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Posted on 10/20/2017 13:01 PM (CNA Daily News)
Yangon, Burma, Oct 20, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA).- Pope Francis’ trip to Burma will help heal the wounds of his country, especially for minorities under attack, the nation's sole cardinal maintains.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon is the first Burmese cardinal in the history of the Church. He was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2015.
Speaking with CNA about the upcoming papal trip to the country, Cardinal Bo stressed that the “Vatican and others need to work toward healing the wounds of our nation, by showing a future that can bring positive results for all communities.”
Burma, also known as Myanmar, has garnered increased international attention in recent years because of an escalating persecution of the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group within the Buddhist majority state.
Pope Francis has made a number of appeals for the protection of the Rohingya, since at least May 2015.
Since late August, the United Nations estimates that 582,000 Rohingya have fled Burma's Rakhine state for Bangladesh.
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Cardinal Bo told CNA he “hopes that the Pope will address the burning questions” of Rohingya persecution in a meeting scheduled with the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi during the November trip.
He also said that the Pope will likely “encourage good steps”, and said that “as a Church, we want to affirm the intensity of human suffering” experienced by the Rohingya because “this problem has been there for last 60 years, and most intensely since 1982, when an unjust citizenship law passed.”
The cardinal also noted that “there is a new energy let loose by the global Islamophobia. The xenophobic regulations in rich countries against Muslims encourages this. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Muslims are not suffering only in Burma.”
He explained that recent government persecution of the Rohingya was a response to attacks on police stations by Rohingya militant groups. “Yet,” he said, “nothing can justify what happened afterwards.”
Cardinal Bo also addressed controversy surrounding Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Burma’s State Councillor, the nation’s head of government. A longtime human rights activist, she has been criticized for failure to recognize or stop military atrocities against the Rohingya, and for assigning blame to both sides of the conflict.
The cardinal said that “Aung San Suu Kyi could have done better, but to stigmatize her as if she did nothing is a far fetched theory.”
The cardinal recalled that Aung San Suu Kyi formed the Kofi Annan Commission, an advisory commission on the Rakhine State chaired by the former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan and composed by six Burmese and three international members.
The commission issued a final report in August, requesting that Burma's 1982 citizenship law that classifies Rohingya as illegal immigrants be reviewed. As a short term recommendation, the commission requested that Burma clarify the rights of people who are not granted full citizenship, including the Rohingya.
Cardinal Bo noted that Aung San Suu Kyi “agreed to implement the recommendations” of the Annan Commission.
Cardinal Bo noted that, unfortunately “the very day the Commission report was released, there was a militant attack and the reprisal started.” This, he explained, prevented implementation of recommendations.
But, he said, “by attacking Aung San Suu Kyi, nobody wins. She is still a hope for democracy.”
Cardinal Bo underscored that “Burma is one of the poorest countries in the world, and Rakhine State is the poorest: 70 percent of its people live in extreme poverty.”
In the end, Myanmar “has so many resources, but these do not go to the poor. The Pope is a great prophet of economic justice and environmental justice. He should raise his voice against these two injustices.”
The Archbishop of Yangon also emphasized that the Pope needs to “shed light on other unresolved conflict and displacements.”
The cardinal mentioned the situations in the states of Karen, Kachin, and Shan. Anti-Christian persecutions in Myanmar were highlighted in a 2016 report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The report said that in three Burmeses states, Christians are subjected to forced relocation, attacks on their places of worship, and an ongoing campaign of forced conversion and brainwashing in schools funded by the government.
According to the 2016 Report on Religious Freedom by Aid to the Church in Need, minorities are often targeted in Burma in a sort of continuous conflict that takes place in ethnic states.
The report refers in particular to Kachin, where at least 66 churches have been destroyed in ethnic conflicts ongoing since 2011.
The report also underscored that “in the prevalent Christian states of Chin and Kachin, the Burmese army has promoted a policy that forces Christians to remove crosses from the hills and the top of the mountains, sometimes forcing them to build Buddhist pagodas to replace them.”
This practice, the Report stressed, has “diminished since 2012, but never ceased.” In the state of Chin, a Christian was jailed for the crime of building a cross.
Cardinal Bo stressed that the “Rohingya situation is a great tragedy,” but added that “the country needs healing on various fronts.”
“The Holy Father,” he concluded, “has stood against the winds of criticism and mourned the suffering of Muslims and Rohingyas. With unflinching courage we need to stand against global Islamophobia. What happens here is a spill-over and to see this tragedy detached from other human tragedies would be a fragmented truth.”
Posted on 10/20/2017 10:01 AM (CNA Daily News)
Sacramento, Calif., Oct 20, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA).- California is still burning.
At this point, 42 people are dead. Some 217,000 acres are devastated. Thousands of homes are destroyed. Entire towns are now charred wreckage. As the fires burned their hottest, trees glowed a seething orange behind their bark, before exploding. Families took shelter wherever they could find it; one couple spent a long, cold night submerged to their necks in a neighbor’s pool, seeking refuge from falling embers.
The fires are now mostly contained. But the cleanup will be massive. It will take political cooperation at the local, state, and federal levels to allocate funds, organize rebuilding, and provide relief to the tens of thousands of people who are now displaced – homeless – with no certainty about their future. It will take leadership, compromise, and statesmanship. It will take selflessness.
Even in ordinary times, the political cooperation and organizational infrastructure required after a disaster of this magnitude are a challenge. The political infighting after Hurricane Katrina is the stuff of legend. And these are not ordinary times. After a particularly brutal hurricane season, federal recovery dollars will be hard to come by. And Washington has never been more polarized, or less stable. California is beginning a gubernatorial primary season, which brings with it the kind of posturing and grandstanding that make it difficult to get real work done. At the same time, finger-pointing has begun, as Californians try to explain the causes of the massive wildfires that consumed so much of the Napa Valley. Governor Jerry Brown is already being blamed for the fires, after vetoing a bipartisan 2016 bill intended to make power lines less likely to contribute to the spread of wildfire in residential areas.
In such extraordinary times, facing such a monumental task, it’s natural to hope for a singularly focused, consensus-building political leader, who would cut through partisanship and pettiness to help rebuild lives, homes, and communities across California. Governor Brown, who has a very long record of public service in California, and has few political limitations in the year before his final term expires, should be the man for the job. That is why it is so disappointing that on Sunday night, while the wildfires were still spreading, the governor took time to sign California’s Gender Recognition Act, which allows Californians to choose a “non-binary” gender identity on drivers’ licenses, and to change name and gender on state identification documents with ease.
Signing the bill will cement Brown’s legacy among libertines and elites, who already revere him because of his support for gay marriage and assisted suicide. But while the Gender Recognition Act will win him adulation from progressive pundits, it won’t make it easier for Brown to solve the real and immediate problems his state is facing. In fact, he’s made that job harder.
In the face of a crisis requiring broad cooperation, especially from churches and religious social service agencies, Brown chose to remind Californians of faith that their views don’t matter, and that they have no place in his vision for California. Instead of building the consensus that would help real Californians, Brown chose to secure his place in the pantheon of progressive demagogues, consequences be damned. Instead of facing the reality of California’s needs, Brown spent his time trying redefine what’s real, to usher in a new world in which reason is supplanted by confusion, masquerading as freedom.
In the classic 1951 film Quo Vadis, based upon Henryk Sienkiewicz’ novel, the emperor Nero is a mad narcissist: licentious, insecure, and cruel. Nero is far more concerned with securing his place in history – with being remembered as a genius, and an artist – than he is with leading his people. They suffer for his madness, and for his neglect.
Eventually, Nero’s Rome burns to the ground, in a fire which the emperor himself began. But he is impervious to the suffering of his citizens. He stands overlooking his burning city, plucking a harp, and obsessing about his place in history, and a new world he’ll create in his own image – Neropolis.
“That is my epic,” Nero tells his courtiers. “To change the face of the world. To demolish and create anew.”
California is burning. Brown is not the cause of the fire. But he should be singularly focused on helping his people. Instead, he seems more concerned with plucking a harp for his place in history, redefining reality with his pen. “To change the face of the world. To demolish, and create anew.”
Posted on 10/20/2017 07:04 AM (CNA Daily News)
Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 20, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With growing numbers of people suffering homelessness in the expensive megalopolis of Los Angeles, Catholics and people of other religions are working together to provide a serious response.
“The faith community is really a giant part of the services provided to the folks in need,” Kathleen Domingo, Director of the Los Angeles archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, told CNA.
There’s a reason Catholics help the homeless.
“We’ve been told that our salvation depends on how we treat those in need,” said Domingo. “Our faith isn’t just in praying and personal spirituality, it’s actually in what we put into action.”
She said the homeless are “the face of Christ, especially in Los Angeles.” Many residents live in such prosperity that “to turn our backs on the homeless is really to turn our backs on Christ.”
“We really need to ask ourselves: are we willing to sacrifice our salvation, literally, for our own convenience or our own comfort at not getting involved?” Domingo said.
Leaders of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities gathered at the University of Southern California campus Oct. 18 for a roundtable discussion that aimed to find new ideas and a united approach to responding to homelessness.
Among the scheduled speakers was Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. He joined other religious leaders, homeless experts, and representatives from Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti’s office.
In a June 6 column, Gomez warned that an increase in homelessness shows a failure to foster a strong “human ecology.” It reflects a widening gap “between those who have what they need for a dignified life and those who do not.”
“I worry that we are getting accustomed to these sights in our city,” he said. “We cannot allow ourselves to accept a Los Angeles where sidewalks become permanent residences for our neighbors.”
A May 2017 report from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found a 23 percent increase in homelessness in Los Angeles County since the previous year. According to the Associated Press, about 7,700 volunteers counted about 58,800 homeless people, an increase of 11,000.
The number of homeless veterans had increased 57 percent. The number of homeless aged 18 to 24 increased 64 percent, while the number of those under 18 increased 41 percent.
The report did find improvements in the number of homeless families who have shelter. The number of families without shelter decreased 21 percent.
Officials said there is increasing financial stress on renters in the Los Angeles area. Over 2 million households spend half their income or more on housing costs.
The roundtable is sponsored by four USC organizations, including the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies. Father James L. Heft, founder and president of the institute, said there are many different religions in Los Angeles working to ameliorate the homelessness crisis.
“People in these different religions are doing good things to address this crisis. But they often work by themselves,” he said. “I thought it would be good for the leaders of the different religions to talk with each other, learn from each other, and through these conversations find even better ways to work at solving the crisis of homelessness.”
According to Heft, the roundtable aims to help advance understanding of the “complex issue of homelessness” and learn the most effective ways to address it.
“We want to promote greater cooperation among religions in addressing a serious challenge that our whole community faces,” the priest said.
For Domingo, Catholic action for the homeless in Los Angeles already has a record of success.
In 2016, Catholic Charities of Los Angeles and the St. Vincent de Paul Society worked together to place about 300 people in permanent housing. Though the numbers seem small compared to the problem, the beneficiaries are given a sustainable place to live and the means to stay there for the long-term. They also receive help with job placement and other support resources.
The work of individual parishes is significant, but sometimes difficult to report, Domingo said. “Much of it is done just in a manner of course as the parishes operate.”
Domingo noted a five-parish cluster in the archdiocese’s eastern San Gabriel region which collectively offers cold weather shelter to the homeless. The parishes also offer food, including some meals homemade by parishioners.
In addition, parish outreach seeks barbers, stylists and manicurists for these beneficiaries to “make them feel good and look good while they’re here,” she said.
The parishes involve homeless guests in Christmas activities, including Las Posadas, the traditional Mexican Advent season commemoration of the journey of the Holy Family, in which they found no room at the inn of Bethlehem.
Local schoolchildren make prayer cards, placemats, and table settings to help welcome the hosted families. A jazz band from the local Catholic high school also comes to play.
“You could just see this exhaustion melt away as people listen to music that maybe they haven’t been exposed to for years,” said Domingo, who added: “These are really amazing moments. It doesn’t get a lot of press, but it’s really the parish coming together to do something impactful.”
Some parishes collaborate with the nationwide Family Promise program to house families that have just become homeless. When they secure permanent housing quickly, they have a better chance of not becoming homeless again.
Domingo praised the “housing-first” approach to homelessness. This approach, developed in recent decades, aims to provide permanent housing immediately for those in need, rather than put them through transitional programs whose conditions are sometimes counterproductive and harder to fulfill for someone without permanent housing. She suggested the archdiocese would be happy to pursue such an approach.
“That’s also an approach that’s very much in keeping with Catholic social teaching, with the dignity of the person,” she said. Getting someone a house is something basic that does not need many restrictions.
“Just get people housed. That’s a very good step in the right direction,” said Domingo.
Many Catholic charities, St. Vincent de Paul organizations, and parishes in Los Angeles are taking part in a process called the Coordinated Entry System. It helps to ensure some knowledge about who is getting services and to ensure that some people are not “falling through the cracks.”
Domingo attributed the shortfall in housing for those at risk of homelessness to the “not in my backyard” mindset. Many projects have been halted due to local opposition.
“As Catholics we could help to shift the conversation on that,” she suggested. Catholics could help rally their neighbors to welcome homeless families to their neighborhood just as they’d welcome any family.
She also stressed the need for people to educate themselves about the options specifically available for homeless minors and the elderly so that they could help those the encounter find temporary assistance.
“It seems small in a sense, but they’re realistic steps, and I think that they can be incredibly effective,” she said.
Posted on 10/19/2017 19:54 PM (CNA Daily News)
Stratton-on-the-Fosse, England, Oct 19, 2017 / 12:54 pm (CNA).- A new BBC series will depict the daily life of Benedictine monks in a few UK monasteries, taking camera crews to capture a lifestyle normally hidden from the public’s eye.
A three episode mini-series called “Retreat: Meditations from the Monastery,” the broadcast will explore the life of three different abbeys: Downside, Belmont, and Pluscarden.
Produced without a narrator, the series aims to portray the quiet contemplation of the monks’ daily routines using only the natural sounds of the monasteries. Viewers will be able to experience the sights and sounds of meals, Gregorian chants, and gardens.
The series will focus on the Benedictine motto: ‘Ora et Labora’ (prayer and work), by following a few monks engaged in manual labor at the monastery.
Airing on Oct. 24, the first episode will follow the activities of the 14 monks at Downside Abbey in the county of Somerset, England. This episode will accompany a priest while he builds a traditional prayer desk, and a monk who bakes bread for the monastery.
In addition to the television series, BBC Radio 3 will release podcasts from Oct. 23-27, expanding on Benedictine spiritual life.
Downside Abbey is home to the Basilica of St. Gregory the Great, one of England’s three minor basilicas.
In 1606, the Benedictine community of St. Gregory the Great was founded by British monks in Douai, then part of the Spanish Netherlands, because of a prohibition on monastic life in Britain following the Reformation. The monastery was expelled from Douai by anti-Catholic French Revolutionaries, and in 1795, the monks were given permission to move their monastery to England.
Posted on 10/19/2017 19:50 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2017 / 12:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a controversial decision, a U.S. district judge ruled that the government must facilitate an abortion for an undocumented teenager under federal custody in Texas. The federal government has appealed the ruling, asking for a stay on the judge’s order.
On Oct. 18, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that a 17-year-old from Central America, known only as “Jane Doe,” must be allowed to get an abortion. The girl has been in federal custody since early September, and is living in a south Texas shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement – an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Currently 15 weeks pregnant, the girl has secured outside funding for the abortion, and has obtained state permission to get the abortion – a requirement for any minor in Texas who does not have parental permission for an abortion procedure.
The ACLU has alleged that the government is utilizing an “unconstitutional veto power” by not allowing Doe to obtain an abortion, and has filed a suit against HHS. The administration has countered that the government has “exercised a legitimate choice to refuse to facilitate an abortion,” and argues that the girl could leave the country voluntarily to obtain the procedure. It also argues that since the girl is in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, it has the right to determine what is in the best interest of the teenager.
The government also says that the United States has an interest in “not providing incentives for pregnant minors to illegally cross the border to obtain elective abortions while in federal custody.”
Under the judge’s ruling, the administration must allow the minor to attend an abortion counseling appointment on Oct. 20, and have the abortion the following day or over the weekend. If the administration does not comply, it will be held in contempt of court, the ruling states. A decision on the appeal is expected Thursday evening.
Pro-life organizations criticized the judge’s decision, warning of the precedent it sets.
“Today’s ruling is outrageous and sets a dangerous precedent,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.
“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took a simple position that it would protect the life and dignity of the teenage girl and her unborn child while in their care,” she said in a statement. “Shame on this judge for overruling compassionate care and instead mandating that the U.S. government help facilitate an abortion for a teenage girl.”
“This ruling plays into the broader agenda of the ACLU, which is recklessly exploiting a teenage girl in order to make the United States a sanctuary state for abortion,” she added.
Catherine Glenn Foster, President and CEO of Americans United for Life, also objected to the ruling, saying that because the government would have to expend resources to provide access to the abortion clinic, the decision “mandates that taxpayer funds be expended to facilitate the destruction of an innocent human life, in violation of the Hyde Amendment and the consciences of millions of American citizens.”