Oklahoma set to welcome world for beatification of ‘ordinary’ native son
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholics in Oklahoma have been preparing for a long time for this moment. Many, like Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, had faith it would come, but there’s still a sense of awe, to think that a farm boy, one of their own, is about to take a step toward official sainthood.
On Sept. 23, Oklahomans will get a front row seat to the beatification of Father Stanley Rother, an ordinary man from an ordinary town, who died extraordinarily as a martyr in Guatemala while serving in a mission. He knew well the dangers of the Guatemalan highlands, where government forces tortured and killed anyone suspected of dissent during the most politically tumultuous moments in the country’s history.
However, Father Rother refused to abandon the community he so loved from 1968 until his 1981 assassination. Like many of the poor and persecuted he served, he died long before he had to at age 46, shot in the head in the parish rectory.
“People are justly proud of this native son, but one wouldn’t expect something like this, such a recognition to be accorded to somebody from Okarche, Oklahoma,” said Archbishop Coakley in a phone interview with Catholic News Service.
Okarche (pronounced oh-car-chee) is a small farming town with a lot of windmills, said Archbishop Coakley, and one that’s increasingly receiving visitors and pilgrims wanting to learn more about the tranquil setting that was home to Father Rother.
He left it behind because he wanted to serve the church in a place where priests were needed and, in the late 1960s, priests were needed in the remote highlands of Guatemala, where the Oklahoma City Archdiocese had a mission in the town of Santiago Atitlan.
“We weren’t talking about the peripheries 30, 35 years ago when Father Rother was killed but certainly he had that missionary spirit,” said Archbishop Coakley. “He had a heart for the people there. He recognized their dignity, he recognized that they were precious in the Lord’s sight.”
Some say Father Rother arrived “knowing 10 words in Spanish,” but the agricultural skills he imported from Okarche and his kindness endeared him to the locals. Archbishop Coakley has visited Santiago Atitlan on a couple of occasions, once during a pilgrimage and also for an event honoring Father Rother.
“The devotion of the locals to Padre A’plas, as they call him, is amazing,” he said. “He’s venerated and honored as the beloved shepherd who laid down his life for them. We were there for the very special day of the anniversary of this death so there was a large festive Mass, a colorful event, processions.
“For many, many years, his heart has been enshrined in the back of the church, where people approach reverently and pray ... evidence of their esteem for him, their appreciation for him. Their devotion to him is really everywhere.”
Though his heart, physically and otherwise, was left in Guatemala, the rest of his remains returned to Okarche. For years, people stopped by to pray at his grave at the Holy Trinity Cemetery in town, said Archbishop Coakley, even before he was declared a martyr by the Vatican in late 2016. His remains have since been exhumed as part of the beatification process and moved to a chapel in Oklahoma City, where the ceremony declaring him Blessed Stanley Rother will take place.
Though Oklahoma is not a predominantly Catholic state, there’s a lot of interest outside of Catholic circles, particularly with the upcoming beatification.
Archbishop Coakley said he has tried to meet with local groups eager for information about the event and recently gave a presentation to religious leaders of various faith traditions who wanted to know more about the priest and the significance of his beatification.
“Some of them undoubtedly plan to attend the beatification,” he said. “It’s touching people well beyond our Catholic community.”

Parishes in Macau, hit by two typhoons, hold special Masses
MACAU (CNS) — Parishes in Macau Diocese held special Masses Aug. 28 for those killed and affected by a super typhoon that struck in late August.
Typhoon Hato, the strongest typhoon in 53 years, hit Macau Aug. 23, causing flooding and the death of at least 10 people, many of them trapped in basements. More than a hundred people suffered injuries. As Macau struggled to get to its feet, it was hit by Typhoon Pakhar Aug. 27; the second storm was weaker than the earlier one.
The China Meteorological Administration has predicted a developing typhoon may hit Macau Sept. 3.
Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-sang of Macau extended his sympathies Aug. 24 to those affected by the typhoon, including families of the dead, reported ucanews.com.
“May I call upon all the citizens of Macau, especially believers of Christ, along with people of all faiths and goodwill, to unite in prayer for the deceased and wounded, for their families, and for the numberless firefighters, police officers, medical staff, and workers repairing water and electric facilities and those cleaning our streets,” Bishop Lee said in a statement.
“Together let us collaborate actively and constructively with government agencies and with various voluntary and charity organizations for the restoration and normal operations of the city as soon as possible,” he said. “This is a time for us to show our mutual support for each other and to pledge ourselves to do all we can during this process of recovery.”
Ucanews.com reported that among the buildings damaged by the typhoon was St. Francis Church in Coloane. The church was flooded.

Top Vatican official discusses terrorist threat and the immigration debate
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican obviously is concerned about terrorist threats, “especially for the senseless hatred” it represents, and will continue to remain vigilant, said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.
Speaking to reporters Aug. 26, Cardinal Parolin said he had seen the most recent video attributed to Islamic State in which the pope and Vatican are threatened, and “one cannot help but be concerned.” However, he said, he did not believe the video prompted extra security measures beyond those that have been in place for some time.
For the Year of Mercy 2015-2016, the main boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square was closed to traffic; it never reopened. But while pilgrims approaching St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ weekly general audience on Wednesdays and his Angelus address on Sundays had already been subjected to security checks, Italian police seemed to take more time doing the checks after the terrorist attack in Barcelona Aug. 17.
Cardinal Parolin spoke to journalists in Rimini, Italy, where he was addressing a large summer meeting sponsored by the lay movement, Communion and Liberation.
L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, published a long section of the cardinal’s speech, looking specifically at the phenomenon of anti-migrant sentiment.
Cardinal Parolin expressed surprise at how much of the current debate in many countries “is focused on defending ourselves from migrants.”
The public discussions and arguments show a “sharp division between those who recognize God in the poor and needy and those who do not recognize him,” the cardinal said.
Government leaders certainly have an obligation to find alternatives to “massive and uncontrolled migration, (and) to establish programs that avoid disorder and the infiltration of the violent,” he said. In addition, they should be looking for ways to promote development in migrant-sending countries so that people can survive and thrive in their homelands. “But this will take decades to bear fruit.”
The anti-immigrant sentiment, he said, “often is generated by fear” and accompanies a general sense of disorientation and confusion about the changes caused by globalization, especially in economic matters.
People have to realize that “it’s been a long time since any modern nation-state fully and exclusively controlled its national economy,” he said. In the absence of complete control over one’s national economy, “it is not surprising that there is a general tendency, especially in authoritarian countries, but also by many ‘populist’ leaders and movements — of the right and left — to declare one’s national sovereignty in terms of cultural supremacy, racial identity and ethnic nationalism and to find in these a reason to repress internal dissent.”
The economy is now global, he said, and there is no single nation that can fix the problems of the economy alone. “Various aspects of globalization need to be governed,” which must be done through international diplomacy and a joint commitment to promoting the common good.
“On this point, where more profound values like justice and peace are at stake, realities like the United States and the European Union have a decisive role and responsibility,” he said. “But too often their absence is felt.”

Vatican confirms pope’s visit in Nov. to Myanmar, Bangladesh
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A day after appealing for an end to the violent persecution of the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, the Vatican announced Pope Francis will visit the country in late November.
After the visit Nov. 27-30 to the cities of Yangon and Naypyitaw in Myanmar, the pope will travel on to Dhaka, Bangladesh, Nov. 30-Dec. 2, the Vatican said Aug. 28.
After praying the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 27, Pope Francis said he was saddened by the news “of the persecution of a religious minority, our Rohingya brothers and sisters.”
News media reported violent clashes Aug. 25-26 after Rohingya fighters attacked 30 police stations. More than 100 people, mostly insurgents, have been reported killed, according to the BBC.
Most of the Rohingya population in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been denied citizenship in Myanmar, which is predominantly Buddhist. About 120,000 Rohingya are trapped in internally displaced person camps near the state capital, Sittwe. A further 400,000 live in the state’s north, which is currently under martial law.
Media are forbidden to travel to the region, but reports of atrocities by the military, including rape, murder and burning villages, have leaked over the past year. The United Nations says more than 170,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring countries, including Bangladesh, in the past five years.
“I would like to express my full closeness to (the Rohingya),” the pope said. “Let us ask the Lord to save them, and to raise up men and women of goodwill to help them, that they may be given full rights.”
The pope also prayed for the victims of monsoon floods in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. The devastating floods have claimed the lives of over 1,200 people and displaced millions, the Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera reported.
“I express my closeness to all the affected populations and I pray for the victims and for all who suffer due to this calamity,” Pope Francis said.

The pope’s intention
Here are Pope Francis’ prayer intentions for this month:
Parishes: That our parishes, animated by a missionary spirit, may be places where faith is communicated and charity is seen.