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
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Deirdre McQuadeBy Nancy O'BrienWASHINGTON
(CNS) -- Many paths led Richard
Doerflinger into pro-life work.
now his path is taking him into retirement as associate director of the U.S.
bishops' Secretariat of
Pro-Life Activities and eventually across the country to Washington
a 63-year-old native of the New York borough of Queens, served for 36 years as
legislative assistant, assistant director, associate director for policy
development and, since 2008, as overall associate director of the secretariat.
His retirement was to begin April 29.
he did not know it at the time, his first pro-life influence came when he was
14. His older brother Eugene was involved in a car accident and was left in
what is now called a persistent vegetative state for several months.
told Doerflinger's parents that Eugene's "life was over" and urged them to let
him die, the younger Doerflinger said. Instead, they took him home and cared
for him there until Eugene "became fully aware of the people around him."
that I learned never to give up on people and about the unconditional love of a
family," Doerflinger said. But there was another bitter lesson when Eugene and
his family realized how difficult it was for him to learn to stand and walk
again when doctors had failed to treat his dislocated shoulder after the
journey then took him to the University of Chicago, where he met and married
his wife of 38 years, Lee Ann. Starting out as a chemistry major and pre-med
student, he began to find his philosophy courses "much more interesting," so
he switched to religious studies and theology.
came to Washington as a doctoral student in theology at The Catholic University
of America, where his wife, a French language and literature major, worked as a
legal secretary "to support her poor, starving student husband," he said with a
laugh. She eventually became a natural family planning instructor for the
Archdiocese of Washington.
to contribute to the family finances, he heard about a job as a legislative
assistant in the pro-life office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Even though he had no legislative experience, "I walked in and was hired," he
his science background served him well on the technical aspects of pro-life
work, "everything I know about public policy I learned on the job," Doerflinger
said. But the job was a good fit because "I can't remember a time when I did
not find the Catholic Church's position on life compelling," he added.
the next 36 years, there were both highs and lows for the pro-life movement.
high points would involve the passage of the ban on partial-birth abortion and
the Supreme Court decision upholding that ban, the Weldon Amendment on conscience rights in 1994
and the Dickey Amendment
on federal funding of embryo research in 1995," he said.
of the biggest victories happened before my time in 1976 with passage of the
Hyde Amendment," which forbids federal funding for most abortions or
abortion-related care and continues to be included in many federal
appropriations bills, Doerflinger added.
the low points he cited were "the failure of Congress to retain the Stupak Amendment," which
would have prohibited any federal funding of abortion in the Affordable Care
Act. "Sixty-five Democrats supported (the Stupak Amendment) in the House, but
the Senate decided to do their own, more problematic bill," Doerflinger said.
also regret that we never got Congress to do a real ban on human cloning or to
act against the use of federally controlled drugs in assisted suicides," he said.
about the changes that have taken place in pro-life work during the past three
decades, Doerflinger explained that "the public policy debate has moved, at
least for now, from efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade outright to ways of
reducing abortion and testing the envelope on what the (Supreme) court has set
is more state legislation passed than ever before and a lot of it is pressing
that envelope," he added. "But even those modest laws do have an effect on reducing
the abortion rate."
said he was "delighted" to turn over the reins to his successor, Greg Schleppenbach, executive
director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, who was to begin work at
the USCCB May 16.
really knows these issues and he's a better coalition builder than I am, so now
he can do this on the national scene," he said.
will continue as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, to which he has belonged since 2011,
and as a public policy fellow at the University of Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture and at the
National Catholic Bioethics Center.
the Vatican, he and his colleagues at the academy have been discussing issues such
as the challenges to presenting the Catholic vision in a secularized society
and the relationship between faith and science.
the whole stem-cell debate, we were constantly being told that religion was
getting in the way of science," Doerflinger said. "But now the research that is
moving most rapidly to cure a disease is the research we have been urging
people to explore instead -- adult stem-cell research."
and Lee Ann Doerflinger have raised four children, including Army Spc. Thomas Doerflinger,
who died in combat in Iraq in 2004 at the age of 20.
his parents continue to grieve the loss of their oldest son, "Thomas was a
smart young man who knew what he was getting into. He wanted to do something
meaningful, something important ... and he was very matter-of-fact about the
possibility of dying."
he added, "I have a great deal of sympathy for those who do not have their
faith to support them" in such a tragedy.
that daughters Anna and Maria and son Matthew are out on their own, Doerflinger
promised his wife, a native of Washington state, to "give her side of the
country a chance." They plan to move north of Seattle after they sell their
home in Maryland.
are all kinds of articles I have not had a chance to write because of the
day-to-day crises of the job," he said. "I am certainly going to stay involved
in these matters, just at a slower pace."- - -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/courtesy RTEBy Nick BramhillDUBLIN (CNS) -- An Irish
Catholic street cleaner, who was filmed by a TV documentary crew as he
temporarily swapped his job in the Irish capital for the poverty-stricken
Philippines, has pledged to spend the rest of his life helping the struggling
family he lived with.
Mark Crosbie, a street cleaner
with Dublin City Council, told how his perspective on life has changed forever
since he spent a few days cleaning the streets of the Philippines' densely populated
capital, Manila, for an Irish TV documentary, "Toughest Place To Be."
As part of the program, which
was watched by 330,000 viewers when it was screened in mid-April ago on RTE, Ireland's
state broadcaster, the 47-year-old father-of-two stayed with the family of a
local street cleaner, Mel Macaereg, who earns $15 a week to support himself,
his wife, Merney, and their six children.
But since filming ended in
January, Crosbie has maintained weekly contact with his host family and
has set up a charity drive to raise funds for the wider community that
took him in.
Crosbie, who sweeps the cobbled
streets of Dublin's Temple Bar district for a living, said: "The poverty I
saw over there was on a level I'd never seen before, and I struggled to adjust
to life back in Dublin when I came back. I was scarred by it, but it was a
"The people I met had
literally nothing, yet they embraced me and looked after me like I was one of
their own. They were probably the warmest and most generous people I've ever
"I felt very emotional when
I said my goodbyes to the family and I left them everything I had brought over
with me, because I felt it was the least I could do. That wasn't shown in the
documentary, but I left my possessions on the bed I'd been sleeping in --
clothes, toys for the kids, biscuits, coffee and about $450 in cash. I'm not
looking for any credit for that, it was just the right thing to do.
"If I'd have had $10,000
with me, I'd have left them that too," he added.
Crosbie said he would love to
help everyone he met in the Philippines, "but obviously I can't make
things better." He added he planned to do a sponsored climb of the holy
mountain Croagh Patrick in August to raise money for the community.
Manila is home to 25 million
people, 4 million of whom live in slums.
In the documentary, Crosbie
witnessed firsthand the daily hardship facing thousands of people. He visited a
city dump, where hundreds of impoverished people spend their days searching
through rubbish for items they could sell.
"Going over there was
probably the best thing I've ever done. It opened my eyes in a way I could
never have imagined," Crosbie said.
"I found it very hard for
the first couple of weeks when I returned to work in Dublin. The things people
were moaning about really didn't seem to matter in comparison."- - -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.