IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via ReutersBy Doreen Abi RaadBEIRUT (CNS) -- Lebanese leaders
in Muslim-Christian dialogue said they hoped Pope Francis' meeting with Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of
al-Azhar University, would lead to new relationships.
Maronite Father Fadi Daou, chairman of Adyan, a foundation for
interfaith studies and spiritual solidarity based in Lebanon, told Catholic
News Service that he hopes the meeting will be the forerunner
to a "new dimension of interreligious relations."
Mohammad Sammak, secretary-general of Lebanon's
Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue, said the meeting likely would "open
a new page of cooperation on the basis of building real citizenship -- equal
citizenship -- between Christians and Muslims all over the Middle East."
"For sure this is a very
important meeting, not only because it is the first of its kind in history that
the grand imam of al-Azhar visits the Vatican and is received by the Holy
Father, but the timing in itself is very important," Sammak said.
"First, because it came
after a misunderstanding between al-Azhar and the Vatican and secondly, because
Muslims are in urgent need to show the whole world that Islam is open and to
clarify the bad image of Islam that has erupted because of the incidents in the
Middle East," Sammak said.Established in 1998, the formal
dialogue between al-Azhar and the Vatican started to fray in 2006, after
now-retired Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech in Regensburg, Germany. Al-Azhar
officials and millions of Muslims around the world said the speech linked Islam
Al-Azhar halted the talks
altogether in 2011 after the former pope said Christians in the Middle East
were facing persecution.Sammak emphasized that the
Vatican took the "initiative to make this meeting happen" May 23.
Father Daou said although no
common declaration was issued, the meeting "in itself is a symbol, after
10 years of distance and in a current context of a rise of extremism, as it
joins the grand imam of al-Azhar, known for his openness to Christianity, and a
pope that has taken positions toward overcoming Islamophobia and welcoming
"The meeting's agenda
indicates that the concern for peace and security prevailed in the discussion,
more than the interfaith and Christian-Muslim dialogue and relations,"
Father Daou said from Istanbul, where he was attending the World Humanitarian
Al-Azhar is considered the most
authoritative theological-academic institution of Sunni Islam.
Father Daou said he hoped the
meeting would reactivate the relationship between al-Azhar and the Vatican, to
consider "the most pressing questions today, namely the preservation of
living together and the promotion of the values of citizenship inclusive of
religious and cultural diversity. This should help in transforming the common
principles and concerns declared at the meeting to a common agenda for
The priest noted that "al-Azhar
has been working for ... years in the direction of new Islamic positions
concerning state, religion and politics and diversity."
"Collaboration with the Vatican
on this level can only add to the weight of the positions promulgated by this
most important Islamic Sunni authority worldwide," he said.
Both men pointed to a December
2014 al-Azhar conference on confronting extremism and terrorism. Father Daou
said the conference "clearly opted for citizenship and democracy and not
for a Muslim state, stating that 'any political system that fulfills ...
primordial human values ... is a system that receives legitimacy from the
sources of Islam.'"
Sammak said the conference
discussed "how we can build our societies again and how we can fight
together -- Christians and Muslims -- extremism and terror in the Middle East,
which is targeting Christians as well as Muslims."
"That's why I hope this
meeting (at the Vatican) will open a new page between the two institutions --
the Vatican and al-Azhar," he said.
Sammak said he expected that
now, al-Azhar "will speak to other Muslim organizations and ... include
more Muslim organizations -- Sunni and Shiite, Arabs and non-Arabs -- within
the framework of Christian-Muslim cooperation with the Vatican and through the
Sammak referred to the May 23
meeting as "the fourth opportunity."
"There have been three
previous opportunities that Muslims did not deal very well with," he said,
calling the first opportunity the Second Vatican Council.
"Vatican II opened new
bridges with Islam. But the Muslim world did not realize the importance of this
initiative then," Sammak explained.
The second opportunity, Sammak
said, was when St. John Paul II convened the 1995 Synod of Bishops for Lebanon.
"The document that came out
of the synod about Lebanon is not (only) about Lebanon itself, but about
Lebanon as a message of coexistence for the Arab world. This wasn't really well
understood and well-received," Sammak said. He said the third opportunity
was the 2010 Synod of Bishops on the Middle East.
Sammak said he hopes Vatican II
documents "will be reread and implemented, and Muslims should really
understand their relations with the Vatican .... The two synods -- about
Lebanon and the Middle East -- are very essential and very important in the
sense that there are many key positions that we should know and understand and
build our own future accordingly." - - -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 RomanoBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pray for victims of recent
terrorist attacks in Syria and pray that those who sow death and destruction
will change their ways, Pope Francis said in an appeal.
At the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's
Square May 25, the pope mentioned a string of attacks to hit "beloved
Syria" May 23, causing the death of "defenseless civilians."
At least 150 people were killed in separate, but nearly
simultaneous explosions in the cities of Jableh and Tartus. Militants of the
Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks on the civilian
targets, which included a hospital.
Before leading the "Hail Mary," the pope asked
that everyone pray for the "eternal repose of the victims, solace for the
relatives" and that God would "convert the hearts of those who sow
death and destruction."
Also at the audience, the pope marked International
Missing Children's Day with an appeal to civil and religious leaders to raise
people's awareness and inspire action in protecting vulnerable children.
"It is the duty of everyone to protect children,
most of all those exposed to a high risk of exploitation, trafficking and
deviant behaviors," the pope said.
He said he hoped civil and religious leaders could
"rattle" people's consciences and raise awareness so that no one
would be indifferent to the problem of children who are "alone, exploited
and removed from their families and social context, children who cannot grow up
in peace and look to the future with hope."
He invited everyone to pray that every missing child
would be "returned to the affection of their own loved ones."
According to the International Center for Missing and
Exploited Children, more than 8 million children around the world go missing
every year. These children face increased danger of falling victim to abuse,
exploitation and illegal activities, it said.- - -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 Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Prayer is not a magic wand that
fulfills your desires, but it is what helps you keep the faith when you don't
understand God's will, Pope Francis said.
Prayer is meant to be "our daily bread, our powerful
weapon and the staff for our journey," he said May 25 during his weekly
general audience in St. Peter's Square.
In his catechesis, the pope talked about the Gospel
parable of the persistent widow, who incessantly appealed to a corrupt judge
Judges at the time were supposed to be filled with the
fear of God as they impartially and faithfully upheld the laws of Moses, the
pope said. But the judge in this parable was dishonest and only cared about
himself. He had no interest in protecting the rights of the weakest and easily
exploited members of society, which included widows, orphans and foreigners, he
"Faced with the judge's indifference, the widow
resorted to her only weapon -- to keep incessantly pestering him, presenting
him with her appeal for justice," the pope said.
The judge finally gives in, he said, "not because he
is moved by mercy or because his conscience forces him to," but because of
her perseverance. He realizes he will never rid himself of her until he
delivers a just decision, and so he does, the pope said.
He said Jesus uses this parable to show that if a widow
with no clout or influence could sway an uncaring judge merely through her
patient and persistent pleas, then imagine how powerful that same force of
prayer is when directed toward a loving, merciful and benevolent God.
Jesus is showing how important and necessary it is to
pray tirelessly, all the time and not just every now and then, "when I
feel like it," the pope said.
"We all experience moments of exhaustion and
discouragement, above all when our prayers don't seem to work," he said.
Contrary to the stubborn judge, he said, God speedily
secures "the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and
night," according to the Gospel of St. Luke (18:1-8).
But that doesn't mean God will respond when "and in
the ways that we want. Prayer is not a magic wand," the pope said.
When Jesus prayed that his father spare him from
"the bitter cup of his passion," he also put himself fully in God's
hands, asking that the father's will -- not his own -- be done.
Jesus shows how prayer is about strengthening one's
relationship with the father -- transforming one's own wishes and conforming
them to God's will, he said.
Prayer "helps us keep our faith in God and to trust
him even when we do not understand his will."
"Prayer is what keeps the faith; without it, faith
wavers," Pope Francis said. And it is in prayer that people experience the
compassion of God who comes to his children "filled with merciful
- - -
Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz- - -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.
By Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN
CITY (CNS) -- A former consultant to
a pontifical commission who denied to a Vatican court that she leaked
documents about the Vatican's financial reform had admitted to sending
the documents when she was first interrogated, a Vatican policeman said.
DeSantis, an officer investigating the leaking of the documents, testified May
24 that Francesca Chaouqui told Vatican police officials she sent documents
regarding the Vatican Asset Management (VAM) to Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of
"Merchants in the Temple."
never assumed that she gave the documents, she admitted to it," DeSantis
told the court.
Chaouqui is on trial along with Msgr. Vallejo
Balda, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, and Nicola Maio, the monsignor's former assistant, for "several illegal acts" of leaking Vatican
Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, author of "Avarice"
are accused of "soliciting and exercising pressure, especially on (Msgr.)
Vallejo Balda," to obtain the documents.
The trial session May 24 began with the
cross-examination of Gianluca Gauzzi, deputy commissioner of the Vatican
police, by the defendants' lawyers regarding his testimony May 16 on the
contents of Msgr. Vallejo Balda's computer and telephones.
When asked by Laura Sgro, Chaouqui's lawyer,
about the examination of the WhatsApp
chats between Chaouqui and Msgr. Vallejo Balda, Gauzzi stated the police saw
the message exchange on the Spanish monsignor's phone.
Chaouqui, he added, deleted the messaging
application from her phone before handing it over to the Vatican's IT experts
as part of the investigation.
Taking the stand after the deputy commissioner,
DeSantis said Vatican police intensified their investigation after a break-in at the
office of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See and
discovered that several hard disks appeared to have been copied.
Investigators questioned the prefecture's IT technicians and
employees to verify whether they transferred the computer's content and discovered suspicious
messages and emails
sent by Msgr. Vallejo Balda to Nuzzi and Chaouqui.
When the commission's work was ended, DeSantis said, Chaouqui seemed to be upset that she
wasn't given another position at the Vatican, prompting her husband, Corrado
Lanino, to send Msgr. Vallejo Balda a message that could appear threatening.
"Be careful humiliating her because she can
be dangerous given her contacts," DeSantis said Lanino told Msgr. Vallejo Balda in
one email exchange.
Regarding Chaouqui's initial confession of
sending documents to Nuzzi, DeSantis told the court that she exhibited
"exemplary behavior" when she gave the Vatican police her formal
statement and she even
made clarifications to her formal declaration before signing it.
During cross-examination, Chaouqui's lawyer
argued that while she did admit sending documents to Nuzzi, she did not mention
passing along "secret" or "private" documents in her
In a declaration made to the court, Chaouqui said
she assumed the documents the
police asked about were invitations to a controversial banquet held on the prefecture's
veranda during the canonization
Mass for St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII. The veranda overlooks St. Peter's Square.
DeSantis countered saying that as a member of a commission
that handles sensitive financial information and that answers directly to Pope
Francis, Chaouqui should have known better.
He also told the court that following Chaouqui's
arrest, she revealed she was pregnant and the Vatican police allowed her to
stay with her husband at a Salesian house near the Vatican. DeSantis said that
although she seemed fine upon her arrival, on two consecutive nights she said she was feeling ill and
asked to go to the hospital.
The police escorted her to a nearby hospital and
were later reprimanded by a doctor for bringing a perfectly healthy patient into the emergency
room while others in more dire circumstances had to wait, the police officer testified.
"The doctor said, 'For me, this women can
even walk home on her own two legs,'" DeSantis recalled. After the second trip to the
hospital, Vatican police allowed her to go home.
Although Chaouqui, whose due date was in early
June, was present for only half of the May 24 session, she used social media to defend herself.
"The game goes on in a war where the one who
will lose is the church," she wrote on her Facebook page. "I am here,
more than ever, awaiting the verdict. Then it will be my turn to have the
(last) word from the pages of my book."
- - -
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: NS photo/Simon CaldwellBy Simon CaldwellLIVERPOOL, England (CNS) -- Myanmar's
first cardinal has thanked the Christians of the West for helping to bring
democracy to his country.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon said the
Catholic Church was "at the forefront" of supporting the people of
Myanmar, formerly Burma, during a dictatorship that lasted half a century.
Preaching at a May 22 Mass in
the Metropolitan Cathedral of
Christ the King, Liverpool, he declared: "Today, we are free."
"The world community refused
to accept the oppression ... and spoke against that," Cardinal Bo said.
"The church as a community
refused to allow the oppression of Christians and others in Burma," he
said. "Every church, including the U.K. church, was at the forefront of
The cardinal told the
congregation that Catholics "are united by a special bond of community. It
is this sense of community which has helped many Christians around the world to
survive hardship and emerge stronger.
"My heart is filled with
gratitude to all the Christians, civil society leaders and governments, that
the sense of community helped them to think of Burma," he added. "Your
concern has led us to see the light of democracy, and I urge you to continue to
accompany us, especially through your prayers."
Cardinal Bo's visit to Liverpool
was the final stop of a British tour at the invitation of the charities Aid to
the Church in Need and Christian Solidarity Worldwide. His visit came six
months after the National League for Democracy won a landslide election that
ended about 50 years of dictatorship in the Southeast Asian country.
Cardinal Bo told the
congregation in Liverpool that the dictatorship was a long "Calvary"
for the people of his predominantly Buddhist country.
"We were a crucified
nation," he said. "Propagation of Christianity was banned, new
churches could not be built, and personnel had to be sent out of the country
for any training. In many places, being Christian was the greatest liability.
"The language and cultural
rights of our people were taken away by the one-language, one-race and
one-religion policy," he said.
"Yet God did not abandon
our nation. The church was like the mustard seed and, like the biblical example,
it grew into a tree," he said.
In the midst of the oppression,
he said, the Catholic Church in Myanmar became a "young and vibrant church."
"The church grew from just
three diocese to 16 dioceses," Cardinal Bo said. "From 100,000
people, we are over 800,000 faithful, from 160 priests to 800 priests, from 300
religious we are now 2,200 religious and 60 per cent of them are below the age of
Now, he said, Myanmar sends
missionaries to other countries.
Cardinal Bo reserved special
praise for Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize
winner, whose "moral courage," he said, had defeated "one of the
most arrogant armies in the world.
He said the periods she spent
under house arrest -- 15 of 21 years -- were episodes of "redemptive
suffering" that "melted decades of oppression."
"A new democracy has been
born in this nation," said Cardinal Bo. "Myanmar is proud today that
its Easter moment came in the most peaceful manner.
"Here was a woman whose belief
in peace and nonviolence stands in stark contrast to the violent conflicts in
many parts of the world," he said. "It is a great inspiration that
peace is possible and moral power still can overcome tremendous suffering."- - -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.