Relief, gratitude as Christian pastor freed from Iranian prison

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2016 / 11:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious freedom advocates voiced gratitude and joy at the release of Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who had been held in an Iranian prison since 2012. Abedini was among the three American citizens freed as part of the U.S.-Iran prisoner exchange over the weekend.  “This is a major victory. We are incredibly grateful to the more than 1.1 million people who have joined us in fighting across the globe for Pastor Saeed’s freedom,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), in a Jan. 16 statement. The ACLJ had for years been advocating for Pastor Abedini’s freedom from Iran by organizing prayer vigils, collecting signatures for petitions, and sending letters to the United Nations and Congress.  Born and raised as a Muslim in Iran, Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000, becoming an American citizen in 2010 following his marriage to his wife Naghmeh, who is also an American citizen. After his conversion to Christianity, Abedini began working with house churches in Iran which, though technically legal, drew complaints from the government. He then agreed to shift his work towards non-religious humanitarian efforts. While visiting non-religious orphanages in September 2012, Pastor Abedini was arrested on charges of threatening national security. He was sentenced to eight years in prison; he served over three. Religious freedom advocates had argued that the arrest was actually due to his Christian faith. During the time that he served in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, the pastor was beaten and denied proper medical treatment, according to reports.  “This has been an answer to prayer,” Naghmeh Abedini said of her husband’s release. “This is a critical time for me and my family. We look forward to Saeed’s return and want to thank the millions of people who have stood with us in prayer during this most difficult time.”  Naghmeh had spoken numerous times about the toll that her husband’s imprisonment had been taking on their family. She lives in Idaho with the couple’s two young children. In November 2015, Naghmeh ended her public advocacy for her husband’s freedom, citing marital problems and abuse, which she said got even worse during his imprisonment as they were able to communicate via Skype.  In two emails to her supporters she said she had suffered “physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse (through Saeed’s addiction to pornography)” at the hands of her husband, Christianity Today reported. However, when she learned that her husband would be one of the men freed in the prisoner exchange, she took to Twitter to thank President Obama “for all the hard work and support in bringing Saeed home” after a phone call with the White House. In addition to Abedini, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who was arrested a year and a half ago, and U.S. Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, who was arrested in 2011 while visiting his grandmother, were also released, along with Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, who chose to remain in Iran. A student named Matthew Trevithick, was also released and had already left the country, but not as a part of the exchange deal.  In return for their freedom, the U.S. pardoned or commuted the sentences of seven men – six dual citizens and one Iranian citizen.  Former FBI agent and CIA contractor, Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran in 2007 was also brought up during negotiations, though Iran has denied detaining him. According to Secretary of State John Kerry on Twitter, “Iran has agreed to deepen our coordination as we work to locate Robert Levinson.” These releases were the result of more than a year of secret talks between the U.S. and Iran in the midst of the nuclear deal struck between the two countries. Kerry said that the exchange was “accelerated” by the deal, CNN reported.  Read more

How can pro-lifers reach more Americans? Share God’s mercy, Cardinal Dolan says

New York City, N.Y., Jan 18, 2016 / 10:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has marked the upcoming anniversary of Roe v. Wade with a reflection encouraging the pro-life movement to remember the importance of mercy and to see the opportunity to reach those who do not identify as pro-life. The Archbishop of New York said the pro-life cause backs “an essential moral vision that lifts up every human person.” “Genuine progress must be progress for all, beginning with those most vulnerable who cannot speak for themselves,” he said in a Jan. 14 message. “May God bless our efforts to uphold human life!” The cardinal cited Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium. There, the Pope said the defense of the unborn is “closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right … It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.” Cardinal Dolan heads the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities. His statement comes ahead of the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that mandated permissive abortion laws nationwide. “Abortion itself, despite the endorsement of our highest legal tribunal and many political and cultural elites, is as controversial as ever,” the cardinal said. “Most Americans oppose a policy allowing legal abortion for virtually any reason – though many still do not realize that this is what the Supreme Court gave us.” Most Americans want to protect unborn children later in pregnancy, most want limits and regulations on abortion, and most want to bar taxpayer funding for abortion. The cardinal noted that despite this, some are reluctant to adopt the pro-life mantle. “Yet many who support important goals of the pro-life movement do not identify as ‘pro-life,’ a fact which should lead us to examine how we present our pro-life vision to others.” Cardinal Dolan said most Americans are “open to hearing a message of reverence for life,” and so pro-life advocates “must always strive to be better messengers.” “A cause that teaches the inexpressibly great value of each and every human being cannot show disdain or disrespect for any fellow human being,” he explained. “We should celebrate human freedom, always reminding others that this freedom is ours so we can freely choose the good – and that to enjoy this freedom, each of us must first of all be allowed to live.” The cardinal said it is “wrenching” to mark the anniversary of legalized abortion so soon after Christmas. Citing the Church’s Year of Mercy, Cardinal Dolan said that God’s love is infinite. He added: “this same love is a source of unbounded mercy and forgiveness for all who have fallen short of God’s plans for us.” Cardinal Dolan also criticized the “powerful and well-financed lobby” that backs abortion and tries to depict it as basic health care. He charged that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers hold that “abortion must be celebrated as a positive good for women and society, and those who cannot in conscience provide it are to be condemned for practicing substandard medicine and waging a ‘war on women’.” He objected to the lack of conscience protections for those opposed to abortion, including the failure of President Obama and other national Democratic leaders who were unwilling to support the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act. In the cardinal’s view, there is an opportunity for pro-life advocates to reach most Americans. “They do not see the unborn child as an illness or a tumor. They are repelled when they see the callousness of the abortion industry, as in the recent undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials calmly discussing the harvesting of body parts,” he said. “They do not want to be pushed into actively promoting and paying for abortion. They do not want doctors and nurses who are sensitive to the value of life at its most vulnerable to be driven from the healing professions” The Cardinal invited Catholics in particular to take part in the 9 Days for Life campaign of prayer and action Jan. 16-24. He also noted the Church’s ministry Project Rachel, which offers mercy and reconciliation for people who have been involved in an abortion. “I invite all who are concerned about the tragedy of abortion to recommit themselves to this vision of life and love, a vision that excludes no one,” he said. Read more

France might not have any Jews in the future – and here’s why

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2016 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An increasingly violent wave of anti-Semitic words and acts in France threatens the very existence of Jewish communities there, one human rights advocacy group warned in a new report. The attacks are “a harbinger of societal breakdown,” said Susan Corke of Human Rights First. “Left unchecked, antisemitism leads to the persecution of other minorities, and to an overall increase in repression and intolerance.” Reported anti-Semitic hate crimes in France have more than doubled from 423 in 2014 to 851 in 2015, according to numbers cited in the report “Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France” released Jan. 7 by the group Human Rights First and authored by Corke. “These incidents are increasingly violent,” the report stated. Jews only comprise one percent of France’s population, but over half of the reported hate crimes in France were anti-Semitic in 2014. And anti-Semitism was almost exclusively responsible for the 30 percent increase in “racist acts” between 2013 and 2014, according to numbers cited in the report from the French Ministry of the Interior. And over 80 percent of incidents are not reported, according to one European Union survey. Most incidents are verbal threats and insults made against Jews, but they also include physical assaults as well as graffiti and vandalism against Jewish stores and synagogues. The most notable acts of violence in recent years were a 2012 shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse that killed four and was linked to Islamic extremism and anti-Semitism, and the shooting of four hostages at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January of 2015. Jews have a long history in France having settled there since the 6th century and enjoying citizenship since the time of Napoleon. Yet today’s hate crimes seem to have a chilling effect. The number of French Jews emigrating to Israel spiked to 3,295 in 2013 and more than doubled to 7,230 in 2014, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel which monitors the numbers of Jewish immigrants from France. Previously the annual figure was around one to two thousand. Jews who stay in France are more afraid to wear public symbols and identifications of their faith. Parents are transferring their children from public schools to private schools to escape discrimination and harassment, and many teachers have reported critical or outright anti-Semitic responses from students when they teach about the Holocaust or Jewish history. The commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, told CNA/EWTN News last March of the fear in the Jewish communities that she witnessed during a visit to France. Many Jewish parents “don’t see a Jewish future” for their children there, she said. The government has stationed security outside of Jewish buildings and synagogues to protect them from vandalism and violence. The decline of the situation is largely due to two major factors: the rise of the far-right National Front political party, and the resentment of disenfranchised immigrant and minority groups, the report said. The National Front has soared into the mainstream of French politics recently, winning first place in the 2014 elections and the first round of the 2015 regional elections in November. The party “rallies its supporters around animosity towards Muslims, Roma, foreigners, and migrants,” the report stated, and although leaders have tried to cleanse it of anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying rhetoric, its platform “still contains positions on ritual animal slaughter and public subsidies that are discriminatory against Jews as well as Muslims.” Many members of its base still hold anti-Semitic views. In two French surveys – a 2014 report on tolerance submitted to the French government, and a report by a French think tank – over half of the respondents who supported the National Front espoused anti-Semitism. Outside of the party, many immigrants and descendants of immigrants have been unable to assimilate into the societal mainstream and may harbor resentment toward Jews who they mistakenly see as controlling wealth and power. “French Muslims, immigrants, and French citizens of Middle Eastern, North African, or Sub-Saharan African heritage, especially those living and attending school in marginalized areas, experience prejudice and suffer from hate crimes as well as official and private discrimination,” the report noted. Many young people in these communities suffer a lack of education and social mobility and are exposed to extremist views on the internet that “bombard” them with anti-Semitism. Some of the most common anti-Semitic beliefs are that the Jews control too much power or too much wealth, the report noted, and some of the other less common attitudes are that the Jews “use the Holocaust to their advantage,” and are more loyal to the state of Israel than France. The discrimination is concentrated more among the elderly, poor, less educated, and more religious, the report added, and is more likely to occur during heightened Israeli-Palestinian conflict and right after terror attacks or well-publicized anti-Semitic hate crimes. However, even some French “observant Catholics” have shown anti-Semitic attitudes, according to a 2014 survey by a French think tank FONDAPOL cited in the report. Twenty-two percent of practicing Catholics surveyed said there too many Jews in France, while 16 percent of all those surveyed answered that way. According to the report, the U.S. must speak out against the rise of anti-Semitism but should also refrain from aggravating the marginalization that many groups currently experience in France. In part, “official statements should avoid fueling a ‘clash of civilizations’ narrative between Jewish and Muslim communities and instead urge tolerance and inclusion,” the report recommended. Read more

Let’s unite against war and violence, Pope Francis urges at Roman synagogue

Rome, Italy, Jan 17, 2016 / 10:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking Sunday at the major synagogue of Rome, Pope Francis called on Jews and Christians to counter the conflict, war, violence and injustice that open deep wounds in humanity. These call us “to strengthen our commitment for peace and justice,” he said Jan. 17. “The violence of man toward man is in contradiction with every religion worthy of this name, and in particular with the great monotheistic religions.” “The past must serve as a lesson for us in the present and into the future,” he said, recalling the tragedy of the Shoah, or Holocaust. Pope Francis began his speech thanking those who had greeted him, and stating: “During my first visit to this synagogue as Bishop of Rome, I wish to express to you, and to the whole Jewish community, the fraternal greetings of peace of this Church and of the entire Catholic Church.” He noted his personal connection with the Jewish community in Buenos Aires, which he visited frequently. This created “a spiritual bond, which has favored the birth of an authentic rapport of friendship and has inspired a common commitment.” “In interreligious dialogue it is fundamental that we encounter each other as brothers and sisters before our Creator and that we praise him; and that we respect and appreciate each other, and try to collaborate.” He remarked that in Jewish-Christian dialogue there is “a unique and particular bond, in virtue of the Jewish roots of Christianity: Jews and Christians must therefore considers themselves brothers, united in their God and a rich common spiritual patrimony, on which to build on and to continue building the future.” Pope Francis recalled that his visit to Rome’s great synagogue follows those of his immediate predecessors: St. John Paul II in 1986, and Benedict XVI in 2010. He referred to St. John Paul II’s reference to the Jewish people as the “elder brothers” of Christians, and said that “we all belong to one family, the family of God, who accompanies and protects us as his people. Together, as Jews and as Catholics, we are called to assume our responsibility for this city, making our contribution, first of all spiritual, and favoring the resolution of our diverse problems. I hope that the closeness, mutual understanding, and respect between our two communities of faith always continue to increase.” The Pope then noted that the Church has just observed the 50th anniversary of Nostra aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions. That document, he said, “made possible systematic dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism” and “defined theologically for the first time, in an explicit manner, the relation of the Catholic Church to Judaism.”Nostra aetate provided an important stimulus for further necessary reflection, he noted. He added that “the theological dimension of Jewish-Catholic dialogue merits a greater profundity, and I wish to encourage all those involved in this dialogue to continue in this direction.” The “inseparable bond which unites Christians and Jews” is theologically clear, he added. “Christians, to understand themselves, cannot fail to refer to their Jewish roots, and the Church, while professing salvation through faith in Christ, recognizes the irrevocability of the Old Covenant and the constant and faithful love of God for Israel.” Turning from questions of theology to the challenges facing the world today, Pope Francis spoke first of the importance of integral ecology and the importance of both religions sharing the Bible’s vision for stewardship of creation. The Pope then discussed war, which “calls us to strengthen our commitment for peace and justice.” “The violence of man toward man is in contradiction with every religion worthy of this name, and in particular with the great monotheistic religions.” Pope Francis said that “life is sacred, a gift from God. The fifth commandment of the Decalogue says ‘Do not kill’. God is the God of life, and always seeks to promote and defend it; and we, created in his image and likeness, are required to do the same.” “Every human being, as a creature of God, is our brother, independent of his origin or religious practice,” he said, recalling that God “extends his merciful hand to all, independent of their faith and their origin,” and “cares for those who need him the most: the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the defenseless.” “We must pray to him insistently so that he helps us to practice in Europe, in the Holy Land, in the Middle East, in Africa, and in every other part of the world the logic of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, and life.” He recalled with sorrow the Jewish experience of the Shoah, in which 6 million persons “were victims if the most inhuman barbarities, perpetuated in the name of an ideology that wanted to substitute God with man.” Pope Francis remembered in a particular way the thousands of Roman Jews who were deported to Auschwitz in October, 1943, saying, “their sufferings, their anguish, their tears, must never be forgotten.” “And the past must serve as a lesson for us in the present and into the future. The Shoah teaches us to always have the highest vigilance, in order to be able to intervene forcefully in defense of human dignity and peace.” He concluded, addressing the assembly as elder brothers, in thanksgiving for the advances in Jewish-Catholic relations in the past 50 years: “We pray together to the Lord, so that he directs our path toward a good, better future.” “God has a project of salvation for us, as he tells the prophet Jeremiah: ‘I know the plans I have for you; plans of peace and not destruction, so that you enjoy a future full of hope’. May the Lord bless us and protect us. May he make his shine on us and may he give us his grace. Shalom alechem!” Read more

Vocations bloom in the desert: two priests are ordained in United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Jan 17, 2016 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Last week Catholics in Southern Arabia gathered in Abu Dhabi to celebrate the ordination of two Capuchin Franciscan priests by Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia. Fr. Darick Paul D’Souza and Fr. Arun Raj Manuel were ordained at a Mass in St. Joseph’s Cathedral in the capital of the United Arab Emirates Jan. 8, for the Holy Trinity (Karnataka) and St. Francis (Kerala) provinces of the Capuchins, respectively. The Vicariate Apostolic of Southern Arabia serves the more than 2 million Catholics who live in the UAE, Oman, and Yemen. Around 76 percent of the population of the UAE is Muslim, while Christians constitute around nine percent. Many of the Catholics there are guest workers from India, Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Philippines, though some are local Arabs. Both the new priests are examples of this trend. Fr. D’Souza was born in Shirva, a village 12 miles southeast of Udupi in India’s Karnataka state, and Fr. Manuel was born in Kerala state. But both grew up in the UAE after their parents migrated: Fr. D’Souza in Dubai, and Fr. Manuel (who was studying medicine when he entered seminary) in Abu Dhabi. Bishop Hinder was instrumental in helping the two discern their priestly vocations. During his homily, the bishop noted the fittingness of the coincidence of the ordination with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. “Today again the heavens will open and the Spirit of God will descend and confirm your mission as priests,” he said. He urged the new priests to “exercise the Word (of God) worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and Catholic faith … when you proclaim the Word of God, you do not present yourself but you give way to the Lord who is the true actor in proclaiming the Gospel.” Bishop Hinder added that priests are not mere “functionaries of an ecclesiastical institutions, but witnesses and servants sent to administer the mysteries of Christ to our brothers and sisters.” “Avoid falling into a mechanical routine; always keep fresh the preferential love that Jesus shows you,” he urged the new priests. “For this purpose you have to unite more closely everyday to Christ … take daily your time for personal prayer and never think that time spent in prayer is lost time, or useless.” He also cautioned them to remember to, “especially as Capuchin priests, never be after money. Beware of the generosity of the people, which always can be a temptation; but rather be on the side of the poor and the needy, and show them solidarity whenever you can.” “Keep Jesus in mind, who was not ashamed to stay with the sinners, to heal the sick, and to give relief to the downtrodden.” Bishop Hinder reminded the candidates of the rule of St. Francis of Assisi, who said that the brothers must rejoice when they live among the people considered of little value and looked down upon, among the poor and powerless, the sick and the lepers, and the beggars by the wayside. The Mass was concelebrated by Fr. Joseph Pais, provincial of the Holy Trinity Capuchin Province; Fr. John Baptist, vicar provincial of the St. Francis of Assisi Capuchin Province; Fr. Troy della Santos, vicar general of the Southern Arabian vicariate apostolic; and several priests of the vicariate. More than 4,000 laity attended the Mass, which was followed by a social which included a video presentation on the new priests’ journey to the priesthood, and a short play.   Read more

Every migrant has a story and culture of value, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2016 / 05:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis offered special greetings to 6,000 migrants and refugees who were gathered in S. Peter’s Square, telling them not to be discouraged by negative experiences, but rather… Read more

Indiana bill seeks to clarify religious freedom protection

Indianapolis, Ind., Jan 16, 2016 / 04:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A proposed law in Indiana would replace the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act with language that its advocates say is clearer in protecting religious liberty and certain other … Read more

Nebraska’s bishops call for reversal of transgender policy for schools sports

Omaha, Neb., Jan 16, 2016 / 12:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nebraska’s Catholic bishops have called for the reversal of a new school athletics participation policy that would recognize gender identity, not biological sex, as a standard for student athletes. The Catholic schools in the Nebraska School Activities Association are dismayed by the association board’s “arbitrary, non-collaborative decision” on the policy vote, the Nebraska Catholic Conference said Jan. 14. “Member-schools and parents must make every effort to reverse an NSAA board action that compromises fairness, equality, privacy, safety, and respect for Nebraska’s high school students,” said the conference in a statement signed by the state’s three bishops. The conference said student athletes, parents and member schools of the association are discouraged that the association “ignored their concerns.” “The board’s decision circumvents the will of the voting members expressed in the democratic process that was recently completed,” the conference added. The activities association’s membership had voted in district meetings Jan. 6 and 13 to continue to require athlete participation in sports to be based on the sex of a student’s birth certificate. Four of the six districts voted in favor of the ‘sex at birth’ policy. However, on Jan. 14 the association’s board voted 6-2 to create a process for students who identify as transgender to take part in sports based on their chosen gender. The process would allow individual school districts to decide on participation, the Lincoln Journal-Star reports. The board rejected a proposal to table the policy vote until the association’s legislative assembly meets in April. Now only a super-majority vote at the legislative assembly could change the policy. The activities association’s interim director, Jim Tenopir, said that the new policy allows religious schools to follow their beliefs. The policy also puts the burden of legal defense on the schools, not the association. If a school decides a transgender student is eligible to play, the association’s gender-eligibility committee would rule on the case based on documentation about the student’s gender expression from a health care professional and from friends, teachers, or family. Male students who say they are female must document a year of hormone therapy, a requirement intended to address concerns that men are physically larger than women. Self-identified transgender students must use private bathrooms and locker rooms, or those that match their biological sex. The Nebraska Catholic Conference backed the birth certificate policy favored by the activities association districts. The state’s bishops stressed the need to show respect and support for those who experience gender dysphoria. However, they said this respect “must be provided with due consideration to the fairness and the safety, privacy, and rights of all students.” The bishops said it would be unjust “to allow a harmful and deceptive gender ideology to shape either what is taught or how activities are conducted in our schools.” They said the policy choices would have religious liberty implications. Backers of the policy change said it would provide opportunities for more students, while some transgender activists said the change did not go far enough and was excessively intrusive and exclusionary. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska said the new policy exposes the activities association and schools to litigation. It cited the Title IX protections under federal law, which are increasingly being broadly interpreted. Existing association policy allows girls to wrestle or play football because there is no comparable girls’ sports. Read more

Religious differences are a ‘seed of peace’, Rome’s chief rabbi says

Rome, Italy, Jan 16, 2016 / 10:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, said Pope Francis’ visit to Rome’s major synagogue this weekend is a sign of strengthened Jewish-Catholic relations, and shows that differences in belief should be a source of peace rather than violence. The rabbi told CNA Jan. 14 that for the Jewish community in Rome “there are two main points” to the Pope’s visit to the synagogue, which is scheduled to take place Sunday, Jan. 17. “The first one is that it is a sign of continuity. This Pope wants to confirm the way of his two predecessors and not to put a stop in the way of good relations.” “And the second point is related to the urgency of our time, which is marked by intolerance and violence inspired by religion, or bad teachers of religion.” Pope Francis’ encounter with Rome’s Jewish community, then,  is aimed at communicating the opposite: “we want to show that differences of religion is a seed of tolerance, coexistence, and building peace,” Di Segni added. Known for the great emphasis he places on interreligious dialogue, Francis will follow in the footsteps of two of his predecessors. In 1986 St. John Paul II became the first Pope to visit the synagogue. Benedict XVI imitated the gesture, making a visit of his own in 2010. According to a Nov.  17, 2015,  Vatican communique announcing the Pope’s visit, the encounter will consist of a personal meeting between Pope Francis and representatives of Judaism and the members of the Jewish Community in Rome. No other details have yet been published. In his comments to CNA, Di Segni said that as far as Jewish-Catholic relations go, “we are in an interesting point of development.” He noted that 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of Nostra aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions. When Nostra aetate was promulgated by Bl. Paul VI in 1965, it marked the first time bishops had explicitly said that the Church “rejects nothing that is true and holy” in other religious traditions, urging Catholics to pursue dialogue and collaboration with people of all religions. In particular, the document radically reshaped Catholic relations with the Jewish world, decrying “hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone” and stating that “what happened in [Christ’s] passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.” Fifty years after the document’s publication, which marked “a fundamental point, a turning point, of history,” the two religions still enjoy “a good experience” in terms of their relationship, Di Segni said. “Many problems were solved, others were discussed. The important point is that there are ways of communication and good will to discuss together.” One example of a recent landmark in Jewish-Catholic relations is the Dec. 10, 2015, publication of a Vatican document that discusses the means of salvation for the Jewish people. Another move reflecting Pope Francis’ desire to strengthen interreligious dialogue was an Oct. 26-28, 2015, conference hosted by the Vatican in honor of Nostra aetate’s anniversary. Representatives of religions from around the world were invited to participate. Among the traditions represented were Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Jainism, and Sikhism. In continuity with what has proved to be his great desire to strengthen interreligious relations, the Pope also released a new video message on his monthly prayer intentions dedicated to the topic. The Pope’s intention for this month is dedicated to interreligious dialogue, that “sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice.” However, when it comes to the Church’s dialogue with the Jewish people, Di Segni said that “we think that our dialogue is not theological dialogue.” Rather, it’s “a  dialogue between people of different faiths who gain reciprocal respect and understand that differences are a powerful tool in the hands of the people who manage them well.” Read more

US bishops: Deporting children and families won’t solve migration crisis

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2016 / 06:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The recent deportation raids targeting Central American immigrants will not discourage immigrants who are fleeing their countries as a last resort, the U.S. bishops said. From Jan. 2 to Jan. 4… Read more