Thursday, March 18, 2021

ACN-USA News - Survey shows US Catholics’ growing concern about global persecution of Christians

 

THE PAPAL VISIT TO IRAQ put the spotlight on Christian persecution in the Middle East, as a new poll shows American Catholics expressing growing concern about Christian persecution around the world.

 

Fifty-seven percent of US Catholics believe that the persecution of Christians around the world is “very severe,” up from 41 percent a year ago; and 67 percent say they are “very concerned” about the issue.

 

Almost 50 percent of US Catholics believe that half or more of religiously based attacks around the world are directed at Christians; they identify China as the country where Christians are most severely persecuted, followed by North Korea and Pakistan.

 

The fourth annual nationwide poll examining the views of US Catholics on the global persecution of Christians was conducted in February 2021 by McLaughlin & Associates for Aid to the Church in Need-USA (ACNUSA). The survey aimed to measure:

 

  • The extent to which American Catholics are aware of Christian persecution around the world.
  • The countries and regions where they consider Christians most severely persecuted.
  • Specific measures and policies they want the US and other Western governments to pursue.
  • The extent to which they feel that the Pope, their bishops, and their parishes are making the issue of Christian persecution a priority.
  • Actions they believe they can and should take themselves.

 

Yet, despite their awareness of Christian persecution around the world, US Catholics are not well informed of the horrific instances of persecution, such as in Pakistan, in 2020, where 1,000 primarily Christian under-age girls were abducted and threatened to be forcibly converted to Islam; in China, Mass-goers are subject to digital surveillance; in Nigeria, nearly 3,500 Christians were killed for their faith in 2020, and in North Korea, being a Christian can carry the death penalty.

 

The survey reveals that fifty-two percent of US Catholics say that Pope Francis is “very engaged” on the issue of the persecution of Christians—up from 47 percent a year ago; 30 percent think their local bishop is “very engaged” and 28 percent believe their parish is very involved with the issue.

“It is heartening that, compared to a year ago, significantly more US Catholics say that Christian persecution around the world is very grave and that the issue has become a matter of concern to more faithful. They also want both their Church and their government to step up efforts to do more to combat the issue,” said George Marlin, ACNUSA chairman.

 

Most importantly, “The poll shows the great need to inform the public regarding specific instances of Christian persecution; the US bishops and organizations like our own must step up our educational and informational efforts.” 

 

He concluded: “It is my hope that leaders around the world embrace the fundamental human right of religious freedom, and promote a society that respects ethnic, cultural and especially religious diversity.”

 

Survey findings can be accessed here: www.churchinneed.org/survey2021/christianpersecution

 

 

With picture of ISIS graffiti on the wall of Virgin Mary kindergarten in Bashiqa, northern Iraq (© ACN)

 

 

Editor’s Notes:

 


 

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

 

Founded in 1947, the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

 

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, over 40 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

 

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

 

Friday, March 05, 2021

ACN-USA News - Iraq - Pope to receive symbolic stole

 

THE HOLY FATHER WILL VISIT AL-TAHIRA CHURCH Sunday, March 7in Qaraqosh, the town in northern Iraq also known as Baghdeda or Bakhdida. Father Yako Ammar, the parish priest of Al-Tahira, explains to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which supported the restoration of the church which had been badly damaged by ISIS, the symbolism of the stole Pope Francis will receive at Al-Tahira.

 

The stole is entirely handmade from the fabric woven by Khaya Bakter, a local artisan, in the traditional colors of Qaraqosh, black and purple. Gorjia Kapo, a mother of two sons and a daughter, was then entrusted with the task of embroidering and decorating the stole. Her family has lived in Qaraqosh for many generations, but in 2014 they had to flee because of ISIS. Now she and her family have returned and decided to stay to rebuild the town and resume its traditions. One of Gorjia's sons decided to become a priest and was ordained a year ago.

 

“On one side of the stole is the Lord’s prayer in our language, Syriac, which comes from Aramaic, the original language of Jesus. On the other side is the Hail Mary,” says Father Ammar, who designed the stole.

 

“The crosses at the two ends of the stole are the crosses of Al-Tahira church, the same crosses as inside the church that were destroyed by ISIS during its occupation of the Nineveh Plains. These crosses are now the symbol of a new life. As the stole is a very symbolic ornament for us priests, Gorjia has also included bread and wine in the embroidery, the symbols of the Eucharistic mystery,” explains Father Ammar.

 

The Iraqi priest ordered two stoles to be presented to the Pope in Qaraqosh: the one made by Gorjia, as a symbol of the Christians who decided to stay in Qaraqosh despite all the difficulties, and one made by Iman Qasab, a Christian from Qaraqosh who had to-- give up her roots and culture to emigrate to Canada during the terrorist occupation. The latter stole is decorated with a palm tree, the symbol of Iraq, which also appears in the logo of the Pope's visit.

 

Both fates—of those who have returned and stayed on despite many hardships, as well as of those who had to leave their homeland—dare part of this city, and both kinds of sufferings will be represented in the gift to Pope Francis.

 

—Maria Lozano

 

 

With picture of Khaya Bakter weaving one of the stoles (© ACN)

 

 

Editor’s Notes:

 


 

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

 

Founded in 1947, the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

 

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, over 40 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

 

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Lent - The Golden Rules of Detachment by St. John of the Cross

 The soul must always be inclined:

1.  not to the easiest thing but the hardest;

2.  not to the tastiest thing but the most insipid;

3.  not to the thing that gives the greatest pleasure but to those that give the least;

4.  not to the restful things but to painful ones;

5.  not to consolation but to desolation;

6.  not to more but to less;

7.  not to the highest and dearest but to the lowest and most despised;

8.  not to the desire for something but to have no desires.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Lent - An Examination of Conscience by Father Bill Casey

1.  Is there something I can do to get closer to God?

2.  Is there something I can do to know God better and to love Him more?

3.  Is there some way I can increase my desire for prayer?

4.  Is there some way I can rekindle that fire of divine love that might have gone out of my life?

5.  Is there some way I can rid myself of the spiritual mediocrity, the spiritual indifference that I find myself in so much of the time?

6.  Is there something I can give up?

7.  Is there anything in my life right now that is not pleasing to Almighty God?

8.  Is there some sin that I am holding on to?

9.  Is there some habitual sin that is separating my heart from God's graces?

10.  Is there something I need to confess?

11.  Am I crucifying Our Lord all over again by living in my sins?

12.  Well?  Is there?


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Lent - Guidance from the Apostles from the Ten Commandments

 The Didache: An Instruction of the Lord Given to the Heathen by the Twelve Apostles

Source:  The Treasury of Catholic Wisdom by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.

"My child:

1.  Shun evil of any kind and everything resembling it.

2.  Do not be prone to anger for anger leads to murder.  Do not be fanatical, not quarrelsome, not hot-tempered; for all these things beget murder.

3.  Do not be lustful, for lust leads to fornication.  Do not be foul-mouthed or give free rein to your eyes; for all these things beget adultery.

4.  My child, do not be an augur, because it leads to idolatry.  Do not be an enchanter, not an astrologer, not an expiator, and do not wish to see 9and hear) these things for they all beget idolatry.

5.  Do not be a liar, for lying leads to theft.  Do not be a lover of money, or a vain pretender.  All these things beget thievery.

6.  Do not be a grumbler, because it leads to blasphemy; or self-willed, or evil-minded.  All these things beget blasphemy.

 On the contrary, be:

7.   gentle (for the gentle will inherit the land).

8.  Be long-suffering, and merciful, and guileless, and quiet, and good, and with trembling treasure forever the instructions you have received.

9.  Do not carry your head high, or open your heart to presumption.  Do not be on  intimate terms with the mighty, but associate with holy and lowly fold.

10.  Accept as blessings the casualties that befall you assured that nothing happens without God."



Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Lent - Lessons from the Stations of the Cross

 

The First Station:  JESUS IS CONDEMNED TO DEATH - Keeping silent in the face of injustice.

The Second Station: JESUS TAKES UP HIS CROSS - Learn to love our crosses and sufferings.

The Third Station:  JESUS FALLS FOR THE FIRST TIME - Keeping vigilant to avoid falling into temptation and the same sins.

The Fourth Station:  JESUS SEES HIS MOTHER, MARY - Comforting Jesus' sorrowful Mother by carrying out Jesus' Will faithfully.

The Fifth Station:  SIMON IS FORCED TO HELP JESUS CARRY HIS CROSS - Being patient especially in adversity.

The Sixth Station:  VERONICA WIPES THE FACE OF JESUS - Being charitable and compassionate towards our neighbor.

The Seventh Station:  JESUS FALLS FOR THE SECOND TIME - Keeping close to Jesus at all times, especially during difficult times.

The Eight Station:  JESUS GREETS THE WOMEN IN JERUSALEM - Praying for living faith;

The Ninth Station:  JESUS FALLS FOR THE THIRD TIME - Seeking forgiveness quickly when we fall into sin.

The Tenth Station:  JESUS IS STRIPPED OF HIS GARMENTS - Stripping ourselves of anything that keeps us from God and bearing all humiliations for the love of Jesus.

The Eleventh Station:  JESUS IS NAILED TO THE CROSS - Loving my enemies and difficult people with the love of Christ.

The Twelfth Station:  JESUS DIES ON THE CROSS - Accepting our crosses without complaint.  Praying and preparing for a happy death.

The Thirteenth Station:  JESUS' BODY IS PLACED ON HIS MOTHER'S LAP - Entirely trusting in  God's Mercy.

The Fourteenth Station:  JESUS IS LAID IN THE TOMB - Fighting for the salvation of souls.


Monday, February 15, 2021

Book Review - The Thief Who Stole Heaven

 

by Raymond Arroyo, illustrated by Randy Gallegos, Sophia Institute Press, 2021.

Reviewed by Rosa Sautner, Catholic homeschooling mother of two.

    This story of the Good Thief may be more than just legend having been mentioned in some apocryphal accounts.  Written for children in a very dramatically illustrated picture book, Raymond Arroyo weaves together this tale of a young thief who becomes the first conquest of Christ on the Cross.

    I first heard of how the Good Thief "stole" Heaven from none other than the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.  In one of his Lenten talks he makes the connection that one who was a thief his whole life would die a thief by stealing Heaven at the last moment of his life.

    This touching story is retold for children by bestselling author and EWTN host, Raymond Arroyo.  This colorfully illustrated picture book captures the drama of Dismas' life and hard times and final redemption on the cross.

    The book imaginatively follows Dismas' life from a childhood of sadness, misfortune, and wrong-doing and chance encounter with the Holy Family to his final meeting with Christ on the cross.

    This is a worthy addition to children's Lenten book collection.  I loved the story.  However, my only disappointment with the book was the illustrations of the Blessed Mother.   I would have liked to have seen her drawn more beautifully, more serenely.

The Thief Who Stole Heaven

Friday, February 12, 2021

ACN-USA News - Haiti bishops warn of catastrophe

 


THE BISHOPS OF HAITI have released a message deploring the catastrophic situation prevailing in the country and called for a national dialogue. “The country is on the brink of an explosion.”

“The daily lives of the people revolve around death, murder, impunity and uncertainty,” the Haitian bishops’ conference wrote in a statement issued on Feb.2, a copy of which was obtained by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

For months, Haiti has been going through a severe political crisis. At the heart of the conflict between government and the opposition is the length of the term of office of President Jovenel Mo├»se. The president maintains that his term of office is set to end in the coming year. His critics, on the other hand, believe that his term came to an end Feb. 7, as stipulated in the constitution. 

The differing viewpoints concerning the official end of the presidential term grew out of discord over when it began. In their statement, the bishops indirectly support the position of the president’s critics. They said: “It seems to us that everyone supports the principle that no one stands above the law and constitution of the country.” 

According to the bishops, the head of state made use of electoral laws and the provisions of the constitution on numerous occasions in the past, thereby confirming their validity for himself. In their statement, the bishops further emphasize that “only the bridge of consensus will help the different players” keep Haiti from falling even deeper into the abyss.

In light of the chaos in the country, the bishops clearly expressed the position of the Catholic Church. “In the succession of Christ, the Church is always on the side of law, truth, justice and respect for life and human dignity,” they wrote. 

The crisis is exacerbated by economic problems and a dramatically worsening security situation. As an example, the bishops refer to the many kidnappings that have made life in the country unbearable. They also expressed hope that the death squads can be persuaded to lay down their weapons.

ACN has supported the Church in Haiti over many years. In 2020 alone, more than $660M was approved in support of more than 30 projects. The donations given by ACN’s donors were used to purchase and maintain vehicles, to grant COVID-19 emergency aid, Mass stipends for priests, and formation courses for lay persons, catechists and seminarians.

—Oliver Maksan

With picture of chaos in Haiti (© Digital-Democracy) 

Editor’s Notes: 

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Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947, the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, over 40 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

ACN-USA News - Ethiopia is living a nightmare

 

THE SITUATION IN NORTHERN ETHIOPIA IS ALARMING. Communication is very precarious and for almost three weeks the Tigray region has been totally isolated from the rest of the world. No internet or telephone. But the news we get from those who have been able to visit the area is terrible.” This is the assessment by Regina Lynch, project manager for Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The Tigray region, whose capital is Mekele, is the most northern region of Ethiopia and borders Eritrea and Sudan. About 95 percent of the population are Christians who are part of the Ethiopian Coptic Orthodox Church and belong to the Tigray ethnic group.

“Hundreds of citizens are being killed in the conflicts in the Tigray region. Nobody knows for sure the number of dead, but we have been told that there are priests and church leaders among them. Shops, schools, churches and convents have been robbed and destroyed. Thousands of people have fled their homes. Many have crossed the border into Sudan, but others have sought refuge in remote areas, in the mountains, without water or access to food,” Lynch reports.

News that has spread in recent days in many media outlets about the possible murder of 750 people in an assault on the Orthodox Church of St Mary of Zion (Maryam Tsiyon) in Aksum last November, where according to the local tradition the Ark of the Covenant is kept, Lynch says that “we have not been able to verify the exact details of what would be a real massacre. Travel in the region is not currently possible and communications are very restricted, but we have received confirmation of a series of killings and attacks on innocent people in many parts of the region and also in the Aksum area. The population is terrified.”

According to information received by ACN, there might have been another massacre with more than a hundred victims in the church of Maryam Dengelat in December. 

Although the conflict has led to the deaths of hundreds of Christians, sources reiterate that the violence is not motivated by religion but by politics: due to the COVID19 pandemic the parliamentary elections planned for August 29, 2020 were postponed until after the pandemic, but the nationalist party, People’s Front for the Liberation of Tigray (PFLT) independently organized—and without the permission of the national government—regional elections in Tigray in early September, which created a political crisis that led to military intervention.

Last November fighting broke out in the northern region after the Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, sent in federal troops, who were reportedly joined by Eritrean troops, to fight against the PFLT.

This has been confirmed by another source contacted by ACN, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals: “Frankly, the problem is that the Eritrean troops have been involved from the beginning. The government has denied this, but it is the Eritrean troops who are committing killings in the east and northwest of Tigray.” 

“It is almost impossible to confirm the figures, but we have received information of people killed by the Eritrean troops in Irob, in Zalambassa and in Sebeya. I have also heard of dozens of people, including priests, killed in a church in Gietelo, Gulemakada,” the same source reports.

The isolation of the region makes it very difficult to send in aid, explains Lynch, who is asking for support for Ethiopia and especially for the region of Tigray: “It is a political problem, but those who are paying with their lives are the ordinary civilians. This is a terrible situation.” 

“The suffering of so many people must be alleviated, and comfort must be given to our Christian brothers and sisters who are isolated from the world in a situation of anguish, threatened by violence and terror.

“At the moment it is almost impossible to access information, but we are joining in prayer for this country, its church and its people,” says Lynch

 

—Maria Lozano

 

With picture of Regina Lynch. (© ACN)

 

 

Editor’s Notes:

 

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Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

 

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

 

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

 

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Monday, January 25, 2021

ACN-USA News - Ethiopia - Surge in violence leads to up to 1,000 deaths

 


UP TO 1,000 PEOPLE—including priests and other church leaders—have been killed in a series of attacks in Ethiopia culminating in a massacre at a church where the Ark of the Covenant is believed to be kept.

 

Following reports that 750 people were killed in a raid on the Orthodox Maryam Tsiyon Church in Aksum, thought to contain the Ark of the Covenant, an anonymous source from inside the country spoke to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

 

The source told ACN the attack was the latest in a long line of fatal assaults against innocent people, as part of the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region of the country.

 

He said: “750 were killed in Aksum, 154 people were killed in December in Maryam Dengelat. Also in my home area, 10 people were killed on Christmas Day from one family in one village.”

 

“More than 32 people were killed by Eritrean troops in Irob, 56 in Zalambassa, 11 in Sebeya. I also heard about 32 people, including priests, who were killed in a church in Gietelo, Gulemakada. In addition to that, in another area, I heard 20 were killed.”

 

Reports of the Aksum massacre first emerged earlier this month, when the European External Program with Africa (EEPA), a Belgium-based nonprofit organization, released a situational report, saying the people hiding in the church were brought out and shot in the square.

 

The ACN source said: “I heard there were 1,000 people in the church. It might be that more were injured and died later. 750 were killed for sure.” He added: “In Aksum, there is the Ark of the Covenant. Maybe the people were there protecting the Ark. They were taken outside and shot.”

 

The ACN source stressed an ongoing political conflict had led to the deaths of so many Christians and Muslims but added that the violence was not motivated by religion. He went on to say: “Inside Ethiopia there is a political conflict to do with the election. The government expired in September and they were supposed to have elections in May. Coronavirus happened and the election was postponed in August. This is a political problem and they are targeting the people of the Tigray region. This is a terrible situation.”

 

Last November, fighting broke out in Tigray after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent in federal troops, supported by militia and army from Amhara, as well as troops from Eritrea, to fight the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which he accused of holding illegitimate elections.

 

The source said: “Frankly, the problem is that Eritrean troops have been involved from the beginning. The [Ethiopian] government has denied this but those who are doing the killing are Eritrean troops in eastern and north-western Tigray.”

 

—Fionn Shiner

 

 

With picture of Tigray region (© ACN)

 

 

Editor’s Notes:

 

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Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

 

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

 

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

 

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org