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WCR This Week

Homeless Iraqi Christians face uncertain future

Abu and Um Sabah

November 17, 2014
DALE GAVLAK
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

The last thing Abu Sabah ever pictured in his life was being homeless and living in a tent in a park somewhere. But that is exactly what he and his family are experiencing in Ainkawa, a Christian enclave outside of Irbil, the capital of the Kurdistan area of northern Iraq. Sabah, a Syriac Catholic from the predominately Christian town of Qaraqosh, a 45-minute drive away, had a good job, a big house, a car and was surrounded by a strong family community until Islamic State militants swept through the town Aug. 6, turning their world upside down.

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Natural environment honours the divine mystery, says cleric

Archdeacon John Chryssagis

November 17, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

We must stop polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink, and restore a sense of awe and delight in our relationship to the world, says Father John Chryssaygis. Speaking about the environment, Chryssaygis said people must respond to nature with the same delicacy, the same sensitivity and the same tenderness with which they respond to another human being. "Do we honestly believe that our endless and mindless manipulation of our planet and the earth's resources somehow will come without consequences?" asked the archdeacon, who is a theological advisor on environmental issues to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

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Historian takes hard look at Budka's accomplishments

Bishop Nykyta Budka

November 17, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Bishop Nykyta Budka dedicated much of his life to preserving the faith of Ukrainian Catholics in Canada. But because of his personal failings, he was often seen as a negative force in Canadian history. However, Vatican-based author and researcher Rev. Dr. Athanasius McVay sees him as an important figure in Ukrainian, Canadian and Catholic history. In fact, he says, Budka's story can be described as a life of obedience, work, and love of the Lord and God's pilgrim people. McVay is the author of the new biography God's Martyr, History's Witness: Blessed Nykyta Budka the First Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Bishop of Canada. It is the most complete book on Budka and was commissioned by Canada's Ukrainian bishops in commemoration of Budka's arrival in Canada in December 1912. After Budka was beatified in 2001, the bishops realized they needed a complete biography of the man.

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Christians beaten to death in Pakistan

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November 17, 2014
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Catholic leaders in Pakistan have protested the Nov. 4 beatings and burning of a young Christian couple accused of desecrating the Quran. "The government has absolutely failed to protect its citizens' right to life," said the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Pakistan in a statement Nov. 5. Condemning the brutal killing of Shahzad Masih, 28, and his pregnant wife, Shama Bibi, 24, the NCJP said the killing of the couple at the hands of a mob was based on a "false accusation of blasphemy."

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Prince of Wales denounces religious persecution

November 17, 2014
SIMON CALDWELL
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

The heir to the British throne has spoken out against the persecution of Christians in the Middle East as well as in Great Britain. Prince Charles said in a video message released Nov. 4 that it was an "indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East," especially as the Christians and Muslims had lived together peaceably for centuries. The message coincided with the presentation in the British Parliament of the 2014 Religious Freedom Report by the United Kingdom branch of Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity helping persecuted Christians around the world.

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Smart as a fox?

Pope Francis

November 17, 2014
FRANCIS ROCCA
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Since the end of the Oct. 5-19 Synod of Bishops on the family, news outlets have portrayed the outcome as a "setback" or "loss" for Pope Francis – even a "rebuke" to him. Journalists have pointed to the absence, in the synod's final report, of an earlier version's strikingly conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to Catholic teaching, including those in same-sex unions and other non-marital relationships. Commentators have also noted the relatively low support, as measured by bishops' votes on the final document's relevant sections, for continued discussion of whether to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

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Aboriginal elders discuss indigenous Church

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November 17, 2014
PRAIRIE MESSENGER

SASKATOON – A group of about 40 Catholic elders recently gathered at Queen's House of Retreats for a dialogue to explore avenues leading to a more indigenous church. This dialogue was held under the auspices of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs of the Western Bishops. It is an initiative of the bishops' Building Bridges Project headed by Sister Eva Solomon, an Anishinabe from Winnipeg.

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Winter settles in on displaced Iraqis

November 17, 2014
DALE GAVLAK
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Sister Habiba's kindly face is etched with sadness as she surveys the muddy field in Ainkawa, Iraq, where dozens of tents sheltering displaced Iraqi Christians once stood. Cold, punishing rains and blustery wind swept through the encampment Oct. 20, earlier than expected for winter, crashing down the tents in the dead of night. Shoes, slippers and toys were strewn about, stuck in the muddy mess, signaling the mad dash for safety.

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'Flying Dutchman' had passion for liturgy, history

Br. Donatus Vervoort (2005)

November 17, 2014
LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Smiles filled his voice as Father Shayne Craig chuckled, "I used to call him the Flying Dutchman because he was all over the place." The man he was referring to was Brother Donatus Vervoort who died Oct. 28 at 83 years of age. For decades, Donatus' lively passion for liturgical music and Church history enriched students at Newman Theological College and St. Joseph's College at the University of Alberta. Added to that was a love for gardening, which provided tonnes of food for the hungry over the years. But what local Catholics will most remember about "the Flying Dutchman" was his awesome levels of energy and generosity.

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Spirited seniors gather at basilica to strengthen faith

St. Joseph's Basilica-logo-small

November 17, 2014
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Elderly parishioners of St. Joseph's Basilica are gathering to socialize, strengthen their Catholic beliefs and receive spiritual guidance. Catherine Ryan and other parish seniors determined that less mobile or physically challenged seniors cannot always get out as often as they would like. "Wintertime in the city, they slide down sidewalks and maybe even not drive, so although they have Communion taken to them, they love to get to Mass. So we thought once a month, a spiritual experience such as this would be welcomed," said Ryan.

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Shakespeare closet Catholic amidst persecution

November 17, 2014
JONATHAN LUXMOORE
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Inside the recently refurbished Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, a massed audience, banked on three floors, gazes attentively out over a wide, brightly lit stage. "Necessity will make us all forsworn. Three thousand times within this three years' space; for every man with his affects is born, not by might master'd, but by special grace," recited the actor playing Berowne in Love's Labour's Lost.

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Monk unites painting and theology

November 17, 2014
MICHAEL SWAN
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

If you get up close, within centimetres of Brother Emmaus O'Herlihy's monumental painting of Christ the King, you may see a tear descending from Jesus' left eye. Or you might not. O'Herlihy didn't paint a tear; it's just that some people see one. In early October only a few had seen the completed painting, which will hang eventually at King's University College at Western University in London, Ont. Even before he was finished, one of the other artists sharing the studio space noticed the tear.

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Tagle: Family poverty remains central concern for synod fathers

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle

November 17, 2014
SIMONE ORENDAIN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The impact of poverty on families, especially in Asia, was a major concern of participants at the recent world Synod of Bishops, says Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila. "Poverty is really affecting the Filipino family in a dramatic way," Tagle told reporters at an Oct. 30 news conference. Despite heavy emphasis on divorce and gay unions in media coverage of the event, the synod was more than a series of discussions on those issues, the cardinal said.

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Survivors need consolation

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November 17, 2014
LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Someone dies. What do we say when we meet their relative, their friend, their family? Too painful, right? Maybe we will blurt out something inane or insensitive. Yet this is the very time the grieving person needs words and/or actions of comfort. Father Leo Hofmann is sensitive to what not to say when someone has died, such as "God only takes the good ones." Or if a child dies, one shouldn't tell the parents, "'Oh, you are young. You can have another.' That is the most unfortunate thing. It's not like a litter of puppies.

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Giving to charity through one's estate leaves a testament

Carla Smiley

November 17, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

As disciples of Jesus, Catholics are stewards, not owners, of what God has entrusted to them. "In fact we are accountable to God for what we receive and how we used it to serve others," explains Carla Smiley, coordinator of planned giving for the Edmonton Archdiocese. At the end of our lives, "we are to give whatever gifts we received back to God with increase." One way to be a good steward is to leave money to charity in your will, says Smiley, noting that Catholic charities rely primarily on Catholics for funding.

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Outspoken U.S. cardinal shuffled out of key post

Cardinal Raymond Burke

November 17, 2014
FRANCIS ROCCA
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis removed U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, 66, as head of the Vatican's highest court and named him to a largely ceremonial post for a chivalric religious order. Burke, formerly prefect of the Apostolic Signature, will now serve as cardinal patron of the Knights and Dames of Malta, the Vatican announced Nov. 8. The move had been widely expected since an Italian journalist reported it in September, and the cardinal himself confirmed it to reporters the following month.

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Ukraine election solid step toward reform, democracy

November 17, 2014
CINDY WOODEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

VATICAN CITY – With international observers reporting largely free and fair parliamentary elections in Ukraine, hopes increased that promised reforms would follow, including an end to high levels of government corruption. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which sent hundreds of observers for the Oct. 26 election, said the voting "marked an important step in consolidating democratic elections." Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, the Vatican's nuncio to Ukraine, said Oct. 29 the international observers' positive assessment of the election "gives reason for rejoicing in another step forward in the democratic process." "Despite the hesitation of many to go and vote, given all the disillusionment of even the recent past, I would have to see the results at the polls as an affirmation on the part of the country to set a course for rule by law and democracy," Gullickson said in an email.

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West end francophone parish is no more

November 17, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Members of Edmonton's Paroisse Sainte Anne are grieving the recent closure of their parish. "Even though we knew it was coming, we didn't feel good at all when the announcement was made," recalls Pauline Lambert, a parishioner for 50 years. "We lost our church, our name and our family." After almost 62 years of serving francophone Catholics in the city's west end, Paroisse Sainte Anne closed Oct. 1. For the last two years, after it lost its last worshipping space, about 30 families from Ste. Anne have been travelling downtown for Mass with parishioners at St. Joachim Parish. Despite sharing one building, the parishes kept separate operations.

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Nigeria must halt Islamic militants, says archbishop

November 17, 2014
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – The president of the Nigerian bishops' conference said his country's government could defeat the Boko Haram Islamist militant group if it could muster the same political will it found to fight Ebola. In a Nov. 6 talk at the Church of Holy Name in Manchester, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria, suggested the government could end the group's attacks on Christians and civilians if it wanted to. "Since the Nigerian government is successfully fighting the Ebola disease, it can equally, fight the religious fundamentalism which threatens the very soul of Nigeria," he said.

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Canadian bishops celebrate ecumenical landmark

Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras

November 17, 2014
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism, Canada's bishops have issued A Church in Dialogue: Towards the restoration of unity among Christians. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' (CCCB) Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews, and Interfaith Dialogue prepared the 28-page document available at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' website. The Decree on Ecumenism was approved at Vatican II on Nov.21, 1964.

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Quebec Catholic schools died from loss of identity

Spencer Boudreau

November 17, 2014
EVAN BOUDREAU
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

Ontario supporters of Catholic education should heed the lesson of Quebec before it's too late, said a former education professor and ombudsman at McGill University in Montreal. Spencer Boudreau said one reason for the collapse of Quebec's publicly funded Catholic education system in the 1990s was that Catholic schools "lost their identity." Speaking to about 150 Catholic educators at an Oct. 20 event at Msgr. Percy Johnson High School in Toronto, Boudreau said the loss of identity was due to the advent of an increasingly secularized society coupled with a push by Catholic schools to become overly accommodating.

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Cemeteries are a place of evangelization

November 17, 2014
BETH GRIFFIN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Beyond their traditional roles as predictably quiet and often-beautiful places, "cemeteries have a huge opportunity to evangelize and a responsibility to stand for what the Church represents," said New Jersey Catholic cemeteries director. People who come to a committal service in a cemetery may be encountering Catholic funeral tradition for the first time, or for the first time in many years, said Andrew Schafer, executive director for Archdiocese of Newark Catholic Cemeteries. A positive experience might encourage them to return when they need to arrange a burial, Schafer said.

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