Tag Archives: justice

“People have been stripped of their dignity,” US Chaldean bishop says

Francis KalabatTestimony of Bishop Francis Kalabat from the St. Thomas the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Diocese

Senate Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Democracy and Global Women’s Issues

December 9, 2014

Madam Chair, Ranking Member, members of the committee: My name is Francis Kalabat and I serve as Bishop of the Chaldean Diocese of St. Thomas in North America, which includes 12 churches in Michigan and Illinois representing more than 175,000 Chaldean Catholics in communion with Rome and His Holiness Pope Francis.

Thank you for allowing me to testify before you today. As I speak, the process of the eradication of Christians in Iraq and throughout the Middle East continues. Ten years ago, in Iraq alone, there were over 350 Churches; today there are fewer than forty. Many have been bombed or destroyed; others, especially in the historically Christian villages of northern Iraq, are being used as Islamic State facilities.

I am here today to give testimony to the suffering of our people in Iraq and throughout the diaspora in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, and to seek further assistance from this body, Congress as a whole and the executive branch. The United States has a unique role and obligation in this conflict. Not only because we are the standard bearer and protector of international human rights, but also because the plight of Christians in Iraq today is a direct result of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

That effort, the poorly planned and executed goal of regime change and the more recent withdrawal of U.S. troops, left in its wake a weakened and decentralized national government, sectarian warfare and the practice of government by tribes or in some cases government by gang. The lack of national unity and a tepid Iraqi military has left a dangerous void—a void filled, hopefully only temporarily, by Islamic State—a group that is the anathema to the West, to Judeo-Christian values and to civilized international norms. This has meant devastating consequences to the people of Iraq, especially Christians who are being systematically uprooted from their homes in the historical birthplace of Christianity.

A couple hundred thousand Christian Iraqis have fled their homes since the militant Islamic State group swept through much of the north in June. Islamic State has been turning churches into prisons in the Iraq city of Mosul, which used to be the site of a large Christian community before it was driven out by this terrorist group. As an example, Fides News Agency reported last Tuesday that a number of detainees were recently sent to the ancient Chaldean church of the Immaculate Conception in the eastern part of the city. Sources have shared that the historically important St. George Monastery in the north has also been turned into a place for female detention, raising fears that women might be abused. Our Churches have been destroyed and many of our ancient manuscripts dating back to the tenth century have been destroyed in an effort to wipe out our identity.


Mosul has been emptied of Christians who, under the implementation of Sharia law, have been forced to convert to Islam, pay a tax, leave their homes or die for their faith. Many have been killed in the name of religion.

Allow me to quote from a letter from Sr. Maria Hanna, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq.

“After four months of exile there are no signs of hope that the situation here in Iraq will be resolved peacefully. Unable to think or make decisions, everything is vague and we feel as if we have been living a nightmare. Christianity in Iraq is bleeding; so many families have left, and many are leaving to Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, preparing themselves for second immigration and an uncertain future. We know not how long these families will be able to tolerate the burden and survive financially.

“The conditions remain the same for those of us in Iraq. Many still are forced to stay in unfinished buildings on construction sites. In one place, a mall has been remodeled to accommodate families, with the hall divided merely with partitions. Although they are better than tents, they resemble dark, damp cages with no ventilation. Most difficult of all is the lack of privacy.

“There have been some attempts to provide containers and rent houses and flats, but this is not enough as the number of displaced people increases each day. Many come from cold mountainous places. Psychologically, people are tired, worried, confused, and irritated – who would blame them? They are jobless, their children do not attend school, and young people are still waiting to start their academic year at the university – some tried to register at Kurdish universities, but they were not accepted. All this is causing tremendous strain on the families, and the result is abuse and relationships that are unhealthy. The problems are totally overwhelming, and it seems as if our efforts are amounting to nothing.

“People have been stripped of their dignity….”

Members of this Committee, I submit to you that when people lose their dignity, they despair and despair is a dark, lonely place. But as our Savior Jesus Christ has taught us, “Where there is despair, he will bring hope.” But it is incumbent on us—the United States, western nations and all God- loving people everywhere, to be the tools and the manifestation of this hope. Therefore, I call on this sub-committee and the United States government to resolve the following:

  1. 1)  Our Diocese here has raised more than $1.5 million to aid the internally displaced Christians and other minorities now living in Kurdistan. Banking laws and regulations and other stipulations should not inhibit this money from reaching the people who need it.
  2. 2)  The Kurdish government should be provided resources by the U.S. specifically to aid people displaced by this current conflagration. The Kurdish Regional Government lacks resources to aid our growing refugee community and the arms to combat these terrorists.
  3. 3)  Pressure should be placed on the central government in Baghdad to take a more active stance on the growing problem of Iraqi refugees. The central government has done virtually nothing to support our community and is primarily concerned with the preservation of sectarian political power. Christians are being used as pawns because we have lived in what is known as disputed areas in Iraq.
  1. 4)  The U.S. and the international community must immediately intervene to provide direct

    humanitarian aid to the displaced Christians and other minorities in the regions of Erbil and

    Dohuk in northern Iraq.

  2. 5)  Christian and other minority villages that have been overrun by ragtag Islamic State militants

    must immediately be liberated with U.S. military assistance and refugees provided safe

    passage to return to their villages and homes.

  3. 6)  The Christian and other minority villages must be protected by a U.S.-led international force

    under the supervision of either the U.S. or United Nations, if other governments will participate. The air strikes alone are accomplishing very little and costing taxpayers a bundle.

  4. 7)  Syria must not follow the same path as Iraq. The United States’ involvement in Syria is just as vague as that in Iraq and is leading to the same brutality. This only leads us to ask: Who’s next in the Middle East?

Senators, I submit to you that the U.S. must finish what it started; Islamic State must be defeated quickly and permanently. They are a menace to the Iraqi and Syrian people and will be a permanent threat to the West if they are not dismantled. The situation that the ancient Christian people of Iraq find themselves in today is the direct result of 20 years of failed U.S. policy in Iraq. An additional 2.2 million Christians in Syria are facing the same fate. Our response and future actions as a government cannot be borne just from a sense of humanitarian responsibility but rather the moral obligation that accompanies the direct role that the U.S has played in the destabilization of Iraq and the region.

Thank you.

Turkey is precious for Christians, Pope states

pope and erdoganAt work is the interface between Christian faith and public order with Pope Francis making a three day visit to Turkey. A new and concrete plan for peace is needed so that, as Francis says, conflict is not merely the daily and accepted way of life. There is nothing dignified about killing the person who thinks and prays differently from us. The Bishop of Rome calls the visit a “dialogue of friendship.” Nonetheless, his trip to this highly Islamic and fanatic country is going to be interesting in terms of relationships of peace, mutual charitable work and education the coming months (and years). Turkey has been seen as a secular country since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938) who is routinely said to be the founder of the Republic of Turkey and yet, history tells a different story. His republican views had no real place for religion in the marketplace –neither Christian nor Muslim.

Today, many take it for granted that Turkey is an Islamic country with no Christian roots. Just the opposite, Turkey was a significant home of Christians (see the initial comments of Pope Francis below).

Pope Francis is not the first Roman Pontiff to visit Turkey; all of the recent pontiffs made a visit to the land of Christians. Recall, too, that Constantinople –the historic name of the current capitol of Turkey called Istanbul — is the home of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, successor of Saint Andrew and the spiritual father of nearly 300 million Orthodox Christians.

In some ways the Pope was restrained yet clear in his message of the need for a rule of law with various freedoms and rights for ALL peoples AND that the protection of all creation is required for peace. At the moment not everyone in Turkey can claim to be equal, free, and peaceful under the current practice of law.

The Pope’s address at to the leaders of Turkey:

Pope Francis with President of TurkeyI am pleased to visit your country so rich in natural beauty and history, and filled with vestiges of ancient civilizations. It is a natural bridge between two continents and diverse cultures. This land is precious to every Christian for being the birthplace of St Paul, who founded various Christian communities here, and for hosting the first seven Councils of the Church. It is also renowned for the site near Ephesus which a venerable tradition holds to be the “Home of Mary”, the place where the Mother of Jesus lived for some years. It is now a place of devotion for innumerable pilgrims from all over the world, not only for Christians, but also for Muslims.

Yet, the reasons why Turkey is held with such regard and appreciation are not only linked to its past and ancient monuments, but also have to do with the vitality of its present, the hard work and generosity of its people, and its role in the concert of nations.

It brings me great joy to have this opportunity to pursue with you a dialogue of friendship, esteem and respect, in the footsteps of my predecessors Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI. This dialogue was prepared for and supported by the work of the then Apostolic Delegate, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who went on to become Saint John XXIII, and by the Second Vatican Council.

Today what is needed is a dialogue which can deepen the understanding and appreciation of the many things which we hold in common. Such a dialogue will allow us to reflect sensibly and serenely on our differences, and to learn from them.

There is a need to move forward patiently in the task of building a lasting peace, one founded on respect for the fundamental rights and duties rooted in the dignity of each person. In this way, we can overcome prejudices and unwarranted fears, leaving room for respect, encounter, and the release of more positive energies for the good of all.

To this end, it is essential that all citizens – Muslim, Jewish and Christian – both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties. They will then find it easier to see each other as brothers and sisters who are traveling the same path, seeking always to reject misunderstandings while promoting cooperation and concord. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression, when truly guaranteed to each person, will help friendship to flourish and thus become an eloquent sign of peace.

The Middle East, Europe and the world all await this maturing of friendship. The Middle East, in particular, has for too long been a theatre of fratricidal wars, one born of the other, as if the only possible response to war and violence must be new wars and further acts of violence.

How much longer must the Middle East suffer the consequences of this lack of peace? We must not resign ourselves to ongoing conflicts as if the situation can never change for the better! With the help of God, we can and we must renew the courage of peace! Such courage will lead to a just, patient and determined use of all available means of negotiation, and in this way achieve the concrete goals of peace and sustainable development.

Mr President, inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue can make an important contribution to attaining this lofty and urgent goal, so that there will be an end to all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism which gravely demean the dignity of every man and woman and exploit religion.

Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers. This solidarity must rest on the following pillars: respect for human life and for religious freedom, that is the freedom to worship and to live according to the moral teachings of one’s religion; commitment to ensuring what each person requires for a dignified life; and care for the natural environment. The peoples and the states of the Middle East stand in urgent need of such solidarity, so that they can “reverse the trend” and successfully advance a peace process, repudiating war and violence and pursuing dialogue, the rule of law, and justice.

Sadly, to date, we are still witnessing grave conflicts. In Syria and Iraq, particularly, terrorist violence shows no signs of abating. Prisoners and entire ethnic populations are experiencing the violation of the most basic humanitarian laws. Grave persecutions have taken place in the past and still continue today to the detriment of minorities, especially – though not only – Christians and Yazidis. Hundreds of thousands of persons have been forced to abandon their homes and countries in order to survive and remain faithful to their religious beliefs.

Turkey, which has generously welcomed a great number of refugees, is directly affected by this tragic situation on its borders; the international community has the moral obligation to assist Turkey in taking care of these refugees. In addition to providing much needed assistance and humanitarian aid, we cannot remain indifferent to the causes of these tragedies. In reaffirming that it is licit, while always respecting international law, to stop an unjust aggressor, I wish to reiterate, moreover, that the problem cannot be resolved solely through a military response.

What is required is a concerted commitment on the part of all, based on mutual trust, which can pave the way to lasting peace, and enable resources to be directed, not to weaponry, but to the other noble battles worthy of man: the fight against hunger and sickness, the promotion of sustainable development and the protection of creation, and the relief of the many forms of poverty and marginalization of which there is no shortage in the world today.

Turkey, by virtue of its history, geographical position and regional influence, has a great responsibility: the choices which Turkey makes and its example are especially significant and can be of considerable help in promoting an encounter of civilizations and in identifying viable paths of peace and authentic progress.

May the Most High bless and protect Turkey, and help the nation to be a strong and fervent peacemaker!

One Human Family, Food for All

One familyAn international —and personal, because it touches the conscience— issue which plagues all people no matter of faith is that of hunger. It is a wretched thing to be without food even for a night. Some 800 million do not have sufficient food. How can I share, live in justice and care for the other person?

As President of Caritas Internationalis Oscar Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga SDB, wrote a letter recently from which I excerpted the following:

Caritas Internationalis launched the ‘One Human Family, Food for All’ campaign before Christmas. The campaign offers an opportunity to answer Pope Francis’s invitation.

We believe that it is a fundamental injustice that over 800 million people in the world are hungry. These people wouldn’t be hungry if there were greater equality in wealth and resources were shared more fairly. Each of us can live more simply, consume less, waste less and be more conscious of our choices. Sharing – our bread, our resources, ourselves – is the cornerstone of our faith and a solution to global hunger.

In the run up to Lent here in Rome, all the children dress up for the tradition of ‘carnivale’. The face of Jesus Christ is also present in many guises and we may not recognise him at first glance. We may ignore his call if we’re not attentive. “He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty,” said Pope Francis.

Lent is a call to taste people’s hunger and touch their poverty with our very fingers. It is a time to join hands with our brothers and sisters who are part of the 3.5 billion poor in the world. As the Americans would say, it’s time to “do the math”.

Please support the Caritas One Human Family, Food for All campaign to eliminate global hunger by 2025. You can act by donating online at www.caritas.org or by doing something large or small in your community to help the poor and vulnerable.

Can we support the Caritas Internationalis campaign ‘One Human Family: Food for All’, working towards ending hunger by 2025?

Defender of the Bond is an icon of the Good Shepherd

Cardinal BurkeOn November 8, the Holy Father Francis received in audience participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature with the Prefect, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke (he’s one of our American Prelates in service to the Holy Father at the Curia). A plenary session allows for the consulters and those assigned to a particular office to meet to discuss business but also to meet with the Pope so as to hear what he has to say on a  particular theme of his choosing. A plenary session is held once a year.

The Wisconsin native, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke is a brilliant noteworthy churchman. His Eminence  earned his doctorate in Canon Law from the Gregorian University in 1984. John Paul named Burke to be the Defender of the Bond of the same tribunal he now leads. He was previously the bishop of La Crosse and archbishop of St Louis. Pope Benedict appointed him to the present work in 2008 and a cardinal in 2010.

Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, one of three ecclesiastical tribunals of the Holy See, is the highest judicial authority of the Church; the Prefect, acting in the name of the Pope, is the minister of justice. The decree of justice is sent under a signature, hence, “signature,” administering the justice asked for by the people of God. There are 25 prelates who assist the Prefect and his staff. You can learn more about the ministry of the Apostolic Signature by reading the articles in Pastor Bonus.

Here, the Pope focuses on truth and justice in the work of the Defender of the Bond with regard to the sacrament of Marriage. The Defender of the Bond and the judge of martial cases work together to ascertain the truth and are not in competition with each other but is the point of communion between what is revealed in scripture, lived in the sacraments and lived in the world. You can see to what extent Mother Church tries to care for her married children in a time of hurt and discouragement.

The following his Francis’ talk with my emphasis.

This, your Plenary Session, gives me the opportunity to receive all of you who work in the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, expressing to each one my gratitude for the promotion of the correct administration of justice in the Church. I greet you cordially and I thank the Cardinal Prefect for the words with which he introduced our meeting.

Your activity is geared to fostering the work of the ecclesiastical tribunals, called to respond adequately to the faithful who turn to the justice of the Church to obtain a correct decision. You do your utmost so that they function well, and you support the responsibility of bishops in forming suitable ministers of justice. Among these, the Defender of the Bond carries out an important function, especially in the process of matrimonial nullity. It is necessary, in fact, that he be able to fulfill his own part with efficacy, to facilitate the attainment of truth in the definitive sentence, in favor of the pastoral good of the parties in question.

In this regard, the Apostolic Signature has offered significant contributions. I am thinking in particular of the collaboration in the preparation of the Instruction Dignitas connubii, which explains the applicable trial norms. Placed in this line also is the present Plenary Session, which has put at the center of its works the promotion of an effective defense of the matrimonial bond in the canonical processes of nullity.

The attention given to the ministry of the Defender of the Bond is without a doubt opportune, because his presence and his intervention are obligatory for the whole development of the process (cf. Dignitas connubii, 56, 1-2; 279, 1). Foreseen in the same way is that he must propose all sorts of proofs, exceptions, recourses and appeals that, in respect of the truth, foster the defense of the bond.

The mentioned Instruction describes, in particular, the role of the Defender of the Bond in the causes of nullity for psychic incapacity, which in some Tribunals constitute the sole reason for nullity. It underlines the diligence that he must put in assessing the questions addressed to the experts, as well as the results of the opinions themselves (cf. 56, 4). Therefore, the Defender of the Bond who wishes to render a good service cannot limit himself to a hasty reading of the acts, or to bureaucratic and generic answers. In his delicate task, he is called to try to harmonize the prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law with the concrete situations of the Church and of society.

The faithful and complete fulfillment of the task of the Defender of the Bond does not constitute a pretension damaging of the prerogatives of the ecclesiastical judge, to whom corresponds solely the definition of the cause. When the Defender of the Bond exercises the duty to appeal, also to the Roman Rota, against a decision which he holds damaging to the truth of the bond, his task does not abuse that of the judge. In fact, the judges can find, in the careful work of him who defends the matrimonial bond, a help to their own activity.

The Second Ecumenical Vatican Council defined the Church as communion. Seen in this perspective are the service of the Defender of the Bond and the consideration that is reserved to him, in a respectful and attentive dialogue.

A final, very important annotation as regards the workers committed in the ministry of ecclesial justice. They act in the name of the Church; they are part of the Church. Therefore, it is necessary to always keep alive the connection between the action of the Church that evangelizes and the action of the Church that administers justice. The service to justice is a commitment of apostolic life: it requires to be exercised by keeping one’s gaze fixed on the icon of the Good Shepherd, who bends down to the lost and wounded sheep.

At the conclusion of this meeting, I encourage you all to persevere in the search for a limpid and correct exercise of justice in the Church, in response to the legitimate desires that the faithful address to Pastors, especially when, confidently, they ask to have their own status authoritatively clarified. May Mary Most Holy, who we invoke with the title Speculum iustitiae, help you and the whole Church to walk on the path of justice, which is the first form of charity. Thank you and good work!

Curbing sex abuse is a long term process

Robert W. Oliver.jpgFather Robert W. Oliver, a priest from Boston began his new work –a ministry of justice– as the new Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on February 1.

Interesting in Cindy Wooden’s CNS article today is that three-quarters of the 112 conferences of bishops around the world have submitted their plans to protect children. Many who have not are from Africa.
Oliver has offered praise for the press in the USA in shedding light on a difficult subject. Most certainly this is a very difficult subject to understand and rectify.
There’s a lot of work to do. What is needed today is for all of us to be steady, coherent and faithful to the task of protecting all people from predators.
Father Oliver replaces the competent and forthright priest from Malta, Charles J. Scicluna, 53, now an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Malta serving with the Dominican archbishop Paul Cremona.
Prayers of Father Oliver and the people he will serve as a Good Shepherd.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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