Kidnapped Bishops Have Been Released

 

Archbishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yagizi have been released and returned to the city of Aleppo, Syria.

They were kidnapped while traveling between the Turkish border and Aleppo yesterday. They were on a humanitarian mission to ask for the release of previous kidnap victims. Their driver was killed.

Archbishop Ibrahim is head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo. Archbishop Yaziji leads Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Church.

From BBC News:

Two bishops who were abducted by gunmen in a rebel-held area of northern Syria have been released, a church official has said.

The pair have returned to the city of Aleppo, Greek Orthodox Bishop Tony Yazigi told Reuters.

The senior clerics, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, were seized on Monday as they were travelling from the Turkish border back to the city of Aleppo.

It was not immediately clear who had kidnapped them.

Bishop Ibrahim is the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo, while Bishop Yaziji leads the city’s Greek Orthodox Church.

They are the most senior Christian clerics caught up directly in the war.

Abductions on the rise

Kidnappings have increased dramatically in Syria in the past year but the abduction of such high-ranking Christian figures is unusual, the BBC’s James Reynolds reports from the city of Istanbul, in neighbouring Turkey.

Christians made up about 10% of the mainly Sunni Muslim country’s population before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began just over two years ago. (Read more here.)

Orthodox Bishops Kidnapped in Syria

Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church and Archbishop Paul Yagizi of the Greek Orthodox Church were kidnapped April 22 near Aleppo, Syria. Their driver was killed.

The archbishops were on a humanitarian mission to try to secure the release of hostages who had been kidnapped previously.

A Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis is following this situation closely and with “intense prayer.” The Vatican Press Director, Fr Federico Lombardi, said:

The assault on the archbishops “and the killing of their driver, while carrying out a humanitarian mission, is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation faced by the people of Syria and its Christian communities.”

Pope Francis, he said, is praying that, “with the commitment of all, the Syrian people will finally discover effective answers to the humanitarian tragedy and see on the horizon real hopes for peace and reconciliation.”

On April 17, Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham said that 2 million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes and over 1,000 Christians have been killed and 20 churches destroyed in Syria’s conflict. 

Christians make up between 5 and 10 percent of Syria’s population.

As often happens in these situations, there is confusion about who is responsible for the kidnapping. According to an article in the Gaurdian:

The Syrian opposition coalition has accused the Assad regime of being behind the abduction of Bishops Yazigi and Ibrahim.

In a statement it said all kidnappings, particularly those against the clergy, were a blow to its attempts to build a new Syrian society based on freedom from tyranny.

It said there were indications that government was to blame for abductions after Bishop Ibrahim’s interview with the BBC when he stated that the fate of Christians in Syria was not linked to the survival of the Assad regime.

“Initial investigations conducted by the Syrian Coalition regarding the kidnapping and killing of Father Ibrahim’s bodyguard implicate the Assad regime in this crime. The Assad regime was angered by Father Ibrahim’s latest statement, in which he stated that the survival of Christians in Syria is not linked to the survival of the regime. The Free Syrian Army categorically denies any responsibility for this kidnapping.”

The statement urged Syrians to work with the Free Syrian Army to try to secure their release.

Deacon Greg Kandra has more details here.

Will Pope Francis Put More Women in Key Vatican Roles?

 

According to a NewsMax article, Pope Francis is being advised to move women into senior positions in the Vatican. This is part of his effort to reform the Roman Curia, and is seen by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi as “a natural step.”

Will Pope Francis follow through with these ideas and put more women in key Vatican roles?

I hope so.

I say that as both a woman and a Catholic. The Church is Universal, which means that it exists to bring Christ to all the world. Every human being, of every race or language, belongs in the Universal Church which is the Body of Christ in the world. That includes the female half of the human race.

More to the point, an institution which only uses the male viewpoint to inform its deliberations is an example of humanity, thinking with half its brain. The Church teaches that men and women have unique gifts. God did not make us duplicates. He made us complimentary. Men and women are incomplete without one another.

We need both men and women to participate in His Church because that is the only way to access the fullness of human wisdom. Men cannot replace either the viewpoint or the wisdom of women.

Neither sex is complete in itself. We were not created to be complete in ourselves like, say, a bacterium. Men and women, working together for the common good, is what creates civilization. Either one of them working alone creates chaos.

It is the same with Christian witness. Women, no less than men, are children of God. They are imbued by their Creator with unique talents and viewpoints. When I watched videos of the aftermath of the tragedy in Boston last week, I was struck, as I always am in these times, by the sheer physical courage of men. If you look at the earliest videos, you see mostly men lifting those barricades and barreling in to clear the way. In Aurora last summer, it was men who gave their lives by using their own bodies to shield their wives and girlfriends from the bullets.

On the other hand, I am constantly reminded on my job of the moral courage of women. It is so much easier to use social bullying and go-along-to-get-along arguments on men than it is women. Physical courage comes naturally to men. They don’t have to think about it; they just react. In the same way, moral courage comes naturally to women.

We need each other to survive. The Vatican, no less than the rest of the world, needs women and women’s unique gifts. 

I am not writing this to take anything away from men. We are both exactly who God made us to be. Men and women each make necessary contributions to the whole that is humankind.

But I am very glad to know that there is a possibility that devout Catholic women will have the chance to bring their feminine viewpoint to the higher levels in our Church. We are facing interesting times. We need to think with both halves of our brains.

From Newsmax:

Pope Francis is being advised to appoint more women to senior positions as part of his efforts to reform the Roman Curia — a move the Vatican describes as a “natural step.”

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, who Pope Francis recently chose to coordinate a privy council of eight cardinals advising him on governance and reform, told Britain’s Sunday Times he was backing more posts for women.

Responding to the cardinal’s comments, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said it was “a natural step – there is a move towards putting more women in key roles where they are qualified.”

Benedict XVI had already begun efforts to appoint more women to senior positions at the Vatican, most notably at the semi-official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.  Women also hold some key roles at the Vatican, although the number is small and they are not the most senior positions. Sister Nicla Spezzati is undersecretary of the Congregation dealing with nuns and religious, and laywoman Flaminia Giovanelli, is undersecretary at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. St Peter’s basilica is administered by Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella.

Italian journalist and historian Lucetta Scaraffia is one of L’Osservatore Romano’s regular writers who also helped found the supplement. She suggested last year that if more women were in positions of authority in the Church, the cover-ups of the clerical pedophilia scandal would not have happened.

A proponent of more women leaders in the Vatican, she believes that one day a woman will head a Vatican department. Traditionally such roles have been held by bishops and cardinals, but as the work is administrative and not sacramental, there is nothing in canon law to prevent a woman from occupying such a position. (Read the rest here.) 

Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/pope-vatican-women-greater/2013/04/22/id/500749#ixzz2RDUlfMqS
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What Is God’s Purpose for My Life?

I know people who search for “God’s plan” for their lives all the time. They spend days in prayer, “seeking the Lord” over what they should do next.

I am not criticizing that or even commenting on it except to say that I know there are people who approach things this way. My way of walking with God is much more passive. My experience has been that if God wants me to do something, He’ll tell me. In fact, if God wants me to do something, He’ll pursue me. I won’t be able to get out of it.

I’m not someone who has ever hungered to do great missions for the Lord. I am so grateful that He forgave me and lets me be part of Him. That is enough for me. All I want is just to live my life in His grace, and when I die to get my toe onto the lowest rung of Purgatory. I trust Him completely with my life. I’ve been in the palm of His hand since the moment I was conceived, and I will be in those same hands through the passage of death and onwards through eternity.

However, as I said, there are those who “seek the Lord” asking for a ministry or cause. This video is for them. It’s also for all of us in that it gives some good common sense Christian guidelines for discerning how to live, whatever you do.

For instance, if you feel that the Holy Spirit is leading you in directions that oppose 2,000 years of Church teaching, then you need to do some more honest praying. It’s time for you to listen to God instead of telling Him.

The only vocation I ever prayed for was the vocation of motherhood. God gave that to me, but after a time of trial and sorrow. Then he has added other, complimentary vocations on top of it. He took me out of the world and let me spend wonderful years as a full-time wife and mother. Then, He put me back in the world where I “mothered” a broader swath of people … my constituents.

Now, he’s leading me beyond that.

God does not waste anything about us, including our deepest sins. He doesn’t obliterate our sinful acts or undo them. He transforms our weakness and our sinfulness into an instrument of His purpose.

But before He will do this, He first puts us through a deep-cleaning, a personal Gethsemane. I suffered deeply in this period when I faced the full horror of my sins. God gave me the gift of letting me see who I really was and what I had done. He removed the self-protective illusions of being a good person that I had sheltered behind and let me see the depth of my own depravity.

I think sometimes that the people who are praying for God to use them do not know that before He can use you, He has to first break you of your self-sufficiency. They think they’re good to go just as they are.

Active vocation is not a higher blessing that simply being still in the Lord. The most generous gift the Lord ever gave me was those years at home, removed from the spotlight, with my husband and babies.

Never forget that our first vocation is just to let Him love us.

Enjoy the video.

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Faith in the Trenches: The 911 Call You Will Never Forget

A mother who works as a 911 operator gets a call from her own house. The shooting victim is her son. This is a real-life walk of faith.

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Praise You in This Storm


Where is God when we’re hurting?

He’s right beside us.

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They’ll Know We are Christians

They’ll know we are Christians by our love.

How tragic for us if that is not true.

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3 Quick Takes: Vampire Atheists, Jesus Stomping Class Assignments and Gay Marriage

Religious freedom and gay marriage have taken a couple of turns while we were looking at other things. Here are 3 Quick Takes.

1. Vampire Atheist Case Against 9/11 Cross Tossed by Judge

The bizarro case filed by American Atheists claiming that the sight of the 9/11 Cross caused them to experience  “depression, headaches, anxiety and mental pain and anguish” was tossed out of court by a federal judge. The case had sought to have the cross removed from the 9/11 Museum in New York City.

 

2. Florida Atlantic University Drops Charges Against Student Who Refused to Stomp on Jesus’ Name

Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon student, refused to stomp on the name of Jesus as he was requested as part of a class exercise. After complaining to administrators, Rotela says he was suspended from the class. The university has now dropped all charges against Rotela and apologized.


3. New Zealand, Uruguay, legalize gay marriage. 

New Zealand’s Parliament voted 77-44 to legalize gay marriage on April 17. Uruguay Chamber of Deputies voted to legalize gay marriage on April 10.

West, Texas and a Failure of City Planning

West, Texas is not a region of the State of Texas.

West is the name of a town that almost blew itself off the map this week through a combination of poor city planning and lax enforcement of safety laws.

Fertilizer makes plants grow. It also explodes. Remember the nitroglycerin in dynamite? The “nitro” part of that is the same “nitrates” found in the fertilizer you sprinkle on your rose plants. The difference is quantity and, hopefully, the stability of compound.

I won’t go into the sad history of fertilizer bombs. But I will say that the town of West, Texas played host to a humongous fertilizer bomb in the form of West Fertilizer plant.

There is nothing wrong with having a fertilizer plant as part of your town’s economy. People have to make a living, and fertilizer, if it’s used properly, allows us to grow the crops that feed our planet’s population. We need the stuff, and making it is an honest living.

But it can also be dangerous. That’s why government officials have a responsibility to plan how they allow a town to grow around plants like these. For reasons unknown, the town of West allowed a school and a nursing home, along with a number of private residences, to be situated near a fertilizer plant.

I know full well that the people of this little town are shattered over what has happened. They’ve lost people that, in a community of this size, they all knew and most of them probably loved. Many more were injured. Others have lost their homes. There is no reason for a janey-come-lately from Oklahoma to butt her nose into this and tell these people that they made some mistakes in how they situated this fertilizer plant.

I am not writing this post to chide or criticize the hurting folks of West. I want to use it to forewarn the rest of us. City planners in lots of places, including my own town, often seem to make their decisions in a sort of moral isolation tank where the preservation of communities and the safety and well-being of residents doesn’t enter into their deliberations. 

Likewise, government inspectors are often either too lax or too punitive in their approach to businesses. I’ve read that the West Fertilizer plant had not been inspected since 1985. 

We need a housecleaning at the local level about things like this.

If you are a Christian and you hold one of these jobs, you have a responsibility to do it honestly and with concern for the common good. I realize that a lot of people who hold these positions would lose their jobs if they tried this, but that doesn’t change what Jesus asks of us.

It also doesn’t ameliorate the responsibility of elected officials to oversee these processes and guarantee that the citizens’ needs are not overlooked. That is their job, even if it means going against the local Chamber of Commerce and getting beat in the next election. Whatever our job, we ultimately answer to God for how we do it.

I’m sure there will be recriminations and ugliness about the tragically wrong-headed city planning that took place in West, Texas. I am equally sure that after the news cycle has moved on, little will change in the future Wests around the country.

We really need to stop driving our government by looking in the rear view mirror and face forward. If you are in city government, you need to replay the videos of West, then give some serious thought to the potential Wests in your town.

We can’t undo things like this once they happen. We can’t bring the dead back to life. I also know that we will never be able to stop terrible things from happening altogether. From the Tower of Siloam to West, Texas, people die in tragedies like this.

But that does not excuse us from doing our best. It does not exempt government officials from careful thought and planning that places the welfare of the citizens it governs as its primary concern.

If you don’t understand that, then you shouldn’t be in government at all.

Cardinal Wuerl Speaks Out for Priest Who is Under Fire for Teaching Homosexuals are Called to Celibacy


Cardinal Wuerl used his homily at George Washington University to make it clear that he stands behind the priest who is under fire on that campus, Father Greg Shaffer. 

Two gay activists attacked Father Shaffer recently because the priest teaches that chastity for homosexual people means that they are called to celibacy. The stated purpose of the attacks on the priest was to have him removed from campus ministry and to either force the Newman Center where he is assigned to stop teaching Catholic morality.

Cardinal Wuerl’s homily seems to indicate that Father Shaffer has the confidence of his Cardinal. This takes the possibility of him losing his assignment off the table.

Now it’s up to the university to decide if they are going to jump into this and try to close the Newman Center or if they will allow freedom of thought and speech on their campus as they have up to now.

Cardinal Wuerl’s homily, excerpted from CNA.

“I want to offer a word of support and encouragement to your chaplain, Father Greg Shaffer…and to stand in solidarity with a good priest,” the archbishop of Washington said April 14.

His remarks come as two gay students said the Newman Center chaplain had told individuals who came to him for counseling that if they experience same-sex attraction, they should remain celibate.

Asserting that this was anti-gay behavior, the two students have launched a campaign to force Fr. Shaffer off the campus of the private university.

Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the duty of bishops and priests to “feed Jesus’ flock,” and considered to whom “Jesus’ flock” refers.


Christ’s flock are those who freely choose to follow Christ and be a part of his Church, the cardinal said, and that those who choose not to follow Christ are not forced to do so.

“We propose the ways of the kingdom of God in terms that the world can understand and examine, in terms they may freely accept or reject.”

When Christ himself was faced with those who would not follow his teachings, he “did not respond by changing the teaching,” Cardinal Wuerl noted.

“Even when they said to him you need to be current, you need to be contemporary, you need to be politically correct, you need to be with the times, Jesus did not say, ‘Oh, then, I will change my teaching.’”

Christ continues to offer unchanging truths today, which cannot be changed to “conform with any particular cultural demand,” he said.

“Yet, there are those who claim that voices for the Gospel should be silenced, that we should be silenced. There are those who say there is no room for any other view but their own.”

Cardinal Wuerl said that this experience is not new to the Church, and she has always bore the brunt of “narrow-minded discrimination and blind bigotry.”

He urged a need to preserve and protect religious liberty in the face of attempts to silence priests lest they “be allowed to engage in dialogue with our culture.”

Just because there are forces in society wishing to change marriage and to deny the dignity of human life and natural law, that “does not mean that the rest of us no longer have a place in this society,” the archbishop stated.


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