Thursday, September 24, 2015

ACN News - Syrian prelate bemoans Christian exodus



Syrian prelate bemoans Christian exodus

By Marta Petrosillo

“We Christians are determined to stay on in Syria and continue to give our witness.” Grim-faced and speaking with determination, this is how Chaldean Archbishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, addressed the media in Rome earlier this week.

The archbishop commented on the mass exodus of Syrians, particularly in response to the open welcome shown by some European countries. He said, “All those who were able to leave have already left, while the others are still trying to leave the country.”

“Above all our young men, who fear being called up for military service and don’t want to take part in a senseless war that has brought nothing but destruction.”

Most first head for Turkey, where they then try to board vessels for Greece or Italy.

“So many of them have met their deaths at sea,” the archbishop added, speaking at a press conference sponsored by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and Rome’s Foreign Press Association.

The mass emigration has not spared the Christian community in Aleppo, a place where the Christian minority has long formed a sizeable and visible presence.

“Before the war there were 150,000 Christians in the city. Today I don’t think there would even be as many as 50,000.”

“There is a real fear that our community might disappear altogether,” the archbishop said.

After going on five years of war the situation in Aleppo has become desperate. “The rich have gone, the middle classes have become poor and the poor have become destitute.”

“More than 80 percent of the population is now unemployed,” said the prelate. Moreover, for over two months now, the city has been without water and electricity.

“One of our churches has a well in its grounds, and we try to distribute water to as many people as possible. On every street you can see children and youngsters carrying empty bottles, searching for water.”

Meanwhile, bombs continue to fall every day. Said the archbishop: “One part of the city is controlled by the government, while the rest is in the hands of fundamentalist groups who are constantly attacking the area controlled by the Syrian army—and that’s where the majority of the Christians live.”

“The situation in Aleppo is one of the most critical in Syria, because we are just 25 miles from the border with Turkey, which is continuing to arm and welcome the fundamentalists.”

Archbishop Audo charged that the protracted nature of the Syrian conflict is a reflection of a tangle of international interests. He said: “We have been waiting for years for a political solution, for some glimmer of hope that the war might end.”

“But there seems to be a desire on the part of the international community to see the war continue—just as was the case in Iraq and Libya.”

“It is a determination linked to strategic interests in the Middle East region; as Pope Francis has reminded us more than once, commercial interests linked to the arms trade are in play.”          

With picture of a boy transporting water in Aleppo, Syria (© 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 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 or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Spiritual Life - The Confidence of a Simple Soul

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Picture source

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“I want to be a missionary.”

Brother John Samaha, S.M.

            Saint Junipero Serra (1713-1784), the first apostle and colonizer of Alta California was a model evangelizer and is a benchmark for the missionary spirit for spreading and renewing the faith.  The church celebrates his feast on July 1.

          When Pope Francis visited the USA in September 2015 he canonized him at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

          A native of Petra on the Spanish island of Majorca and baptized Miguel Jose, he followed in the footsteps of his early educators, the Franciscans, and took the name of Junipero, who was a disciple of St. Francis himself.  After a decade of service as a noted preacher and professor of philosophy, he rekindled his early desire to be a missionary and requested to be sent to Mexico in the new World.  In 1749 at the age of 36 he wrote a formal petition to his provincial superior: “All my life I have wanted to be a missionary.  I have wanted to carry the Gospel teachings to those who have never heard of God and the kingdom he has prepared for them.” 

          Fray Junipero was missioned to the New World in Mexico, where he served the native populations for twenty years.  When Spain decided to complete the occupation of California, he and other specially trained Franciscan missionaries accompanied the military and the colonists.  During the ensuing fifteen years in Alta California, he founded the first nine of the twenty-one missions.  In this period Serra was compelled to confront the military and civil authorities concerning the mistreatment of the Native Americans.  He drafted a statement of thirty-two grievances which he personally presented to the Viceroy in Mexico.  Some of his recommended improvements were implemented and some were overlooked.

          Though afflicted with an ulcerated leg wound, Padre Serra frequently visited his missions, often walking rather than riding horseback because St. Francis al Assisi had always walked.  Records show that he baptized and confirmed thousands of natives without neglecting the colonists and the soldiers.  He was beloved by all.  While concentrating on the spiritual needs of the neophytes and catechumens, he and his collaborators did not forget their material welfare.  The natives were taught methods of farming, cattle raising, along with arts and crafts.  The native peoples were educated to shift from an unsettled lifestyle to a stable domestic way of life.  Serra’s extensive written reports filed with government and religious authorities reveal a saintly man who loved and served his people as an adept teacher, organizer and manager.

          Although some Spaniards were guilty of abusive treatment, Padre Serra had never been guilty of mistreatment.  On the contrary, he defended them from harm.   In 1784 Father Serra died at Mission San Carlos Borromeo, and later he was buried in the sanctuary of its church. When St. John Paul II beatified Junipero Serra on September 25, 1988, he praised the Apostle of California as “an exemplary model of the selfless evangelizer, a shining example of Christian virtue and the missionary spirit.”  These are the traits we are challenged to exhibit.

          A statue of Junipero Serra represents California in the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.  Imposing statues of the colonizer of California also grace Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and are also prominently placed in many other cities throughout the state.  His name has been adopted by the international lay organization of men and women known as the Serra Club, which is dedicated to fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life. 

          Saint Junipero Serra witnessed to the holiness of the Church and its concern for all people.  As an extraordinary missionary and an exceptional example of the Church’s apostolic calling to preach and exemplify the Gospel to everyone, he personifies the spirit of the new evangelization that characterizes our times.


                                        A  Junipero Serra Vignette

          November 24 is the feast day of Saint Junipero Serra, Apostle of California.  The son of Antonio and Margarita Ferrer, he was baptized Miguel Jose and took the name Junipero as a Franciscan.

          Pope Saint John Paul II beatifed him in 1988.  Pope Francis canonized him in 2015.

          This is part of the documented legacy of Blessed Junipero Serra to the Church in California.

·       He walked an estimated 4,000 miles in California on his missionary journeys with an injured leg.

·       He baptized 98% of the adult converts at Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel.

·       He confirmed 4,076.

·       The records of The Early California Population Project indicate that his efforts supporting the 21 missions, the Los Angeles Plaza Church, and the Santa Barbara Presidio resulted in 101,000 baptisms, 28,000 marriages, and 71,000 burials.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Spiritual Life - Jesus the Friend

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Monday, September 21, 2015