Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
September 9, 2012

As a footnote to my comments in the Pastor's Page two weeks ago, addressing Christians' parlous status in today's Middle East, here are two supplementary reports.
*          *         *         *         *
Syrian Militants Break into Archbishop's Residence
EWTN News, August 28, 2012

The fighting in Syria has allowed unidentified militants to break into the residence of the Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, leading local Catholics to charge that the burglars "want to foster a sectarian war."

Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart, his vicar and several priests had fled his residence a few hours before the break- in, which took place August 23rd amid clashes between rebel militia and government troops. The doors to the residence had been forced open and various items, like a computer and a projector, were missing.

The archbishop voiced "great concern and dismay over the incident," Franciscan Father George Abu Khazen told Fides news agency. The priest is the apostolic pro-vicar of the Latin Catholic community in Aleppo, which hosted the Greek Catholics when they fled to safety....

Father Khazen said that the old city of Aleppo witnessed a battle in recent days. The fighting reached Fahrat Square, where all the archbishops' residences are. The Maronite Catholic archbishop's residence was also damaged.

Militants broke into the Byzantine Christian museum there and damaged some artifacts and icons.

The Franciscan priest said a solution to the conflict Is not in sight "because none of the protagonists in the field, national and international, put pressure to start real dialogue."

A member of the local Catholic hierarchy, speaking anonymously for reasons of safety, warned against efforts to incite further tensions.

"With the intervention, well established, of JIHADIST GROUPS, there is an attempt to foment hatred and sectarian conflict," he said. "There is an increasing number of Wahhabi and Salafi Islamist militias,   from Chechnya,  Pakistan,   Lebanon, Afghanistan, Tunisia, and Arabia, Libya."

He warned that the groups aim to bring "chaos, destruction, atrocities" and to "paralyze social life."

The Syrian civilian population is the victim but it will not fall into this trap, he said.

The Syrian fighting began in March 2011 when opponents of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad took up arms. About 20,000 people have died in the violence and some 200,000 Syrians have fled the country.

There are fears the violence could spill across Syria's borders. The country's Christian population has largely sided with the government and has come under violent attack from some rebel groups.

POPE BENEDICT XVI is due to visit neighboring LEBANON IN THREE WEEKS. Vatican officials and Lebanese churchmen have said that the visit WILL proceed as planned.
[Emphasis added].
*          *         *         *         *
Thousands of Christians Trapped in Syrian Village
Catholic News Agency, August 26, 2012
Kevin Jones

Syrian rebel forces have trapped over 12,000 Greek Catholics in a village near the Lebanese border, causing shortages of food, medicine and other urgent supplies.

For over 10 days the village of Rableh in the area of Homs has suffered under a strict blockade from armed opposition forces that have surrounded it, Fides news agency says. Snipers have killed at least three men of the village, including a married father of four.

Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gergorios III Laham has appealed to men of good will to ensure that "Rableh is saved and all other villages affected in Syria." He has asked "for peace to be reached in our beloved country."

Archbishop Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio to Syria, has asked both sides of the conflict to adhere to "the strict observance of the international humanitarian law."

Rebels began an armed revolt against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. Since then, more than 200,000 people have fled the country. Government forces drove out rebels from a Damascus suburb of Daraya on Friday.

The international pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need is helping an unnamed Syrian village in a situation similar to Rableh's.

The destruction of bridges, the cutting of power lines and road obstacles have cut off the village from food and other basic necessities, the charity reports.

"We have organized ourselves so we could stand by each other and we are sharing everything so we could survive," a local priest said. "We need every help we could get. Please help us."

Those who have fled to Lebanon say that residents are suffering hunger, and milk for children is running out. The village lacks canned goods and children's diapers as well.

Motorcyclists trying to carry bread into the village have been shot at.

Aid to the Church in Need has made an emergency grant of $62,000 for food, medicine and baby milk.

"The fighting is reported to be fierce between the Free Syrian Army and official armed forces loyal to Assad," Aid to the Church in Need journalist John Pontifex told CNA Aug. 24.

A government helicopter intending to attack rebel groups recently bombed the Greek Catholic monastery of St. James the Mutilated in Qara, which dates back to the sixth century. None of its 25 residents and 20 refugees were hurt but parts of the building were damaged. [Emphasis added].

*          *         *         *         *
Bad news from the Middle East. Good news on the pro-Life front. Within the space of a single week (August 14th to August 20th) two women who were highly successful activists in the battle to save unborn babies from abortionist butchery passed to God and to a victor's crown: one of them, Nellie Gray, the organizer of the first March for Life, back in 1974, just a year after the catastrophe of Roe v. Wade; the other, Joan Appleton, a former nurse in an abortion mill who, like so many others in that grim sorority, finally perceived the full horror of what she was doing and became a zealous militant, untiring in her effort to protect the lives of the innocent unborn. May I share with you the inspiring obituary notices from LifeSite News for these two champions of the inviolable sacredness of human life.
*          *         *         *         *
Joan Appleton Dies: Abortion Nurse Turned Pro- Life Activist
LifeSiteNews, August 22, 2012
John-Henry Weston

A former abortion worker whose conversion to the pro-life movement helped many in the abortion industry LEAVE their deadly practice died Monday August 20. 

Before her 1989 conversion, Joan Appleton worked as the head nurse at Commonwealth Women's Clinic in Washington, D.C., and was an active member of the radically pro-abortion National Organization for Women (NOW).

In a testimony about her conversion, Appleton described witnessing an ultrasound-guided abortion and how the experience was instrumental in changing her mind on the issue.

"I handled the ultrasound while the doctor performed the procedure and I directed him while I was watching the screen," she wrote. "I saw the baby pull away. I saw the baby open his mouth. I had seen Silent Scream a number of times, but it didn't affect me. To me it was just more pro-life propaganda. But I couldn't deny what I saw on the screen. After that procedure I was shaking, literally, but managed to pull it together and continue on with the day."

Appleton was later to announce her departure from the pro-abortion movement in a dramatic fashion.

"My way of getting out of NOW was that I was a guest speaker at a Virginia NOW dinner," she recalled in her testimony. "I got up to the podium and I said, 'Folks, I can't do this anymore. There is something wrong here and I can no longer be a part of the abortion industry or a part of the pro-choice movement and so I can no longer be a part of NOW."

"I was asked to leave immediately," she recalls.

Brian Gibson, the Executive Director of Pro-Life Action Ministries and long-time friend of Joan Appleton, recalled when he first met the former abortion nurse in 1989.

"We were in the middle of leading operation-rescue type activities and working under extreme pro-life paranoia," recalled Gibson laughingly. Appleton was brought into Gibson's office and was introduced as a nurse who was still working inside an abortion center in DC and was involved in NOW.

"I was on pins and needles so concerned that she was there to spy on us," he said. But in later conversation about their first meeting Appleton said, much to Gibson's relief, that she was grateful for the warm welcome and did not detect any suspicion.

Appleton came to work at Pro-Life Action Ministries in January 1993. She held various positions with the ministry, the most significant of which was to create and lead the Society of Centurions of America. The CENTURIONS movement was an outreach TO FORMER ABORTION WORKERS focused on three areas of help: spiritual healing, psychological counseling and financial aid.

"The Centurions program helped many LEAVE the abortion industry
at a time when few in the pro-life movement knew of such efforts and helped many former abortion workers come to proper terms with their prior work," said Gibson.

Appleton retired from Pro-Life Action Ministries in August 2002 yet continued to volunteer on a weekly basis. Gibson last encountered Appleton at the office "a couple of weeks ago."

Her pro-life testimony, shared before many, was a shocking glimpse of the inner workings of the abortion industry.

After her conversion to the pro-life position, said Gibson, Appleton returned to her Catholic roots and became a very faithful member of her church.
[Emphasis added].
*          *         *         *         *
'The Joan of Are of the Gospel of Life': Pro-Life Movement Bids Farewell to Nellie Gray
LifeSiteNews, August 24, 2012
Kathleen Gilbert

The pro-life matriarch who saw the March for Life through its paltry beginning to its status today as the fulcrum of the pro-life movement in America-and arguably, the world-was laid to rest late Friday morning in Washington, D.C.

Over 150 mourners gathered in Mary Mother of God Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. to pay their last respects to Nellie Gray, whom Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston called "the Joan of Are of the Gospel of Life." Gray was foundress of the National March for Life that now draws over 400,000 Americans in a massive witness to the sanctity of life on Capitol HILL each January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Gray, 88, passed away and was found in her home August 14.

Both O'Malley and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington assisted at the ceremony, a Missa Cantata Requiem in the traditional Latin rite of the Catholic Church.

Hanging in the vestibule were Nellie's trademark red fur coat and hat, seen at countless rallies throughout the decades, with a March for Life pin still attached. From the loft, the haunting melodies of traditional Catholic requiem chants, including the Dies Irae, graced the ceremony as a reminder of Nellie's loyalty to her faith.

Following the ceremony, Gray's body was interred at Cedar Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Suitiand, Maryland.

Those who knew Nellie remembered how she, a World War II veteran with three degrees, including a law degree from Georgetown, was tireless in her decades fighting full-time for the rights of the unborn.

"She dropped everything and took up this cross," said pastor, Alfred J. Harris during the homily.

Terry Scanlon, the founding Vice President of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund, called his longtime friend "a real Renaissance lady" who was content with little in return for her work: Scanlon said Gray, after beginning the March for Life,  "accepted a small pension and lived on this pension for the rest of her life, never accepting any remuneration from the March."

Nellie, Scanlon noted, died with her boots on-she was calling up fellow elders in the pro-life movement to share reminiscences of the first Marches for Life only two weeks ago.

"There were to be no exceptions in legislation banning abortion, there would be no compromise. This was her tireless message, and one to which each board member has always subscribed," he said.

Cardinal O'Malley fought tears as he recalled helping his charismatic friend organize the first March for Life in 1974. The INITIAL RESULTS WERE, DISCOURAGING, with four people filling four charter buses, he said. It was thanks to Nellie's unflagging commitment that the March grew to the massive annual throng it is today-and of late, inspired several more around the globe, including in Rome.

Yet Nellie's cause, according to O'Malley, was not "life" - that was too abstract for her.

"Nellie's cause was BABIES, preborn babies. How many times did we bear about preborn babies?" said the cardinal. "SHE WAS THE VOICE FOR THE CHILDREN OF THE SILENT SCREAM." Cardinal Wuerl agreed that Nellie never saw people in the abstract.

He described his first time up on the speaking platform at the March for Life one year as a young bishop and being confronted by Nellie, who turned to him and asked, "where is your hat?"

"She didn't see masses of people, she saw individuals. She saw this young bishop who should have had his hat," he said. Her question to each of those individuals, he said, was: "Where is your voice?"

"Where is your voice?' Isn't that what was the driving force, and continues to be, of the March for Life?"

Maryland state senator Frank Shore recalled Nellie as "so full of life." "She got us all to the March," Shore told "She would identify and introduce the entire audience."

Sister Shirley Ann of the Sisters of Life told LSN that Nellie's work "really put a face on pro-life."

"I couldn't imagine a January without a March for Life," she said. "It always lifts our hearts to see so many people there, and to see the March become so YOUNG, too."

The March for Life Board of Directors asked those wishing to honor Nellie to, donate to the Nellie Gray Legacy Fund in lieu of flowers.
[Emphasis added].
*          *         *         *         *
Requiescant in pace.
*          *         *         *         *