Friday, June 13, 2014
I have been following events in Iraq, which I have visited twice, with the same extreme concern expressed by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches. I have many friends there, and communicate on a periodic basis with several of them, especially within the Chaldean Church, which I did get to know well during my visits; Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, Bishop Bashar Warda of Erbil and Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul (I wrote Amil Nona in my first report).

Below you will find a report Abp. Nona gave to Aid to the Church in Need.

And here is a link to what I wrote on February 19, 2010, during my first visit to Iraq when I visited Kirkuk and Mosul. I stayed at the Chaldean seminary in Ankawa, near Erbil, Kurdistan in northern Iraq, where I visited all the dioceses. How sad to re-read these words today, given the disastrous situation in Mosul (Apologies for the misspellings that I obviously did not note in the original column probably because of the very late hour at which I wrote the blog): For that column: click here


Following is Vatican Radios summary of Pope Francis interview with a Catalonian newspaper:

Pope Francis strongly defended the record of Pius XII and said all divisions concern him when discussing secessionist movements in Europe during a wide-ranging interview with La Vanguardia, the leading newspaper in Barcelona.

During his interview with the Catalonian newspaper, Pope Francis said he was concerned about everything which has been thrown at poor Pius XII, noting the many Jews he had hidden in the convents of Rome and other Italian cities, as well as the summer residence in Castelgandolfo.

I do not mean to say that Pius XII did not make mistakes I make many mistakes myself but his role must be read in the context of the time, Pope Francis said.

The Holy Father added that he gets an existential rash when he see people speak against the Pope and the Church during World War II, but ignoring the role played by the Allied Powers.

Did you know that they knew perfectly well the rail network used by the Nazis to take the Jews to the concentration camps? They had the photographs, he said. But they did not bomb these rail lines. Why? It would be nice if we spoke a little bit about everything.

When asked about the Catalonian situation in Spain, Pope Francis said, All division concerns me.

The Holy Father distinguished between " independence for emancipation and independence for secession, giving the former Yugoslavia as an example of the former where there are peoples and cultures so diverse that they are completely unconnected.

As for the situations in Catalonia, northern Italy, and Scotland, Pope Francis said, they should be studied on a case-by-case basis.

There will be some cases that are just and some that are unjust, but the secession of a nation that hasnt been previously forced together is an issue that must be taken up with tweezers, he said.

Turning to economic affairs, Pope Francis told the newspaper it is outrageous that some countries have a youth unemployment rate of more than 50%, with tens of millions of young Europeans out of work.

"We discard a whole generation to maintain an economic system that no longer works, a system that to survive must make war, as the great empires have always done," he told the newspaper.

"But since we cannot wage World War III, we then make regional wars. And what does that mean? That we make and sell weapons, he continued. And with that the balance sheets of the idolatrous economies - the big world economies that sacrifice man at the feet of the idol of money - are obviously cleaned up."

Pope Francis also spoke about his life as Pope, and said that serving as a pastor is most important dimension of his vocation. He said he eschews a bulletproof Popemobile because it is a glass sardine can which serves as a wall between him and the people.

"It's true that anything could happen, but let's face it, at my age I don't have much to lose," he said.

Pope Francis said the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI was a great gesture which opened the door to the creation of the eventual institution of the Popes-emeritus.

"As we live longer, we get to an age at which we cannot carry on with things, the Pope said. I will do the same as he did: ask the Lord to enlighten me when the moment comes and tell me what I have to do, and he will tell me for sure."

On a lighter note, Pope Francis said he promised the Brazilians to stay neutral during the World Cup, so he refused to answer a question about whom he was supporting during the tournament.

The newspaper concluded the interview by asking the Holy Father how he would like to be remembered by history.

I have not thought about this, Pope Francis said. But I like it when you recall someone and say he was a good guy, he did what he could, and he was not that bad. With that, I would be content.


Join me on Vatican Insider this weekend when we travel together to Bethlehem, Palestine to meet the towns first woman mayor, Vera Baboun. A widow, mother of five and new grandmother of one, she talks frankly of Palestine being a nation under occupation and of the Separation Wall, saying the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem (5 miles!) is breached by the wall, a wall that breaches a people and a message. She notes that a whole generation, the young people, have never been allowed to go to Jerusalem to pray in the Holy Sepulcher at Easter, for example.

She talks about Bethlehems gift to Pope Francis of what she calls a chandelier, though she speaks of oil and oil lamps are profuse in churches so perhaps this was the papal gift.

Mayor Baboun also talks about the peace process, saying it needs a courageous Israeli leader, an Israeli leader who can stand as a partner for peace.

And she tells us quite beautifully what she brings - as a woman - to her job.

We spoke a day before Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Bethlehem. In the background you will hear two sounds: first, a speaker with a megaphone at a gathering in Manger Square, right outside the mayors office, and, towards the 10 minute mark, the noon Muslim prayer from the minaret adjacent to the mayors office. These do not interfere with our conversation but I felt you should know what the background sounds are.

Mayor Baboun got her degree in Afro-American literature at the University of Bethlehem, where she also taught at one point. She was also head mistress of the Catholic school of Beit Sahour. Vera Baboun has been involved in the search for an increased role for women in Arab society. She was elected mayor in the fall of 2012 against all predictions. At the time she was preparing her doctoral thesis on Arab-American feminine literature. Bethlehems mayor must, by law, be a Christian.

As you know, in the United States you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see LISTEN TO EWTN. Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


Cardinal Leonardo Sandri is following the unfolding of events in Iraq with extreme concern, and is united in prayer with the Chaldean Patriarch, Louis Sako, all the bishops, priests and lay faithful of Iraq. A statement from the prefect of the Congragation for Oriental Churches goes on to say that Catholic churches and schools are open to refugees of all religions, and assures the faithful of Iraq of the spiritual closeness and paternity of Pope Francis.

Chaldean Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul, Iraqs second largest city, granted an interview to the Catholic charity organization Aid to the Church in Need on June 11, parts of which were summarized by Vatican Radio:

Archbishop Nona said he thought Mosul's last remaining Christians had left now a city that, up to 2003, was home to 35,000 faithful.

The Christians are among 500,000 thought to have fled Mosul whose overthrow on June 10 was followed by news on June 11 of militant attacks on the Iraqi city of Tikrit, 95 miles north of the capital, Baghdad.

Describing reports of attacks to four churches and a monastery in Mosul, the archbishop, 46, said: "We received threats... [and] now all the faithful have fled the city. I wonder if they will ever return there."

The archbishop, who in the ensuing crisis sought sanctuary in Tal Kayf, a village two miles from Mosul, described how the local community were doing their best to provide for crowds of people flooding out of the city and into the surrounding Nineveh plains, where there are a number of ancient Christian villages.

"Up at 5am Tuesday, June 10 we welcomed families on the run and we have tried to find accommodation in schools, classrooms and empty houses."

He said: "We have never seen anything like this a large city such as Mosul attacked and in chaos."

He said that in the 11 years following the 2003 US-led overthrow of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein, Christians in Mosul had declined from 35,000 to 3,000 and that "now there is probably no one left."

The archbishop said the attacks on Mosul began last Thursday (June 5) but were initially confined to the western part of the city.

He said: "The army began bombing the affected areas but later in the night between Monday and Tuesday, suddenly the armed forces and the police left Mosul, leaving it to the mercy of the attackers."

The archbishop questioned reports claiming the militants responsible for the attacks are part of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS), a terrorist organization linked to Al-Qaeda and in control of key areas of north-west Syria. He said: "I do not know yet who the group is behind these attacks. Some speak of ISIS, others think other groups are responsible.

"We have to wait until we have a better understanding of the situation. What we do know is that they are extremists, many people have seen them patrolling the streets."


In a fascinating video, Rome Reports presented an image of what St. Anthony of Padua whose feast is today, June 13 - might have looked like after a group of scientists and designers took a digital copy of a skull and attempted to reconstruct the face of the patron saint of lost objects. Born in Portugal, St. Anthony, a Doctor of the Church, died June 13, 1231 in Padua, Italy at age 35.

The reconstruction will be made public from June 12 to 22 next to the basilica of St. Anthony in Padua. Click here to view: Click here

The reconstruction of the saintly face was, says Rome Reports, a team effort that included the University of Padua's Anthropology Museum, the Antoniani Studies Center and a 3D tech group. Time was needed, but also patience and precision.

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