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Statement of Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York Regarding Last Night's Attack

The news of last night’s attack at the home of a Jewish family in Monsey, New York, is the latest in a series of sickening acts of violence against our Jewish brothers and sisters. Such acts must be condemned completely and without reservation as totally contrary to everything that people of faith stand for.

Piracy and despair: The unique problems that plague sailors

Vancouver, Canada, Dec 27, 2019 / 11:19 am (CNA).- For most people in the 21st century, piracy probably conjures up images of illegal downloads from Limewire before it does thoughts of trouble-making sea-farers.

But real piracy - marine miscreants who hijack boats and steal goods and take captives - is still a threat for sailors and ship crews today.

“Piracy is a terrifying experience for seafarers,” Deacon Dileep Athaide, a chaplain with the Apostleship of the Sea, told Agnieszka Ruck for The B.C. Catholic.

The Apostleship of the Sea is a Catholic charity and ministry that has offered pastoral support to ship crews since 1920. They offer their ministry to anyone regardless of creed, and they serve seafarers in 59 countries throughout the world.

“Our port chaplains and volunteer ship visitors welcome seafarers, offer welfare services and advice, practical help, care and friendship,” their website states.

Athaide serves in the ports of Delta and Vancouver on the western coast of British Columbia, Canada.

“Piracy and the threat of piracy can have a lasting effect on seafarers’ well-being and mental health,” Athaide added. “Our experience of caring for seafarers shows that swift intervention is essential to minimize the impact of a pirate attack, so crews can return to work with confidence.”

The International Maritime Bureau defines piracy “any illegal acts of violence or detention, or...depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft; against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State; any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;” or any act that incites or facilitates such acts.

The Bureau reported that between January and June of this year, there were 78 actual or attempted acts of piracy committed, including 57 vessels illegally boarded, nine vessels fired upon, nine attempted incidents, and three hijackings.

According to the report, 38 crew were taken hostage, 37 kidnapped, four threatened, two injured, one assaulted, and one crew reported killed in that same amount of time.

Every year, typically on the second Sunday of July, the Catholic Church marks Sea Sunday, a day on which the Church particularly prays for those who make their living at sea.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said in a message on Sea Sunday this year that “the faithful are requested to remember and pray for the 1.5 million seafarers who criss-cross the oceans and the seas, transporting almost 90% of goods from one nation to another.”

He added that problems of “isolation and depression, combined with a lack of a supportive environment, affects the mental health of seafarers, sometimes with tragic and heartbreaking consequences for their families, crewmembers and ship-owners”.

Combatting the loneliness and isolation that comes with being away at sea is one of the primary aims of the Apostleship of the Sea.

“...the life of a modern seafarer can be dangerous and lonely. They may spend up to a year at a time away from home, separated from their family and loved ones and often working in harsh conditions,” the ministry notes on its website.

Deacon Athaide told the B.C. Catholic that when the ships are docked in Delta or Vancouver, he goes on board to greet the crew and offer prayers, pastoral counseling, rosaries, treats, and a friendly, welcoming presence.

This summer, Athaide could also be seen blessing boats and flipping burgers to commemorate International Day of the Seafarer on June 25.


This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 14, 2019.

How the Church in Chile is helping women victims of domestic violence

Santiago, Chile, Dec 26, 2019 / 11:04 am (CNA).- The Vicariate for Social Pastoral Care of Caritas in the Archdiocese of Santiago takes in every year hundreds of women and their children, victims of domestic violence who find in their shelters comprehensive care to be able to get on with their lives.  

According to figures from the Center for the Study and Analysis of Crime of the Undersecretariat for Crime Prevention, in 2018 there were 64,361 complaints in Chile related to domestic violence, and of these, 76% were against women.

That same year, Caritas' Social Pastoral Care took into its two shelters in Santiago 86 women and 115 children. Today, 30% of its residents are immigrants.

“The women come in as referrals from the Public Prosecutor's Office, Family Courts, and Sernameg (National Service for Women and Gender Equality), the Carbineros [national police] and the unified risk assessment guidelines,” said Loreto Rebolledo, head of Caritas' Solidarity Outreach, told the Archdiocese of Santiago's communications office.

Robelledo explained that that is a Sernameg program run by the Archdiocese of Santiago which consists in providing a quality temporary residence for women over 18, with or without children, who are experiencing violence from their partner, husband, or ex.

In the shelters the women are taught about the risks and consequences of violence and strategies for self-care and for developing autonomy. The children are given psychological help and given tools for self-knowledge and awareness of their environment, as well as crisis intervention. They are also made to understand that they in no way deserved the violence they were subjected to and are taught how to incorporate strategies to protect themselves.

According to Rebolledo, “one of the hardest things to work on and overcome is changing their understanding of affective relationships and the concept of the ideal family, since their learned interrelationships are characterized by following patterns of dependence, submission, and subordination, causing, in the majority of cases, the women to treat their sons and daughters with the same kind of violence they have experienced.”

Caritas' pastoral ministry endeavors to have people question the roots of violence and commit to building a “more just and equitable society.”

“It emphasizes the expression of a just, fraternal and solidary society where every man and woman has the right to a full and abundant life,” Rebolledo said.

The victims “need to understand why they were experiencing a violent situation and how they got there,” so their sense of guilt is lessened and they put an end to the mistreatment, she noted.

“Networks of family and friends play a key role. Active listening, empathy, support, not judging and information are fundamental. That they know and feel they are not alone,” the social worker pointed out.

One of the people who has benefited from from the homes is Sandra, 41, who for years was mistreated by her ex-partner and the father of her three children. In 2014, she asked for asylum with the pastoral ministry and after eight months was able to resume her life without violence.

“Drugs, alcohol and machismo had a played a big part. I put up with so much violence because he was the breadwinner. The episode that I remember the most and that triggered my leaving was once when I was cooking beans, and he didn't like them. He threw all the food in my face, then he knocked me up against the stove and began to shoot, in the air, because he had a pistol,” she related.

“They asked my daughter at school what gift that money cannot buy she would like to have. She replied: 'That my dad would never hit my mom again.' After that the school called me and I let it all come out. For the first time, I let go of my fear and I told everything I had gone through for five years and then I came to the shelter,” she recalled.

Sandra acknowledged that “it was hard at first, but they helped me here and especially my children. After the eight months that I was here at the home, I was afraid to leave and live elsewhere with my children, but I got up the courage to do so and thanks be to God it went well for me. I managed to get a job as a waitress and was able to pay the rent.”


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA. This article was originally published March 4, 2019.

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Benedictine Sisters in Ecuador inaugurate baby drop-off box

Santo Domingo, Ecuador, Dec 21, 2019 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- A group of religious sisters in Santo Domingo, Ecuador has installed the country’s first baby drop-off box, as an alternative to abortion for mothers who find themselves unable to care for their newborns.

The Missionary Benedictine inaugurated the country’s first “Cradle of Life” baby drop-off box on Dec. 10 in Santo Domingo. The box is located in the exterior wall of their Happy Valley Home, a temporary shelter providing foster care for at-risk girls and adolescents.

The sisters will support babies left in the box for up to three months. If the mother wishes to come back for the baby, she can also receive support from the Happy Valley Home. If the mother does not return after three months, the baby will be given up for adoption.

Sister Carmela Ewa Pilarska, a member of the home's leadership team, said the project hopes to respond to cases of abandoned infants, such as those found occasionally in cardboard boxes or abandoned houses.

“We would like to be the voice for so many newborns who struggled to survive, and we're speaking up for those newborns who didn't have the same fate,” she said at a presentation of the “Cradle of Life” project.

Inside the drop-off box is a bassinet and a letter assuring mothers that their babies will be cared for with love and medical attention.

“We don't know what happened in your life that you're making this decision, and we're not judging it,” the letter says.

Women can leave their babies safely and anonymously in the box. Once the door to the box is closed from the outside, it cannot be reopened, thus ensuring the baby's safety. An alarm sounds inside the home, alerting the personnel of the baby's arrival.

“After waiting a short interval to protect the anonymity of the person leaving the baby, the inner door is opened, the baby is retrieved and immediately given the necessary care,” Sister Pilarska explained.

“Every life is a gift. Mother Teresa of Kolkata said that children are like stars, there's never too many,” she stressed.

The “Cradle for Life” initiative seeks to provide an alternative to abortions and follows in the footsteps of similar initiatives created in the United States and Europe. Notable efforts include Germany with 99 baby drop-off boxes, Poland with 45, the Czech Republic with 44, Hungary with 26 and Italy with eight. Such boxes are also present in Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Malaysia and Japan, according to the Missionary Benedictine Sisters.

The sisters’ order was founded in Biala Cerkiew, Poland, in 1917 by Mother Jadwiga Josefa Kulesza, a cloistered Benedictine nun. Her goal was to help poor, abandoned, and homeless children, and she opened an orphanage after World War I.

The order currently has 280 sisters serving the needs of children in Poland, Ukraine, the United States, Brazil and Ecuador.

Argentine bishops oppose new abortion protocols

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 21, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Leaders of the Argentine bishops’ conference met with Argentina’s president Dec. 18, to express their opposition to new abortion protocols in the country.

“We were surprised by the presentation of the protocol on abortion as one of the first acts of the new government. This way of acting pains and concerns us, which avoids reasonable democratic debate on the protection of life, the first human right,” the bishops said in a statement.

Their visit came after the administration of Argentine president Alberto Fernández, who took office last week, updated the country's abortion protocol to guarantee access to abortion to women who have been raped.

Argentine law allows abortion in cases when the mother's life or health is in danger, or in cases of rape. But pro-choice activists maintain that it has not in fact been accessible because of hospitals' discretion and conscientious objection.

The new protocol “will be used as a guide, especially in cases where the law clearly allows for the interruption of pregnancies,” Health minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia said.

“We are respectful of conscientious objection but conscientious objection cannot be used as an institutional alibi for not complying with the law,” Gonzalez added.

The bishops say the protocol violates Argentine law, since it was imposed by a government official “contrary to the National Constitution, international treaties and the country's Civil and Commercial Code, among other laws that protect life at conception.”

In their meeting with the president, the bishops objected that the protocol practically “authorizes abortion on demand.”

Argentine pro-lifers, known as the “Blue Wave” for the blue neckerchiefs they have adopted as a symbol of their movement, took to the streets Dec. 18, demonstrating in front of the Ministry of Health and calling for the protocol to be rescinded and for the Health Minister to resign.

ernández, of the Justicialist Party, assumed office Dec. 10. He has also announced plans to decriminalize abortion.

A bill to legalize abortion through the first 14 weeks of gestation narrowly passed the Chamber of Deputies in 2018, but was rejected by the Senate.

In May, an obstetrician-gynecologist was found guilty of having prevented an abortion in Argentina, after he decided in May 2017 to save the life of an unborn baby whose mother had taken misoprostol. Dr. Leandro Rodríguez Lastra was found guilty of failing to carry out his duty as a public functionary, as he was not registered as a conscientious objector. The child was eventually adopted.

And in March, the Archbishop of Tucumán called on society to be committed to protecting life, after an 11-year-old rape victim received a Caesarean section.

He encouraged the faithful to care for the life “of every child, of every adolescent, of every elderly person, of every sick person,” and daily “to protect, to care for, to serve, every human life, because every life has value.”

“It is very important to be called together in prayer, but for this prayer to become a real commitment to protect every human life and defend every human life with passion, courage and with much generosity and dedication,” he added.


Border bishops celebrate Posadas with migrants at Mexican shelter

Matamoros, Mexico, Dec 20, 2019 / 12:57 am (CNA).- Three bishops from along the U.S.-Mexico border joined migrants last week in celebrating Las Posadas, a Latin American Christmas tradition that reenacts Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn in Bethlehem.

Bishop Eugenio Lira of Matamoros, Mexico; Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas; and Auxiliary Bishop Mario Avilés of Brownsville, took part in the tradition, which was held Dec. 13 at a migrant shelter run by the Mexican Diocese of Matamoros, which lies opposite Brownsville across the Mexican-U.S. border.

The traditional tamales, punch and sweets were served and piñatas broken as part of the celebration. The Knights of Columbus donated food for the occasion, and also made a financial contribution to support the shelter, which is named after Saints Juan Diego and Francis of Assisi.

At the event, Bishop Lira said he appreciated “the very beautiful sign of solidarity from the Knights of Columbus, who have gotten together and made an effort to support this migrant center, where we seek to extend a hand to our brothers and sisters who, for various reasons, have had to leave their homes and have come to seek the American dream.”

The “Remain in Mexico” policy, announced in January 2019 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, requires asylum seekers from Mexico to remain in border cities such as Matamaros while their cases are processed by immigration courts – a procedure that may take years.

More than 50,000 asylum seekers, mainly families with children, are estimated to have been affected by the new policy over the past year.