ROME 31May08 (CNS)- Chaldean Catholic leaders in Iraq have criticized a death sentence for the man convicted of killing Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq. "Violence must not call for more violence. We are in favor of justice but not of capital punishment," Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, told the Rome-based missionary news agency AsiaNews. The Iraqi government announced May 18 that an Iraqi criminal court had sentenced Ahmed Ali Ahmed to death for killing Archbishop Rahho. The date of the execution had not yet been made public. An Iraqi government spokesman said Ahmed was an al-Qaida leader who was involved in a number of "terror crimes against the people of Iraq." Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad told the Italian Catholic agency SIR May 19 that Archbishop Rahho "would not have accepted such a sentence. Christian principles uphold that a death sentence is not permissible against anyone." The Catholic Church in Iraq seeks "peace, security and reconciliation," he added. Archbishop Rahho, 65, was kidnapped Feb. 29 in an attack that left his driver and two bodyguards dead. The archbishop's body was recovered March 13 after the kidnappers told Catholic leaders in Iraq where he had been buried. An autopsy was inconclusive about whether he had been killed or had died because of medical complications since he suffered from a heart condition and needed medication. Bishop Warduni said security and conditions have improved slightly in Iraq, including Mosul, where "people are saying it's going a bit better." "Our hope is that this continues as time goes on and that al-Qaida is defeated," he said.
We are gathered in a privileged place at a privileged moment. We gather at an evidently holy place. We gather on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to the young Bernadette.
Why are we here? Why should over 25,000 people from military and civil defense corps from all over the world gather here, together with the thousands of other pilgrims from all over the world, so different and yet so similar to ourselves, who come to this shrine?
What is it about this Shrine? How can it bring so many together? How can it impress so many: strong believers, the just plain curious, and even perhaps the cynical; how can it gather the sick and the healthy, the important and those without any pretence of importance. Yet coming here to Lourdes all go away with a unique experience.
Why should each year thousands of young men and women come to Lourdes using their holidays to serve as volunteers to assist the sick, when they could just as well go to the fashionable beach resorts of France and Spain just a few kilometres from here? What is it that is so special about Lourdes?
It is something that is hard to explain. Just as the story of Lourdes has been hard to explain over the period since Bernadette first came to this isolated spot and encountered the Blessed Virgin. The fact that Mary should have appeared here to a poor, barely literate girl is in itself something remarkable. The fact that that encounter should result in something which has had an impact for generations, something that has affected the lives of so many and has brought healing and serenity to the gravely sick and the most distressed is something which begs and explanation..
Lourdes is one of the most visited Shrines in the world, of any faith. Yet the first reaction to Bernadette was of opposition and hostility. Lourdes has flourished over decades in the face of a culture of various generations of hostility and miscomprehension.
The apparitions at Lourdes occurred at a high point in a culture of rationalism, where everything had to have its rational explanation or else it was unreal or unauthentic. Over the years, Lourdes has quietly flourished in the face of other hostile cultures, whether of atheistic Marxism or agnostic materialism. Lourdes still retains its unique character and appeal.
When we look closely, we can see that Lourdes is a place where accepted values are overturned. Lourdes is a place where sickness is looked on with respect. The sick and the handicapped are treated in Lourdes as our most treasured pilgrims. No one in Lourdes is judged on outward appearances. A holy shrine welcomes humble sinners. In a world full of self confidence, those who are troubled, who are anxious are accepted and recognised really as pilgrims, all of us on the same path towards an acceptance of that "joyful hope" to which we are all called.
Lourdes is a shrine of Mary, but Mary is the first to point our hearts and minds towards her son Jesus. Mary in her short conversations with Bernadette indicates to us the path towards her son: the path of repentance and penance, the path of prayer and of the Eucharist.
Lourdes is a place of prayer. Come here to the Grotto at any time of day or night and alongside the large pilgrimages, you will find in quiet corners anonymous pilgrims deep in prayer. Who knows how many persons, young and old, have silently come to this sanctuary to place themselves in prayer before Jesus, a prayer of humility admitting one’s weakness or sinfulness, a prayer of petition seeking something important for our own lives or for the lives of those dear to us, a prayer to be cured, healed and made fully oneself, a rare moment of genuine prayer of worship an adoration, a recognition of the lordship and transcendence of God.
Lourdes rejects dominant cultures and turns them head over heels. It is not the strength of our own forces which triumphs here, but the power of God. Prayer is a unique way of refinding a balance in our values in today’s world. In a world dominated by market values, by power, and by personal attainment, prayer means placing oneself humbly in the presence of a reality that is greater than us and recognising that our lives are in the hand of someone greater than us, and that that someone cares for us and supports us. God is love.
Prayer is that moment in which we rediscover the values of life are not the obvious one of the media or society, but in knowing that there is something more vital and deeper in life. Prayer is not pious conformity, but real revolution in the face of the accepted wisdom that on our own we can do everything. The young person who learns to pray becomes independent of the pressures of our culture. The sick person who learns to pray becomes one who refinds meaning in his or her life and finds that there is a hope that goes beyond outward physical condition.
Prayer is a witness to the total otherness of God. Prayer is the moment in which our faith is expressed in its deepest and most concrete form. It is the moment in which we recognise that the God who is other is a real dimension of our reality, of the reality of my life. Prayer is the moment in which we attempt to make our lives into a concrete response of love to the superabundant love which God shows for us.
Mary is a model for all humanity, also because in being free from original sin, she in a very special way mirrors that original image of God which was the distinctive mark of humankind, before the damaging and disfiguring sin of Adam. Through her obedience to the Word of God, Mary constitutes the beginnings of the restoration of the original harmony which God had desired for his creation, that redemption through Jesus which will free humanity and creation from the effects of original sin.
Mary, in her entire life, mirrored that fidelity of God and remained faithful and attentive to his word in every moment of her life. We see that from the very first mention of her in the Gospel at the Annunciation up to the last mention in the Acts of the Apostles, where we find her gathered with the small community of the early Church, in prayer and in expectation of the Spirit, imploring the gift of the Spirit for the Church. Mary is always presented as being the one who listens to the word of God and puts it into practice, even in the most difficult moments, because she knew that God would always be faithful to his Word.
Here in Lourdes in these days men and women who have responsibility for the defence and protection of peoples come also to see more clearly their mission as service. Mary, in her Magnificat, is the one who teaches us the folly of human arrogance and indicates the power of humility. In that way she offers a pattern of life which can inspire the particular service of those whose mission is fundamentally a mission of peace. The force of arms can prevent conflict and may be needed to prevent conflict. But the arms of peace are fundamentally an overturning of any form of arrogance through an ability to listen, to understand, to mediate, to reconcile.
We remember at this patently holy place all our friends who have paid the highest price, that of their lives in the cause of peace and understanding. We thank them for their sacrifice. We remember their dear ones who remain, saddened and in grief but also proud of what their family member had achieved.
We pray for peace at this Grotto which is a remarkable oasis of peace and we commit ourselves to being more and more, in our hearts, in our families in our professions as true peacemakers, which is the mark of the children of God.
A message to our Archdiocese of Boston brothers and sisters in the military, your families and the chaplains, priests and religious who serve those in the military. As Thanksgiving and the Christmas Season is upon us, I have given much thought to, and have prayed for, our brothers and sisters from the Archdiocese of Boston now serving in the military, overseas and in the United States, their families and to the many priests and religious who serve as military chaplains and serve to attend to the spiritual and religious needs of those in the armed forces.
I encourage everyone in the Archdiocese to be mindful of your circumstances and service and to pray for you each and every day, not just when we read the news online, pick up a newspaper or watch television.
To our brothers and sisters serving in the military: While our country navigates its way through the murky waters of war and international conflict in the name of freedom and peace, we thank you and pray for you each and every day, especially during this time of year when so many of you are away from home and separated from your families.
The heavy burden of ensuring, maintaining and fostering peace and freedom falls on your shoulders here on earth. That indeed is a heavy burden. Your service is often heroic. Throughout the history of our country, we have witnessed the sacrifices of the men and women who protect and serve our nation to ensure that we may enjoy the privilege of freedom, including the religious freedom that brings us hope, strength and personal peace in our lives. We are grateful for your many sacrifices.
We are mindful of those who have given their lives and for those who continue to serve our country so valiantly. We also pray for the many servicemen and servicewomen who have returned home from distant lands after suffering physical or psychological harm. Our chaplains have told me that our present conflict has resulted in a very high number of amputees. May God grant you courage and strength.
Though you may be far from home and even serving in dangerous circumstances, please know that we are with you in mind and spirit. Each Sunday when I visit parishes throughout the Archdiocese I hear petitions for your safety in the Prayers of the Faithful. Know that everyone at home is praying for your speedy and safe return and an end to the conflict. To the families of those who are serving in the military: I can only imagine the feelings of anxiety and stress that you feel while your loved ones are serving our country. It must be particularly difficult for you during the Holidays. Your sacrifice has been immeasurable. We hope that you may take comfort in knowing that our thoughts and prayers are with you, as is our immense gratitude.
Many of our brothers and sisters, your sons, daughters, husbands and wives, have made the ultimate sacrifice on earth and have given their lives while serving our country. To those who have lost a loved one, please know our prayers are with you. Your tears are our tears. Your loss is our loss. While it is never easy to lose someone close to you, we pray that you will find comfort in your faith and in Jesus Christ. As the mass prayers remind us, “Life is changed, not ended.”
To military chaplains and priests and religious who serve to attend to the spiritual and religious needs of our brothers and sisters in the military: We are grateful for your tireless efforts and good work. Thank you for your vocation. In addition, you make the Sacraments present to our soldiers in their greatest moment of need. The kindness, comfort, counsel and support that you provide to those in the military, regardless of their faith or religion, and to their families, is invaluable.
In Boston we are proud of the tradition of our local Church in sending chaplains to the armed forces. We pray that those who are serving now remain strong, for our troops depend on your unique vocation. You and your families have also made great sacrifices, for which we are grateful. We hope that you and your families may also find comfort in our thoughts and prayers, especially during the Holiday Season. Thank you for all that you do.
May God watch over all of our military servicemen and servicewomen from the Archdiocese of Boston, your families, and our military chaplains. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we thank God for you.
I remain devotedly yours in Christ. Seán Cardinal O'Malley, OFM ----------------------------- Article appears courtesy of www.cardinalseansblog.org
Here’s an example. How do most of us think about time? For people raised in Western societies, time isn’t a circle, but a straight line. It’s true that history has familiar patterns that come from human nature, and human nature changes very slowly, if at all, over the centuries. But this pattern is misleading. History never really repeats itself because each human person is unique and unrepeatable, each human person has a free will, and persons make history — not the other way around. The world had a beginning. It will also have an end. Time matters because it’s the limited space between those two bookends. Sooner or later, time will run out — for our individual lives, and for all creation. This understanding of time has deep biblical roots. For Christians, who for 2,000 years have built so much of the civilization on which modern life depends, the center and meaning of history is Jesus Christ. We say things like, 143 B.C. (the year 143 “before Christ”), or A.D. 2006 (“in the year of Our Lord,” 2006) precisely because all human existence hinges on the coming of God’s Son.
As Pope John Paul II reminded us during the Great Jubilee, Christ’s birth is the turning point in the whole story of creation. For Catholics, this is why alternate ways of referring to time — like C.E. (“Common Era”) and B.C.E. (“before the Common Era”) — can never be adequate. They subtly, and almost invisibly, change our understanding of the world. Human beings don’t give meaning to time. God created time. God gives it meaning. His story is the framework for our “history.” We can take part in the meaning of creation by living God’s word, but we don’t invent it by reaching a common consensus.
The Church embodies this truth in her worship. The secular year begins on Jan. 1, but for Catholics, the real new year begins this coming weekend with the First Sunday of Advent. The Church organizes the calendar each year into liturgical seasons — Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ordinary Time — to help us remember and more deeply experience the story of our salvation. Time matters. What we do with it matters eternally, and Advent is a time of preparation. It’s the season when we reflect on humanity’s creation, fall, God’s promise of a savior, and the fulfillment of the Old Testament with Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. It’s also a time to look ahead to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time to judge each of us individually, and all of creation. If our lives need to change to get ready for the King’s arrival, Advent — not Jan. 1 — is the time to begin that work.
In the Gospel for next Sunday, Jesus urges us to “beware that your hearts do not become drowsy” from the pleasures and anxieties of daily life, and “to be vigilant at all times.” So much of modern life tries to place something else — noise, worries, distractions, ambition, appetites, consumer debris — besides Jesus Christ at the center of our thoughts.
But the Son of God is coming, and most of us will meet Him much sooner and much less predictably than we think. The purpose of Advent is to purify our hearts, refocus our lives and turn our eyes to the Christ Child coming at Christmas. That same Child will one day be the Lord coming in power at the end of history. Let’s make this Advent season a new beginning in our lives as disciples. Let’s make these next few weeks before Christmas the truest kind of pilgrimage to the Holy Land — the kind that readies each of our hearts to welcome an infant Redeemer.
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I missed my first snow with my daughters and the building of their first snowman. At the same time, we're here doing our mission to defend the freedom of religion and freedom to celebrate different holidays ....We, in America, only have these freedoms because of what we do over here. As hard as it is being away from home, I couldn't imagine not being here.
-- Captain Englehardt
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