March 27, 2015

Vatican Information Service Bulletin

The following, in it's entirety, is a copyrighted transcript of the Vatican Information Service

Summary

- Pope Expresses Solidarity with Families in Iraq and Nigeria

- Pope to Receive President of Italy and to Visit Prato and Florence

- Pope Meets 150 Homeless who Visited Sistine Chapel Yesterday

- Respect for Refugee Children: Legal Identity, Education

- Freedoms of Religion and Expression: Adopting an Ethics of Responsibility

Pope Expresses Solidarity with Families in Iraq and Nigeria

Vatican City, 27 March 2015 (VIS) ? Pope Francis has a constant concern for the situation of Christian families and other groups of victims who have been expelled from their homes and villages, particularly in the city of Mosul and the Nineveh plains, many of whom have taken refuge in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Pope prays for them and hopes they can return and resume their lives in the lands and places where they have lived and built good relationships for hundreds of years.

In this coming Holy Week, these families are sharing together with Christ the unjust violence of which they have been made victims, participating in the suffering of Christ himself.

In a desire to be close to these families, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, is returning to Iraq as a sign of nearness, affection, and unity in prayer with them.

The families of the Diocese of Rome, united with their bishop in the feeling of nearness and solidarity with these families, through a special collection in the parishes, are sending the traditional Easter cakes in the shape of a dove (colomba cake) to share the joy of Easter and as a herald of good based on the faith in the Resurrection of Christ.

The Holy Father, moreover, makes himself present in a concrete way with a tangible sign of solidarity. Not wanting to forget the suffering of the families in northern Nigeria either, he has also sent a similar sign of solidarity through the local Bishops? Conference.

Pope to Receive President of Italy and to Visit Prato and Florence

Vatican City, 27 March 2015 (VIS) ? On 18 April, Pope Francis will receive President of Italy Sergio Mattarella for the first time in an official visit to the Vatican. President Mattarella was elected 3 February of this year. The visit has been confirmed by the Holy See Press Office as well as the pastoral visits that the Holy Father will make to the Italian cities of Prato and Florence on 10 November on the occasion of the 5th National Ecclesial Congress of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) that will be held from 9-13 November. The Congress?s theme is ?A New Humanism through Jesus Christ?.

Pope Meets 150 Homeless who Visited Sistine Chapel Yesterday

Vatican City, 27 March 2015 (VIS) ? Yesterday afternoon, shortly after 5:00pm, Pope Francis went to the Sistine Chapel to greet the 150 homeless persons who had been invited to visit the Vatican Museums through an initiative of the Office of Papal Charities. After shaking hands with those he met, he addressed the group saying: ?Welcome. This is the house of all; this is your house. The doors are always open to all.?

Later, he thanked Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, Papal Almoner, for having organized the visit, which he called a ?small kindness? for the guests. The Pope added: ?Pray for me. I need the prayers of people like you. May the Lord protect you, accompany you on your life?s path, and make you feel the Father?s tender love.? He then greeted each person present and chatted with them for about 20 minutes.

As we reported yesterday, after the visit, the guests were invited to dinner at the Vatican Museums restaurant and they left Vatican City through the Sant?Uffizio Gate.

At the Pope?s request, there was no official video or photo report of the event.

Respect for Refugee Children: Legal Identity, Education

Vatican City, 27 March 2015 (VIS) ? Respect for children, victims of war, was the subject of Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva Archbishop Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi?s, speech given at the 28th session of the Human Rights Council held 17 March of this year.

?The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,? the archbishop stated, ?recently reported that, since the start of the crisis, ?more than 10 million Syrians have fled their homes. This amounts to almost half of the country?s population, now deprived of their basic rights? ? A variety of sources have provided evidence on how children suffer the brutal consequences of a persistent status of war in their country. Children are recruited, trained, and used in active combat roles, at times even as human shields in military attacks. The so-called Islamic State (ISIL) group has worsened the situation by training and using children as suicide bombers; killing children who belong to different religious and ethnic communities; selling children as slaves in markets; executing large numbers of boys; and committing other atrocities.?

?In camps throughout the Middle East, children constitute approximately half of the refugee population and they are the most vulnerable demographic group in times of conflict and displacement. ? Beyond the specific conditions faced by internally displaced children and those in the refugee camps of the region and beyond the enormous tragedies affecting them, it seems important to envision their future, by focusing on three particular areas of concern.?

?First,? he asserted, ?the world must deal with the situation of millions of stateless children, who as such according to the law, were never born. The United Nations estimates that approximately 30,000 of these children can be found in Lebanon alone. Moreover, due to the Middle Eastern conflicts and massive uprooting of families, several thousand unregistered children are scattered in camps and other asylum countries. ? Stateless children cross international borders alone and find themselves completely abandoned. ? While all face grave difficulties, those fleeing Syria face challenges that are even more dramatic: a child below eleven years of age and without documents has no access even to the most basic services. These children obviously cannot go to school and they are likely to be adopted illegally, recruited in an armed group, abused, exploited, or forced into prostitution. Every child has the right to be registered at birth and thus to be recognized as a person before the law. The implementation of this right opens the way for access to the enjoyment of other rights and benefits that affect the future of these children. Simplifying mechanisms and requirements for registration, waving fees, and advocating for refugee inclusive registration legislation, represent steps to solve the plight of stateless children.?

?Second, another key component that shapes the future of uprooted children is education. Both in Syria and in refugee camps in the region, provision of education has become extremely problematic. Some 5,000 schools have been destroyed in Syria where more than one million and half students no longer receive an education and where attacks against school buildings continue. ? The international community as a whole seems to have misjudged the extent of the Syrian crisis. It was thought by many that the Syrian refugee flow was temporary and such refugees would leave their countries of asylum in a matter of months. Now, after four years of conflict, it appears likely that these refugees will remain and the locals have to learn to live side by side with them. ? In the camps, there are only 40 teachers for more than 1,000 students, aged 6 to 17. ? For different reasons, whether in their home countries or in the refugee camps, children find an inadequate education system that jeopardizes their future. Everywhere there is an urgent need for an education system that could absorb these children and bring some normalcy to their lives.?

?Third, another disruptive consequence of the continuing violence that torments the Middle East is the separation of family members, which forces many minors to fend for themselves. ? To prevent the further exploitation of children and to protect them properly, an additional effort should be made to facilitate the reunification of minors with their respective families.?

?The right to a legal identity, to an adequate education, and to a family,? the archbishop concluded, ?are key elements and specific requirements in a comprehensive system of protection for children. Such measures require the close collaboration of all stakeholders. Access to quality education and psycho-social care, together with other basic services, is extremely important. However, children cannot benefit from such services unless they are registered at birth and their families and communities are supported to protect them better. If the violence does not stop and the normal pace of education and development is not resumed, these children are at risk of becoming a lost generation.?

Freedoms of Religion and Expression: Adopting an Ethics of Responsibility

Vatican City, 27 March 2015 (VIS) ? On 10 March, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, spoke at the 28th meeting of the Council for Human Rights. His speech, the majority of which is presented here below, emphasized the fundamental importance of religious freedom as well as the freedom of expression.

?The International Community is now confronted with a delicate, complex, and urgent challenge with regard to respect for religious sensibilities and the need for peaceful coexistence in an ever more pluralistic world: namely, that of establishing a fair relationship between freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The relationship between these fundamental human rights has proven difficult to manage and to address on either a normative or institutional level. On the other hand, it should be recognized ?that the open, constructive, and respectful debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local, national, and international levels, can play a positive role in combating religious hatred, incitement, and violence.? Failure in this effort is evident when an excessive and irresponsible use of freedom of expression results in intimidation, threats, and verbal abuse and these infringe upon freedom of religion and can sadly lead to intolerance and violence. Likewise, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion has focused on the violence committed ?in the name of religion?, and on its root causes.?

?Unfortunately, violence abounds today. If genocide means any act committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such, then the International Community as a whole is certainly witnessing a sort of genocide in some regions of the world, where the enslavement and sale of women and children, the killing of young men, the burning, beheading and the forcing into exile of people continue. In this context, the Delegation of the Holy See would like to submit to the joint reflection of the Human Rights Council that these and other unspeakable crimes are being committed against people belonging to ancient communities simply because their belief, social system, and culture are different from the fundamentalist combatants of the so-called ?Islamic State? group. The appeal to religion in order to murder people and destroy the evidence of human creativity developed in the course of history makes the on-going atrocities even more revulsive and damnable. An adequate response from the International Community, which should finally put aside sectarian interests and save lives, is a moral imperative.?

?Violence, however, does not stem from religion but from its false interpretation or its transformation into ideology. In addition, the same violence can derive from the idolatry of State or of the economy, and it can be an effect of secularization. All these phenomena tend to eliminate individual freedom and responsibility towards others. But, violence is always an individual?s act and a decision that implies personal responsibility. It is in fact by adopting an ethics of responsibility that the way toward the future can become fruitful, preventing violence and breaking the impasse between extreme positions: one that upholds any form of freedom of expression and the other that rejects any criticism of a religion. ??

?Freedom of expression that is misused to wound the dignity of persons by offending their deepest convictions sows the seeds of violence. Of course, freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that is always to be upheld and protected; in fact, it also implies the obligation to say in a responsible way what a person thinks in view of the common good. ? It does not, however, justify relegating religion to a subculture of insignificant weight or to an acceptable easy target of ridicule and discrimination. Antireligious arguments even in the form of irony can surely be accepted, as it is acceptable to use irony about secularism or atheism. Criticism of religious thinking can even help dismantle various extremisms. But what can justify gratuitous insults and spiteful derision of the religious feelings and convictions of others who are, after all, equal in dignity? Can we make fun of the cultural identity of a person, of the colour of his skin, of the belief of his heart? A ?right to offend? does not exist. ??

?Several mutually interdependent issues like freedom of religion, freedom of expression, religious intolerance, and violence in the name of religion come together in the concrete situations the world faces today. The way forward seems to be the adoption of a comprehensive approach that would consider these issues together in domestic legislation and deal with them in such a way that they may facilitate a peaceful coexistence based on the respect of the inherent human dignity and rights of every person. While opting to be on the side of freedom, the consequences of its exercise cannot be ignored and they should respect this dignity and, thus, build a more humane and more brotherly global society.?

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