Hundreds of thousands of Filipino Catholics rallied today in a show of force against a proposed reproductive health law.
The rally carried the theme “Filipinos! Unite Under God for Life” and coincided with the Feast of the Annunciation, which the activists have declared as the Day of Unborn Children.
Pro-Life Philippines said Pope Benedict VI has sent a “special message” which reportedly includes a “special indulgence” for all who will attend to Filipinos that would be read during the prayer rally.
At the House of Representatives, leading proponents of the controversial reproductive health (RH) measure withdrew several provisions of the bill, including a section “encouraging” limiting families to two children, hours before the start of the protest.
In a letter to priests, religious and laity of the archdiocese, Cardinal Rosales said the rally was for all those who value family and life values.
He urged the clergy and all Catholics to join the event to show “that our country will never allow the repressive bill to be passed.”
Similar activities were also held in other major cities.
But leftist lawmaker Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna (Nation First) said the “silent majority of Catholics” are in favour of the passage of the proposed measure in Congress to make individuals responsible for planning their families.
“As a practising Catholic, I believe the majority of us are in favor of the RH bill, having understood the salient provisions of the bill that would protect the reproductive health of women,” Neri said.
He said most legislators are in favor of the passage of the proposed measure, adding he is confident the “silent majority” of Filipinos are also for it.
In Cagayan de Oro in the southern Philippines, civil society and religious groups called for an “open and fair discussion” on reproductive health.
President Benigno Aquino, who was invited by the bishops to attend the gathering in Manila, said the government “cannot close our eyes to the reality of our huge population, that is why the state should address it along with other issues like maternal and child health.”
He said the centerpiece of the government’s policy is the promotion of responsible parenthood, which includes raising the awareness of those of reproductive age about the consequences, good or bad, of bearing children.
He clarified that his administration is against abortion.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – The Egyptian cabinet approved a decree that criminalises strikes, protests, demonstrations and sit-ins that interrupt private or state owned businesses or affect the economy in any way. It calls for severe punishment of those who call for or incite action, with a maximum sentence of one year in prison and fines of up to US$ 85,000. The new law still needs to be approved by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took over following Mubarak’s fall from power.
Sources told AsiaNews that the measure is meant to stifle the voice of the people who led the Jasmine Revolution and oppose the results of the recent constitutional referendum, manipulated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
“This law confirms the Brotherhood’s attempt to take over the Jasmine Revolution,” the source said. The army and the Islamist party have struck a deal to maintain the country’s stability and the price is the ideals of democracy and democracy that brought down Mubarak. “The danger is the rise of an Islamic dictatorship that would replace the military regime that has governed the country in the past 40 years.”
Even economic groups that benefit from the decree have criticised it. In a statement issued today, the investment bank Beltone Financial said that the law is more likely to lead to more discontent. “The Egyptian public has only just found its political voice and will, most likely, view this decision as another attempt to silence it. We agree that there is a need for work to resume normally once again, for Egypt’s economy to begin its recovery process, but we also believe that the government’s decision to criminalise protests and strikes could provoke further discontentment and more protests.”
Sources told AsiaNews that the writing was already on the wall. “Four days after Mubarak’s fall, some members of the Muslim Brotherhood took over the platform set up in Tahrir to celebrate victory and took away the microphone from a young leader of the revolution in order to hail the Islamic Revolution.”
“Another factor is the lack of neutrality shown by the army during the fire that engulfed the Coptic church in Soul, destroyed by a group of Islamic extremists before the eyes of soldiers standing idly by and during the violent crackdown against the protest by Copts in suburban Cairo.”
The backward step taken by the military and the strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood represent a great threat not only for Christians, who have seen a rise in cases of discrimination, but also for all those moderate Muslims opposed to a clerical regime.
“What is happening in Egypt is not a confrontation between Christians and Muslims but a struggle between traditionalists and obscurantists against liberals and modernists. This cleavage also exists within the Coptic community, between the hierarchy that tends to be conciliatory with those in power and young people who desire change and reject the prevailing line.”
The possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood might take power scares Copts around the world, who fear greater violence and discrimination.
In a letter to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, American Copts described the current situation as a risk for the West. “The Muslim Brotherhood,” it said, “is not only a threat to the stability of Egypt, the Middle East and Israel, but constitutes a direct threat to the United States and Western civilisation”.
- The director of “There Be Dragons,” a film about Opus Dei founder St. Josemaría Escrivá, sees the saint's message that God can be found in everyday life as central to his latest movie.
“It’s not that a saint gets some inner truth and now there are no struggles,” Joffe told CNA. It’s not, “I’m just a saint and everything works. No, a saint has to struggle every day.”
“Saints are fundamentally and totally human. It’s their very humanity that makes them able to be saints.”
Joffe said the film expresses the Spanish saint’s deeply held belief that God can be found in everyday life – even during a civil war – and that everyone can be a saint.
“There Be Dragons,” is set during the Spanish Civil War of the mid- to late 1930s, a period the director describes as “the seminal moment in Josemaria’s life.”
One of the central themes Joffe explores in the film is forgiveness, which he calls a “gift” and “central message” of Christianity.
Forgiveness “acts to free both parties,” Joffe said, explaining that “it acts to free the person doing the forgiveness and it obviously acts to free the person being forgiven.”
“If we have to forgive somebody, we have to forgive something that has caused an immense amount of pain and there will be a great cost and a great struggle in being able to forgive, but that’s the Christian message: that that struggle itself is worthwhile,” said Joffe, who has described himself as a “wobbly agnostic.”
“There Be Dragons” is not just for Catholics, though. “This movie is 100% about humanity. We have tested it with believers, nonbelievers, Asians, Americans, Africans, everyone,” Producer Ignacio Gómez Sancha told Rome Reports, “and it touched the heart of all of them, so nobody should feel left out!”
The film made its debut in Spain on March 25. It will be released in the U.S. on May 6 and will premier in Columbia and Mexico on August 5.
Collection’s national date is the weekend of April 2-3
WASHINGTON (March 24, 2011)—The Catholic Relief Services Collection (CRSC) supports families in distress, whether across the street or half way around the globe. The national date for this collection, which funds six major national and international Catholic relief agencies, is set for the weekend of April 2-3.
“I invite Catholics in the United States to consider all the good that these agencies do on our behalf by assisting families and people around the world and to donate generously to The Catholic Relief Services Collection,” said Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on National Collections.
The Catholic Relief Services Collection’s theme is “Jesus in Disguise: How will you help?” This year the focus of the collection is the family. The collection helps families, values their fundamental role in society, and strives to protect them.
For, example, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC) program called National Pro Bono Project for Children matches unaccompanied immigrant children with legal service providers. These children are the most vulnerable migrants; they are usually without resources and are forced to navigate complex legal proceedings without representation.
Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services (BRYCS, pronounced “bricks”) is another program run through the Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). BRYCS helps refugee children, youth, and their families. The services provided by BRYCS help keep immigrant families intact and help them adjust to their new world.
In its initial response to the earthquake in Haiti, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) provided more than 10 million meals to more than a million people. Currently, CRS is providing food to more than 90,000 students in more than 270 schools, as well as monthly food rations to more than 100 orphanages and child care centers in Port-au-Prince. CRS continues to build transitional housing for displaced families and its cash-for-work program also provides a source of income for Haitians while they help to rebuild their country. CRS is also helping to rebuild St. Francois de Sales Hospital in Port-au-Prince and is leading an effort to provide advanced training to Haitian doctors and nurses.
The Catholic Relief Services Collection funds six Catholic agencies. In addition to CLINIC, MRS and CRS, other agencies funded by the collection are: the USCCB’s Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, which provides outreach and pastoral care to different ethnic and cultural groups; the Holy Father’s Relief Fund, which provides assistance to victims of natural disasters and other emergencies around the world; and the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, which advocates for poor and vulnerable peopleand for international justice and peace.
Additional information on The Catholic Relief Services Collection can be found athttp://www.usccb.org/crs/.
CATH NEWS REPORT: As we move into Lent, it becomes obvious how carefully the Readings of the Liturgy have been selected to draw us deeper into the truth of our faith. They are not drum rolls to Easter but lessons about what it all means for us, what it means to be a baptized person, one now called into the Body of Christ, in and for the world, writes Greg O'Kelly SJ, Bishop of the Diocese of Port Pirie, South Australia.
In the round of readings for this Cycle A, the Old Testament selections for the five Sundays of Lent recall the Creation story of man and woman placed in the Garden, the call of Abraham "our father in faith", Moses bringing forth water in the desert, the anointing of David the symbol of the Messianic King, and God's promise to open the graves of the dead.
The Gospel readings for the same Sundays are the testing of Jesus with invitations to wealth, display and power, his transfiguration revealing the divine, the conversation with the Samaritan woman, the encounter with the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus. Themes of calling, God-within, the living water, faith and light, resurrection.
Together these are strong accounts from the Scriptures old and new about the truth of Christ and the impact on our lives of his Resurrection, told mainly through encounters.
We see Jesus in the Gospel treating with dignity and kindness a highly disreputable woman at the well, offering her the living water. And we think of ourselves, how God in Christ comes to meet us wherever we are, at whatever stage of faith or lack of goodness, inviting us to drink of his love and be renewed.A principal theme for this third Sunday is expressed in the second reading, St Paul to the Romans, that "what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners". We see of the mercy of God granting water in the desert to a people turning against the Lord, putting God to the test.
Let us reflect on this woman of Samaria, whose personality through feisty conversation with the Lord becomes more detailed than most other figures in the Gospels. The Samaritans as a race were reviled by the Jews. They were descendants of those left behind when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered and led into slavery by Assyria, more than 700 years earlier.
They had in time intermarried with idolators, pagan peoples who had been introduced into the country. They were hybrid Jews, an anathema to the orthodox.
Jesus breaks down barriers on several levels even by talking to this woman, as the shocked reaction of the disciples shows. First, she was a Samaritan. Second, she was a woman, and no rabbi or devout Jewish male would talk to a woman in public, not even one's wife or daughter. It would defile him.
Third, this woman clearly had a very poor name. She came to a well almost a kilometre's walk out of the village (which had its own well), and at midday, the heat of the day, when there would be few to encounter.
The women of the village probably shunned her because of her reputation; she was now living with her sixth partner, a lot even by our present practices, with never a marriage commitment having ever been made, never a love blessed.
She was a victim of some circumstance that had led her down such a path, and had no doubt been used by men as an object for their temporary convenience, and she had perhaps allowed herself to be used that way, because of a heart broken and calloused by false words.
To be a disciple, to live the love of Jesus, leads us necessarily to break down barriers between ourselves and others, to treat all with dignity and respect, not just those racially or religiously or politically different to us.
But even those whose opinions or causes we find not only objectionable but destructive of morality and right order in society, such as proponents of abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage.
We are called to fight what is not right, but not to judge the hearts of others. In opposing the stance of another to which we object, it is all too easy to slip into impugning the character, and that is especially wrong for Christians.
Of the many women in the Gospels, it is the three sinful ones who bring out so much of the humanity and compassion of the heart of Jesus. Mary Magdalene is cited by Jesus as an example of forgiving love. The woman taken in adultery hears his heart-changing words, "neither do I condemn you; go now and sin no more".
The Samaritan woman transforms from being an aggressive personality, made so by life, to a procession of titles, calling Jesus first' "What? you are a Jew", to "you are a prophet, sir", to an inkling that Jesus is the Messiah, then to be, this disgraced and reviled woman, the first to hear Jesus word, "I who am speaking to you, I am He."
It is through conversation with Jesus that this woman changes from rejection to faith. She leaves her water jar to go off and tell the rest of the village about Christ. She changes from opposition to proclamation.
She wants others to know of this living water, to bring new water jars to be filled, the hearts of those who have not yet met him. Our daily prayer in Lent, a few minutes only, is our means for conversation with Jesus now, but we must not fill the time with words, but like the Samaritan woman, allow Jesus to reply. "Be still, and know that I am God".
Water is such a powerful image in an arid land like Palestine. Here in this diocese, which includes most of South Australia and includes Uluru, we know how water transforms. In recent times we have seen Lake Eyre come alive again, as we have the Riverland of the Murray, and all the cattle stations and aboriginal lands of the north. It is like hope born again.
The water of baptism caused life in our souls. We were consecrated in baptism through water and the Holy Spirit to become "priest, prophet and royal person". The priest in us is called to anoint the hurts of others, to be reconcilers, blessers, paths to God for others.
The prophet in us is to proclaim the Gospel by deeds of love and justice. The royal person, as did the kings and queens of old, is to care for the outcast, the widow and the orphan, the poor on the edges.
May Jesus, who sat by the well "thus tired", give our hearts this Lent his sense of compassion and being poured out for others, and may the water that He gave us at baptism continue to be that spring welling up within us to eternal life, as he told that Samaritan woman that day.
And may the conviction continue to grow with us that we are so precious to him, even with all our failings, and that "what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners."
St. Margaret Clitherow
Feast: March 26
Margaret Clitherow, born in Yorkshire, England, was the wife of John Clitherow, whose family was Catholic, although he had taken on the state religion of England long before he married. Two or three years after her marriage, Margaret became a Catholic. Her home became a stopping-off place for priests, and Mass was offered secretly there.
Her husband went along with her interests, even when she sent their oldest son to Douai, in France, to be educated. Not only was she devout, she was also a zealous promoter of the faith, converting others and bringing back backsliders to the practice of their religion. Meanwhile, the laws against the Catholic faith became more harsh, and the. government was determined that Catholicism should be stamped out in Yorkshire where it was especially strong.
Everyone loved St. Margaret Clitherow, and even her servants knew that she hid fugitive priests, but no one betrayed her. She was a good housewife, capable in business, dearly loved by her husband, whose only regret was that she would not attend church with him. Her husband was summoned by the authorities to explain why his oldest son had gone abroad, and the Clitherow house was searched. A Flemish boy, from fear, revealed the hiding place of the priests where chalices and vestments were kept. Margaret was arrested along with a neighboring housewife who had attended Mass at the Clitherow home. Margaret's only concern was that her family was safe.
She was brought to trial and would not plead, her only statement being, "Having made no offense, I need no trial." If she had been tried, her family would have been called as witnesses against her, and she was determined that this would not happen. Reluctantly, the judge sentenced her to be "pressed to death," a bizarre death sentence in which the condemned was placed under a door (or similar object) and rocks piled on the door until the person was crushed to death.
Margaret died on March 25, 1586, her last words being, "Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy on me!" She was only thirty years old and was canonized in 1970.
Read more: http://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/saints/M/stmargaretclitherow.asp#ixzz1HkyyIlVf
|Luke 15: 1 - 3, 11 - 32|
|1||Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.|
|2||And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."|
|3||So he told them this parable:|
|11||And he said, "There was a man who had two sons;|
|12||and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them.|
|13||Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.|
|14||And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want.|
|15||So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine.|
|16||And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.|
|17||But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger!|
|18||I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;|
|19||I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."'|
|20||And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.|
|21||And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'|
|22||But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet;|
|23||and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry;|
|24||for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.|
|25||"Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.|
|26||And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant.|
|27||And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.'|
|28||But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,|
|29||but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.|
|30||But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!'|
|31||And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.|
|32||It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"|