Vatican to UN: 100,000 Christians Killed for the Faith Each Year

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One hundred thousand people are

Murdered.

Martyred.

For Christ.

Every year. 

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Many more Christians are

Raped.

Enslaved.

Beaten.

Tortured.

Imprisoned. 

Abducted.

Displaced.

For Christ.

Every year. 

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Meanwhile, here in the “Christian” West, Christians are

Censored.

Mocked.

Reviled.

Forced to violate their faith under penalty of law.

Harrassed.

Silenced.

Marginalized. 

For Christ.

Every year.

That is the message Vatican spokesman Msgr Silvano Maria Tomasi brought to the United Nations earlier this week. Msgr Tomasi expressed the Holy See’s “deep concern for violations of religious freedom and systematic attacks on Christian communities” in some part of the world. At the same time, he pointed out that “in some Western countries … a trend emerges that tends to marginalize Christianity in public life, ignore historic and social contributions and even restrict the ability of faith communities to carry out social charitable services.”

I think it is important to note that Msgr Tomasi was not merely protesting the violent persecution or the marginalization of Catholics. He was speaking out for the civil and human rights of all Christians, everywhere.

People who attack Christianity often try to divide us. For instance, several of the commenters on a recent post I wrote concerning a Christian basher and the Pentagon, tried to say that this Christian bashing wasn’t aimed at Catholics, but Evangelicals. The point, I presume, being that if someone attacks those “other” Christians, the rest of us should either join in with the attackers or at the very least turn our backs on the attacked. 

No way.

I like Msgr Tomasi’s approach. It is the one I take on this blog. If you cut any Christian, anywhere, we all bleed. Because we are One Blood, and One Body, and that is the living body and blood of Christ in the world. Any persecuted Christian is my brother or sister. 

Let me say that again: Any persecuted Christian is my brother or sister. 

From Vatican Radio

Vatican to UN: 100 thousand Christians killed for the faith each year

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2013-05-28 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See has expressed “deep concern” for violations of religious freedom and systematic attacks on Christian communities in regions of the world such as Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This was pointed out by Msgr. Silvano Maria Tomasi, who spoke Monday at the United Nations in Geneva.

“More than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year. Other Christians and other believers are subjected to forced displacement, to the destruction of their places of worship, to rape and to the abduction of their leaders -as it recently happened in the case of Bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, in Aleppo (Syria).

Several of these acts have been perpetrated in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, the fruit of bigotry, intolerance, terrorism and some exclusionary laws. In addition, in some Western countries where historically the Christian presence has been an integral part of society, a trend emerges that tends to marginalize Christianity in public life, ignore historic and social contributions and even restrict the ability of faith communities to carry out social charitable services.  

“It may be useful that the Delegation of the Holy See should recall some pertinent data on the current services to the human family carried out in the world by the Catholic Church without any distinction of religion or race. In the field of education, it runs 70,544 kindergartens with 6,478,627 pupils; 92,847 primary schools with 31,151,170 pupils; 43,591 secondary schools with 17,793,559 pupils. The Church also educates 2,304,171 high school pupils, and 3,338,455 university students. The Church’s worldwide charity and healthcare centres include: 5,305 hospitals; 18,179 dispensaries; 547 Care Homes for people with Leprosy; 17,223 Homes for the elderly, or the chronically ill or people with a disability; 9,882 orphanages; 11,379 creches; 15,327 marriage counseling; 34,331 social rehabilitation centres and 9,391 other kinds of charitable institutions. To such data about social action activity, there should be added the assistance services carried out in refugee camps and to internally displaced people and the accompaniment of these uprooted persons. This service certainly doesn’t call for discrimination against Christians.

 

Pope Francis: The Struggle to Reject Gossip

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Pope Francis is a priest.

That sounds like an absurdly redundant statement. Of course he’s a priest. But I’m not talking about the collar and the black clothes. I’m not even referring, for the moment, to the fact that he is one of those men whose life work it is to gift the world with the sacraments. From priests’ hands we receive the Eucharist.

I don’t mean that right now. I am referring to the fact that Pope Francis is a pastor of souls. He is the good shepherd we’ve been given. Not all priests are pastors of souls. Some are more turned to other things that can range from mysticism to a flair for administration. None of these things are bad. In fact, taken together, they give us the whole of the faith.

But pastors of souls, true shepherds of God’s people, are what Jesus specifically mentioned when He commissioned Peter. “Feed my sheep,” he said. 

I am beginning to look forward to the reports each day coming out of Pope Francis’ morning homilies. These homilies are deeply pastoral, dealing as they often do with ordinary sins and vices, daily weaknesses and challenges, that every Christian faces. He gave a homily this morning on complaining. When Vatican radio posts it, I’ll put it here for you to read.

Today, I’m going to share one of his previous homilies. This one is about gossip.

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Gossip is such a common vice. Everyone does it. People are interested in other people. We live with, love, cherish, compete with, hate and hurt one another. For most of us, our whole world is other people. Walk through any cemetery, and what you will see on the gravestones are words linking the dead person to relationships with the living. Beloved Father, Dearest Mom, Sister, Brother, Son and Daughter; that’s what we inscribe on the stones we leave to mark the fact that there was a life here, a life lived in relationship with other people.

We know ourselves through other people. Most of what we think of ourselves comes from what they tell us. They are the mirror we have for our selves and our lives.

Which is precisely what gives gossip its power. Idle chit-chat gossip is usually harmless, and can even be kind. But the darker kind of tale-telling that involves dwelling on people’s faults and criticizing their weaknesses can hurt. If it gets to the point that it becomes a group judgement, it can inflict deep wounds. I am not talking here about deliberate calumny and character assassination for gain. That is an obvious, terrible and mortal sin; the kind of thing you can go to hell for.

What I am talking about is the picking and pecking away at another person to the point that the whole group of people they associate with — be it family, classmates or co-workers — makes a kind of group assessment of them and fixes it on them. Gossiping about someone in this way is almost always unkind. Fixating on them in some small and critical way is cruel. When a group of people they have to associate with decides through gossip that this is what they are, it is destructive.

It wounds the person who is the object of the gossip. It dirties the souls of those who engage in this gossip. It damages the harmony and happiness of the group or community which has allowed this to happen to itself.

Gossip hurts people. It fractures community and damages the ability of people to work together for a goal. Whether that goal is a happy home life or building a bridge, gossip can make achieving it a hard and thankless slog.

If we are truly born again into a new way of living and thinking, then gossip that wounds can not be a part of us. The ultimate harm of gossip is that it separates us from who we are meant to be in Christ. It not only weakens our witness for Him, it weakens our relationship with Him.

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who have been made in God’s likeness,” James tells us.

I need to remember that as much as anyone else. When it comes to gossip, I think almost everyone could take a good look at themselves. Let’s consider what the Holy Father had to say about it.

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From Vatican Radio:

(Vatican Radio) May the Holy Spirit bring peace to Christian communities and teach its members to be meek, refusing to speak ill of others. With this hope, Pope Francis concluded his homily at Mass Tuesday morning with staff from the Vatican medical services and office staff of the Vatican City Government. “The first Christian community is a timeless model for the Christian community of today, because they were of one heart and one soul, through the Holy Spirit who had brought them into a “new life”. Emer McCarthy reports: RealAudioMP3 

In his homily Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel passage that recounts the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, who did not immediately grasp how a man can be “born again”. Through the Holy Spirit, the Pope said, we are born into the new life which we have received in Baptism.” However, Pope Francis added, it is a life that has to be developed, it does not come automatically. We have to do all we can to ensure that our life develops into new life”, which may be “a laborious journey” but one that “depends chiefly on the Holy Spirit” as well as our ability to be “open to his breath”.

And this, the Pope pointed out, is exactly what happened to the early Christians. They had “new life”, which was expressed in their living with one heart and one soul. They had, he said, “that unity, that unanimity, that harmony of feeling of love, mutual love …”. A dimension that needs to be rediscovered. He noted that today, for example, the aspect of “meekness in the community,” is a somewhat ‘forgotten virtue’. Meekness is stigmatized, it has “many enemies”, the first of which is gossip. 

Pope Francis further developed this reflection. “When we prefer to gossip, gossip about others, criticize others- these are everyday things that happen to everyone, including me – these are the temptations of the evil one who does not want the Spirit to come to us and bring about peace and meekness in the Christian community”. “These struggles always exist” in the parish, in the family, in the neighborhood, among friends”. Instead through the Spirit we are born into a new life, he makes us “meek, charitable.”

The Holy Father then outlined the correct behavior for a Christian. First, “do not judge anyone” because “the only Judge is the Lord.” Then “keep quiet” and if you have something to say, say it to the interested parties, to those “who can remedy the situation,” but “not to the entire neighborhood.” “If, by the grace of the Holy Spirit – concluded Pope Francis – we succeed in never gossiping, it will be a great step forward” and “will do us allgood”.

 

Pope Francis on Moral Relativism and Being Our Own Criterion

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Pope watchers the world over are well aware that Pope Francis has a love and a calling for the poor. 

He has told us that this inspired his choice of names. 

This emphasis on the poor has caused some disquiet in certain circles. What, they wonder, about the other things? Rumors have flown like mosquitos, claiming that our Holy Father mocked his own election, will abandon traditional marriage, is going to upend the liturgy and allow … what was it? puppets and cartoon characters?? … in the mass. We’ve been regaled with stories about his shoe color and how he’s “tipping the Church over” by washing the feet of young prisoners on Holy Thursday.

That’s why I was so glad to be able to publish a post indicating that fully 90% of Catholics who attend weekly mass approve of our new pontiff. I would guess that the other 10% must be on their computers, spinning out tales 24/7.

Today, Pope Francis made a speech to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps which should allay at least some of those fears. He talked about the poor of the world in moving terms, saying, 

How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.

Then, he went on to talk about “another form of poverty … of our time,” which he said was “the spiritual poverty … which afflicts the so-called richer countries … what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the ‘tyranny of relativism’ which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.”

He added that this was the second reason for his name choice, since St Francis not only loved the poor, he also loved peace.

There is no peace without truth! There cannot be peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth … it is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: It is not possible to build true links with God while ignoring other people.

Typing these words has reminded me again how blessed we are that the Holy Spirit has given us this man to be our pope. We need to follow his leadership. It’s difficult for Americans to admit that they should stop quarreling and nit-picking and just follow. But that is what we need to do. 

We are Christians, and it is our precise calling to follow Jesus. The single best way we can know that we are following Jesus is not, as our Holy Father said, to follow our “own criterion,” but to judge our understanding of how we should live by that which is given to us by the Church. 

Pope Francis is Christ’s Vicar here on Earth. 

I personally find some of the things a tiny minority of Catholics are saying about him painful. It is hurtful to me as a woman of faith to read articles attacking my Pope. I expect it from the secular world. But when it comes from Catholics, even when they are only a disgruntled few, it is appalling. 

Here, from Vatican radio, is the entire text of Pope Francis’ speech to the diplomats: 

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Heartfelt thanks to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of everyone present. It gives me joy to welcome you for this exchange of greetings: a simple yet deeply felt ceremony, that somehow seeks to express the Pope’s embrace of the world. Through you, indeed, I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires.
Your presence here in such numbers is a sign that the relations between your countries and the Holy See are fruitful, that they are truly a source of benefit to mankind. That, indeed, is what matters to the Holy See: the good of every person upon this earth! And it is with this understanding that the Bishop of Rome embarks upon his ministry, in the knowledge that he can count on the friendship and affection of the countries you represent, and in the certainty that you share this objective. At the same time, I hope that it will also be an opportunity to begin a journey with those few countries that do not yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, some of which were present at the Mass for the beginning of my ministry, or sent messages as a sign of their closeness – for which I am truly grateful.
As you know, there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.
But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism”, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.
One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.
In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.
Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.

Dear Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you again for all the work that you do, alongside the Secretariat of State, to build peace and construct bridges of friendship and fraternity. Through you, I would like to renew to your Governments my thanks for their participation in the celebrations on the occasion of my election, and my heartfelt desire for a fruitful common endeavour. May Almighty God pour out his gifts on each one of you, on your families and on the peoples that you represent. Thank you!