Our Lady of Guadalupe as the mother of all peoples

LOS ANGELES (CINS /CNS) -- Thousands of Catholics from throughout the greater Los Angeles area gathered in East Los Angeles Dec. 2 to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe as the mother of all peoples - from every language, race and culture.

A mile-long procession, the oldest religious procession in the city honoring Mary, led participants to East Los Angeles College Stadium, where Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and the auxiliary bishops of Los Angeles, numerous priests and more than 15,000 of the faithful gathered for Mass.

The theme this year was "Mother Without Borders: Bringing Down the Walls of Injustice." The event was part of a statewide call to action for comprehensive immigration reform by the California Catholic Conference of Bishops.

"The Virgin of Guadalupe is a symbol of hope and compassion for all who are marginalized," said the cardinal. "Today she continues to unite us as a humble people of God in search for understanding, compassion, peace and human dignity for all -- especially for our immigrant brothers and sisters who are being kept in the margins of society by a broken immigration system."

For the procession, which began near La Soledad Church on Cesar Chavez Avenue, scores of churches decorated banners and colorful floats. Aztec dancers and parishioners wore indigenous and multiethnic dress, many bearing images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas.

The annual celebration recalls the miraculous apparitions of the brown-skinned Virgin Mary to St. Juan Diego at Tepeyac, Mexico, in December 1531. She left her image on his "tilma" or cloak.

For 476 years her image has been a symbol of unity, peace, compassion and hope for people around the world.

This year's "Mother Without Borders" theme resonated with immigrant communities living in fear of workplace raids, deportations and family separation.

In his homily, Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala, speaking in English and Spanish, called on all Californians to work toward immigration reform.

"I want to welcome in a special way those of you who are English-speaking, because you understand that Our Lady of Guadalupe -- her message, her love -- is not only for those of Spanish language and culture. But she is the mother of all of us, of every language, every race, every culture," Bishop Zavala said to applause.

"Immigration is today's sword, and it must be turned into a plowshare -- an instrument that prunes away all the injustices and serves to cultivate right relationship among nations and peoples," the bishop continued.

California's Catholic bishops have called "for just and humane immigration reform," he said.

"As those who have faith in Our Lady of Guadalupe I call you to join us today in demanding immigration legislation that allows us to transcend borders and break down the walls of injustice," Bishop Zavala said.

Those walls "view human beings as illegal" and "view undocumented immigrants as criminals, subjecting them to imprisonment and deportation and leaving them without any possibilities of becoming United States citizens," he said.

Among various measures, Bishop Zavala urged immigration legislation that would provide a legal path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants working and living in the United States and would prioritize the reunification of families separated because of mixed immigration status.

Among the thousands of Southern Californians participating in the procession and liturgy was Maria Antonio Rodriguez, a parishioner at St. Anne Church in Santa Monica.

She said she was there to affirm her belief that all people are human beings and no one should suffer discrimination.

"I am praying to Our Lady of Guadalupe, that through her people's hearts may be moved, the ones that are putting up the walls," Rodriguez told The Tidings, newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. "I hope they can change their point of view."

Juan Sanchez, 19, attended with a dozen family members. A parishioner at St. Matthias Church in Huntington Park, Sanchez said he was there to celebrate how Mary brings all people together.

"If everyone believes in her, then there are no borders with her," said the youth.

Dr. Truc Truong, a physician and parishioner at St. John Neumann in Irvine and St. Cecilia in Tustin, donated the thousands of red and peach roses that surrounded the images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego near the altar on the stadium field.

A Vietnamese-American immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1975, Truong has been donating 2,000 roses weekly to be placed at the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Hombre Nuevo, a Catholic multimedia center in El Monte.

"Our Lady of Guadalupe is the mother of every single nation, country and every single one of us," said Truong. "The Son of God and the mother of God -- they are together. You can't separate them. She intervenes for us."

Cardinal Sfeir appeals Lebanon people to take on their responsibility for the good of the country

Beirut, Lebanon, Nov.19,2007 (CINS/AsiaNews) – The crucial week, the last chance to “rule” on the election of the new President of the Republic, given that the current post of Emile Lahoud empire on November 24th, opened with an affirmation by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who says he has “little hope” that the issue will be resolved. Parliament has been convened for the day before.

Kouchner’s pessimism, cancelling his earlier optimism, finds its source in what the daily An Nahar called “crossed vetoes” which greeted Maronite Patrriach, Nasrallah Sfeir’s list of “consensus” candidates. The political parties had explicitly asked for the Cardinal ’s intervention, with an aim to ”unblock a dramatic situation”, as described by the Patriarch himself.  Yesterday during mass, card. Sfeir launched a fresh appeal to all those responsible, to “take on their responsibility for the good of the country above all in this most crucial moment”.

The presidential deadline is involving International diplomacy: at the end of the UN secretary Genral Ban Ki-moon’s visit, yesterday Kouchner returned to Lebanon, today Arab League Amr Moussa is due to arrive while Italy and Spain’s’ foreign ministers Massimo D’Alema and Miguel Angel Moratinos are also on their way.

But what is filling the press and conversation in Beirut, are the vetoes.  In substance the opposition led by Hezbollah is said to have excluded the names of Butros Harb, Nassib Lahoud, Robert Ghanem and Michel Khoury, while they would accept Michel Edde and central bank governor, Riad Salameh. For its part the ruling majority would ban Michel Edde. No “no” has surrounded the name of the opposition’s main candidate Michel Aoun, who in a recent interview with Hezbollah TV Al Manar said he refused the “idea of having his name included in a list which contains those of candidates without a popular following and who have had no parliamentary mandate”.  Against this imposition the name of the Army Chief of Staff is being circulated, Michel Suleiman, however he is not on the list.

Those who officially received the list - Saad Hariri, Chief of the Parliamentary majority “March 14” and  Nabih Berr, Parliamentary Speaker, and chief of op position Amal,– are meanwhile discussing the list with their respective factions, in search of a difficult solution.

Annual International Congress: Pastoral care in the cure of sick elderly people

Vatican City, Nov.14,2007 (CINS/VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office at midday today, the presentation took place of the annual international congress organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, which has as its theme this year: "Pastoral care in the cure of sick elderly people." The congress will be held in the Vatican on November 15, 16 and 17.

  Participating in today's press conference were Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, Bishop Jose Luis Redrado O.H. and Fr. Felice Ruffini M.I., respectively president, secretary and under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care; Roberto Bernabei, director of the Department of Geronotological, Geriatric and Physical Sciences at Rome's Sacred Heart University; and Massimo Petrini, director of the Center for the Promotion and Development of Geriatric Assistance at the same university.

  "In the world today," said Cardinal Barragan, "there are 390 million people over the age of 65 and it is expected their numbers will increase to 800 million by the year 2025. Five hundred million people live in countries with a life expectancy that exceeds 60, while 50 million people live in countries where the expectancy does not exceed 45. Sierra Leone in Africa, for example, has an expectancy of 39 years."

  Faced with statistics such as these, said the cardinal, "we asked ourselves how can we offer better pastoral assistance to these people, given the great importance of life in its final stages?"

  During the forthcoming conference, said the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, experts from 20 countries will analyze the demographic situation, and the main illnesses, both old and new, in the context of globalization, as well as the origins of such illnesses from an individual, technological, scientific, socio-political and ecological viewpoint.

  Another aspect due to be studied, said Cardinal Lozano, is care for the sick in the light of Sacred Scripture, of the writings of the Church Fathers and of the history of the Church.

  The conference will also include reflections on this form of pastoral care from the standpoints of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and of contemporary post-modern culture.

  Participants will also debate the steps that must be taken in the pastoral care of sick elderly people from the religious (catechesis, education in the faith, Sacraments) and biomedical (research, drugs, nutrition, lifestyle) perspectives. In socio-political terms, they will consider how to tackle this theme through the mass media, and examine national and international healthcare systems, economic, scientific and technological resources, nutritional policies and public health.

  Finally, Cardinal Lozano indicated that the question will also be considered from the point of view of families and the attitude they should assume towards their sick and elderly members, with particular emphasis on the spiritual attention that must be offered to them especially through the Sacraments, prayer and visits.

Bishop Giorgio: The somalia people can take no more

Mogadishu,Somalia, Nov.14,2007 (CINS/Fides) - “Dramatic news continues to arrive from Mogadishu. Fighting persists and the people cannot take any more. This is a rebellion to every effect” said Bishop Giorgio Bertin, Bishop of Djibouti and Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, where transition government troops backed by Ethiopian soldiers have been fighting anti-government militia for several days. The people are leaving the city en masse, according to the United Nations Organisation some 24,000 have already left the capital. Mogadishu is without water, food, medicine, or electricity. The people in flight have no assistance and they sleep on the edge of the roads along which they are moving to find shelter and safety.

“I am in contact with the Caritas dispensary at Baidoa which assists the local people and those arriving from Mogadishu. The latter speak of fighting in which most of the victims are civilians”. Bishop Bertin told Fides, adding that the number of homeless has doubled in a few months. “In Somalia there were 400,000 displaced person, but since March the another 400,000 have been displaced bringing the total number to 800,000”.

The Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu says “at moment it is difficult to see a solution. After 15 peace conferences, the last one in Mogadishu in August, Somalia's political leaders have still not reached an agreement for a stable and lasting peace. I wonder if the Somali diaspora, about one million people, has anything new to suggest”.

The tragedy of Somalia must be seen in the regional and international context. Fresh tension between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Sudanese question, rivalry among foreign powers to control new oil fields and oil routes, are all elements which affect the Somali actors directly or indirectly. “I would say the crisis is an arch over Sudan and Somalia” said Bishop Bertin in answer to a question put by Fides. “The different crises in west Africa have at least two elements in common: on the one hand spreading extremism which exploits religion irresponsibly for its own political ends, and on the other various foreign powers fighting for control of local resources”.

In his latest recent report on Somalia, UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said at the moment the conditions for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in the country do not exist

Church People in India see communist game in news about 'Criminal' Priests

Kerala, India, Nov.01,1007 (CINS/UCAN) -- Media in Kerala have published a list of 63 "criminal" Christian priests, something Church people see as political scheming by the state's communist government.

In mid-October, television channels and newspapers in the southern Indian state carried the news that 63 priests face criminal charges including murder, attempted murder and immoral trafficking. The accusations also include sexual harassment, fraud and financial mismanagement. The clerics belong to a wide range of Christian denominations, but 83 percent are Catholic.

The police released the list of cases registered across the state to journalist Anil Kumar. The TV journalist told UCA News he applied for the information "out of curiosity," and when the police released it he used it as a story. "It was very interesting," he remarked.

But the story is not that simple, says Charlie Paul, a High Court lawyer and former president of the Kerala unit of the Christian Life Community. He dubs it a media-sponsored campaign against the Church and its clergy.

"It's a planned attack against the Church through blackmailing," Paul told UCA News. The "vicious campaigns" will not impact the laity, much "as they can see through its motives," he added.

Christian groups and communist organizations have been at loggerheads in Kerala since a Marxist-led coalition government headed came to power in July 2006. Church people say the government's policies try to curtail minority rights and take over Christian institutions.

Paul points out the published list "shows a double standard" by mentioning only Christian priests. "What about Hindu priests and Muslim clerics?" he asked.

Father Paul Thelakat, spokesperson for the Syro-Malabar Church observed the priests on the list have only been accused of wrongdoing, and their alleged crimes have not been proved in any court of law.

Kerala, a Christian stronghold in India, has more than 16,000 priests. "Only 63 cases are leveled against them," Father Thelakat pointed out, adding that "anybody can accuse a priest and file a case." He lamented that accusers misuse legal provisions to humiliate or blackmail priests.

Like Paul, Father Thelakat maintained that news reports on such matters do not threaten people's faith, because they recognize the "triviality" of the cases. His Church is one of the two Oriental Catholic Churches based in Kerala. They and the Latin-rite Church form the Indian Catholic Church.

Father Ronald M. Varghese of Punalur Latin diocese agreed, citing his own case. He said a group in his diocese filed a police complaint against him after he would not yield to pressure tactics.

"I could prove my innocence because the police investigation was fair, but on many occasions police victimize priests under political influence," he added.

Father Varghese termed it "very unfortunate" that people file complaints against priests "when their selfish interests are not served." In most cases, he noted, it is Christians who go to the police against priests.

Apostolic Carmel Sister Geralda finds such news items "disturbing" and painful. "I don't believe all the cases registered are real. Some may be politically motivated. But if one priest is involved in a crime, it bothers me," she told UCA News.

The local superior lives in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram, 2,815 kilometers south of New Delhi.

Syed Ibrahim, a Muslim computer professional who studied in a Church-managed school, does not believe "all priests figured in the list are criminals" and finds it disturbing when media project Christian priests "in a poor light."

The recent focus on alleged priest criminals pained him "as I have high regard for priests and nuns -- they stand for selfless service to humanity." Such news items will destroy the "harmony and respect" people have for religious leaders, he warned.

"We are in the habit of destroying our rich traditions for our personal interests. I think the campaign is the latest in that series. We must give respect and take respect," Ibrahim said.

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