Catholic leaders call for prayers, help after massive Beirut blasts

A man holds a damaged statue of Mary in his Beirut home Aug. 5, 2020, following explosions the previous day. Two massive explosions near the port of the Lebanese capital injured dozens of people and shattered windows in buildings blocks away. (CNS photo/Aziz Taher, Reuters)

By Dale Gavlak
Catholic News Service

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — Lebanese were reeling after a massive explosion at Beirut’s port destroyed homes, businesses and livelihoods across the capital, and Catholic leaders immediately took action and called for international support.

Aid groups say the blast Aug. 4 threatens to open a new humanitarian crisis in an impoverished nation that hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and is already struggling to stay afloat amid an economic collapse and soaring rates of poverty and unemployment. The explosion destroyed numerous apartment buildings, potentially leaving many homeless at a time when Lebanese have lost their jobs and savings due to the currency crisis.

Lebanon’s top Catholic cleric, Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, has called for a U.N.-controlled fund to be set up to manage aid for the reconstruction of Beirut and other international assistance to aid the stricken country.

“Hundreds of families are homeless. All this is happening and the state is in an economic and financial situation which makes it incapable of dealing with this human and urban catastrophe,” he told Vatican News. Continue reading

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Pope calls for prayers for Lebanon after deadly explosion in Beirut

Firefighters carry an injured man following explosions in Beirut Aug. 4, 2020. Two massive explosions near the port of the Lebanese capital injured dozens of people and shattered windows in buildings blocks away. (CNS photo/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)

By Carol Glatz 
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — After a massive fire triggered a deadly explosion in Beirut, Pope Francis called for prayers and a united effort to help Lebanon overcome “this serious crisis.”

“Let us pray for the victims and their family members, and let us pray for Lebanon so that with the effort of everyone in society — political and religious — it may face this tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the serious crisis it is experiencing,” the pope said Aug. 5 at the end of his general audience.

The morning after a devastating explosion rocked the city’s port area Aug. 4, at least 100 people were reported dead, more than 4,000 others were injured, and more than 100 people were missing. Rescue workers continued to search for survivors under the rubble.

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Explosion in Beirut adds suffering to Lebanon’s dire situation

A man and woman run at the site of an explosion in Beirut Aug. 4, 2020. (CNS photo/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)

By Dale Gavlak 
Catholic News Service

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — Hospitals in the Lebanese capital are overwhelmed with those suffering injuries from a massive explosion in Beirut’s port, causing widespread damage the city and rocking the tiny Mediterranean nation already devastated by the coronavirus and its worst financial crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

“People won’t be able to rebuild their homes, businesses, livelihoods. There are reports of hospitals turning away patients because they don’t have the capacity,” said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher with Human Rights Watch.

“Even before this blast, there have been shortages of medical equipment, protective gear. The health care capacity was already overstretched. I don’t know how hospitals are going to be able to handle these additional injuries,” she added. Initial reports say the explosion was caused by highly explosive materials seized from a ship stored at the port.

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Missing Mass: Social isolation keeps elders safe but lonely

Cecilia Bixcul, 65, prays with her granddaughters in early July at her home in San Pedro, Guatemala. Bixcul attended Mass twice a week before COVID-19 put an end to that practice. (CNS photo/Oscar Tuc, Unbound.org)

By Bronwen Dachs 
Catholic News Service

In communities around the world, the social isolation that keeps elders safe from the coronavirus but precludes going to church is proving extremely difficult for many. In some remote areas, younger generations are helping their elders.

In the Philippines, near Quezon City, 55-year-old Melinda Garcia used to help her 100-year-old mother, Julita Santiago, who is blind in her left eye and uses a wheelchair, get to their nearby chapel every day. Now both women are required by local restriction orders to stay indoors.

“Even on days when there is no Mass, I would go to the chapel so that I will not feel bored at home,” Santiago said. “Now, I spend my days doing personal prayers and taking sight of the surroundings outside my front door.”

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Vatican workers who meet public tested for COVID-19 antibodies

A Swiss Guard wearing a protective face mask speaks with a woman at the business entrance to the Vatican in early May. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

By Carol Glatz 
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Vatican employees and workers who have contact with the public are being tested for the antibodies for COVID-19, said the new director of the Vatican department of health and hygiene.

“For now, the study has had good results in that no one has been shown to be a carrier of the antibodies,” Andrea Arcangeli told the Vatican newspaper in an interview published Aug. 3.

People being tested included Vatican police, members of the Swiss Guard, staff at the Vatican Museums and in the Vatican’s warehouses and shops, said Arcangeli, a medical doctor who started his new position in August after serving the department since 1999. He was on the medical team offering emergency care for St. John Paul II in the few months before his death in 2005.

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Bishops from Japan, U.S. call Catholics to work for nuclear disarmament

In this 2018 file photo, peace activists hold a Catholic prayer service of repentance near the White House for the use of nuclear weapons on Japan during World War II. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

By Dennis Sadowski 
Catholic News Service

CLEVELAND (CNS) — The path to true peace requires the world to abolish nuclear weapons, an American bishop and a Japanese archbishop said as the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings at the end of World War II approached.

Speaking during a 30-minute webinar Aug. 3, Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, and Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, Japan, reiterated long-standing calls by the bishops’ conferences of both countries that the world must reverse the path toward a renewed arms race because of the threat it poses to God’s creation.

“As long as the idea that weapons are necessary for peacemaking persists, it will be difficult to even reduce the number of nuclear weapons, let alone to abolish nuclear weapons. It would be ideal if the U.S. and Japan could truly reconcile with each other and work together for the abolition of nuclear weapons,” Archbishop Takami said.

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Film director switches formats, writes book on grandpa’s WWII heroism

Jon Erwin, a film director who has now written a book titled “Beyond Valor” with William Doyle, is seen in a file photo. (CNS photo/Xavier Collin, Image Press Agency/Sipa USA via Reuters)

By Mark Pattison 
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Jon Erwin, in tandem with older brother Andrew, has directed movies with Christian themes over the past decade, including “October Baby” “I Can Only Imagine” and “I Still Believe.”

But between movies, Erwin collaborated with William Doyle to write the book of his grandfather’s service in World War II: “Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love and a Race Against Time,” which will be published Aug. 18.

Erwin’s grandfather, Henry “Red” Erwin, received the Medal of Honor for his efforts in picking up a burning phosphorous bomb that had ignited prematurely and heaving it out of the B-29 “superfortress” aircraft. The bomb would have not only wiped out his aircraft and its crew, but wreaked havoc on a formation of B-29s headed to a mission over Japan.

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John Hume, who helped bring peace to Northern Ireland, dies at 83

Northern Ireland political leader John Hume, pictured in a file photo, died at age 83 Aug. 3, 2020. (CNS photo/Paul McErlane, Reuters)

By Michael Kelly
Catholic News Service

DUBLIN (CNS) — Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Northern Ireland, has hailed political leader John Hume as a “paragon of peace” for his key role in bringing an end to the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Hume, 83, died early Aug. 3, his family said in a statement.

As a young man Hume trained for the priesthood, before becoming a community activist and later a politician highlighting the plight of the Catholic community in Northern Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s, when discrimination in employment and housing was rife.

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Conversion has personal, social dimensions, Franciscan leader says

Father Michael A. Perry, minister general of the Franciscans, preaches at a Mass opening the annual celebration of the Pardon of Assisi Aug. 1, 2020, in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, Italy. (CNS photo courtesy of the Franciscans of Assisi)

By Cindy Wooden 
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Faith in the reconciling power of the cross and in God’s great desire to forgive human sin is a call to set aside fear and make a commitment to conversion — on a personal and societal level, said Father Michael A. Perry, minister general of the Franciscans.

Opening the annual celebration Aug. 1 of the “Pardon of Assisi,” a special indulgence granted since 1216, Father Perry insisted reconciliation with God means reconciling with one’s brothers and sisters and with all of creation.

The U.S.-born head of the worldwide Franciscan order used the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of white police officers in Minnesota, as one example of “social and institutional sin” believers must confront if they are serious about conversion and reconciliation.

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German author says retired Pope Benedict is ‘extremely frail’

Retired Pope Benedict XVI is pictured during a visit to see his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, in Regensburg, Germany, June 19, 2020. (CNS photo/Daniel Karmann, DPA, Reuters)

Updated 11:50 a.m.

By Cindy Wooden 
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — An author with a long and close relationship to retired Pope Benedict XVI told a German newspaper that the 93-year-old retired pope is “extremely frail.”

Peter Seewald, the author who has published four wide-ranging book-length interviews with the retired pope, was quoted in the Aug. 3 edition of the Bavarian newspaper Passauer Neue Presse.

Seewald said he visited with Pope Benedict Aug. 1 to present him with a copy of the authorized biography, “Benedict XVI: A Life.”

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