Sunday, March 30
In Kifl, which lies North of Najaf and about 130 km south of Baghdad, the strategy may have slowed the US forces, but only at an extremely high cost. Some US soldiers estimate that at least 1,000 Iraqis were killed here since the fighting began at dusk on Wednesday, and everyone puts the number in the hundreds. Officers say just one US soldier has died.
The officers said the tank unit fired two 120-mm high-velocity depleted uranium rounds straight down the main road, creating a powerful vacuum that literally sucked guerrillas out from their hideaways into the street, where they were shot down by small-arms fire or run over by the tanks.
‘‘It was mad chaos like you cannot imagine,’’ said the tank unit’s commander, who identified himself as ‘Cobra 6’ as he did not want friends and neighbours back home to know what he had been through.
As war rages in Iraq, three Indian sisters of the Kolkata-based Missionaries of Charity lead a silent crusade in Baghdad.
Sister Superior Densy, Sister Teresina and Sister Roselyn, along with Bangladeshi Sister Joseph Carole, run a home for mentally and physically challenged children in the Iraqi capital. The bombing has not deterred them from their mission.
“Whenever there is a bombing, the children feel scared and we have to be with them. Every time the siren goes off, we are alerted that a bombing or firing will follow,” said Sister Teresina in a telephone conversation from Baghdad earlier this week. “This morning we could hear the bombing, but it seemed to be somewhere far away.”
Chaplains, who are part of the military but do not carry weapons, share the grueling conditions in U.S. camps in Iraq, where soldiers shiver through bitter cold nights, eat MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) three times a day and relieve themselves in holes dug in the dirt. Like other military officers worried about keeping sufficient amounts of supplies, chaplains have their logistical headaches, too.
The biggest is the Communion resupply.
In Catholic practice, only a priest can consecrate hosts, turning them from bread to what the faithful believe is the body of Christ. But in the military, as in civilian life, there is a severe shortage of Catholic priests.
So shortly before they left the sprawling Camp Udairi in northern Kuwait about a week ago, Mahony and other Catholic emergency ministers scrambled to get a priest to consecrate hundreds of hosts.
About 300 were entrusted to Smith, who carried the special package on a convoy that took 70 hours to get to this site in the desert. "Normally they would not give it to a Protestant chaplain, but because of the need in the field, I went through EME training," said the minister, from a Baptist denomination. Other Communion hosts were given to emergency ministers who promised to keep them secure.
Maj. James Geracci, a flight surgeon and emergency minister, was one of them. He keeps his hosts in a large medicine bottle in a pocket on his camouflage vest, where he also keeps field dressings and medical shears. "They have to be on you," explained Geracci, 35, of San Antonio.
St. Benjamin, whose memorial is March 31 (that would be Monday) has his story told at Catholic Exchange, and it begins in a roundabout way:
It was the fifth century and Yezdegerd, son of Sapor III, was ruling Persia. There was little persecution of Christians during this time, however, a Christian Bishop named Abdas changed that. Abdas, in his zeal and out of righteous anger toward idolatry, burned the Temple of Fire, the sacred sanctuary of the Persians. This act infuriated King Yezdegerd and he declared that Bishop Abdas would either rebuild the Persian Temple or the king would burn all the Christian churches.
When Abdas refused to obey the King’s command, he carried out his order and had all the Christian churches utterly destroyed. Abdas was put to death and a great persecution of Christians in Persia began which lasted for the next forty years. Even though Yezdegerd died in 421, his son, Varanes continued the persecution. Under the reign of this ruler, Christians were subject to heinous and cruel torture.
So, there's just one cautionary precedent for the often irritating, sometimes puzzling and even scandalous thing we call Vatican diplomacy....
Oh, and Benjamin? Well, go read the rest to find out, however the CE account is slightly different from the account found here.
The Iraqis were using light machine guns, heavier 25 mm machine guns and mortars. The Marines responded with 25 mm fire of their own and with wire-guided anti-tank missiles, which destroyed several houses where the Iraqis were hiding. The tanks also eliminated several of the houses.
At the height of the battle there was a tremendous amount of noise, with the Marines' small guns thumping, the tanks' guns and the artillery thudding, and the missile rounds shrieking through the air toward their target.
After a brief pause late last week to let supplies catch up to the main elements of the Marine attack force, the Marines now expect to be in action more frequently as they take the final steps on the road toward Baghdad.
After three firefights with the Iraqis, Bravo Company believes it is blessed. There have been no deaths and only three casualties that required soldiers to be removed to the rear and hospitals in Germany.
Several members of the predominantly Catholic unit say it was their rosaries that saved them in battle. An artillery gunner credited Saint Barbara, the artillery's patron saint, with providing divine assistance during the fight.
Did any of your homilists reference this? What did they do with it? How did they work with it?
Remember - some try to be more objective than others.
As well as the usual suspects over there on the left...
A word of advice to future Oscar winners: Don't begin Oscar day by going to church.
That is where I found myself this past Sunday morning, at the Church of the Good Shepherd on Santa Monica Boulevard, at Mass with my sister and my dad. My problem with the Catholic Mass is that sometimes I find my mind wandering after I hear something the priest says, and I start thinking all these crazy thoughts like how it is wrong to kill people and that you are not allowed to use violence upon another human being unless it is in true self-defense.
The pope even came right out and said it: This war in Iraq is not a just war and, thus, it is a sin.
Those thoughts were with me the rest of the day, from the moment I left the church and passed by the homeless begging for change (one in six American children living in poverty is another form of violence), to the streets around the Kodak Theater where antiwar protesters were being arrested as I drove by in my studio-sponsored limo.
What a Church. Michael Moore, Michael Novak, Pat Buchanan, Mel Gibson, Martin Sheen, Andrew Sullivan..you and me. It probably pisses some of you off, but something about it pleases me.
A long time ago, I was living in a very small town in Tennessee. Our very small Catholic church located in a prefab building off the bypass was running a vacation Bible school in concert with the First Presbyterian Church located on the town square. I was new in town, and hardly knew anyone. I went to the planning meeting in the Presbyterian church basement, hesitated at the door, but then walked right in. Without even asking, I could tell which side the Catholics were sitting on and which the Presbyterians. Delicately put, the Presbyterian ladies were all in their crisp oxford shirts and chinos. The Catholics were...diverse...and they looked it, including the lady wearing a pantsuit with the names of world cities embroidered all over it (she turned out to be the nun, naturally).
Somehow, that experience has been symbolic of this Church for me ever since.
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