Julia Holcomb

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The Light of the World - the Steven Tyler and Julia Holcomb story

Julia Holcomb
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In November of 1973, shortly after my 16th birthday, I met Steven Tyler at a concert in Portland, Oregon. To understand what leads a 16-year-old girl to find herself backstage at an Aerosmith Rock Concert, and in a three- year live-in relationship with Steven Tyler, you need some essential background information. 

Family Trauma

My biological father abandoned my mother while we were toddlers.  He was a charming rogue of a gambler who came and went in our lives, leaving a wake of debt and infidelity.  My mother had been encouraged to get an abortion (illegally) by more than one family member when she found out she was expecting me, (the middle child).  Thankfully she gave birth to me and later to my younger brother, and was a loving mother. When Daddy’s gambling debts caused her small teaching salary to be garnished, she filed for a divorce.  Even after the first divorce she had been a good mother, taking us to church, reading us the Bible in the morning before school, singing to us at night, and praying with us for our wandering father.  She was gentle and supportive and I always knew I could go to her for help.  When mother remarried my first stepfather, (who was an alcoholic) things became difficult.

A devastating trauma struck our family in the summer of 1971 when I was 13 years old. My younger brother was killed in a car accident on our way home from a camping trip with our grandparents. He was 10 years old. My grandfather was also killed, my grandmother lost a leg, and my sister and I were injured.  The car accident and family trauma triggered a chain of events that led to my mother and first stepfather to divorce.

My stepfather was committed to a mental hospital briefly, and mother had an emotional breakdown. My sister and I went to live with my aunt and uncle for some months. 

When we returned home to my mother after the divorce, things were not the same. My mother seemed wounded and disillusioned with life.  Without the stability of the family, or the church, we all struggled to recover from my brother’s death. She was still working as a teacher but she was living with my second stepfather, though they were not married yet.  He is a man I have grown to love and respect over time, yet in the 1970’s, when he was living with my mother, he was a different person than he is today and we disliked each other. 

My sister and I were left on our own most of the time.  Previously, I had been raised going to church, but after the accident we just never went back. My sister and I became angry and rebellious. My sister left home when she was about 16, and backpacked around the country with her boyfriend. There I was at age 15, my sister gone, and feeling like I was in the way. There was a sense of being an obstacle to my mothers’ relationship with this new man.

My friendships changed from the kids we knew at church to the kids who hung out at the local Teen Center. Some of them took drugs and drank.

Meeting Steven Tyler

A few months before I met Steven, while I was still 15, I became friends with a girl who had access to backstage parties at concerts.  She was 24 years old, and although our acquaintance was brief, she was a pivotal change in the course of my life, and ours was one of the most dangerous friendships I ever formed. 

She quickly taught me to dress in revealing clothes to get noticed and use sex as a hook to try to catch a rock star. I still remember dressing to go to the Aerosmith concert, intending to get backstage with her. I had listened to the song Dream On and seen Steven’s photo on the album cover. I went to the concert hoping to meet Steven and after the concert we met for the first time. At that time, I thought he was the best thing in my life. My sad, vulnerable story, as well as my youth and personal attractiveness captured his interest.

My mother signed over guardianship of me to Steven after I had moved to Boston. I remember my surprise when Steven told me she had signed the papers and trying to take this in mentally. A sense of vulnerability came over me, knowing that I was his ward, but we were not married. He had not expressed his intentions of a long-term relationship with me. He had mentioned that he wanted guardianship papers so I could travel across state lines when he was on tour. I had told him my mother would not sign me over to him. I asked him how he had got her to do it. He said, “I told her I needed them for you to enroll in school.” I felt abandoned by my mother as well as my father and stepfather. Steven was really my only hope at that point.

I became lost in a rock and roll culture.  In Steven’s world it was sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but it seemed no less chaotic than the world I left behind.  I didn’t know it yet, but I would barely make it out alive. 

The Pregnancy

When we first lived together I took the birth control pill.  It is not true that my pregnancy with Steven was unplanned, as has been written.  After some months together, Steven spoke to me of his desire to have a child. He had grown up in the New Hampshire countryside and at times he behaved like a down-to-earth farm boy.  He wanted a family and he asked me if I was willing to have a child with him.  I was touched by his sincerity and said yes. I wanted children, and began to believe he must truly love me since he had made himself my guardian and was asking to have children with me. He threw my birth control pills off the balcony of the hotel where we were staying, into the street far below. 

Within a year I became pregnant.  I had never been pregnant before, contrary to what Steven has written.  At first Steven and I were both happy about the baby. I remember telling him, “I’m pregnant” and from his reaction I believed he was truly excited.  He asked me to marry him a few months later and I said, “yes.”  He took me to New Hampshire to tell his parents about the baby and the marriage. He asked his grandmother if he could give me her wedding ring.  His parents were conflicted about the idea of Steven and I marrying.  His mother was supportive of everything Steven wanted and I remember truly loving her.  She was such a kindhearted lady, with a wonderful sense of humor.  His father had grave reservations because of my youth and immaturity. 

His grandmother declined to give us the ring.  She loved Steven but expressed concerns that if we divorced, the ring would leave the family.  Things went quickly downhill from there for the two of us.  When we left that night, Steven and I had a heated argument: I felt he should buy me a ring at a jeweler and we should get married anyway.  He did not. 

Looking back, I do not fault him for a change of heart after his parents expressed concerns.  Marriage is a serious step that should not be jumped into, even when a baby is on the way.  Still, I was in a bad position.  I thought I loved him, I wanted to marry him, and he had asked me to marry him; now the wedding was off and I was very angry with him for not standing by me. It seemed like a cowardly change of heart after he had asked me to have a baby with him and purposefully set out to get me pregnant.  For the first time I realized that I should not have been foolish enough to conceive a child outside of marriage with a man who might not be interested in a life-long relationship.  His guardianship of me complicated things further. I was subordinate to him as in a parent relationship and felt I had little control over my life. I had trusted him and now was the moment of truth.

The Fire

It was the fall of 1975. We returned to our apartment in Boston, and within a few weeks he was touring with his band. I was alone and pregnant in the apartment with no money, no education, no prenatal care, no driver’s license and little food. 

Steven would call me every day to check in with me and I asked him for money to get groceries.  He promised to send Ray Tabano over the next day to take me shopping.  Ray was a childhood friend of Steven’s and had been a guitar player in the original band. I remember waiting by the window for Ray to arrive.  He came to the apartment and I let him in through the front door. 

The next thing I remember was waking up in a cloud of dense smoke fighting for air to breathe.  Ray was gone.  I fell to the floor from the couch in the front room.  The couch was not burning and I had no burns on my body, but thick black smoke was consuming the room.  The smoke was less dense on the floor, but still, I could barely see. 

I was frightened but calm enough to think about a series of commercials that Bill Cosby had done called, Learn Not To Burn. One message had been, if you’re in a smoke-filled room, get down on the floor because the air is clearer on the floor.  I knew I only had minutes to get out of that apartment. I crawled to the front door, which was next to the couch I had been laying on. The apartment had at least three locks on the front door.  There was a keyed lock on the handle, a dead bolt and a security bar that angled from the door down to the floor. Steven insisted on keeping these locked at all times because he usually kept drugs in the house and he had suffered a break-in at our previous apartment on Beacon Street. All of the locks were secured and I could not budge the security bar. I was choking and knew I needed to head for the back stairway that led down to the kitchen and an outside exit.

When I got to the stairs, smoke and heat and flames were pouring up the stairway.  The railings were scorching hot at the top.  I burned one of my hands grabbing the railing before I realized it was impossible to climb down those stairs through that fire. There was no way out.

Bill Cosby was there in my mind again.  He had said in one of those commercials, if you’re trapped in a fire, a good place to seek shelter is an empty fireplace.  I crawled to the fireplace in our bedroom and lay down inside it.  It was empty and clean and the flue was open.  Black smoke filled the air and was boiling up the chimney, but there was a small pocket of air on the floor where I was laying.  As I began to fall unconscious, I knew I was about to die.  I was frightened and I felt so alone.  I believed I deserved to go to hell because of my many sins and I did not feel prepared to die.

Above the fireplace hung a picture of the child Jesus called The Light of the World, by Charles Chambers.  The picture had hung in my Grandmothers’ classroom where she taught first grade.  I had been one of her students when I was 5 years old.  I used to look up at that picture every day in school when Grandma would open the class in prayer.  One year the schools decided to take down all pictures of Jesus and forbid prayer in the classroom, so my Grandmother took the picture home. It hung in her living room for years, and at her death I was given the picture as a memory of her. 

When I told my mother that I was pregnant, she sent the picture to me and I hung it over the fireplace in Steven’s apartment.  Now, I was lying beneath it, close to death. I thought of my grandmother, remembering one of the Bible verses she taught me and prayed:

“Into your hands I commend my spirit, thou hast redeemed me Oh Lord God of truth.”

I was thinking of Jesus’ final words on the cross as a means of pleading for mercy.  I did not expect to live and yet I felt great peace as I closed my eyes.

The Nightmare Deepens

I woke up in the hospital. There was an IV in my arm and a doctor was speaking to me slowly, like one speaks to a child.  He asked, “Do you know your name?”  “My name is Julia Holcomb,” I answered.  He asked more questions and he was relieved to see that in spite of severe smoke inhalation I had not suffered brain damage.  The baby I was carrying also survived the fire.

Steven was there in my hospital room.  He said he was happy to see me alive and appeared very shaken.  Steven told me they had been taking my blood oxygen count from an artery in my wrist.  The last time the nurse had taken it, she had shed tears because she thought I would not make it, and said sadly “She’s so young.”  Steven told me the doctor did not expect me to live, and thought that if I lived there would be brain damage from the lack of oxygen.  He gave me a teddy bear and I clung to it.  He told me I had received many cards and flowers from people wishing me well.  I was too weary to talk and I drifted off again.

In the hospital a doctor came into my room and said that my lungs were remarkably clear of smoke damage.  He said Steven had spoken to him about the possibility of my having an abortion, since I was so young and recovering from smoke inhalation.  I was surprised and I asked him if the baby was OK.  He smiled and reassured me that the heartbeat sounded good and the baby seemed fine.  I told him I would not have an abortion.  I wanted my baby. The doctor was kind and supportive of my decision. He did not pressure me in any way. He asked me if I had taken drugs while I was pregnant.  I said, “Yes, sometimes.” (I did on occasion use cocaine but not to the degree that Steven was abusing.) The doctor told me that drugs were bad for me, and bad for the baby. He said I must not take any more while I was pregnant. I was so ashamed because I knew he was right.  I said, “OK” and intended to stop.

The Abortion

The doctor left the room and Steven came in.  He told me that I needed to have an abortion because of the smoke damage to my lungs and the oxygen deprivation I had suffered.  I said “No,” I wanted the baby.  I was five-months pregnant.  I could not believe he was even asking me to have an abortion at this stage.  He spent over an hour pressing me to go ahead and have the abortion.  He said that I was too young to have a baby and it would have brain damage because I had been in the fire and taken drugs.  I became very quiet and repeated the answer “No” more than once.  I said I should not be asked to make that decision while still in the hospital. He said I had to have the abortion now.  He said I was too far along to wait because it would be illegal for me to get an abortion in another week.

He sat beside my hospital bed, but we did not look at each other. I said no again. Finally he gave up and said, “OK, you can go home to your mother’s and have the baby there.”  I was worn out and began to feel hopeless.  My mother and stepfather would not be happy to have me return home pregnant.  I believed they would also want me to have an abortion.  I began to feel like life was caving in on me.  I had no health insurance or money and did not believe Steven intended to help provide for our baby or me.  He had not been providing medical care for me up to that time.  I believed he was abandoning me as my father and my mother had.  I began to cry and agreed to have the abortion. Steven was relieved and happy.  He reassured me that he cared for me and that after the abortion everything would be fine.

I was moved to another part of the hospital and a different doctor performed the abortion. It was a horrible nightmare I will never forget.  I was traumatized by the experience.  My baby had one defender in life; me, and I caved in to pressure because of fear of rejection and the unknown future.  I wish I could go back and be given that chance again, to say no to the abortion one last time.  I wish with all my heart I could have watched that baby live his life and grow to be a man. 

The doctor did not explain what the procedure would be like. Steven watched when the doctor punctured my uterus with a large needle. Then I was taken to a room to wait for the contractions.  Steven sat beside me in the hospital until it was over.  When the nurse would leave the room he was snorting cocaine on the table beside my bed.  He even offered some to me once, but I just turned away, sick inside. Steven, high on cocaine, was emotionally detached, witnessing the procedure but cut off from the normal reaction and feelings of horror you would expect.  At the time I was shocked and hurt by his behavior.

But I know now that on an unconscious level, he must have been traumatized witnessing the death of his first-born son in such a horrific and direct way. Steven watched the baby come out and he told me later, when we were in New Hampshire, that it had been born alive and allowed to die.  (I was not allowed to see the baby when it was delivered.) Steven told me later that it had been a boy and that he now felt terrible guilt and a sense of dread over what he had done.  I did not know that such a thing could be legal.  I could not imagine a world where a tiny baby could be born alive and tossed aside as worthless without ever seeing his mother’s face.

Nothing was ever the same between us after that day, though I did not return home for over a year.  I became very quiet and withdrawn after the abortion.  I was grieving the loss of my baby and I could never look at Steven again without remembering what he had done to our son and me. I had just lived through a horrific fire that nearly claimed my life, but the abortion made me feel like part of me died with my baby.  I felt cheated and betrayed, and angry with myself for agreeing to something that I knew was wrong.  I felt deep anger and almost hatred for the doctor who performed the abortion. 

Everyone around me seemed to be moving on with life, but I was carrying a wound that would not go away.  Steven was already involved with other women at that time. The fact that he was my guardian complicated things for him because he was legally responsible for me.  I was young, had dropped out of high school, and did not understand my legal rights at the time.  I felt completely powerless.

I left Steven in February 1977 and returned to live with my mother and stepfather. Steven called a few times after I returned home and then I never heard from him again.

Rising Out of the Ashes

The road to recovery was a slow process. When I returned home to my mother I was a broken spirit. I could not sleep at night without nightmares of the abortion and the fire. The world seemed like a dark place.  My mother and stepfather now had a handsome little boy.  He was a joy and I could not help but be happy when I was with him. My love for my half brother opened my heart toward my stepfather and I began to see that he was trying to be a good husband and father. 

Mother had found that she missed the church and they were attending a United Methodist church in our area.  I began attending with them and I remember a turning point for me was a week-long church retreat in the summer at the Oregon coast.  There were young adults my own age, sing-alongs, campfires, Bible studies, prayer meetings, and I left there with a renewed sense of hope that God existed; He loved me in spite of my sins, and I could find forgiveness and a measure of real happiness within a family of my own if I began to rebuild my life.

Soon I was baptized. Mother helped me to get my GED, and I got my first job working as a receptionist.  I began to attend youth activities, and the church became a lifeline that pulled me out of the fog of grief, sorrow, and guilt after my years with Steven. I found forgiveness in Jesus. I forgave myself, I forgave my mother and stepfather, and I prayed for the grace to forgive Steven. 

I gained the confidence to move out and enroll in college. I rented a room of my own from an elderly widow who lived near the campus.  That is when I met Joseph, who is now my husband. 

My husband is my true hero. He has been a loving husband, a generous father, and hard-working provider for our family. My husband loves me and has forgiven me from his heart and has not let my past define his understanding of who I am as a person. If I had kept my baby I believe Joseph and I would still be married today, and our lives would be richer because of his presence in our family. God has been generous in giving us the joy of children and grandchildren who are a constant reminder of God’s presence in our life.  I am amazed at the way God has protected me over the years. 

Today I am a pro-life Roman Catholic, the mother of seven children, and this year my husband and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  Joseph and I have six children of our own, and I give thanks for each of them, as they are truly a gift from God.  We are also legal guardians to a beautiful little girl whose young mother made the choice for life in a difficult pregnancy, and then entrusted her to our care.

Joseph and I joined the Catholic Church, as adults through the RCIA process in 1992.  The Catholic Church’s teaching on respect for life, as well as the sacrament of confession, has brought me an even deeper level of healing and peace.  We have been active in ministries within the church that support the family, marriage and respect for life. 

Setting the Record Straight

To set the record straight: I was never pregnant before I met Steven Tyler, nor did I ever have a previous abortion and Steven knows this to be true.  I do not believe I started the fire that burned his apartment, but I am thankful to God for the brave firemen who pulled me out of that burning building.  I never asked him for any money after I returned home.  I came to him with nothing and I left him with nothing, except regrets.  Although I presented myself to him in a highly sexualized way, we did not have sex in public places as he wrote in his new book.  His continued gross exaggeration of our relationship is puzzling to me. He has talked of me as a sex object without any human dignity.  I have made a point over these long years never to speak of him, yet he has repeatedly humiliated me in print with distortions of our time together. I do not understand why he has done this. It has been very painful.

Love Survives

In spite of everything, I do not hate Steven Tyler, nor am I personally bitter.  I pray for his sincere conversion of heart and hope he can find God’s grace. I know that I am also responsible for what happened that day. Someone may say that my abortion was justified because of my age, the drugs, and the fire. I do not believe anything can justify taking my baby’s life. The action is wrong. I pray that our nation will change its laws so that the lives of innocent unborn babies are protected. 

I pray that all those who have had abortions, or have participated in any way in an abortion procedure, may find in my story, not judgment or condemnation, but a renewed hope in God’s steadfast love, forgiveness and peace.

Our nation’s young girls, especially those like me, who have experienced trauma and abuse, and are vulnerable to exploitation should not be used as sexual playthings, scarred by abortions to free their male partners from financial responsibility, and then like their unborn children, tossed aside as an unwanted object. 

Marriage and the family are the building blocks of all virtuous societies.  I learned this lesson in a trial by fire that taught me to trust God’s plan no matter what occurs.  I pray that our nation may also find its way back to God by respecting the life of unborn children and strengthening the sanctity of marriage.

* * *
After I was out of the hospital and recovered from the fire, Steven Tyler brought me my picture of Jesus, The Light of the World, and gave it to me.  He said it was the only thing that had survived the fire.  It was covered with black soot, and the paper backing was singed, but I cleaned it and it is now hanging in the entry of my home.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.  (John 8, 12)

Sincerely,
Julia Holcomb

Kevin Burke, LSW, is a Pastoral Associate of Priests for Life and co-founder of Rachel’s Vineyard - a post abortion healing ministry of Priests For Life offering Weekend Retreats across the U.S. and around the world for post abortive mothers and fathers, siblings and grandparents suffering after abortion loss.  Kevin is author of Redeeming a Father’s Heart and can be reached at [email protected]



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BREAKING: In historic meeting Pope, Russian Patriarch decry abortion, defend traditional marriage

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Feb. 12, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - A joint declaration signed by both Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, head of the Orthodox Church of Moscow and All Russia, issued today after their historic meeting in the Havana Cuba airport issues a strong call for the defense of life and family. 

The declaration commenced with a wish to reestablish Christian unity, stating a “determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited.”

The religious leaders expressed the wish to combine the efforts of Orthodox and Catholics “to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world” since “human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change.”

"We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience."

After discussing the violent Christian persecution underway in the Middle East and North Africa, the Pope and Patriarch turned their attention to the West. “At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them.”

“In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom,” they said. “It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.”

The declaration expresses concern about the “crisis in the family in many countries” and notes “Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family.”

“The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman,” it says. “We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.”

Marriage, they said, “is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.” It is “a school of love and faithfulness.” Love, says the declaration, seals the union of the husband and wife “and teaches them to accept one another as a gift.”

The Pope and Patriarch called for an end to abortion. “We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life,” said the declaration. “Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).”

The declaration also condemned euthanasia and immoral reproductive technologies, which would include IVF and destructive research on human embryos.

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general. We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

The declaration decries the persecution of Christians, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, where “whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated.” 

They called on the international community to act urgently since “churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed.”  With “pain” they called to mind “the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.”

They specifically called on all Christians to pray that may “not permit a new world war.”

 

The complete text of the joint declaration follows:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).

1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the  Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.

2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.

It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way.  The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.

3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate.  Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.

5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).

6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!

7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.

8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.

9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.

10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.

We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.

11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.

We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).

13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.

15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom.  It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.

16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.

17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.

18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).

19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.

20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.

21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.

We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.

23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.

24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.

We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation” (Rm 15:20).

25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.

29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!

Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).

30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!
 
Francis                                  Kirill
Bishop of Rome                      Patriarch of Moscow 
Pope of the Catholic Church    and all Russia



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Congress subpoenas StemExpress, notorious late-term abortion facility in body parts investigation

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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Planned Parenthood has declared itself innocent - but it forgot to consult Congress.

The special committee investigating Planned Parenthood, the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, announced on Thursday night that it is issuing subpoenas to three organizations involved in the possible trafficking of human organs.

StemExpress, the company that partnered with Planned Parenthood to extract tissue and organs from aborted babies' cadavers, is the most conspicuous of the three.

Former StemExpress technician Holly O'Donnell described how a technician restarted an aborted baby's heartbeat, then told her to cut through the child's face to harvest his brains.

The National Institutes of Health paid StemExpress thousands of dollars for fetal tissue samples, records show.

Undercover videos depict the biotech company's CEO, Cate Dyer, boasting, "I have a picture from Hillary" Clinton on her desk. In another video, she jokes about shipping the fully intact bodies of aborted babies to unsuspecting lab technicians.

StemExpress publicly cut ties with Planned Parenthood last August.

The University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women’s Options have come under investigation after it became clear the university had a close relationship with one of the nation's most notorious late-term abortionists to receive aborted babies' tissues and organs for scientific experiments.

Last year, investigators discovered that the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center obtained its samples from SWO, where Dr. Curtis Boyd is one of a handful of people in the nation willing to perform abortions in the third trimester.

University officials told the Albuquerque Journal they had no documentation of the specifics of arrangement - how many organs Boyd supplied, for instance. But the New Mexico Alliance for Life uncovered a document containing the information.

"Fetal liver and kidney samples were obtained 15 minutes after termination from six fetuses ranging from 12 to 22 weeks gestation," the document states.

The group questions whether he changed the abortion technique to obtain the greatest number of organs, and whether he employed the illegal partial birth abortion method.

As part of the arrangement Dr. Boyd, who was deemed "faculty" in university documents, also trained UNM students in his industry. The university later ended that program.

All three organizations had been asked to comply with the Congressional investigation but had failed to do so voluntarily, according to the panel's chairwoman.

“By failing to fully cooperate with our investigation, these organizations have compelled our panel to subpoena these documents in order to acquire information that is vital to the completion of our work,” said the panel's chair, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN. “Without these subpoenas, the American people and the House itself would be left to speculate about what is going on in the fetal tissue industry."

"We cannot leave questions unanswered,” she said.

StemExpress has stonewalled before, seeking a legal injunction forbidding David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress from releasing undercover footage of its CEO. A judge in California ruled against the company last summer.

Meanwhile, New Mexico pro-life leaders welcome the focus on their state.

"The fact that UNM HSC disbanded its late-term abortion resident program at SWO is a tacit acknowledgement of guilt in violating their own policies, procedures and blatant misuse of public trust and funds," said Elisa Martinez, executive director of the New Mexico Alliance for Life. "The flimsy agreement between UNM and late-term abortionist Curtis Boyd, signed by UNM's Dr. Eve Espey, appears to be constructed to conceal the potential sale of late-term baby body parts to UNM, which to date, has withheld any documentation as to the compensation of Curtis Boyd, the compensation of residents and any record of their late-term baby body parts inventory."



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Clinton and Sanders commit to fund abortion worldwide by gutting the Helms amendment

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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Both candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have endorsed a key pillar of the population control agenda, for the first time pledging to "fix" a U.S. law prohibiting foreign aid from funding abortion overseas.

Hillary Clinton makes the new promise in a new video posted online by the Population Connection Action Fund, formerly Zero Population Growth.

An unidentified activist for the group asks if the former Secretary of State will "help fix the Helms Amendment" - a 1973 law that blocks federal dollars from paying for abortion “as a method of family planning" overseas.

"Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm on record on that," Clinton replies on the video, which was publicized by The Huffington Post.

She continues, "One of the reasons why I -" before abruptly interrupting herself and giving the activist a thumbs-up as the video ends.

Despite her comment, Clinton had not publicly said she would change the way the law is implemented in any way. In an Iowa town hall meeting last November, she said she would "we have to take a look at this for conflict zones" where rape is used as a weapon, but held out the possibility that a future government "maintains our prohibition."

Her chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, went further, promising to fund global abortion providers by executive order.

“Sen. Sanders is opposed to the Helms amendment,” Arianna Jones, Sanders' deputy communications director, told The Huffington Post. “As president, he will sign an executive order to allow for U.S. foreign aid to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is at risk. He will also work with Congress to permanently repeal both the Hyde and Helms amendments.” The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortions for American women except in the cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

The question is the latest in an ongoing attempt to siphon money from the U.S. Treasury into the hands of abortionists, at home and abroad.

While the late Sen. Jesse Helms, who was staunchly pro-life, intended to prevent taxpayers from underwriting abortion, population control advocates and others who promote abortion say the law he authored never did that - but three Democratic presidents somehow missed that fact.

"The restriction has been wrongly implemented by all eight presidential administrations since its inception, as a total ban on abortion care," according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Feminist activists and non-governmental organizations like the Global Justice Center have lobbied President Obama to reinterpret the rule and fund abortion for African women raped by Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations in the region.

Although President Obama shown little restraint in recasting the law - for instance, claiming that civil rights laws banning sexual discrimination apply to transgender people - he has declined to do so in this case.



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