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Catholic charity announces $5.6M to help Lebanon and Syria’s Christians

Mass is celebrated in Baalbek, Lebanon. / Aid to the Church in Need.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 17, 2021 / 06:10 am (CNA).

As cathedrals and monuments around the world are illuminated in red this week to highlight the plight of persecuted Christians, the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has announced that it is donating five million euros ($5.6 million) to help Christian communities in Lebanon and Syria.

The funds will help establish a project to support young newlywed couples in Syria, who are starting families after 10 years of war in the Middle Eastern country.

Regina Lynch, a project manager for the charity, said: “Many young people don’t get married because they can’t afford to set up home together. It is a situation that also worries the bishops, recognizing that the faithful do not marry because they simply cannot afford it.”

“We are working on a project in Aleppo, which will consist of giving couples enough money to cover basic needs for setting up home or to pay the rent of a flat for two years.”

Other projects in Syria funded by the relief package include a meal program for the elderly, fuel for central heating in a students’ residence, medical supplies, and academic scholarships.

The aid will support Christians from all communions, according to the charity, which said that some of the funding will go directly to Orthodox Churches, such as the Greek Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, and the Armenian Apostolic Church in Aleppo.

Thomas Heine-Geldern, the international executive president of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), said he hoped that this would help to preserve “the rich tapestry of Christian traditions in Syria.”

He highlighted Pope Francis’ words that Christians in the Middle East have endured “an ecumenism of blood” through their shared suffering and witness to love for Christ in the face of persecution.

Lebanon

In Lebanon, where three-quarters of the population lives in poverty and there are widespread shortages of medicine, fuel, and food, the ACN funds will provide food packages, heating for the winter, and Mass stipends to support clergy.

The World Bank has described Lebanon’s financial situation as among the “most severe crisis episodes globally since the mid-19th century.” It estimates that the country’s real GDP contracted by more than 20% in 2020, with surging inflation and high unemployment.

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan has expressed concern that the dire situation will further drive Christians to leave Lebanon and move out of the Middle East.

“We are very, very scared that if this crisis continues it will be the end of Christians in Lebanon and the whole of the Near East in a few years. Normally when Christians leave, as happened in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, they don’t return,” the Catholic patriarch said in an interview with ACN.

The pontifical foundation announced the funds as part of its annual initiative to bring awareness about Christian persecution around the world and the need for religious freedom.

Red Week

What started out as Red Wednesday in 2016 with hundreds of public buildings lit up in red has grown to become Red Week.

This year, Red Week will include not only illuminated buildings, but also Masses and prayer services for persecuted Christians held throughout the world on Nov. 17-24.

In Austria, about 100 churches will be lit up in red this year and a prayer service will be held at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna on Nov. 17.

Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, in Montreal, Canada, will also be illuminated on Wednesday, Nov. 17. Archbishop Christian Lépine will offer a Mass in the basilica and an African choir will sing parts of the Zaire Use liturgy.

In other countries, churches and public buildings will be lit red on Wednesday, Nov. 24, including Westminster Cathedral in London, Lisbon’s Sanctuary of Christ the King, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris, the cathedral in Sarajevo, and 50 buildings in the Czech Republic.

Catholic schools have also joined the Red Week initiative. In Australia, students at Catholic schools across six dioceses will wear red and host prayer gatherings. Aid to the Church in Need in Ireland has also given out 1,200 rosaries for young students to pray for the persecuted throughout the week.

A march for those “Killed in silence” will take place in the Polish city of Poznań on Nov. 20 in which people will walk with red lanterns in memory of those killed in hatred of the faith.

The Maronite Catholic Cathedral in Aleppo will be illuminated in red on Nov. 22.

Heine-Geldern said he hoped that the Red Week initiative and additional funds would help create conditions “to keep alive the Christian presence” in the Middle East.

“Christians have lived in these lands for 2,000 years, but if we do not help now their heritage could become no more than a relic,” he said.

Nearly 1,000 hate crimes against Europe’s Christians recorded in 2020

The aftermath of a fire at the Parish of St. Paul in Corbeil-Essonnes, France, July 4, 2020. / OIDACE.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 16, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

According to newly published data from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the number of hate crimes against Christians in Europe rose sharply in 2020.

The OSCE data, published Nov. 16, documented 980 incidents against Christians, including arson attacks on Catholic churches, desecration and robbery of Eucharistic hosts, assaults on priests, and anti-Catholic graffiti on Church property by abortion activists.

The OSCE previously reported 595 incidents against Christians in 2019.

There was a significant increase in the number of attacks against property last year, from 459 in 2019 to 871 in 2020, while the number of violent attacks against people decreased from 80 to 56 in 2020.

Poland had the most hate crimes reported against Christians with 241 incidents in 2020, the majority of which were acts of vandalism against Catholic property connected with the Church’s stance on abortion.

The OSCE also reported 172 incidents in Germany, 159 in France, and 113 in Italy. The Holy See submitted data to the OSCE on more than 150 hate crimes against Christians in Europe.

The organization also released data on hate crimes driven by anti-Semitism, racism, bias based on sexual orientation, and other categories. In total, 7,181 hate crime cases were reported. The information was published to mark the International Day for Tolerance.

The number of hate crimes against Christians is likely higher than what is reported in the data, as only 11 of the 57 OCSE states submitted data on hate crimes against Christians.

Madeleine Enzlberger, head of the Observatory of Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians (OIDACE) in Vienna, Austria, said that in media and political spheres “hatred of Christians is hardly noticed as an increasingly obvious social problem.”

“The OSCE report reflects only part of this trend, which we have been documenting for years, and yet it is a loud wake-up call against indifference and fashionable Christian-bashing,” she commented.

Here is a breakdown of some of the hate crimes committed against Christians documented by OSCE:

Rampant vandalism in Poland by abortion advocates

The uptick in hate crimes against Christians in Poland is largely due to “a series of incidents targeting the Catholic Church due to its stance on abortion,” according to the OSCE data.

These included more than 100 acts of graffiti on Catholic property in 2020, many of which included anti-Christian slogans. Other Catholic churches were vandalized with LGBTI symbols.

Women’s rights activists vandalized a monument to unborn children at night with black paint in a Polish Catholic cemetery in October 2020.

Abortion activists also vandalized a cross at a cemetery commemorating victims of Nazism in the same month, according to the report.

People praying in front of a Catholic cathedral were assaulted by women’s rights activists, who threw bottles, stones, and firecrackers, injuring several worshippers.

In Spain, a monastery and four other churches were vandalized on International Women’s Day in 2020. At the monastery, a group of women’s rights protesters also disrupted Mass with anti-Christian slogans.

Arson attacks on Catholic churches

There were a number of arson attacks on Catholic churches reported in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

In one instance in Germany, disinfectant was poured over pews in a Catholic church and then set on fire.

A Catholic cathedral in France was also vandalized with excrement smeared by perpetrators, who then attempted to set the church on fire in February 2020.

Ten masked individuals targeted another Catholic church in France in an arson attack in October 2020 by pushing a car up to the church and then setting it on fire causing significant damage.

In Switzerland, a Catholic church’s organ loft was set on fire in March 2020.

Hate crimes and social media

Catholic priests in Spain were sent death threats via social media in November 2020. Catholic priests in Poland felt threatened when an image depicting a shot priest was circulated on social media along with anti-Catholic insults.

A man who converted to Christianity in Italy also received death threats via social media in November 2020.

In other cases, the perpetrators shared their hate crimes on social media. Women's rights activists in Poland filmed themselves throwing eggs at a Catholic church and posted it to social media in October 2020.

Violent attacks against Christians

Despite the lockdown measures that kept many people socially isolated in 2020, there were still reported violent attacks on Christians, albeit fewer than in 2019.

Three people were killed in a knife attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice, France in October 2020.

A priest known for his devotion to helping migrants and homeless people was stabbed to death near his parish in the city of Como, Italy by a Tunisian man in September 2020.

In the United Kingdom, a Catholic priest was assaulted by two men in a church in June 2020 and sustained a rib injury. Another Catholic priest in the U.K. was physically assaulted in a cathedral during a funeral in October 2020.

A priest in Spain was hospitalized in September 2020 after he was stabbed in the upper body while in a church, and a Catholic priest in Poland was stabbed several times in the stomach in October 2020.

Salesians asked young people to make short films about hope. They got a big response

A detail from a poster for the Don Bosco Global Film Festival. / dbgyff.com.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 16, 2021 / 05:20 am (CNA).

A new international film festival will premiere this week, featuring the winning submissions of young people from 116 countries.

Conceived in December 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first annual Don Bosco Global Film Festival received 1,686 short film submissions on the theme “Moved by Hope.”

The best films, chosen by an international jury, will be streamed Nov. 18-19, both online and at physical gatherings in 135 different countries.

Submissions were received until Oct. 15 from filmmakers aged 15 to 30. The short films could be in any genre, with three major categories: live-action shorts under 10 minutes, animated shorts under five minutes, and music videos under five minutes.

The film festival was organized by the Salesians of Don Bosco, who said on their website that they wanted to create “a world-class film festival platform to showcase ... young creative filmmaking talents.”

The festival “strives to embrace, encourage and empower every young person to become the voice of hope and solidarity,” the website said.

Films will be awarded cash prizes in many different categories, including global bests, continental bests, and category bests such as narrative, screenplay, sound design, and editing.

There will also be individual awards for best actor and actress, best writer, and best director.

“Young people always surprise us with their creativity ... I really think that today’s world should believe much more in the value of young people,” the Rector Major (worldwide head) of the Salesians said at a press conference last week.

“We have a proposal for you: for your mind and for your heart,” Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime said in a video addressed to potential participants.

“You, young people, are the architects of the future, signs of hope. And we have great hope in all of you. With you, we want to dream and build a better tomorrow,” he said.

“With your creativity, you can truly help to change the world. I invite you, come and participate in this festival of short films. This is your festival, come and let us move the world with hope.”

The priest added that he was sure that St. John Bosco, the founder of the Salesian religious congregation, would be very happy about the film festival.

The saint, commonly called Don Bosco, was an Italian priest who dedicated his life to helping disadvantaged youth through his oratory, where he gave spiritual and practical instruction based on love, rather than punishment.

St. John Bosco is the patron saint of young people and juvenile delinquents.

Cardinal Becciu says he ‘favored’ home diocese but denies scandal

Cardinal Angelo Becciu. / Credit: Claude Truong-Ngoc / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rome Newsroom, Nov 15, 2021 / 09:15 am (CNA).

Speaking at an event for a diocesan charity to which he is alleged to have illicitly given Vatican funds, Cardinal Angelo Becciu said on Sunday that he had “favored” his diocese but questioned why it was considered “scandalous.”

According to the local newspaper La Nuova Sardegna, during a Nov. 14 conference unveiling a new charitable initiative, the cardinal told Caritas members he was “proud, appreciative, happy to have helped you. Where is the scandal?”

Becciu, who was charged this summer with embezzlement and abuse of office by the Vatican, has always denied any wrongdoing. He denied reports last year that he directed Vatican and Italian bishops’ conference money to his brother’s corporation, which works with the local branch of Caritas.

The Caritas office is part of the Diocese of Ozieri, located in the north of the Italian island of Sardinia, where Becciu is from.

The media “accused me of having favored my diocese: it is true, and what is scandalous? I did it as a nuncio in Angola and Cuba, why not here?” Becciu said, according to La Nuova Sardegna.

“What little that I was able to do brought marvelous results: why then create scandals?" he continued.

Speaking at a conference organized by Caritas, he asked: “Why massacre me, my family, this diocese? The media mud that has been created has caused humiliation for all of you, and I deeply regret this.”

Becciu also concelebrated Mass at the Basilica of Sant’Antioco di Bisarcio in Ozieri for the feast of St. Antiochus of Sulcis, one of the first Christian martyrs of Sardinia, together with Ozieri Bishop Corrado Melis.

Becciu and his family are from Pattada, a town in the Diocese of Ozieri, the diocese in which Becciu was ordained a priest in 1972.

One of Becciu’s brothers, Tonino Becciu, is the president and legal representative of Spes Cooperative, a limited liability corporation and the operative arm of the diocesan Caritas.

In 2020, Becciu was accused of using Vatican and Italian bishops’ money toward “loans” for Spes Cooperative.

The Italian weekly L’Espresso reported that Becciu obtained two loans from the Italian bishops’ conference to pay out two non-repayable loans of 300,000 euros [around $340,000] each to Spes Cooperative in 2013 and 2015.

In 2018, it reported, Becciu gave a third sum to Spes Cooperative of 100,000 euros [about $114,000] from Peter’s Pence, of which he had control as the then second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State.

Around the same time as the news report about Spes Cooperative was published in September 2020, Pope Francis asked Becciu to give up the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals, and to resign as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

In June, Italian financial police carried out searches at the offices of Spes Cooperative, Caritas, and the Diocese of Ozieri on behalf of Vatican prosecutors.

Becciu was indicted the next month on charges of embezzlement and abuse of office. He is one of 10 defendants in the Vatican’s largest financial trial in recent history. The trial, which centers around the Secretariat of State’s purchase of an investment property in London, started at the end of July. The next hearing is expected to be on Nov. 17.

At the Nov. 14 event, Becciu accused the media of covering his family, his brother Tonino, and the employees and volunteers of Caritas “with slander,” adding that “a trial is underway in which I will defend myself and where I will demonstrate that they are slander.”

“They have attributed to me accounts in tax paradises, but the Paradise I know is something else,” he continued. “They accused me of paying witnesses, but it is all false, these are accusations that I reject and I will prove it.”

“But today we will not think about this, today we must be happy because today is a day of celebration,” he said.

Fr Julian Carron resigns as president of Communion and Liberation

Fr. Julián Carrón. / Courtesy of Communion and Liberation.

Milan, Italy, Nov 15, 2021 / 05:50 am (CNA).

Fr. Julián Carrón announced on Monday that he is resigning as president of Communion and Liberation.

In a Nov. 15 letter to members of the Catholic movement founded by Fr. Luigi Giussani in 1954, the Spanish priest said that he was stepping down “to favor that the change of leadership to which we are called by the Holy Father ... takes place with the freedom that this process requires.”

He was referring to a decree issued by the Vatican in June setting limits on the terms of leaders of international associations of the faithful and new communities.

The 71-year-old has served as president of Communion and Liberation since 2005, the year of Giussani’s death.

He was reconfirmed in the position for six years in 2014. He was then re-elected for a further six years in March 2020. His third term was due to conclude in 2026.

The Spanish theologian’s decision follows Pope Francis’ appointment in September of a special delegate to oversee Memores Domini, the lay consecrated branch of the Communion and Liberation movement.

Archbishop Filippo Santoro of Taranto, Italy, will temporarily assume the governance of the association “in order to safeguard its charism and preserve the unity of the members,” the Vatican said.

Giussani helped to establish the Memores Domini in 1964 for lay members dedicated to “living the Gospel in the world.”

The Pontifical Council for the Laity recognized the Memores Domini as an international association of the faithful in 1988.

Four female members of Memores Domini worked in Benedict XVI’s papal household and also moved with him to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery after his retirement.

Giussani established Communion and Liberation in Milan, northern Italy. In a letter to Pope John Paul II in 2004, he said that the movement was driven by “urgency to proclaim the need to return to the elementary aspects of Christianity.”

Before his death, he personally chose Carrón as his successor. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger celebrated Giussani’s funeral Mass on Feb. 24, 2005, months before his election as Benedict XVI.

In his letter to members of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, present in more than 90 countries, Carrón said he hoped that his resignation would “lead each person to take personal responsibility for the charism” of Communion and Liberation.

“It has been an honor for me to exercise this service for years, an honor that fills me with humiliation for my limitations and if I have failed any of you,” he wrote.

“I give thanks to God for the gift of companionship that I have been able to enjoy, before the sight of your daily witness, from which I have constantly learned and from which I want to continue to learn.”

The Vatican decree issued in June limits terms of office in a movement’s central governing body to a maximum of five years, with one person being able to hold positions at the international governing level for no more than 10 years consecutively. Re-election is then possible after a vacancy of one term.

The new regulations state that where leaders have already exceeded the term limits, groups must provide for new elections “no later than 24 months from the coming into force of this decree,” or before Sept. 11, 2023.

Concluding his letter, Carrón said: “I wish you to live this circumstance as an occasion of growth of your ecclesial self-awareness, to be able to continue to witness the grace of the charism given by the Holy Spirit to Fr. Giussani, which makes Christ a real, persuasive and determining presence, which has hit us and drawn us into a flow of new life, for us and for the whole world.”

Former Grand Master of the Order of Malta dies at 71

Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Order of Malta’s 79th Grand Master, addresses the diplomatic corps in January 2015. / British Association of the Order of Malta.

Valletta, Malta, Nov 15, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Fra’ Matthew Festing, the former Grand Master of the Order of Malta, died on Friday at the age of 71.

Festing served as the 79th Grand Master of the lay religious order, founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century, from 2008 to his resignation in 2017.

The order’s Grand Magistry said that Festing felt ill after attending a solemn profession of religious vows at St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta, on Nov. 4. He was admitted to hospital and died on Nov. 12.

Robert Matthew Festing was born on Nov. 30, 1949, in Tarset, northern England, the youngest son of Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing, a senior British Army officer.

He studied at Ampleforth College, a Catholic boarding school in North Yorkshire, and St John’s College, Cambridge, where he read history.

He served in the Grenadier Guards, an infantry regiment of the British Army, and held the rank of colonel in the Territorial Army, the army’s reserve force.

An art expert, he dedicated much of his professional life to working as a consultant for Sotheby’s auction house.

In 1977, he became a member of the Order of Malta, a chivalric order originally founded to provide protection and medical care to Holy Land pilgrims. He took solemn religious vows in 1991, becoming a professed knight of the order.

In 1993, Fra’ Andrew Bertie, the order’s Grand Master, reestablished the post of Grand Prior of England, which had fallen into abeyance in 1806. Festing took up the role, serving in the position until 2008.

Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, he led aid missions to Kosovo, Serbia, and Croatia. As part of a project to help Balkan women to support their families, he toured northern England searching for curlers and brushes to help them establish hair salons.

He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998.

Festing was elected as the order’s 79th Grand Master, on March 11, 2008, taking on responsibility for overseeing the organization’s global humanitarian work and diplomatic relations with more than 100 states.

He told the Financial Times in 2016 that the role consisted of “going round thanking people, encouraging people and trying to show an interest in what they are doing.”

His lifetime appointment ended abruptly in 2017, when Pope Francis asked him to resign following an internal dispute within the order centered on the dismissal of Albrecht von Boeselager, the Knights’ Grand Chancellor, in December 2016.

Among the reported reasons for the move was that under Boeselager’s watch, the order’s charitable branch was involved inadvertently in distributing condoms in Burma to prevent the spread of HIV. But an official told CNA at the time that the rupture was “more complex.”

Shortly after Boeselager’s departure, Pope Francis formed a group to investigate the matter. The Knights defended the decision as “an internal act of governance,” suggesting that the investigative group was legally “irrelevant” given the order’s sovereign status.

The Vatican announced that Festing had “resigned from the office of Grand Master” following a meeting with the pope on Jan. 24, 2017.

It said that the pope had accepted the resignation while “expressing appreciation and gratitude to Fra’ Festing for his loyalty and devotion to the Successor of Peter, and his willingness to serve humbly the good of the order and the Church.”

The pope temporarily entrusted the order’s governance to the Grand Commander, Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, pending the appointment of a papal delegate.

Boeselager was reinstated and the pope named the then Archbishop Angelo Becciu as his delegate, asking him to work alongside Rumerstein for reconciliation within the order and the “spiritual renovation” of its constitution.

Shortly after his resignation, Festing said that it was in some respects a relief to no longer be Grand Master, a role that was rewarding but required him to deal with “utterly silly minutiae all the time, rivalries and difficulties and unpleasantnesses.”

Days before Festing’s death, Pope Francis gave sweeping new powers to Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, his current special delegate to the order, to pursue reform.

A Nov. 12 statement by the British Association of the Order of Malta said that Festing attended the order’s international annual pilgrimages to Lourdes, southwestern France, every year of his adult life and was a familiar figure assisting pilgrims.

“In his time as Grand Master, he visited many countries where the Order of Malta carries out its charitable works and oversaw many international conferences and meetings of the order, to encourage and support their worldwide projects,” it said.

“In all his endeavors, he never lost sight of the spiritual motivation of the order and its mission.”

Father Gregor Pawlowski, Jewish Holocaust survivor and Catholic priest, laid to rest in Poland

A monument at the Jewish cemetery in Izbica, Poland. / Aung via Wikimedia (public domain)

Lublin, Poland, Nov 14, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Father Gregor Pawlowski died in Israel Oct. 21 at the age of 90, but he wanted his body to be buried in Poland alongside his Jewish family and other victims of the Holocaust.

“Fr. Pawlowski lived in Jaffa for more than 50 years, serving the faithful and giving the testimony of love for the Messiah,” said the website of the Saint James Vicariate for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel.

“We will miss you, Gregor,” said the vicariate, an autonomous department within the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem that serves Hebrew-speaking children of migrants and asylum seekers.

The priest had a Requiem Mass. But among the priest’s wishes were that he have a Jewish burial at the mass grave in Poland that holds his mother, his two sisters, and hundreds of his neighbors from their home village.

He had long wanted to be buried there. He had set up a memorial in their name in the 1970s before moving to Israel.

The memorial bears an inscription in Polish and Hebrew from the Book of Job: “For I know that my redeemer lives and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.” It commemorates Pawlowski’s parents, his sisters, and “all of the Jews murdered and buried in this cemetery by the Nazi murderers and profaners of God’s commandments.”

“With gratitude to God for being saved, we establish this monument,” it was signed. It bears the name of Pawlowski’s brother, the priest’s baptismal name, and his birth name.

Rabbi Shalom Malul, dean of the Amit Ashdod Yeshiva, and several students flew to Poland to give the priest a Jewish burial next to the grave of his sisters and mother. They recited Kaddish, the traditional prayer of morning, as the priest had wished, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Pawlowski was born Jacob Zvi Griner to a Yiddish-speaking Jewish family in Poland on Aug. 23, 1931. He was the youngest of four siblings born to Mendel and Miriam. They lived in Zamosc in what is now eastern Poland, according to a biography of the priest on the website of the St. James Vicariate.

His parents, Mendel and Miriam, ran a small business that traded wood and coal and rented a fruit tree grove. He learned some Hebrew from a teacher at his Jewish school and some Polish from peasants in the village.

The Second World War began in 1939, the year Pawlowski would have started first grade. He always remembered the sound of German fighter planes that dropped bombs. The Soviets entered Zamosc and invited villagers to return with them to Russia. Pawlowski’s older brother, Hayim, left with them and eventually the family lost contact with him.

When the Nazis fully occupied Poland, the family faced great difficulty earning a living and finding enough food to eat. The children would do chores for other families in exchange for money, but at times they had to steal food. His father suffered harassment and humiliation under German soldiers.

The Jews in Zamosc were forced into a neighborhood converted into a ghetto, where persecution increased to the point where soldiers killed some Jews with impunity.

Pawlowski’s father was compelled into labor for the Germans. One day he left for work and never returned, leaving the family heartbroken. The Germans later destroyed the ghetto and put the Jewish residents on a forced march to Izbica, about 14 miles away, putting them in the homes left by other deported Jews.

Soon, the Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators launched a mass arrest of Jews. Pawlowski, his mother and his two sisters tried to hide in a cellar, but they were discovered. The boy alone managed to escape. His mother and his sisters were taken to the edge of a mass grave and shot, dying along with about a thousand Jews from their home village.

During the rest of the war Pawlowski moved from place to place. Sometimes people aided him, other times they identified him as a Jew and put his life at risk. He learned the prayers of Catholic Christianity from some Poles, and a Jewish boy gave him a Christian baptismal certificate bearing a new name: Gregor Pawlowski.

Benedictine nuns took him into an orphanage and registered him for school. He quickly advanced through several grades, then moved to another orphanage.

A priest came to prepare the children for First Communion. The boy did not tell the priest he was a Jew, but said he had not been baptized. The priest did not entirely believe him, but baptized him conditionally on June 27, 1945, when he was almost 14 years old.

He finished school in the city of Polawny, serving the Church as a faithful Catholic and defending the Church and religion against a communist lecturer. The secret police took him in for questioning and tried to persuade him to spy on the nuns but he refused.

Pawlowski later sought to become a priest, entering the major seminary at Lublin. Few nuns and clergymen knew he was ethnically Jewish but the local bishop said that this was not an obstacle. However, some priests worried that parishioners would not accept a priest who was Jewish.

He was ordained to the priesthood on April 20, 1958. The nuns from his former orphanage hosted the celebration. He served as a priest in the Diocese of Lublin. In 1966, the millennium celebrations of the arrival of Christianity in Poland, Pawlowski drew national attention when he told his story in a major Catholic newspaper in Krakow. The article reached Israel, where relatives read it and contacted his long-lost brother Hayim.

He studied at the Catholic University of Lublin from 1968 to 1970.

Pawlowski then moved to Israel to serve both Polish and Hebrew-speaking Catholics.

“My place is here, among the Jewish people. I sensed a call to come and serve Christians living in my country,” he said.

“I belong both to Poland and to Israel. I cannot speak against Poles because they saved me and I cannot speak against Jews because I am one of them,” said the priest.

Pawlowski was based in Jaffa for more than 38 years. He wrote books of poetry about his life and about the life of Christ. He also wrote books about religion and historical topics, the Saint James Vicariate’s website said.

He also authored the Hebrew and Polish inscriptions for gravemarker, near the mass grave that holds his family and other fellow Jews.

“I left my family In order to save my life at the time of the Shoah,” it reads. “They came to take us for extermination. My life I saved and have consecrated it to the service of God and humanity.”

“I have returned to them in this place where they were murdered, for the sanctification of God’s name. May their souls be set in eternal life.”

It bears his Christian and Jewish names: “Father Gregor Pawlowski, Jacob Zvi Griner, son of Mendel and Miriam of blessed memory.”

Stats show Irish women benefit from waiting period before abortion, observers say

null / Prostock-studio/Shutterstock.

Dublin, Ireland, Nov 12, 2021 / 16:27 pm (CNA).

About 1,500 Irish women in 2020 decided not to go through with an abortion after seeking an initial consultation. Critics of abortion say it’s a sign that these women need support and that the existing three-day waiting period should be preserved.

“My primary concern here is to ensure that women and babies are protected and supported,” said Carol Nolan, an independent Deputy to the Dáil from Laois-Offaly, who had sought the information in a parliamentary question.

Nolan accused both the current Minister for Health, Fianna Fáil member Stephen Donnelly, and his predecessor, of having “a kind of cold-shoulder attitude toward those who seek to place the emphasis on the need to reduce abortions rather than promote them.”

“That is not acceptable, and I will continue to fight against it. We can and must do better for women and their babies,” she said.

Nolan had been a member of the party Sinn Féin, but was suspended from the party and eventually resigned because of the party’s new stance in favor of legal abortion.

In a Nov. 5 response to a parliamentary question from Nolan, state officials reported that 8,057 women in the Republic of Ireland made an initial consultation for an abortion. However, only 6,577 women went through to procure an abortion, meaning almost 1,500 did not.

“This information indicates that there are a sizeable proportion of women who change their mind between the first consultation when discussing abortion with their GP and actually going through with the abortion,” Eilis Mulroy of the Ireland-based group the Pro-Life Campaign, said Nov. 5.

The Republic of Ireland has legal abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks into pregnancy. It also allows abortion if there is a risk to the life or health of a mother, or if there is any condition likely to lead to the death of the unborn child.  

Irish law has a required three-day waiting period before an initial abortion consultation and the abortion procedure.

For pro-life advocates, this provision is significant.

“The 2020 figures show that 1,480 women decided against having an abortion during this crucial window,” Mulroy said. “Whilst the three-day waiting period may not have been the only or most important factor in all these cases, it was undoubtedly a significant and life-saving measure in many cases.”

“Many lives have been saved by the three-day waiting period, which demonstrates its inherent value,” Mulroy added. She encouraged the public and lawmakers to reflect on these numbers ahead of the Minister for Health’s three-year review of abortion legislation.

Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute told Gript News that the waiting period is an important safeguard.

“Clearly, without the reflection period the already shockingly high abortion rate would be even higher,” she said. “No reasonable person wants that – or wants more abortions to take place. Attempts by abortion advocates to scrap the three-day waiting period should be strongly resisted.”

Right to Life UK said the findings should encourage efforts to secure a three-day waiting period in Britain. Some 79% of the British public support a waiting period, according to a May 2017 ComRes survey of 2,008 representative adults living in Great Britain.

“It is hardly surprising that there could be a link between having a waiting period in law and a reduction in the number of women that go on to have an abortion,” said Right to Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson. “Even supporters of abortion who typically frame the debate around ‘choice’, should favor the introduction of waiting periods. They clearly give women a chance to consider their options, and perhaps find the help they need to go through with their pregnancy.”

Besides Ireland, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain all require a waiting period of at least three days between an initial consultation for an abortion procedure and an abortion itself.

Pope Francis in Assisi: ‘It is time that the poor be given back their voice’

Pope Francis at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, Italy, Nov. 12, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 12, 2021 / 08:15 am (CNA).

In an emotional encounter in Assisi with people living in poverty, Pope Francis listened to the testimonies of a former homeless ex-convict who experienced a dramatic conversion after encountering a priest on the street, a Romanian woman in a wheelchair who has suffered from a chronic debilitating illness, and a refugee from Afghanistan.

The pope met with a group of more than 500 poor people from across Europe in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, a large church in the valley below the medieval hill town of Assisi that encompasses a small chapel, the Portiuncula, where St. Francis lived when he began the Franciscan Order.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In a brief speech, the pope underlined the importance of encountering the poor face to face and learning from their witness to hope at a time when those on the margins largely face indifference.

“It is time that the poor be given back their voice because for too long their requests have remained unheard,” Pope Francis said, standing in front of the Portiuncula during the live-streamed encounter on Nov. 12.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis said that “meeting each other” was of the utmost importance, to “go toward each other with an open heart and outstretched hand.”

“For example, many people and many young people find a bit of time to help the poor and bring them food and hot beverages. This is very good and I thank God for their generosity. But I especially rejoice when I hear that these volunteers stop a bit and speak with the people, and sometimes pray together with them,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

As the pope met with the poor in the basilica, he gave hugs, blessings, exchanged words, and even wrote a handwritten note to one of the men.

Each of the participants was given a gift of several items of winter clothing, a rosary, and face masks.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope heard testimonies from six people living in poverty, from Poland, France, Spain, and Italy.

A speaker from Majorca, Spain, held back tears as he shared with the pope his story of how he fell into a life of crime and drug trafficking as a young teen and was later sent to prison. After his release, he ended up homeless.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“I remained alone, jobless. I lived on the streets. I asked for help from a priest. He welcomed me with a smile. He gazed on me, and he said, ‘I will help you,’” Sebastián del Valle said.

“He brought me to the Caritas [shelter] for homeless people in Toledo, and I felt welcomed there,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

While he was staying there, he interacted regularly with a group of volunteers who came to pray each week with those staying at the shelter.

“Through that way of praying, little by little I began to feel God’s love after many years,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

One friend he made invited him to a Catholic seminar called “Life in the Spirit.” He reflected: “I didn’t know that that seminar would transform my entire life.”

“What I experienced was indescribable. I went to confession for three hours to a priest, and truly I felt loved,” del Valle said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“During the following days, without knowing why, I was so happy that one of my companions said that I was crazy. I continued that journey of love of Jesus Christ … I understood that Jesus was alive, that he loved me, and that he was giving me a new life,” he said.

“There were times when I begged to live, but now I am a beggar for the mercy of Christ.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Among the other witnesses who shared their testimonies was a young married couple from France, Thibault and Florence Jarry, who answered a call to live as missionaries among the poor in Aubervilliers, a commune in the northeastern suburbs of Paris. They spoke while holding their four-month-old son.

“Right after our marriage, we said a great ‘yes’ to mission in order to be sent out as a missionary couple of mercy,” Florence said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“We can also testify our joy to share the everyday of our neighbors, the everyday life of those who so often suffer a great material poverty, but also spiritual poverty and also a relational poverty,” said Thibault.

When Pope Francis arrived at the basilica, he spent a moment of silent prayer in the Portiuncula and placed flowers on the altar.

Pope Francis visits Assisi, Italy, on Nov. 11, 2021.
Pope Francis visits Assisi, Italy, on Nov. 11, 2021.

“Here at the Portiuncula, St. Francis welcomed St. Clare, the first brothers, and many poor people who came to him. He received them simply as brothers and sisters, sharing everything with them,” the pope said.

“This is the most evangelical expression we are called to make our own: hospitality. Hospitality means to open the door, the door of our house and the door of our heart, and to allow the person who knocks to come in.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope pointed to the great example of St. Teresa of Calcutta of humble concern for the poor.

“Mother Teresa, who made hospitable service her life, used to love to say: ‘What is the best welcome? A smile.’ A smile, to share a smile with someone in need does good to both people — to me and the other person. A smile as an expression of sympathy, of tenderness,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In his speech, Pope Francis highlighted the presence of the French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin at the encounter with the poor.

Barbarin resigned as the archbishop of Lyon in 2020 after he was acquitted of a conviction of failing to report the sexual abuse of a minor by a diocesan priest.

The cardinal was present because of his association with a charitable group, Fratello, which helped to organize the event.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin in Assisi. Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin in Assisi. Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

The pope said: “I would like to thank … His Eminence Cardinal [Barbarin] for his presence: he is among the poor, he too has undergone the experience of poverty, abandonment, distrust with dignity. And he defended himself with silence and prayer. Thank you, Cardinal Barbarin, for your witness that builds up the Church.”

This was Pope Francis’ fifth trip to Assisi. His encounter with the poor took place as part of the Catholic Church’s celebration of the fifth annual World Day of the Poor, which falls this year on Sunday, Nov. 14.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

On arriving in Assisi, the pope went to the Convent of St. Clare to greet the Poor Clare sisters, who gathered to pray with them.

At the end of his encounter with the poor in Assisi, he stopped to have lunch with a community of Poor Clares in Spello, a nearby Umbrian hilltown, before returning to the Vatican by helicopter.

“May this meeting open the hearts of all of us to make ourselves available to each other; to open our hearts to make our weakness a strength that helps to continue the journey of life, to transform our poverty into a wealth to be shared, and thus improve the world,” the pope said in Assisi.

“Thank you to the poor who open their hearts to give us their wealth and heal our wounded hearts … Thank you all. I carry you in my heart. And, please don’t forget to pray for me, because I have my own poverty, and lots of it.”

Poland’s Catholic Church to hold day of solidarity with Lebanon

Bishop Artur Miziński and Archbishop Georges Bacouni at a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 10, 2021. / Amata CSFN.

Warsaw, Poland, Nov 12, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The Catholic Church in Poland will hold a “day of solidarity” with Lebanon on Sunday.

Speaking at a press conference in the capital, Warsaw, on Nov. 10, Bishop Artur Miziński urged Catholics to support the initiative through their prayers and donations.

“Lebanon needs our solidarity today that comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the secretary general of the Polish bishops’ conference said.

The World Bank has described Lebanon’s financial situation as among the “most severe crisis episodes globally since the mid-19th century.”

It estimates that the Middle Eastern country’s real GDP contracted by more than 20% in 2020, with surging inflation, high unemployment, and power cuts.

“Let us try to think of our brothers and sisters who remained in Lebanon, but who would not experience peace and life worthy of human conditions,” said Miziński, an auxiliary bishop of Lublin, southeastern Poland.

“Therefore, we want to help them, we want to help them rebuild damaged houses, so that there are no children left on the streets, so the children can attend schools. So that with the passage of time, the normalization of living conditions worthy of a human being will be commonplace.”

Also speaking at the press conference was the Lebanese Archbishop Georges Bacouni, who said that the country’s almost seven million-strong population was facing a critical situation following the devastating port explosion in the capital, Beirut, on Aug. 4, 2020.

Poland’s Catholics have celebrated a Day of Solidarity with the Persecuted Church annually on the second Sunday in November since the Polish bishops’ conference established the event in 2008.

This year’s day, organized by the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need and falling on Nov. 14, has the theme “Solidarity with Lebanon,” a country with a sizeable Catholic minority.

Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda of Gdańsk, northern Poland, said that Catholics could help the Lebanese people through donations, prayers, and by informing themselves about the country’s plight.

“In a special way, we, as Christians, are obliged to constantly provide help to those who need it,” said Wojda, the chairman of the Polish section of Aid to the Church in Need.