CARITAS, EVER PRESENT IN NATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL CRISES AND NATURAL DISASTERS

To all my French friends, Happy Bastille Day!

CARITAS, EVER PRESENT IN NATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL CRISES AND NATURAL DISASTERS

(Vatican Radio) Caritas Europa and its local partners have called on the French and Italian governments to take action to respect the human dignity and fundamental rights of migrants stuck in the Italian border town of Ventimiglia. Caritas says more than a thousand migrants are stranded in “dire conditions” in Ventimiglia, having being denied entry into France by border police. The standoff has escalated tensions between the two neighbouring countries over the free movement of migrants to northern Europe. Marie Tempesta is the Policy and Advocacy Officer for Caritas Europa and she spoke to Susy Hodges about this issue.

Stranded in Ventimiglia with no proper reception centre, Tempesta said most of the migrants are having to sleep out in the open in what she described as “almost disastrous conditions” and they include pregnant women, children and babies.  The fortunate ones are being housed in a local Catholic Church which has some showers in its basement but it’s not nearly enough to cater for the needs of all those stranded in the border town. Most of the migrants were from Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia but Tempesta said they include some asylum seekers from Syria. She described how the local Caritas partners were helping to distribute hygiene kits containing the bare essentials.

VENTIMIGLIA

EU seeks to “externalise” migrant crisis

Asked about the attitude of European Union nations towards the migrants and asylum seekers and how to solve the issue, Tempesta said showing “solidarity” towards these vulnerable people is the only “effective, long-term solution” for tackling this crisis. She criticized what she called moves to “externalize” the migrant crisis in Europe by persuading third party countries to take in the migrants and prevent them from coming to the EU in the first place.

Following is a press release from Caritas Europa on its appeal for Italy and France to take action on this issue:

“Caritas Europa, together with its members Secours Catholique-Caritas France and Caritas Italy, calls on the EU and in particular on the French and Italian governments to take action to respect the human dignity and fundamental rights of migrants stuck in Ventimiglia, Italy.

On 24 June, at Caritas Ventimiglia-San Remo’s 25th anniversary celebrations, the youngest person in the audience was Sharifa Maria, a baby girl only a few days old. She is the first baby born in the “camp” opened by Caritas Ventimiglia-San Remo to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in Ventimiglia. But she will certainly not be the last one as several pregnant women live in the camp.

Migrants, mostly Sudanese, Eritreans and Ethiopians, arrived in Ventimiglia from Sicily with the hope of continuing their journey to France and northern Europe. However, they were blocked at the border between Italy and France. Stuck in Ventimiglia, with no access to any type of services or any proper reception centres, the families, pregnant women, children and babies are forced to sleep outside.

On 31 May, Mons. Suetta opened the church Sant’Antonio to provide a safe haven for 5,000 exhausted migrants, a place of respite for the people before they reattempt to cross the border. To further ease their suffering, Caritas Ventimiglia-San Remo, with the support of the Nice delegation of Secours Catholique-Caritas France, Caritas Monaco and other Christian and Islamic organisations, is distributing food, hygiene kits and clothes. The migrants also have access to a few showers in the basement of the church. In addition, Caritas has successfully advocated for the reopening of the reception centre in order to cover the basic needs and ensure respect for the human dignity of the migrants. The centre will finally open in a few days.

Yet, the situation remains dire and requires immediate action. Caritas Europa, Caritas Italy and Secours Catholique-Caritas France urge the EU and the Italian and French authorities to:

  • Provide for the basic needs of migrants, including those in transit, to guarantee their human dignity and refrain from using arbitrary detention or arrest;
  • Guarantee solidarity and responsibility-sharing among EU Member States and between the EU and non-EU countries; Italian and French governments must agree on a common response to the situation, respecting the fundamental rights of migrants;
  • Give priority to protecting people instead of protecting borders, with particular attention to women and children;
  • Open more safe and legal paths to come to Europe
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POPE FRANCES: DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE SIN AND THE SINNER – PAPAL APPEALS FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE AND ECUADOR – CARITAS ECUADOR REPORTS ON EARTHQUAKE DISASTER

POPE FRANCES: DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE SIN AND THE SINNER

At today’s general audience in a warm, sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel story of Jesus dining at the home of Simon the Pharisee, an stressed that “All of us are sinners, and so many times we fall into the temptation of hypocrisy, believing that we are better than the other.” However, he added “look at your sin, all of us need to look at our sins, our mistakes and look to the Lord,” because “this is the lifeline, the relationship between the sinner and the Lord.”

“Saint Luke’s account,” says the English language catechesis summary, “tells us that a woman known as a sinner came up to Jesus, bathed his feet in her tears and anointed them with precious perfume.  The Pharisee, judging by appearances, is taken aback that Jesus is not afraid of contact with sinners.” But, said the Pope, “The Lord distinguishes between the sin and the sinner.  He teaches Simon that the woman’s act, as an expression of faith and trust in God’s mercy has merited the forgiveness of her sins.”

APril 20 appeals

“The story of the sinful woman,” says the papal catechesis, reminds us that God’s mercy reaches out to everyone; it overcomes prejudice and surmounts all barriers.  Through faith in Christ, we too have received the forgiveness of our sins and the new life of grace.  Having experienced this mystery of redeeming love, may we grow in gratitude for so great a gift, and in turn become witnesses and channels of that love in our families, our communities and our world.”

PAPAL APPEALS FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE AND ECUADOR

After the catechesis in Italian and summaries in the traditional languages of French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish, greetings in two additional languages were added – Russian and Ukrainian.

A Russian-speaking prelate from the Secretariat of State, on behalf of the Pope, greeted “the faithful from the Russian Federation, especially the pilgrims from the Dioceses of St. Clement and Saratov, accompanied by Bishop Clemens Pickel. May the Lord bless you abundantly in this Year of Mercy, making you witnesses of his charity.”

In Ukrainian, another prelate read the papal greetings: “I greet the pilgrims from Ukraine and Belarus on the occasion of the international conference in this 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy. We renew our prayers for the victims of that disaster and express our recognition to the rescuers and helpers and for all initiatives that sought to alleviate the suffering and damage.”

Ag April 20

After greetings in Italian, the Holy Father renewed his previous appeals for the people of Ukraine, “long suffering as a consequence of the armed conflict that many have forgotten.” He recalled his recent invitation to the Church in Europe to support the initiative to alleviate this humanitarian emergency, and thanked all those who will participate in the extraordinary collection in European parishes on Sunday, April 24. In fact, during his April 3 Regina Coeli remarks, the Pope announced a special charity collection to support the people of Ukraine, telling the faithful it would be possible to contribute to the collection in all Catholic Churches in Europe on Sunday April 24, adding that, “this gesture of charity, beyond alleviating material suffering, expresses my personal closeness and the solidarity of the entire Church.”

Also during the audience: Speaking Spanish, Pope Francis also expressed his closeness to the people of Ecuador who were struck this past weekend by a massive earthquake that has left over 500 people dead.

CARITAS ECUADOR REPORTS ON EARTHQUAKE DISASTER 

 (Sent from Caritas Internationalis, Vatican City) – Caritas Ecuador president, Msgr. Walter Heras, calls on Caritas around the world to support the current relief efforts in the aftermath of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the nation last Saturday.

The quake that left more than 2,500 injured and over 500 dead ripped apart cities and severed access to remote coastal towns. The death toll is expected to climb as rescue workers pick through the rubble. A state of emergency has been declared in six provinces and 10,000 troops and 3,500 police have been deployed to assist the most affected areas.

“Of most immediate concern is rescuing victims,” said Msgr. Heras. “The time when the earthquake took place was when most people were at home. There are a lot of people trapped and are awaiting rescue. We are also concerned about the most remote areas that are difficult to reach.”

“This was a province with many rural areas,” said Gabriela Andrade, Caritas Ecuador Communication Coordinator. “The most remote parishes were very affected. Many of them have no resources or basic services. They lack infrastructure.”

A united front made up of local and international Caritas agencies is needed to provide long term assistance as the communities move from recovery to rebuilding their devastated communities.

“In the emergency zones we are seeing people who have evacuated their homes and are sleeping in the streets,” said Andrade. “People need tents and inflatable boats because some of the affected areas cannot be reached as the roads are destroyed.”

Heavy rains were already showing a rise in cases of vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya and dengue. These are expected to rise along with other infectious diseases in the earthquake’s aftermath. Hygiene and sanitation are of utmost importance in the coming weeks.

While Caritas Ecuador joins national efforts to reach immediate needs of displaced and affected populations it plans on assisting communities long after the earthquake falls off the international radar.

“As a Church we accompany the affected,” said Msgr. Heras. “We see that all our sister organizations are added to our efforts in accompanying the people. After the initial shock people will remain depressed. They will need to rebuild … to move forward in their lives. These are people who have lost their businesses and their homes. They have lost everything. Caritas can help fill this void that remains in people.”

”We know that as a Church we are one entity,” Msgr. Heras said. “The Church never asks people to wait. We are hoping for the assistance of the Church and call on churches from around the world to assist us in our efforts. We need all of you. There is so much to do. We thank everyone who adds their support to this response.”

 

“VATICAN INSIDER”: ARCHBISHOP BERNIE HEBDA ON CARITAS GENERAL ASSEMBLY – CARITAS HOLDS 20TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY, ELECTS NEW PRESIDENT – TWO NEW PALESTINIAN SAINTS, HOPE FOR THE HOLY LAND

I wrote on Monday that, due to so many commitments, meetings, symposiums, interviews, etc., this page might be “Joan’s Rome” lite this week. I apologize for the “empty” page yesterday but am sure that today’s column will more than make up for that, in content and photos.

“VATICAN INSIDER”: ARCHBISHOP BERNIE HEBDA ON CARITAS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

My special guest on Vatican Insider this weekend is Archbishop Bernie Hebda, coadjutor of Newark, New Jersey, who was in Rome for Caritas’s 20th general assembly on the theme “One Human Family, Caring for Creation.” He has been on the Caritas board and talks to us about his work as well as the current meeting. (photo from archdiocesan website: http://www.rcan.org)

ARCHBISHOP HEBDA

I attended Pope Francis’ Mass Tuesday evening that opened the Caritas general assembly as well as one of the sessions on Thursday. In the following story, I feature some of the photos I took at the Mass, at the Caritas conference and at the beautiful center that hosted this meeting.

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

CARITAS HOLDS 20TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY, ELECTS NEW PRESIDENT

The 20th General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis was opened on Tuesday during a Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s basilica by Pope Francis for the members of this international Vatican-based organization.  The assembly ends Sunday when members return to their respective countries and report on the meeting’s theme, “One Human Family, Caring for Creation.”

In his homily at Tuesday’s Mass, Pope Francis called for local parishes to get more involved in Caritas and its projects, from its charitable works to providing food to those in need. He said, “We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat, but we must also remind the powerful of the Earth, that God will call them to judgement one day and there it will be revealed if they really tried to provide food for Him in every person. And also if they did what they could to preserve the environment so that it could produce this food.” Francis said, “We cannot forget our Christian brothers and sisters who have been violently deprived of food for their bodies and their souls. They have been driven from their homes and their churches, some even destroyed. I renew the appeal not to forget these people or these intolerable injustices.”

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Speakers at the Caritas General Assembly included, among others, outgoing Caritas President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Dana Shahin of Caritas Jordan, Vatican officials Cardinal Peter Turkson and Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, a message from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Caritas Secretary general Michel Roy.

Speeches may be read online and downloaded: http://www.caritas.org/ga2015/#speakers

My guest on an upcoming “Vatican Insider” will be Dana Shahin from Jordan. I spent six days in Jordan after Pope Francis’ trip to the Holy Land last year and spent part of one day at the Amman Caritas office – an experience that touched my heart and endeared me enormously to Caritas workers – wherever they are – and to Jordanians. You can read Dana’s address and her appeal by clicking on the above link – and you will be as moved as I was!

I was at the Caritas General Assembly on Thursday morning and it was only hours later that Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, the Philippines, was elected as the new president of Caritas Internationalis.

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Caritas sent out a brief statement on his election, noting that Cardinal Tagle, speaking on the phone from the United States, told delegates from over 130 member organizations from all over the world: “Buona sera a tutti! Thank you for your trust. I’m limited in my capacities but with all of you, with the love that Jesus has poured into our hearts and in the name of all of the poor people in the world, I accept this election. Let us together strengthen the church of the poor so our witness can help guide us to a world of understanding, justice, true freedom and peace.”

Where you’ll find Caritas:

Senegal:

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Peru:

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Niger-Mali border:

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Philippines:

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Haiti:

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Darfur:

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Pakistan:

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The Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda:

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Cardinal Tagle is the first Caritas Internationalis President to be elected from Asia. He succeeds Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is stepping down after serving two terms. Cardinal Maradiaga, who is also a member of the C9, the Council of Cardinals who advise the Pope, offered his congratulations and warm support.

The meeting was held Domus Mariae, Villa Carpegna, also called the Church Palace:20150514_120351 20150514_120422 20150514_120432

And yes, when in Rome…..

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TWO NEW PALESTINIAN SAINTS, HOPE FOR THE HOLY LAND 

Today at 1:00 in the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Rifat Bader, Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman, Jordan held a briefing to present two of the Blesseds who will be canonized by Pope Francis on Sunday, May 17 in St. Peter’s Square: Marie-Alphonsine, founder of Palestine’s first congregation, the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and Mary of Jesus Crucified Baouardy, the founder of the Carmelite Convent in Bethlehem and India.

Following is Fr. Bader’s presentation in English (he later answered questions in English and Italian):

“Pope Francis will announce next Sunday the canonization of four nuns. Two of them are Palestinians, namely Marie-Alphonsine, founder of Palestine’s first congregation, the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, and Mary of Jesus Crucified Baouardy, the founder of the Carmelite Convent in Bethlehem and India. One French and one Italian nun are also being canonized. (photo from site of Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem: lpj.org)

PALESTINIAN SAINTS

“The pontifical Mass will be celebrated at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican by His Holiness Pope Francis in the presence of cardinals and archbishops from the Vatican and around the world. In attendance will be Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

“The participants in the Mass include a delegation from the Holy Land – Jordan, Palestine and Israel – consisting of 2,124 people led by His Beatitude, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal in his capacity as president of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land. Also present will be the Archbishop of Acre for the Melkites Georges Bacouni, the Maronite Archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land Moussa el-Hage, and bishops from Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Cyprus. They will be joined in fellowship by priests, men and women religious and faithful from various churches.

“During Mass, the superior general of the Rosary Sisters Congregation, Mother Anyes Al- Ya’qoub will carry the relics of the new saint Alphonsine, accompanied by Sister Braxid Sweidan and relatives of the Jerusalemite saint Nawal Daniel Mzayyid and Patrick Daniel. The relics of St. Baouardy will be carried by Carmelite sisters Anna Diplomas, Ferial Qarra’ and Jocelyn Ferro, together with the saint’s relative, Mr. Rizeq Baouardy. Furthermore, Emile Munir Elias and his mother will be at the Mass, as he had been healed through the intercession of St. Alphonsine. An Italian family will also hold the relics of St. Baouardy as their son was healed through her intercession. Rosary Sister Mariam Ba’bish will also say a prayer in Arabic for peace and justice.

“Upon departure for the Vatican, Patriarch Twal said: ‘The declaration of sainthood of the two nuns from Palestine is a spiritual event of prime importance for the citizens of the Holy Land, amid the difficulties we are experiencing, as the two saints enlighten our path. As the Holy Land, wrecked by violence and dissent, has for sometimes had a tarnished image, our two saints emerge to restore its sanctity, reminding us that sanctity is possible even in the most difficult circumstances’.

“The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem said, ‘the canonization of the two girls from the East during these dark times is an invitation from His Holiness Pope Francis to pray, knowing that only prayer can miraculously help save our faith in the midst of these times of trial’. He added, ‘Now, we have two new saints who represent a model of perfection for Christians, as well as for Muslims and Jews alike. They are both named Mary, and this name is widespread and commonly used among all three traditions. It is a sign of our modern time which suggests that we can talk about the three religions without any discrimination’.’

“Having received the joyful news last February, the Holy Land gives thanks to Almighty God for the blessing of canonization, especially for the community of believers in the land the Lord Jesus blessed through His presence. The Churches of the Holy Land convey heartfelt gratitude and thanks to His Holiness Pope Francis, who always states that, “the Middle East without Christians, is not the Middle East.” (Apostolic Exhortation).

“We view this grand event, which takes place for the first time since the days of the apostles, as a message of solidarity and encouragement to the Christians of the Holy Land, especially to the Christians and parishioners in all other Middle East countries, and to (those) who have been forcibly displaced and deported from their home countries, to all those who suffer from persecution, and whose persecutors sometimes think that by “killing they are offering a sacrifice to God,” as Jesus himself warned.

“The new saint, Mary of Jesus Crucified, was during her life subjected to acts of extremism and an attempt on her life in an attempt to force her to change her religion. She now intercedes for those who are being killed because of their religion and of their religious affiliation. Her life and intercession are a cry urging respect for religious and ethnic differences as well as acknowledging human beings as creatures who are made in the image and likeness of God.

“The new saint Marie-Alphonsine succeeded in gaining the support of the religious authorities to set up the first local Arab religious congregation, and placing the Arab world on the map in the fields of education and religious teaching. Furthermore, the rosary schools affiliated with this Arab religious congregation have a prominent and influential presence in Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, the Gulf States and Rome. We realize that during the late 19th and early 20th century this religious congregation contributed to giving increasing the role of Arab in culture, social awareness, spiritual guidance, and education of generations of both men and women. Illiteracy has been eliminated in many parts of the Middle East as a direct result of the active contributions of nuns and Church congregations to literacy education.

“The two saintly nuns, whose canonization coincides with the Church celebrations of the year of consecrated life and the blessed Marian Month of May, pray that the Lord would bring peace and calmness to our hearts and minds, and that we will return to worshipping the Almighty God – Who alone is worthy of our worship and thankfulness. We view the consecration of the founder of the Rosary Sisters as an invitation to intensify the daily Rosary prayers in churches, houses, and parish groups to bring peace, love and mutual respect among all the people of the Middle East.

“The vigil of the canonization will be a prayer vigil at 5:30 pm in the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome. On Monday, May 18h, His Beatitude Patriarch Twal will preside over the Mass of Thanksgiving at St Mary Major Basilica, The Mass and songs will be in Arabic for the members of the delegation coming from the Holy Land.”

(To learn more about the future Palestinian saints, the miracles credited to them and other details, click here to see a letter about the two nuns from Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal: http://en.lpj.org/2015/03/23/patriarchs-letter-for-the-canonization-of-the-two-palestinian-nuns/)

CUBAN BISHOPS ANNOUNCE PAPAL ITINERARY FOR SEPTEMBER VISIT

I will soon be leaving to film a spot for EWTN television and, immediately after that, will meet up with Caritas members at St. Peter’s Basilica for the papal Mass at 5:30 that will open the 20th General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis. The press conference held this morning to present the general assembly as it meets on the theme, “One Human Family, Caring for Creation,” just ended. Presenters included CI President, Cardinal Oscar Rodrigues Maradiaga (who is also one of the C9, the Council of 9 cardinals who advise the Pope), CI Secretary General Michel Roy, Dominican theologian, Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, and Haridas Varikottil, an agriculural expert in Caritas India.

For a report on that conference, you might want to go to news.va where, in midafternoon, Rome time,VIS will post its multi-lingual account of the press conference. Other news of the day will also be in the VIS report. (www.news.va)

CUBAN BISHOPS ANNOUNCE PAPAL ITINERARY FOR SEPTEMBER VISIT

The Cuban bishops have announced the preliminary details of Pope Francis’ September 19 to 22 visit to this Caribbean island. Francis will be the third Pope to visit since St. John Paul’s five-day stay in 1998 and Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage in 2012.

The Holy Father will visit three Cuban cities and the national Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the shrine of Cuba’s patron saint, according to the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba.EL COBRE

He is scheduled to go to Havana, Holguín, and the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre (Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre). El Cobre is about 12 miles outside Santiago. The statue of Our Lady, known affectionately in Cuba as La Cachita, was rescued by three fishermen in the Bay of Nipe after a storm from a ship about to capsize. The Madonna wore a sign that read “Yo soy la Virgen de la Caridad” (I am the Virgin of Charity).
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The most important shrine for Cubans is located in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra near the old copper mines that give it its name.  Built in 1927, its full name is El Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre. The Virgin is the protectress of Cuba. In 1998 St. John Paul II visited the shrine, and called the Virgin “La Reina de los Cubanos” (Queen of Cubans) and donated a rosary and crown. Our Lady is clothed in a glittering gold robe.

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The Cuban bishops said the Holy Father would arrive in Cuba on Saturday, September 19 and remain on the island until September 22 when he leaves from Santiago for his trip to the United States.

“VATICAN INSIDER” PROFILES THE VIA LUCIS – GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD”: PAPAL MESSAGE TO FOOD EXPO – CARITAS REPORTS ON DEVASTATION FROM NEPAL EARTHQUAKE

“VATICAN INSIDER” PROFILES THE VIA LUCIS

Tune in to Vatican Insider this weeked for a special on the Via Lucis!  What is the Via Lucis? It’s a new and relatively unknown practice and I’m delighted to profile this for you! I’ve asked a number of people – priests and lay people – if they knew of it and most everyone said ‘no’. Tune in this weekend and then, when people ask you “What is the Via Lucis?” you will have the answer!

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

“GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD”: PAPAL MESSAGE TO FOOD EXPO

Pope Francis, in a video message at noon Friday, addressed the opening of the six-month long Milan Expo 2015 which this year is focusing on the theme: “Feeding the planet – energy for life.”  (photo: lbtimes.com)

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In that message  Pope Francis said, “I would like to make myself the spokesman for all our brothers and sisters, Christians and also non-Christians, as children whom God loves and for whom He gave His life: He broke the bread, which is the flesh of his Son become Man; He taught us to ask God the Father, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ The Expo is a propitious occasion to globalize solidarity. Let us not waste it, but make the very most of it.”

The official website – www.expo2015.org – notes that Expo Milan will offer 184 days of events with 145 participating countries to 20 million expected visitors at an exhibition site of 1 million square meters. The event runs from May 1 to October 31, 2015. Hosted by the most commercial and cosmopolitan city of Italy – Milan – Expo 2015 revolves around a key theme for the Earth: “Feeding the Planet, energy for life.

The Universal Exposition 2015 hopes, say organizers, to become the largest event ever organized about food and nutrition. For six months, Milan will be a global showcase in which countries will show the best of their technologies to give a concrete answer to a vital need: producing healthy and safe food, enough for all peoples, while respecting the planet and its balance. Participants also hope to exchange ideas and share solutions to the problem of food security.

And – no small thing! – visitors will have the opportunity to discover and taste some of the world’s most delicious foods!

The Vatican has a pavilion at this Expo on the theme “Not by Bread Alone. At the Lord’s Table with all Mankind.”

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The Holy See states on the Expo website that, “’Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’. From this first sentence of the Gospel, is a message that the Holy See wishes to send out during its participation at Expo Milano 2015.

“Food is a primary value for mankind, forever the subject of rituals, symbols, stories, calendars and rules, and also a tool for understanding one’s identity and building relationships with the world, the Creation, time and history.

“The Holy See aims to focus visitors’ attention on the strong symbolic relevance of feeding, and on its potential for anthropological development. Its potential is deeply social and collective, yet unfortunately, is often interpreted negatively as a reprimand for neglect and injustice.

“Food is therefore not only portrayed as nourishment of the body, but as a gesture of nurturing, a meal and a convivium: a moment of encounter and communion, education and growth. This sharply contrasts with the ‘culture of waste’ which increasingly influences today’s society, fuelling the terrible hardships of injustice and poverty.

“Through its pavilion, spread over a total area of ​​747 square meters, the Holy See looks to offer its visitors a space for reflection on issues that persist today, related to food and access to food. Such issues highlight how the anthropological act of offering food is at the heart of both Christian experience, and the cultural and spiritual thinking it has generated within our history.”

The pavilion has been funded by the Holy See, the Italian Bishops’ Conference and the Milan archdiocese in equal parts for a total of €3 million. Visitors can admire two artworks, Tintoretto’s Last Supper from the church of San Trovaso in Venice and a Flemish tapestry designed by Rubens from the diocesan museum in Ancona.

CARITAS REPORTS ON DEVASTATION FROM NEPAL EARTHQUAKE

I received the following update today from Patrick Nicholson at the Vatican offices of Caritas Internationalis concerning the devastation in Nepal following the horrific earthquake that struck this Asian nation on Saturday, April 25:

Caritas aid missions are reporting that villages in remote areas of Nepal have been utterly devastated by the earthquake. (Caritas photo)

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Speaking from Pokhari danda in Gorkha, 15 km from the epicentre, Stefen Teplan of Caritas Germany said, “60 percent of the village is destroyed. More than food and water, what is needed most is temporary shelter before the monsoon sets in.”

The full scale of the disaster is becoming clear. The death toll from the 7.9 magnitude earthquake increased to 6000 with thousands still missing.

Over 130,000 houses have been destroyed and 85,000 houses partially damaged. There are 30 out of 75 districts in the country affected. This includes mountain and hilly areas, in areas where rural populations are dispersed.

Caritas has reached 4000 families in the Kathmandu Valley with plastic sheets, blankets and food. Teams have also reached some of the worst affected rural areas of Gorkha, Sindapalchowk, Nuwakot and Kavre.

“Each of these teams is staffed by experience experts,” said Fr. Pius Perumana SJ, director of Caritas Nepal. “They can evaluate what people need most.”

The priority is shelter.

“The people who have lost their homes are exposed to the rain and cold weather at night. They really need international solidarity,” said Angan Baj, Emergency Response Manager for Caritas India, who is with the team visiting villages in Gorkha.

Caritas will also be providing food, clean water and sanitation and counselling.

Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Michel Roy says Caritas has been flooded with donations and solidarity from across the globe. Caritas members worldwide have pledged 3 million euros in the first days following the quake.

The Caritas website is: http://www.caritas.org/

An April 30 United Nations update on the Nepal quake said some $8 million is urgently needed to help disaster-struck Nepalese farmers rapidly recover lost agricultural inputs and resume preparations for the imminent rice sowing season, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

“There is a critical window of opportunity to help crop producers plant in time to have a rice harvest this year and regain their self-sufficiency,” FAO Representative in Nepal, Somsak Pipoppinyo, said in a statement to the press. “At the same time, we need to do all we can to preserve vital livestock assets which provide affected families with much needed income and nutrition.”

Farmers who miss the planting season that is expected to start late May onwards will be unable to harvest rice – the country’s staple food — again until late 2016. This, together with likely losses of food stocks and wheat and maize harvests, would “severely” limit food supplies and incomes in the South Asian country, where around two-thirds of people rely on agriculture for their livelihood, FAO said.