restoration, protection of indigenous communities, and reducing emissions.

“Climate restoration is of utmost importance, since we are in the midst of a climate emergency. We are running out of time, as our children and young people have reminded us. We need to do everything in our capacity to limit global average temperature rise under the threshold of 1.5°C enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, for going beyond that will prove catastrophic, especially for poor communities around the world,” he said.

“We need to stand up for intra-generational and inter-generational solidarity at this critical moment. I invite all nations to adopt more ambitious national targets to reduce emissions, in preparation for the important Climate Summit (COP 26) in Glasgow in the United Kingdom.”

He also appealed for support of the United Nations’ call to safeguard 30% of the earth as protected habitats by 2030 to counter biodiversity loss, stating that the Summit on Biodiversity (COP 15) in Kunming, China could become “a turning point in restoring the earth to be a home of life in abundance, as willed by the Creator.”

The pope hailed initiatives of the Laudato si’ anniversary year, which began May 24. He said that this year should lead to “long-term action plans to practice integral ecology in our families, parishes and dioceses, religious orders, our schools and universities.”

“Let us all rejoice that our loving Creator sustains our humble efforts to care for the earth, which is also God’s home where his Word ‘became flesh and lived among us’ and which is constantly being renewed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.”


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Refugee advocates disappointed federal government won’t drop border agreement with U.S. after judge rules deal violates human rights

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 11:19

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[OTTAWA – CCN] – A federal government decision to appeal a court ruling that puts an international refugee agreement with the United States at risk is disappointing but not surprising to refugee advocacy and church groups that have long sought to have the Safe Third Country Agreement that has been in effect since 2004 scuttled.

A federal court agreed with a coalition of social justice and church organizations in July that the Canada-United States agreement known as the STCA that requires refugees trying to enter Canada from the southern border must first seek asylum in the United States violates Canada’s Charter of Rights.

That July 22 decision by Federal Court Judge Ann Marie McDonald, which gave the federal government six months to react to the ruling, was praised by groups such as the Canadian Council of Refugees and Canadian Council of Churches, which includes the Canadian Catholic Church, that were part of the coalition that launched the most recent court challenge of the agreement in 2017.

After the July ruling, critics of the agreement immediately called on the federal government to scrap the safe third country deal with the United States.

“We urge the government to take the principled and necessary step of moving immediately to stop sending refugee claimants back to the United States and suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement,” a statement released by the Canadian Council of Churches, Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International said.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other high-ranking Canadian cabinet ministers on July 29, the coalition that challenged the agreement said “by any measure, respect for the rights of refugee claimants in the United States at this time constitutes a human rights crisis, particularly when it comes to the prevalence, arbitrariness and cruel and inhumane conditions associated with immigration detention, which fall far below required international human rights standards.”

“Canada should not continue to be complicit in these deeply troubling human rights violations for another day, let alone for six months,” the refugee rights coalition said.


But Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said on Aug. 21 that the government must appeal the decision to bring clarity to Canada’s refugee asylum system as it relates to the United States.

“There are important legal principles to be determined in this case, and it is the responsibility of the Government of Canada to appeal to ensure clarity on the legal framework governing asylum law,” Blair said in a statement.

“Canada has a long and proud tradition of providing protection to those who need it most by offering refuge to the world’s most vulnerable people, and the Government of Canada remains firmly committed to upholding a compassionate, fair and orderly refugee protection system. The STCA remains a comprehensive vehicle to help accomplish that, based on the principle that people should claim asylum in the first safe country in which they arrive,” Blair said.

“Canada continues to engage actively with the United States on the STCA, ensuring that the agreement reflects our commitment with respect to our international obligations, while continuously cooperating on how we manage our shared border,” he said.

The federal decision to appeal is not surprising to some who follow the courts and government.

Lawyer Michael Barutciski, a member of faculty of York University and who previously held a fellowship in law at Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre, said it is “understandable” in recent years since Donald Trump was elected president in the United States that concerns about refugee policies in the United States and how that affects the asylum agreement between Canada and the U.S. would grow, but it is important that the federal government challenge the court ruling.

“If this ruling stands, Canada’s ability to share responsibilities with the U.S. concerning refugee claimants will be severely constrained,” he said in an opinion piece published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute public policy think-tank.

“Yet the issue represents a dilemma because the Federal Court’s view that the U.S. is unsafe for refugee claimants is understandable given the questionable practices south of the border,” he said, but added that Canada’s policies regarding refugees and asylum need to be looked at with a big picture view and not just through the lens of current American government policy.

“Seen against this backdrop, the ideological battle surrounding the STCA has been misleading when considering Canada’s overall refugee policy,” Barutciski said.

“Let us look at the full picture before treating this issue as a moral crusade. An appeal in this particular case would at least give Canadians a clearer picture of all the rights and obligations involved when cooperating with our continental partners on refugee protection,” he said.

But refugee advocates and church groups are heartened that a federal judge has taken their concerns about upholding human rights at the border to heart and will continue to argue for the end of the agreement with the United States.

“Christians and those from other faith communities see welcoming the stranger as a key tenet of their faith,” said Peter Noteboom, general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches.


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Fire rips through First Nations church in Edmonton

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 11:16

By Andrew Ehrkamp, Grandin Media

[EDMONTON – Canadian Catholic News] – The Archdiocese of Edmonton says it will do whatever it takes to restore Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples after a devastating fire tore through the rear of the building.

“Thanks be to God there’s nobody hurt. What we have is damage to a building and buildings can be repaired. This building in particular symbolically is associated with First Nations people and many hearts will be crushed to see this and hear about,” Archbishop Richard Smith said at the fire scene.

“But we as a community, we as an Archdiocese, we’re going to walk with the parish every step of the way, whatever that means and whatever it takes just to make sure this is eventually restored.”

About 30 firefighters were called to Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples around 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. (Photo by Alan Schietzsch, Grandin Media – CCN)

Investigators say the Aug. 30 fire started shortly after 2 p.m. inside the church on the rear east side. The church was empty and no one was injured. The cause is under investigation.

“We’re still just ruling stuff out. The guys are still fighting fire right now,” said Barry Fielden, an investigator with Edmonton Fire Rescue. “Everyone’s safe and crews are doing their best to get it out.”

Fielden said about six or seven fire trucks, with approximately 30 firefighters, were on scene.

Sunday Mass was held at 10 a.m. that morning, followed by a First Nations Mass at 11:30 p.m., which as usual included a traditional smudging ceremony in which herbs are burned, followed by a 1 p.m. baptism.

Forty minutes later, Rev. Susai Jesu – the pastor of Sacred Heart parish – was having lunch in the rectory next door when received a call from the fire department. When he arrived the church was fully engulfed, and firefighters were on scene.

“I saw huge fire and smoke. I was dumbfounded. I could not believe it was Sacred Heart church, the church I just came out of this place,” Father Jesu said. “In no time, there was a huge fire. I thought ‘Is it true? Am I really watching this?’. I’m just saying ‘Jesus, help us to stop this fire’.”

Firefighters were on scene at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton on Aug. 30. No one was hurt. The cause is under investigation. (Photo by Alan Schietzsch, Grandin Media – CCN)

The downtown Edmonton church, was built in 1913, making it among the oldest Catholic churches in the city. In 1991 Archbishop Joseph MacNeil designated it as a national parish for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people, meaning that anyone with Indigenous ancestry is considered a parishioner. It was the first of its kind in Canada.

Sacred Heart church serves residents in the inner-city neighbourhood of McCauley, with a special focus on the poor and marginalized including providing free food and clothing. Those who rely on the parish will have to find other resources temporarily.

“Thanks be to God we have a lot of outreach agencies in this part of the city,” Archbishop Smith said. “The people that would come here for help, they’ll also know where else that they can go. And I know those agencies will rally to cover any gaps.”

Sacred Heart parish is a unique community where the Catholic faith is expressed in the context of Indigenous culture. It houses many unique pieces of a sacred art created by Indigenous artisans, and recently underwent extensive repairs and renovation.

The fire is a “tragedy”, said George Dumont is a longtime parishioner at Sacred Heart Church.
Dumont said Sacred Heart church allows him to pray publicly in Cree, a right he didn’t have growing up.

“It’s always been special to me to come here,” said Dumont, who has been involved in the parish for more than five decades.

“A lot of us First Nations people come here and we get to see each other and honour together. That’s what I like about it.

“I’ve watched a lot of places that have burned and there’s a lot of damage here. I’m thinking ‘Well geez, they’re not going to have Mass there for a year’,” Dumont said. “They’re going to have to get that all fixed up and all that. Where the parishioners are going to go I don’t know? That would be my concern.”

The church will be closed as investigators determine the cause of the fire.

“You can see that the damage is pretty extensive,” Archbishop Smith said. “It’s here at the back of the church where a lot of the supplies are kept and so on. No one is allowed inside at this stage, so no idea how extensive this damage is.

“I can expect that even if flames were confined to this area, there’s going to be smoke damage. There will be water damage. We’re at the stage now of just waiting to see what the extent is.”

In spite of the fire, the Archdiocese says it will take the next steps to restore the church as it did after a fire in 1959.

“We recovered from that and we’re going to recover from this one too,” Archbishop Smith said.

“We have to be dialogue obviously with our insurers and see what that is and get it covered and, whatever it takes, make it happen. This church is just too, too important in so many ways. We’ll do what needs to be done in order to restore it.”




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B.C. Appeal court will hear Delta Hospice Society case – facility refuses to permit euthanasia

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 11:06

By Agnieszka Ruck, B.C. Catholic

[VANCOUVER – Canadian Catholic News] – The B.C. Court of Appeal has agreed to hear the Delta Hospice Society case after the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the society must not go ahead with a planned vote and meeting to discuss becoming a Christian organization.

The lower court had ruled in June that the society did not act in good faith when it launched a mail-in vote proposing changes to its constitution, or when it accepted some membership applications and denied others without explanation.

But the society, which runs a small 10-bed hospice in Delta, responded by appealing that decision. In a press release Aug. 17, it said the society has been “mistakenly” treated as a public institution, not a private one. Board president Angelina Ireland said private associations in Canada are free to choose members who support their values.

“We feel like the court heard us today,” she said after the appeal court agreed to hear the case.

Ireland believes a large influx of membership applications, 310 of which were denied, were part of a coordinated “hostile takeover” by members of the public who would like to see euthanasia / assisted suicide offered at the hospice.

The society’s proposed vote and constitutional changes were designed to formally recognize the society as one that operated on Christian principles and supported life until “natural death,” values it has implicitly held since it was founded in 1991, said Ireland.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruling in June that the society must accept all 310 memberships that were denied “gave carte blanche to organized groups to perform hostile takeovers of private societies that hold minority views,” Ireland said.

“It would mean thousands of societies can now be taken over by any organized group of a few hundred people. That is not how a free society is supposed to work.”

The hospice does not currently allow euthanasia/ assisted suicide on site; patients who request it are referred to other facilities. Faith-based organizations are exempt from a Fraser Health Authority mandate to offer euthanasia / assisted suicide in palliative care settings.

Christopher Pettypiece, Sharon Farrish, and Jim Levin had petitioned the B.C. Supreme Court to block the vote and meeting.


In a news release Aug. 17, Pettypiece said, “We believe Delta Hospice and its services should be available to all that require hospice care, regardless of their end-of-life choices. We are committed to ensuring a membership that reflects the wishes of the entire community and we’ll use this delay to strengthen our representation of them as we head into the fall and the B.C. Court’s decision.”

No date has been set for the hearing.


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Married couple’s legal battle over assisted-suicide request continues in Nova Scotia

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 09:20

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[OTTAWA – Canadian Catholic News] – A legal battle between an elderly married couple in Nova Scotia over the husband’s wish to be allowed to kill himself with medical help has become a rallying cry for anti-euthanasia organizations in Canada, one of which is helping to assist the man’s wife in her effort to have the courts stop her husband from using Canada’s assisted-suicide system to take his life.

“We think it is an important case,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, which has been calling on EPC supporters to help contribute financially towards the legal costs of the case.

The case features dueling medical opinions about the actual state of the husband’s medical conditions and mental health and what appears to be an unbridgeable rift within the marriage of the two seniors in their early-80s at the heart of the case.

“This woman could not have carried out the legal proceedings and or file an appeal without the financial support of the EPC,” Schadenberg said.

“She stated that she loved her husband and that she wanted to launch a legal action to prevent her husband’s wrongful death, but she could not do so without help. EPC agreed to pay the bills,” he said.

In media reports about the ongoing case, which most recently was in court on Aug. 26, the married couple’s names have not been made public.

Court documents cited in media reports indicate the husband is claiming to be nearing the of his life because of advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but his wife claims he wants to kill himself because he is suffering from anxiety and mental delusions about his health.

Medical assessors who most recently dealt with the husband’s request for euthanasia approved his request for a medically-assisted death in July, but there is a dispute about that ruling because it was not the first time the husband had made a request for euthanasia and there are conflicting medical opinions about the state of the man’s health.

On Aug. 26, Nova Scotia Justice Elizabeth Van den Eynden set Sept. 24 as the date for when a hearing on a permanent injunction against the assisted-suicide request will be heard but she also was asked to rule on a whether to keep a temporary injunction blocking the husband’s death by suicide in place.

On that issue, the judge reserved her decision.

“This is a very time-sensitive matter,” Van den Eynden said during the hearing the Canadian Press reported. “I am going to give it my priority attention and endeavour to get a decision out as quickly as possible.”

The couple both have their own set of lawyers in what is considered to be an important legal challenge to the way assessments are made for who can qualify for a legal assisted suicide under Canada’s medically-assisted suicide system.

The wife in the case claims her husband should not be considered for euthanasia because he does not suffer from a life ending illness and he isn’t mentally competent to request medically-assisted death. Her husband has argued, through his lawyer, that he is indeed ill and is of sound mind to make his own choice.

When the wife in the case first approached EPC for help, EPC helped her get a lawyer who has long been involved in cases challenging the spread and normalization of euthanasia in Canada.

Her Toronto-based lawyer Hugh Scher thinks the case may eventually make its way to the Supreme Court.

“What I think this court case speaks to fundamentally is the need to have a dispute resolution process through the courts in those rare cases where there is a fundamental disagreement or conflict between multiple experts that needs to be resolved, because they’re coming to completely alternate positions about the question of whether the person meets the criteria or not,” Scher told CTV News in an interview.

The legal argument submitted by Scher on behalf of the wife in the case says that the husband “has made three separate requests for MAiD (medical assistance in dying)” and in the past some of the medical assessors examining his request to access the medically-assisted suicide system have determined the husband’s health “conditions do not meet the criteria for reasonably foreseeable death as required by law.”


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Archdiocese of Vancouver deacon reflects on Church, First Nations collaboration

Mon, 08/31/2020 - 09:59

By Agnieszka Ruck, The BC Catholic

[VANCOUVER – Canadian Catholic News] – For nearly 11 years, Deacon Rennie Nahanee has experienced extreme highs and lows as the coordinator of First Nations Ministry for the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

He has marched down the streets of Vancouver in a flood of tens of thousands of people playing drums and showing their support for reconciliation efforts.

He has cheered on Indigenous singers and dancers performing at their best as part of Canada 150 celebrations.

And he has quietly sat and listened to the stories of many Aboriginal people who have been abused, neglected, and shamed.

Deacon Nahanee, of the Squamish First Nation, retired from his post as coordinator of the archdiocese’s one-man First Nations Ministry Office this summer, but will continue leading the ministry on a contract basis, focusing on Listening Circles and KAIROS Blanket Exercises. He will also remain an active member of the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Council of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

He says one of the most important aspects of the job has been collaboration.

“As individuals, we can only do so much. When you can only do so much, you find other people that can do more and are better at it” and work with them.

Since he took the position in 2009, his involvement with various groups and organizations has led to some powerful encounters. Among them are serving on the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as the Urban Indigenous Peoples Advisory Committee for the City of Vancouver.

When plans for Canada’s 150th birthday began to form, the City of Vancouver advisory group was made of about 16 people, and some younger Indigenous people said they wanted nothing to do with the celebration, he said.

“But others, including me, with calmer heads, thought we should celebrate Indigenous history as it is today, who we are as Canadian Indigenous people,” he said. “We advised the City of Vancouver that we should go ahead with the 150 year celebration, but call it 150+ because native people have been in Canada for longer than 150 years.”

Thanks to their teamwork, the city saw a “nine-day extravaganza of the best of the best Indigenous artists, models, poets, singers, dancers, entertainers, near the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. I was very proud and happy to be part of the group at that time. It was really something special.”

Deacon Rennie Nahanee participating in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2011. (BC Catholic file photo – CCN)

Deacon Nahanee also supported the Walk for Reconciliation, a dream in the mind of Chief Robert Joseph, a hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation in the Queen Charlotte Strait and a special adviser to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The dream became a reality in 2013 as 70,000 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people marched through downtown Vancouver to show their desire to work toward reconciliation.

But Deacon Nahanee’s involvement began long before the march, when Chief Joseph’s Reconciliation Canada was a fledgling organization that few people had heard about.

“I met with different denominations of churches for two years before the event would take place,” he said, seeking their support in the form of participation and donations.

By the time 2013 came around, “Depending on who you talked to, there were 60,000 to 70,000 people that walked in the pouring rain, including me and my wife Emma, on that day.”

He recalls being inspired as Bernice King, daughter of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., spoke at start of the walk.

Connections like those will move reconciliation between First Nations peoples and the Catholic church forward, he said.

But connections on an institutional level are not enough. At Truth and Reconciliation events in Vancouver and other gatherings across Canada, Deacon Nahanee met people one-on-one or in small groups and listened to their heartbreaking pasts.

“I was asked to meet with somebody who was abused as a child. He wanted to tell his story to two people: myself, and one of the sisters there,” he said.

“He was abused as a child and beaten. Move ahead 50 or 60 years, he goes down to the United States, he marries, and he hears about Indigenous people suing the government of Canada and the churches and comes to find a lawyer.”

The man located his abuser and sent his lawyer to visit him with a written testimony of the abuses he faced. The abuser, without looking at the document, said he agreed with everything that was written.

“He said: ‘I just want to talk to the person who I abused as a child and I want to ask for forgiveness,’” said Deacon Nahanee. “They did get on the phone together and the Indigenous man abused as a child forgave him. You can imagine the relief that came for both of them. The man who was an abuser, he died not too long after that. The man who was abused as a child broke the chains from a long time ago.”

The stories don’t always have such inspiring endings. Deacon Nahanee remembers horrific accounts of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse that made him uncomfortable wearing a cross around his neck.

“I was shocked at hearing those things! I’m part of a church that did some of those things to my own people? It was very difficult for me to be there. But at the same time, it was a learning thing for me.”

Gerry Kelly, an adviser for various national reconciliation efforts, attended seven of nine small groups with Deacon Nahanee as part of a Canadian bishops initiative to host listening circles across Canada.

On each visit, from Edmonton to Le Pas to Halifax to Northern Ontario, Kelly and Deacon Nahanee would spend a day or two meeting the local bishop and then sitting down with groups of 10 to 20 Indigenous people from the Catholic community. A report for the bishops conference was made after each listening circle.

“Rennie was very present and he was able, in a really wonderful way, to be a compassionate presence and an attentive listener,” recalls Kelly. “What I found particularly inspiring is he never shied away from where the pain was, yet never lost sight of grace in the midst of that.”

“He could name the grace moments without denying, without minimizing, the pain. He had an ability to be very present … and to value both his Catholic spiritual tradition and to value what was coming alive for him again, it seemed, in his own Indigenous traditions.”

Kelly also worked alongside Deacon Nahanee on initiatives such as the Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle and sessions at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“Being indigenous, being Catholic, he could experience both the pain and the grace in a very real and compassionate way.”

Sr. Priscilla Solomon, CSJ, coordinates the Faith and Justice Office for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario and has worked alongside Deacon Nahanee in various advisory groups in the past. She has seen “big improvement” in Church collaboration with First Nations in the last few decades.

“In pre-Vatican times it was essentially a ministry of non-Indigenous persons working and often living in Indigenous communities, ministering to the Indigenous people,” she said. “There’s always been some level of Church collaboration, but it’s been much more conscious and more inclusive since Vatican II, and even recently in the past 15 years.”

Some of it she attributes to a shift in understanding.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, “the sense was that the Catholic Church brought the faith, they brought the truth, and the whole truth, and everything else or everybody else was pagan. That understanding has shifted and the Catholic Church has moved in its position to recognize that a person’s faith can only be expressed through their own cultural reality, and they are the ones who need to receive the word of God and bring it into their daily life. It can be offered to them, but no one can impose it on them.”

She describes that concept, and the work she and Deacon Nahanee have been doing for years, as “inculturation of faith,” or “being able to live the Gospel message from within our culture.”

She said Deacon Nahanee, whose identity is firmly rooted in his First Nations heritage and his Catholic faith, has been a positive contribution to the movement.

As far as his replacement is concerned, Deacon Nahanee believes it’s less important to have someone of Indigenous descent than someone well informed and aware of Canadian history and ongoing reconciliation efforts.

There is still much to be done, he said.

“There needs to be reconciliation not just between Indigenous people and the Church, but all of Canada, because the people living in Canada need to know the history of Indigenous people. They need to know why we are in the situations we are in right now,” he said.


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Evidence shows Mass is safe when guidelines are followed, doctors say

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 11:41

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Washington, DC – CNA) – Evidence suggests that church services following public health guidelines do not present a greater risk of spreading the novel coronavirus than other similar activities, doctors said last week.

Washing hands, social distancing, and mask requirements have helped prevent the spread of COVID-19, even in cases when contagious, pre-symptomatic parishioners took part in church events, three members of the Thomistic Institute Working Group on Infectious Disease Protocols for Sacraments & Pastoral Care concluded.

Doctors Thomas McGovern, Deacon Timothy Flanigan, and Paul Cieslak authored an article for Real Clear Science on Mass attendance and COVID-19 Aug. 19, 2020.

“For Catholic churches following [the] guidelines, no outbreaks of COVID-19 have been linked to church attendance, even though we have examples … of asymptomatic, unknowingly infected individuals attending Mass and other parish functions,” they wrote. “Their attendance could have led to an outbreak if appropriate precautions were not followed, yet in each case, we found no evidence of viral transmission.”

“This encouraging news should inspire confidence that the guidelines in place – based on CDC recommendations – are working to decrease COVID-19 transmission,” the doctors continued.

“While nothing during a pandemic is risk-free, these guidelines mean that Catholics (and public officials) may be confident that it’s reasonably safe to come to Church for Mass and the sacraments.”

Over the last 14 weeks, they said, approximately 17,000 parishes have held three or more Masses each weekend, as well as daily services, combining to equal more than 1 million public Masses celebrated across the United States since shelter-in-place orders were lifted.

By following public health guidelines, these Masses have largely avoided viral spread, the authors suggested.

Nick Schoen, an employee of the Archdiocese of Seattle, has initiated a contact-tracing protocol for Mass-goers in the area. Tracking individuals who have participated in church events shortly before testing positive for COVID-19, he found that none of these individuals launched outbreaks at churches.

The authors pointed to at least four examples of infected individuals attending Mass while pre-symptomatic, as well as three anointings of sick individuals by priests in poorly-ventilated rooms. In each case, they said, the sick individuals avoided infecting other people.

“During a July 3 funeral Mass (45 attendees, capacity 885), two members of one household notified the parish that they had tested positive for COVID-19 and were infected and pre-symptomatic during the Mass,” they said.

“During a July 11 wedding (200 attendees, capacity 908), fresh air circulated from multiple open windows with the aid of fans. The following day, an attendee developed symptoms of COVID and on July 13 tested positive. The attendee was almost certainly contagious with pre-symptomatic infection during the wedding.”

In April, the Thomistic Institute’s Working Group on Infectious Disease Protocols for Sacraments & Pastoral Care released guidelines for reopening churches for Mass and other sacraments. These guidelines were incorporated by numerous dioceses into their protocols for reopening.

Updates about COVID-19 measures in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon – LINK

The Thomistic Institute’s working group guidelines were built on a multi-phase proposal for resumption and expansion of public Masses while remaining in conformity with public health guidelines in force in different places.

In “Phase 1” of the proposal, the institute encouraged the “Sunday obligation” to be dispensed, the elderly and those at high risk of COVID-19 to stay home, and those with symptoms to stay home from Mass. The institute also promoted social distancing, masks requirements, and the regular use of hand sanitizer.

The few churches that have reported a COVID-19 outbreak did not follow these regulations and in some cases engaged in discouraged actions such as congregational singing.

In some cases, these isolated incidents have led local government officials to restrict church services more than activities in restaurants, movie theaters, and casinos. This has prompted lawsuits alleging religious discrimination, which have often been sucessful.

The doctors said in their article that there is no evidence that church services are higher risk than similar activities when guidelines are followed.

“To date, the evidence does not suggest that Church attendance – following the current guidelines – is any more risky than shopping for groceries. And the spiritual good for believers in coming to Church is immeasurably important for their well-being,” they said.

“Indeed, for Catholics, the Mass and above all the Eucharist are central to the Christian life. In a time like this, it is even more important that the faithful be able to come to Church and receive Holy Communion.”


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Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan calls on government to create provincial standards for special care homes

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 11:19

By Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan staff

As the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the struggle of special care homes across Canada, the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan (CHAS) is asking the provincial government to establish  standards that would elevate the safety and care for the people living in Saskatchewan’s special care homes.

“Special care homes in Saskatchewan have been chronically under-resourced and under- staffed for decades,” said CHAS Executive Director, Blake Sittler.

“We are entrusted with the care of vulnerable residents who require specialized care to meet their day to day needs. These are our grandparents, parents, spouses, children and they deserve so much more.”

In April 2013, the Government of Saskatchewan produced a document entitled “Program Guidelines for Special Care Homes” – it was later updated in May 2016. The document outlined policies about what the government wanted to see in special care homes but it did not identify standards or quantifiable measures to meet. Standards must include defined resources to ensure those needs can be met reasonably and safely, according to CHAS.

Blake Sittler, Executive Director, Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan

“I’ve seen the care and compassion that the staff in our care homes put into their work for the residents, but at some point in time the only way to increase the quality of care is to increase the resources based on standards that meet the growing and complex needs of the folks who call these respective places home,” Sittler explained.

“We need measurable standards for care and appropriate resources to ensure these homes have what they need to care for the residents,” Sittler noted.

“The needs of the people in special care homes have radically changed over the last 30 years,” Sittler added. “The needs are more complex but the baseline resources have remained nearly the same for decades.”

The recent worldwide pandemic has highlighted the problem, but is not the only concern of the organization focused on advancing the value of Catholic health care ministry.

“COVID is definitely an issue that is in the forefront at this time,” said Sittler. “But the issues of under-resourcing and under-staffing have existed for years. This pandemic and an upcoming provincial election have given us a brief opportunity to highlight these issues again in the hope that the government will articulate long-overdue standards”.

“We all love someone in a special care home,” Sittler concluded. “What I hope people will do is think about them and then call their MLA and ask what their plan is to create standards of care with measurable outcomes and a defined resource base to meet the needs of the vulnerable people who live in our special care homes.”

Special care home members of CHAS include:

  • St. Joseph’s Hospital and Foyer d’Youville, Gravelbourg, SK
  • Providence Place, Moose Jaw, SK
  • St. Joseph’s Integrated Health Centre, Macklin, SK
  • Villa Pascal, North Battleford, SK
  • Foyer St. Joseph Nursing Home, Ponteix, SK
  • St. Joseph’s Hospital, Estevan, SK
  • Mont St. Joseph Home, Prince Albert, SK
  • Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home, Regina, SK
  • St. Ann’s Senior Citizen’s Village, Saskatoon, SK
  • Samaritan Place, Saskatoon, SK
  • Radville Marian Health Centre, Radville, SK

The Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan (CHAS) was formed in 1943 to be a voice for Catholic hospitals and long-term care facilities, and to protect and promote Catholic health care in Saskatchewan. Its mission is “Providing leadership, education and resources for all who serve in the healing ministry of Christ – in health care, parishes and communities.”

For more information about CHAS, please contact: Blake Sittler, Executive Director, Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan, #104-3502 Taylor St. E., Saskatoon, SK S7H 5H9; 306.270.5452, –or see the website at


Special Care Home Members of the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan

St. Joseph’s Hospital and Foyer d’Youville, Gravelbourg Providence Place, Moose Jaw
St. Joseph’s Integrated Health Centre, Macklin
Villa Pascal, North Battleford

Foyer St. Joseph Nursing Home, Ponteix
St. Joseph’s Hospital, Estevan
Mont St. Joseph Home, Prince Albert
Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home, Regina St. Ann’s Senior Citizen’s Village, Saskatoon Samaritan Place, Saskatoon

Radville Marian Health Centre, Radville
MLA contact information:

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Liberals going full steam ahead with C-7 legislation on euthanasia rules

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 07:27

By Bryan Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – The federal Liberals are vowing to pass changes to Canada’s assisted suicide law before a court-imposed deadline, even though it remains to be seen if the government will be in a position to make those changes.

By proroguing Parliament until Sept. 23, the government has effectively suspended much of the business of Parliament. Government bills still on the table will have to be reset as well, among these Bill C-7, the legislation that will make it easier for Canadians to access euthanasia / medically-assisted suicide.

The Liberals are promising to relaunch the government’s agenda with a throne speech, but that also exposes the government to a confidence vote in the House of Commons, which could lead to the defeat of the minority government.

Bill C-7 proposes a two-tier system of euthanasia for those whose death is reasonably foreseeable and those whose death is not. It would also allow a waiver of final consent for those whose death is reasonably foreseeable but “who may lose capacity to consent before MAiD (medical assistance in dying) can be provided.” The bill also eliminates a previous regulation that required those who seek euthanasia and whose death was reasonably foreseeable to wait for at least 10 days before the procedure can be provided — which in theory allowed Canadians seeking medically-assisted suicide to change their mind.

A justice ministry spokesperson says that despite only having until Dec. 18 to change the national system, which itself is an extension of a previous deadline to bring the law in line with a Quebec Superior Court ruling that said rules governing euthanasia are too restrictive, the Liberals intend to pass changes by the court’s deadline.

“Medical assistance in dying is a difficult, complex and deeply personal issue. We were proud to bring forward a bill in February that proposed changes to the current law, informed by consultations with Canadians, experts and the broader legal and health community,” said Rachel Rappaport, spokesperson for federal Justice Minister David Lametti.

“Our government has every intention of meeting the court’s deadline.”

However, that plan is based on the Liberal government surviving a confidence vote, a vote it needs to continue its COVID-19 pandemic response agenda. How such a vote will play out is unknown, as the Conservatives under new leader Erin O’Toole have indicated he would try to take the minority Liberal government down as soon as possible. The Bloc Quebecois has also recently raised the possibility of voting down the government in the wake of the WE Charity controversy.

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director Alex Schadenberg continues to call on the federal government to stop moving forward with its proposed changes to assisted dying, which he argues go far beyond what the Quebec court decision actually requires. Instead, Schadenberg is calling on the government to undertake a five-year review of the system in Canada as was promised when assisted dying was legalized in 2016 in response to a Supreme Court ruling.

“Canada needs to do a proper review of the law before even considering expanding it,” Schadenberg said, adding proroguing Parliament appears to be to “protect the government from recent scandals and to prepare for a possible fall election.”

The fate of other bills — such as a proposed ban on conversion therapy, a controversial practice of trying to convert people from a homosexual to a hetrosexual lifestyle — may also take longer than the government had hoped.

According to Barry W. Bussey, director of legal affairs for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, the proposed conversion therapy ban (Bill C-8), which was first introduced in February before the COVID-19 pandemic severely curtained the functioning of Parliament, raises “troubling implications for religious communities, families, or individuals who affirm traditional sexual ethics.”


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Social conservatives and pro-life groups hope new Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole will remember their support

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 20:05

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] — The product of an Irish Catholic family from Montreal, Ontario Conservative MP Erin O’Toole became the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada Aug. 23, and although he is not a social conservative, he has the eye of social conservatives who want him to recognize the role they played in his election.

O’Toole largely steered clear of issues like assisted suicide and abortion during the Conservative leadership campaign, but in a leaked video in June he told social conservatives in Quebec he would “probably” vote against legislation to expand assisted suicide, saying that as a Catholic and a lawyer he has “a lot of uncertainty” about euthanasia.

In an interview with pro-life organization Right Now during the campaign, O’Toole asked social conservatives – who supported candidates Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan – to make him their second choice.

While social conservatives oppose positions O’Toole has taken on social issues, their opposition to the other frontrunner Peter MacKay ran even deeper because of a comment MacKay made after the last federal election about social conservative issues being a “stinking albatross” around the neck of the party.

While O’Toole has said he won’t reopen the abortion debate, he said he would let caucus members make up their own minds on what he called “moral issues.”

In 2016 he supported Bill C-225, known as Cassie and Molly’s Law, which would have made it an offence to cause injury or death to an unborn born child while committing a crime. He also told the pro-life advocacy group Right Now that he supports Stephen Harper’s policy of not using Canada’s foreign aid to fund abortion.

Those positions, which distinguished him from Mackay, were noted by some groups like Right Now which recommended voters cast O’Toole as their third choice in the four-candidate ballot.

Now social conservatives want O’Toole to remember that support.

The fact that two candidates strongly supported by social conservative organizations – Ontario MP Derek Sloan, who finished fourth, and most-especially Toronto-based lawyer Leslyn Lewis, who placed third – attracted more than 35 per cent of the vote on the first ballot, has pro-life organizations hoping O’Toole won’t take them for granted during the next federal election.

“Contrary to the red Tory and media narrative that dismisses socially conservative candidates, these results prove that pro-life and pro-family candidates like Lewis and Sloan, who are unafraid to champion life and family issues, can draw strong support and be contenders,” said Jeff Gunnarson, national president of Campaign Life Coalition.

“We expect that Erin O’Toole will ensure that social conservatives are respected and their values represented within the party going forward,” Gunnarson said.

“If he disrespects the tens of thousands of grassroots members who voted for Lewis and Sloan, he will definitely lose the next general election. Everybody knows you can’t win a general election without your base,” he said.

The call for O’Toole to take the concerns of socially-conservative party members into account is being echoed by other organizations that want Canada’s non-existent laws surrounding abortion to at least be debated in the House of Commons in the future.

The pro-life organization We Need A Law expects O’Toole to honour his commitment to allow sitting Conservative MPs to vote as they wish on matters of conscience.

“Mr. O’Toole needs to ensure that the Conservative Party makes room for and respects the pro-lifers that assisted in getting him elected as leader,” said Tabitha Ewert, a spokesperson for We Need a Law.

“As the results show, pro-lifers who supported both Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan were very influential in getting Mr. O’Toole the support needed to win.”

Campaign Life Coalition criticized former Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer after the last federal election for trying to be too liberal, although Scheer’s personal faith as a practising Catholic and his views on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion were used against him by the Liberals. Now the coalition expects O’Toole to heed the views of social conservatives or face dire electoral consequences.

“Although a pro-life candidate did not win, by having pro-life standard bearers in the race, including Richard Decarie and Jim Karahalios, who were nixed earlier, it forced the other candidates to make some concessions to social conservatives, such as a pledge to protect conscience rights for health-care workers, to eliminate Justin Trudeau’s values test for Summer Jobs applicants, and in MacKay’s platform, to defend religious liberty at home and abroad,” Gunnarson said.

“We will hold the new leader to account on his promises,” he said.

According to the final ballot numbers, O’Toole garnered about 57 per cent of the votes compared to 43 per cent for MacKay.

Lewis, who finished third in the campaign, quickly congratulated O’Toole after he was named leader and pledged her support going forward.

“Now is the time to work together and make sure a strong and united Conservative Party is ready to win the next election,” she said on Twitter.

In his speech after being named the Conservative leader, O’Toole said building up trust in the Conservative Party and offering Canadians “a real principled Conservative” alternative to the minority Liberal government will be his number one goal.

With B.C. Catholic files


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Pope Francis: Christian charity is not simple philanthropy

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 04:46

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Vatican City – CNA] – Christian charity is more than simple philanthropy, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020.

Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the pope said: “Christian charity is not simple philanthropy but, on the one hand, it is looking at others through the eyes of Jesus Himself and, on the other hand, seeing Jesus in the face of the poor.”

In his address, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading (Matthew 16:13-20), in which Peter professes his faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God.

“The Apostle’s confession is provoked by Jesus Himself, who wishes to lead His disciples to take the decisive step in their relationship with Him. Indeed, the entirety of Jesus’s journey with those who follow Him, especially with the Twelve, is one of educating their faith,” Pope Francis said, according to an unofficial English translation provided by the Holy See press office.

The Holy Father said that Jesus posed two questions in order to educate the disciples: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (v. 13) and “Who do you say I am?” (v. 15).

The pope suggested that, in answer to the first question, the apostles seemed to compete in reporting different opinions, perhaps sharing the view that Jesus of Nazareth was essentially a prophet.

When Jesus posed the second question to them, there appeared to be “a moment of silence,” the pope said, “as each one of those present is called to put themselves on the line, manifesting the reason why they follow Jesus.”

Pope Francis continued: “Simon takes them off the hook by declaring forthrightly, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (v. 16). This answer, so complete and enlightening, does not come from an impulse of his own, however generous — Peter was generous — but rather is the fruit of a particular grace of the heavenly Father. Indeed, Jesus Himself says, ‘This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood’ — that is, by culture, what you have studied, no this has not revealed it to you. It was revealed to you ‘by my Father in heaven’ (v. 17).”

“To confess Jesus is a grace of the Father. To say that Jesus is the Son of the living God, who is the Redeemer, is a grace that we must ask for: ‘Father, give me the grace of confessing Jesus.’”

The pope noted that Jesus responded to Simon by declaring: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (v. 18).

The Holy Father said: “With this affirmation, Jesus makes Simon aware of the meaning of the new name He has given him, ‘Peter’: the faith he has just shown is the unshakable ‘rock’ on which the Son of God wishes to build His Church, that is, community.”

“And the Church goes forward always on the basis of Peter’s faith, that faith that Jesus recognizes [in Peter] and which makes him the head of the Church.”

The pope said that in the Gospel reading we hear Jesus putting the same question to each one of us: “And you, who do you say I am?”

“We must respond not with “a theoretical answer, but one that involves faith,” he explained, listening to “the voice of the Father and its consonance with what the Church, gathered around Peter, continues to proclaim.”

Pope Francis added: “It is a matter of understanding who Christ is for us: if He is the center of our life, if He is the goal of our commitment in the Church, our commitment in society.”

He then offered a note of caution.

“But beware,” he said, “it is indispensable and praiseworthy that the pastoral care of our communities be open to many forms of poverty and crises, which are everywhere. Charity is always the high road of the journey of faith, of the perfection of faith. But it is necessary that works of solidarity, the works of charity that we carry out, not divert us from contact with the Lord Jesus.”

After reciting the Angelus, Pope Francis noted that Aug. 22 marked the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, instituted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2019.

He said: “Let us pray for these, our brothers and sisters, and let us also sustain with our prayer and solidarity those, and there are many, who today are persecuted because of their faith and religion.”

The pope observed that Aug. 24 marks the 10th anniversary of the massacre of 72 migrants by a drug cartel in the municipality of San Fernando, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

“They were people from various countries who were looking for a better life. I express my solidarity with the families of the victims who today are still asking for truth and justice regarding the events. The Lord will hold us to account for all of the migrants who have fallen on their journey of hope. They were victims of the throwaway culture,” he said.

The pope also recalled that Aug. 24 is the fourth anniversary of an earthquake that struck central Italy, killing 299 people.

He said: “I renew my prayer for the families and the communities who suffered the greatest devastation that they may go ahead in solidarity and hope, and I hope that the reconstruction might accelerate so that the people might return to live serenely in this beautiful territory of the Apennine Hills.”

He expressed his solidarity with Catholics in Cabo Delgado, the northernmost province of Mozambique, which has suffered intense violence at the hands of Islamists.

The pope made a surprise phone call last week to local Bishop Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of Pemba, who has spoken out about the attacks which have displaced more than 200,000 people.

Pope Francis then greeted pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square — both those from Rome and elsewhere in Italy. Pilgrims stood spaced apart in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

He singled out a group of young pilgrims dressed in yellow T-shirts from the parish of Cernusco sul Naviglio in northern Italy. He congratulated them on cycling from Siena to Rome along the ancient pilgrimage route of the Via Francigena.

The pope also greeted families from Carobbio degli Angeli, a comune in the province of Bergamo in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, who had made a pilgrimage to Rome in memory of coronavirus victims.

Lombardy was one of the epicenters of the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, which has claimed 35,430 lives as of Aug. 23, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The pope urged people not to forget those affected by the pandemic.

“This morning I heard the testimony of a family who lost their grandparents without being about to say goodbye to them, on the same day. So much suffering, so many people who lost their lives, victims of this disease; and so many volunteers, doctors, nurses, sisters, priests, who also lost their lives. Let us remember the families who have suffered because of this,” he said.

Concluding his Angelus reflection, Pope Francis prayed: “May Mary Most Holy, blessed because she believed, be our guide and model on the path of faith in Christ, and make us aware that trust in Him gives full meaning to our charity and to all our existence.”


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Canadian Catholics offer prayers and support to the people of Lebanon after devastating explosion

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 12:34

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

{Ottawa –CCN] – Canadians and the Catholic Church in Canada has always been there for the people of Lebanon in times of need, says the Montreal-based Maronite Catholic Bishop Paul-Marwan Tabet.

And in the coming weeks as the Lebanese people overcome the aftermath of a tragic deadly explosion, he expects Canadian Catholics and Canada as a whole will continue to provide spiritual and financial support in times of crisis as they have always done.

“The Catholic Church in Canada has never not been there for the people of Lebanon, it has never shied away from helping the people of Lebanon,” Bishop Tabet told the Canadian Catholic News just days after a devastating explosion in that country killed more than 160 people, maimed thousands and severely damaged and destroyed the homes of tens of thousands of people in and around the City of Beirut.

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

Development and Peace / Caritas Canada emergency response in Lebanon: ARTICLE

The repercussions of the explosion, which is believed to have been caused on Aug. 4 when more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate being stored at the port in Beirut ignited, prompted the Lebanese govern to resign on August 10 amid the unrest unleased in the country after the tragic explosion which, as of Aug. 10, had claimed 163 lives and injured more than 6,000 people.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement of support after the tragedy addressed to the Maronite Catholic community’s spiritual leaders that pledged solidarity with the Lebanese people.

“We have seen the images of its aftermath and we are heartbroken by the devastation that it has wrought on the Lebanese people,” the CCCB statement said.

“We, the Catholic Bishops of Canada, your brothers in faith, stand in prayerful solidarity with you and your people as the rescue and recovery efforts continue. On this Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, we pray that your suffering be transformed by the Light of Christ so that you, and the resilient and courageous people of Lebanon, are comforted by His sure and abiding love,” the CCCB said.

According to Statistics Canada, the majority of Canadians of Lebanese origin are Christian and in 2001 42 per cent of the Lebanese community in Canada indicated that they were Catholic.

The primarily-Lebanese Marionite Catholics, which have parishes across Canada with the majority being in Ontario and Quebec, are part of a rite of the Catholic Church that recognizes and follows the dictates of the Vatican and the Pope. There has always been a supporting relationship between Canada’s Catholic Church and Maronite Catholics, Bishop Tabet said.

That support has been expressed directly by a number of Canadian Catholic Bishops since the Aug. 4 explosions, some of whom have visited Lebanon in recent years, and Bishop Tabet said the Archdiocese of Montreal has pledged that funds raised during collections the first two weekends of August will go towards Lebanon relief efforts.

Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine, who is a personal friend of Bishop Tabet, expressed “shock” in a letter about the devastation that has been inflicted on the Lebanese people.

“I wish to express, on my behalf and on behalf of all the faithful of the Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal, our deepest sympathy,” Archbishop Lepine said.

“We are all in shock at the scale of the tragedy that affects thousands of people, the city, all of Lebanon and the Lebanese Diaspora throughout the world.

We grieve with you in your immense sorrow and assure you of our prayers and solidarity,” he said. “I petition Divine Providence to watch over the Lebanese people and to bring them the needed comfort and support through this ordeal, which only adds to the other issues that threaten security and peace.”

The Canadian government has pledged about $5 million in support for the people of Lebanon, about half of that being on a one-to-one donation matching funds basis.

At this point financial support for the people of Lebanon is being directed towards the Red Cross through numerous fundraising campaigns around the world, said Bishop Tabet.

In Canada, the Catholic Church’s international development arm, Development and Peace, is call calling on Canadians to donate to the cause through its membership in Caritas Internalis.

“Our partners on the ground are already working to assess the situation and help those impacted by this disaster,” a Development and Peace statement said.

“The disaster is unimaginable. We are facing a real human and humanitarian disaster,” said Fadi Daou, president and CEO of Adyan, which is a Development and Peace partner in that part of the world.

At the community level for Canadians of Lebanese background, Bishop Tabet said the first priority is to raise funds quickly and aid on its way so the focus has been on supporting Lebanon’s Red Cross.

“At the community level we have been campaigning on behalf of the Red Cross, but more needs to be done and we will be launching a campaign to support all the families who are now in need, who will need food, shelter, medicine,” Bishop Tabet said of what he expects to be a relief effort that will continue for months.


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Couples for Christ celebrates anniversary of “womb to tomb” family ministry

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 12:16

By Andrew Ehrkamp, Grandin Media

[Edmonton – Canadian Catholic News] – For 25 years, Couples for Christ has been evangelizing one conversation and pot luck meal at a time.

It’s a ministry focused on Christian renewal and strengthening of the family. CFC began in the Philippines in 1981 and was brought over mainly through the Filipino diaspora. The Edmonton chapter started in August 1995. On its anniversary, CFC members say their ministry is needed now more than ever.

“We should empower other couples to really become closer to God. That’s our ultimate goal, to learn and to serve God not only in the family but in the bigger community or the parish,” said Greg Parillas of Edmonton, a former national director for Couples for Christ. “CFC is mainly for the whole family, that’s why we call it ‘from womb-to-tomb’ ministry. Everyone in the family can be a member.”

The main Christian Life Program is a series of 12 evening talks about faith and Christianity, usually over food and coffee, which is the entry point for Couples for Christ. It’s open to anyone, whether or not they are Christian initially, though it’s usually by invitation from a member in their circle of friends, community or parish.

“It’s become, for both of us and our family, a way of life,” said Ernie Anzures, the area leader for Edmonton who joined CFC with his wife, Divine, in the Philippines in 1992. “We don’t force them to convert to the Catholic faith. Out of their volition and their faith, if they want to convert, then we welcome them.”

Participants are asked to read Scripture, attend Mass and pray regularly. After the program and dedication – or graduation – ceremony, participants become full CFC members. They then meet weekly in small groups for worship, Scripture reading, personal sharing, discussion and fellowship.
Couples for Christ is an umbrella ministry which includes Kids for Christ, Youth for Christ, Singles for Christ, and Servants of the Lord and Handmaids of the Lord for widowers and widows, as well as a seniors’ program and marriage retreats.

In 1995, the Edmonton chapter began humbly with five couples at St. Kateri Catholic School, led by Manila emigres Lito and Sylvia Soco, who are still involved in CFC.

Since then more than 800 people have participated in the Edmonton chapter of Couples for Christ and about 1,600 are members of the CFC family of ministries. And CFC has spread across Alberta, and into Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories as well as First Nations.

“What I love about this whole thing is that there’s really nobody who gets dropped through the cracks,” said Rev. Jim Corrigan, who has been involved with CFC for 15 years and has been the spiritual director of the Edmonton chapter since 2018.

“They have something from everyone. There are no weak links in the chain from childhood to adulthood. It’s the full meal.”

The CFC Christian Life Program is a structured catechesis, Corrigan said. After graduation, CFC members are asked to commit to a group meeting for prayer and study.

“They’re not just gathering as joyful Christians. They have a system in place where they have an opportunity to grow in faith as individuals, as families.”
Fr. Corrigan will celebrate a Mass in honour of the 25th anniversary, and the video recording of it will be part of CFC’s online conference Aug. 29.
Greg Parillas’ journey to Couples for Christ began in Bahrain, where he and his family were living in the 1980s.

Initially Parillas was skeptical. He worked a lot. His family attended Mass regularly and he was involved in the local Filipino club, and he figured that was enough. But when his daughter Mary Anne’s teacher invited them to a CFC meeting, the Parillas figured they should attend, even if just out of respect.

“When we were prayed over by the CFC leaders in Bahrain, something changed in my life,” Parillas said. “It was only when I joined the community that we were asked to read the Scriptures every day and pray, every day, for at least 15 minutes. It could be more. And pray the rosary. Those are the things that changed our spiritual life.”

When the Parillas came to Edmonton in 1998, Greg and Tess joined the local CFC chapter. Through Couples for Christ, his marriage improved and so did his relationship with his four children.

“The relationship between spouses is a challenging relationship, but because of the teachings we get from the community, they really help us in enriching the relationship between one another,” said Parillas who, with Tess, is a Eucharistic minister at St. Andrew’s Parish and sings in the Filipino choir.

“You cannot avoid quarrelling sometimes between husband and wife, that I think is normal. But at the end of the day, patch up and ask for forgiveness.”

Over the years, Parillas has risen steadily in the CFC leadership. He helped establish CFC chapters across Canada and is now in charge of CFC’s finances, which rely on member donations. He and Tess are now among those planning to establish CFC chapters in the Caribbean.

The challenge facing the group, says Ernie Anzures, is to broaden its membership and appeal beyond the Filipino or Asian immigrant community, and to encourage newcomers who may be reluctant to make a long-term commitment.

That includes the next generation. The Anzures’ children are less involved than in the past, in part because Canada is different than in the Philippines, where generations live together.

“The main problem is that most of their children growing up here in Canada dissociate themselves from our culture. Because of peer pressure they’re being swayed away from their Catholic upbringing.”

However, Anzures said the focus on Christ in the family is the cultural counterpoint.

“Our theme for the anniversary is ‘Passing the Torch.’ We intend to emphasize that the legacy we have built over the last 25 years will now be passed to the younger ministries.”

As to the future, Divine Anzures predicts the group will grow as the next generation transitions from Kids for Christ to Youth for Christ to Singles for Christ.
Greg and Tess Parillas’ eldest daughter, Mary Grace, worked for Couples for Christ, and she and her husband are actively involved in CFC in Glendale, Calif. His youngest son, Matthew, 20, is actively involved in Youth for Christ in Edmonton.

“Without being in the Youth for Christ community, I wouldn’t be as close to my faith. I wouldn’t have the same prayer life as I do right now. I’m incredibly grateful for it,” said Matthew, who has been involved in Youth for Christ for seven years, first as a participant and now a leader at youth camps.

Matthew said CFC taught him how to have “healthy, holy” relationships with others.

“One of the biggest problems we have in the world is the confusion of the nuclear family. So I think Couples for Christ really does its job in helping families be reminded of their purpose, of their role, in the world.”

Greg Parillas agrees. “What we can see in the way of life nowadays, the instant way of thinking of people, people are not as close to the Church, especially the youth … That’s our biggest challenge, to bring them back. The foundation of the child should start with the family. The parents should be the first teachers of the children, in faith.”

Under COVID-19, evangelization of newcomers has stopped because the Christian Life Program is based on face-to-face interaction and a personal approach. Still, CFC ministries continues to strengthen their current membership online, which presents its own challenges.

“It’s really difficult,” Parillas said. “He or she is just sitting at home. Will it be more effective for him or her? That is the challenge that we’re going to face this time. But we will continue to evangelize people.”


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Ukraine: Living in the forgotten war

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 16:44

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Despite a halt to fighting declared on July 27, 2020,  the shooting has continued in Ukraine, and Caritas — the international federation of 165 Catholic aid organizations — carries on feeding and serving the poor caught in the crossfire.

The six-year-old war between Ukraine and Russian-backed forces in the eastern Donbass region has killed over 13,000, including about 4,000 civilians.

More than 30,000 have been wounded and nearly 1.5 million are internally displaced. The war stalemated long before this latest of about a dozen failed ceasefires and it was forgotten in Western media even before that.

“With time, media fatigue forms. That’s obvious,” said Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) project officer Anna Dombrovska.

Between July 27 and Aug. 4, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s special monitoring mission in Ukraine recorded 251 ceasefire violations, including three on Aug. 4. Basically, nothing has changed for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Ukrainians who rely on Caritas and CNEWA for food and basic health care, Dombrovska said.

CNEWA finances two Caritas projects on the edge of the war zone. In the small city of Mariupol — on the shores of the Azov Sea, just over one-and-a-half hours’ drive south of Donetsk — Caritas runs a soup kitchen. Like soup kitchens around the world, it has switched to takeout meals under the shadow of COVID-19.

It costs nearly $80,000 a year to keep the soup kitchen open, of which CNEWA’s Canadian donors have contributed nearly $10,000 this year. The soup kitchen serves the poorest among over 100,000 internally displaced people in a city of half-a-million.

“It feeds people who just don’t have enough funds to survive,” said Dombrovska.

In Kramatorsk, two hours drive north of Donetsk, Caritas uses CNEWA funds to operate home care services for the disabled — mostly seniors but many of them wounded in rounds of indiscriminate shelling and outbreaks of rifle fire.

“They (Caritas) help them to basically live. They bring them food. They cook for them. They take care of their hygiene,” Dombrovska said.

CNEWA’s Canadian donors have contributed over $33,000 this year to keep the Kramatorsk home care service up and running.

Neither the weakened state of Ukraine nor the Russian-backed self-proclaimed state of the Donetsk People’s Republic can offer the basic care Caritas performs, according to Dombrovska.

In non-COVID years she visits CNEWA’s Ukraine projects regularly. Without the support of the Church, there are no public services to fall back on in either Mariupol or Kramatorsk, she said.

“Those people need every-day support. It’s difficult to imagine what will happen (without the Caritas projects),” she said.

Though Caritas in Ukraine is attached to the Greek Catholic Church, its services are offered to all Ukrainians including the Orthodox of the Kyiv

Patriarchate and Orthodox of the Moscow Patriarchate. Eastern-rite Catholics represent just 10 per cent of Ukrainians, though the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church worldwide is the largest Eastern-rite Catholic Church.

“All those small villages that live right next to the war, where the shelling is happening, this is where Caritas Ukraine is present,” said Dombrovska.

Ukrainians are attracted to social services offered in the context of faith.

“What they say is that the war changes people from unbelievers to believers,” Dombrovska said. “If you are on this edge of whether you live or you die, or you’re in constant, constant stress and constant fear, this is when you start to understand that there is God and no one else will help you.”

It’s been a tough year for Ukrainians, whose health system was unprepared for COVID-19, who saw a civilian airliner with 176 people on board shot down in Iran and have worried over wildfires erupting in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, where radiation from the 1986 meltdown at the old nuclear power plant still reads 16 times above normal.

On top of that, in June there were floods and landslides in the Carpathian Mountains that hit 300 villages and towns.

While not forgetting the war in the eastern region of the country, CNEWA has begun raising funds to help 15,000 households struggling in the wake of the Carpathian Mountain floods.

Canadians invited to show solidarity with victims of flooding in Ukraine: ARTICLE

Climate change is obviously the cause of this year’s flooding in the Carpathians, said His Beatitude Sviatoslav, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

“The cause of this disaster that we are experiencing is this predatory attitude of humans towards the environment. Climate change on a global scale and uncontrolled destruction of Carpathian forests forced nature to raise its menacing voice, before which we cannot remain silent,” His Beatitude Sviataslov wrote in a June 25 letter to Ukrainian Catholics.


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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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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.


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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 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, 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.



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.


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