Catholic News Agency

ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
  1. Vatican City, May 27, 2018 / 05:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis marked the feast of the Holy Trinity stressing the personal love and interest God has in each one of his children, saying the Lord is not ever far away, but is an attentive and loving Father to all.

    “God does not want so much to reveal to us that he exists, but rather that he is the 'God with us,' that he loves us, is interested in our personal story and cares for each person, from the smallest to the greatest,” the pope said May 27.

    Even though God is in heaven, he is also on earth, Francis said, adding that because of this, “we don't believe in a distant, indifferent entity.”

    “On the contrary, in the love that created the universe and generated a people, became flesh, died and rose for us, and as the Holy Spirit transforms everything and brings it to fullness.”

    Pope Francis spoke to the nearly 25,000 pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday Angelus address. In his speech, he focused on the day's feast of the Holy Trinity, and the readings from the Book of Romans, as well as the Gospel reading from Matthew.

    The feast of the Trinity, Francis said, is not only an invitation to contemplate and praise Jesus Christ, but it is also an opportunity to celebrate “with ever-new wonder the God of love, who freely offers his life to us and asks us to spread it in the world.”

    He then turned to the second reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, in which the apostle speaks of how Christians are sons of God, and are able call him “abba,” meaning “father.”

    St. Paul, the pope said, experienced first-hand the deep transformation of the God of love, who allows us to not only call him “Father,” but more personally, “dad,” and who gives us the ability to call on him “with the total confidence of a child who abandons themselves in the arms of the one who gave them live.”

    Through his action in each person, the Holy Spirit “makes it so that Jesus Christ is not reduced to a person of the past, but that we feel close to him, our contemporary, and that we experience the joy of being beloved children of God,” Francis said.

    He noted that Christians are not alone, he said, because the Holy Spirit was sent to guide and accompany them.

    And thanks to both the presence of the Spirit and the strength he offers, “we can realize with serenity the mission that he entrusted to us: to announce and bear witness to his Gospel to everyone and so dilate communion with him and the joy that comes from it.”

    Pope Francis closed his address saying the feast of the Holy Trinity “makes us contemplate the mystery of a God who incessantly creates, redeems and sanctifies, always with love and for love, and to every creature that welcomes him, he gives the gift of reflecting a ray of his beauty, goodness and truth.”

    He prayed that Mary would help each person to “fulfill with joy the mission of bearing witness to the world, thirsty for love, that the meaning of life is precisely infinite love, the concrete love of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

    After leading pilgrims in praying the traditional Marian prayer, Francis voiced gratitude for the recent beatification of Sister Leonella Sborbati, a nun with the Consolata Missionaries who was killed in Somalia in 2006.

    He asked pilgrims to join him in praying for Africa, “so that there is peace there,” and led faithful in praying a Hail Mary for the continent.

  2. Washington D.C., May 27, 2018 / 04:43 am (CNA).- Americans’ belief in a duty to accept refugees has dipped, according to a survey showing that white Evangelicals are among the least favorable to refugees.

    While 50 percent of Catholics said they think the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees, only 25 percent of white Evangelicals did. The white Evangelical response was statistically identical to the percentage of Republicans who saw a duty toward refugees.

    Of black Protestants, 63 percent saw a duty to accept refugees. However, only 43 percent of white mainline Protestants did. About 65 percent of the religiously unaffiliated see a national duty toward refugees.

    “Opinions about whether the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees – which were already deeply polarized – have grown even more so,” said the Pew Research Center, which conducted the recent survey.

    Decline in support for refugee admissions among Republicans and Republican-leading independents drove the number lower, the Washington Post reports. About 74 percent of Democrats believe in an American duty to refugees.

    In February 2017, a time of controversy over the Trump Administration’s new limits on refugee admissions, 56 percent of Americans said the U.S. had a responsibility to accept refugees. The figure is now at 51 percent. Republican pro-refugee sentiment dropped nine percentage points, while Democratic pro-refugee sentiment rose about 3 points.

    In a March 26 letterto Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and to the U.S. State Department, Bishop Joe Vasquez, speaking as chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, lamented the low number of refugee admissions.

    “As Christians, our concerns for refugees is integral to our life of faith,” the bishop said.

    “Most often they are at-risk women and children who are too vulnerable to remain in the region and/or in situations too dangerous for them to wait in the host country until the conflict at home has ended.”

    Broken down along race and ethnicity, 67 percent of blacks believe the country has a duty toward refugees, compared to 59 percent of Hispanics and 46 percent of whites, Pew said.

    The Pew survey of 1,503 U.S. adults conducted April 25-May 1 claims a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

    Refugee admissions to the U.S. have declined sharply in the first half of fiscal year 2018. Muslim refugee numbers fell to 1,800, compared to about 22,900 in all of fiscal year 2017.

    This is in part due to Trump administration policy that caps admissions to 45,000 people per fiscal year, the lowest cap since 1980, when Congress created the current refugee program, Pew says. The administration also restricted admissions for several months as part of a security review.

    About 10,500 total refugees, and about 6,700 Christians entered the U.S. in the first half of the fiscal year. At the same point in fiscal year 2017, there were 39,100 admissions, with 18,500 Muslims and 16,900 Christians.

  3. Wilmington, Del., May 26, 2018 / 04:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his 1988 letter to the Director of the Vatican Observatory, Pope John Paul II called scientists who are members of the Church to “serve as a key resource” by providing a “much needed ministry” to those who find faith and science at odds.

    Now, a group of scientists is rising to the late pope’s challenge through what is known as the Society of Catholic Scientists.

    Dr. Stephan Barr of the University of Delaware, founder and president of the society, explained that the group was created in 2016.

    “Its main purpose was to promote spiritual and intellectual fellowship among faithful Catholics who work in the natural sciences, and also display the harmony between faith and science in an era when many doubt it,” Barr told CNA.

    Two years after its founding, the Society of Catholic Scientists has grown from a small group to an organization with more than 700 members, which include Catholic individuals who either have a doctorate in a natural science or who are in school for a science degree as a graduate or undergraduate student.

    While primarily focused in North America, the organization has members in 35 countries and all seven continents.

    The Society’s motto, taken from the writings of St. Bonaventure, is “knowledge with devotion, research with wonder.” The organization strives to foster fellowship among Catholic scientists, give witness to the harmony between faith and science, host forums for scientific and theological discussions, and be a resource for the laity, Barr said.

    “For too long, a false impression has been allowed to grow that the world of science is a religious wasteland where faith cannot grow,” he said.

    “Even religious scientists can have this impression and feel isolated, because they are unaware that many of their colleagues share their faith – this is especially true of younger researchers and students, so providing mentoring and role models is another goal of SCS.”

    In June, the Society of Catholic Scientists is hosting its second annual conference that will focus on the theme of “Physicalism and the Human Mind.” It will explore the idea held by some within the scientific field that only the physical world really exists.

    The society’s first conference was held in April 2017 in Chicago with the theme “Origins,” and was attended by over 80 members of the organization, as well as dozens of other scholars. This year, the 2018 conference is expecting 135 scholars to attend, including 110 Catholic scientists and students.

    The upcoming conference will be held at The Catholic University of America from June 8-10 and will feature 11 speakers from various fields, including neuroscience, quantum physics, mathematics, and philosophy. While most of the speakers are Catholic, some are not, including the distinguished Prof. Peter Koellner of Harvard.

    Continuing a tradition established last year, one scientist will be singled out and honored with the St. Albert Award, named after the patron of scientists. This year’s award will be presented to Juan Martin Maldacena of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton for his distinguished work linking gravity and quantum field theory.

    Noting that the Society of Catholic Scientists has grown tremendously in its first two years, Barr said he believes the organization “continues to grow rapidly” because scientists are feeling isolated in their fields and are looking for an outlet to discuss the connection between their faith and science.

    The society has been recognized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and has Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia as its episcopal moderator.

  4. Dublin, Ireland, May 26, 2018 / 10:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Exit polls released on Saturday morning are projecting the repeal of the abortion ban in Ireland, a decision pro-life groups are calling tragic and disappointing.

     

    “The result of today’s referendum is a profound tragedy for the Irish people and the entire world,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, in a May 26 press release.

     

    “While other Western nations including the United States acquiesced to the extreme abortion lobby, Ireland has been a shining beacon of hope for its strong defense of unborn children and their mothers,” Dannenfelser continued, adding that “we are filled with sorrow at this outcome.”

     

    A statement from the Save the 8th campaign, a group which fought against the legalization of abortion in Ireland, called the vote a “tragedy of historic proportions,” but commended those who stood up for the right to life, saying “we are so proud of all those who stood with us in this campaign.”

     

    The campaign additionally noted that they would continue fighting for the right to life in Ireland, saying that “every time an unborn child has his or her life ended in Ireland, we will oppose that, and make our voices known.”

     

    “Abortion was wrong yesterday. It remains wrong today. The constitution has changed, but the facts have not,” the statement continued.

     

    Exit polls by the RTÉ are projecting 69.4 percent of citizens voted against keeping the Eighth Amendment in the Republic of Ireland's constitution, while 30.6 percent voted to keep it, according to the BBC.

     

    80 percent of the votes have been counted, according to the New York Times, but official results are expected on Saturday evening.

     

    On May 25, Ireland held a referendum on whether to repeal the country’s Eighth Amendment, which recognizes the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child. Under current law, the practice of abortion in Ireland is illegal, unless the mother’s health is deemed to be endangered.

    The Eighth Amendment was passed in Ireland in 1983, with upwards of 67 percent voter-approval. It reads, in part: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

    Several Irish lawmakers had previously said that if the referendum successfully repealed the eighth amendment, they would propose legislation allowing unlimited abortion up to three months into pregnancy, and up to six months into pregnancy in cases where there might be risk to a mother’s physical or mental health.

    Despite the high percentage of the population - 78 percent - that identifies as Catholic, polling was split in the weeks leading up to the vote.

    On March 9 the Irish bishops had released a pastoral message on the right to life, entitled “Two Lives, One Love.”

    They warned that changing the Irish Constitution would serve no purpose other than to withdraw the right to life from some categories of unborn children.

    “To do so would radically change the principle, for all unborn children and indeed for all of us, that the right to life is a fundamental human right,” they said.

  5. Vatican City, May 26, 2018 / 04:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Saturday criticized what he said is a “tragic” and false dichotomy that has been created between religious ethics and the economic-financial sector of society, telling business leaders that the two are not only compatible, but necessary for social advancement.  

    “All too often, a tragic and false dichotomy – analogous to the artificial rift between science and faith – has developed between the ethical teachings of our religious traditions and the practical concerns of today’s business community,” the pope said May 26.

    However, there is “a natural circularity between profit and social responsibility,” and there is an “indissoluble connection” between an ethics that respects both the human person and the common good, and the functionality of economic and financial systems, he said.

    This ethical dimension of social and economic interaction “cannot be imported into social life and activity from without, but must arise from within,” he said, adding that this is a long-term goal that requires the commitment of all persons and institutions in society.

    Pope Francis spoke to members of the Centesimus Annus-Pro Pontefice institution, who are in Rome May 24-26 for an international convention titled “New policies and lifestyles in the digital age,” marking their 25th anniversary.

    The foundation was founded in 1993 by St. John Paul II to study and promote Catholic social teaching.

    Among the high-profile participants in the gathering was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who gave a lengthy keynote speech on the last day of the conference.

    Sitting beside Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and the president of Centesimus Annus Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, Bartholomew condemned a widespread culture of consumerism and indifference, and advocated for greater solidarity and collaboration in pursuing human development in an increasingly globalized world.

    During the conference, Bartholomew met with both Pope Francis and retired pontiff Benedict XVI. He spoke to Benedict Friday, and he met Francis in a private audience at the Vatican Saturday morning.

    In his speech, Pope Francis spoke on themes brought up in the recent Vatican document Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones, (Economic and financial issues), published by Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

    He said current financial and social challenges faced by the global community “have an undeniable ethical dimension” and are related “to a mentality of egoism and exclusion that has effectively created a culture of waste blind to the human dignity of the most vulnerable.”

    This can be seen by the increasing “globalization of indifference” in front of blatant moral challenges humanity faces, he said, citing migration and a lack of development not only in materially poor countries, but also increasingly in the “opulence of the developed world.”

    Referring to the conference theme, Francis noted how one major threat to families is a lack of stable jobs and the impact of the “digital cultural revolution,” which he said is “a vital area in which the solidarity of the Church is actively needed” and is a key theme in the upcoming Synod of Bishops on young people.

    When it comes to ensuring a better future for young people and families, Francis said ecumenical cooperation “is of especial importance,” and cited the presence of Patriarch Bartholomew at the conference as “an eloquent sign of this common responsibility.”

    Pope Francis closed his speech urging attendees to “persevere in these efforts which contribute to the building of a global culture of economic justice, equality and inclusion.”

  6. Rome, Italy, May 26, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The 16th century St. Philip Neri is known for joyful holiness and for the foundation of the Congregation of the Oratory, but the legacy he left in Rome can still be traced today, even walking in the saint’s very footsteps.

    Called the “Third Apostle of Rome,” Neri came to the city from Florence at a time of religious and cultural upheaval after the Sack of Rome in 1527 and, desiring to be a missionary in India, discovered he was being called to evangelize Rome instead.

    Today remainders of St. Philip Neri’s life can still be found in the Eternal City – from the rooms where he started the Oratory, to the churches he prayed in, to the streets he walked.

    One well-known tradition Neri began is the Seven Churches Pilgrimage. While still a layman, Neri noticed many people had lost sight of the joy of the Gospel, and therefore started leading “walks” to important churches in Rome.

    These mini pilgrimages would include music and laughter, in keeping with the saint’s cheerful personality, and were a way of encouraging young people to discover the faith through visiting historically significant churches in the city.

    Many people still go on this urban pilgrimage annually. “It is a way in which you can really grow in faith, not only through the beauty of the churches, but also through the history of the places,” said Carlo Munns, an author and expert on the saint.

    St. Philp Neri felt faith was like “climbing a mountain,” Munns told CNA. “Climbing a mountain by yourself is very dangerous, but if you can do it together, in a community, it’s better.”

    He called the “saint of joy,” Munns said, “because he said that faith should be lived in hope and joy.”

    “Yes, you need to repent, you have to understand and deeply live your faith, but always in joy.”

    Catacombs of San Sebastiano

    One of the significant places early in the life of St. Philip Neri are the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, which are found outside the city center, beneath the Appian Way. Here Neri would go to pray during the night.

    One night, about 10 years after he arrived in Rome, Neri had a “mystical experience in which a globe of fire entered his chest and exploded inside, ruining his chest, his ribs, and doubling the size of his heart,” Munns said.

    “This experience marked him for life,” not only physically, Munns noted, but also because he “understood that the Spirit wanted him to spend his life for Rome.”

    At the time, these catacombs were the only ones discovered in Rome, though now there are many more which can be visited by the public today, including San Sebastiano.

    San Girolamo della Carita

    Located near the famous Roman landmark of Campo dei Fiori, the narrow historic streets of the neighborhood of the church of San Girolamo della Carita are the very same the saint walked; and faded paintings of the saint can be spotted on random street corners in the area.

    The church was built on the site of a devout Roman woman’s house where St. Jerome stayed in the 4th century when he was compiling the Vulgate – the principal Latin version of the Bible used by the Catholic Church.

    After being ordained a priest in 1551, Neri came to live at San Girolamo. There he would meet many friends, among them St. Charles Borromeo and St. Ignatius of Loyola. It is also where he informally started his congregation of priests, called the “Oratory,” which received papal recognition in 1575.

    The saint’s rooms and private chapel, located above the church, can be visited with an advance reservation with the Sisters of St. Philip Neri, who maintain the church.

    Another way to experience the life of the saint is through music, the rector of San Girolamo della Carita, Fr. Filippo Goyret, told CNA. Many churches in Rome put on beautiful concerts of classical music free of charge, including San Girolamo. Music, Goyret said, was very much “part of the spirit of St. Philip Neri.”

    San Giovanni dei Fiorentini

    From San Girolamo, a stretch of the historic Via Giulia connects to Piazza dell’Oro and San Giovanni dei Fiorentini. This church was built starting in 1523 by Florentines living in Rome.

    After he was ordained a priest, Neri served as rector at the Florentine parish for about a dozen years, though he continued to live down the street at San Girolamo.

    In the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini is a side chapel dedicated to the saint, with a bust of his head and a painting depicting him with the Virgin Mary, as well as a simple, wooden cross he used to pray before.

    Neri discovered the ancient cross at the church when he became rector, Munns said, noting that the saint considered the symbol of the cross to be vital to his relationship with Christ.

    Munns explained that Neri had realized his mission in Rome was to follow the example of Christ in bringing healing to people in hospitals, and in Rome at the time “there was a lot to heal in terms of both physical and spiritual needs.”

    “He took strength for this mission from this cross.”

    Chiesa Nuova

    From San Giovanni, just five minutes down one of the historic center’s main streets, lies the church of Santa Maria in Vallicella – commonly called “Chiesa Nuova,” or the New Church – where St. Philip Neri spent the final 12 years of his life.

    The church received the nickname of “New Church” because it was built on the site of a smaller parish church the Oratory had outgrown.

    This church – the headquarters so-to-speak of all the Oratories of St. Philip Neri around the world – houses the saint’s mortal remains, which can be found in the Blessed Sacrament chapel to the left of the main altar.

    Next to the church are the rooms where he lived, along with numerous relics, which can be visited on select Saturdays and by advance appointment.

    In Chiesa Nuova is also where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Neri in 1594. The vision is depicted in a large painting over his tomb.

    This church is where St. Philip Neri spent his final days, passing away in the early hours of May 26, 1595, after a day spent joyfully hearing confessions and saying Mass for the feast of Corpus Christi.

    He was beatified in 1615 by Paul V and canonized by Gregory XV in 1622, fewer than 30 years after his death.

    The saint is commemmorated May 26 with a third class feast in the extraordinary form, and a memorial in the ordinary form.

  7. Los Angeles, Calif., May 25, 2018 / 03:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Southern Poverty Law Center is wrongly targeting social conservative organizations as “hate groups,” and George Clooney, a major financial supporter of the law center, should demand better, one commentator said this week.

    Chuck Donovan is an author, policy researcher and president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research and education arm of the pro-life political advocacy group the Susan B. Anthony List.

    However, he wrote to Clooney in a personal capacity, encouraging the star to use his influence to help persuade the SPLC to avoid its “embittering and unproductive campaigns to label any political or social issue opponent as a hate group.”

    “This tactic is injurious both to the reputations of some outstanding people and to the flourishing of the common good,” Donovan charged in an open letter published May 20 at the Public Discourse website. It is a betrayal of “the honorable history of the SPLC’s founding in opposition to the denial of civil rights to African Americans, he said.

    Last year, the Clooney Foundation for Justice announced a $1 million gift for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

    Based in Montgomery, Ala., the SPLC was founded in 1971 with the original stated aim of monitoring persons and groups fighting the civil rights movement. It began to track racist and white supremacist groups like neo-Nazis and affiliates of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s. It monitors other groups it considers extremist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim.

    More recently, however, it has labeled as “hate groups” Christian organizations that believe in marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

    In recent months, several groups were removed from the charitable donation program Amazon Smile based on the SPLC’s designation of them as “hate groups.”

    Amazon told the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian religious liberty legal organization, that the “hate group” designation made it ineligible for the program.

    The SPLC has also listed as “hate groups” other mainstream Christian-backed advocacy groups like the Family Research Council and the Ruth Institute, a non-profit group that studies and explains the effects of the sexual revolution. The SPLC said they have an “anti-LGBT” stance.

    Donovan suggested that George Clooney can lead the way to help civilize public life.

    “There is great ugliness on the national scene. God has given you the ability to speak to millions of people around the world and to capture their attention,” he said in his letter, encouraging the star to “take a closer look at a good number of the SPLC’s scattershot targets, including Alliance Defending Freedom, the Ruth Institute, Coral Ridge Ministries, and many more.

    “The vituperation the SPLC levels at some public policy groups it disagrees with is part of the problem, not the solution,” said Donovan.

    He focused on the “hate group” label placed on the Family Research Council. After finding this designation on the SPLC website, a man named Floyd Corkins decided to attack the Christian organization in 2012. Corkins entered the Family Research Council building with a gun and shot building manager Leo Johnson in the arm before Johnson wrestled him to the ground. Corkins later told authorities that he wanted to kill as many employees as possible because of the group’s opposition to gay marriage.

    Donovan said Johnson “recognized the humanity of the attacker in front of him, and he refrained from violence.”

    “This is the accurate picture I know of Leo and the other people at FRC. They have deep convictions. They hate no one,” he said in his letter to Clooney.

    “It should be to our credit that we can debate deep differences and emerge from these debates with mutual respect and a willingness to continue discussions in the interest of building a better nation.”

    In Donovan’s view, Clooney roots his views in his Midwestern upbringing and hard work throughout his life. He asked Clooney, “please keep in mind that there are people just like you in all these respects who, because of different views on some questions, are being unfairly and even dangerously vilified.”

    Donovan said he is sure he and Clooney do not differ about “truly odious groups” that the SPLC opposes, like the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

    However, he encouraged Clooney to reject efforts to depict Christian views on life and marriage as akin to bigotry and hatred.

    “Certainly, each of these issues generates argument and disagreement, but for the life of me I cannot fathom, and completely reject, the idea that these values have anything to do with abhorrent racism and hatred.”

     

  8. Ottawa, Canada, May 25, 2018 / 03:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Near East Welfare Association in Canada is launching a fundraising campaign to help Christians in the Middle East remain in their homelands.

    The fundraising campaign launched May 16 is known as “Christians Can't Survive Without You”.

    “This campaign’s very important purpose is to tell Canadian Catholics that they should care about the presence of Christians in the Middle East, because they are the leaven of peace in the Middle East,” Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada's executive director, told The Catholic Register.

    “If we turn our backs on what’s happening in the Middle East, particularly to the Christians of the Middle East, then we’re turning our back on ourselves as Christians,” he added.

    Since the Iraq War which began in 2003, the number of Christians in the Middle East has plummeted. In addition to conflict in Iraq, the Syrian Civil War has also pushed many Christians out, as have economic pressure, discrimination, and persecution.

    CNEWA noted that “Over the past 15 years, over 2.5 million Middle East Christians have been forced out of their homes. They desperately need your help.”

    “We are one body in Christ united with Christians in the Middle East. Their struggles are our struggles and it is our responsibility to help our brothers and sisters there to keep our faith alive,” the agency stated.

    In recent years, CNEWA has worked to set up schools, nurseries, and medical clinics in Iraq to serve Christians who were displaced by the Islamic State. It also supports St. Peter Patriarchal Seminary in Erbil.

    CNEWA was founded in 1926 to give pastoral and humanitarian support to the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India, and Eastern Europe. An agency of the Vatican, the group supports the Eastern Catholic Churches.

    Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, board president of CNEWA Canada, said that an attack on Middle East Christians “is an attack on the values Christians promote worldwide. To lose Christianity in the region would be a devastating loss.”

    Maronite Patriarch of Antioch Bechara Boutros Rai said last year at the In Defense of Christians summit that “The conflicts that have beset the Middle East have driven out millions of busy citizens, including so many Christians, and with their exodus, our region becomes more extreme, more dangerous to the outside world.

    Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch John X Yazigi said, “We as Christians in the Middle East: we are going to remain and stay there. We are not strangers in that part of the world: we are people of light and of truth.”

  9. Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of the Congo, May 25, 2018 / 01:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic priest has contracted the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid a continuing outbreak that began in the nation earlier this month.

    The priest, whose name was not released, serves in the eastern diocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, which has around 1 million residents. Medical sources told AFP that the priest who tested positive for Ebola has been quarantined.

    The Catholic priest joins more than 50 other individuals in the nation infected with Ebola, according to new statistics released by the Congolese Health Ministry on May 25. The new figures reflect recent lab tests on bodies and show a lower death toll than originally reported, confirming 22 deaths from Ebola instead of 27.

    Extremely contagious and highly deadly, Ebola gained major international attention during the 2014-2016 epidemic in West Africa that left more than 11,000 people dead.

    In the latest outbreak in DRC, the first case of Ebola was reported on May 8 in the rural Equateur province near Bikoro, and later spread to Mbandaka. The World Health Organization has said that the chances of Ebola spreading to other parts of the nation are “very high.”

    Efforts to contain the fatal disease were set in motion by the nation’s health ministry last week, as officials administered Ebola vaccines to more than 600 people on May 21. Most of the doses were given to medical staff and those in close contact with Ebola patients.

    President Joseph Kabila also approved an increase in Ebola emergency funds to $4 million, while various aid organizations such as Catholic Relief Services have been working to educate locals on the best protocols to prevent and fight Ebola.

    The World Health Organization is also responding by sending health workers and medical supplies to the affected areas, while UNICEF has installed hand-washing stations in more than 50 schools.

    Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, a pioneer in the field of Ebola from its first identification in 1976 in DRC, believes that previous experience will be of use to containing the disease.

    “I am confident because I think we have very good experience of this disease and we’ll stop this outbreak as soon as possible,” Muyembe told the BBC.

    “We have some experience of managing this kind of an outbreak in a city. I don’t think we’ll have the kind of situation witnessed in West Africa in 2014,” he continued, adding that he was “positively surprised” by most of the affected areas that he visited.

    However, containment of the virus heavily relies on quarantine and isolation. On Monday, three Ebola patients were removed from their treatment centers by their families and taken to church for a prayer service. This was considered a major breech in the medical protocol for Ebola treatment and prevention.

    “Patient adherence is paramount,” read a statement from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the medical agency running the treatment centers. The agency said that “forced hospitalization is not the solution to this epidemic,” although it is making efforts to convince patients to remain in their isolation units.

    Ebola, which has no known cure, has proven fatal in as high as 90 percent of cases, depending on the strand of the virus. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pains and occasional bleeding. It is primarily spread through contact with bodily fluids.

     

  10. Rome, Italy, May 25, 2018 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his most recent “mercy Friday” outing, Pope Francis visited a school recently named after a little girl who passed away, but who left her mark on the institute when a international library was created in her honor.

    Established in the 1950s, the school – originally named the Comprehensive Institute of Via Rocca Camastra – is a state school that expanded to four other locations in the 1970s, and just this year received permission to be renamed as the Comprehensive Institute of Elisa Scala.

    Elisa Scala is the name of a little girl who attended the school, but who died in 2015 at the age of 11 from a form of fulminant leukemia. After her death, Scala's parents launched a project in the school aimed at sharing Elisa's passion for books and libraries.

    With their help, a small space called “Elisa's Library” was established, and a project called “Give a Book for Elisa” was launched in order to fill the space with books.

    Donations came in the thousands. Some 20,000 books in different languages from all over Italy, Europe and even Australia now line the shelves of the library, which is included on the list of public libraries in Rome.

    According to a Vatican communique on the pope's surprise May 25 visit to the school, Francis arrived around 4 p.m. local time and was greeted by Scala's parents, Giorgio and Maria, as well as the director of the school, Claudia Gentili, and hundreds of children who attend the institute.

    Pope Francis gave Scala's parents several books to put in the library, all of which were dedicated to Elisa.

    The children then sang for the pope, and he greeted the dean, staff, parents and students present before heading back to the Vatican.

    Pope Francis' visit to the school is a continuation of his “Mercy Friday” custom, which he began in 2016 during the Jubilee of Mercy.

    Originally planned once per month for the duration of the jubilee, the pope has continued the tradition after the end of the jubilee as a means of practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. He has met with refugees, children, women freed from sex trafficking, and the terminally ill, among others.