There is no confirmation that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil was crucified on Good Friday

Aden, Yemen, Mar 28, 2016 / 10:24 am (CNA).- Reports claiming that a kidnapped priest in Yemen was crucified over the weekend are likely false and irresponsible, the local bishop told CNA Monday. Several blogs and media outlets are reporting that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil was crucified by ISIS on Good Friday. However, there has been no confirmation of the event by friends, family or Fr. Uzhunnalil’s community. The original reports were based on a statement Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna allegedly made during Easter vigil services. On March 4, four gunmen attacked a Missionaries of Charity-run retirement home in Aden, Yemen, killing 16 people including four Missionary of Charity sisters. Fr. Uzhunnalil was kidnapped by the gunman during the attacks, which are thought to have been perpetrated by Islamic terrorists, though no specific group has claimed responsibility for the incident. Bishop Paul Hinder of Southern Arabia (a region in Saudi Arabia, the country just north of Yemen where Fr. Uzhunnalil was kidnapped), told CNA on Monday that he has “strong indications that Fr. Tom is still alive in the hands of the kidnappers,” but could not give further information in order to protect the life of the priest.  Bishop Hinder added that Cardinal Schönborn has since corrected his alleged statement, which was made on the basis of an incorrect statement from Archbishop Moras in Bangalore. “Cardinal Schönborn has already corrected his statement which he had made on the basis of the wrong statement of Archbishop Moras in Bangalore. Certain media in India are too nervous and curious and not aware that they are playing with the life of Fr. Tom. I cannot say more for the reason I gave in my first sentence (to protect the life of Fr. Tom),” Bishop Hinder told CNA. Rumors of a possible impending crucifixion spread last week on the basis of an unconfirmed e-mail and were dismissed by Fr. Uzhunnalil’s Salesian community as hearsay. “We have absolutely no information” on Fr. Uzhunnalil, said Father Mathew Valarkot, spokesman for the Salesians’ Bangalore province to which the kidnapped priest belongs. His comments were reported last week by both by ANS news, a Salesian news agency, and UCA News, an independent Catholic news source in Asia.Correction (3/28 11:02 a.m.): A previous version of this story said Bishop Hinder was from Southern Arabia, the country just north of Yemen where Fr. Tom was kidnapped. Southern Arabia is a region in Saudi Arabia, the country just north of Yemen. The story has been changed to reflect this correction. Read more

There is no confirmation that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil was crucified on Good Friday

Aden, Yemen, Mar 28, 2016 / 10:24 am (CNA).- Reports claiming that a kidnapped priest in Yemen was crucified over the weekend are likely false and irresponsible, the local bishop told CNA Monday. Several blogs and media outlets are reporting that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil was crucified by ISIS on Good Friday. However, there has been no confirmation of the event by friends, family or Fr. Uzhunnalil’s community. The original reports were based on a statement Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna allegedly made during Easter vigil services. On March 4, four gunmen attacked a Missionaries of Charity-run retirement home in Aden, Yemen, killing 16 people including four Missionary of Charity sisters. Fr. Uzhunnalil was kidnapped by the gunman during the attacks, which are thought to have been perpetrated by Islamic terrorists, though no specific group has claimed responsibility for the incident. Bishop Paul Hinder of Southern Arabia (a region in Saudi Arabia, the country just north of Yemen where Fr. Uzhunnalil was kidnapped), told CNA on Monday that he has “strong indications that Fr. Tom is still alive in the hands of the kidnappers,” but could not give further information in order to protect the life of the priest.  Bishop Hinder added that Cardinal Schönborn has since corrected his alleged statement, which was made on the basis of an incorrect statement from Archbishop Moras in Bangalore. “Cardinal Schönborn has already corrected his statement which he had made on the basis of the wrong statement of Archbishop Moras in Bangalore. Certain media in India are too nervous and curious and not aware that they are playing with the life of Fr. Tom. I cannot say more for the reason I gave in my first sentence (to protect the life of Fr. Tom),” Bishop Hinder told CNA. Rumors of a possible impending crucifixion spread last week on the basis of an unconfirmed e-mail and were dismissed by Fr. Uzhunnalil’s Salesian community as hearsay. “We have absolutely no information” on Fr. Uzhunnalil, said Father Mathew Valarkot, spokesman for the Salesians’ Bangalore province to which the kidnapped priest belongs. His comments were reported last week by both by ANS news, a Salesian news agency, and UCA News, an independent Catholic news source in Asia.Correction (3/28 11:02 a.m.): A previous version of this story said Bishop Hinder was from Southern Arabia, the country just north of Yemen where Fr. Tom was kidnapped. Southern Arabia is a region in Saudi Arabia, the country just north of Yemen. The story has been changed to reflect this correction. Read more

Pope condemns ‘cowardly’ attack on Pakistani Christians

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2016 / 04:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Monday mourned the loss of life in Pakistan, where more than 70 people – mostly women and children — were killed Sunday after a suicide attack on Christians who were celebrating Easter at a public park. Speaking during his Regina Caeli address for Easter Monday, the Pope expressed his “closeness to those affected by this cowardly and senseless crime,” and called those present to to pray for the victims and their loved ones. “Easter was bloodied by an execrable attack which massacred many innocent people, mostly families of the Christian minority – particularly women and children – who had gathered in a public park to spend the Easter holiday in joy,” he said. The attack took place in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. At least 29 of the dozens of people killed were children, Reuters reports. The BBC reports that at least 300 people were injured, and officials expect the death toll to rise. The explosion struck the main gate to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal amusement park in the early evening, a short distance the children’s playground and a section designated for women. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Taliban splinter group in Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for the attack, the BBC reports. The attack is believed to have been carried out by a single suicide bomber. Pope Francis went on to appeal to civil authorities and “all social components of the Nation” in order to restore “security and serenity to the population,” especially for religious minorities. “I repeat once again that violence and murderous hatred only lead to pain and destruction; respect and fraternity are the only path to achieving peace,” he said. “The Passover of the Lord arouses in us, in an ever stronger way, the prayer to God so that the hands of the violent, which sow terror and death, are stopped, and that love, justice and reconciliation may reign in the world.” The March 27 bombing is the bloodiest attack on Christians in Pakistan since the 2013 church bombing in Peshawar where over 80 people were killed. Earlier in his Regina Caeli address, Pope Francis reflected how the Jubilee Year of Mercy is an opportunity to rediscover the comfort and hope which comes from the announcement of Christ’s resurrection. “If Christ is risen, we can look with new eyes and hearts at every event of our lives, even to the most negative,” he said. “The moments of darkness, of failure and sin can be transformed and announce a new journey. When we have reached the bottom of our misery and our weakness, Risen Christ gives us the strength to get up.” Read more

‘The shenanigans’ at Mother Angelica’s first vows

Irondale, Ala., Nov 20, 2016 / 04:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- If you picture a nun’s first profession of vows, you probably picture a serene, peaceful affair with the sisters singing harmoniously and everything running joyfully and smoothly. But the day of Mother Angelica’s first vows was anything but. Outside, a blizzard spit snow and ice, snarling roads and delaying the guests and the presiding Bishop James McFadden. Inside, different storms were brewing. As then-Sister Angelica knelt behind the grille, trying to pray before taking her vows, the organist sister and the choir director, Sr. Mary of the Cross (with whom Sr. Angelica had sparred in the past), began arguing about musical technique, within earshot of the already-arrived guests. As the incident is recalled in her biography: Voices slowly escalated. Suddenly the two nuns were at each other: the organist refusing to play, Mary of the Cross threatening to throw her into the snow if she didn’t. “And I’m sitting there trying to re-collect myself for my vows,” Mother Angelica recalled. “The people must have thought we were nuts.” Then came the bug, scampering across the wooden floor in front of the sisters. Mary of the Cross rose up, lifted the kneeler with both hands, and pounded it on the ground, attempting to annihilate the insect. Like a madwoman with a jackhammer, she repeatedly wielded the priedieu (kneeler), hurling it and herself at the crawler. The organist, thinking the display an underhanded critique of her playing, pounded the keys all the harder. Sister Angelica could not believe what she termed “the shenanigans.” Then the bishop walked in. Wet and cold from walking several blocks where he had to leave his stalled car, Bishop McFadden requested a fresh pair of socks, which Sr. Mary of the Cross sent Sister Angelica to get. When it came time to place the profession ring on Sr. Angelica’s fingers, the bishop couldn’t fit it past her knuckle – her hand was swollen from a shower handle in the convent that had crumbled and cut her hand several days prior. “With everything going on there, I’m thinking, Oh Jesus doesn’t love me. You know?…I mean, it was a real spiritual experience!” Mother Angelica said. “But that’s the way God works with me. As I look back, before anything big that was coming, something happened to me.” Despite “the shenanigans” of the day, Sr. Angelica took her vows seriously, writing in a letter to her mother that “the espoused” and “royal couple” (herself and Jesus) “wished to express their gratitude to their friend and member of their personal court…The spouse has asked the Bridegroom to fill you with his peace and consolation.” She signed the letter: “Jesus and Angelica.” Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), passed away on March 27 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old.This article originally ran on March 28, 2016. Read more

Schedule of events: Mother Angelica’s funeral

Irondale, Ala., Mar 27, 2016 / 09:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), passed away on March 27 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 … Read more

Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN, dies on Easter

Irondale, Ala., Mar 27, 2016 / 06:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church in the United States has lost the Poor Clare nun who changed the face of Catholicism in the United States and around the world. Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foun… Read more

Christian Easter celebrations targeted in Pakistan suicide bombing

Lahore, Pakistan, Mar 27, 2016 / 02:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A crowded park in Lahore, Pakistan where Christian families were celebrating Easter Sunday was the site of an apparent suicide bombing that left at least 65 dead and 300 wounded.  Many women and children were among those killed and injured, reports said. A local branch of the Taliban claimed responsibility for the March 27 attack at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park. Lahore’s top administration official, Muhammad Usman, told AFP that the death toll had reached 65, with the army’s rescue operation continuing.  In addition, more than 300 people were wounded, according to the Associated Press.  Local officials said the attack appeared to be a suicide bombing, which took place near children’s rides at the park. Several Catholic leaders responded to news of the attack with calls for prayer. As we celebrate Christ’s victory over death, pray for those killed and wounded in #Pakistan today. Have mercy, O God. — James D Conley (@bishop_conley) March 27, 2016 Our prayers are with the people of #Pakistan today. On this Easter, we pray fervently for the Lord’s peace throughout our world. — Bridgeport Diocese (@Diobpt) March 27, 2016 Read more

Pope prays for victims of terror strike at Iraq football stadium

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2016 / 06:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has sent a his condolences following the suicide attack against a football stadium in Iskanderiyah, Iraq which killed more than 30 people last week, many of them young boys. The Pope was “saddened by the news of the great loss of life” caused by the attack, said the message which was addressed to Archbishop, Alberto Ortega Martín Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq, and signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. “Pope Francis offers fervent prayers for the victims and their families, invoking God’s mercy upon the dead and divine consolation upon those who suffer.” The attack occurred at the football pitch where trophy ceremony being held and which was attended by many young boys. The AFP reports that 17 of those killed were boys between the ages of 10 and 16, according to a medical official. The suicide bomber himself is said to have been a teenager, the BBC reports. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. Pope Francis “prays that in response to this act of senseless violence the Iraqi people will be strengthened in their resolve to reject the ways of hatred and conflict and to work together fearlessly for a future of mutual respect, solidarity and freedom.” Read more

Pope: Easter message brings hope to victims of terrorism, persecution

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2016 / 05:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his Urbi et Orbi message for Easter, Pope Francis encouraged victims of terrorism and Christian persecution to find hope in the Lord’s resurrection. By rising from the dead, Jesus has &l… Read more

Let yourselves be moved by hope, Pope says at Easter Vigil

Vatican City, Mar 26, 2016 / 03:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During the Easter Vigil, Pope Francis told attendees not to be overcome by sadness in the face of life’s difficulties, but to be open to hope, which is not the absence of problems, but is a gift from God when we allow him to enter our lives. “We, like Peter and the women, cannot discover life by being sad, bereft of hope,” the Pope said March 26. He urged the faithful not to “stay imprisoned within ourselves, but let us break open our sealed tombs to the Lord so that he may enter and grant us life. Let us give him the stones of our rancor and the boulders of our past, those heavy burdens of our weaknesses and falls.” As we anticipate Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, the first stone which must be moved aside is “the lack of hope which imprisons us within ourselves,” he said. The Pope then prayed that the Lord would free us from the trap of being “Christians without hope, who live as if the Lord were not risen, as if our problems were the center of our lives.” Pope Francis spoke to the thousands present inside St. Peter’s Basilica for the Easter Vigil, which is celebrated the night before Easter in anticipation of Jesus’ rising from the dead. The vigil began in the atrium of the basilica with the traditional blessing of the fire and the preparation of the Easter candle. The Pope then led a procession with the lit candle to the main altar, where he continued with the rest of the Mass. In the course of the celebration, Francis administered the Sacraments of Christian Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist – to 12 newcomers in the Catholic Church, hailing from Italy, Albania, Cameroon, Korea, India and China. Those being baptized included Yong Joon Lee, the Korean ambassador to Italy, and his wife Hee Kim. In his homily, the Pope noted how the women in the Gospel, after going to anoint Jesus’ body, had run to the disciples and told them about how they had found the tomb empty.  Peter and the others did not initially believe the women, yet Peter ran to the tomb anyway, he said. “There was doubt in Peter’s heart, together with many other worries: sadness at the death of the beloved Master and disillusionment for having denied him three times during his Passion,” he said. But still, something in Peter’s behavior had changed. Instead of staying sedentary and remaining at home with the others, Peter rose, refusing to succumb to the somber atmosphere in the days following Jesus’ death or to be overcome by his doubts. Peter, the Pope said, “was not consumed by remorse, fear or the continuous gossip that leads nowhere.” “He was looking for Jesus, not himself. He preferred the path of encounter and trust. And so, he got up, just as he was, and ran towards the tomb from where he would return amazed.”  This, Francis observed, “marked the beginning of Peter’s resurrection, the resurrection of his heart.” Without giving in to sadness or darkness, Peter “made room for hope: he allowed the light of God to enter into his heart, without smothering it.” Like Peter, the women also had the same experience of awe when they went to Jesus’ tomb with oil and met the angel, who told them that the Lord had risen, Francis said, adding that like them, we can’t allow ourselves to be overcome by a lack of hope. Pope Francis stressed that there will always be problems “both within and without,” which won’t go away. What’s important, he said, is to place them in the light of the Risen Lord, “and in a certain sense, to evangelize them.” The resurrection of the Lord is “the foundation of our hope,” he said, clarifying that this hope is neither “mere optimism, nor a psychological attitude or desire to be courageous.”  Rather, he said, Christian hope “is a gift that God gives us if we come out of ourselves and open our hearts to him.” Hope will never disappoint us because we have been given the Holy Spirit, the Pope said, noting that the Spirit doesn’t seek to make things look appealing or “remove evil with a magic wand.” The Holy Spirit, he said, “pours into us the vitality of life, which is not the absence of problems, but the certainty of being loved and always forgiven by Christ, who for us has conquered sin, death and fear.” Pope Francis emphasized that each person, after having met Jesus, is then sent out by him to proclaim the Easter message, and “to awaken and resurrect hope in hearts burdened by sadness, in those who struggle to find meaning in life.” However, he cautioned that we shouldn’t proclaim ourselves, but must rather be “joyful servants of hope” who announce the Risen Lord through our lives and the ways in which we love.  “Otherwise we will be only an international organization full of followers and good rules, yet incapable of offering the hope for which the world longs,” he said. Francis concluded his homily by telling attendees that their hope can be strengthened by following the angel’s advice to the women in the Gospel: “Remember what [Jesus] told you.” He urged them to always remember Jesus’ words and deeds, “otherwise we will lose hope.” He urged everyone to “open our hearts to hope and go forth,” praying that the constant memory of Jesus’ works and words would be “the bright star which directs our steps in the ways of faith toward the Easter that will have no end.”   Read more




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