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October 23, 2017
Archive of August 11, 2017

Is it weird that Catholics venerate relics? Here's why we do

Houston, Texas, Aug 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - “We are many parts, but we are all one body,” says the refrain of a popular '80s Church hymn, based on the words of 1 Cor. 12:12. 

While we are one body in Christ, if you happen to be a Catholic saint, the many parts of your own body might be spread out all over the world. 

Take, for example, St. Catherine of Siena.  

A young and renowned third-order Dominican during the Middle Ages, she led an intense life of prayer and penance and is said to have single-handedly ended the Avignon exile of the successors of Peter in the 14th century.

When she died in Rome, her hometown of Siena, Italy, wanted her body. Realizing they would probably get caught if they took her whole corpse, the Siena thieves decided that it would be safer if they just took her head. 

When they were stopped on their way out by guards outside of Rome, they said a quick prayer, asking for St. Catherine of Siena’s intercession. The guards opened the bag and did not find the dead head of St. Catherine, but a bag full of rose petals. Once the thieves were back in Siena, Catherine’s head re-materialized, one of the many miracles attributed to the saint. 

The head of St. Catherine of Siena was placed in a reliquary in the Basilica of St. Dominic in Siena, where it can still be venerated today, along with her thumb. Her body remains in Rome, her foot is venerated in Venice. 

From the Shroud of Turin, or the finger of St. Thomas, to the miraculous blood of St. Januarius, or the brain of St. John Bosco, the Catholic Church keeps and venerates many curious but nevertheless holy artifacts, known as relics, from Jesus and the saints. 

To the outsider, the tradition of venerating relics (particularly of the corporeal persuasion) may seem like an outlandishly morbid practice. 

But the roots of the tradition pre-date Jesus, and the practice is based in Scripture and centuries of Church teaching. 

While it’s one of the most fascinating traditions of the Church, it can also be one of the most misunderstood. 

Father Carlos Martins, CC, is a Custos Reliquiarum, which is an ecclesiastically appointed Curate of Relics with the authority to issue relics. 

He is a member of Companions of the Cross, and the head of Treasures of the Church, a ministry that aims to give people an experience of the living God through an encounter with the relics of his saints in the form of an exposition. The ministry brings expositions of various relics throughout North America by invitation. 

In the following interview with CNA, Fr. Martins answers questions and dispels some common misunderstandings about the tradition of relics. 

First of all, what is a relic? 

Relics are physical objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Our Lord. They are usually broken down into three classes: 

First class relics are the body or fragments of the body of a saint, such as pieces of bone or flesh.

Second class relics are something that a saint personally owned, such as a shirt or book (or fragments of those items). 

Third class relics are those items that a saint touched or that have been touched to a first, second, or another third class relic of a saint.

The word relic means “a fragment” or “remnant of a thing that once was by now is no longer.” Thus, we find in antique shops “Civil War relics” or “Relics of the French Revolution.” Obviously, we are not talking about these kinds of relics but rather sacred relics.

Where did the Catholic tradition of venerating saints’ relics come from? 

Scripture teaches that God acts through relics, especially in terms of healing. In fact, when surveying what Scripture has to say about sacred relics, one is left with the idea that healing is what relics “do.” 

When the corpse of a man was touched to the bones of the prophet Elisha the man came back to life and rose to his feet (2 Kings 13:20-21).

 A woman was healed of her hemorrhage simply by touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak (Matthew 9:20-22).

The signs and wonders worked by the Apostles were so great that people would line the streets with the sick so that when Peter walked by at least his shadow might ‘touch’ them (Acts 5:12-15).

When handkerchiefs or aprons that had been touched to Paul were applied to the sick, the people were healed and evil spirits were driven out of them (Acts 19:11-12).

In each of these instances God has brought about a healing using a material object. The vehicle for the healing was the touching of that object. It is very important to note, however, that the cause of the healing is God; the relics are a means through which He acts. In other words, relics are not magic. They do not contain a power that is their own; a power separate from God.  

Any good that comes about through a relic is God’s doing. But the fact that God chooses to use the relics of saints to work healing and miracles tells us that He wants to draw our attention to the saints as “models and intercessors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 828).

When did the veneration of relics begin?

It was present from the earliest days of Christianity, during the Apostolic age itself. The following is an account written by the Church in Smyrna (modern day Izmir, Turkey) when its bishop, St. Polycarp was burned alive:

“We adore Christ, because He is the Son of God, but the martyrs we love as disciples and imitators of the Lord. So we buried in a becoming place Polycarp’s remains, which are more precious to us than the costliest diamonds, and which we esteem more highly than gold.” 
(Acts of St. Polycarp, composed approx. 156 AD)

Polycarp was a significant figure. He was converted by John the Apostle, who had baptized him and subsequently ordained him a bishop. Thus we see that from its outset the Church practiced devotion to the remains of the martyrs. 

What is the spiritual significance of relics? 

I think that St. Jerome puts it best when he said:
    
“We do not worship relics, we do not adore them, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the creator. But we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are.” (Ad Riparium, i, P.L., XXII, 907).

We venerate relics only for the sake of worshipping God.  

When we collect relics from the body of a saint, what part of the body do we use? 

Any part of the saint’s body is sacred and can be placed in a reliquary. Any and every bone may be used. In addition, flesh, hair, and sometimes blood, are also used. Sometimes everything from the tomb is dispersed from it. Sometimes a tomb is preserved.

At what point in the canonization process are items or body parts considered official relics by the Church? 

Before the beatification takes place, there is a formal rite whereby the relics are identified and moved (the official word is “translated”) into a church, a chapel, or an oratory. Put simply, the grave is exhumed and the mortal remains are retrieved.

Only the Church has the juridical power to formally recognize the sanctity of an individual. When the Church does this – through beatification and canonization – their relics receive the canonical recognition as being sacred relics. 

There is an importance difference between beatification and canonization.  Beatification is the declaration by the Church that there is strong evidence that the person in question is among the blessed in heaven. Nevertheless, beatification permits only local devotion. That is, devotion in the country in which the individual lived and died. When Mother Teresa was beatified, for instance, only in India and in her native Albania was her devotion permitted. Her Mass could not be celebrated, for example, in the United States, nor could her relics be placed within its altars.

Whereas beatification permits local devotion, canonization, on the other hand, mandates universal devotion. It grants to the canonized individual the rights of devotion throughout the universal Church.

The Church allows saints’ body parts to be scattered for relics, but forbids the scattering of ashes of the deceased who are cremated. Why is that? 

Every person has a right to a burial. This means that the community has a duty to bury the dead.  

Every human society and culture throughout time has felt this duty. The dead have always been buried, and archaeology has never discovered a human community that did not practice this.  One could rightly say, therefore, that burying the dead forms part of our human cultural DNA. 

The theological term for this instinct natural law. Nature has imprinted a law within the human heart that manifests itself in the practice of burying the dead as a final act of love and devotion, or at least an act of respect and propriety.  

It should be no surprise, then, that the Church lists as one of the corporal works of mercy burying the dead. Grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.

There is flexibility in the kind of burial. Remains may be buried in the ground, in the sea, or above ground within, for example, a cave or columbarium. The point is that a burial occurs within a single place, such that it can be said that the person “occupies” the place as a final location of rest. The human heart longs for this. We see people arriving at graves and speaking to the grave as if they were speaking to the deceased. And they do so differently than they might speak to the dead at home. At the grave, they speak to the dead as if they are in a place.  

For this reason, among others, the Church has always taught not only that it is completely beneath the dignity of human body to have its remains “scattered,” but also completely beneath basic human sensibilities. People need a place to encounter and meet the dead in their physicality.  

Nevertheless, the saints, as members of the body of Christ, have a right to have their remains venerated. And this right, flowing from their dignity as members of the Body of Christ, supersedes their right to have their remains remain in burial.   

What is the proper way to keep relics? Are lay Catholics allowed to have first class relics in their homes? 

Relics are very precious. They are not something that was alive at one time and is now dead. In the case of first class relics, we are talking about flesh that is awaiting the general resurrection, where the soul of a saint will be reunited with his physical remains.

As such, the way we treat relics is of the utmost importance. Ideally, relics should be kept in a Church or chapel where they can be made available for public veneration. 

The highest honor the Church can give to a relic is to place it within an altar, where the Mass may be celebrated over it. This practice dates from the earliest centuries of the Church. In fact, the sepulchers of the martyrs were the most prized altars for the liturgy.  

As an alternative to encasing them within altars, they may be installed within a devotional niche where people may venerate them. Such shrines are important as they afford people a deeper experience of intimacy with the saint.

The Church does not forbid the possession of relics by lay persons. They may even keep them in their homes. However, because of the many abuses that have been committed concerning relics, the Church will no longer issue relics to individuals – not even to clergy.  

These abuses included failing to give them proper devotion (neglect), careless mistreatment of them, discarding them, and in some cases, even selling them. The abuses were not necessarily committed by the person to whom the Church had originally bequeathed the relics. But when such persons became deceased, and the relics were passed on by inheritance, they were often subject to great vulnerability. With the eclipse of the Christian culture in the western world, faith can no longer be taken for granted, even among the children of the most devout people.

Thus, to protect relics, the Church only issues them to Churches, chapels, and oratories.

How important is the authenticity of the relic? How does the Church go about determining authenticity of very old relics from the beginning of the Church? 

The authenticity is critically important.

But for the ancient saints, determining identity is much easier than you might think.  It was tradition to build a church over top of a saint’s grave. That is why St. Peter's Basilica is where it is, or why St. Paul Outside the Walls is there. Both encompass the tomb for the saint, which is located directly beneath the altar.

Modern archaeology has only affirmed what the ancient tradition has believed.
 

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Aleppo's Melkite archbishop looks to rebuild city from the ashes

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - After the Syrian city of Aleppo lost over half its Christian population during the conflict among government forces and various rebel groups, its Melkite archbishop is determined to rebuild from the ashes.
 

“Dear friends, I am determined now, more than ever – and like I have never done before – to apply myself and to act in order to restore the Christian prestige of our ancestral city, Aleppo, pearl of the East and the West, cradle of the civilizations and Christianity, the birthplace of cultures,” Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo said at the Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention Aug. 2.

“I am determined more than ever to stand by our young people in that devastated place to help them rebuild what was destroyed and recover what was lost,” he said.

Archbishop Jeanbart addressed Knights from all over the world at the organization’s 135th Supreme Convention in St. Louis. The see of his archdiocese has been decimated in the more than six year-long Syrian civil war, culminating in the final push of pro-government forces to take back the city from rebel forces, which they successfully did in December.

However, the conflict resulted in horrific civilian casualties, with reports of atrocities like the bombing of hospitals and chemical gas attacks. Over half the Christians have left Aleppo because of the fighting, Archbishop Jeanbart said, and he expects only around one-quarter of those to return.

Civilians who remained in the city were at risk of starvation, and a UN humanitarian convoy was bombed by pro-government aircraft in September in the Aleppo area. Rebel groups also reportedly hid stockpiles of food while other civilians suffered from want of food.

“The game of the nations in that part of the world and the tough confrontations of many powerful countries, induced us in a terrible turmoil and has transformed our peaceful region into a battlefield, where mercy and pity have nothing to offer at all,” Archbishop Jeanbart said.

“When you go to my place and look around, you do not see but demolitions, human tragedies, tears and sorrow.”

The Syrian government has gained hold of around 75 percent of the country, the archbishop told CNA in an interview after his address. Large cities like Aleppo have been “freed” from infiltration of terror groups like the Islamic State, a relief to Christians who were targeted by Islamic State for genocide.

On May 13, the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Aleppo was consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima in a Mass said in St. Francis of Assisi Roman Rite Cathedral, concelebrated by bishops and priests of the city.

After the conflict ends and Syria is rebuilt, Christians must be considered full citizens and entitled to all the rights that are entailed therein, the archbishop said.

“What we want is to be considered as citizens, that we may have all the rights, give us what all the human rights give us,” he said. “We want to have full citizenship, with all the duties, but also all the rights.”

The fundamentalism and fanaticism that could threaten this freedom of religion must be extinguished, he said in his address to the Knights. Good education for the youth and the rebuilding of homes and hospitals must also be accomplished to ensure a sound future for Syria, he said.

More than 330,000 have perished in the Syrian civil war, 5 million refugees have fled the country, and over 6 million are displaced within the country. In addition, more than 4million people are in “besieged or hard to reach areas,” the UN has reported.

Yet amid the death and destruction in Aleppo, Archbishop Jeanbart still has hope for the rebuilding of Syria.

“Yes I think that it will be possible if we say ‘No’ to despair, to nonchalance and indifference,” he said.

“Many reasons permit us to say that we have great hope and that success is possible. We have proven in the past that we are determined citizens and capable workers and in these last years we have shown that we are able to surmount obstacles and face adversity with courage.”

In addition, past examples of groups like the Knights of Columbus coming to the aid of the Syrian people give hope that the country can be rebuilt, he said. The “Build to Stay” project has already produced good results, he said, and 580 apartments have been restored and over 100 long-term interest-free loans have been issued for men to start small businesses.

“This has given comfort to many faithful, employment to some hundred people and a new sense of confidence to a good number of Christians living in the city,” he said.

The archbishop has also publicized the motto “Aleppo is waiting for you,” for Christians who have left and are weighing return.

For those who have inquired about returning, “if this trend continues and gets stronger, we can hope that the bloodletting – and the exodus of so many Christians – that has been threatening us can stop, so that we can help people live in their beloved country,” he said.

“We will continue to work hard on this, with the help of God and the support of those like the Knights of Columbus who wish us well and want us to  stay where we are, were we belong, where the long history of the Church began!”

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German nun renowned for treating lepers in Pakistan dies at 87

Karachi, Pakistan, Aug 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Sr. Ruth Pfau, a German-born Catholic missionary who devoted her life to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan, died Thursday at the age of 87.

A few days prior, she had been hospitalized in Karachi due to complications related to old age.

Pakistani leaders mourned the Aug. 10 loss of the doctor and religious sister, and praised her contributions in fighting the disfiguring disease that usually leads to the ostracization of its victims.

"Pfau may have been born in Germany, her heart was always in Pakistan," Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said in a statement.  

Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussein said Sr. Ruth’s dedication to ending leprosy in Pakistan “cannot be forgotten. She left her homeland and made Pakistan her home to serve humanity. Pakistani nation salutes Dr. Pfau and her great tradition to serve humanity will be continued.”

Harald Meyer-Porzky from the Ruth Pfau Foundation in Würzburg said Sr. Pfau had "given hundreds of thousands of people a life of dignity".

Sr. Pfau was born in Leipzig in 1929, but her childhood home was destroyed by bombing during World War II. After the war, her family escaped the communist regime in East Germany and moved to West Germany, where Sr. Pfau studied medicine.

After joining the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, Sr. Pfau was sent to India to join a mission in 1960. On her way there, she was held up due to visa issues for some time in Karachi, where she first encountered leprosy, an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms, legs, and skin areas around the body.

In 1961, Sr. Pfau travelled to India where she was trained in the treatment and management of leprosy. Afterwards, she returned to Karachi to organize and expand the Leprosy Control Program.   She founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan's first hospital dedicated to treating the disease, which today has 157 branches across the country.

"Well if it doesn't hit you the first time, I don't think it will ever hit you," she told the BBC in 2010 about her first encounter with leprosy.

"Actually the first patient who really made me decide was a young Pathan. He crawled on hands and feet into this dispensary, acting as if this was quite normal, as if someone has to crawl there through that slime and dirt on hands and feet, like a dog."

"The most important thing is that we give them their dignity back," she told the BBC at the time.

She was also known for rescuing children with leprosy, who had been banished to caves and cattle pens for years by their parents, who were afraid of contracting the disease themselves.

Sr. Pfau trained numerous doctors in the treatment of leprosy, and in 1996 the World Health Organization declared that leprosy had been controlled in the country. Last year, the number of patients under treatment for leprosy in Pakistan fell to 531, down from 19,398 in the 1980s, according to the Karachi daily Dawn.

"It was due to her endless struggle that Pakistan defeated leprosy," the German Consulate Karachi posted on Facebook after learning of Sr. Pfau’s death.

The nun won many honors and awards for her work, both from Pakistan and Germany. In 1979, the Pakistani government appointed her Federal Advisor on Leprosy to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

The Pakistani government also honored her with the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, one of the highest awards available to citizens, in 1979, and the Hilal-e-Pakistan in 1989. She was granted Pakistani citizenship in 1988. In 2002 she won the Ramon Magsaysay Award, regarded as Asia’s Nobel prize.

She also authored several books about her experiences, including To Light A Candle, which has been translated into English. Another book by Sr. Pfau, titled The Last Word is Love: Adventure, Medicine, War and God, will be available in November.

Sr. Pfau’s funderal is scheduled for Aug. 19 at St Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi, and she will be buried at the Christian cemetery in the city.

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Mexico is the most violent Latin American country for priests

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - For the ninth year in a row, Mexico is the most violent country in Latin America for priests, said a report from the Catholic Multimedia Center.

The report covers 2012 to 2017, which aligns with the presidency of current Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. During this time, 19 priests and two lay persons were murdered, and two priests reported as missing.  

“This year, 2017 specifically, has been disastrous for the priesthood in Mexico,” the Catholic Multimedia Center reported. “Four murders, two thwarted kidnappings, two iconic attacks, one at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City and the other at the Offices of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, as well as hundreds of threats and extortions of priests and bishops.”

“This is a sad scenario which makes us assert that things are far from getting better,” they said.

So far this year, Fr. Felipe Altamirano Carrillo of the Nayar Prelature; Fr. Joaquín Hernández Sienfuentes of the Diocese of Saltillo; Fr. Luis López Villa of the Diocese of Nezahualcóyotl; and Fr.  José Miguel Machorro of the Archdiocese of Mexico City have been murdered.

While “the members of the Church are not in conflict with the groups that are committing crimes in the country,” the Catholic Multimedia Center said, “there are sectors of society that are taking advantage of the surge of violence and demonstrate insolence toward the religious in places such as Chiapas, Tabasco, Mexico City, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Mexico State, Jalisco, Nayarit, Veracruz, San Luis Potosí, Colima, Culiacán, Tabasco, Michoacán, Guerrero and Tamaulipas.”

The report denounced that “these groups that attack priests and religious seek to limit the activities of the pastoral work of the Church in Mexico which are carried out in the fields of healthcare and education as well as aid work – aid, shelter, relief – in support of the human rights of migrants who are passing through Mexican territory.”

It also found that while priests, religious and lay persons have all been victims of hate crimes, pastoral workers – and specifically priests – are particularly vulnerable to various attacks.

With a lack of security, indifferent authorities, and growth in organized crime, the Catholic Multimedia Center said, “we can no longer keep quiet, as the blood of thousands of Mexicans continues to be shed.”

The organization called on all levels of government in Mexico to “provide guarantees for the exercise of the priestly ministry in many areas of Mexico where violence has rebounded.”

Crime in Mexico was also denounced recently by the Catholic Mexican newspaper Desde la Fe.

Corruption, poverty and unemployment only contribute to rising crime levels, the publication said, and Cuernavaca in Morelos State, popularly known as “the city of eternal springtime,” has become the “city of eternal shooting.”

The newspaper lamented that “violent robberies, sexual assaults and homicides are committed, and the citizenry does not report them because of mistrust and frustration.”

 

 

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Critic: German Catholicism is rich – but in the wrong ways

Munich, Germany, Aug 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic Church in Germany is “spiritually impoverished and in decline, yet rich in material means.”

That is the diagnosis of Anian Christoph Wimmer, editor of Catholic News Agency's German edition.

Writing in the U.K. Catholic Herald Aug 10, Wimmer said the Church in Germany at present suffers from an unhealthy combination of “dwindling spiritual influence and major financial clout.”

“On the one hand, the official figures paint a stark picture of continuing decline in terms of Church membership, Mass attendance and participation in the sacraments,” he said. “On the other hand, the German Church is enormously wealthy and continues to wield significant influence both at home and abroad, not least in the Vatican.”

According to the German Bishops' Conference, 160,000 Catholics left the Church in 2016, while only 2,574 converted. The number of priests fell by 200 to 13,856. The numbers of people receiving the sacraments of confirmation and marriage is also in decline. Although the bishops' conference does not count the number of confessions, Wimmer said the sacrament has “to all intents and purposes disappeared from many, if not most, parishes.”

While one might expect the Church to use its wealth to evangelize secular society, Wimmer commented, “this is the one thing that appears to elude the Church in Germany, so flush with money: its core business of spreading the Gospel and watching over the sheep, helping a growing flock better to know, love and serve God.”

The numbers of Germans at Sunday Mass in the 1950s and 1960s were stable at 11.5-11.7 million per year, attendance dropped to 2.5 million in 2015. The overall population of Catholics in Germany is 23.8 million.

The Church is one of the largest employers in Germany and the churches can still be maintained is because of its financial wealth. Germany’s tax system means that registered Catholics pay eight or nine percent of their income tax to the Church. This totaled almost $7.1 billion in 2016, a record.

What is more, many activities of the Church are fully or partly funded by the states, including educational institutions and even the salaries of most bishops. These commonly run to a monthly income of more than $11,700.

“Thanks to the booming German economy, the departure of many thousands of Catholics every year has not (yet) put a dent in the ecclesial coffers,” said Wimmer.

Church attendance is lowest in historically Catholic regions along the Rhine, with the dioceses of Aachen and Speyer reporting only 7.8 percent of Catholics attending Sunday Mass. Mass attendance is high in diaspora communities in former East Germany, Saxony or Thuringia, where attendance is closer to 20 percent. Some parts of Bavaria, Pope Benedict XVI's home, also show “signs of life.”

“The faith has evaporated,” Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, Archbishop emeritus of Munich and Freising, told Wimmer.

Would-be reformers have many proposals.

“Some propose that the Church tax should be abolished. They seem to assume that if money will not solve the problem, then the absence of it will,” said Wimmer, who suggested that this idea has some merit but is rarely thought through.

Another proposed solution is “an appeal for more heterodoxy” and advocacy to abolish priestly celibacy, admit women to the priesthood, and other changes.

Instead, Wimmer endorsed the recommendation of Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, who spoke about true renewal on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation:

“The first and foremost step on this path is the daily struggle for sanctity, listening to God’s Word and being prepared to start the reform of the Church with oneself. For that is what reformation means: renewal from within the faith, restoration of the Image of Christ, which is imprinted in us in baptism and confirmation,” the bishop said.

“Where that is granted to us, by the grace of God, where this succeeds, we will also make the people of our time once again curious about the faith that carries us. And then we will also be able to bear witness to the hope that fulfills us.”

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Priest counters claim that God ordained Trump to nuke North Korea

Dallas, Texas, Aug 11, 2017 (CNA) - A Texas Catholic priest has countered the claim of Texas Baptist pastor and adviser to Trump, Pastor Robert Jeffress, who claimed on Thursday that the president has been given “authority by God” to use nuclear force against North Korea.

In a statement to CBN News Tuesday, Jeffress said that Scripture endowed “rulers full power to use whatever means necessary – including war – to stop evil.”

“In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un,” Jeffress said. “I’m heartened to see that our president…will not tolerate any threat against the American people.”

However, this is a gross misunderstanding of Scripture, countered Catholic priest Fr. Joshua Whitfield.

“No, God did not anoint Trump to nuke North Korea,” Fr. Whitfield responded in the title of his opinion piece for The Dallas Morning News.

Catholic leaders, including the U.S. bishops and Pope Francis, have been outspoken about the need to eliminate all nuclear weapons in the pursuit of peace, particularly at this time of escalating tensions. Numerous other Catholic leaders in the recent past, including Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, all opposed the development of nuclear weapons.

In Gaudium Et Spes, a Vatican II document released by Pope Paul VI in 1965, the authority of the Church reiterated its opposition to the arms race, calling it “an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, and one which ensnares the poor to an intolerable degree. It is much to be feared that if this race persists, it will eventually spawn all the lethal ruin whose path it is now making ready.”

The idea that God has given political powers such as President Donald Trump authority to “take out” evil authorities such as North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un often stems from a misreading of Chapter 13 of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, Fr. Whitfield noted.

“Particularly, it's based upon those verses that call upon Christians to subject themselves to governing authorities because they serve the Lord as an ‘avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer,’” he said.

But it’s important to understand the context under which St. Paul was writing, he added. St. Paul was writing to people living under “arbitrary and often anti-Semitic pagan rule, offering fellow believers a moral strategy for survival, on how to abide by Jesus' ethic of love until his coming again in glory.”

It is not meant to be read as “a theology of politics, not a charter for Christian participation in the affairs of state, not a proof text for subservience,” he said.

“For Paul, it would have been unthinkable to consider a political ruler some sort of anointed Christian prince or president waging war on behalf of believers. We should remember that Paul was biblical, not Constantinian. He saw political authority as something ordered by God rather than ordained by him. Governments, wars, rulers, the innumerable fools of history: All of it, both good and evil, God mysteriously ultimately arranges according to his will,” he said.

Christians are called to imitate Jesus’ way of peace, Fr. Whitfield noted.

“That’s what’s biblical, not any sort of sacralizing of national leaders,” he said.

“...we shouldn't be so quick to assume God's bellicose blessing (on aggressive use of force). It's why we should pray for peace.”

 

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A bishop's plea: Don't forget victims of war and cholera in Yemen

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Aug 11, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - A deadly cholera outbreak in Yemen could continue indefinitely without an end to the civil war, says a bishop in the region who has pleaded for the faithful to pray and for an end to arms sales to the parties.

“As I believe in the power of prayer, I can only ask the faithful around the world, to keep in mind the suffering people in Yemen – Muslims as well as the few remaining Christians, including the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa.” Bishop Paul Hinder told CNA Aug. 8.

Bishop Hinder heads the Abu Dhabi-based Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, which serves Catholics in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen.

The Church in Yemen is “a tiny group without any structure” that can do little in the face of the situation, he said.

A cholera outbreak provoked by the war has infected a suspected 350,000 people, with over 1,800 people dying from the disease. Over 600,000 could be infected by the end of the year, the International Committee of the Red Cross has said.

The latest outbreak began in April. Within a few hours of infection, the disease causes vomiting and diarrhea, leading to severe dehydration that can be deadly without rapid intervention. At the same time, most cases can be treated with simple rehydration treatments.

Even simple treatments are hard to come by.

 

#Yemen #Cholera update: 474K suspected cases & 1'953 deaths. For the 1st time in 2 months, weekly cases dipped below the 40K mark. Good news

— Robert Mardini (@RMardiniICRC) August 9, 2017

 

More than 3 million people have been displaced since the conflict began in March 2015. Over 20 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.

Revenue shortfalls mean 1 million civil servants, including 30,000 medical staffers, have gone unpaid since September. About 45 percent of the country’s hospitals are operating, and only 30 percent of the needed medical supplies can reach the country.

Bishop Hinder stressed the difficulties the war is causing.

“We all should know that the blockade of the country hinders the reconstruction of the destroyed sanitary system in the country,” he said. “As long as the minimal infrastructure in many parts of the country is not functioning, we cannot expect that the cholera can be stopped, other sick people get the proper treatment, and the starving people be fed properly.”

“Whatever help is possible through the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, and other reliable channels remains limited as long as sufficient security is not guaranteed,” he added.

The Yemeni civil war involves the internationally recognized government, and its Saudi-led coalition allies, fighting Shiite Houthi rebels.

“We have to keep in mind that in the Yemen conflict there are no pure angels on one side and pure devils on the other,” Bishop Hinder continued. “Without bringing people again around the table and getting to a cease-fire, there will be only killing and destruction with disastrous consequences for the civilian population and the country as a whole.”

“I think that the people in the so-called West should be aware that their powers are not innocent in what is going on in Yemen,” he said. “The deal of the present U.S. administration with Saudi Arabia regarding weapons will not help to make peace.”

Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, similarly stressed that countering the outbreak depends on peace.

“The great tragedy is that this cholera outbreak is a preventable, man-made humanitarian catastrophe. It is a direct consequence of a conflict that has devastated civilian infrastructure and brought the whole health system to its knees,” Maurer said July 23. "Further deaths can be prevented, but warring parties must ease restrictions and allow the import of medicines, food and essential supplies and they must show restraint in the way they conduct warfare.”

U.N. agencies were caught by surprise at how fast the disease spread, George Khoury, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen, told the Associated Press. After an initial mild outbreak in October appeared to have ended, funds had been cut and health monitors put their attention elsewhere.

“It’s a cholera paradise,” Khoury said. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

In March 2016 an attack on a Missionaries of Charity house in Aden left four sisters dead. The attackers kidnapped Indian-born Salesian priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil. The priest’s whereabouts are not known, and no groups have claimed responsibility for his capture. An unauthenticated video posted to YouTube in May of this year showed him with a sign dated April 15, 2017. He appeared thin, with overgrown hair and a beard.

The priest appealed for his release and claimed his health was rapidly deteriorating.

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