IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Rhina GuidosWASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a heartfelt letter to his
homeland Sept. 30, Pope Francis told his fellow Argentines that he will not be able to
visit this or next year because of obligations in Asia and Africa.
"You don't know how much I would love to see you again," Pope
Francis said in the letter addressed to the people of Argentina, which is a transcript
of an accompanying video message.
"For me, the people of Argentina are my people, you are
important," he wrote. "I continue to be an Argentine, and I still travel with
an Argentine passport. I am convinced that the people are the biggest treasure
of our homeland."
Pope Francis said he wanted to go to Argentina to beatify "Mama
Antula" and to canonize "Cura Brochero." He was referring to Maria Antonia de
Paz Figueroa, an 18th-century Catholic laywoman who championed the Ignatian spiritual
exercises in Argentina after the Jesuits were expelled, and Jose Gabriel del
Rosario Brochero, a "gaucho," or cowboy priest, known for his affinity for the
poor. She was beatified in August and he will be canonized in October.Pope Francis did not say where or when his travel to Asia and Africa will occur.
He said he placed his return to
his homeland "in the Lord's hands." The pope said he found consolation in the
letters he receives from Argentina, which are so numerous that he cannot reply
"It gives me joy and leads me
to pray, and I pray for you at Mass, for your necessities, for each one of you,"
He said that while Argentina is
lauded for its richness in mountains, forests, coasts and mining, "the biggest
treasure our homeland has is its people, a people who know solidarity, know how
to walk with one another, know how to help, respect," and don't take a step
back. "I respect, love and carry (those people) in my heart," he said.
As the teachers of yesteryear
once did, he said he, too, dispenses homework, and the homework he gives them is
to go out and practice the works of mercy, while reminding them to also pray for
him.- - -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 photo/Earnie Grafton, ReutersBy SAN
DIEGO (CNS) -- Bishop Robert W.
McElroy of San Diego asked
people to pray for calm and called on police to be "as transparent as
possible" in their investigation following the shooting of unarmed man in
a San Diego suburb.
The bishop said
the Catholic community was saddened by the shooting death of Alfred Olango of El Cajon
during a confrontation with police officers Sept. 27.
understand the pain the community feels. We pray for calm during this wrenching
time and stand ready to work together to achieve true justice and peace for
all," Bishop McElroy said in a brief statement released by the diocese
The bishop said
he acknowledged the personal risk police officers face, but called for
transparency as they worked to piece together details of the incident.
shooting, protesters have marched in the streets of El Cajon.
said two men were arrested late Sept. 29 after violence broke out during a
protest involving 50 to 75 people. Law enforcement officers shot pepper
spray to disperse the protesters who had blocked streets and got into a
confrontation with drivers upset with the road closing.
said some protesters threw bottles at police in riot gear during a third night
shooting occurred after two police officers responded to a report of a man
behaving erratically and walking into the street. Police said one of the
responding officers aimed a Taser at the man and the other drew a gun. Both
officers fired when the man, identified as Olango, pointed a silver object and
pointed it at one of the officers.
object turned out to be vape smoking device with a metal cylinder, police said. A
photo released by authorities showed the man pointing the device at one of the
officers. Family members have called for release of police video of the
declined to release any video, citing guidelines by the district attorney
requiring the investigation to move forward.
of Olango's family have said they had called police for help and told them that
he was having an emotional breakdown and was unarmed.- - -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/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenTBILISI, Georgia (CNS) -- Subtly acknowledging Georgia's
ongoing territorial dispute with Russia, Pope Francis urged greater efforts to
sow peace throughout the Caucasus region.
Shortly after arriving in Tbilisi at the start of his 16th
foreign trip, the pope met privately with Georgian President Giorgi
Margvelashvili Sept. 30 and, with the president, he addressed a small gathering
of civic leaders and members of the diplomatic corps outside the presidential
In a nation where more than 230,000 people are still
displaced by the ongoing Georgian-Russian dispute over control of South
Ossetia, the pope said it was time to find a way for the displaced to return to
their homes and for respect for the "sovereign rights" of each
nation. Only Russia and a handful of other nations recognize the supposed
independence of South Ossetia.
The theme the government and local church chose for the
pope's visit Sept. 30-Oct. 1 was "pax vobis," "peace be with
Margvelashvili was more blunt than the pope. Georgia, he
said, "is still victim of a military aggression on the part of another
state: 20 percent of our territory is occupied and 15 percent of the population
is displaced. Their homes were taken only because they are ethnically
"Only 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) from here, there is
barbed wire that prevents a peaceful population -- neighbors and relatives --
from having a relationship with each other," the president said.
"Only 40 kilometers from here, each day human beings witness violence,
kidnappings, murders and offenses that deeply wound dignity."
The return of displaced people is the government's primary
concern, he said. "Human beings should not have to suffer because of
political situations and they have a right to return to their own homes."
Pope Francis urged the people of the region to make
concerted efforts to respect their cultural and ethnic differences, giving
everyone a chance "to coexist peacefully in their homeland or freely to
return to that land if, for some reason, they have been forced to leave
"The peaceful coexistence among all peoples and states
in the region is the indispensable and prior condition for such authentic and
enduring progress," the pope told the country's leaders.
Georgia, which had been part of the Soviet Union, has been
working for 25 years to build democracy and promote development. Pope Francis
said he hoped the process would continue, increasingly involving all sectors of
society to ensure "stability, justice and respect for the rule of
Both the pope and the president emphasized Georgia's
"European" identity, but also it's geographical location and historic
role as a meeting place of Asia and Europe. Over Russian objections, Georgia
has been trying to join the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization;
it has belonged to the Council of Europe since 1999.
The formal meetings took place after a brief airport
welcoming ceremony. The president and patriarch were at the airport to welcome
the pope, as were a boy and girl, who offered him a basket of grapes.
Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II, bowed by age and
Parkinson's disease, stood next to each other as the Vatican and Georgian
national anthems were played.
Leaving the airport, the papal motorcade passed two groups
of Orthodox faithful protesting the pope's visit. The groups held signs written
in English. One said, "Pope arch heretic. You are not welcome in Orthodox
Georgia." The other said, "Vatican is a spiritual aggressor."
- - -
Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.- - -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 photo/L'Osservatore Romano via EPABy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said he will never
give up calling for stronger efforts to bring peace to the Middle East and for
people to stop being indifferent to the fate of the region's people.
"My daily prayer to God," he said, is "to
inspire the minds and hearts of all who have political responsibility, that
they may be able to renounce their own interests in order to achieve the
greater good -- peace."
The pope spoke during a private audience Sept. 29 at the
Vatican with bishops, priests, religious and lay Catholics who provide pastoral
and humanitarian assistance to those in need in Syria, Iraq and neighboring
Despite many efforts to alleviate people's suffering, he
said, sadly "the logic of weapons and oppression, hidden interests and
violence continues to wreak devastation on these countries and, even now, we
have not been able to put an end to the exasperating suffering and repeated
violations of human rights."
Why, he asked, "even at the cost of untold damage to
persons, property and the environment, does humanity continue to pursue abuses
of power, revenge and violence?"
The endless cycle of violence almost makes it seem like
the world is "caught up in a spiral of arrogance and inertia from which
there is no escape," he said.
What people in Syria and Iraq want more than anything else --
beyond the needed humanitarian aid -- is peace, he said.
"And so I will never tire of asking the
international community for greater and renewed efforts to achieve peace
throughout the Middle East, and of asking not to look the other way."
Ending conflict also lies in human hands, he said, so
every individual "can and must become a peacemaker."
"This evil which grips our will and conscience
should challenge us," the pope said, and make people reflect how such evil
must be redeemed.
The Year of Mercy highlights how divine mercy is
ultimately the only power that can limit evil, he said. "Yes, the answer
to the drama of evil lies in the mystery of Christ."
The work of so many people on the ground helping refugees
and those in need, and protecting their dignity, the pope said, "is
certainly a reflection of God's mercy and, as such, a sign that evil has limits
and does not have the last word."
"In the midst of so much darkness," Christians
in the Middle East "hold high the lamp of faith, hope and charity" as
they help everyone -- with courage and without discrimination, he said.
Pope Francis entrusted the communities in crisis and
those who are helping them to the intercession of St. Teresa of Kolkata,
"exemplar of charity and mercy."
He also thanked and encouraged international
organizations, in particular the United Nations, for their work and efforts at
Reaching agreements that end conflicts and protect the
defenseless, he said, requires taking "a path we must travel together with
patience and perseverance, but also with urgency, and the church will certainly
continue to make her contribution."
Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations' special envoy to
Syria, was among about 100 people at the papal audience. The group was at the
Vatican for a follow-up meeting, sponsored by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum,
to study the church's priorities and response to the crises in the region.
Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martin, nuncio to Iraq and
Jordan, told reporters at the meeting venue Sept. 29 that helping Christians
return to their homes or communities was a priority in areas where the fighting
However, for Christians to return or remain, they need
guarantees of security, proper housing and food, he said.
Christians returning to homes that have been ransacked or
pillaged would face the additional challenge, he said, of being witnesses to
mercy by showing "no rancor" for having lost everything.
They will also play a crucial role in reconciliation and
rebuilding, he said, because of the Christian tradition of being committed to
dialogue, "being open to the other, forgiveness and
More than 13.5 million people are in need of help in
Syria, and there are at least 10 million people in need in Iraq, Cor Unum said
in a press handout.
The Catholic Church's network of people on the ground in
the region includes more than 4,000 professional staff and 8,000 volunteers, it
said, as well as the many priests and religious working in the area.
In 2015, the Catholic Church mobilized more than $207
million in aid, which helped more than 4.5 million people, it said.
The money was used to fund education, food and other
material, health care, shelter and rent. The amount of money being gathered and
the number of people being helped for 2016, it said, was expected to exceed
last year's figures.- - -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/Katie BreidenbachBy Katie BreidenbachTOLEDO, Ohio (CNS) -- The moment
Ann Barrick stepped from the sidewalk onto the crumbling parking lot, her eyes
filled with tears.
"You pray about these things,
and you never think you're going to see it happen."
For nine years, Barrick stood on
that very sidewalk, praying that Center for Choice of Toledo would cease to
exist. Every autumn, she led the "40 Days for Life" vigil outside the abortion
Her prayers were answered.
Shuttered in 2013, the Center for Choice was finally bulldozed at the beginning
of September. Today, the derelict parking lot leads only to a muddy plot
studded with fragments of the former foundation.
"It can't be anything but
prayer. There's no reason this place should have come down," Barrick said.
Adding miracle to miracle,
representatives from multiple pro-life organizations met at the offices of the
Diocese of Toledo Sept. 26. The ecumenical group is executing a once
far-fetched vision: to convert the site of the abortion clinic into a memorial
for the unborn.
Denise Emerine purchased the
land two years ago with the aid of many sponsors. "We really felt that the Lord
was wanting this to be a place to engage people and not be a place of death,"
said Emerine, who also directs the Greater Toledo House of Prayer. "He is the
redeeming God. He's bringing hope. Out of the ashes he's bringing beauty."
The group, which also includes
representatives from Catholic Charities, the Foundation for Life and local
crisis pregnancy centers, christened the site "Hope Park" and wants to complete
the memorial by October 2017. Artistic renderings show a grassy area adorned
with trees that has two paths leading to three free-standing walls. "Faith,"
"Hope" and "Love" are emblazoned on the walls, along with verses from Chapter 61
of the Book of Isaiah.
Plans also include a "Wall of
Remembrance" where mothers can add the names of unborn children. A single
dogwood tree that once marked the entrance of the clinic will remain on the
grounds as the "Tree of Hope," symbolizing the triumph of life.
"There are some projects that
you can feel you're part of something big. This is one of those projects," Tim
Schlachter, chair of the Hope Park building committee, told Catholic News
Service. To him and the other members, even the estimated cost of the project
shows God's hand: $610,000, a number that echoes the "61" of the chosen chapter
"When Jesus went into the
synagogue, they handed him the Torah to read Isaiah 61, 'The spirit of the Lord
is upon me, he has anointed me to set the captives free,'" Emerine explained.
"So I believe he's saying, 'I want to restore life back to all the families
that have been affected by the death sentence that was here.'"
The conversion of the clinic has
redeeming significance to Mandy Sattler, one of the planning members. Nine
years ago, a student just beginning nursing school, she had her own abortion at
the Center for Choice. She described the shame that kept her silent for years,
and the hope that this new chapter brings.
"To know that the building had
been taken down, it was a sign for me: God's taking care of this, he's big
enough for this, you can let it go," Sattler said.
When the Center for Choice
closed in June 2013, it had documented over 50,000 abortions in 30 years of
operation. Many of the organizations planning Hope Park had been praying and
working for years to see it shuttered. The breakthrough came when the clinic
was unable to secure a "transfer agreement" with a local hospital. Such an
arrangement is required by Ohio law for all ambulatory surgical facilities,
giving a doctor admitting privileges should a patient be in a condition
Ed Sitter, executive director of
the Foundation for Life, has now focused his organization's efforts on shutting
down the one remaining abortion clinic in Toledo: Capital Care Network. "If
women have more time to really contemplate their decision, they get more
informed, they get more aware, they're empowered to make a life-affirming
decision," he said.
From Sept. 28 until the
beginning of November, prayer vigils for the national 40 Days for Life campaign
will be held outside Capital Care Network. A thanksgiving service at Hope Park also
was planned for Oct. 6. Peter Range, director of the Office for Life and
Justice at Catholic Charities, is helping to organize those events.
"It's amazing to see God's hand
at work and a good reminder that God does have the ultimate victory. Life does
eventually triumph over death," he told CNS.
"Prayer is really truly one of
our most powerful weapons," Sitter explained. "I believe that Capital Care
Network will also close like the Center for Choice, and I believe that abortion
will become a thing of the past."- - -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.