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Nun known as 'Mother Teresa of Pakistan' to receive state funeral

IMAGE: EPA

By Anto Akkara

THRISSUR, India (CNS) -- The government of Pakistan will accord a state funeral to Sister Ruth Katharina Martha Pfau, a German-born member of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary who devoted her life to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan.

Sister Ruth, dubbed the Mother Teresa of Pakistan, died Aug. 10 in Karachi. She was 87.

"Sister Ruth was a model of total dedication. She inspired and mobilized all sections of society to join the fight against leprosy, irrespective of creed or ethnic identity," Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, president of Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference, told Catholic News Service Aug. 11.

"We are happy that the government is according her a state funeral on Aug. 19," the archbishop said, noting it would be at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Sister Ruth would be remembered "for her courage, her loyalty, her service to the eradication of leprosy, and most of all, her patriotism."

"Pfau may have been born in Germany, her heart was always in Pakistan," he said.

Born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1929, she went to France to study medicine and later joined the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary. Archbishop Coutts said she arrived in Karachi in 1960 due to some visa problems en route to India and was touched by what she saw at the leprosy colony off Macleod Road in Karachi. She decided to join the work Mexican Sister Bernice Vargasi had begun three year earlier, Archbishop Coutts said.

In 1962 Sister Ruth founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan's first hospital dedicated to treating Hansen's disease, and later set up its branches in all provinces of Pakistan. She spent the rest of her life in the country and was granted Pakistani citizenship.

In 1996, the World Health Organization declared Pakistan one of the first countries in Asia to be free of Hansen's disease. The Dawn daily reported in 2016 that the number of those under treatment for leprosy fell to 531 from more than 19,000 in the 1980s.

The Pakistani bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace called Sister Ruth a "national hero of Pakistan." It said her services for humanity "were nothing less than a pure manifestation of God's divine love."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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Cardinal calls Salvadorans to reflect on true meaning of martyrdom

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The celebrations of the 100th anniversary Blessed Oscar Romero's birth should be a time to reflect on what it really means to call someone a martyr, said Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador.

Too many people in El Salvador "continue to call martyrs those who picked up arms and died following an ideal" in the country's 12-year-long civil war, the cardinal wrote in an article for L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

The country's real martyrs, the cardinal said, "never stained their hands with blood," and they were "men and women who strove to love God and their neighbors."

The real martyrs of El Salvador are Blessed Romero, "the assassinated priests and the four U.S. women -- three religious and a laywoman -- whose lives were taken in December 1980," he said, referring to Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan, a laywoman.

In addition, he wrote, "we all have a debt that we must begin to settle as soon as possible. We are obliged out of gratitude to God and love for the truth to redeem the memory of hundreds of anonymous martyrs, most of whom were humble campesinos."

"For us, martyr means witness," he said. "We must walk with them in the name of Christ."

The article by Cardinal Rosa Chavez was published Aug. 10 in the Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano, but was written for the newspaper's Spanish edition, which published a special issue for Blessed Romero's birthday Aug. 15.

The cardinal began his article thanking Pope Francis for naming Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago, Chile, as his personal envoy the celebrations of Blessed Romero's anniversary.

In the nomination letter, he said, the pope described Blessed Romero as "bishop and martyr, illustrious pastor and witness to the Gospel and defender of the church and human dignity." The pope also noted that as a priest and as a bishop, Blessed Romero worked for "justice, reconciliation and peace."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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Italians debate whether rescuing migrants at sea can be a crime

IMAGE: CNS photo/Elio Desiderio, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As temperatures heated up in Italy in late July and August, so did the debate over migration policy and, particularly, over the rescue of refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

Italian officials are investigating an Eritrean Catholic priest and a German humanitarian organization on suspicion of "aiding and abetting illegal migration," but overcrowded and unseaworthy boats carrying migrants and refugees continue to make their way toward Italy's shores.

For years Italy has been the first port of call for refugees and migrants desperate to reach Europe and, as Pope Francis often has noted, the country has received little help from its European Union partners in rescuing, caring for and processing the newcomers.

The EU's 2013 Dublin Accord stipulates that requests for asylum and migrant processing must be handled by the first EU country a migrant or refugee enters. Because of its geographical proximity to Libya -- the primary port of departure to Europe -- Italy usually is that first country, although Malta also is a frontline destination.

In late July, Italy's prime minister announced an agreement with the Libyan government to have Italian military ships join Libyan ships in patrolling the Libyan coast. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the aim was to halt human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Migrants pay criminals for a place on the boats.

But, of course, many Italian politicians applauded the move as the best way to stop the influx of migrants and refugees.

Pope Francis, the Vatican office for migrants and refugees and a host of Catholic agencies and humanitarian organizations have long argued that the best way to defeat the traffickers is to expand quotas for legal immigration throughout Europe. Bypassing the traffickers would allow countries to organize the reception and would save migrants from the dangers that come from the sea and from extortion by the traffickers and a host of players that prey on the desperate in Libya.

The Italian government's second approach to handling the migration crisis was to attempt to forge an agreement with the nongovernmental organizations who are rescuing people at sea, providing food, water, medical care and safe transport to an Italian port.

Right-wing political groups have claimed the likelihood of being rescued simply emboldens smugglers, who provide boats that are in increasingly bad shape, betting those onboard will be rescued.

Italy asked the NGOs to sign a "code of conduct" promising, among other things: to refrain from communicating with or signaling to refugee boats in a way that facilitates their departure from Libyan waters; to inform the Rome-based Maritime Rescue Coordination Center about migrant sightings and rescue operations; to ferry rescued persons directly to a port without transferring them to or from other rescue boats; and, when requested, to allow police onboard to investigate possible cases of migrant smuggling or human trafficking.

Some NGOs, like Doctors Without Borders, refused to sign the agreement. The rule against transferring migrants between boats would mean all rescue vessels would be making long roundtrips, rather than having the bigger boats go to port and smaller boats continuing to patrol, the organization said. In addition, the organization asked for a stipulation that investigating police would not be armed because it does not permit weapons aboard its ships; the Italian Interior Ministry declined to amend the agreement.

Jugend Rettet, a Germany-based group that raised money from young Europeans to buy a rescue ship, also declined to sign the agreement.

Italian authorities seized the Jugend Rettet's ship, the Iuventa, Aug. 3, claiming that on as many as three occasions, the group did not technically rescue migrants at risk in the sea, but rather transferred them to the Iuventa from the hands of smugglers. The prosecutor in the case emphasized, however, that the group is not accused of accepting money or anything else from the smugglers.

Also under investigation for "aiding and abetting illegal immigration" is Father Mussie Zerai, a Rome-based priest from Eritrea and hero to many refugees and aid agencies that assist them. Since 2003, when someone wrote his phone number on the wall of a migrant detention center in Libya, Father Zerai has responded to distress calls from migrants on sinking boats in the Mediterranean and forwarded the position of the boats to the Italian and Maltese coast guards and to NGO rescue ships.

He told Avvenire, the Italian Catholic newspaper, that he never has had contact with Jugend Rettet, if that's how his name came up, and he has never contacted any NGO for a rescue without informing either the Italian or the Maltese coast guard. The charges, he said Aug. 9, are "slanderous."

For Vatican officials, Catholic aid agencies and even a top official from the Italian foreign ministry, the campaign against humanitarian agencies is a bizarre twist in the debate over the best way to handle the migration crisis.

Mario Giro, vice minister for foreign affairs and the former Africa expert for the Catholic Sant'Egidio Community, said Jugend Rettet and others may be examples of "humanitarian extremism," but that is more humane and more Christian than any of the other extreme positions being voiced.

"Are the NGOs right to save lives in the sea or should their salvation be the exclusive prerogative of state action," Giro asked in a guest column in Avvenire Aug. 8. Deciding whether to proceed with criminal charges against Jugend Rettet, the Italian magistrates will have to determine "how to 'sanction' those who do not respect some of the rules of conduct established by the government without introducing -- as an Avvenire editorial phrased it -- a kind of 'humanitarian crime.'"

Giro called for caution and calm, urging his government and the NGOs to take seriously each other's concerns and work together for a solution. Even with their limits, he said, the NGOs represent "the globalization of aid" as surely as the migrant smugglers and human traffickers represent the globalization of crime.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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Catholic Relief Services looks to change concept of world's orphanages

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Stipe, courtesy Catholic Relief Services

By Chaz Muth

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Catholic Relief Services has released an emotion-filled video as a way of starting a conversation about the world's orphanages.

Children no longer end up in orphanages in the United States, and officials at CRS want a world where there is no longer a need for such institutions.

They are not advocating shutting down orphanages in poor countries and turning the children out onto the streets. CRS officials said their vision is to transform orphanages in countries like Haiti and South Sudan into family resource centers, offering families the support they need to keep their children at home.

To help people rethink the concept of orphanages, the international Catholic aid organization wrote a script, scouted locations, employed a film crew, hired actors and traveled to Puerto Rico to tell the story of a poverty-stricken mother making the heartbreaking decision to send her daughter to an orphanage, said Sean L. Callahan, president and CEO of CRS.

Though these institutions are called orphanages, Callahan said few of the children raised in them are actually orphans. Most people are unaware that 80-90 percent of children in orphanages have at least one living parent and, in most cases, poverty or disability is the reason why they are there, he told Catholic News Service in an August interview.

CRS hopes the video, released Aug. 10, will help drive home this point, particularly to well-meaning donors who think they are helping children by supporting orphanages.

"We are battling a false perception that is deeply ingrained in the public psyche," Callahan said. "If we are to break the orphan myth and return children to their families, we need to tell the all-too-common story of how children, sadly and unwillingly, come to live in an orphanage. That's why we made this important video."

The video is a departure from CRS's tradition visual storytelling style. Typically, the organization films subjects in areas where it works and produces videos in short documentary form to show how people are affected.

"For this topic, we wanted to show the emotional response of a parent and child separating at an orphanage, and we didn't see a way of authentically capturing that with a real family," said Mark Metzger, branded content producer for CRS. "We needed to recreate that ourselves."

Though actors portray the characters in the video, the scenes were written from first-hand accounts of CRS colleagues who have witnessed such gut-wrenching events, Metzger told CNS.

Callahan said although donors in countries like the U.S. often support orphanages for the right reasons, too many of the institutions they support do little more than raise money, leaving actual child care as an afterthought.

Children in orphanages are at greater risk of sexual abuse and violence than those in family care, he said.

CRS, and its partners Lumos -- founded by author J.K. Rowling -- and Maestral International are committed to breaking what they call the orphan myth and working, country by country, to replace orphanages with family care centers for more than 8 million children now in institutions throughout the world.

The CRS video, "Changing the Way We Care," can be viewed at https://youtu.be/umSJ3b1kcDk, and Metzger said he is encouraging people to share it on social media.

"We want to get the word out," he said. "We want to educate our audience as best we can so they can understand the struggles and difficulties that families are living through, day in and day out."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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