INSIDE: A GUIDE TO SOME OF BRITAIN’S BEST CATHOLIC SCHOOLSSEEPAGES9-15
Jennifer Fulwiler My journey out of anti-CatholicismINTERVIEW,PAGE6
Fr Stephen Wang The British Church has a brilliant future COMMENT, PAGE 16
Tim Stanley Why I want to hide at the Sign of Peace
CHARTERHOUSE, PAGE 24
September 5 2014 £1.50 (Republic of Ireland €1.80)
Vatican shrugs off ISIS threat to Pope Spokesman says there is no concern after reports that Francis is ‘in crosshairs of terrorist group
BY ED WEST
THE VATICAN has downplayed reports that the Pope is “in the crosshairs” of the terrorist group ISIS.
As Britain raised its terror threat level to “severe” and security was reportedly increased at major sites in Rome, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said he was not worried by the claim.
He told the Catholic News Agency: “There is nothing serious to this. There is no particular concern in the Vatican. This news has no foundation.”
The Italian newspaper Il Tempo said that ISIS, which controls a part of Syria and Iraq the size of Britain, planned to target Francis because it regarded him as “the greatest exponent of the Christian religions” and the “bearer of false truth”.
ISIS, also known as Islamic State, has committed atrocities against Christians and other religious minorities in northern Iraq.
Earlier this year ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi told his followers that they would conquer Rome “and own the world, if Allah wills”. He is not the first modern jihadist leader to have spoken of attacking Rome, which was sacked by Arab forces in 846, before being saved by an army led by Pope Leo IV. The al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who died in an airstrike in 2006, once boasted that capturing the Syrian town of Dabiq would be the first step to seizing “Constantinople and Rome”. While playing down the threat, the Vatican and the Italian government are said to have stepped up security. At least 50 Italian men have gone to the Middle East to fight for ISIS, with only 20 per cent coming from immigrant families, and there are fears they will return to spread terror in their home country. Il Tempo claimed the converts were joining ISIS because of “disillusionment with the future” and “distrust of the Catholic Church”. More than 250 people from Belgium have joined ISIS, the
The Vatican is downplaying the alleged threat to Pope Francis, but at the same time has increased security, news reports have claimed largest proportion of any European country, along with 700 from France, 400 from Britain and even 30 from Ireland.
Last week Amnesty accused ISIS of committing ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq. In a 26-page report, it said the group had abducted “hundreds, if not thousands” of women and children belonging to the Yazidi minority.
Amnesty investigator Donatella Rovera said: “The massacres and abductions being carried out by the Islamic State provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq.”
On Monday the United Nations’ Human Rights Council agreed to open an investigation into the crimes of the Islamist group, which has driven tens of thousands of Christians out of the region around Mosul towards the relative safety of the Kurdish region.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s representative to the UN, has called on the international community to take action to stop the persecution of minorities in Iraq. Speaking at a session of the UN Human Rights
Council, Archbishop Tomasi said: “Adequate steps must be taken to achieve these goals.” He told Vatican Radio that the proposals built on Pope Francis’s letter to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in August, which called for action to protect those persecuted by ISIS.
Last week Francis phoned an Iraqi priest working in a refugee camp in the country. Fr Behnam
Benoka, a parish priest in Bartella, a small Christian town near Mosul, had written to the Holy Father, saying that he was providing help to “our brothers facing persecution”.
He wrote: “Your Holiness, the situation of your sheep is miserable. They are dying and they are hungry.
Continued on Page 2 Editorial comment: Page 17
Toddler snatched off bus by militants
BY SIMON CALDWELL AND SAHAR MANSOUR
AN IRAQI Christian couple have described how ISIS fighters stole their three-year-old daughter from them at gunpoint.
Christina Abada was snatched from her mother’s side as the family were fleeing the captured Christian town of Qaraqosh last week.
The toddler’s mother, Ayda Hanna, said that militants lured them from their home on the pretext of wanting them to undergo a health check at a nearby clinic.
She and her husband, Khider Abada, were robbed of all their possessions before they were put on a bus waiting to drive them out of the town. While they were waiting to leave, the terrorists began to take an interest in Christina, who was seated beside her mother.
Ayda said: “One of ISIS’s men came and had a look over the bus and saw my daughter Christina and he took her out of the bus.” When she climbed out of the bus to look for her daughter moments later, she said: “Another of the terrorists came out of the health centre and he was carrying Christina.
“He came straight to me and asked me: ‘Is this your daughter?’. I said: ‘Yes’. Both of us, Christina and myself,
Continued on Page 2
Benedict XVI still has ‘spiritual freshness and joy’, say students BY CINDY WOODEN
FORMER doctoral students of Benedict XVI have described the Pope Emeritus as having a “spiritual freshness and joy”, despite his physical frailty.
The students met Benedict XVI at the Vatican last week. when the retired pope celebrated Mass and delivered a homily.
Fr Stephan Otto Horn, president of the Ratzinger Schülerkreis (Ratzinger student circle), which has met annually since the 1970s for theological discussion on a topic of current interest, said the Mass was “very beautiful”.
He told Vatican Radio: “There is one thing we still regret and that is that [Benedict XVI] could not be present for our theological discussions.”
Even as a cardinal and as pope until his resignation in 2013, he had joined his former students for the meeting.
But Benedict XVI continues to choose the topic to be discussed. This year, the meeting in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, focused on the theology of the Cross. The group, which has expanded to include younger theologians specialising in the writing of Benedict XVI, joined the 87-year-old retired pope for Mass in the chapel of the Teutonic College.
Fr Horn described the liturgy as a “beautiful, solemn Mass”, with Benedict XVI giving a homily about the day’s Gospel. Unlike in 2013, neither Vatican Radio nor the Vatican newspaper provided quotations.
“His preaching was fresh and the proof came from our meeting afterward, during which he appeared fresher than a year ago,” Fr Horn said. “Naturally, another year has passed, but the spiritual freshness and joy he demonstrated were extraordinary.” From the beginning, Fr Horn said, “Benedict felt that his Schülerkreis was his family and now the family is growing” as younger theologians join the group. Editorial comment: Page 17
Twenty couples to be married by Pope BY CAROL GLATZ
FRANCIS will preside over his first wedding ceremony as Pope during a nuptial Mass in St Peter ’s Basilica on September 14.
The Vatican confirmed last week that 20 couples from the Diocese of Rome will be married by the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.
The ceremony will be the first papal celebration of a wedding since 2000, when St John Paul II married eight couples from different parts of the world as part of the Jubilee for Families. St John Paul presided over another joint wedding for a group of couples in 1994 as part of his celebration of the International Year of the Family. He also married a number of other couples at private Masses during his papacy. Benedict XVI never celebrated a marriage ceremony as pope.
The papal Mass celebrating the couples’ marriages will be held shortly before the start of the extraordinary synod of bishops on the family on October 5-19.
Maradona: Pope drew me back to the Church BY ED WEST
FOOTBALL superstar Diego Maradona said he was “proud of returning” to the Catholic Church after meeting the Pope on Monday.
The striker, famous for his “hand of God” goal against England at the 1986 World Cup, played in a “Match for Peace” in Rome after the papal audience.
He said: “I hugged him and I felt proud to be an Argentine. After being far from the Church, [I am] proud of returning to it after God took my mother.
Today I am happy to be once again with the Church, with Pope Francis, and to play for peace.”
The Match for Peace, inspired by the Pope, ended in a 6-3 defeat for 53-yearold ’s team. But the Argen-
tine set up a goal for the Italian hero Roberto Baggio. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was the game’s referee.
Other players who took part in the match in the Olympic Stadium included Andriy Shevchenko, Alessandro Del Piero, Lionel Messi and Carlos Valderrama.
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