NEWS BRIEFS

Tej Francis

VATICAN CITY

Pope Francis: Fresh violence in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta is ‘inhumane’

(CNA/EWTN News) After a week of heavy bombardment near Damascus left hundreds of civilians dead, Pope Francis has made an appeal for global leaders to rally in ending the siege, allowing civilians to evacuate and humanitarian aid to get in.

“In these days my thought is often turned to the beloved and martyred Syria, where the war has exploded again, especially in Eastern Ghouta,” the Pope said Feb. 25, noting that this month marks one of the most violent since the Syrian conflict erupted seven years ago. Thousands of innocent lives have been claimed by the ongoing, bloody war, with several hundred more being added just this past week, many of whom are women, children and elderly, he said.

“Hospitals have been hit, people can’t get enough to eat…all of this is inhumane,” Francis said, stressing that “evil cannot be fought with another evil.” The Pope then issued “a heartfelt appeal” for global leaders to work to stop the violence, to allow humanitarian aid such as food and medicine into the area, and to ensure that the sick and wounded would be evacuated.

Francis’ appeal comes a week after Russian-backed Syrian forces launched a series of deadly airstrikes and artillery fire on besieged Easter Ghouta enclave, which sits just northeast of Damascus. Home to some 400,000 people, Eastern Ghouta is the last rebel-held area east of Damascus and has been a target of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces since 2013 in a bid to drive the rebels out.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the fresh eruption of conflict in the area, which began Feb. 18, has so far left more than 500 civilians dead, of whom 121 are children. Aid groups also report that several hospitals in the area are now out of commission.

After three days of deliberation to come up with a ceasefire deal, the U.N. Security Council yesterday voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling for a 30-day calm to allow residents of the suburb to evacuate, and food and medicine to enter. However, reports indicate that just hours after the deal was accepted, the Syrian government launched a new ground and air offensive in the area.

SYRIA

AN URGENT APPEAL

Translation of an Italian Message received from the Salesians in Damascus

[26 Feb 2018]

Dear Friends,

I am writing this as the capital of Syria is going through very difficult moments in these days. It has been always like this in these seven years of war in Syria, but the suffering in these days is far more than before. So many missiles and mortars are being launched on the capital city from Ghouta, a zone at the periphery of Damascus, full of Jihadists of the ISIS and so many other Islamic fundamentalists groups who are trying to make Syria a part of their Caliphate. So many missiles are causing a large number of deaths – of children and civilians, and so many schools have already been closed. A curfew has been ordered all over Damascus. The people and children are smitten with fear. We too, of the Salesian Oratory, have suspended all our activities. The youth usually arrive at the Oratory in buses, and it would be very risky to make them cross the city thus.

We have asked all of them to remain at home till there is an improvement in the situation, which does not seem very near. I hope my voice reaches you all. I wish to break this absolute silence over this tragedy that the people of Syria are living through, not to speak of the manipulation of information from the part of so many media channels in the West. I entrust myself to you all, dear friends, during this time of Lent, a time of prayer and return to God the Father. May the Sun of the Resurrection shine on the hearts of those in power, and cause them to restore peace to this land that has been buffeted so much.

We are continuing to support the families in difficulty.

With affection

Fr. Mounir Hanachi

Rector,

Salesians of Don Bosco,

Damascus, Syria

We are circulating this appeal hoping it will reach lots of people. Prayers, offerings of love and sacrifice, especially in this lenten season, and especially the Holy Rosary prayed together, are the weapons which Our Lord and His and our Mother recommend so much to us. So, let us be united together, because today more than ever the Church is called to help the sufferings of the world!

Please forward this message to as many as possible!

ITALY

Requests for Exorcisms Have TRIPLED in Italy, Half a Million People Seeking Help

(Churchpop) Requests for exorcists have tripled in Italy recently, with some experts estimating around half a million requests in the last year alone, according to a recent report by Vatican News. “And do you know why?” Fr. Benigno Palilla, one of the organizers of a recent 4-day meeting of exorcists in Sicily, asked rhetorically in an interview with Vatican News. “Because the number of people engaging in occult practices, like reading tarot cards, has grown. Doing so opens the door to the demonic – including possession.”

Fr. Palilla helps train new exorcists – training that he emphasizes is vitally important. “A self-taught exorcist will make mistakes. New exorcists need a period of apprenticeship, as happens in other professions.” He continues: “We priests, very often, do not know how to deal with the concrete cases presented to us. In the preparation for the priesthood, we do not talk about these things.

“And, consequently, a true evangelization is lacking. After all, people suffering from demons are the existential peripheries to which Pope Francis drives us. They are people who suffer a lot and, unfortunately, are not always known by the Church. We need to pray and intervene to help them.”

Pope Francis has frequently spoken about the reality of the demonic and the need for the Church to fight it spiritually. “The Prince of this world, Satan, doesn’t want our holiness,” the Pope preached in a homily early in his pontificate, “he doesn’t want us to follow Christ.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND

British judge allows toddler’s life support switched off, despite parents’ wishes

(CNA/EWTN News)  A British court ruled Tuesday that physicians can stop providing life support, against his parents’ wishes, to Alfie Evans, a 21-month old boy who has an unknown neurological degenerative condition.

Evans is in a “semi-vegetative state” and on life support at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, where doctors have said further efforts are futile and went to court to argue that continuing treatment, as his parents wish, is not in Evans’ best interest.

Justice Anthony Hayden of the High Court ruled Feb. 20 that “Alfie’s need now is for good quality palliative care … He requires peace, quiet, and stability, so that he may conclude his life as he has lived it.” “I am satisfied that continued ventilatory support is no longer in Alfie’s interests. This decision I appreciate will be devastating news to Alfie’s parents. I hope they will take time to read this judgment again.”

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital has said it always tries to agree with patients on plans for care: “Our aim is always to try and reach an agreement with parents about the most appropriate care plan for their child. Unfortunately there are sometimes rare situations such as this where agreement cannot be reached and the treating team believes that continued active treatment is not in a child’s best interests.”

The hospital may withdraw Evans’ ventilation on Friday. Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, are considering appealing the decision. His doctors have described his condition as untreatable, but his parents are requesting their son’s transfer to the Vatican-linked Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in Rome for further diagnosis and possible treatment.

Evans’ case echoes that of Charlie Gard, a terminally ill English infant who died in July 2017 after being taken off life support against his parents’ wishes. Gard was 11 months old, and had been at the center of a months-long legal debate regarding parental rights and human life.

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