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Catastrophic Confrontation

posted Aug 18, 2017, 12:04 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 18, 2017, 12:04 AM ]

It would not be the first time a world leader has started a foreign conflict to distract from problems at home, that could lead to an imminent nuclear catastrophic confrontation that could turn global. 

Trump stands on one side of the North Korean confrontation. The US President's erratic outbursts, and in particular, his boasts about America's unmatched military might, give real cause for concern. The other side is frightening, too, but for different reasons. The actions of Kim Jong-un's regime are irresponsible, escalatory and reckless. The worst fears of successive US leaders have come true: North Korea has joined the global nuclear "club". And there is no putting this evil genie back in the bottle. 

Pragmatic recognition of this incontrovertible, albeit regrettable, fact – that North Korea, like the US, is a nuclear power with offensive as well as defensive capabilities – is now the only sensible place from which to start rebuilding an internationally agreed strategy for lasting peace in the Korean peninsula. It is no use threatening Armageddon. Peace cannot be attained by military means. Nor is there any point in the US trying to go it alone in terms of sanctions, isolation of the regime and other non-military methods. 

One of the hard lessons of the 21st century world, which Trump has not begun to grasp, but many other Americans are beginning to, is that the US can no longer expect to have things all its own way. China is the key player in the North Korean dispute. Ignore Beijing at your peril. If Trump were to do so, the various unfortunate outcomes could include an escalation of tensions in the South China Sea, and heighten friction with Japan and South Korea, and damaging global trade and financial market strains. 

The telephone conversation between Xi Jinping, China's President, and Trump was significant in this context. Xi called for restraint and emphasised the diplomatic path. If Trump truly wants Beijing's help in pressurising North Korea, as he says, then he has no rational choice but to heed Xi's advice. Unconfirmed reports from New York suggest a back-channel diplomatic route to Pyongyang has been reactivated. If so, this is long overdue. But any renewed talks will get nowhere, unless the US drops its unrealistic precondition that North Korea unilaterally abandons its nuclear arsenal. As China says, denuclearisation of the entire peninsula must be the ultimate aim. That means both North Korean and US nukes. 

The US would also be wise to consider other relevant factors. One is North Korea's powerful folk memory of American war-making during the (still technically unfinished) Korean War, when more than a million civilians died. Why, they might ask, has Washington never signed a peace treaty? It is perhaps unsurprising that regime propaganda falls on fertile ground. Given their history, many North Koreans may fear American-led military "liberation" more than repression at the hands of their government. 

Another under-discussed factor is global nuclear disarmament. In short, this is something the US expects other countries to do, but not itself. The US has never honoured its legally binding commitment under the 1970 nuclear non-proliferation treaty to work towards the elimination of its nuclear arsenal. Instead, it has enhanced and expanded it. It is unrealistic to demand North Korea do something the world's great powers, plus non-signatory nuclear states refuse to do themselves. 

Trump should heed Xi's advice and that of Germany's Angela Merkel, speaking for Europe, by calling a halt to the name-calling and foolish threats, and offering a goodwill token – by cancelling this month's unnecessarily provocative military exercises. If Trump does not, the grown-ups in Washington must call him to heel. For the sake of all the Korean peoples and the wider world, it is time to end the talk of war, and relaunch a process of diplomatic negotiation under UN auspices. 

Courtesy: The Guardian 
(Extracts from

Prison Ministry Sunday 2017

posted Aug 10, 2017, 11:37 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 11:37 PM ]

A Pastoral Letter

Forgiveness cannot undo the past, but it can enlarge the future." This statement is chosen as the theme of this year's Prison Ministry Sunday. Thoughts of the Year of Mercy are still fresh in our minds. God made Himself known to us as "a God of tenderness, compassion, slow to anger, abounding in mercy." (Ex 34:6) He is a liberating, saving and forgiving God. When God became man in Jesus, He became God's Face of Mercy. Mercy and Forgiveness go hand in hand. 

Prison Ministry is entirely a service of Mercy and Forgiveness. The loneliness, powerlessness and hopelessness experienced by those in prison are well known to those engaged in the Ministry for the past many years. Through the celebration of Prison Ministry Sunday, the Church declares to all held in 1,401 prisons in India that they are not alone, and their situation is not hopeless. 

The criminal justice system is overburdened; the methods in dealing with criminals are mostly punitive. Yet, the more people are punished, the more crime is committed; society remains in fear. Imprisonment is supposed to offer correction, reform and rehabilitation. But this does not happen in reality; instead, it makes things worse. We know that our prisons and the system have failed to bring down the crime rate. The methods used produce negative results. 

The Church offers an alternative by inviting us to turn to JESUS, to imitate His approach and His ways with offenders and sinners, outcasts, untouchables, and all those condemned by the society of His time. The parables of the shepherd and his lost sheep, the woman and her lost coin present powerful points for reflection. God our Father values every lost son or daughter, feels for them, waits for them to "come to their senses"; He waits for their return. God's love is unconditional. God is looking for us. Sometimes, it's a long journey. Prisoners need our support to help them move away from a life of crime and towards the light of God's healing rays. They need the strength of our Faith, Hope and Love. A new approach with understanding and compassion can, in surprising ways, disarm even the most hardened offender. Based on Jesus' values of mercy and forgiveness, we should commit ourselves for the reform of these suffering people. Three proposals are put forward: 

First, we work to make the prisons Communities of Hope: 

This means we work to change the oppressive sense of hopelessness that pervades the atmosphere of any prison—the result of guilt, silence, solitude etc. Ministers, men and women of Faith, must act as agents and Angels of Hope, making ourselves 'Channels of hope and peace'. Then we can sing with St Francis: "where there is despair, let me bring Hope." 

Secondly, we work to make the prisons Communities of Faith: 

Human beings are basically spiritual. Healthy spiritual orientation is a pre-requisite for any holistic Reform, which is a must for a lasting result. Faith helps one to listen, to reflect, to forgive. Only faith can give answers to family members who ask a volunteer of Prison Ministry, "Can you give back the mother who was killed by our father?" Faith helps us to cross the borders on the seemingly inaccessible shores. 

Thirdly, we work to make the prisons Communities of Restorative Justice: 

Restorative justice is a way of responding to a person who has been harmed, a person who has caused harm and the community affected by the harm done. Restorative justice repairs damaged relationships between the offender and his/her family and the community. Remembering the beatification of Sr Rani Maria, let us not forget the hard work and prayers that brought the killer to tears at the feet of her father, mother and family members. This incident is the best example of restorative justice, of building a relationship with the offender, the victim and the community. 

We pray for Prison Officers and Staff, for the prisoners who live shattered lives burdened by their own sins, and for all the dedicated volunteers in Prison Ministry. May our patron St Maximilian Kolbe guide us. 

Bishop Peter Remigius is the Patron of Prison Ministry India

Horizon of Holiness

posted Aug 3, 2017, 11:47 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 3, 2017, 11:47 PM ]

 -  Fr Anthony Charanghat

The Catholic Church has always held the ordained ministerial priesthood in high esteem. It has taught that priests, despite their frailties and human limitations, could give us a glimpse of that horizon of holiness that could lead us into communion with God's saving presence. Throughout the centuries, Christ's mission of salvation has unremittingly extended over all the earth by the priest, who leaves all to gain all. Unfortunately, because of an ambitious clericalism that has marred the priesthood and an increasingly anti-ecclesial laity, fuelled by a rising culture of death prevailing in our society of materialism and secularism, the priest as a heroic spiritual figure has diminished. 

There are media reports today on scandals that discredit the priest's central role in salvation history. Yet we must refrain from condemning the entire priesthood, because of a few who have strayed, for God alone can bring good out of evil. How evident today is the great need of sanctity in the priesthood. The leading example of the simplicity of holiness is none other than St John Vianney, the Curé D'Ars. 

John Mary Vianney was born into a peasant family in the small town of Dardilly on May 8, 1786. His family was poor in material possessions, but rich in humanity and in faith. He spent so many years of his childhood and adolescence working in the fields, and was not literate. Nonetheless, he knew by heart the prayers his devout mother had taught him, and was nourished by the sense of religion in the atmosphere he breathed at home. Since his early youth, he sought to conform himself to God's will. 

He pondered on his desire to become a priest, but it was far from easy for him to achieve it. Indeed, he arrived at priestly ordination only after many ordeals and misunderstandings, with the help of far-sighted priests who did not stop at considering his human limitations, but looked beyond them, and glimpsed the horizon of holiness that shone out in that truly unusual young man. At the age of 29, after numerous uncertainties, quite a few failures and many tears, he was able to walk up to the Lord's altar and make the dream of his life come true. 

Indeed, in his pastoral service, as simple as it was extraordinarily fertile, this unknown parish priest of a forgotten village in the south of France was so successful in identifying with his ministry that he became, even in a visibly and universally recognisable manner, an 'Alter Christus', an image of the Good Shepherd who, unlike the hired hand, lays down his life for his sheep. 

After the example of the Good Shepherd, he gave his life in the decades of his priestly service. His existence was a living catechesis that acquired a very special effectiveness when people saw him celebrating Mass, pausing before the tabernacle in adoration or spending hour after hour in the confessional. Therefore, the centre of his entire life was the Eucharist, which he celebrated and adored with devotion and respect. He was in love with Christ, and the true secret of his pastoral success was the fervour of his love for the Eucharistic Mystery, celebrated and lived, which became love for Christ's flock, for Christians and for all who were seeking God. 

The teaching, which in this regard the Holy Curé of Ars continues to pass on to us is that the priest must create an intimate personal union with Christ, that he must cultivate and increase day after day. Only if he is in love with Christ will the priest be able to teach his union, this intimate friendship with the divine Teacher to all, and be able to move people's hearts and open them to the Lord's merciful love. Only in this way, consequently, will he be able to instil enthusiasm and spiritual vitality in the communities the Lord entrusts to him.

Ignatius’ love for Jesus and its consequences

posted Jul 27, 2017, 11:58 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jul 27, 2017, 11:59 PM ]

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus, possessed innumerable qualities which made him a giant of his time. He remains a giant in our times as well. Some qualities are enumerated below in the hope that, with God's grace, we can assimilate at least some of them in our following of the Lord. 

The quality which characterised St Ignatius the most was his deep personal love for the person of Jesus Christ. Ignatius was so taken up with Jesus, that he was willing to do anything, go anywhere, and be any one as long as he could imitate Jesus. His intention in naming the Society after Jesus was both because he did not seek personal glory, and also because he wanted that his companions and those who decided to join this least Society would be Jesuita (like Jesus Christ). 

Ignatius' personal love for the person of Jesus led him to being 'a Contemplative in Action'. While he always set aside time for prayer and communion with the Lord, in his personal life, prayer was never separated from action. Due to his close communion with the Lord, be it at work or in solitude and silence, Ignatius was always listening to and waiting for the Lord. He never presumed to tell the Lord what to do. Rather, like an attentive student before his Master, he was always listening and discerning what the Lord wanted him to do. He devoted a whole section to 'Discernment' in his Spiritual Exercises, because his one desire was to do what God wanted him to do. 

His desire to do God's will, no matter what the consequences, led him to keep searching for the 'Magis', meaning the greater or more. The Magis was not simply one among others in a list of the qualities of St Ignatius; it permeated them all. There was no complacency or self-satisfaction. God had to be given not only all, but more than all. This is why he chose as the motto of the Society of Jesus Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (A.M.D.G.) which means, in English, 'The Greater Glory of God'. 

Ignatius' striving for Magis led him to the invaluable quality of 'Indifference' which is part of the last Annotation in the Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius understood Indifference as deep concern for the 'things of the Lord'. Because of this concern, one could be detached from the outcome. Ignatian Indifference means doing all that has to be done to the best of one's ability, and then leaving the rest in God's capable hands. 

His 'indifference' which meant that God was in control in all circumstances led him to formulate 'Rules for thinking with the Church'. Unlike some contemporaries of his time, who broke away from the Church when they disagreed with the hierarchy, Ignatius was loyal to the Church right through. He regarded the Church as a mother. He never considered himself an outsider, an armchair critic, but actively went about trying to reform the Church from within. Since the Church was the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-31), Ignatius regarded himself and the Society as an integral part of this body. 

This 'Body of Christ' was in the world and had to serve the world. Of those to be served, Ignatius preferred to be in solidarity with those most in need. He deliberately chose the path of poverty in order to experience firsthand what the poor went through. This enabled him to reach out to them in a practical and tangible manner. 

The feast of Ignatius (July 31) is for each of us an opportunity to ask whether we can try to assimilate some of these qualities. Of these, it seems to me that if we make every attempt to deepen our relationship with the Lord, all others will naturally follow. 

Fr Errol Fernandes is a Jesuit priest of the Bombay Province and Assistant at Holy Family Parish, Andheri

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