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Seven 20th-century Romanian bishops declared martyrs

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis declared Tuesday the martyrdom of seven Greek-Catholic bishops killed by the communist regime in Romania in the mid-20th century.

Bishops Valeriu Traian Frentiu, Vasile Aftenie, Ioan Suciu, Tito Livio Chinezu, Ioan Balan, Alexandru Rusu, and Iuliu Hossu were declared to have been killed “in hatred of the faith” between 1950 and 1970, during the Soviet occupation of Romania and the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu.

Each of the bishops was arrested and held in prisons and camps until he died, often from isolation, cold, hunger, disease, or hard manual labor. Most were never tried or convicted and were buried in unmarked graves, without religious services.
 
A year before his death, Bishop Iuliu Hossu was named a cardinal “in pectore.” After spending years in isolation, he died in a hospital in Bucharest in 1970. His last words were: “My struggle is over, yours continues.”

In addition to imprisonment and isolation, Bishop Vasile Aftenie was tortured at the Interior Ministry, later dying from his wounds May 10, 1950.

After meeting March 19 with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis gave his approval for the publication of the decrees of martyrdom of the seven bishops, and of another seven people on the path to sainthood.

The pope approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Maria Emilia Riquelme y Zayas, foundress of the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Blessed Immaculate Virgin Mary (1847-1940), who will now be called ‘blessed.’

He also recognized the martyrdom of Italian missionary Alfredo Cremonesi, a religious priest of the Pontifical Institute for External Missionaries, who was born in Italy and killed in Burma in 1953.

The Servants of God declared to have heroic virtue, and who can now be called ‘venerable,’ are: Francesco Maria Di Francia, priest and founder of the Congregation of Capuchin Sisters of the Sacred Heart (1853-1913); Maria Hueber, foundress of the Congregation of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis (1653-1705); Maria Teresa Camera, foundress of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Pieta (1818-1894); Maria Teresa Gabrieli, co-foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor - Palazzolo Institute (1837-1908); and Giovanna Francesca of the Holy Spirit, foundress of the Institute of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Word Incarnate (1888-1984).

Kazakhstan bishops issue statement supporting Archbishop Chullikatt

Astana, Kazakhstan, Mar 19, 2019 / 10:55 am (CNA).- The bishops’ conference of Kazakhstan issued a statement of support Tuesday for Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, apostolic nuncio to that country, who has recently been accused of financial and personal misconduct during his time of service as the Vatican’s chief diplomat at the United Nations.

“Archbishop Chullikatt has been working very earnestly for the good of the people and the Church in Kazakhstan,” the conference said in a communique issued March 19.

“Immediately after his arrival, with zeal and joy he started visiting all the parishes of Kazakhstan. He has been working very hard for the good of all of us here and we are particularly grateful for all the assistance he gives to the Bishops’ Conference. Besides, he is involved in good projects at various levels (educational, social, charitable etc.) for the people of Kazakhstan.”

“For us, Archbishop Chullikatt is the kind of Nuncio, we Bishops in Kazakhstan would like to have with us at least for a few more years,” the statement continued.

Chullikatt led the Holy See’s permanent observer mission at the U.N. from 2010 until 2014. He became apostolic nuncio to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan in 2016.

On March 15, Catholic News Agency reported allegations from former officials and employees of the Holy See’s U.N. mission office that Chullikatt had mismanaged some financial matters, especially those concerning the payment of employees and contractors, and that he had reportedly engaged in an inappropriate romantic relationship while he led that office.

That report detailed allegations made by three priests who had been in service to the U.N. mission during Chullikatt’s tenure. Since publication, an additional priest, also a former official of the U.N. mission, confirmed to CNA his knowledge of the misconduct which had been reported.

Crux first reported the allegations of financial misconduct March 11, in a report that also said information about the archbishop’s alleged financial misconduct was reported to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in 2013, and that the archbishop remained in his post for another six months after those reports were filed.

The communique from the Kazakhstan bishops said that “all these almost past three years of his presence in Kazakhstan we heard only good things about Archbishop Chullikatt from the priests, religious sisters and from our lay people, as well from those who work at the Apostolic Nunciature in Astana.”  

“There was not noticed the slightest suspicion about Archbishop Chullikatt’s moral conduct or any improper behavior towards women. According to our information, his dealings and treatment towards his collaborators and employees in the Nunciature is marked by kindness, courtesy and tact. We never heard any complaint in this regard.”

On March 11, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the U.N. issued a statement saying that during the time Chullikatt led the mission, “the visa status of all members of the diplomatic, technical and service staff of the Mission, whether religious or lay, was fully in line with the applicable provisions of U.S. State Department regulations.”

“The remuneration received by the members of the service staff of the Mission at the time was higher than the minimum salary required at the time by the laws of New York and included a generous compensation package (contributions on a pension fund, health and dental insurance, a 13th month benefit, a fully furnished apartment, a full month’s paid vacation and daily meals),” the statement added.

The statement from the Kazakhstan bishops’ conference, signed by Bishop Jose Luis Sierra, president of the conference, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, its secretary general, said that “we are pleased to recognize the Statement from the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations...which states that the employment conditions and the visa status of all members of the diplomatic, technical and service staff of the Mission during the tenure of Archbishop Chullikatt were fully in line with the laws of New York and the applicable provisions of U.S. State Department regulations.”

“Thereby the relevant accusations" reported in the Crux and CNA articles “against Archbishop Chullikatt have been proven to be unfounded with regard to this concrete issue.”

“We also wish to recognize with sincere gratitude the important role played by Archbishop Chullikatt during his mission at the United Nations as a staunch defender of the unborn, of the traditional marriage and the institution of the family, often in close collaboration with many friendly Muslim-majority countries, including Kazakhstan,” the bishops’ statement added.

“We express our hope that Archbishop Chullikatt can continue his exemplary apostolic work in Kazakhstan with many spiritual fruits and we wish him strength and abundant Divine blessings.”

 

Templeton Prize winner believes science, spirituality are complementary

IMAGE: CNS photo/Eli Burakian, Dartmouth College

By

WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. (CNS) -- A Dartmouth College cosmologist and theoretical physicist, who considers himself a religious agnostic even though he has devoted his career to examining link between science, philosophy and spirituality in exploring the mystery of creation, is the 2019 Templeton Prize winner.

Marcelo Gleiser, 60, often describes science as an "engagement with the mysterious" because he believes it cannot be separated from humanity's relationship with the natural world.

A native of Brazil, he is the first Latin American to be named a Templeton Prize Laureate.

In announcing the award March 19, the John Templeton Foundation called Gleiser "a prominent voice among scientists, past and present, who reject the notion that science alone can lead to ultimate truths about the nature of reality."

The Templeton Prize, established in 1972 by Sir John Templeton, aims to recognize someone "who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery or practical works."

Gleiser's work has earned international acclaim. His books are best-sellers, especially in his homeland, and his television series has drawn millions of viewers.

"The path to scientific understanding and scientific exploration is not just about the material part of the world," Gleiser said in a videotaped acceptance of the prize released by the foundation, based in West Conshohocken. "My mission is to bring back to science and to the people that are interested in science, the attachment to the mysterious, to make people understand that science is just one other way for us to engage with the mystery of who we are."

Despite his agnosticism, Gleiser has disavowed atheism.

"I see atheism as being inconsistent with the scientific method as it is, essentially, belief in nonbelief," he said in a 2018 interview with Scientific American. "You may not believe in God, but to affirm its nonexistence with certain is not scientifically consistent."

Among Gleiser's significant scientific contributions is his work as a co-discoverer in 1994 of "oscillons," which the foundation described as "small, long-lived energy 'lumps' made of many particles." He continues to study their properties.

His current research involves the use of information theory to explore how the stability of physical systems -- from subatomic particles to massive structures in the universe -- is encrypted in the complexity of their shapes.

The foundation said Gleiser also focuses on the origin of life on earth, examining the role of biochemical asymmetries in the early formation of polymers, the precursors to complex biomolecules. In addition, his views have risen in prominence in the growing astrobiology field.

Gleiser was born in Rio de Janiero and was raised in the Jewish community, attending Hebrew school. He graduated from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janiero in 1981 and later received a doctorate in theoretical physics from King's College London.

He joined the Dartmouth College faculty in Hanover, New Hampshire, at age 32, teaching physics and astronomy. By the time he was named a full professor at the school in 1998, Gleiser had expanded his scientific views into a larger cultural context, the foundation said.

His work led to his first book, "The Dancing Universe," which was developed as a college textbook for non-science majors. It explored the philosophical and religious roots of scientific thinking and their influence throughout human history and result in Gleiser's rise as a public intellectual.

The prize includes a cash award of more than $1.4 million. A formal award ceremony is scheduled May 29 in New York.

Previous Templeton Prize winners include religious figures St. Teresa of Kolkata, Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Rev. Billy Graham and the Dalai Lama as well as scientists Martin Rees and Freeman Dyson.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 cns@catholicnews.com.

Cardinal Barbarin remains archbishop, takes leave-of-absence

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2019 / 09:25 am (CNA).- French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin will remain the Archbishop of Lyon, the Vatican announced Tuesday. According to a statement released by the Holy See Press Office, Pope Francis has not accepted the cardinal's resignation, though Barbarin has stepped back from the day-to-day leadership of the diocese.

Barbarin was convicted by a French tribunal on March 7 on charges of failing to report allegations of sexual abuse committed by a priest of his diocese. He was given a six-month suspended prison sentence and plans to appeal the verdict.

Barbarin met with Pope Francis March 18 to submit his resignation as archbishop. Papal spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said March 19 that Francis chose to not accept the resignation of Barbarin as Archbishop of Lyon but, aware of the “difficulties” of the archdiocese at the present moment, “left Cardinal Barbarin free to make the best decision for the diocese.”

According to Gisotti, Barbarin has decided to “retire for a time,” leaving the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Lyon in charge during his absence.

In a statement on the Lyon archdiocesan website March 19, the cardinal said the pope did not want to accept his resignation, “invoking the presumption of innocence.”

“At his suggestion and because the Church of Lyon has been suffering for three years, I decided to retreat for a while and leave the leadership of the diocese to the vicar general moderator, Father Yves Baumgarten,” he said.

“The Holy See is keen to reiterate its closeness to the victims of abuse, to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Lyon and of the whole Church of France who are experiencing a particularly painful moment,” Gisotti’s statement concluded.

French tribunal president Brigitte Vernay declared Barbarin guilty March 7 “of non-denunciation of ill-treatment” of a minor, according to AFP.

The trial of Barbarin began in January on charges he did not report instances of abuse to judicial authorities between July 2014 and June 2015, in a case involving Fr. Bernard Preynat, who has been accused of abusing dozens of minors in the 1980s and early ‘90s.

In 2017, the cardinal told Le Monde that he did not conceal allegations against Preynat, but that his response to the allegations had been “inadequate.” He said he opened an investigation against Preynat after becoming aware of the allegations against him.

Allegations against Preynat became public in 2015. Prosecutors dropped the case the following year after an initial investigation, but a victims’ group with more than 80 members who say they were abused by Preynat led to a reopening of the case, the Guardian reports.

Preynat was banned from leading boy scout groups in the early 1990s, but remained in ministry until being removed by Cardinal Barbarin in 2015.

The priest will face his own trial later this year.

Barbarin’s trial and conviction comes as revelations of clerical sex abuse and cover up continue to send shock waves through the Catholic Church. The United States, Ireland, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Poland, and Germany are among the countries that have seen recent abuse scandals uncovered.

In Syria, Caritas works to promote understanding among neighbors

IMAGE: CNS photo/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters

By Dale Gavlak

RAMTHA, Jordan (CNS) -- As Syria's civil war enters its ninth year, citizens in and outside the country find themselves in limbo. Catholic and other aid agencies are urging a swift resolution to the crisis.

Caritas Syria is campaigning for "an immediate end to the violence and suffering" and calling for "all sides of the conflict to come together to find a peaceful solution," chiefly through reconciliation work.

"We are initiating reconciliation among the various communities to correct misconceptions in the minds of those living in Damascus, Ghouta, Aleppo and elsewhere about people outside their religious community," said Sandra Awad, communications director for the Catholic aid agency Caritas Syria.

Caritas Syria is the country's branch of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church's international network of charitable agencies.

Awad told Catholic News Service by telephone from Damascus that a meal involving Christians, Alawites and Muslims brought about a wonderful understanding and compassion for the suffering shared by all.

She said a Christian woman told her at the start of the lunch that she did not want to sit next to a woman wearing a headscarf because Muslims had kidnapped her son. Militants had entered her home and beat her son, resulting in psychological problems for him. They shot another son's legs, leaving him paralyzed. The militants kidnapped the third son with his wife and child.

But Awad said she told her, "This woman with the headscarf lost her husband from mortar shelling, and her 15-year-old son lost his legs. She is taking care of her children by herself without any income."

The Christian woman then responded: "Yes, all of us have suffered."

"I could see her ideas begin to change," Awad said. "The people spoke about the pain they experienced during the war. They began to feel that people have suffered as much as themselves and perhaps even more," she said and, as a result, they got along together.

During a Caritas-sponsored visit to the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, a Muslim man questioned why militants were calling for people to be killed, rather than supported.

"Let them see who is helping us," he said. "A Christian organization is helping us now."

Caritas' reconciliation efforts underline the practical support it provides to thousands of Syrians by distributing food baskets, clothes and blankets as well as medical assistance and psychosocial support.

Pope Francis has been closely engaged with the Syrian crisis, consistently calling for an end to the fighting. He has acknowledged the assistance Caritas gives to Syrians regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation as the best way to contribute toward peace.

Syria's war has killed more than 400,000 people and forced more than 6 million Syrians out of their homes inside Syria; 5.5 million have fled to neighboring countries since the outbreak of the conflict in 2011.

CAFOD, the Catholic international development charity in England and Wales, and Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international aid and development agency, are part of the Caritas network.

In a statement provided to Catholic News Service, CAFOD said it "believes that until a political process addresses the underlying issues that led to the Syrian war, there will be no safe future in Syria for the millions of Syrians caught up in this conflict.

Syrian refugees sheltering in neighboring Jordan and Lebanon, many for longer than they ever imagined, have expressed concern for their future.

"My family believes that we cannot return to Syria because our home was destroyed, so there is nothing to go back to," Um Mohamed, using her familial name in Arabic, told CNS in the northern Jordanian border town of Ramtha, which abuts Syria. "But we're also finding it impossible to stay in Jordan because there is no work, my husband is sick, and our savings are running out."

Another Syrian refugee at the large Zaatari camp, also near the border, said she is worried about her son left behind in Syria.

"He was living in an area controlled by the rebels, although he didn't fight with them. But because of being in that place, he and other young Syrian men have turned themselves into the Syrian authorities in the hopes of getting a lesser jail term," Um Sami told CNS, saying the Syrian government views them with suspicion.

"But the fear is that the government will forcibly conscript these men into the Syrian military and put them in frontline positions without any training. Or, what if my son is never seen again?" she said, her eyes welling with tears.

Other Syrian refugees are fearful that the regime considers them "traitors."

"A lot of young men left Syria because they didn't want to fight in the conflict," Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, told CNS.

"A lot of refugees said to me, 'I left so I don't kill, and I don't get killed.' Even if they go back today, there is a new amnesty law, but there are no guarantees that they won't be thrown into prison or sent to the frontline," she explained.

Other refugees around Zahle, near the Syrian border in Lebanon, said they, too, fear a return, but for some there is no other choice.

A Christian aid worker told CNS about a Syrian widow who died unexpectedly in March. She left behind three young children who must go back to Syria to join relatives to care for them. But these family members live in the militant stronghold of Idlib in Syria's north, making their fate uncertain.

Eight million Syrian children are now in need of assistance, including psychosocial support, according to the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF.

"Every single Syrian child has been impacted by violence, loss, displacement, family separation and lack of access to basic services, including health and education. Grave violations of children's rights -- recruitment, abductions, killing and maiming continue unabated," UNICEF said March 6.

Syrians live without "peace or war," Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus, told the Vatican news agency, Fides, March 11. "It's an uncertain and difficult situation, which is becoming unsustainable for the weakest," he said.

Archbishop Nassar warned that Syria's historic Christian population has decreased in some areas by 77 percent, compared to the time before the conflict.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 cns@catholicnews.com.

Cardinal Parolin celebrates 150th anniversary of children's hospital

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu Children's Hospital in Rome is a sign of the Catholic Church's commitment to caring for and protecting the dignity of the sick, said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state.

Commemorating the hospital's 150th anniversary March 19, Cardinal Parolin said that the identity of Bambino Gesu Hospital is rooted in Jesus' call to care for the ever-evolving needs of the sick in a "prophetic" way.

"Even if the situation has radically changed since the time of its first pioneering experiences, the church will never stop paying attention to the sick with that look of love and with that 'prophetic' attitude," Cardinal Parolin said.

Founded in 1869 by Duchess Arabella and Duke Scipione Salviati, it became the first pediatric hospital on the Italian peninsula.

In an effort to guarantee the hospital would have a secure future, in 1924 the Salviati family donated it to Pope Pius XI.

Over time, the hospital added new pavilions, new operating rooms and new outpatient departments. Today, with two branches outside Rome, Bambino Gesu Children's Hospital is one of the most modern and well-equipped pediatric facilities in the country.

Among those present at the 150th anniversary celebration were Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi and various local officials as well as hospital staff.

Cardinal Parolin said that church-run hospitals like Bambino Gesu are a sign of the Catholic Church's "constant attention to the human person."

Love, he said, is not only demonstrated in the effectiveness of the hospital's assistance to patients but also "in the ability to be close in solidarity with those who suffer."

"Putting the sick at the center means, among other things, knowing how to combine the action of curing the disease with that of taking care of the whole patient, of his or her person and of his or her emotional, relational, psychological and even spiritual world," the cardinal said.

Although Bambino Gesu Hospital carries out its mission in Italy, Cardinal Parolin said it also shares the universal mission of the Catholic Church to proclaim God's love in the farthest corners of the world.

The commitment of Bambino Gesu Hospital to expanding and training staff at a pediatric hospital in Bangui, Central African Republic, he said, "is a testimony that for Bambino Gesu Hospital, there are no walls or boundaries, nor race or religious affiliation that separate it from charity."

"With great passion," the cardinal said, "we want to continue our great task of taking care of sick children, including those who in their countries do not have the possibility, as a sign of the charity of Jesus Christ and his church and to open up and embrace with hope the future that lies before us."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope Francis: 'Christianity without tenderness does not work'

Vatican City, Mar 18, 2019 / 01:17 pm (CNA).- Meeting with representatives of a charismatic group dedicated to caring for the sick, Pope Francis on Monday emphasized the need for tenderness as the natural Christian response to human suffering.

The word “tenderness,” Pope Francis warned, is “a word that today risks being dropped from the dictionary.”

“We must take it up again and put it into practice anew. Christianity without tenderness does not work. Tenderness is a properly Christian attitude: it is also the very marrow of our encounter with people who suffer,” he said.

The pope met March 18 with men and women religious from the Camillian Charismatic Family.

Founded by St. Camillus de Lellis in the late 1500s, the Camillians around the world serve the sick, with an emphasis on the poor and dying.

Pope Francis praised those present for their work of “loving and generous donation to the sick, carrying out a precious mission, in the Church and in society, alongside the suffering.”

He encouraged members of the Camillian family to always remember that their charism of mercy toward the sick is a gift from the Holy Spirit, meant to be shared with others.

Charisms, he said, “always have a transitive character: they are orientated towards others. Over the years, you have made efforts to incarnate your charism faithfully, translating it into a multitude of apostolic works and in pastoral service to the benefit of suffering humanity throughout the world.”

St. Camillus de Lellis initially founded an order of men, at a time when active consecrated life for women “had not yet matured,” Pope Francis noted. Two congregations for women were created in the 19th century, and secular institutes were established in the 20th century.

These developments, the pope said, “have given completeness to the expression of the charism of mercy towards the sick, enriching it with the distinctly feminine qualities of love and of care.”

He offered prayers that Mary, Health of the Sick might especially guide and accompany the consecrated women, teaching them maternal dedication and tenderness.

Together, Pope Francis said, these different Camillian groups make up “a single constellation, that is, a ‘charismatic family’ composed of men and women religious, secular consecrated persons and lay faithful.”

“None of these realities is the sole custodian or single holder of the charism, but each receives it as a gift and interprets it and updates it according to his or her specific vocation, in different historical and geographical contexts,” he said. In this way, the different ecclesial bodies all work together “[t]o witness in every time and place Christ’s merciful love towards the sick.”

“At the centre there remains the original charism, as a perennial source of light and inspiration, which is understood and embodied dynamically in the various forms.”

Looking forward, Pope Francis urged the Camillians to be open to new apostolates, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

He instructed them “always to cultivate communion among you, in that synodal style that I have proposed to all the Church, listening to each other and everyone listening to the Holy Spirit, to value the contribution that every single situation offers to the single Family, so as to express more fully the multiple potentialities that the charisma includes.”

Through fidelity to their founder, and by listening to and accompanying those experiencing poverty and suffering today, the pope said, the Camillians “will know how to make light shine, always new, on the gift received; and many young people the world over will be able to feel attracted by and to join with you, to continue to bear witness to God’s tenderness.”

Counselors offer 'loving sources of hope' for women seeking abortions

IMAGE: CNS photo/Natalie Hoefer, The Cr

By Natalie Hoefer

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Two women stood near the busy road on a chilly February morning in Indianapolis. A steady, penetrating mist -- and sometimes an icy splash from a speeding car -- made for a dampness that digs deep and lingers despite layers of clothes. The temperature hovered just above freezing.

"It's always 10 degrees colder here than anywhere else," Sheryl Dye said with a patient grin. Her companion, Ann Clawson, nodded in agreement.

By "here" she meant the entrance of the driveway of the Planned Parenthood abortion facility on the northwest side of Indianapolis. It is the state's largest abortion provider.

Dye and Clawson are committed to standing, praying and hailing approaching cars with a wave and a smile for at least two hours there every Wednesday morning.

They are members of the Indianapolis North chapter of Sidewalk Advocates for Life. Per its website, the organization's mission is to train and support volunteers "to be the hands and feet of Christ, offering loving, life-affirming alternatives to all present at the abortion center, thereby eliminating demand and ending abortion."

Dye and Debra Minott established the chapter in 2016 and currently serve as its coordinators.

Sidewalk counselors have been there for 13 years, since the facility opened in 2006, said Dye, 54. "It started as a grass-roots effort. ... Deb and I used to counsel together. We started talking about the need for more comprehensive training and getting more people involved. Sidewalk Advocates has a great training program."

Each chapter designates the abortion facility it will cover. A chapter also exists in Bloomington, covering the Planned Parenthood abortion center near Indiana University.

Being a sidewalk counselor does not require any kind of degree or persuasive ability, said Minott, 63, told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

"First and foremost (it requires) a very strong faith," she said. "Because to be successful, you need to recognize you are an instrument of the Holy Spirit, and it's not anything you're doing.

"Second is a passion for life. If you're not there believing that this is a life to be saved, it's going to come through to the person you're talking to."

Having "thick skin" is needed, too, "because some of the things people say aren't very nice," admitted Minott, a member of St. Marie Goretti Parish in Westfield, Indiana, in the Diocese of Lafayette.

Both agree on several misconceptions about what sidewalk counselors do -- that they are there to yell and protest against the abortion center, or there to shame the women as they drive in.

"No matter what is said to us, no matter what goes on, we are peaceful, loving sources of hope," said Dye, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. "Our goal is to let (the women) know there's help, that there's pain that can come with abortion, and that they're better than that and don't have to experience that."

One might say the counselors' first goal is to get a car to stop.

"We just wave and offer a big smile and make eye contact," Dye said of the counselors' approach to cars entering the drive.

"There are times when you get no one to stop, then sometimes you get eight cars to stop" during the two- to two-and-a-half-hour shifts, Minott added.

When a car does stop, a counselor offers the driver brochures and information on alternative pro-life organizations that will help them at no charge. For instance, 1st Choice for Women is a pregnancy clinic less than a mile from the abortion center. It is a ministry of Great Lakes Gabriel Project, which also sponsors the north Indianapolis Sidewalk Advocates chapter.

Counselors also offer to walk over immediately and meet the woman at the Women's Care Center that abuts the north boundary of the Planned Parenthood property.

"Even if I talk to someone for a minute -- and that's really about all the time you have -- and they still go in (to the abortion center), I believe my prayers have an impact," Minott said of what counselors spend most of their time doing by the drive: praying.

Counselors often use a rosary booklet with tailor-made intentions Minott designed. But with volunteers from different faith backgrounds, any and all prayers are welcome, she said.

"If I didn't have faith that being there praying was having an impact, I couldn't go on doing it because there's just not enough tangible rewards coming back to you," Minott said.

Occasionally there are tangible rewards, though. Dye told the story of a woman who stopped not long ago to talk to a specific counselor.

"This woman said she had been driving up and down Georgetown Road for a year trying to find the counselor," Dye said. "She wanted her to know that even though she went on in for her abortion after the counselor talked with her, she changed her mind, and she was now the mother of a healthy baby boy."

At 69, Larry Clark has been a sidewalk counselor at the Planned Parenthood abortion center in Indianapolis for about 10 years. He, too, knows the joy of seeing a woman choose life for her baby.

"I've got to be here -- it's the right thing to do," said Clark, a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Carmel, Indiana, in the Lafayette Diocese. "(The clients) need somebody -- not only the children, but the moms and dads need us, too. ... There's nothing more cheering and exciting than when someone chooses life here in this driveway."

Dye and Minott agree the mission of sidewalk counselors has become more urgent.

Dye said that in the six years since she's been a counselor outside the abortion facility, "it's getting harder to get (the women) to see that it's something that could potentially cause harm to them. It's hard because society tells them it's no big deal."

And with only 13 full-time sidewalk advocates, about 10 part-time and substitute volunteers, and the need to always have two counselors on each shift, the task is even more challenging, said Minott.

There is no "typical" counselor, said Dye, who is the mother of two grown children and a teacher at Lumen Christi Catholic School in Indianapolis.

"We have women and men, people who are outgoing and people who are more quiet, people who work and people who don't work or are retired," she said.

Minott also is married with two grown children. She is retired, running for the Carmel City Council, and has "a lot of other things going on."

Clawson, a retiree in her mid-60s who also worships at St. Maria Goretti, is in her third month of volunteering.

She had a "save" on her first day of counseling -- a woman she spoke with who decided to go to the Women's Care Center instead of Planned Parenthood.

"That's like being on cloud nine," she said with a smile. "Those are the things that keep you coming."

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Hoefer is a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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For Chaldeans who fled Iraq, New Zealand attacks brought back memories

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy NZ Catholic

By Michael Otto

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (CNS) -- The St. Addai Chaldean Catholic community in suburban Auckland felt the impact of the Christchurch mosque killings with a special poignancy, because many members have experienced the sufferings inflicted by terrorism.

"There is a lady in my community -- they beheaded her son in front of her," Chaldean Father Douglas Al-Bazi told NZ Catholic. "Another man, they killed his parents in front of him."

Father Al-Bazi, who was kidnapped for nine days by Islamic militants in 2006 in Iraq, suffering serious injuries -- including being shot in the leg by an assailant wielding an AK-47 -- said that when he heard of the events in Christchurch, he was "really angry."

"There were thousands of questions in my head, and also for my people," he said.

He said he told his parishioners that "we fully understand as Iraqi people, especially Christian, we really understand" the pain, "because we are survivors of genocide, systematic genocide."

"I am still shocked, me and my people, how this could happen here in New Zealand," he added.

Father Al-Bazi said people at his church have said they are scared in the wake of the events in Christchurch, fearful of revenge attacks.

"I told them, no, this is not the time to be scared. It is the time to be united. So, show your happiness, show we are brave, and we have to tell the people how to be calm. Because already, we have had that experience. So, we have to guide people to tell them."

Parishioners placed a floral tribute with a message of support in Arabic outside a local mosque the day after the shootings.

Father Al-Bazi said most of his community came to New Zealand seeking a safe place, and the violence that happened in Christchurch is unacceptable.

"I don't know what we can do for those survivors, for those relatives, the only thing we can do is pray for them and say, 'This is not New Zealand.'"

At the end of Mass March 18, everyone at St. Addai Church sang the national anthem, "God Defend New Zealand" in Maori and in English.

Police were stationed outside the church and told Father Al-Bazi, "It is for your protection." The priest said he asked the officers to park a little down the road, so as not to alarm Massgoers.

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Otto is editor of NZ Catholic.

 

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Pope leads pilgrims in prayer for victims of mosque attack

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis called on Christians to unite in prayer for the victims of two mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left 50 people dead and dozens wounded in one of the worst mass shootings in the country's history.

"I am close to our Muslim brothers and sisters and their entire community. I renew my invitation to unite with them in prayer and gestures of peace to counter hatred and violence," the pope said March 17 during his Sunday Angelus address.

Around the world, thousands have joined in praying for the victims of the March 15 attack. The gunman, Brenton Tarrant, left a 74-page manifesto posted on social media, identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian and white nationalist who wanted to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.

After condemning the attack, Pope Francis bowed his head as he led the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square in silent prayer for the dead and the wounded.

In his main address, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Luke in which Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John, thus granting them "a taste of the glory of the resurrection, a glimpse of heaven and earth."

Christ's transfiguration, the pope said, occurred at a pivotal moment in his mission after revealing to his followers that he must suffer and die on the cross.

Knowing that his disciples "do not accept this reality," Jesus is transfigured before them "so that they may know that this is the way by which the heavenly father will bring his son to glory, raising him from the dead," the pope said.

"No one can reach eternal life except by following Jesus, who carried his cross in his earthly life," he said. "Each of us has our own cross. The Lord shows us the end of this journey, which is the resurrection, beauty, by carrying his own cross."

The Christian understanding of suffering, he continued, is not a form of "sadomasochism" but accepts suffering as a transitional step toward heaven where one experiences "salvation, bliss, light, the unlimited love of God."

During Lent, he said, Christians should try to be like the disciples, to "remain for a few moments in recollection, every day a little bit" and to "fix our inner gaze on his face and let his light pervade us and radiate in our lives."

"Let us continue our Lenten journey with joy. Let us give space to prayer and to the word of God, which the liturgy abundantly proposes to us in these days," the pope said. "Because only by remaining with him will we see his glory."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2019 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 cns@catholicnews.com.