WITNESSING TO LOVE OF GOD FOR HUMANITY
VATICAN CITY, 7 MAY 2011 (VIS) - This afternoon, Benedict XVI travelled by plane from Rome's Ciampino Airport to the Friuli-Venezia Giulia Airport, from which he travelled by car to Aquileia, Italy where he met with its citizens in Piazza Capitolo. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
At the beginning of this first step of his pastoral visit - late this afternoon he will travel to Venice - the Pope wanted to pay homage to "this blessed land, sprinkled with the blood and the sacrifice of so many witnesses", asking the "holy martyrs of Aquileia to still today in the Church awaken valiant and faithful disciples of Christ who are drawn to Him and who are therefore convinced and convincing".
"Today, I am meeting with you", he added, "to admire this rich and ancient tradition, but above all to affirm you in the profound faith of your forebears: that at this moment of history you may rediscover, defend, and profess with spiritual zeal this fundamental truth. Humanity can only receive hope and the future from Christ; only from Him can the meaning and the strength of forgiveness, justice, and peace be had".
After the greeting, the Holy Father entered the basilica where he presided over the assembly in preparation for the II Ecclesial Congress of Aquileia that will take place in 2012. Representatives from the 15 dioceses of the Triveneto ecclesiastical region (corresponding to the Trentino-Alto Adigie, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Veneto regions) were present).
"It is appropriate", he said in the address, "that you wanted this ecclesial congress to take place in the Mother Church of Aquileia, which gave birth to the churches of Northeast Italy, but also the churches of Austria and Slovenia, as well as some churches in Croatia, Bavaria, and even Hungary".
Benedict XVI told the faithful that they have the mission of "witnessing to the love of God for humanity, above all, through acts of love and life choices made in favor of actual persons, beginning with the most vulnerable, fragile, and defenseless ... such as the poor, the elderly, the ill, and the disabled".
Faced with today's challenges, such as "the often exaggerated pursuit of economic well-being, in a period of serious economic and financial crisis, widespread materialism, and predominant subjectivism, ... you must promote the Christian meaning of life through the explicit proclamation of the Gospel. ... From faith lived courageously arises, today as in the past, a fertile culture of love for life, from its conception to its natural end, for the promotion of human dignity, for the exaltation of the importance of the family based on faithful marriage and openness to life, and for a commitment to justice and solidarity".
The Pope concluded, recommending that "like other churches in Italy, commit yourselves to raising a new generation of men and women capable of taking on direct responsibilities in the various areas of society, especially in the political arena, which today, more than ever, needs people, especially young persons, capable of building a 'good life' in service of all".
At the end of the service, the Holy Father traveled to Venice by helicopter.
PROMOTING CULTURE OF WELCOME AND HARMONY
VATICAN CITY, 7 MAY 2011 (VIS) - After landing in Venice, the Pope travelled by boat through the canals to the dock of St. Mark's Square. After a few words of greeting from the mayor, the Pope addressed the citizens in the square.
The Holy Father recalled the "Venetian sons of these lands" who became pontiff such as "Patriarch Albino Luciani, who became Pope under the name of John Paul I; Patriarch Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who became Pope John XXIII and was elevated by the Church to the glory of the altars and proclaimed Blessed; and Patriarch Giuseppe Sarto, the future St. Pius X".
Referring to Venice's traditions and this "suggestive place that is the gateway to the heart of the city" known as the "Pearl of the Adriatic", Benedict XVI emphasized the unique character of "openness that has always characterized Venice, a crossroads of peoples and of communities of every provenance, culture, language, and religion".
"Also in this day and age, with its new perspectives and complex challenges", he continued, "Venice is called to assume important responsibilities in promoting a culture of welcome and sharing, capable of building bridges of dialogue between peoples and nations; a culture of harmony and love that has its firm foundations in the Gospel".
While highlighting "the splendor of the monuments and the fame of the civil institutions that demonstrate the glorious history and character of the Venetians", the Pope noted that "with the passing of the centuries, the faith transmitted by the first evangelizers has been each time rooted more deeply in the social fabric, to the point of becoming an essential part of it". In this context he called to mind "those two important sanctuaries that were born of the fulfillment of a vow made to Divine Providence on being liberated from the scourge of the plague: the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer and the Sanctuary of St. Mary of Health".
"I invite all you Venetians", he concluded, "to always seek and safeguard the harmony between the outlook of faith and the reason that allows our conscience to perceive the true good, in a way that the decisions of the civil community are always inspired by ethical principles that correspond to the profound truth of human nature. Human persons cannot renounce the truth about themselves without their sense of personal responsibility, of solidarity toward others, and of honesty in their economic and workplace dealings suffering as a result".
On finishing his address, the pontiff entered into the basilica where he venerated the reliquaries of St. Mark, brought to Venice from Alexandria in the seventh century.
GIVE WITNESS OF CHRISTIAN HOPE TO MEN AND WOMEN OF TODAY
VATICAN CITY, 8 MAY 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Pope travelled from the residence of the patriarchate of Venice to San Giuliano de Mestre Park where he presided over the celebration of Holy Mass before 300,000 persons.
In his homily the Holy Father, after greeting those present - particularly the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Scola - said that they represented "the ecclesial communities born of the Mother Church of Aquileia. Just as in the past, when those churches were distinguished by their apostolic zeal and pastoral dynamism, so today it is necessary to courageously promote and defend the unity of the faith. It is necessary to give a witness of Christian hope to today's men and women, who are often overwhelmed by the vast and disturbing issues that pose a crisis to the very foundation of their being and their actions".
While recalling that the churches, works of art, hospitals, libraries, and schools of this city "are dotted with references to Christ", the Pope noted that, "nevertheless, today this being for Christ runs the risk of becoming empty of its truth and its deepest meanings". It runs the risk of "turning into a horizon that only superficially - and in mainly social and cultural aspects - embraces life". It runs the risk of "becoming reduced to a Christianity in which the experience of faith in Jesus crucified and resurrected does not illuminate the path of existence".
Commenting on today's Gospel reading about the two disciples from Emmaus, "who after Jesus' crucifixion were returning home full of doubt, sorrow, and disappointment", he said that: "The problem of evil, sorrow, and suffering, the problem of injustice and tyranny, the fear of others, of strangers and of those who come to our lands from afar and seem to threaten who we are, leads Christians today to sadly say: 'We were hoping that the Lord would deliver us from evil, from sorrow, from suffering, from fear, and from injustice".
"That is why it is necessary that each of us, as with the two disciples from Emmaus, let ourselves by taught by Jesus: above all how to listen and love the Word of God", participating in the sacrament of His Body and Blood. "The Eucharist is the greatest expression of the gift that Jesus makes of himself and is a constant invitation to live our existence in the logic of the Eucharist, as a gift to God and to others".
Benedict XVI noted that "a traditionally Catholic people can also negatively sense or, almost unconsciously, assimilate the cultural repercussions that wind up insinuating a way of thinking in which the Gospel message is openly refused or surreptitiously hindered".
"In past centuries", he continued, "your churches have known a rich tradition of holiness and generous fraternal service, thanks to the work of priests and active and contemplative religious. If we wish to listen to their spiritual teaching it is not difficult for us to recognize their personal and unmistakable call addressed to us: Be saints! Put Christ at the center of your lives!".
The Holy Father affirmed that "the churches that Aquileia has given birth to are today called to strengthen their ancient spiritual unity, particularly in light of the phenomenon of immigration and the new geopolitical circumstances. ... My presence among you also seeks to be a keen support for the efforts that are being used to promote solidarity among your dioceses of the Northeast ... and an encouragement for every initiative that tends to overcome those divisions that could frustrate the concrete aspirations for justice and for peace".
At the end of the Eucharistic celebration and before praying the Regina Coeli, the Pope invited the faithful to call upon Mary Most Holy so that she might "even today sustain the apostolic efforts of priests; render fruitful the witness of men and women religious; animate the daily work of parents in the first transmission of the faith to their children; illuminate the path of youth so that they might walk confidently along the way laid down by the faith of their forebears; fill the hearts of the elderly with resolute hope; console with her nearness the ill and all those who suffer; and strengthen the work of the many lay persons who are actively collaborating in the new evangelization".
TRUE HUMAN JOY IS FOUND IN GOD
VATICAN CITY, 8 MAY 2011 (VIS) - This afternoon in St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, the Pope presided over an ecclesial assembly marking the closure of his pastoral diocesan visit.
After adoration of the Holy Sacrament and before the greeting of Cardinal Angleo Scola, the Pope gave an address.
Besides priests, men and women religious, and faithful laypersons, there were also present the Abbot and monks of the Armenian Community of Venice; Metropolitan-Archbishop Gennadios (Limouris) of the Greek Orthodox in Italy and Malta; Bishop Nestor (Sirotenko) of Korsun of the Russian Orthodox Church in Italy; and representatives of the Lutheran and Anglican communities.
Commenting on Jesus' words to Zacchaeus: "'Today I must stay at your house', and he came down quickly and received him with joy", that "were the leitmotif of the community meetings" of his pastoral visit that was initiated in the patriarchate in 2005, the Pope assured them that "the authentic realization of human being and its true joy are not found in power, success, or money, but only in God".
"From this encounter", he continued, "is born a new life for Zacchaeus. He welcomes Jesus with joy, finally discovering the reality that can truly and fully satisfy his life". In this context, the Holy Father asked the Church in Venice to imitate "Zacchaeus' example", and added: "Overcome, and help today's men and women overcome the obstacles of individualism and relativism. Never let yourselves be dragged down by the shortcomings that can stain Christian communities. ... Do not be afraid to go against the current to encounter Jesus or to aim upward to meet his gaze!".
Benedict XVI encouraged those present to "go forward confidently on the path of the new evangelization, in loving service of the poor, and with courageous witness to various social realities. Be aware of being bearers of a message that is for each person and for the entire person: a message of faith, hope, and love". The Pope extended this invitation, firstly to the priests and also to consecrated persons and the laity. To these latter he recalled that "holiness" doesn't mean doing extraordinary things, but following the will of God each day, truly living well one's vocation with the help of prayer, the Word of God, the sacraments, and the daily effort of living coherently with that vocation. "Yes!", he exclaimed. "Faithful laypersons who are fascinated by the ideal of holiness are needed to build a society worthy of human persons, a civilization of love!".
"I urge you", he continued, "to not hold back your energy in proclaiming the Gospel or in Christian education, supporting catechesis on all levels" and "dedicating special attention to the Christian education of children, adolescents, and youth".
The Pope concluded by emphasizing that "our spiritual life depends especially on the Holy Eucharist. Without that, faith and hope burn out and charity grows cool. I urge you, therefore, to take ever better care of the quality of your Eucharistic celebrations, especially on Sundays".
After greeting the thirty representatives of the assembly, the pontiff left by gondola for St. Mark's Square and the Basilica of St. Mary of Health.
MEETING REPRESENTATIVES OF CULTURE, ART, AND ECONOMICS
VATICAN CITY, 8 MAY 2011 (VIS) - At 6:00pm the Pope met with representatives from the areas of culture, art, and economics in the Basilica of St. Mary of Health in Venice.
The Holy Father offered a few reflections based on three words that he called "suggestive metaphors". They are "three words tied to Venice and, in particular, to the place in which we meet: the first is 'water'; the second is 'health'; and the third is 'Serenissima'" ("Most Serene", a title referring to the Venetian Republic).
Commenting on the fact that Venice is a "city of water", Benedict XVI offered this proposal: "Venice, not a 'liquid' city but a city 'of life and beauty'. ... This means choosing between a 'liquid' city, birthplace of a culture that seems ever more relative and ephemeral, and a city that constantly renews its beauty, drawing upon the beneficial sources of art, knowledge, and the relationships between persons and between peoples".
Then, referring to the second word, he explained that "'health' is an all encompassing and integral reality. It goes from the 'doing well' that allows us to calmly live a day of study and work or of vacation up to the 'salus animae' or health of the soul, from that which our eternal destiny depends upon. ... Jesus revealed that God loves life and wants to free it from every negation, even the most radical one, which is spiritual evil, sin, the venomous root that contaminates all. This is why Jesus himself can be called the 'Health' of humankind. ...Jesus saves humanity ... submerges it in this pure and invigorating current that frees humanity from its physical, psychic, and spiritual 'paralyses'. It cures humanity of its hardness of heart, its selfish isolation, and makes it taste the possibility of truly encountering itself, becoming lost in the love of God and neighbor".
Finally, the third word, "Serenissima", the name of the Venetian Republic that "speaks to us of a civilization of peace, based on mutual respect, reciprocal understanding, and relationships of friendship". In this sense he noted that "Venice has a long history and a rich human, spiritual, and artistic patrimony to also be able to offer today a precious contribution for helping persons to envision a better future and to work toward it. This is why, therefore, it should not be afraid of another emblematic element contained in the shield of St. Mark: the Gospel. The Gospel is the greatest strength of transformation in the world, but it is neither a utopia nor an ideology".
On taking his leave, the Pope greeted Venice's Jewish community, the Muslims who live in the city, and finally "the pilgrim Church here and throughout the Triveneto dioceses".
Benedict XVI later blessed the Chapel of the Most Holy Trinity, which has been recently restored, and officially inaugurated the Studium Generale Marcianum Library. From the residence of the Patriarchal Seminary he left for the Marco Polo Airport of Tessera where he returned by plane to Rome. From Rome's Ciampino Airport he travelled by helicopter to the Vatican where he arrived at 9:00pm.
MESSAGE TO NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF ITALIAN CATHOLIC ACTION
VATICAN CITY, 7 MAY 2011 (VIS) - Benedict XVI sent a message to the participants in the XIV National Assembly of Italian Catholic Action, which began yesterday afternoon in Rome with the theme: "Living the Faith, Loving Life: Catholic Action's Educational Commitment".
The Pope writes that the young members and the adolescents of Catholic Action "have before them the example of men and women who are happy in their faith, who want to accompany the new generations with love, wisdom, and prayer, who understand ... how to face the most pressing problems of the everyday life of the family: the defense of life, the suffering of separations and abandonment, solidarity in misfortune, and assistance of the poor and homeless. Assistant clergy, who know what it means to teach holiness, are following you. You are called to cooperate with the bishops of your dioceses in the life and the mission of the Church in a constant, faithful, and direct way".
"In the instruction outlined by the bishops for the Italian churches", he continued, "you are especially called to value your educational vocation. ... It is necessary to teach ... to build, with the collaboration of all, a project of Christian life based on the Gospel and the Magisterium of the Church, placing an integral vision of the person at the center".
The Holy Father encourages the associations to be "schools of holiness, where one can prepare for a complete dedication to the cause of the Kingdom of God, a profoundly evangelical life plan that characterizes you as believing laypersons in everyday areas. This requires intense personal and communal prayer, a continuous listening to the Word of God, and a diligent sacramental life".
Referring to formation in cultural and political commitments, the Pope underlined that "it is an important task that requires thought shaped by the Gospel, capable of discussing ideas and proposals that are valid for laypersons". In this sense he recalled that "Italy has gone through difficult historical moments and has emerged revitalized, also because of the unconditional dedication of Catholic laypersons involved in politics and institutions. Today, a nation's public life requires a more generous response on the part of its believers so that the capabilities and spiritual, intellectual, and moral strengths of each might be put at the disposition of all".
"I ask", Benedict XVI writes, "that you be generous, supportive, and above all, communicators of the beauty of faith. ... Catholic Action can help Italy respond to its unique vocation, situated in the Mediterranean region, at the crossroads of cultures, aspirations, and tensions that require a great strength of communion, solidarity, and generosity. Italy has always offered peoples near and far the richness of its culture and faith, its art and its thought. Today, you, Christian laymen and laywomen, are called to offer with conviction, the beauty of your culture and the reasons of your faith, as well as your fraternal solidarity, so that Europe may be up to the current historical challenge".
VATICAN CITY, 9 MAY 2011 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father received Bishop Jan Vokal, bishop of Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic, accompanied by members of his family, in a private audience.
VATICAN CITY, 9 MAY 2011 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father appointed as Prelate Auditor of the Roman Rota, David Maria A. Jaeger, O.F.M., professor of Canon Law at the Pontifical "Antonianum" University, consultor for the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Clergy, and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
On Saturday, 7 May, the Holy Father appointed Msgr. Ciro Miniero of the clergy of the archdiocese of Naples, Italy as bishop of the diocese of Vallo della Lucania (area 1,562, population 161,000, Catholics 157,000, priests 106, permanent deacons 9, religious 106), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Naples, Italy in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1982. He succeeds Bishop Giuseppe Rocco Favale, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
Lahore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law strikes the country’s Christian community again. This time, police in Chichawatni, Sahiwal District, Punjab, charged and arrested a mentally ill Christian man “for offending the religious sentiments” of Muslims. They also saved him from a mob bent on carrying out summary justice. Babar Masih, 25, allegedly used abusive language in regards to the Prophet Muhammad. Three of his relatives have already fled their home after receiving serious threats. The Masihs where the only Christians living in the area and are now in hiding for fear of reprisals at the hands of Muslim extremists.
Police opened an investigation against the mentally ill Babar Masih on the basis of the ‘black law’. On 2 May, they arrested him for making blasphemous remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. Local Christian sources said that the young man’s own family alerted police who arrested him in secret.
A mob of angry Muslims had gathered near the Masih family home. The other members of the family feared he might be summarily executed. Indeed, Muslim extremists had demanded the mentally ill man be handed over to them so that justice could be done. Thanks to the police, Babar was spirited away. In the meantime, his family found shelter in a secret hideout.
Babar’s brother Amjad said that some local Muslim religious leaders had pressured people to bear false witness against him. His mental status is widely known, and in the past, he has had fits of unmotivated anger during which he has used offensive language. He is also known for not eating or dressing properly. He was, in other words, an “easy target” for preposterous accusations based on the infamous blasphemy law.
Christian leaders in the province have tried to mediate with the local imam trying to find a way to have the charges withdrawn. However, extremists have no intention to do that.
Despite complaints from the international community about abuses, the ‘black law’ appears to be on the verge of taking another victim from the Christian minority.
Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a Muslim, and Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, were assassinated in cold blood earlier this year because they sought changes if not the repeal of the law.
WASHINGTON (May 6, 2011)— “The moral measure of this budget debate is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless or poor are treated,” said the U.S. bishops in a letter to the Senate May 5.
The bishops recognize the “difficult choices about how to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices” that Congress and the Administration face, but insist that the moral and human dimensions of those choices must be addressed in the ongoing budget debate in the Senate and the nation.
The letter was signed by Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, of Stockton, California, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice, and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.
“We …wish to clearly acknowledge the difficult challenges that the Congress, Administration and government at all levels face to get our financial house in order: fulfilling the demands of justice and moral obligations to future generations; controlling future debt and deficits; and protecting the lives and dignity of those who are poor and vulnerable,” wrote the bishops. At the same time, in the letter they offer several moral criteria based on Catholic Social Teaching to help guide difficult budgetary decisions.
Though the bishops do not offer a detailed critique of entire budget proposals, they do ask Senators to consider the human and moral dimensions of several key choices facing the Congress.
“Access to affordable, life-affirming health care remains an urgent national priority. We recognize that the rising costs of Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs need to be addressed, but we urge that the needs of the poor, working families and vulnerable people be protected,” the bishops said. “Cost cutting proposals should not simply shift health care costs from the federal government to the states or directly to beneficiaries.”
The letter also highlights international assistance as an essential tool to promote human life and dignity, advance solidarity with poorer nations, and enhance global security.
“We ask the Senate to support poverty-focused assistance and to continue reform of foreign assistance so it is even more effective for the poorest people in the poorest places on earth.”
The bishops said they “welcome the kind of bipartisan action that prevented a federal government shutdown and averted the hardships that would have come with failure to reach agreement on the FY 2011 continuing resolution.”
Looking forward to proposals in the Senate for FY 2012, the letter cautions that “[a] just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.”
“The Catholic bishops of the United States stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people, advances the common good, and promotes human life and dignity,” the bishops said.
The full text of the letter is available online:http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/Senate_budget_resolution_letter_May_5_2011_final.pdf
Born in Turin 110 years ago (January 29, 1901), the Institute founded by St. Joseph Allamano now has about a thousand missionaries working in four different continents. How can one offer effective and qualified missionary work, spiritually rich, in such a vast landscape and culturally diverse? This is the great challenge facing the fifty missionaries gathered in Rome for the Chapter.
"We choose to work with the method of discernment - father Fiorentini said in his inaugural speech- to try to figure out where God wants the Institute to reach today. We need to discover a new missionary zeal in our lives, leaving us to be evangelized by the mission". Each participant has been invited to become instruments of re-enculturation in this Institute in which we are called to live and serve, adding to our reflection and discussion a piece of Africa, America, Asia and Europe.
In the afternoon, at the church of Santa Maria Maddalena in Rome, there was the opening Mass, which was attended by the nuns of the Consolata Missionaries, also gathered at their General House in Nepi (VT) for the General Chapter, a sign of communion between the two Institutes linked with the same roots and sharing the same charisma. It was the church where the Blessed Allamano came to pray during his trips to Rome, attracted by an effigy of Our Lady Consolata preserved here. The closure of the Chapter is scheduled for June 20 in Turin, for the Feast of the Consolata at the Shrine dedicated to her.
By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service
LONDON (CNS) -- Egyptian police must act more quickly against Muslim rioters, a Catholic bishop said after 12 people were killed and two churches burned in a night of violence.
Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Giza said Egypt would descend into anarchy if such outbreaks of violence were allowed to go unpunished.
"The police need to say clearly to those who have done this: 'You cannot do this. It is not allowed,'" he said in a May 9 telephone interview with the British branch of Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity helping persecuted Christians.
"Without action from the police and the army, it will be chaos, complete anarchy," the bishop said.
"The army will not stand up against the people who do this sort of thing," he said. "They want to stay neutral. The police appear, but very slowly. They are frightened. They have not been strong enough."
The bishop added: "We cannot make peace and reconciliation without first bringing people to justice. Otherwise, the reconciliation is just theater, and the problems will remain."
Bishop Mina's remarks followed violence in Cairo May 7 triggered by claims that a Christian woman who wanted to convert to Islam was being held against her will in the Orthodox Church of St. Mina in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba.
Four imams were allowed into the church but could find no one held there.
However, a mob of about 500 Salafi Muslims massed outside the church before attacking it at about 5 p.m. The Salafis are a Muslim sect dedicated to the spread of what they believe is traditional, Orthodox Islam, including in the political life of predominantly Muslim countries.
At about 5:30 p.m., the mob began shooting at Christians, and beginning at 7 p.m., firebombs were thrown at their homes, shops and cars. The mob also attacked the nearby Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary, according to reports. Christians responded by hurling glass and stones at their assailants.
The army did not take control of the situation until after 10 p.m., when it sealed off access roads to Christian areas and churches.
One Orthodox priest said that about six police officers arrived earlier but fled the scene when they saw that the protesters were firing live ammunition.
Seven Christians and five Muslims were reported killed in the violence, and more than 200 others -- the vast majority of them Christians -- were injured.
Sectarian violence, the bishop said, was becoming "too much for Christians to bear."
The Egyptian army has said that 190 people were arrested and will face military trials. The military is also reported to have increased security around churches in Cairo.
Egypt's Christian community has felt increasingly vulnerable following a spate of attacks by Muslims, among the worst of which was the New Year's Day bombing of an Orthodox church in Alexandria. About 20 people were killed in that attack and 70 others injured.
Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria, told Aid to the Church in Need that Christians were in the midst of a "a very serious situation."
Catholic Bishop Youhannes Zakaria of Luxor said, however, that the Christians are refusing to be intimidated.
"Last weekend, I was celebrating Masses in our villages and I expected that they would be afraid and that it would be necessary to encourage the faithful," he told Aid to the Church in Need in a May 9 telephone interview.
"But it was they who encouraged me," he said. "It is not our character to give up. Next day, we pick up the pieces and start again.
"People are determined to bear witness to Christ in the lands where he lived," he added.
After the attacks, Fides, the Vatican missionary news agency, quoted Comboni Father Luciano Verdoscia, who works in Cairo, as saying: "The neighborhood of Imbaba is a poor area, and fanaticism flourishes where poverty and ignorance reign. The Salafis are a group that is not the majority, but make themselves heard, even with violent actions. According to some commentators, these groups are controlled by the old (Egyptian) regime, who want to make others believe, 'Look what is happening without us.'"
Former President Hosni Mubarak resigned in mid-February after weeks of popular street protests.
About 90 percent of Egypt's 82 million population are Muslims, with Catholic and Orthodox representing 9 percent of the population. Other Christian denominations make up the remaining 1 percent.
ABBOTT AND BISHOP
Feast: May 9
Though St. Antony be justly esteemed the institutor of the cenobitic life, or that of religious persons living in community under a certain rule, St. Pachomius was the first who drew up a monastic rule in writing. He was born in Upper Thebais about the year 292, of idolatrous parents, and was educated in their blind superstition, and in the study of the Egyptian sciences. From his infancy, he was meek and modest, and had an aversion to the profane ceremonies used by the infidels in the worship of their idols. Being about twenty years of age, he was pressed into the emperor's troops, probably the tyrant Maximinus, who was master of Egypt from the year 310; and in 312 made great levies to carry on a war against Licinius and Constantine. He was, with several other recruits, put on board a vessel that was falling down the river. They arrived in the evening at Thebes, or Diospolis, the capital of Thebais, a city in which dwelt many Christians. Those true disciples of Christ sought every opportunity of relieving and comforting all that were in distress, and were moved with compassion towards the recruits, who were kept close confined, and very ill-treated. The Christians of this city showed them the same tenderness as if they had been their own children; took all possible care of them, and supplied them liberally with money and necessaries.
Such an uncommon example of disinterested virtue made a great impression on the mind of Pachomius. He inquired who their pious benefactors were, and when he heard that they believed in Jesus Christ the only Son of God, and that in the hope of a reward in the world to come, they labored continually to do good to all mankind, he found kindled in his heart a great love of so holy a law, and an ardent desire of serving the God whom these good men adored. The next day, when he was continuing his journey down the river, the remembrance of this purpose strengthened him to resist a carnal temptation. From his infancy he had been always a lover of chastity and temperance but the example of the Christians had made those virtues appear to him far more amiable, and in a new light.
After the overthrow of Maximinus, his forces were disbanded. Pachomius was no sooner returned home, but he repaired to a town in Thebais, in which there was a Christian church, and there he entered his name among the catechumens, or such as were preparing for baptism; and having gone through the usual course of preliminary instructions and practices with great attention and fervor, he received that sacrament at Chenoboscium, with great sentiments of piety and devotion. From his first acquaintance with our holy faith at Thebes, he had always made this his prayer: "O God, Creator of heaven and earth, cast on me an eye of pity: deliver me from my miseries: teach me the true way of pleasing you, and it shall be the whole employment, and most earnest study of my life to serve you, and to do your will." The perfect sacrifice of his heart to God, was the beginning of his eminent virtue. The grace by which God reigns in a soul, is a treasure infinitely above all price. We must give all to purchase it. To desire it faintly is to undervalue it. He is absolutely disqualified and unfit for so great a blessing, and unworthy ever to receive it, who seeks it by halves, or who does not esteem all other things as dung that he may gain Christ.
When Pachomius was baptized, he began seriously to consider with himself how he should most faithfully fulfil the obligations which he had contracted, and attain to the great end to which he aspired. There is danger even in fervor itself. It is often an artifice of the devil to make a novice undertake too much at first, and run indiscreetly beyond his strength. If the sails gather too much wind, the vessel is driven ahead, falls on some rock and splits. Eagerness is a symptom of secret passion, not of true virtue, where it is wilful and impatient at advice. Pachomius was far from so dangerous a disposition, because his desire was pure, therefore his first care was to find a skilful conductor.
Hearing that a venerable old man named Palemon, served God in the desert in great perfection, he sought him out, and with great earnestness begged to live under his direction. The hermit having set before him the difficulties and austerities of his way of life, which several had already attempted in vain to follow, advised him to make a trial of his strength and fervor in some monastery; and, to give him a sketch of the difficulties he had to encounter in the life he aspired to, he added: "Consider, my son, that my diet is only bread and salt: I drink no wine, use no oil, watch one half of the night, spending that time in singing psalms or in meditating on the holy scriptures, and sometimes pass the whole night without sleeping." Pachomius was amazed at this account, but not discouraged. He thought himself able to undertake every thing that might be a means to render his soul pleasing to God, and readily promised to observe whatever Palemon should think fit to enjoin him; who thereupon admitted him into his cell, and gave him the monastic habit. Pachomius was by his example enabled to bear solitude, and an acquaintance with himself. They sometimes repeated together the psalter, at other times they exercised themselves in manual labors (which they accompanied with interior prayer,) with a view to their own subsistence and the relief of the poor. Pachomius prayed above all things, for perfect purity of heart, that being disengaged from all secret attachment to creatures, he might love God with all his affections. And to destroy the very roots of all inordinate passions, it was his first study to obtain the most profound humility, and perfect patience and meekness. He prayed often with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross; which posture was then much used in the church. He was in the beginning often drowsy at the night office. Palemon used to rouse him, and say: "Labor and watch, my dear Pachomius, lest the enemy overthrow you and ruin all your endeavors." Against this weakness and temptation he enjoined him, on such occasions, to carry sand from one place to another, till his drowsiness was overcome. By this means the novice strengthened himself in the habit of watching. Whatever instructions he read or heard, he immediately endeavored fervently to reduce to practice.
One Easter-day Palemon bade the disciple prepare a dinner for that great festival. Pachomius took a little oil, and mixed it with the salt, which he pounded small, and added a few wild herbs, which they were to eat with their bread. The holy old man having made his prayer, came to table; but at the sight of the oil he struck himself on the forehead, and said, with tears: "My Saviour was crucified, and shall I indulge myself so far as to eat oil?" Nor could he be prevailed upon to taste it.
Pachomius used sometimes to go into a vast uninhabited desert, on the banks of the Nile, called Tabenna, in the diocese of Tentyra, a city between the Great and Little Diospolis. While he was there one day in prayer, he heard a voice which commanded him to build a monastery in that place, in which he should receive those who should be sent by God to serve him faithfully. He received, about the same time, from an angel who appeared to him, certain instructions relating to a monastic life.. Pachomius going back to Palemon, imparted to him this vision; and both of them coming to Tabenna, built there a little cell towards the year 325, about twenty years after St. Antony had founded his first monastery. After a short time, Palemon returned to his former dwelling, having promised his disciple a yearly visit, but he died soon after, and is honored in the Roman Martyrology on the 11th of January.
Pachomius received first his own eldest brother John, and after his death many others, so that he enlarged his house; and the number of his monks in a short time amounted to a hundred. Their clothing was of rough linen; that of St. Pachomius himself often haircloth. He passed fifteen years without ever lying down, taking his short rest sitting on a stone. He even grudged himself the least time which he allowed to necessary sleep, because he wished he could have been able to employ all his moments in the actual exercises of divine love. From the time of his conversion he never ate a full meal. By his rule, the fasts and tasks of work were proportioned to every one's strength; though all are together in one common refectory, in silence, with their cowl or hood drawn over their heads, that they might not see one another at their meals. Their habit was a tunic of white linen without sleeves, with a cowl of the same stuff; they wore on their shoulders a white goatskin, called a Melotes. They received the holy communion on the first and last days of every week. Novices were tried with great severity before they were admitted to the habit, the taking of which was then deemed the monastic profession, and attended with the vows. St. Pachomius preferred none of his monks to holy orders, and his monasteries were often served by priests from abroad, though he admitted priests, when any presented themselves, to the habit, and he employed them in the functions of their ministry. All his monks were occupied in various kinds of manual labor: no moment was allowed for idleness. The saint, with the greatest care, comforted and served the sick himself. Silence was so strictly observed at Tabenna, that a monk, who wanted any thing necessary, was only to ask for it by signs. In going from one place to another, the monks were ordered always to meditate on some passage of the holy scripture, and sing psalms at their work. The sacrifice of the mass was offered for every monk that died, as we read in the life of St. Pachomius. His rule was translated into Latin by St. Jerome, and is still extant. He received the sickly and weak, rejecting none for the want of corporal strength, being desirous to conduct to heaven all souls which had fervor to walk in the paths of perfection. He built six other monasteries in Thebias, not far asunder, and from the year 336, chose often to reside in that of Pabau, or Pau, near Thebes, in its territory, though not far from Tabenna, situated in the neighboring province of Diospolis, also in Thebais. Pabau became a more numerous and more famous monastery than Tabenna itself. By the advice of Serapion, bishop of Tentyra, he built a church in a village for the benefit of the poor shepherds, in which for some time he performed the office of Lector, reading to the people the word of God with admirable fervor; in which function he appeared rather like an angel than a man. He converted many infidels, and zealously opposed the Arians, but could never be induced by his bishop to receive the holy order of priesthood. In 333, he was favored with a visit of St. Athanasius at Tabenna. His sister, at a certain time, came to his monastery desiring to see him; but he sent her word at the gate, that no woman could be allowed to enter his enclosure, and that she ought to be satisfied with hearing that he was alive. However, it being her desire to embrace a religious state, he built her a nunnery on the other side of the Nile, which was soon filled with holy virgins. St. Pachomius going one day to Pane, one of his monasteries, met the funeral procession of a tepid monk deceased. Knowing the wretched state in which he died and to strike a terror into the slothful, he forbade his monks to proceed in singing psalms, and ordered the clothes which covered the corpse to be burnt, saying: "Honors could only increase his torments; but the ignominy with which his body was treated, might move God to show more mercy to his soul; for God forgives some sins not only in this world, but also in the next." When the procurator of the house had sold the mats at market at a higher price than the saint had bid him, he ordered him to carry back the money to the buyers, and chastised him for his avarice.
Among many miracles wrought by him, the author of his life assures us, that though he had never learned the Greek or Latin tongues, he sometimes miraculously spoke them; he cured the sick and persons possessed by devils with blessed oil. But he often told sick or distressed persons, that their sickness or affliction was an effect of the divine goodness in their behalf; and he only prayed for their temporal comfort, with this clause or condition, if it should not prove hurtful to their souls. His dearest disciple, St. Theodorus, who after his death succeeded him in the government of his monasteries, was afflicted with a perpetual headache. St. Pachomius, when desired by some of the brethren to pray for his health, answered: "Though abstinence and prayer be of great merit, yet sickness, suffered with patience, is of much greater." He chiefly begged of God the spiritual health of the souls of his disciples and others, and took every opportunity to curb and heal their passions, especially that of pride. One day a certain monk having doubled his diligence at work, and made two mats instead of one, set them where St. Pachomius might see them. The saint perceiving the snare, said, "This brother hath taken a great deal of pains from morning till night, to give his work to the devil." And, to cure his vanity by humiliations, he enjoined him, by way of penance, to keep his cell fire months, with no other allowance than a little bread, salt, and water. A young man named Sylvanus; who had been an actor on the stage, entered the monastery of St. Pachomius with the view of doing penance, but led for some time an undisciplined life, often transgressing the rules of the house, and still fond of entertaining himself and others with buffooneries. The man of God endeavored to make him sensible of his danger by charitable remonstrances, and also employed his more potent arms of prayer, sighs, and tears, for his poor soul. Though for some time he found his endeavors fruitless, he did not desist on that account; and having one day represented to this impenitent sinner, in a very pathetic manner, the dreadful judgments which threaten those that mock God, the divine grace touching the heart of Sylvanus, he from that moment began, to lead a life of great edification to the rest of the brethren; and being moved with the most feeling sentiments of compunction, he never failed, wheresoever he was, and howsoever employed, to bewail with bitterness his past misdemeanors. When others entreated him to moderate the floods of his tears, "Ah," said he, "how can I help weeping, when I consider the wretchedness of my past life, and that by my sloth I have profaned what was most sacred? I have reason to fear lest the earth should open under my feet, and swallow me up, as it did Dathan and Abiron. Oh! suffer me to labor with ever-flowing fountains of tears, to expiate my innumerable sins. I ought, if I could, even to pour forth this wretched soul of mine in mourning; it would be all too little for my offences." In these sentiments of contrition he made so "real progress in virtue, that the holy abbot proposed him as a model of humility to the rest; and when, after eight years spent in this penitential course, God had called him to himself by a holy death, St. Pachomius was assured by a revelation, that his soul was presented by angels a most agreeable sacrifice to Christ. The saint was favored with a spirit of prophecy, and with great grief foretold the decay of monastic fervor in his order in succeeding ages. In 348 he was cited before a council of bishops at Latopolis, to answer certain matters laid to his charge. He justified himself against the calumniators, but in such a manner that the whole council admired his extraordinary humility. The same year, God afflicted his monasteries with a pestilence, which swept off a hundred monks. The saint himself fell sick, and during forty days suffered a painful distemper with incredible patience and cheerfulness, discovering a great interior joy at the approach of the end of his earthly pilgrimage. In his last moments he exhorted his monks to fervor, and having armed himself with the sign of the cross, resigned his happy soul into the hands of his Creator in the fifty-seventh year of his age. He lived to see in his different monasteries seven thousand monks. His order subsisted in the cast till the eleventh century: for Anselm, bishop of Havelburgh, writes, that he saw five hundred monks of this institute in a monastery at Constantinople. St. Pachomius formed his disciples to so eminent a degree of perfection chiefly by his own fervent spirit and example; for he always appeared the first, the most exact, and the most fervent, in all the exercises of the community.