Sunday, 31 July 2011

Our Lady of Siluva

During the Reformation, a painting of the Virgin and Child, placed in the first chapel to be built in the Lithuanian town of Siluva in 1457, came under threat when local Calvinist authorities ordered the confiscation of all church property.

The parish priest had other ideas! He believed that Calvinism would be short-lived, so in 1532, he decided to protect their church’s possession and to wait things out. Helped by a parishioner, he hid the title deeds to the chapel site, the vestments, sacred vessels and painting of Our Lady within an iron-bound wooden box, which they buried near a large rock, planning to recover the precious items as soon as it was safe. Calvinism, however, proved to be of longer duration than the priest had anticipated. He died without having a chance to retrieve the precious articles. Eventually only his helper, blind and almost one hundred years old, remembered the little church’s existence.


One day in 1608, in the fields close to Siluva, small children played as their sheep grazed. Suddenly they heard crying. Looking towards a large rock, they saw a strange light surrounding a beautiful young woman and her baby. She sobbed brokenheartedly. As the puzzled children stared, the pair disappeared. The youngsters rushed home to tell the town’s Calvinist pastor and their families what had happened. The pastor accused them of lying, but the children’s parents and neighbours were unsure. They needed to investigate further.

Next morning, the townsfolk gathered around the rock where the children had seen the young woman. There was nothing there...except for one angry pastor. Accusing them of “Romish superstition” and of “following Satanic influences,” he scolded his parishioners – and then stopped in amazement. There, on the rock, just as the children had described, was the young woman with the baby.

The pastor spoke first. “Why are you crying?” he asked. “There was a time when my beloved son was worshipped by my people on this very spot. But now they have given this sacred soil over to the ploughman and the tiller and to the animals for grazing,” she replied, and vanished.

The townspeople decided that the woman and child were Mary and the infant Jesus, coming to recall them to their earlier faith. The site of the apparitions soon became a place of pilgrimage from across Eastern Europe, eventually requiring successively larger churches to accommodate the pilgrims. It is recorded that on the feast of Our Lady’s Birthday, 8 September 1618, more than 11,000 people received Holy Communion.

Rumours of the apparitions eventually reached the blind old man, who asked to be taken to the site. Immediately when he reached the rock his sight returned. He told his story to the amazed townsfolk. No longer blind, he pointed to where he and the priest had buried the wooden chest. The villagers dug and there it was, unharmed, with its contents intact, including the large paining of Our Lady and the Child.

Suppression and revival

In 1795, Russian forces occupied Lithuania and suppressed both religious freedom and the Lithuanian language. Restrictions were relaxed only after an uprising in 1904. Pilgrimages to Siluva resumed in 1905, and during that first year of freedom more than 30,000 people visited the shrine.

During the Communist era, pilgrimages were suppressed and the press forbidden to mention Siluva. Armed police blocked and patrolled the approach roads, banning cars within a radius of four miles of the shrine. The KGB followed vehicles travelling towards the town, fining or arresting their drivers and passengers. Pilgrims risked severe penalties. A Soviet monument replaced the statue of Our Lady in the town centre...and still the people kept coming.

On 8 September 1991, Lithuania was entrusted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Act of Entrustment is preserved at the shrine of Our Lady of Siluva, where on 7 September 1993, during his own pilgrimage, Pope John Paul II prayed.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Russia: government bans abortion ads that don't inform women of the risks

Concerned by the continuing population decline that afflicts the world's largest country, the Duma (the lower house of parliament) has approved a bill according to which, all advertisements relating to practices of abortion must contain warnings about possible risks to the health of women. The draft has passed its third reading last July 1 and now awaits the green light from the Federation Council (Senate) and then its signing - virtually taken for granted – by President Dmitry Medvedev, who has always championed the values of life and family.

According to Russian press reports, it is an amendment to the law on advertising, which states that 10% of the space used to advertise abortion should also inform women about the possible negative consequences such as infertility. "The advertising for abortion should not contain statements on the safety of these health services," reads the text of the bill, released by news agencies. "These ads - said Viktor Zvagelsky, deputy of the ruling party United Russia – lead the young people to believe they will have no problems interrupting a pregnancy”, and he motivates the proposal of the new law with the "depressing" situation of abortions in Russia.

The Federation has one of the highest abortion rates in the world and for time now, experts have been speaking of "a demographic coma". According to figures published by the Duma website, in 2007, there were 1.5 million abortions. The Soviet Union was the first country to legalize abortion in 1920, banned again by Stalin (from 1936 until his death in 1954) interested in encouraging births. For the same purpose, the Communist Party also bestowed awards and money on the most prolific couples, but immediately after the collapse of the USSR the demographic decline has become unstoppable: from 1992 to 2008 the population fell by more than 12 million people to about 143 million. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, Russia will lose a fifth of its population, reaching 116 million. The phenomenon is due to a poor diet that causes heart problems, high rates of alcoholism among men, the spread of HIV / AIDS and the high number of violent deaths.

To combat what Moscow sees as a real war for survival, the government also supports the Orthodox Church which for years has asked for more stringent measures to reduce the number of abortions. According to data from the Russian Social University, the annual abortion rate is far higher than official figures, and in reality is around three to four million.

Source: AsiaNews

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Libya: “Humanitarian war” is creating a humanitarian crisis

The irony of this supposedly “humanitarian war” in Libya is that it is creating a humanitarian crisis. This is a farce which is happening with the servile complicity of the mainstream Western media. I am actually quite shocked at how our media and politicians can repeatedly lie to us about what is really happening. Do they expect us to believe that dropping hundreds of bombs will not kill any civilians? That defies logic no matter how accurate or sophisticated these NATO missiles are. Also, do they expect us to believe that Gadhafi has no support in his own country?

A sanitised version of events is clearly being presented by the Western media, as well as Qatar’s Al Jazeera, to keep this war going and justify its goals. NATO has already strayed well beyond its stated objectives of protecting the civilian population of Libya in accordance with UN resolution 1973. France recently admitted it has been secretly arming the Libyan rebels – clearly taking sides and supporting regime change when UN resolution 1973 forbids that. Stories of Gadhafi’s men using Viagra to gang rape women have been denied by Amnesty International.

What is going on is the complete plunder of Libya, a resource rich country that had higher living standards than some European countries before this conflict began. Billions of dollars of Libyan assets have already been seized illegally by the US and the European Union. NATO bombs have not only hit military targets, they have increasingly hit economic ones too like the Libyan Mint which prints dinars; and there has been collateral damage. According to the Libyan Ministry of Health, after the first 100 days of NATO bombing, 6,121 people were either killed or injured. The conflict is also creating a refugee crisis.

If NATO thought they will be seen as liberators by the Libyan people, nothing could be further from the truth. On Friday 17 June one million Libyans marched in Tripoli in support of Gadhafi. That’s a substantial number of people in a country of only 6 million people. Why wasn’t this news covered by the mainstream Western press? There is no national uprising against Gadhafi. Tripolitania - Western Libya - has rallied behind Gadhafi.

Who are the Libyan “rebels”?

So this begs the question, who are the Libyan “rebels” NATO is supporting? They are a motley crew of Al-Qaeda infested mercenaries who have long resented Gadhafi’s control over Cyrenaica (Eastern Libya). African American US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who recently visited Libya, was shocked to discover that these "racist" rebels were mercilessly killing and driving out black African migrants. Already gruesome videos of black Africans being lynched by the rebels are circulating on the internet, and yet there’s a silence in the mainstream media about these atrocities.

According to an Eritrean priest, Don Mussie Zerai, President of the Habeshia Agency for the Development Cooperation, 800 Africans were massacred in Misrata alone. He said black Libyans risk an ethnic cleansing action because of the determination against them by Libyans of Arab origin that sympathise with the rebels, who attack them as though they were Gaddafi's mercenaries. He decried the ongoing indifference to this carnage despite previous reports and warned that "hundreds of thousands of Darfur Sudanese," also trapped in Libya, risk "being crushed by this intolerance that is spreading in the territories occupied by the rebels."

Does the West really think the rebels can govern Libya? That would mean the subjugation of Tripolitania and a great deal of bloodshed. The best way out is a ceasefire and a demilitarisation of the conflict. That is what the African Union (AU) want. The AU has already said Gaddafi "can no longer lead Libya", but that does not mean that the AU - unlike NATO – wants regime change straight away. The BRICS prefer the AU approach of a negotiated settlement. NATO just seems to want to keep bombing.

Al Qaeda

As reported in the Telegraph in March, Al Qaeda then issued a call then to its supporters to back the Libyan rebellion. Now that NATO is supporting the Libyan rebels, the United States is allying itself with Al Qaeda linked elements despite spending over $1 trillion dollars trying to fight Al Qaeda over the last ten years – a case of our enemy’s enemy is our best friend. The danger of course is that in the long run such tactics are likely to backfire. I’m inclined to agree with Magdi Allam, a high profile Italian politician and convert to Catholicism, who says:
“The only real certainty is that the Islamists will win and that consequently, the populations of the eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean will be increasingly submitted to shariah…an outcome exactly the opposite of the official proclamations of Sarkozy and Obama and their excessive use of catchphrases such as ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy.’”