Card. Amato: martyred Syrian bishop a model of holiness

(Vatican Radio) On Saturday, August 29th, the venerable Servant of God, Flavyānus Mikhayil Melkī is to be beatified. Melkī was an Eastern Catholic prelate of the Brothers of Saint Ephrem, who became the Syrian Catholic eparch of Gazarta – or what is Cizre in modern-day Turkey, and was  was killed in Gazarta during the sayfo or "putting to the sword" of Syrians in 1915, after he refused to convert to Islam.

Earlier in August, Pope Francis approved Melkī’s beatification after he determined that Melkī  was killed in hatred of the faith. Thus, the beatification date of August 29th has been set to coincide with the centenary of his martyrdom.

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In an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio, the Prefect of the Congregations for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, said that the soon-to-be Blessed Flavyānus Mikhayil Melkī is a model of holiness for our time, in which once again the Christian communities of very ancient standing face the threat of extinction. “Today, as it was one hundred years ago,” said Cardinal Amato, "darkness has fallen in many countries of ancient Christian civilization: the faithful are discriminated against, persecuted, expelled, killed; their houses are not marked with the blood of the Passover lamb to be saved, but with the red ‘Nu’,” for Nasrani or 'One belonging to the Nazarene,' "meaning Christians, as the mark of their sentence.” Cardinal Amato went on to say, “As it was one hundred years ago, at the time of the martyrdom of bishop Melkī, Christians are denied every liberty, they are forced to leave their homeland, or to convert or die.”

“In fact,” the Cardinal-Prefect explained, “death reigns supreme in the persecutors’ minds and hearts of stone, who cannot stand the Christian civilization of liberty, respect for others, fraternity justice, charity.”

The Beatification ceremony is to be celebrated by the Syrian Catholic Patriarch, His Beatitude Ignatius Youssef III, in Harissa, in the presence of Cardinal Amato and with the participation of Patriarchs and other Church leaders from many rites.   

(from Vatican Radio)

The changing role of women in the Catholic Church

(Vatican Radio) In his Wednesday general audiences throughout this year, Pope Francis has been reflecting on family life, ahead of the Synod of Bishops on the family, due to take place here in the Vatican from October 4th to 25th.

In these weekly reflections, the Pope has spoken extensively about the role of parents and particularly about the changing role of women in contemporary society. It is essential, he said, that “women not only be more listened to, but that her voice has real weight, a recognized authoritativeness” both in society and in the Church

Among those listening carefully to the Pope’s words is author and theologian Tina Beattie, who teaches Catholic Studies and heads a research centre for Religion, Society and Human Flourishing at the University of Roehampton in southern England. She talked to Philippa Hitchen about her hopes for a more incisive presence of women in the Catholic Church today…..

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Professor Beattie says that this year has seen "a surge of activity around these issues", adding that she believe Pope Francis has "made it alright to address these issues and created spaces in which we can speak more freely than we’ve been able to do for a while"….

Asked about her hopes for the coming months, Beattie says sheI would like to see more women in positions of leadership, suggesting that the Pope "could add some women advisors to the nine cardinals who’re advising him – why not?" as well as including more women in the two new congregations that have been spoken about at part of the Curial reform programme. "We can leave out the most sensitive issues of ordination and still do a great deal to include women, she says.

Reacting to the Pope's call for "a profound theology of women", Beattie expresses caution: noting that such a call is really saying the Church lacks a profound theology of the human. "And that’s true", she continues, "this will be the catalyst for a whole new way of understanding theological anthropology…there are many women theologians qualified to contribute – so far not one has ever been quoted or included in formation of official Church teaching."

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: letter to Hebrew-speaking Catholic community

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written a letter to Fr. David Neuhaus, SJ, who heads the St. James Vicariate for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Vicariate as the Work of St. James – so named after the Apostle who led the Church at Jerusalem in the founding generation. Signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, the letters states, “The Holy Father was pleased to learn of the celebrations marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Apostolate of Saint James and he sends cordial good wishes to you and the priests, religious and Hebrew speaking Catholics of the Saint James Vicariate.”

The letter goes on to promise prayers for the continued and constant spiritual renewal of the Vicariate and its members. “In this way, not only will the Vicariate community be strengthened,” the letter reads, “it will also become an ever more effective instrument of dialogue and peace within broader society and a sign of Christ’s love for those most in need.”

Please find the text of the letter in Enlgish, below

"The Holy Father was pleased to learn of the celebrations marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Apostolate of Saint James and he sends cordial good wishes to you and the priests, religious and Hebrew speaking Catholics of the Saint James Vicariate. As you reflect on the many graces bestowed by God upon the Apostolate and Vicariate throughout these years, His Holiness prays that all of you may be renewed in your joyful witness to the Gospel, “not only with words, but above all by lives transfigured by God’s presence” (Evangelii Gaudium, 259). In this way, not only will the Vicariate community be strengthened, it will also become an ever more effective instrument of dialogue and peace within broader society and a sign of Christ’s love for those most in need. Commending the Saint James Vicariate to the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, Pope Francis willingly imparts his Apostolic Blessing as pledge of peace and joy in the Lord.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to lead liturgy for World Day of Prayer for Creation

(Vatican Radio) At the end of his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis recalled that next Tuesday, September 1st, the Church will mark the first World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. Following in the footsteps of the Orthodox Church, Catholics are encouraged to organize prayer and practical initiatives to combat the environmental crisis facing our planet.

Noting that local Churches around the world are planning events to reflect on the ways our lifestyles impact the environment, the Pope said he will be joining bishops, priests, religious and lay people for a special Liturgy of the Word in St Peter’s Basilica, to which local people and visiting pilgrims are warmly invited to attend.

(from Vatican Radio)

Letter for 60th anniversary of the Apostolate of St James

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has sent a letter on behalf of Pope Francis for the 60th anniversary of the Apostolate of St James. The Apostolate is the Hebrew Catholic Vicariate of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

In the letter, dated 13 August 2015, Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote, “The Holy Father was pleased to learn of the celebrations marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Apostolate of Saint James and he sends cordial good wishes to you and the priests, religious and Hebrew speaking Catholics of the Saint James Vicariate. As you reflect on the many graces bestowed by God upon the Apostolate and Vicariate throughout these years, His Holiness prays that all of you may be renewed in your joyful witness to the Gospel, ‘not only with words, but above all by lives transfigured by God’s presence’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 259). In this way, not only will the Vicariate community be strengthened, it will also become an ever more effective instrument of dialogue and peace within broader society and a sign of Christ’s love for those most in need. Commending the Saint James Vicariate to the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, Pope Francis willingly imparts his Apostolic Blessing as pledge of peace and joy in the Lord.”

The Apostolate of Saint James the Apostle, approved by the Patriarch Alberto Gori on February 11, 1955, was founded in order to answer the pastoral needs of Hebrew-speaking Catholics, Jews and non-Jews.

Today, there is a Hebrew-speaking community in four major cities: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa and Beersheva. The Vicariate includes two Russian communities whose members are integrated into Israeli society.

Father David Neuhaus SJ, Patriarchal Vicar for Hebrew speaking Catholics in Israel, had sent a copy of “Sixty Years – A Pastoral Letter” to the Holy Father. The letter can be read here.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to parents: find time for prayer in busy family life

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday continued his reflections on family life, focusing especially on the importance of finding time for prayer. Greeting visitors from many different countries, gathered for the weekly General Audience in St Peter’s Square, the Pope said families often experience difficulty in devoting time for prayer. But he said a heart filled with the love of God can make even a silent thought or small gesture of devotion into a moment of prayer.

Pope Francis noted that family life is complicated and time consuming: parents, he said, should win Nobel prizes for the way they manage to squeeze 48 hours’ work into just 24 hours! But if we truly love God with all our hearts, and all our mind, and all our strength, we will discover that the heart of prayer is the love of God, who constantly caresses us with his love. The Pope urged parents to teach their children to pray, to read the bible and to make the sign of the Cross so that their homes may become places where Jesus always finds a warm welcome

Please find below the English summary of Pope Francis’ remarks at the Wednesday General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

 In our continuing catechesis on the family, today we reflect on the importance of devoting time to prayer.  We all know how important prayer is, yet it seems so difficult to find time for it.  Perhaps we need to ask if we truly love God, as he asks us to, with all our heart, and all our mind and all our strength.  For the heart of prayer is the love of God, the source of our life, who constantly “caresses” us with his own love. 

A heart filled with the love of God can make even a silent thought or a small gesture of devotion a moment of prayer.  The Holy Spirit teaches us to pray, to call God our Father, and to grow daily in his love.  Our families need to ask for the gift of the Spirit!  Through prayer, even in the busiest times, we give time back to God, we find the peace that comes from appreciating the important things, and we encounter the joy of God’s unexpected gifts.  Through daily prayer may our homes become, like the house of Martha and Mary, places where Jesus always finds a warm welcome.

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England, Denmark, Malta, China, Dubai, Nigeria, Canada and the United States of America.  Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord Jesus.  God bless you all!

(from Vatican Radio)

Eparchy of Mandya extended, Fr. Antony Kariyil CMI new bishop

The Holy Father has extended the boundaries of the eparchy of Mandya of the Syro-Malabar  and included neighbouring  six civil districts, in which lie the Syro-Malabar faithful: Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Chickballapur, Kolar, Tumkur and Ramnagara.

At the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Major Archbishops at Mount Saint Thomas in Kerala (India),  Rev. Dr. P. Antony Kariyil CMI was canonically elected bishop of the said eparchy of Mandya of the Syro-Malabar (India).  Fr. Antony Kariyil is currently the Director of ‘Rajagiri School of engineering and Technology’ ( RSET) in Cochin, Kerala.

Fr. Dr. Antony Kariyil CMI is an eminent scholar and academician, with many laurels to his credit. He was the professor and later the Principal of Christ College Bangalore from 1975 to 1997. He was also the Principal Rajagiri College of Social Sciences, from 1997 to 2002.

As a distinguished academician, he has served as the member of various academic bodies, including the Academic Council of the Bangalore University; Board of Studies in Sociology of Bangalore University and Calicut University; Board of Studies in Social Work of Calicut University; Senate of the Cochin University of Science & Technology; and Syndicate of the M.G. University. An avid researcher, he has several publications to his credit, including two books 'Church and Society in Kerala: A Sociological Study' and 'Thiruvayassu'.

Dr. Antony Kariyil was the Vicar Provincial and Secretary for Social Work of the CMI Sacred Heart Province, Kochi from 1999 to 2002. He was elected the Prior General of the CMI congregation in 2002; after which he served as the Provincial Superior of the Sacred Heart Province and Manager of Rajagiri Educational Institutions from 2008 to 2011.

Dr.Antony Kariyil's untiring efforts and hard work had been instrumental in the establishment of RSET. He has guided, supported and has shouldered a crucial role in the growth of RSET from the early days and continued to nurture the institution even when he was elected as the prior general of CMI congregation from 2002 to 2008. 

(from Vatican Radio)

A Jewish perspective on ‘Nostra Aetate’ 50 years on

(Vatican Radio) In October the Catholic Church will officially mark the 50th anniversary of a document that has profoundly changed its understanding of other religious faiths. On October 28th 1965 bishops from around the world, gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council, issued ‘Nostra Aetate’ a groundbreaking declaration on the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions.

For the first time the bishops said the Church “rejects nothing that is true and holy” in other religious traditions, urging Catholics to pursue “dialogue and collaboration” with people of all different faiths .In particular the document radically reshaped Catholic relations with the Jewish world, condemning all forms of anti-Semitism and stating that Jews cannot be held responsible for the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ.

Susannah Heschel is an American author and professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College in the United States. She’s also the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who played an influential role in the drawing up of 'Nostra Aetate'. At a recent conference, organised by the Ecclesiological Investigations network at Georgetown University, Philippa Hitchen talked to Susannah about her father's role and about the importance of that document, half a century on…

Listen: 

(from Vatican Radio)

Cardinal calls for change in attitude towards environment

(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Peter Turkson has renewed the call for radical changes in thinking and attitudes towards environment, ecology and creation.  In a message delivered to the second international gathering for talks on climate change, organised by the Peruvian government in Lima, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Cardinal Turkson, invited participants “[to] assume a new ecological spirituality which favors the bond between man and environment, through an integral, ecological, community conversion.”

The 5-day event, starting on the 24th of August, is the second appointment of the COP20 forum, a global initiative which gives nations the opportunity to showcase plans to reduce carbon emissions in preparation for the Paris conference on climate change due to take place later in the year.

The forum opened with a presentation of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, which was organised by the Jesuit University Ruiz de Montoya in Lima. The opening presentation event hosted 250 people, including experts, policy makers and religious leaders, who offered analysis of the Pope’s encyclical from a scientific, economic, political and theological perspective.

In his message, Cardinal Turkson expressed the hope that this second conference dedicated to environmental emergency might promote a “deeper ecological conversion, able to reflect itself in the different aspects of human life: in one’s lifestyle, education, in the dialogue between science, culture and faith, and in national politics and international negotiations.”

He concluded his message citing the last words of Pope Francis’ encyclical: “To re-establish harmony with Creation, people ought to reflect on their lifestyles and ideals, in order to contemplate the Creator, who lives in us and in what surrounds us.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Syriac Catholic Bishop Flavianus Michael Melki, martyr of the "Assyrian Genocide" will be beatified next Saturday

Beirut - Syriac Catholic Bishop Flavianus Michael Melki, martyred during the "Assyrian Genocide", will be beatified on the evening of Saturday, August 29, during a solemn liturgy to be held at the Patriarchal convent of Our Lady of Deliverance in Harissa , which will be attended by numerous Patriarchs and heads of Christian churches of the East from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The beatification ceremony will be presided by Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III. The decree of beatification will be read at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Flavianus Michael Melki was killed in hatred of the faith on August 29 one hundred years ago in Djézireh, now Turkey, during the massacres perpetrated against the Armenians and members of other Christian communities at the instigation of the Young Turks.
"A blessed of our church has not been proclaimed for a long time" refers to Agenzia Fides Syrian Catholic priest Nizar Semaan "and Bishop Melki will be the first of the martyrs of the Syrian Catholics of that Genocide to be raised to the honor of altars. But his beatification is a gift for all Christians of the East. In these times of new trials" adds Father Nizar "his figure shows us the luminous faith with which he lived the terrible persecution one hundred years ago, and he can give hope and courage to all the baptized. We pray that through his intercession all are helped to profess faith in Christ in the countries in the Middle East, and also pray so that political and military leaders take paths that lead to peace".
Melki was born in 1858 in Kalaat Mara, a village in the east of Merdin. He was ordained bishop of Gazarta in 1913, lived in extreme poverty and had also sold his vestments to help the poor. In the summer of 1915 he was arrested by the Ottoman authorities on August 28, along with the Chaldean bishop. According to eyewitness reported by Muslim sources, the two bishops were killed after refusing to renounce their faith and convert to Islam. Michael Melki was tortured to death and then decapitated.