Thursday, July 17, 2014

Have you ever heard of Scholas Occurrentes? Not many people have, and yet it is a global network of schools and educational networks inspired by Pope Francis who founded and sponsored similar projects when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. As Pope, Francis asked that this concept be brought to life on an international level and so it was that, on August 14, 2013 the project was born in the Vatican with the help of football greats, Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Buffon, respectively captains of the national teams of Argentina and Italy. Scholas Occurentes office is housed in the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, whose chancellor is another Argentinean, Archbishop Marcelo Snchez Sorondo.

Right now, the website - - is predominantly in Spanish but there are some articles in English. For a broader explanation in English, go to the top of the page and click on ABOUT US and that will bring you to:

The site tells us that the MISSION is To link schools and educative networks around the world by means of different types of pedagogical, sports and artistic proposals aimed at improving education and achieving inclusion of communities with fewer resources through an active commitment of all social stakeholders. The VISION of Scholas Occurrentes is to transform the world into an inclusive and educative society.

The organization until recently was in what it called the Foundation Period where it was working on putting together a management team, updating and improving the website, fund raising and getting sponsors to cover the Network needs during the first stage.

From the present to December 2016, Scholas will be in the Consolidation and Development stage, and the goals include designing and setting up the new digital platform, implementing projects with funds collected through the Network in at least 50 schools in the most deprived regions, setting up national and regional chapters in Europe, North America and, if possible, in Africa and Asia, and implementing a Virtual Olive Tree for peace through education, to reach a million olive trees planted during 2014.

Soccer still has a role, especially for a Pope who is a big fan of futbol.

It seems that more soccer stars will join Messi and Buffon who will return to Rome to play a friend inter-religious match for peace in Romes Olympic stadium on September 1 all part of the Scholas Occurrentes project. Pope Francis asked former Argentine captain Javier Zanetti to organize the match, which will bring together such greats as France's Zinadine Zidane, Italy's and Francesco Totti and many others. The pontifical academy is assisting in the preparations for the September game.

There was a similar match last year that Argentina won, 2-1


FROM THE VATICAN: Pope Francis will visit the city of Italian city of Caserta on 26 and 28 July, the Holy See Press Office confirmed today. In the afternoon of Saturday 26, upon invitation by the bishop of the diocese Giovanni D'Avise, he will meet with the Catholics of the city and celebrate the Mass of St. Ann, probably in the park of the Royal Palace of Caserta. The Holy Father will return to the Vatican that night and on Sunday 27 he will pray the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter's Square, as usual. On Monday, July 28, he will return to Caserta to pay a private visit to his friend, the Protestant pastor Giovanni Traettino, and his community, as announced previously.

FROM THE UK: Msgr. Keith Newton, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, has issued a statement on the Assisted Dying Bill being promoted by Parliaments House of Lords: The Assisted Dying Bill has its Second Reading in the House of Lords on Friday 18 July. If it became law it would make incitement to suicide routine in our society, thereby putting pressure on the most vulnerable to see themselves as a burden to society. The Churchs teaching is clear: that human life, from conception to natural death, is a gift from God. Christ calls us to offer those facing serious illness care and hope, not despair and killing. The emergence of the hospice movement, which has enabled great progress in palliative care, is one of the fruits of this Christian calling common to Catholics, Anglicans and other Christians. The Assisted Dying Bill is a rejection of this Christian inheritance, and instead promotes what Pope St John Paul II called a culture of death.

FROM ARGENTINA: (VIS) The players of the Argentine national football team have given Pope Francis an Albiceleste shirt signed by all the members of the team. Albiceleste, blue and white, are the colors of the national team. Although Argentina fell at the final hurdle during the final of the World Cup 2014 in Brazil, losing 1-0 to Germany in overtime, the team said they were confident the Pope thought of them throughout the tournament. A large-scale wall photo of the team with the Pope was installed by the Asociacion de Futbol Argentino (AFA) at the Brazilian sports complex where the team trained during the World Cup, a snapshot taken when the team visited Pope Francis in the Vatican, on the occasion of the friendly match against Italy in his honor.

FROM SANTIAGO DE COMPOSELA - Vincenzo Russo, 64, intends to travel 800 kilometers (497 miles) to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain on the historical Cammino de Santiago, challenging time, distance, weather and his own physical energy as few before him have done. You see, Vincenzo intends to travel the distance in his wheel chair! Vincenzo became a victim of polio at the age of 3 and has spent much of his life in medical centers run by the Don Gnocchi Foundation. He left this morning (July 17) from Saint Jean Pied de Port, the French side of the Pyrenees, on a journey that will bring him to the Abbey of Roncesvalles and then across the Spanish provinces of Navarra, Rioja, Castilla and Galicia, to the shrine. This is one of the initiatives for the 5th anniversary of the beatification of Fr. Carlo Gnocchi, those main celebration will be October 25 in Milans cathedral presided over by Cardinal Angelo Scola. As he makes his pilgrimage, Vincenzo will carry with him a relic of Blessed Gnocchi which he received on Sunday June 29 at the shrine of Blessed Gnocchi in Milan. The relic will be received in Compostela during a religious function in the cathedral but will be later be placed definitively in the Hospital San Nicolas of Puente Fitero. Vincenzo Russo aims to arrive in Compostela on or about August 15. His trip will be followed by the Gnocchi Foundation, with daily updates posted at (A SIR news story that I translated from the Italian).


(Vatican Radio interviews Gaza director of Caritas) According to this report for Vatican Radio by Tracey McClure, a fragile ceasefire between Hamas and Israel Thursday allowed some humanitarian aid to enter the densely populated Gaza Strip. The Catholic aid agency Caritas Jerusalem is on the ground in Gaza assisting the population. General Director Fr. Raed Abusahliah, the parish priest of Ramallah, says the latest reports he has received show that more than 330 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed and more than 2,000 injured in nearly ten days of Israeli bombardments.

Rather than a ceasefire, Fr. Raed calls Thursdays hiatus a pause in the hostilities. He appeals for a real ceasefire and a real end to this aggression from both sides to save more lives and suffering especially in Gaza which was already suffering since more than ten years from the blockade and this is the third war. So many innocent people, civilians, and especially women and children are suffering.

Fr. Raed explains that since 1990, Caritas has been present in Gaza with a medical center and mobile clinic and staff in 6 different rural areas across the Gaza Strip but they are hard-pressed to continue their services in the current conflict situation. We just finished one month ago the emergency (response to) the war of 2012, he admits. Unfortunately, we have to start over again, again and again.

Our medical center in Al Shati camp has been closed since the beginning of this war because even our medical staff cant move only those who are allowed to move (can do so): ambulances of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. So, most of our staff volunteered to work in the hospitals as volunteers. We (also) have emergency health local communities in the six areas where we work. These people, in the last three years, were trained to intervene in case of emergency we have distributed one thousand emergency kits, so they are trying to help.

Many Israelis, Fr. Raed observes, seem to be encouraging the Israeli government to proceed with a ground invasion of Gaza - a scenario he describes as disastrous and which would mean more suffering and casualties for the people in Gaza because it means also destruction because they would invade with tanks and (they) will destroy all that they find in front of them: houses, properties, fields and so on.

After Israel warned 100,000 people in northern Gaza to evacuate their homes to avoid air strikes, Fr. Raed says, more than 20,000 people have taken refuge in U.N. schools. But many did not evacuate because they were afraid their houses will be completely destroyed.

More than 400 houses, Fr. Raed adds, have been completely destroyed and more than 1,000 partially damaged in the densely populated Strip. Asked why people would risk their lives to remain in their homes despite the warnings, Fr. Raed says Hamas has asked people to stay because if they leave, they will give the green light to the Israelis to invade these areasand they will destroy everything they see in front of them. We saw this in previous wars unfortunately and this is happening in these days. For this reason, they prefer to remain in their homes and sometimes unfortunately risk their lives.

Fr. Raed is asking Christians around the world and all people of good will to join him this Sunday in praying for a peaceful conclusion to the conflict.

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