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IMAGE: CNS photo/Rafael Marchante, ReutersBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sixteen years after the Vaticanreleased the text of the so-called Third Secret of Fatima, rumors cyclically ariseclaiming that the Vatican still is keeping part of Mary's message to three childrenin Fatima, Portugal, secret.The Vatican press office May 21 took the unusual step ofpublishing a communique with reaction from retired Pope Benedict XVI, who -- asprefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- oversaw thesecret's publication in 2000 and personally wrote a commentary on it. Heinsisted at the time that the complete text had been published.In mid-May, a blog published a story claiming a Germanpriest, Father Ingo Dollinger, said that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger hadtold him soon after the publication in 2000 that part of the message was stillsecret.The Vatican communique said: "In this regard, Pope emeritusBenedict XVI declares 'never to have spoken with Professor Dollinger aboutFati...
IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Father Liam DunneBy Francis NjugunaNAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Missionaries and other Catholicsgathered in Nairobi May 23 for a requiem Mass for a Slovak nun killed in Yei,South Sudan.Holy Spirit Missionary Sister Veronika Theresia Rackova, 58,director of St. Bakhita Medical Center in Yei, was shot the night of May 16 whiledriving an ambulance after taking an expectant mother to the hospital. When theambulance was attacked by soldiers, Sister Rackova was wounded in the hip andabdomen.After two surgeries in Yei, she was evacuated to Nairobi,where she died May 20.Sister Maria Jerly, regional superior for the Holy SpiritMissionary Sisters, told Catholic News Service that Sister Rackova was shot aspeople marked John Garang Day. She added that a motive for the shooting was notknown. Three soldiers were arrested in connection with theincident, and Sister Jerly added, "One of them is said to have admittedhaving shot at Sister Rackova."Six of the order's nuns are servi...
IMAGE: CNS photo/Max Rossi, ReutersBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After five years of tension and top-levelsilence, Pope Francis and the grand imam of one of the most important SunniMuslim universities in the world embraced at the Vatican May 23."The meeting is the message," the pope told Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam ofal-Azhar University, as the religious scholar approached him just inside thedoor of the papal library. El-Tayeb's spring visit wasthe first meeting between a pontiff and a grand imam since the Muslimuniversity in Cairo suspended talks in 2011.Established in 1998, theformal dialogue between al-Azhar and the Vatican started to fray in2006, after now-retired Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech in Regensburg, Germany.Al-Azhar officials and millions of Muslims around the world said the speech linked Islam toviolence.Al-Azhar halted the talks altogether in 2011 after the former popehad said Christians in the Middle East were facing persecution. Al-Azharclaimed ...
IMAGE: GIAMPIERO SPOSITOBy Cindy WoodenROME (CNS) -- When Emmanuele Trincas described Roman Cocco as a"bomber" on the soccer field, they both laughed, but it also gaveCocco the confidence he needed to talk about his experience as a SpecialOlympics athlete."I know it's not modest," Cocco said, but being chosento play in an international soccer tournament May 20-22 in Rome"represents how hard I worked.""I never thought I'd get this far," Cocco said. "We'llsee what the future holds."Trincas and Cocco trained together for two months for the"Project Unify" tournament in Rome, which was sponsored by theKnights of Columbus and Special Olympics Italia. Four teams from Italy took onteams from France, Hungary, Lithuania and Poland.Project Unify brings together athletes with developmentaldisabilities and those without. The two learn to appreciate each other'stalents, realize what they have in common, overcome preconceived ideas and formfriendships.Logan Ludwig, deputy supreme knight of the Kn...
(Vatican Radio) The Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) has sanctioned €1 million for assistance to thousands of Sri Lankans left homeless and without food, following devastating floods triggered by days of torrential rains.  The office of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the president of CEI, is in direct contact with the Archdiocese of Colombo for the aid to the flood victims.   The floods forced more than 350,000 people from their homes, though many were returning on Monday.  The cost of Sri Lanka's landslides and floods will be between $1.5 billion and $2 billion at the minimum, the government said on Monday, as the Indian Ocean island struggles to recover from its worst natural disaster since the 2004 Asia tsunami.  The official death toll has risen to 92 but 109 people are feared to have been buried in landslides.The Italian bishops have also sanctioned another €500,000 for survivors of the April 17 earthquake in Ecuador that has destroyed more t...
Caritas Bangladesh has organized teams to the rescue people affected by Cyclone Roanu that hit the coastal areas of the country on Saturday.  While floods ripped through homes, huts and buildings, and flooded the southern part of the country, rescuers managed to save thousands of lives. Operations are still in progress.  The death toll has risen to 26 dead and 500 thousand people were evacuated. James Gomes, regional Caritas director for the Chittagong district, told AsiaNews that the cyclone has destroyed the fishermen’s trade. “It will take a long time for them to recover losses”.  Three days of heavy rain and winds up to 88 kmph hit the coastal districts of  the low-lying nation, affecting also the surrounding islands.  The violent cyclone arrived from Sri Lanka, where last week it caused dozens of casualties, most of whom were buried under a mudslide.   Through the regional offices in Barisal, Chittagong and Khulna, Car...
The Chief Minister of India’s West Bengal state has accepted the invitation of the nuns of Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata to attend the sainthood ceremony of the ‘saint of the gutter’ in Rome in September.  Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of the eastern state of which Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is the capital,  on Sunday posted a tweet on her Twitter handle saying, "I have accepted Sr Prema's invitation to be present at the canonisation of blessed Mother Teresa in Rome on 4 Sep."   Banerjee's decision followed an invitation extended to her earlier in the day by Sr. Prema, the Superior General of the Missioanries of Charity (MC) congregation.  The chief minister will be accompanied by Sister Prema, Archbishop Thomas D’souza of Calcutta, several other dignitaries and others from the MC mother house in Kolkata.  Monica Besra, a tribal woman from West Bengal's South Dinajpur district, whose 'mi...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to the World Humanitarian Summit taking place 23-24 May in Istanbul. The Summit was convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.In his message, addressed to Secretary General Ban, Pope Francis said, “I hope that your efforts may contribute in a real way to alleviating the sufferings of these millions of people” who need “protection, care and assistance, and who seek a dignified future.”He also noted some of the difficulties in finding solutions to humanitarian crises, such as competing interests and “military, economic and geo-political strategies” that displace persons and “impose the god of money, the god of power.” And he warned about humanitarian efforts “conditioned by commercial and ideological constraints.“For this reason,” he said, “what is needed today is a renewed commitment to protect each person in their daily life and to protect their dignity and hu...
(Vatican Radio) The UK’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, Baroness Joyce Anelay, was in Rome this weekend to speak to religious men and women caring for survivors of sexual violence in conflict counties around the world.Since 2012 the British government has been spearheading a global initiative to prevent and respond to the problem of rape being used as a weapon of war, for ethnic cleansing or to terrorize local populations. In 2014 a global summit in London brought together politicians, civil society and international organisations to agree on a practical action plan. Last year an international conference gathered faith leaders from different traditions to discuss ways of challenging prejudices, supporting survivors and documenting evidence of crimes committed.During her visit to Rome on Saturday, Baroness Anelay held talks with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States and with Michel Roy, Secretary...
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis received in audience in the Vatican on Monday the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheik Ahmed Muhammad Al-Tayyib.  In a note, the Director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi sj. said the approximately 30 minute meeting was “very cordial” and that the Grand Imam of Egypt “was accompanied by an important delegation, which included: Dr. Abbas Shouman, Undersecretary of Al-Azhar; Dr. Mahmaoud Hamdi Zakzouk, member of the Council of Senior Scholars of Al-Azhar University and Director of the Center for Dialogue of Al-Azhar; Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, Advisor to the Great Imam; Dr. Mohie Afifi Afifi Ahmed, secretary-general of the Islamic Research Academy; Ambassador Mahmoud Abdel Gawad, Diplomatic Advisor to the Grand Imam; Mr. Tamer Tawfik, Advisor; and Mr Ahmad Alshourbagy, Second Secretary. The delegation was accompanied by the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Holy See, Mr. Hatem Seif Elnasr.Upon...
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