Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Vatican representatives to Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Israel and Palestine will meet for a three-day summit in the Vatican, starting Thursday, October 2. Pope Francis called for the meeting and will address the group that will also include the Holy Sees ambassadors to the United Nations and the European Union, as well as officials from the congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples and for the Oriental Churches, and from the pontifical councils for Interreligious Dialogue, Christian Unity, Justice and Peace, the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and Cor Unum.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists in a briefing Tuesday that both Pope Francis and Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin will address the group. Cardinal Parolin spoke Monday to the U.N. General Assembly in an address that focused on the rise of terrorism and said that, for the Holy See, it was "both licit and urgent to stop aggression through multilateral action and a proportionate use of force." (See his speech below)

During his September 21 trip to Albania, Pope Francis spoke of these times where an authentic religious spirit is being perverted and where religious differences are being distorted and exploited. This creates dangerous circumstances which lead to conflict and violence, rather than being an occasion for open and respectful dialogue, and for a collective reflection on what it means to believe in God and to follow his laws.

Let no one use God as a 'shield' while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression! May no one use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against the fundamental rights of every man and woman, above all, the right to life and the right of everyone to religious freedom!

With Christians being killed by ISIS, the radical Islamist terrorists in Iraq and Syria, and tens of thousands more being forced to move from their towns and cities when they fall to ISIS, the emissaries are expected to discuss the Churchs response to these threats and challenges. Shiite Muslims, as well as Christians, have been killed or forced out of their towns when they refuse to capitulate to the ISIS demands.


Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, head of the Holy See delegation, addressed the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, September 29. He focused on the fact that only a renewed United Nations is capable of acting in dramatic, terrorist-driven situations like those in Iraq and Syria. Only a new U.N. can help restore human dignity and protect the innocent. He noted that, it is both licit and urgent to stop aggression through multilateral action and a proportionate use of force and highlighted the responsibility to protect (that) is implicit in the constitutional principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of Humanitarian Law.

Following are excerpts from that 3400-word speech:

The Holy See values the efforts of this distinguished institution to ensure world peace, respect for human dignity, the protection of persons, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and harmonious economic and social development."

He noted that Pope Francis observes that today there is the danger of widespread indifference. At times, such apathy is synonymous with irresponsibility. This is the case today, when a union of States, which was created with the fundamental goal of saving generations from the horror of war that brings untold sorrow to humanity remains passive in the face of hostilities suffered by defenceless populations.

I recall the words His Holiness addressed to the Secretary General at the beginning of August: It is with a heavy and anguished heart that I have been following the dramatic events in northern Iraq, thinking of the tears, the suffering and the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and other religious minorities of [that] beloved land. In that same letter the Pope renewed his urgent appeal to the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway.

With the dramatic situation in northern Iraq and some parts of Syria, we are seeing a totally new phenomenon: the existence of a terrorist organization which threatens all States, vowing to dissolve them and to replace them with a pseudo-religious world government. It must be remembered that such violence is born out of a disregard for God and falsifies religion itself, since religion aims instead at reconciling men and women with God, at illuminating and purifying consciences, and at making it clear that each human being is the image of the Creator. In a world of global communications, this new phenomenon has found followers in numerous places, and has succeeded in attracting from around the world young people who are often disillusioned by a widespread indifference and a dearth of values in wealthier societies. This challenge, in all its tragic aspects, should compel the international community to promote a unified response, based on solid juridical criteria and a collective willingness to cooperate for the common good.

Following the attacks of 11 September 2001, when the world woke up to the reality of a new form of terrorism, some media and think tanks oversimplified that tragic moment by interpreting all subsequent and problematic situations in terms of a clash of civilizations. This view ignored longstanding and profound experiences of good relations between cultures, ethnic groups and religions, and interpreted through this lens other complex situations such as the Middle Eastern question and those civil conflicts presently occurring elsewhere. The reductionism of interpreting situations in terms of a clash of civilizations, playing on existing fears and prejudices, only leads to reactions of a xenophobic nature that, paradoxically, then serve to reinforce the very sentiments at the heart of terrorism itself.

What, then, are the paths open to us? First and foremost, there is the path of promoting dialogue and understanding among cultures. Peace, after all, is not the fruit of a balance of powers, but rather the result of justice at every level, and most importantly, the shared responsibility of individuals, civil institutions and governments. In effect, this means understanding one other and valuing the others culture and circumstances." One of the characteristics of the recent terrorist phenomenon is that it disregards the existence of the state and, in fact, the entire international order. Terrorism aims not only to bring change to governments, to damage economic structures or simply to commit common crimes. It seeks to directly control areas within one or various states, to impose its own laws, which are distinct and opposed to those of the sovereign State. It also undermines and rejects all existing juridical systems, attempting to impose dominion over consciences and complete control over persons.

The global nature of this phenomenon, which knows no borders, is precisely why the framework of international law offers the only viable way of dealing with this urgent challenge. We are dealing with criminal behaviour that is not envisaged by the juridical configuration of the United Nations Charter. This notwithstanding, it must be recognized that the norms in place for the prevention of war and the intervention of the Security Council are equally applicable, on varying grounds, in the case of a war provoked by a non-State actor.

My Delegation wishes to recall that it is both licit and urgent to stop aggression through multilateral action and a proportionate use of force. As a representative body of a worldwide religious community embracing different nations, cultures and ethnicities, the Holy See earnestly hopes that the international community will assume responsibility in considering the best means to stop all aggression and avoid the perpetration of new and even graver injustices. It is disappointing, that up to now, the international community has been characterized by contradictory voices and even by silence with regard to the conflicts in Syria, the Middle East and Ukraine. It is paramount that there be a unity of action for the common good, avoiding the cross-fire of vetoes. While the concept of the responsibility to protect is implicit in the constitutional principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of Humanitarian Law, it does not specifically favour a recourse to arms. It asserts, rather, the responsibility of the entire international community, in a spirit of solidarity, to confront heinous crimes such as genocide, ethnic cleansing and religiously motivated persecution. Here with you today, I cannot fail to mention the many Christians and ethnic minorities who in recent months have endured atrocious persecution and suffering in Iraq and Syria. Their blood demands of us all an unwavering commitment to respect and promote the dignity of every single person as willed and created by God. This means also respect for religious freedom, which the Holy See considers a fundamental right, since no one can be forced to act against his or her conscience, and everyone has the duty and consequently the right to seek the truth in religious matters.


POPE TO MEET MIGRANTS WHO SURVIVED BOAT DISASTERS: The Italian Catholic television network TV2000 reports that tomorrow, October 1, Pope Francis will meet privately with a group of migrants who survived boat disasters near the southern Italian island of Lampedusa one year ago. He is set to meet some 60 people, including migrants and people who have been caring for them since their rescue last October. TV2000 is run by Italy's Catholic bishops. On October 2, the group will travel to Lampedusa for commemorations organized by a group called the Committee of October 3. Francis travelled to Lampedusa in July 2013 where he denounced "the globalization of indifference" including attitudes towards migrants who risk their lives trying to reach Europe via Italy from Africa. In early October last year, two migrant-boat disasters claimed some 400 lives, most of them Somali and Eritrean refugees.

VATICAN TO HELP PRESERVE AUSCHWITZ: The Auscwitz Museum and memorial website has announced that the Vatican is the 31st state to support the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. Its goal is to collect 120 million Euro for the Perpetual Capital, profits from which will enable the Foundation to preserve the authentic remains of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz from the threat of deterioration over time. Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin wrote: Considering the significance of the goal of the Foundation and the support it received from the Polish government, the decision (is) to send support in the amount of 100,000. This sum is so modest due to the limited possibilities. However, this is an expression of full support for the project of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. Memorial director and Foundation president, Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, said: the Vatican support is a very important signal. http://en.auschwitz.org/m/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1192&Itemid=7

THE iMARIA APP: I read in Rome Reports of a new app for smartphones and tablets called "iMaria that contains the main prayers to the Blessed Mother such as the Rosary, the Hail Mary or the novena of the Immaculate Conception, explaining their origins and how to pray them. It also contains a section on Marian apparitions, including apparitions of Fatima, Portugal and Guadalupe, Mexico and lists the names that the Virgin Mary is known as around the world, divided continents. The app, which has a children's section called "Children and Mary, is available for iOS and Android smartphones in three languages: English, Spanish and Italian. The cost is $1.99 for Android. (I have not yet downloaded the app so have not explored it)

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