An appeal from a Sri Lankan Catholic to Pope Francis: Please don’t come

Photograph courtesy Api Sri Lankan

On 20th Nov. 2014, the President of Sri Lanka officially proclaimed his intention to hold presidential elections and seek a third term. This was when there was two more years to hold presidential elections. It was widely believed that the reasons for premature elections was the fading popularity of the President and his strong belief in astrological predictions that his best chance of winning elections is in early January 2015. The premature elections was not at all based on public interest or to further democratic culture in Sri Lanka.

Accordingly, on 22nd Nov. 2014, the Commissioner of Elections announced that presidential elections would be held on 8th Jan. 2015. According to election laws in Sri Lanka, the day of elections should have been between 6th to 20th January 2015 (28-42 days after nominations). The Election Commissioner has implied to media that considering the Papal visit, the date for elections was fixed for 8th Jan, probably based on the widespread belief that a Papal will not happen few days before an election. Thus, Your Holiness’s visit has been used as a justification to fix elections on 8th January 2014, and drastically reduce the election campaign period. This will severely limit the few opportunities opposition candidates and civil society has to engage in debates about issues around the elections. Your Holiness is implied as blessing the incumbent President’s election campaign, with large bill boards showing President Rajapaksa and his wife meeting you erected in predominately Catholic areas. Some slogans say ‘’With the blessings of the Your Holiness, you (incumbent President) will be our President Again’’.

There is widespread fear of election violence, which has started with a opposition politician being shot within hours of the day of elections being announced. In this first week after nominations, at least 6 incidents of shootings have been reported, with most targeted being those connected with the opposition parties. Widespread abuse of state resources and state officials is expected, as it was in previous elections. There is also uncertainty and fear about large scale violence and retaliation against opposition activists in the days after the elections. The main opposition candidate from the last Presidential Election in 2010 was jailed immediately after the elections. Fears have also been expressed that the incumbent may not hand over power even if an opposition candidate wins the elections.

After years of repression of dissent and minorities and uncertainty about viable opposition candidates to the incumbent President, there appears to be new hope, enthusiasm and courage amongst Sri Lankans to engage in discussions and debates about their future, including democratic governance, rule of law, peace and reconciliation, issues related to minority communities. I also believe that it is the duty of Catholics to be fully conscious and involved in matters that have such serious consequences for future of country, during this period. It is likely that election results would be formally announced on evening of 9th January or morning of 10th January. The days following will be a period that Sri Lankans, including Catholics, should be fully involved in dealing with aftermath of elections, which could most probably be a very violent and tense period. If a new incumbent or the existing incumbent takes office peacefully, the days after the elections will be a period that Sri Lankans will be attempting to take forward a reform agenda, that promotes better governance, rule of law, media freedom, judicial independence, accountability for serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law, reconciliation, political solution for ethnic conflict etc. In this scenario, we as Catholics, and even non Catholic brothers and sisters, may have to make a difficult choice whether we should get ourselves fully involved in preparations for rare and unique occasion of Papal visit and beatification of Blessed Joseph Vaz or an critical presidential elections.

Visiting Sri Lanka 3-4 days after election results will also not give Your Holiness enough time to assess the post election situation in the country and share some reflections about the way Christians should be involved in social-political-economic issues of the country, particularly with the victims of human rights violations and their families.

Like me, most Sri Lankans, Catholics and non Catholics, would be very keen to welcome Your Holiness to Sri Lanka. But a few days after a presidential election is definitely not the time. Your Holiness have already been used to limits the campaign period which will negatively affect opposition candidates, and on the other hand, Your Holiness is implied as supporting the election campaign of the incumbent President.

Presidential elections in Sri Lanka are due only in two years time and there is absolutely no pressing reasons to have it now. It has been fixed in January 2015 in the interest of one individual – incumbent President – and perhaps his family. Likewise, there is no hurry for a Papal visit to Sri Lanka or to beatify Blessed Joseph Vaz. We have waited two decades and hundreds of years respectively for both these and we can wait for few more months or even years. A Papal visit in 2016 (perhaps when you are visiting Asia again for the Eucharistic Congress?) has the potential to be much more meaningful to Catholics and all Sri Lankans. Particular for us to be be able to spiritually prepare and participate in events, taking into consideration socio-political-economic realities.

Life in Sri Lanka today, including “prophetic” roles by sections of the Catholic Church

I take this chance to share some facts and reflections, based on my personal experience. Space and limits of my experience may make these incomplete, but I hope below will help Your Holiness see a glimpse of life in Sri Lanka, that most mainstream media and government and even most Church leaders would not want to share.

In March 2014, I got urgent messages from some Tamils to assist their relatives and large number of other Tamil persons who were allegedly arrested in the war ravaged North. I visited the area with a Catholic Priest, to assess the situation and see whether we should try to offer any assistance. For us, this was a response to our Catholic calling, to visit the detainees (at least their families) and others subjected to injustice. Military / Police followed us, stopped us for long periods at checkpoints, interrupted us when we were chatting with local people in their houses and finally arrested us. I was subjected to intense interrogation, denied access to lawyers despite repeated requests and visits by several teams of lawyers. The reasons given for my arrest in the arrest receipt was that I was supporting the revival of terrorism, sending information abroad to earn money and causing discomfort to the government. I believe both of us were released due to immediate and massive national and international outrage. But both of us are still under investigation, our bank accounts are being scrutinized, and court orders have been obtained to restrict our freedom of expression and travel. One of the ladies we went to inquire about, Ms. Jeyakumari Balendran, still languishes in prison for more than 8 months, without any charges, separated from her teenaged daughter. Another lady we were inquiring into, was detained and released, but stopped from traveling overseas. Her mother in law, who we met during our visit, was also arrested and released, but was also reported to have been prevented from leaving the country. There are many others who have been in prison for long time due to no fault of their own.

In August 2006, many people were killed and others injured inside a Catholic Church in Allaipiddy, Jaffna, which offered sanctuary to terrified Tamil civilians amidst fierce fighting. This is not the first time civilians have been killed, injured while seeking refuge in a Catholic Church. Even hospitals have not been spared in the fighting. Fr. Jim Brown, a young Tamil Catholic Priest, who was the Parish Priest of the Allaipiddy Church, disappeared after he had done his best to protect civilians from being killed and to get medical assistance for those injured. No one has been held accountable for the disappearance of Fr. Jim Brown, and that of the son of Ms. Jeyakumari that I mentioned above or journalists, human rights activists and civilians who had disappeared. Many of their families clamoring for truth and justice are being threatened, intimidated, harassed and restricted. In August this year, I was at a “listening and sharing” meeting with families of disappeared, held in a centre run by Oblate priests. A mob led by Buddhist Monks invaded the place, and when we called the Police, they (Police) compelled the meeting to be cancelled and refused to take action against the invaders.

Government Ministers and Government officials have discredited and intimidated a Tamil Catholic Bishop speaking out on human rights violations and there have been calls for his arrest. He has been subjected to interrogations at least twice. Many other Catholic clergy and lay persons, independent journalists and human rights activists have been killed, disappeared, attacked, threatened, intimidated, harassed, restricted, discredited with false allegations. Christians and Muslims have been under severe attack, by those claiming to be Buddhist groups. Private and state land have been acquired, often illegally, for military and touristic purposes. A very traditional, Tamil, Catholic village, where the Church also owns land, is now a Navy camp. Military continues to stop or interfere in religious and civil events in the North. Militarization is spreading all over the country, including education, sports, tourist resorts, airlines, boat services, shops, restaurants, farms etc.

Belated efforts by the UN to assist in ascertaining truth of what happened in the last years of the war and ensue accountability has been rejected by the government.

Sri Lanka is a country where even a Catholic Priest can disappear for writing a letter to the Pope. In May 2009, a Tamil Catholic Priest, Fr. Francis Joseph, wrote a letter to Pope Benedict from within the war zone, about conditions that existed and slaughter of thousands. He expressed fear that he maybe killed by the Sri Lankan government for writing and making public such a letter. I’m unaware whether Pope Benedict read that letter or what he did to act on it or protect the writer. What I do know from eyewitnesses is that few days after writing the letter, Fr. Joseph was seen surrendering to the Sri Lankan Army and then he disappeared. A court case has been pending in Sri Lankan courts about the disappearance of Fr. Joseph and the matter was brought before a Commission of Inquiry in Sri Lanka, but we are nowhere near to establishing truth and justice.

I’m aware that there maybe reprisals from the Sri Lankan government or even the Catholic Church leadership, for making this appeal to Your Holiness. Along with concerned Catholics and others, I have been involved in reflections and discussions about Your Holiness visit for a number of months. Now that the day for an premature and unnecessary presidential elections has been formally announced with utter disregard for long pre-planned visit of Your Holiness and shameless use of Your Holiness for political campaign of the incumbent President, I felt compelled to share my thoughts. I hope Your Holiness will also take into consideration before reaching a decision about visiting Sri Lanka in January 2015.

An appeal from a Sri Lankan Catholic to Pope Francis …

groundviews.org/…/an-appeal-from-a-sri-lankan-catholic-to-pope-franci…

Dec 1, 2014 – Visiting Sri Lanka 3-4 days after election results will also not give Your Holiness …. The pope comes to meet sinners, so it is good if he comes.

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Supreme Court rules against Glasgow midwives

Supreme Court rules against Glasgow midwives

The main entrance to the Supreme Court (PA)

The court has rejected the case of Mary Doogan and Connie Wood who refused to be involved with abortion procedures

The Supreme Court has rejected the case of two midwives who refused to be involved with abortion procedures.

Last year, at the Court of Session, Concepta Wood and Mary Doogan won the right to refuse to assist with abortions on conscientious grounds at any point in the procedure.

But NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) appealed the case and the Supreme Court ruled this morning in favour of the trust.

Mary Doogan and Connie Wood, the midwives in the case, commented on the judgment: “We are both saddened and extremely disappointed with today’s verdict from the Supreme Court and can only imagine the subsequent detrimental consequences that will result from today’s decision on staff of conscience throughout the UK.

“Despite it having been recognised that the number of abortions on the labour ward at our hospital is in fact a tiny percentage of the workload, which in turn could allow the accommodation of conscientious objection with minimal effort, this judgment, with its constraints and narrow interpretation, has resulted in the provision of a conscience clause which now in practice is meaningless for senior midwives on a labour ward.”

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) which paid the midwives’ legal expenses throughout the case has said that senior midwives who refuse to participate in abortions could be forced to leave the profession.

Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC, said: “The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children acknowledges the great debt that the whole pro-life community owes to Mary Doogan and Connie Wood for fighting this battle over the past seven years. They have fought not only for their own careers, but for all current and future members of the profession who uphold the right to life of everyone, from the time of conception, without discrimination. We are bitterly disappointed for them.

“Today’s decision sadly makes it likely that senior midwives who refuse to kill babies will be forced to leave the profession. Junior midwives might still be able to work in labour wards where abortions are performed but they will be restricted to ‘staff midwife’ status at best. They could easily be placed in an impossible situation by pro-abortion superiors, and would be unable to receive promotion to a more senior role without fear of being required to violate their consciences. This will affect anyone who objects to abortion, of any religion or none. It will create a second-class status in midwifery for those who only deliver babies and don’t kill them.

“Furthermore, the court has used the opportunity of this case to decide that the conscience clause in the Abortion Act does not apply to general practitioners and that hospital doctors asked to prescribe abortion drugs will not be covered by the conscience clause. We anticipate that this will lead to renewed efforts by health officials to force doctors who have a conscientious objection to abortion either to compromise their respect for human life or to leave the profession. SPUC will support and encourage doctors to resist any such bullying approach.

“The pro-abortion lobby has long argued that conscientious objectors should be required to refer women seeking legal abortion to other practitioners.  Bodies such as the Department of Health have qualified this by saying that this only applies when the statutory grounds for a legal abortion apply, but the Supreme Court has said that any medical professional who refuses to provide an abortion should arrange for a referral to someone else who will do so. This seems to go far beyond the scope of the Abortion Act, and furthermore is not even an issue there was any need for the Court to decide in this case.

“The Court has nevertheless said that midwives and doctors with conscientious objections are obliged to refer abortion patients to colleagues who don’t object to abortion.  This goes further than the General Medical Council, for instance, whose current guidance Personal Belief and Medical Practice says that doctors should refer patients to another doctor, but does not require them to check their colleague’s pro-abortion credentials.”

Mrs Wood, from Clarkston in East Renfrewshire and Ms Doogan, from Garrowhill in Glasgow, were employed as labour ward co-ordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

 

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Media that crucified ‘Bishop of Bling’ silent on overspending Francis ‘gang of nine’ Cardinal Marx

Featured ImageCardinal ReinhardtMarxYouTube video frame

Hilary WhiteHilary White

Catholic Church, Faith, HomosexualityMon Dec 15, 2014 – 6:01 pm EST

Media that crucified ‘Bishop of Bling’ silent on overspending Francis ‘gang of nine’ Cardinal Marx

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By Hilary White cardinal marx , german catholic bishops , homosexuality , vatican

MUNICH, December 11, 2014 (LifeSite) – Some are asking why the German and indeed the world media relentlessly pursued the conservative “Bishop of Bling,” Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, leading to his sacking in 2013 by Pope Francis, when liberal bishops who spend more are passed over in silence. Tebartz-van Elst was attacked over a €31 million re-build of a diocesan centre, when left-leaning Cardinal Reinhardt Marx, one of Pope Francis’s “gang of nine” key advisors, spends €130 million – for starters – on a diocesan “service centre” in his diocese of Munich-Freising.

According to the German news service AZ, the Munich building was originally purchased by Marx’s predecessor for €86 million and was originally set to be renovated for €39.8 million. Work began in 2011, with an estimated cost of €42.15 million, nearly €10 million more than the “scandalous” final Limburg cost. Since then, expenses have spiraled up with no end in sight. Diocesan spokesman, Bernhard Keller, was quoted by the Munich daily paper, Abendzeitung, saying only, “It is a cost increase in line with market conditions.”

“Who says this is a luxury accommodation for Cardinal Reinhard Marx, is completely wrong,” Keller said. “It is a house of the meeting, the members of the cathedral chapter, employees of the Ordinariate, representatives of the laity councils, but also small groups of pilgrims should be available.”

Meanwhile Cardinal Marx himself lives rent-free either in a suite of rooms in the Holnstein Palace, the bishop’s residence, recently renovated at a cost of € 8 million, or in a ten-room “guesthouse” in Rome estimated to be worth €9.7 million. He draws a bishops’ salary of about €11,500 per month and enjoys the use of late-model chauffeur-driven cars.

What was not widely reported in the secular press in the Limburg case was the fact that Bishop Tebartz van Elst was already well-known in the German Church for his “conservative” positions on various “hot-button” issues. He had been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as a replacement for the well-known “liberal” bishop, Franz Kamphaus, who had earned the ire of the Vatican under John Paul II when he refused to stop issuing abortion certificates.

Tebartz van Elst, who also headed the German bishops’ marriage and family commission, was widely negatively covered in the German secular press after he disciplined one of his priests, Peter Kollas, who had conducted a “blessing” of two homosexual men. In 2007, Tebartz van Elst had issued a statement saying that all Catholics “have a duty to protest the legal recognition of homosexual partnerships.”

Bishop Tebartz van Elst was already unpopular with the secular press and his own liberal priests over his defence of Catholic moral teaching and his requirement that parishes strictly follow the liturgical rules at Sunday Mass. But it was a €5.5 million renovation of the diocesan centre that grew eventually to €31 million, and an allegation of a first-class ticket to India, that caught international attention, and the German media, quickly followed by the English and Italian secular press, smelled blood in the water.

As the media stirred up the controversy, Tebartz van Elst became the object of protests, and received little support from his brother bishops in the German episcopate. Although cleared of financial misconduct by Vatican investigators in September 2013, Bishop Tebartz van Elst was removed from his position by Pope Francis in October the same year after a meeting with Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, of Freiburg, past president of the German bishops’ conference and known as an ultra-liberal who supports homosexual civil unions and the ordination of women.

In the US, Canada and the UK, churches are funded through the voluntary donations of parishioners. Special projects, like fixing a roof or renovating a parish house, require special funding drives. But parish churches in Germany on Sunday mornings are almost empty, with most of the few remaining parishioners being in the latter half of their lives. According to German government statistics, the population of Germany is split about evenly between three groups, 30 per cent Protestant Evangelicals, 30 per cent Catholics and 30 per cent registered as “atheists” or “other.” But the Catholic Church is one of the wealthiest institutions in Europe and is Germany’s second-largest employer. So where does the astonishing wealth of the German Catholic Church come from?

About 70 per cent of Catholic Church revenue in Germany comes from the Church Tax, which accounted for about €5 billion in 2010. This does not include the investment revenue from the German Church’s extensive property holdings.

A person who does not wish to contribute to the upkeep of the Church must formally renounce his membership in the state-supported Church on his tax forms. In recent years, the general de-Christianisation of Germany and Europe as a whole has been blamed for a virtual exodus of German Catholics from the tax rolls.

The German Catholic bishops, despite their reputation as one of the most “liberal” Catholic episcopates in the world, have responded by declaring excommunicate anyone who opts out. In 2012 Archbishop Zollitsch told media “There must be consequences for people who distance themselves from the church by a public act.” He said, “Clearly, someone withdrawing from the Church can no longer take advantage of the system like someone who remains a member.”

“At issue, however, is the credibility of the Church’s sacramental nature. One cannot be half a member or only partly a member. Either one belongs and commits, or one renounces this,” Zollitsch said.

Zollitsch and his brother bishops in Germany, meanwhile, have repeatedly defied the Vatican’s insistence that those who are living in adulterous relationships after a civil divorce, must be refused Holy Communion. At October’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, the German bishops took the lead, with the Italian papal appointee Archbishop Bruno Forte, in pressing for the Church to “accept and value” the homosexual “orientation.”

The rate of formal withdrawals from the Church in Germany dropped between 2005 and 2013, the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, but have risen by over 50,000 since 2012. The 2014 report from the German Catholic bishops said, “Today it cannot be taken for granted that people belong to a church and that they practice their faith. This is shown in the many cases of people leaving the church. In 2013 178,805 people left the Catholic Church in Germany.”

Among those Catholics who have not formally withdrawn from the Church, attendance and belief is low and declining steadily. According to Pew Center research, about 1 in 5 German Catholics said they attend Mass every week, in accordance with Church teaching, in 2009/10. That had dropped to 16 per cent by 2011.

Presenting the annual report of the German Catholic Church in August this year, Cardinal Marx referred to the financial and sexual scandals of the German Church, and said that the Church must set about “good and convincing work to rebuild confidence at all levels.”

At the same time, another of Germany’s leading “liberal” prelates, Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz, another former head of the German bishops’ conference and reportedly the mentor of Zollitsch, wrote of the “scandals and vexations” in the Church that are causing a general exodus from the Catholic Church.

“There’s no doubt these figures must make us think. We’ve obviously suffered a loss of trust and credibility which has rarely happened so violently,” Lehmann said in his diocesan newspaper.

Critics of the German bishops threats against Catholics opting out of the Church tax have accused them of the sin of simony, meaning the charging of fees for the sacraments. The 2012 decree against Church Tax dodgers included the statement that “without a sign of repentance before death, a religious burial can be refused.”

Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith, a columnist for the Catholic Herald in the UK, noted the irony of the strong favour showed to his extremely wealthy German appointee prelates, including Cardinal Kasper, by Pope Francis. Germany’s pay-to-pray system, he said, surely goes against the trend that Francis is trying to promote of a “poor Church for the poor”.

“First of all, it is coercive. You have to pay, or else leave the Church. But surely everything in the religious sphere should be voluntary?” Fr. Lucie-Smith wrote. “Secondly, it uses the state to collect money for the Church. This brings Church and state into an uncomfortably close alliance, which can be damaging for the Church.

“Thirdly, the Church tax makes the Church uncharitable, in that if people refuse to pay the tax, they are then barred from the sacraments. This is simply wrong. The sacraments are free. No one should be made to jump through an administrative hoop in order to receive the sacraments. The only qualifications to receive the sacraments should be moral.”

But Cardinal Marx remains high in the circles of power both in the Vatican and in Germany. Currently serving as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference, he is also a prominent member of Pope Francis’ so-called “gang of nine,” the inner cabinet the pope created to address “reform” of the Church, and has been put on the pope’s economic advisory board.

At the Synod, Marx placed himself as a lead voice in favour of paragraphs in the mid-term document calling for the Church to “accept and value” the homosexual “orientation”. At a Vatican press conference, Marx said, “Take the case of two homosexuals who have been living together for 35 years and taking care of each other, even in the last phases of their lives. How can I say that this has no value?”

Expanding, Marx continued, “Saying that the doctrine will never change is a restrictive view of things…The core of the Catholic church remains the Gospel, but have we discovered everything? This is what I doubt.”

 

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“Christmas is not about consumerism, it’s about helping others. The Church is close to Roma people”

 

The Pope visits the parish of San Giuseppe all'Aurelio

 

The Pope visits the parish of San Giuseppe all’Aurelio

On his visit to Rome’s Primavalle suburb, the Pope encouraged Christians not to turn into complainers like one nun he used to know and urged priests not to ask crying children to leave the church

Pope Francis spoke like a parish priest would to his community of faithful on his visit to the Roman parish of San Giuseppe all’Aurelio in Rome’s Primavalle suburb. Here, he met with 40 members of the local Roma community who last week faced xenophobic protests in front of schools in Torrevecchia and Primavalle attended by children from the “nomad camps”. “Living Christmas in a spirit of consumerist angst is not Christian.” “There are many people who do not know how to thank God: they always find something to complain about,” Pope Francis said in the homily he pronounced during the mass he celebrated at the Roman parish of San Giuseppe all’Aurelio. “I knew a nun once; this nun was good, she worked, but she would always complain about so many things, to the point that people started calling her “Sister Grouch”. “A Christian cannot live like this,” the Pope went on to say. “Always finding things to complain about. ‘But I don’t have this and I don’t have that’; this is not Christian.”

 

Francis’ visit to the church of San Giuseppe all’Aurelio on Via Boccea, is the Pope’s sixth visit to a parish in the diocese of Rome. It is his fifth visit to a city parish, bearing in mind that last spring one of his visits was to the municipality of Gudonia Montecelio outside the municipality Rome. Francis also went on three private visits to parishes in addition to his six pastoral visits: one to Prima Porta to see the living Nativity scene, another to San Gregorio VII to meet mafia victims and a third to the Basilica of St. Mary beyond the Tiber to meet the Community of Sant’Egidio.

 

“Prayer, giving thanks and helping others are how we get to Christmas “anointed with grace”. May the Virgin Mary accompany us on the path to Christmas and joy. And don’t forget about joy.” “It is painful to see Christians looking sad, with that anxious look of sadness on their faces, which shows you they are not at peace,” Francis said. “You will never see a saint with a long face, never: saints always have a look of joy on their face, or at least a look of peace where there is suffering.” “At the moment of greatest suffering, Jesus’ martyrdom, he had a look of peace on his face and was concerned about others, about his mother, about John, about others. “Children cry, they are noisy, they don’t stop moving. But it really irritates me when I see a child crying in church and someone says they must go out. God’s voice is in a child’s tears: they must never be kicked out of church,” Francis said meeting the families of children who have been baptised over the past year. “Their tears are the best sermon,” the Pope added.

 

 “‘Oh father, we are having a nice big lunch’: but this is not the true joy we speak of today,” Francis said. Joy “makes us want to throw a party of course, but joy itself is another thing entirely. And this is why the Church wants to show what Christian joy is all about.” St. Paul the Apostle says to the Thessalonians: “Now brothers and sisters, rejoice always”. And how can we rejoice? He says we should pray without ceasing and give thanks at every opportunity. We find Christian joy in prayer and in giving thanks to the Lord and for so many beautiful things.” In order to feel this Christian joy, “first pray and then give thanks”. “And how do I give thanks? Think of your life and think of all the good things life has given you.” “’But father, it is true, but I have also been given a lot of bad things’. Ok, but think about the good things: ‘I have been given a Christian family, Christian parents, thanks to God I work, my family does not go hungry, we are all healthy.’. We have so many things to be grateful for and this gets us used to feeling joy.” Another way to help us feel joy is to “bring the message of joy to others”.

 

We are Christians and this comes from Christ and Christ means being anointed: we are anointed, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has consecrated and anointed me.” Being Christian means being anointed because “it leads us to bring the message of joy to those living in misery, to heal wounds, to free slaves, to carry out the Lord’s act of grace.” This is “the Christian vocation: going to others, to those who need help, be this material or spiritual help, to the many people who are anxious due to family problems.” “Bringing peace, bringing the oil of Jesus which does so much good and comforts the soul.”

 

Today Francis met 40 members of the Roma community that lives in the “nomad camp” at Tenuta Piccirillo in the old Green River campsite in the Prima Porta suburb of Rome. “The Church is with you, it welcomes you always, especially this parish. Always be close to the Church. Don’t lose hope.” These families – one of which has 18 members – have been “adopted” by the parish of San Giuseppe all’Aurelio. In the off-the-cuff speech he gave offering encouragement and hope to the Roma community, Francis urged them to “seek work and integration, without despairing”. “Never lose hope in the future. Thank you for welcoming me,” the Pope said. After this, he greeted (and often hugged) each of the Roma people present, along with the volunteers from the Community of Sant’Egidio who are helping them.

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“Rigidity is a sign of a weak heart”

 
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Pope Francis

Pope Francis

At this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House, Francis spoke about the “discipline” of the doctors of the law that is “rigid on the outside”, recalling how some were scandalised when Pius XII freed faithful from the Eucharistic fast

andrea tornielli Taken from Vatican Insider
vatican city

Jesus never negotiates His heart of the Son of the Father, but He was so open to the people, seeking paths to help them.” Francis said this in the homily he pronounced at this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House, reminding people that Christians are merciful and that rigidity is a sign of a weak heart. Francis commented on today’s Gospel reading which relates how the chief priests asked Jesus by what authority He did His works, Vatican Radio reports. This question unmasks the “hypocritical heart” of those people – people who were not interested in the truth, who sought only their own interests, and went where the wind blew: you should go this way, you should go that way…” They were weathervanes, all of them! All of them! Without consistency. A heart without consistency. And so they negotiated everything: they negotiated interior freedom, they negotiated the faith, they negotiated their county, everything except appearances.” To such people, getting the best out of every situation was the important thing. They were opportunists: “They profited from the situations.”

 

Francis went on to explain how some may object: “some of you might ask me: ‘But Father, these people were observers of the law: on Saturday they didn’t travel more than a hundred metres – or however many they were able to go – they never, never sat down to eat without washing their hands and making their ablutions; they were a very observant people, very secure in their habits.’ Yes, it’s true – but only in appearance. They were strong, but on the outside. They were in a cast. The heart was very weak, they didn’t know what they believed. And because of this their life, the outer part of their life, was completely regulated, but the heart was otherwise: a weak heart, and a skin that was plastered over, strong, harsh. Jesus, on the other hand, teaches us that the Christian should have a strong heart, a firm heart, a heart built on the rock, that is Christ; and then, in the way it goes out, it goes out with prudence: ‘In this case, I do this, but…’ It is the way of going out, but the heart is not negotiable, the rock is not negotiable. The rock is Christ, it is not negotiable!” 

 

“This is the drama of the hypocrisy of this people,” the Pope added. “And Jesus never negotiates His heart of the Son of the Father, but He was so open to the people, seeking paths to help them. ‘But this can’t be done; our discipline, our doctrine say this can’t be done!’ they say. ‘Why do your disciples eat grain in the fields, when they travel, on the day of the Sabbath? It can’t be done!’ They were so rigid in their discipline: ‘No, the discipline can’t be touched, it’s sacred’.”

 

Pope Francis recalled how “Pius XII freed us from the very heavy cross that was the Eucharistic fast. But some of you might remember. You couldn’t even drink a drop of water. Not even that! And to brush your teeth, it had to be done in such a way that you didn’t swallow the water. But I myself as a young boy went to confession for having made the Communion, because I thought a drop of water had gone in. Is it true or no? It’s true. When Pius XII changed the discipline: ‘Ah, heresy! No! He touched the discipline of the Church.’ So many Pharisees were scandalized. So many. Because Pius XII had acted like Jesus: he saw the need of the people. ‘But the poor people, with such warmth.’ These priests who said three Masses, the last at one o’clock, after noon, fasting. The discipline of the Church. And these Pharisees [spoke about] ‘our discipline’ – rigid on the outside, but, as Jesus said of them, ‘rotting in the heart,’ weak, weak to the point of rottenness. Gloomy in the heart.”

 

“Even our life can become like that, even our life. And sometimes, I confess something to you, when I have seen a Christian, a Christian of that kind, with a weak heart, not firm, not fixed on the rock—Jesus – and with such rigidness on the outside, I ask the Lord: ‘But Lord, throw a banana peel in front of them, so that they will take a good fall, and feel shame that they are sinners, and so encounter You, [and realize] that You are the Saviour. Many times a sin will make us feel shame, and make us encounter the Lord, Who pardons us, as the sick who were there and went to the Lord for healing.”

 

The Pope pointed out that “the simple people do not err,” despite the words of these doctors of the law, “because the people know, they have a certain ‘flair’ for the faith.” Francis concluded his homily with a prayer: “I ask the Lord for the grace that our hearts might be simple, luminous with the truth that He gives us, and thus we might be able to be lovable, forgiving, understanding of others, [to have] a large heart with the people, to be merciful. Never to condemn, never to condemn. If you have wanted to condemn, you condemn yourself, who has some reason, eh?” He continued, “Let us ask the Lord for the grace that He might give us this interior light, that convinces us that the rock is Him alone, and not so many stories we make as if they were important things; and that He might tell us – that He might tell us! – the path, that He might accompany us on the path, that He might enlarge our hearts, so that they can enter into the problems of so many people, and that He might give us the grace that these people did not have: the grace to feel that we are sinners.”

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Priest Concelebrate a Private Mass in the Open when the rules do not permit it

My parents who were both 80 plus and my mother was practically immobile wanted to have the mass of their 60th  Wedding Anniversary on our building terrace which is a rare event. We approached Fr.Salvadore Rodrigues who told us that it is the Archdiocese Policy not to allow masses to be held in the open air though he did allow us to have the mass at home after taking a letter from the celebrating priest.

I have learnt from reliable sources that Willington Catholic Gymkhana  had a mass on the  Municipal Grounds side of the Gymkhana Premises on December 3rd ,2014 in the open air and the said mass was celebrated by 6 priests and Fr. Vernon Aguar Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Church attended the said mass and sat in the first row.The Priest who celebrated the open air mass were Fr.Nereus Rodrigues, Fr.Savio Desales and Fr. Gilbert D’Lima Parish Priest of  Our Lady of Lourdes Church Orlem who gave the preaching for the said mass.

Since the mass was held in the Gymkhana Premises the right of admission was reserved only for the members of this elite Gymkhana.

I have also been informed by other Gymkhanas / Mahim Gymkhana  that mass is not allowed to be celebrated even in the Gymkhana premises.

My question is was influence used to have the said mass in the open?

Who were the persons involved  who granted permission for the said mass to be held in the open air?

Are some people more equal in the eyes of the Archdiocese of Bombay.

Is there a system of untouchability being practised in the Archdiocese of Bombay.

IF ANY INDIVIDUAL GOES TO A CHURCH FOR PERMISSION FOR A MASS HE IS SHOWN ALL THE RULES AND THE PROCEDURE IS FURTHER AGRAVATED IF THE PRIEST IS NOT KNOWN TO HIM,TO ADD TO THE INDIVIDUALS FRUSTRATION THE PRIEST WILL MAKE HIM WAIT FOR ONE HOUR BEFORE ALL THE RULES ARE TOLD TO HIM.
 THE  PRIESTS WHO CONCELEBRATED THE MASS SURELY ARE AWARE OF ALL THE RULES BUT WHEN IT COMES TO THE TURN OF THE INDIVIDUALS WHO RUB SHOULDERS WITH the hierarchy  RULES ARE WAIVED?

Despite having written to the Cardinal on December 9th, 2014 nothing has happened. I wonder why it is taking Cardinal Garcias so long to investigate. I can understand a land fraud like Marinagar where he had told the press that he had set up an Inquiry Commission in   February 2011. Till today,  I the Complainant have not been examined and no report has been released publicly . So also one is not aware if the investigation is still going on considering the size of the fraud which is almost Rs.1000 crores. The sad part is that the Church which is supposed to stand for the truth is refusing to lodge a complaint regarding the six already rehoused tenants.

Now coming back to the six priests who said the mass I have never interacted with  any of the disclosed names except Fr. Gilbert D’lima who gave the preaching for the said mass and is the present Parish Priest of the Our Lady of Lourdes Church Orlem.

Some years ago when the Crosses were demolished and a meeting was held at Cross Maidan at which I was among the hundreds present. I had questioned Fr. Anthony Charanghat when he was also one of the members of the audience like me, regading a statement which he had made to me and Fr. Dominic Savio Fernandes was also present when the statement was made to me outside Archbishops House where I was demonstrating outside there and asked them why no reply was given to my e mail.

Suddenly a person came there with a collar and told me that I will be informed in writing in due course.

Till today despite more than 3 years passing I have not received a reply.I later came to know that the priest was Fr.Gilbert D’Lima.

As a  Priest , I feel he is definitely a smooth talker and I am sure he gave a preaching about something he does not practise just as he told me something about what he was noteven aware about.

 Is it right for these priests to have participated  in a private mass held in the open where the right of admission was reserved only for a select few when private open air masses are not allowed in the Archdiocese of Mumbai.

I am also told that Certain Priests in Mumbai have celebrated marriage masses and solemnised the marriage during the mass despite one of the partners being non catholic. Any thing can happen if one has the right connections.

It is sad that the Cardinal is still remaining silent on this issue as well.

A.M.Sodder

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Thomas Peters: ‘The course of my life has changed forever’

Using a free-standing exoskeleton, Thomas Peters can take hundreds of steps in each rehabilitation session

He was a handsome blogger known to millions as the American Papist. A freak accident left him fighting for his life – but his faith survived

I was nervous about meeting Thomas Peters two years on. A lot had changed in the world, and in him. When we last met, he was an up-and-coming writer in his mid-20s – with a talent that made me green with envy. He was primarily known as the hugely successful Catholic blogger American Papist and as a spokesman for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a Washington-based group that defends marriage and faith communities that sustain it. He was smart, informed and the kind of person you could imagine calling “Senator” one day. In early 2012, he was about to marry his sweetheart, Natalie Zmuda. We sipped cocktails at the outdoor ice rink in Georgetown. And I slipped home drunk on the sheer potential of that couple.

Then, in mid-2013, I got a message to say that tragedy had struck. Thom was in a diving accident and had been flown to hospital. He was in a coma. Months later, Thom wrote a reflection describing the process of coming-to: “On a Friday in July I awoke in the early morning hours to someone beating on my back with their fists. I was lying on a bed in a place I did not recognise and I was in excruciating pain. It was a kind of pain I had never experienced before and did not understand. There was a tube down my throat and my body felt incomplete, as if much of it was missing. I came to realise in the hours that followed, the man beating on my back with his fists was a nurse, and he was trying to dislodge some of the fluid that was filling up my lungs as the result of the diving accident I had sustained three days previously, an accident that had fractured my fifth vertebra and had given me a severe spinal cord injury, an injury that has changed the course of my life forever.”

When I met Thom again, it was about a year after he had written this account. He was now 29 and confined to a wheelchair – maybe more of a man than the boy I once had cocktails with. But he was still drinking and, after a little red wine, I turned on my tape recorder and we discussed his extraordinary life.

Thom’s family is large (he’s the eldest of six) and thoroughly Catholic. His father’s faith was stirred back to life by Humanae Vitae in 1968 and he later became a canon law teacher and adviser to the Church. “My folks met at a gathering for friends who had been let out of jail for being involved in an abortion clinic protest,” explained Thom.

“I grew up thinking it was not abnormal to grow up with debates about Mormon baptism or Church documents being dinner table discussion.”

The kids were home-schooled in “a co-op commune” with other children, where his dad taught Latin. This kind of arrangement might seem odd to British readers, but the latest figures show that around 1.3 million children are home-schooled in the US. Parents’ reasons run from thinking that their local curriculum is dangerously Left wing to thinking it’s too battily Right wing. But it’s 100 per cent American to presume that parents are better at providing their child’s education than the state. In Thom’s case, he graduated at 15 and went to college at 16.

After college he pursued his twin passions of politics and theology in Washington DC. When he landed a job with NOM, he says he did not relish being so intimately involved in the marriage movement. “But I felt it was a sort of prophetic martyrdom that someone had to stand for marriage. And it was [certainly] a challenging situation.” Why? “The imbalance of money [the gay lobby had far more] and the necessity for being incredibly precise in how you talk about it – and the fact that so few were doing it. That said, I’ve never regretted a minute I’ve spent defending marriage, and it’s thrilling to me to see so many people still bravely and brilliantly defending marriage today.”

NOM were looking for “someone young to help create a pro-marriage generation, to be what they called ‘culture creators’ to shape what young people think”. In practice, that meant “going on TV and saying: ‘I’m under 30 and I believe in marriage and here’s why’.” Key to winning the debate was “understanding that there’s actually only a handful of arguments for gay marriage and if you can be asked questions and work out which category the question fits into, you can actually very easily cover it.”

The blowback was immediate: Thomas Peters became a hate figure. “When Natalie and I got married, we had security standing by in case they decided to show up and protest. They were trying to find where we were getting married. And there were numerous threats to show up and say: ‘You don’t believe in our love, we don’t believe in yours.’ I have friends who somewhere had supported me and would be attacked. Their places of business would be attacked… Years after they’d been publicly associated with me.” His wife’s employers were informed online that they were “employing the wife of a bigot”.

Was all this pain worth it? Thom certainly insists that it was: to fight for a moral cause is a reward in itself. But when I met him two years ago, the cause looked winnable. Now, in my opinion, it is lost. When we last drank cocktails, North Carolina had voted overwhelmingly to ban gay marriage. But then the president went on television and said that he supported it. A few states legalised it in the 2012 election cycle and the Supreme Court struck down bans in 11 states. On the eve of 2015, gay marriage is permissible in nearly half of all states and polling evidence suggests that the country is embracing the rainbow flag. This has been blamed in part on the intemperate language of the Right. But Thom’s analysis is very different. “You win when the other side stops fighting. And we started to lose when we ceded the field.” The Right stopped spending on the campaigns and talking about family values with the old fervour. What had kept Barack Obama from endorsing gay marriage for so long was fear of political reprisal, “and when he realised that the threat of reprisal had no teeth, the president changed his mind”.

Thom says that, while battles have been lost, the war is not over – despair, let’s not forget, is a sin. But for the short term he predicts that the institution of marriage will be further eroded and persecution will follow. “There are people [running businesses] who are getting fined [for refusing to serve at gay ceremonies] and for every person who pays the fine there are dozens of business people who just quietly give up, who don’t even try to stand up for their beliefs anymore… People are good at avoiding the axe when it’s hanging above other people.”

We paused in the middle of the interview for a fresh glass, and I observed that, although Thom was physically flagging with all this talk of fights lost and won, it was his enthusiasm for articulating the faith that forced the body to keep on going. I asked carefully about what he remembered about the accident. The answer was “nothing”. His amnesia is total.

Thom had been on a work retreat in Maryland and just before dinner announced that he wanted to go swimming. No one saw him for “quite some time” – until he was found floating face down in the water. His spine was wrecked and he didn’t quite get to the appropriate medical facilities fast enough. “In these cases, it’s all about how fast they treat you.” The precious “golden hour”, in which so much can be done to repair the spine, ran out. “I missed it. I totally missed it,” he said.

What followed must have been agonising. He later wrote: “It took six weeks to patch me up to a medically stable position suitable enough to transfer me to a rehabilitation centre in Washington DC. For six weeks in Baltimore, nurses and doctors battled infections and secretions to heal the damage my lungs had suffered from ingesting filthy water. I was placed in a metal halo in an effort to save my fractured vertebra. And when that effort ultimately failed, I underwent a two-day surgery to replace the damaged vertebra with a titanium cage.

The surgeons also fused my fourth and sixth vertebrae to strengthen my neck. I was intubated, given a tracheostomy, re-intubated and put back on the tracheostomy.”

But Thom never gave up. He worked his way through painful therapy and what he has achieved is nothing less than a miracle. Improvements come in fits and starts. “My right thumb started moving only a month ago and that’s after a year of injury… and one of the things I’m most grateful for is my left hand. With this kind of injury, I shouldn’t be able to use my hands at all.” In fact, he shouldn’t be able to use his arms or torso – yet Thom moves around, gesticulating, seemingly comfortably mobile from his waist up. That’s down to the therapy, but also to the love of friends and family. People asked priests to celebrate Masses for him, brought food, helped Natalie take breaks and sent in donations to help pay for the ultra-expensive care. To have had his world “instantly contracted” into one room was one of the worst things he suffered, so to read letters from all corners of the globe offering prayers and best wishes meant so much. Of course, there were missives of hate from those who took pleasure in his sudden change of fortune. Luckily, Thom and Natalie didn’t have to deal with them: their friends and allies sifted through the mail to throw out the nasty stuff.

“Everything in the West is built around independence,” Thom says. But today he values interdependence. “In the past, if I ordered a cab and I didn’t like the cab, I could refuse to get into it. Now… on any given day there are only three or four wheelchair accessible cabs in Washington DC, and so it doesn’t matter if that guy shows up [and I don’t like the service]. He’s my only ride – and if he doesn’t show up, I’m not going home. So I need people. And Catholic social teaching talks about friends and family. But it takes on a much different meaning when it’s about life and death. My wife gets me through the day. I can’t go on alone – and where her aid ends, the rest of the world must pitch in to help.”

This much he has learned about humanity: “When you’re in my position you realise that [able-bodied people] are simply gods in terms of what you can do. You wake up, you have fears and concerns – but what you can physically do is extraordinary. And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived that way with physical potential, you only miss it when it’s gone… I still look at myself and think it’s amazing what I can still do.”

The final, most difficult question, is how all of this has affected his faith. Thom replies that it is still strong – and I believe him. But there’s a deliberate, carefully phrased quality to his comments from which I infer that he has been forced to rethink a lot. Above all, his relationship to other people. “I have had to come to live with radical trust” in other human beings, he says. Now he is working on a new online app called uCampaign that will help to increase participation in electoral politics – a sign that he has found new ways to direct his talents. And I hope he appreciates that the radical trust of which he speaks goes both ways. He has had to rely on his friends, but his friends have also had to rely on his remarkable determination to survive and continue. As the glasses emptied and the interview ended, I, for one, trusted that some day I would be calling him Senator Peters.

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