IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. ShemitzBy Daphnie VegaUNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- While religious freedom in much of the Middle East is under siege and the civil war in Syria seems to have no end in sight, Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, and others called the United Nations to action.The U.N. plays a crucial role in securing the future of the region, particularly for people being tortured, kidnapped and killed because of their religious beliefs, Anderson said during a daylong conference April 28.Anderson's presentation came during one of three panel discussions at the conference sponsored by the office of the Vatican's permanent observer to the U.N. and joined by In Defense of Christians and other organizations focusing on human rights abuses in the Middle East.Presenters included people who experienced or witnessed atrocities being committed against religious minorities.Led by remarks from Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican's permanent observer to the U.N., the event had an intensely sensitive agenda.A 278-page report submitted to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that was co-authored by the Knights of Columbus and the group In Defense of Christians in March outlined what it called "genocide" being carried out against religious minorities by the Islamic State. Its contents focused largely on Christians who have been murdered and those indigenous communities who will or have been displaced from their region.On March 17, Kerry designated Islamic State actions as genocide, but the United States has yet to offer a plan to respond.The U.N. estimates that more than half of Syria's pre-civil war population of about 22.1 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Four million Syrian refugees now live outside of their homeland. Overall, at least 8 million people have been displaced throughout the region, human rights organizations estimate.Anderson mentioned published threats in the Islamic State's magazine, Dabiq, specifying what the group has called the "Crusader army" from the West. Such threats have not only been carried out in many parts of the Middle East but have haunted the lives of innocent men, women and children, he said.The Knights of Columbus has raised more than $10.5 million for relief since 2014 while partnering with dioceses and religious organizations to provide victims with food, clothing, shelter, education and medical attention, he said.Anderson concluded his presentation by proposing that the U.N. take legal action against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups to prevent the eradication of long-standing and indigenous communities in the Middle East. He called for punishment of the perpetrators and for the establishment of international standards of justice, equality, the rule of law and religious freedom.Sister Maria de Guadalupe Rodrigo, a member of the Congregation of the Incarnate Word who has spent 18 years in the Middle East as a missionary, spoke of her experienced living in Aleppo, Syria, a major battleground in the civil war."I remember the first two months when this all started, we all remained inside," she said. "There were constant explosions and gunshots. We couldn't sleep. But these weeks turned into months and the months into years."Sister Maria de Guadalupe described how children playing on the street collect bullets and trade them with one another because they could find nothing else to play with. Children should not be concerned about safety, but safety is all they think about, she said.A child captured and tortured by ISIS also addressed the conference. Samia Sleman, 15, of Hardan, Iraq, a village north of Mount Sinjar, gave an emotional speech about her time in captivity. A member of the Yazidi minority, Sleman spent six months sequestered along with other girls who were starved, raped and sold to other Islamic State members.Sleman brought attention to the many girls whom Islamic State members take as sex slaves while their mothers are killed for being "too old." Some enslaved girls are as young 7 or 8 years old, she said.Despite the horrific actions of her captors, Sleman, whose family is still being held, spoke on their behalf so the U.N. and world governments would act to end the genocide taking place.In another session, Jacqueline Isaac, vice president of Roads of Success, a Southern California organization addressing human rights in the Middle East, asked, "Where are you, world?"Victims of ISIS are more than numbers, but human beings, she said, as many in the audience rose to their feet and applauded.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Carol GlatzVATICAN
CITY (CNS) -- Moral and ethical concerns must guide medical research so it will
always be at the service of protecting human life and dignity, Pope Francis
that way, education and research can strive "to serve higher values, such
as solidarity, generosity, magnanimity, sharing of knowledge, respect for human
life, and fraternal and selfless love," he said April 29, during an
audience with people taking part in a conference on adult stem cell research.
whether in academia or industry," he said, "requires unwavering
attention to moral issues if it is to be an instrument which safeguards human
life and the dignity of the person."
Vice President Joe Biden was in attendance and had addressed the conference
with a 29-minute speech on the need to invest in prevention, access and
affordability in the fight against cancer.
conference looked at current and experimental techniques in using adult stem
cells to fight disease, specifically rare illnesses afflicting children. The
April 28-30 conference was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture; its
foundation, STOQ, which is an acronym for Science, Theology and the Ontological
Quest; and the Stem for Life Foundation, a nonprofit offshoot of the for-profit
Caladrius cell-therapy company.
to participants gathered in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, the pope highlighted
the conference's emphasis on top-notch medical know-how without overlooking the
"ethical, anthropological, social and cultural questions, as well as the
complex problem of access to care for those afflicted by rare conditions."
struck by rare diseases "are often not given sufficient attention because
investing in them is not expected to produce substantial economic
returns," the pope said.
fact, the pope repeated his call against "an economy of exclusion and
inequality that victimizes people when the mechanism of profit prevails over
the value of human life."
is why the globalization of indifference must be countered by the globalization
of empathy" so that resources will be dedicated to finding cures and
people will be allowed access to treatment, he said.
know that we cannot always find fast cures to complex illnesses, but we can be
prompt in caring for these people, who often feel abandoned and ignored,"
he said. People must be sensitive to everyone regardless of their religious
beliefs, social standing or cultural background, he said.
his speech, delivered before the pope arrived, Biden spoke about the attention
and comfort he felt when the pope met him and his family privately during the
papal visit to the United States in September.
lost his 46-year-old son, Beau, to brain cancer in May 2015. The vice president
said that during the private meeting in an airplane hangar in Philadelphia, the
pope's words, prayers and presence "provided us with more comfort than
even he, I think, will ever understand."
a Catholic, said his family, like many others around the world, have seen
"how faith can turn loss into hope, and hope into action."
Holy Father has given hope to so many people, of all faiths, in every part of
the world, with his strong words and humble ways," he said.
spoke about the U.S. administration's "Moonshot," an initiative he
leads and which is aimed at eliminating cancer through prevention -- including
from environmental causes -- and greater access to healthcare and affordable
treatment. "The best medicine and treatment can't belong only to the
privileged and the powerful. It has to belong to everyone," he said.
is a constant emergency" Biden said, as it causes the deaths of 3,000
people a day in the United States.
urged researchers and scientists to share and publish data and discoveries
"immediately," and not hide it for years behind "paywalls."
do you wait? What is your rationale?" he said.
in all religions, is animated by hope and love, he said, adding that he had
faith global progress was possible.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Italian authorities arrested six suspects
who allegedly received orders from the Islamic State terrorist group to attack the Vatican and
the Israeli embassy in Rome.
The arrests made in Lombardy and Piedmont April 28 were the result of a
joint operation coordinated by the district attorney of Milan and the Italian
According to the Italian news agency ANSA, authorities arrested
and his wife, Salma Bencharki;
and three people who have maintained contact with a couple that left Italy to join the
Islamic State in Syria. All
of the suspects are of
A warrant has been issued for the couple, Mohamed Korachi and his
Italian wife, Alice Brignoli,
who are believed to have left for Syria in 2015.
Authorities monitored a series of conversations
between the suspects via WhatsApp. One of the messages sent to Moutaharrik said:
"Dear brother Abderrahim, I send you ... the bomb poem ... listen to the sheik
and strike," ANSA reported.
Milan prosecutor Maurizio Romanelli told reporters authorities believe the word "sheik" is a
reference to Islamic State leader Abu-Bakir Al-Baghdadi. He also said the
messages, intercepted in February and March 2016, mentioned a strike against
the Israeli embassy as well as against Christian pilgrims in Rome for the Jubilee Year of
"I swear I will be the first to attack them
in this Italy of crusaders, I swear I'll attack it, in the Vatican God willing," a message from one of the arrested suspects stated, according to ANSA.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi,
Vatican spokesman, expressed his confidence in the current security measures in
place for the Holy Year.
"The preventative security measures in place to protect pilgrims
during the jubilee year are serious and functioning properly, as everyone can
see and have witnessed. Therefore, there appears to be no need to modify them," he told Catholic News Service
- - -
Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS/courtesy Vatican ObservatoryBy Carol GlatzVATICAN
CITY (CNS) -- Of the many momentous or menial tasks women religious perform,
one of the better-kept secrets has been the role of four Sisters of the Holy
Child Mary who were part of a global effort to make a complete map and
catalog of the starry skies.
until recently, the women were no more than nameless nuns whose image has long
been preserved in a black and white photograph that showed them wearing
impeccably ironed habits and leaning over special microscopes and a ledger.
now their identities have been pulled out of obscurity by Jesuit Father Sabino
Maffeo, assistant to the director of the Vatican Observatory. He stumbled onto
their names as he was going through the observatory archives, "putting
papers in order," he told Catholic News Service April 26.
Emilia Ponzoni, Regina Colombo, Concetta Finardi and Luigia Panceri, all born
in the late 1800s and from the northern Lombardy region near Milan, helped map
and catalog nearly half a million stars for the Vatican's part in an
international survey of the night sky.
astronomers from around the world met in Paris in 1887 and again in 1889 to
coordinate the creation of a photographic "Celestial Map"
("Carte du Ciel") and an "astrographic" catalog pinpointing the stars' positions.
astronomer and meteorologist, Barnabite Father Francesco Denza, easily convinced
Pope Leo XIII to let the Holy See take part in the initiative, which assigned
participating observatories a specific slice of the sky to photograph, map and
Maffeo, an expert in the observatory's history and its archivist, said Pope Leo
saw the Vatican's participation as a way to show the world that "the
church supported science" and "was not just concerned with theology
Vatican was one of about 18 observatories that spent the next several decades
taking thousands of glass-plate photographs with their telescopes and
cataloging data for the massive project.
the project at the Vatican Observatory began to suffer after Father Denza died
Pope Pius X found out the new director wasn't up to the job, he called on
Archbishop Pietro Maffi of Pisa to reorganize the observatory and search for
the best replacement, Father Maffeo said.
1906, the archbishop found his man at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
-- Jesuit Father John Hagen who had been heading its observatory there since
1888 and was renowned for his research on "variable" stars, which
have fluctuating brightness.
he had extensive experience in astronomy, Father Hagen never did the kind of
measurements and number crunching required for the astrographic catalog,
Father Maffeo said.
he went to Europe to see how they did it and saw that in some observatories
there were women who read the (star) positions and wrote them in a book with
precise coordinates," the 93-year-old Jesuit priest said.
astronomers told Father Hagen that once the young women "were shown how to
do it, they were very diligent," Father Maffeo said. At the Royal
Observatory in Greenwich, for example, they even were referred to as "lady
computers" because of the skill needed to calculate the coordinates
according to set formulae.
Father Hagen wondered where he might be able to hire young women for the
Vatican, "he immediately thought -- nuns," and contacted the Sisters
of the Holy Child Mary, who were located nearby, Father Maffeo said.
Coincidentally, Mary is often symbolized in Catholic Church tradition by a
a letter dated July 13, 1909, to the superior general, Mother Angela Ghezzi,
Archbishop Maffi said the Vatican Observatory "needs two sisters with
normal vision, patience and a predisposition for methodical and mechanical
Maffeo said the sisters' general council was not enthused "about wasting
two nuns on a job that had nothing to do with charity." However, Mother
Ghezzi was "used to seeing God's will in every request," he said, and
she let two sisters go to the observatory.
for the sisters began in 1910, but soon required a third and later a fourth nun
to join the team. Two would sit in front of a microscope mounted on an inclined
plane with a light shining under the plate-glass photograph of one section of
the night sky.
plates were overlaid with numbered grids and the sisters would measure and read
out loud each star's location on two axes and another would register the
coordinates in a ledger. They would also check enlarged versions of the images
Vatican was one of about 10 observatories to complete its assigned slice of the
sky. From 1910 to 1921, the nuns surveyed the brightness and positions of
481,215 stars off of hundreds of glass plates.
painstaking work did not go unnoticed at the time. Pope Benedict XV received
them in a private audience in 1920 and gave them a gold chalice, Father Maffeo
said. Pope Pius XI also received the "measuring nuns" eight years
later, awarding them a silver medal.
Vatican's astrographic catalog, which totaled 10 volumes, gave special
mention to the sisters, noting their "alacrity and diligence,"
uninterrupted labors and "zeal greater than any eulogy" could express
at a task "so foreign to their mission."
international project to catalog star positions and build a celestial map
ended in 1966 and recorded nearly 5 million stars. The catalog consists of
more than 200 volumes produced by 20 observatories and the unfinished map is
made up of hundreds of sheets of paper -- all work culled from more than 22,000
glass photographic plates of the sky.
Maffeo said, "Never before had there been a presentation of the stars as
vast as this."
the project was quickly eclipsed by huge technological developments in
surveying stars, modern-day scientists eventually discovered that comparing the
star positions recorded a century earlier with current satellite positions
provided valuable information about star motions for millions of stars.
project showed that even in a new era of satellites and software, quaint
glass-plate photographs and "lady computers" weren't wholly obsolete. - - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, ReutersBy Kurt JensenWASHINGTON (CNS) -- House Speaker Paul Ryan apologized for his earlier criticism of recipients of government benefits as "takers and makers," and said Republicans strive for a country that is "open, diverse, dynamic" in a speech at Georgetown University.Ryan's one-hour talk April 27 at the Jesuit-run university's Gaston Hall was billed by him as an effort to reach out to millennials. Political observers described it as an effort to soften his image in preparation for a 2020 run for the presidency.The speech came nearly four years to the day that the Wisconsin Republican told a Georgetown audience, "The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it."This time around, however, Ryan said nothing about his Catholic beliefs."What prompted you to reconsider your previous statements about poor people as takers?" asked Rachel Hirsch, a graduate student."I was just wrong," Ryan replied. "I didn't mean to give offense. ... There are people who get knocked down in life. And to lump an entire category of people in one broad brush is wrong, I think."He added that the only way to deal with his previous rhetoric is, "Just own up to it. Just fess up and fix it."His 2012 remarks at the university were a flashpoint of that year's presidential campaign when he ran for vice president on the Republican ticket headed by Mitt Romney.Ryan had been criticized by advocates of poor and marginalized people for his stance. Rather than chastise, however, charitable organizations, led by Catholic Charities USA, have worked with Ryan and his staff for months to showcase programs that aid poor families, homeless individuals, the sick and the elderly while stressing the importance of a federal partnership to support such efforts because the nonprofits would be overwhelmed if left to provide social services solely on their own.Ryan's words were a version of the apology he has been offering in speeches and TV interviews since January. His language to students was less strident than during his first visit, but he did not get into the specifics of policy proposals."I want to make my case: Why support Republicans? I'm going to go out on a limb and assume the thought had not occurred to most of you. So here's how I'd sum it up: The America that you want is the America that we want -- open, diverse, dynamic. It is what I call a confident America, where the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life, where we tackle our problems together so that all of us can thrive," Ryan said.In response to a student question, Ryan said action by Congress on immigration reform "will have to wait for the next president" and repeated his familiar accusation of President Barack Obama "going around Congress and making laws" with executive orders.Securing the border, he said, is about "heroin and opiods. This is about ISIS. It's not about Latinos. It's not at all about that."Ryan called for "more competition in student lending" to provide more alternatives in college choices. "Look, I love this school, you've had some awesome basketball teams ... but not everyone can afford a place like this," he said.Ryan did not mention Donald Trump or any other Republican presidential candidates by name. One student, who said he was a Republican, said he was unhappy with both Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and asked Ryan if there was a reason for hope.Ryan maintained his neutrality on the race for the Republican nomination, but added, "I have never seen the well poisoned as much as it is these days. ... I'd like to say it's just the Democrats, but it's not -- it's both."He decried the use of "identity politics" as a successful political strategy. "Now unfortunately, both sides are playing this game. And all it's doing is dividing us as a country," he said.With "45 million people out there in poverty" and anxiety about stagnant wages, "right now in the primaries, it's being accelerated and exacerbated. Gas is being thrown on the fire," he added."Republicans lose personality contests anyway. We always do. I've learned that lesson the hard way. But we win ideas contests. And this is what we want to have is an ideas contest."- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.