10-year-old Invents a Gadget to Stop Babies Dying in Heated Cars
Aleteia || By Cerith Gardiner || 21 June 2017
Despite numerous warnings and heartbreaking news reports, around 37 children die from heatstroke in cars each year in the US, and disturbingly this figure never seems to go down. In fact, this year alone, 17 young children have already died after being left in overly-heated cars, and summer isn’t even in full swing. So to combat the problem, a young inventor named Bishop Curry put all his efforts into coming up with an innovative and simple solution, and in doing so proved that sometimes it takes a child to come to another child’s rescue.
Curry, a 10-year-old Texan, was initially inspired after the death of a neighbor, baby Fern, who lost her life after being left in a hot car. The industrious 5th grader got to work and came up with a simple gadget that not only reacts to the car’s heat but also has an alert system built in. The small pink box named “Oasis” has tiny air ducts “that blow cool air when it becomes too hot inside a car and an antenna that alerts parents and emergency services.”
Clipped on to the child’s car seat, the little box that already has a provisional patent could help save the life of any young car passenger. However, Curry, being a conscientious inventor, wants to spend the summer months perfecting the gadget and only then will he hand it over to manufacturers who are eager to get this product on the shop floor.
While we can’t help but admire Curry’s creativity and engineering skills, his attitude is even more impressive. The schoolboy who spends his time inventing all sorts of objects said, “It would be a dream to have lots of inventions that would save many lives.”
His concern for others is something we all want to see in our children and this can only be developed if our children are aware of what’s going on around them. It’s so easy for kids to be attached to their screens and absorbed in a virtual world but if they are encouraged to look beyond their favorite video game they might see that there’s so much more to gain in the real world. With his supportive parents, Curry has shown how kids can think outside the box, and better still, can think of others.
Stolen Relic of St John Bosco's Brain Recovered
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By 16 June 2017
A relic of St. John Bosco, which had been stolen from an Italian basilica two weeks ago, has been recovered, the local Prosecutor's Office reported.
An urn containing a relic of St. John Bosco’s brain was discovered missing on June 3. The reliquary was kept in the Basilica of John Bosco in Asti, the saint's birthplace, fewer than 20 miles east of Turin.
According to Italian press reports, the alleged perpetrator of the crime is a 42-year old man with a criminal record, residing in Pirenolo, Turin. He was arrested by the Asti police. The suspect allegedly planned to sell the reliquary, which he believed to be of solid gold.
St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians, was a 19th century Italian priest who had a particular love and apostolate for at-risk and underserved youth. Today, the order serves youth throughout the world primarily in schools, homeless shelters, and community centers.
Fr. Enrico Stasi, provincial of the Salesians in Piemonte and Valle d'Aosta, thanked “the judiciary, all the police and all those who have contributed to the positive solution to this unpleasant affair.”
“It is consoling for the Salesians, for the Church in Turin and for the many friends of Don Bosco throughout the world who have abundantly demonstrated their closeness in this time,” he told Agenzia Info Salesiana.
In this regard, he said that “the occasion of the restitution and return of the relic to its original place will be for us and for the faithful another sign of the benevolence and blessing of Don Bosco for those who continue to keep his spirit alive in the world.”
The basilica has experienced some other minor thefts in recent weeks, though nothing of spiritual value.
Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin also commented on the missing relic, saying it was news “you would never want to hear, because it makes us think of a profound moral misery” that someone would steal something of spiritual and devotional value.
The archbishop told an Italian news source that he asked all of his priests to say a special prayer during their Pentecost Masses for the Salesian family and the recovery of the relic, so that it can “continue to be a point of devotion for the millions of faithful who come to the sanctuary dedicated to him.”
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Can a Scientist Be Catholic? A Conversion Story
Aleteia || By Robert Kurland || 15 June 2017
Is there an oxymoron lurking in the phrase “Catholic Scientist?” No. A physicist tells how he found his faith.
Since I am the pet physicist at our parish, a few weeks ago our Deacon kindly gave me a news clipping about a meeting of the Society of Catholic Scientists (SCS) recently held in Chicago. Being a member of SCS, I had known about the meeting, but had been sadly unable to attend.
But something struck me after reading the article: why should a meeting of scientists who happen to be Roman Catholics be remarkable enough for such coverage? Is there an oxymoron lurking in the phrase “Catholic Scientist?”
The answer is “no,” and I’ll get to that, but first let me offer a bit of biographical background. Despite having two rabbis as great-grandparents, I grew up a secular Jew. I did believe, in my fashion, in a Creator – my teenage passion was astronomy, and in visiting the local planetarium — and constructing a six-inch reflecting telescope — I realized instinctively the words of Psalm 19, “The Heavens declare the glory of God.” Working with the US Forest Service in Yosemite during one college summer, I would lie beneath the big trees, filled with awe at the Creator’s work.
It was not my Jewish background that kept me from pursuing a more personal faith in God; rather, the stumbling block was my belief that science could explain everything one needed to know about the world. I regarded the universe with awe and wonder — as possibly the creation of a deity, but such a deity would not be a living God.
At this time, I wasn’t concerned with the philosophy of science—why it worked, what were its limits. I was almost selfishly devoted to my work, and was certain that if there were things not yet explained by science – like love and morality – they soon would be.
Later in my adulthood, things happened that moved me to seek support outside of my work. Through the fortunate intervention of the Holy Spirit, I was prompted to read Who Moved the Stone, by Frank Morison. Reading his account of the days leading up to Christ’s crucifixion and some days later, it seemed to me that an impartial jury exposed to his arguments would find that the biblical accounts of the Resurrection were true beyond a reasonable doubt.
What struck me even more was that this New Testament bunch of uneducated yahoos – fishermen, tax collectors, women – had managed to out-talk Greek philosophers and Judaic scholars and thereby to spread the Christian faith through the Roman world, undergoing hardship, pain and death in so doing. Surely they must have been inspired by encounters with the risen Jesus, and the inner voice of the Holy Spirit.
It also occurred to me that if the Gospel account of the Resurrection was worthy of belief, then the rest followed, in particular the words of Jesus giving the keys of the Kingdom to Peter, thus founding the Catholic Church. Accordingly, the Christian religion to which I would convert should be Roman Catholic.
I must emphasize that this whole process of realization and conversion was one of rational decision making; there were no visions or voices – just “Top Down to Jesus.” I decided to become a Catholic, knowing my cradle-Catholic wife would be delighted and my scientist friends would be appalled and dismayed. I could imagine the gossip: “What’s happened to old Bob?” “Has he gone bonkers in his old age?” “If he isn’t doing research anymore, maybe he has to do religion, to occupy his mind.”
Nevertheless, I went to my wife’s priest and told him, “I want to become a Catholic.”
There are categories in my new belief system, so – getting back to that question of oxymorons – I want to break this question into parts: What must a Catholic scientist believe?
Belief in a creating God.
As I have said, even as an agnostic teenager, I allowed that whatever created the world certainly did a wonderful thing. There are probably many scientists who have felt similarly. Not every scientist believes that abstract quantities from equations—gravity, quantum fluctuations—were the agencies of creation. I think it’s likely that many scientists, if they think about God at all, have the same notion as did Einstein: “Der Alte,” a creating but impersonal God.
Belief in a personal God.
During the several years before my conversion I slowly came to believe that there had to be a personal God, one who cared for us. Otherwise the world made no sense.
Now, conversion for me was not a sharply defined, discontinuous process: before conversion, an agnostic; after conversion full belief in all the dogmas and doctrines of the Church. How did my faith grow and become transformed?
Belief in Jesus Christ and Catholic dogma
During my RCIA days, when I was being catechized before being baptized at the Easter Vigil, I expressed doubts about some dogmas of the Church, particularly that most fundamental one, the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. As a physicist, I found it hard to understand how the molecules representing the wafer and the wine could be transformed into molecules constituting flesh and blood. And at that time I did not know what was meant by the Aristotelian concepts, “substance” and “accidents.” The wise old priest, Fr. McA, who was catechizing me, asked, “Do you believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and His Virgin Birth?”
I said, “Of course. That’s why I’m becoming a Catholic.”
He said, “If you can believe in two miracles, why not more?”
That answer made a lot of sense to me, but finally my faith in the reality of the Eucharist came about not via intellectual engagement, but through music. Several weeks after Fr. McA had advised me about miracles, the parish held a 40 Hours Devotion, and I and the other catechumens were invited to participate in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
And there it happened. As the monstrance was carried in during the procession,Tantum Ergo was intoned, and I read these words: “Præstet fides supplementum, Sensuum defectui.”
Enough of my high school Latin remained, and I understood: “Faith will supplement the deficiency of the senses.”
There it was. My eyes filled with tears as I realized that the wafer before me was indeed the Body of Christ – a mystery beyond science and philosophy. My faith.
Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote great works of theology and philosophy, but perhaps his hymns have been his most effective evangelization, reaching and teaching the greatest number of people.
As time went on I have come to imagine my Catholic faith as a tree, deeply lodged in the bedrock of faith; the soil is the belief in the Triune Godhead that nourishes my Catholic faith, and it is the dogma and doctrines of that faith that draws it all to me – the roots of my religious belief.
The New Celibacy? How Porn may be Destroying the Impetus for Sex
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Mary Rezac || 11 June 2017
One of music artist John Mayer's most signature songs is “Daughters,” a sweet and simple tribute to the importance of parents' influence on their little girls. Here's the refrain:
“So fathers, be good to your daughters, Daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, So mothers, be good to your daughters too.”
But when John Mayer isn't crooning about your beautiful daughters, he's looking at naked pictures of them, sometimes hundreds at a time before he gets out of bed in the morning. In fact, he often prefers that to an actual human being, according to his wildly controversial 2010 interview with Playboy magazine.
“You wake up in the morning, open a thumbnail page, and it leads to a Pandora's box of visuals. There have probably been days when I saw 300 (naked women) before I got out of bed,” he told the magazine.
Unfortunately, Mayer's morning routine is not unique to him. Studies show that easy access to free internet pornography is having devastating effects on real-life relationships.
Preferring pixels to people
“For many individuals, the more porn they consume, the more likely it is that they can end up preferring the fantasy to reality, they can end up preferring the pixels to a person, and that's really messing up relationships, as you can imagine,” said Clay Olsen, co-founder of the internet movement “Fight the New Drug” (FTND).
The FTND movement, so named because of porn's addictive properties, aims to raise awareness of the harmful effects of pornography through creative mediums such as blogs, videos and infographics. The website includes personal stories as well as scientific studies to illustrate pornography's effects on the brain, the heart (relationships), and ultimately on the world.
“Our goal is to change the conversation from 'Dude, check this out,' to 'Dude, that's messed up,'” Olsen told CNA.
The longstanding, pervasive cultural narrative surrounding pornography is that it is a healthy sexual outlet and can improve sex lives. However, science begs to differ. Several studies cited in FTND's article, “Porn Ruins Your Sex Life,” found that pornography not only leads to dissatisfying sex, it can lead to less sex with actual human beings.
In a series of studies examining pornography use, “The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers” published by the Witherspoon Institute, researchers found that those who viewed pornography became less satisfied with their sex lives, and that viewing porn just once can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction towards a human partner.
According to an article in Psychology Today by clinical psychologist Tyger Latham, Psy.D, erectile dysfunction, while once considered an issue plaguing old men, is cropping up more in young men who rely heavily on pornography to become sexually aroused. A study by the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine surveyed 28,000 men on their internet porn habits, and found that porn use over time led to a lower sex drive and an eventual inability to become aroused at all.
“As soon as they try to actually get close to someone and commit to somebody and have an intimate relationship with somebody, it's in those moments that the harms of pornography show their full colors and truly manifest themselves,” Olsen said. “The unrealistic expectations are completely exposed…
And we now see people in their 20s having porn-induced erectile dysfunction because they cannot get excited or aroused without the presence of pornography.”
A decline in marriage rates
Not only is pornography use destroying the physical sexual life, it may be impacting the number of people pursuing marriage or committed sexual relationships.
In the fall of 2013, an article in The Guardian sounded the alarm that fewer people in Japan were having sex, citing as evidence numerous statistics on the country's declining birth rate, marriage rate, and even rates of young people who are dating or who are interested in dating.
A follow-up article on Slate found that while the actual number of people having or not having sex might not be definitively pinpointed, the statistics on falling marriage and birth rates only mean Japan is leading a world-wide trend, rather than bucking one. While it's not clear whether porn is directly influencing these numbers, many have speculated that it is.
Researchers with The Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Germany found an increase in free Internet pornography is at least correlated with a significant decrease in the percentage of young married men, and it may even be contributing to the trend. A 2013 Pew study found that 71 percent of single Americans were not looking for a committed relationship. Another study found that nearly 40 percent of American women had never been married.
“The results in this paper suggest that such an association exists, and that it is potentially quite large,” the study notes, as reported in the Washington Post.
The study used General Social Survey (GSS), a comprehensive, nationally representative survey which analyzed internet use of 1,500 men ages 18-to-35, between the years 2000 and 2004. The researchers studied the number of hours spent on the internet per week, how often internet pornography was used in the past 30 days, as well as other activities such as use of religious sites.
Even when adjusted for variables such as age, income, education, religion and employment, the study found that generally, the more a person used the internet, the less likely they were to be married. Additionally, it found that the more a person used internet pornography, the less likely they were to be married. On the other hand, the use of religious websites was positively correlated with marriage.
Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and a Catholic who has studied religion and sexual behavior, cautioned against assuming that correlation equals causation in such studies – but said that pornography use is likely part of a more complex reason for dropping marriage rates.
“We know that both things are occurring, but it's difficult to establish a causal connection,” he told CNA in an e-mail interview. “A variety of things are contributing to the declining marriage rate.”
“I don't think porn use necessarily causes that, but contributes to it (together with diminished earnings power, diminished confidence, etc.),” he added. “To be sure, porn use doesn't help build confidence in men, something that's pretty necessary (but not sufficient) to be considered marriageable. So I'd say porn use is a suspect here, but connecting the dots is hardly straightforward.”
Only in the past few years and months has a conversation countering the “it's healthy, it's normal” narrative been emerging in mainstream media about pornography. Several celebrities are speaking up, and there are an increasing number of websites dedicated to helping people fight pornography addictions.
In 2015, the release of the controversial “50 Shades of Grey” movie sparked a conversation on social media about sexual violence against women in media, with the hashtag #50dollarsnot50shades encouraging people to forgo the movie and instead donate to places that help victimized women.
The movie sparked a response from an unlikely source – British comedian Russel Brand, whose short video about the problems with pornography went viral, generating over 500,000 views on his YouTube channel and over 2 million views on FTND's website.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is another celebrity who has been outspoken about the negative impact of pornography, most notably in his 2013 movie “Don Jon,” which he wrote, directed and co-starred in along with Scarlett Johansson. The film explores the unrealistic expectations of love and relationships that come from pornography addictions and from the media at large.
“I think that there's not a substantial difference between a lot of main-stream culture and pornography. They're equally simplistic, reductionist,” Gordon-Levitt said in an interview with NPR about the film.
“Whether it's rated X or 'approved by the FCC for general viewing audiences,' the message is the same. We have a tendency in our culture to take people and treat them like things.”
But the internet has been around for decades now – why has it taken society so long to catch on to the fact that pornography is harmful?
“Science has caught up with the fact that pornography's harmful,” Olsen said, “but society is still catching up.”
It often takes years for something that was once culturally accepted as true to be flipped on its head as science proves otherwise, Olsen said, so Fight the New Drug knows they still have a lot of work ahead of them.
“We're very excited to see some of this progress and some of these mainstream media outlets kind of following suit and starting to talk about the negative impacts, we couldn't be more excited about it, but we still have a long way ahead of us.”
Some other websites that are also trying to raise awareness and give help to those struggling with pornography include The Porn Effect and Covenant Eyes, and internet filtering and accountability system.
The best way to kick a porn habit? Keep fighting it and lean on the sacraments, Regnerus said.
“(My) advice: don't give up hope; pursue confession regularly; recognize and avoid the contexts which give rise to temptation. That's a start.”
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Catholic Who Died Saving a Woman’s Life at London Bridge Hailed as a Hero
Catholic Herald || By Staff Reporter || 08 June 2017
Friends say that Ignacio Echeverria, who attacked a terrorist with a skateboard, was deeply committed to his faith
Ignacio Echeverria, who died trying to help a woman being attacked by terrorists at London Bridge, was a committed Mass-goer who always stood up for the weak, his friends and family have said.
Mr Echeverria, 39, was among eight people killed in the attack on Saturday. Early reports said he had gone to a woman’s aid using his skateboard as a weapon.
His sister Isabel said on social media: “My brother Ignacio tried to stop the terrorists and lost his life trying to save others.”
The Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy said he would be remembered for his “heroic and exemplary behaviour” and has asked that he be awarded an order of civil merit.
His brother Joaquin told the Spanish El Mundo newspaper that he never missed a Sunday Mass. A friend told another paper that he had belonged to a group of young Catholics who had met weekly in Madrid and that he always stood up for the weakest. “When we were young, if he saw that someone was picking on a child in a bar, he came out in his defence,” the friend said.
Another friend, Rafael Duarte, noted that an uncle of his was a missionary bishop in Peru. Bishop Antonio Hornedo of Chachapoyas, who died in 2006, was a Jesuit who has a plaque in his honour in the town of Comillas.
In London Mr Echeverria worked for HSBC’s anti-money laundering team. Mr Duarte said: “He was an indefatigable worker and he did not hesitate to confront the bosses if he wasn’t happy with something … He helped those who were marginalised.”
A Canadian Catholic, Christine Archibald, 30, was also killed in the attack.
The Archibald family, parishioners of St Rita Parish in Castlegar, British Columbia, released a statement describing Christine Archibald as a person who “had room in her heart for everyone and believed strongly that every person was to be valued and respected.”
“She lived this belief working in a shelter for the homeless until she moved to Europe to be with her fiancé.
“She would have had no understanding of the callous cruelty that caused her death. Please honour her by making your community a better place. Volunteer your time and labour or donate to a homeless shelter. Tell them Chrissy sent you.”
Since the statement was released, the hashtag #Chrissysentme emerged across social media from people who have donated to Castlegar charities in Archibald’s honour.
Covenant House Toronto and Covenant House Vancouver, Catholic agencies for homeless youth, expressed gratitude for the outpouring of gifts.
“We are deeply moved by the #Chrissysentme movement occurring in response to the tragic violence in the London attacks,” Kristy Hayter of Covenant House Vancouver, told The Catholic Register in Toronto in an email.
The terrorist attack unfolded when three men in a van mowed down people on London Bridge and then left the vehicle to go on a killing spree in Borough Market, a popular restaurant and bar district located south of the river.
Archibald was said to be walking ahead of her fiancé when she was struck by the van. The three men were shot and killed by police at the scene.
Archibald, a graduate of Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, worked at Alpha House in Calgary for two years before she moved to the Netherlands with her fiancé. Alpha House is a non-profit organization that provides programs for men and women struggling with drug and alcohol addictions.
“She came to us as a social work student and then became a social worker,” Kathy Christiansen, executive director of Alpha House, told CTV News. “But I think one of the things we can say about Chrissy is that she had a natural talent and she was loved by clients and staff alike.”
Archibald is survived by her parents, Greg and Barbara Archibald; two sisters, Kathryn Fairbank and Caroline Stuart; and her fiancé, Tyler Ferguson.
Residents of Castlegar are planning a Peace and Healing vigil on June 11 to commemorate Archibald as well as two other people in the community who recently died.
Source: Catholic Herald…
ISIS Made Her a Sex Slave, Freedom Made Her an Activist
Aleteia || By J-P Mauro || 05 June 2017
Nadia Murad urges the international community to help the Yazidis.
Nadia Murad was 21 years old when she was abducted by Islamic State and held as a sex slave. Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
She was abducted from Kocho near Sinjar, an area home to about 400,000 Yazidis, and held by Islamic State in Mosul where she was repeatedly tortured and raped. She escaped three months later, reaching a refugee camp, then making her way to Germany.
Last week she made a tearful return to her hometown after 3 months of captivity and 3 years of exile. In her time away she has become a social activist, pleading with any officials who will listen to help save her religious minority people, the Yazidi, from persecution at the hands of IS.
The Yazidi people are ethnically Kurdish religious community. Their religion, Yazidism, is linked to ancient Mesopotamian religions; some believe they are a modern connection to the Magi of the Nativity. Yazidism combines aspects of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Because of this melding, Islamic State views them as devil worshipers and seeks to eradicate them.
In August of 2014, the Yazidis became the target of IS in its attempt to “purify” their lands of non-Islamic influences. This uprooted the lives of thousands of families who saw their young women enslaved, their young men sent to indoctrination camps to be trained as terrorists, and their older members murdered.
Murad has directed officials to 3 mass graves, which she wishes exhumed:
“Open a case for those that lost everything, their parents, people who can not go back to their villages and exhume their loved ones buried around their villages,” she said.
Murad returned to her hometown with her sister, who was also held as a slave and escaped. Neither of the girls ever thought they would see Kocho again.
The siblings lost 18 family members in the attack. The town had changed greatly; where once there were 2,000 Yazidis, that number has been cut in half by IS.
Murad has called for this slaughter to be officially recognized as genocide. She has also claimed the international community has failed her people:
“The international community has not delivered on its responsibility,” she said. “I tell anyone that you are being unjust for not supporting a minority like the Yazidis.”
There are still over 3,500 women and girls being held as slaves by IS.
Murad has spoken to the United Nations Security Council in 2015 and to governments world wide. For her efforts she has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and a role as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador. Murad plans to release a memoir later this year entitled The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State.
Francis, Trump to Meet – with Fireworks or No Drama?
National Catholic Reporter (NCR) || By Fr. Thomas Reese || 12 May 2017
Under normal circumstances, it would be possible to predict the series of events that would surround the meeting of a president of the United States and the pope of the Catholic Church.
First, there will be all of the pre-meeting discussions in the media. Predictions will be made about conflicts between the two leaders because of the disagreements that they have. This has been true of almost every meeting between a president and a pope because there are always areas of disagreement.
With Democratic presidents, the disagreements are over birth control, abortion and gay marriage. With Republican presidents, the disagreements are over issues of war and peace and of the responsibility of the government to help the poor and marginalized.
Thus, before the Pope John Paul II met with President Bill Clinton, the prediction was of a public takedown of the president by the pope over abortion. It did not happen. Likewise, when Pope Benedict XVI met with President Barack Obama, some expected the pope lecture the president on abortion and the religious freedom agenda of the U.S. bishops. Did not happen.
Note the predictions of lectures always go in one direction. It is always the pope lecturing the president. No American president has ever dared to lecture the pope. At least, not yet.
It is not surprising that predictions are flying around of a major confrontation when President Donald Trump meets with Pope Francis. The two men hold such diametrically opposed views on the environment, refugees, migrants, diplomacy and the use of military force that it is easy to foresee a blowup. On economics, they both agree that globalization has had negative effects, but Trump is only focused on the U.S., while Francis is focused on developing nations.
The personalities are also known to be unpredictable. Francis has constantly surprised observers, and Trump is so volatile that it is hard to predict what he might do.
When the meeting between a pope and a president finally takes place, there are also other meetings going on between the president's staff and the Vatican Secretariat of State.
There are rarely fireworks accompanying these meetings. The Vatican does not want to embarrass an important leader like the president of the United States. There is no desire to burn bridges. The Vatican has had centuries of experience dealing with political leaders — good and bad, rational and crazy, friend and foe. It wants an ongoing relationship with the world's superpower. It will not risk that for a one-day news cycle.
The actual meetings between presidents and popes are private with only a translator present. Few details ever leak out about what was actually said between the two leaders. But often the tone of the meeting is revealed. For example, after the meeting between Obama and Benedict, the pope shared with others how impressed he was by the president, much to the disappointment of American conservatives.
The lack of information leads Vatican reporters to grasp at straws, for example, watching to see if the meeting goes over the time allotted, which could indicate that the two leaders are getting along or having a serious conversation.
Americans tend to believe the conversations between the popes and presidents and between the presidents' staff and the Vatican Secretariat of State focus on American domestic issues like birth control, abortion and religious freedom, whereas participants report that 90 percent of the discussions are on foreign policy issues, especially the Middle East.
The Vatican is interested in knowing what the American plans are for bringing about peace in the Middle East, what it is saying privately to Israel, and how the Vatican and the United States can work together for peace and development. The issue of refugees would also be on the table.
American diplomats are interested in the Vatican's assessment of other world leaders, and they want to know what the Vatican might say about foreign policy issues like the Middle East, climate change and even genetically modified organisms. Sometimes the Americans want the Vatican's help with a particular leader or country. The staff meetings are professional on both sides.
After the meetings are done, the Vatican issues a brief (a couple of paragraphs) statement listing the topics covered. This is not all that helpful since the statement does not indicate how much time was spent on each topic, let alone what was said. Since both sides already have publicly stated positions on the issues, it is not hard to guess. Some Vatican officials, even those who did not participate, will try to anonymously spin the story for their own purposes, which can lead to different interpretations of the meetings.
The vagueness of the Vatican press releases can lead to misinterpretations of the meetings. For example, after a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vatican officials in January 2015, there was one line about health care in the press release. This became the headline in most media stories, since the conflict between the American bishops and the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate was well-known. In reality, participants said that the Vatican brought up the topic at the request of the American bishops and only spent about five minutes on it. The overwhelming time was devoted to foreign policy.
U.S. officials also play up the positive when talking to the press after the meetings. No administration has seen any advantage to being portrayed as in conflict with the pope. Sometimes, they are tempted to go overboard on stressing agreement where there was none, which may lead to a polite clarification from the Vatican press office.
Thus, normally a meeting between a pope and a U.S. president has little fireworks. Both sides play down conflict and emphasize the professional quality of the discussions.
But this president is not "no-drama Obama." Nor is the pope the academic Benedict.
With Trump, we don't know what we will get, although his meetings with foreign leaders have gone pretty well so far. But he could come out of the meeting with the pope and immediately tweet, "Pope Great Guy! He and I AGREE on EVERYTHING! GOOD! We will save the world!"
Or worse yet: "Cryin' Pope Francis ... not a fan of walls. Low-energy. 7/10 as far as popes go. Asked me to pray for him. I'm very busy. SAD."
(In the comment section below, please tell us what you think the Donald will tweet after meeting the pope.)
Nor are we sure what Francis will say. He has yet to misstep in any of his encounters with foreign leaders. He respects the advice he gets from the Vatican diplomats. He is not directly confrontational.
On the other hand, this is a man comfortable with going off-script. He is also known to have the typical Latin American suspicion of the United States government and business. His disagreements with Trump are clear.
The odds are that there will be more drama leading up to the meeting than at the meeting, but with Trump and Francis, you never know.
[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.]
Source: National Catholic Reporter…
Global Lutherans Gather in Namibia to Mark 500 Years of Reformation
AllAfrica.com || Lutheran World Federation (LWF) || 07 May 2017
A time to worship together, commemorate 500 years of the Reformation, decide work priorities and new governance Lutherans from around the world are gathering in the Namibian capital Windhoek, 10-16 May, for the Twelfth Assembly of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF).
With the theme "Liberated by God's Grace" and sub-themes articulating that creation, salvation and human beings are "not for sale", the Assembly is jointly hosted by the three LWF member churches in the country under the umbrella body, the United Church Council – Namibia Evangelical Lutheran Churches (UCC-NELC). It is a historic occasion as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation falls in 2017 and will be commemorated during the Assembly.
UCC-NELC members, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN), Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia - German Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCIN-GELC), jointly invited the LWF for the Assembly, in a country with strong Lutheran roots.
The three churches have a combined membership of almost 1.2 million, which is around half of the approximately 2.4 million who make up the total population of Namibia. Namibia was first a German colony, 1884 – 1917, and then administered by then apartheid South Africa until its United Nations (UN)-guided independence in 1990. LWF supported the churches as they stood with their people and longed for independence.
Almost 800 participants, including 324 delegates from the 145 LWF member churches in 98 countries worldwide will attend. The assembly is the highest LWF decision-making body and it meets normally every six years. The Eleventh Assembly was held in 2010 in Stuttgart, Germany.
Worship and commemoration of Reformation anniversary
The assembly will begin with a eucharistic opening worship on Wednesday, 10 May, at which Rev. Dr Elena Bondarenko from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in European Russia will preach.
The Reformation commemoration will take place on Sunday, 14 May, in the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek, named after the first president of independent Namibia. Bishop emeritus Dr Zephania Kameeta, who has a long and deep engagement with the LWF including as a former Vice-President for Africa will preach on the Assembly theme, "Liberated by God's Grace." Kameeta is currently Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare in Namibia.
The Assembly has garnered much attention in the country and NamPost—Namibia Post—is issuing a first day cover, a single stamp souvenir sheet and a post card stamp taking up the Reformation commemoration. The design shows the African continent outline and the two countries there that have been LWF Assembly venues: Tanzania in 1977 and Namibia in 2017. Thousands of people from all over the country are expected to join assembly participants in the event at the stadium, which can hold up to 10,000 people.
On 16 May, 32-year old Rev. Lydia Posselt from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will deliver the sermon at the closing eucharistic worship of the Assembly.
Posselt was the winner of the Assembly preaching contest, in which an international LWF jury and online voters selected the best sermon submitted from among several entries by young pastors in the LWF member churches. The idea stemmed from the fact that Martin Luther was 33 years old when he triggered the Reformation in 1517.
Eminent Congolese surgeon Dr Denis Mukwege will deliver the keynote speech on 11 May, focusing on the assembly theme. A medical doctor from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mukwege has provided leadership for Africa and the world, standing up for dignity and rights of people, particularly women who are survivors of sexual violence in conflict situations.
He is an active Christian layperson who has been recognized with a number of prestigious international awards including the 2008 UN Human Rights Award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2014, and he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
"We welcome the opportunity to have an expert from Central Africa speak about a problem that is sadly common all over the world," says LWF General Secretary Rev Dr Martin Junge. "We will listen to a leader who doesn't stop at the analysis of a problem but actively works for its solution."
Election of new LWF president, setting work priorities
As the highest LWF governing body, the Assembly will give general direction to the communion's future work for the next six years. It will speak out on issues concerning the life and witness of the churches and the world.
Delegates will elect a new LWF President and members of the annual governing body, the Council, to serve until the next Assembly. LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land will be concluding his term, to which he was elected at the July 2010 assembly in Stuttgart, Germany.
Pope Francis Says Egypt Trip Promoted ‘healthy secularism’
Crux || By John L. Allen Jr. || 03 May 2017
Pope Francis said on Wednesday that his April 28-29 trip to Egypt was intended as a "sign of peace" and a way of promoting a vision of "healthy secularism" for the entire Middle East region, in which religion and state are separate but religion is encouraged and allowed to flourish. He called on Christians in the Middle East to be "salt and light," and prayed for new Christian martyrs.
Calling his April 28-29 visit to Egypt a “sign of peace,” Pope Francis said Wednesday that he went to the country to defend a “vision of healthy secularism” in a region often gripped by religious extremism and violence.
“The grand historical and religious patrimony of Egypt, and its role in the Middle East region, confers on it a special obligation to contribute to a stable and durable peace, based not on the law of force but on the force of law,” Francis said.
The vision of “healthy secularism,” the pope said, emerged in his conversation with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President of Egypt, and in a session with the country’s political and diplomatic leaders.
“Healthy secularism” is a phrase originally coined by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and taken over by emeritus Pope Benedict XVI to refer to a form of church/state separation that provides freedom for religion, but doesn’t suppress the role of religion in public life.
The pontiff’s comments came in his regular Wednesday General Audience, his first after completing the outing to Egypt, which was the 18th of his papacy and his third to the Middle East.
Francis noted that he traveled to Egypt in response to a four-fold invitation:
Sisi, the country’s president.
Pope Tawadros II, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, by far the country’s largest Christian denomination and also the largest in the Middle East.
Ahmad al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar mosque and university, the most prestigious center of learning in the Sunni Muslim world.
Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak of the Coptic Catholic Church.
Francis said he made the trip as a “sign of peace, for Egypt and for the entire region, which unfortunately suffers from conflicts and terrorism.”
While in Egypt, Francis delivered several strong calls for religious and political leaders in the Middle East to “unmask the violence that masquerades as purported sanctity.
“Let us say once more a firm and clear ‘No!’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or the name of God,” he said during his April 28 address at Al-Azhar. “Together let us affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith, belief and hatred.”
Francis returned to those themes on Wednesday.
“Peace is constructed through education, the formation of wisdom, and a humanism that sees the religious dimension as an integral part, the relationship with God,” he said.
On Wednesday, Francis also noted that the trip had a strongly ecumenical character.
“We were able to give a strong sign of communion, thanks to God, with my dear brother Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox,” Francis said.
“We renewed our commitment, signing a joint declaration, to journey together and to commit ourselves to not repeat the baptisms administered in our respective churches,” he said.
The pope’s two days in Egypt took place under the shadow of the Palm Sunday bombings of two Coptic churches, one in the Delta region of the country and another in Alexandria, that left 45 people dead. Francis said he and Pope Tawadros had prayed for these martyrs together.
“Their blood made our ecumenical encounter fruitful,” Francis said.
Speaking to the Christian minority in Egypt and the Middle East, Francis called on them to exhibit “the joy of the faith, the ardor of hope, and the strength of giving witness in love to the fact that ‘we have met the Lord!’”
The pontiff said he had prayed for all the Christians of the Middle East, that they may be “light and salt in these lands, in the middle of these people.”
Speaking ad-lib, Francis said he was pleased to see so many seminarians in Egypt, calling it a “consolation.”
The pontiff’s next foreign trip will come May 12-13, when he visits the fabled Marian shrine of Fatima in Portugal.
Smaller Changes Expected from Council of Cardinals' Latest Meeting
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Hannah Brockhaus || 26 April 2017
Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals met this week to continue discussion on reforming the Roman Curia, focusing on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council Promoting the New Evangelization.
According to an April 26 communique, during their 19th session the cardinals studied texts to propose to Pope Francis regarding the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and the three courts.
No big changes are expected out of this latest round of meetings – those changes were the new dicasteries formed last fall, Greg Burke, director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists at a briefing Wednesday.
This time, Burke said, the cardinals and Pope focused on regulation within the departments, hoping to arrive at something like a “new Pastor bonus,” the 1988 apostolic constitution of St. John Paul II that regulates the competencies and work of the Roman Curia.
In the meetings they inspected texts for the three courts of the Roman Curia: the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Apostolic Signatura, and the Roman Rota.
The Apostolic Penitentiary is the tribunal in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See, while the Signatura functions as a sort of Supreme Court. The Rota, for its part, is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance,” and is also where marriage nullity cases are judged.
They also spent a significant amount of time discussing the selection and training of staff of the Holy See, both laity and clerics.
In addition to the nine members of the council and Pope Francis, officials of the State Secretariat, the Council of the Economy, and the Office of Work of the Apostolic See (ULSA) also took part.
Cardinal George Pell gave an update on the Secretariat for the Economy, particularly on the monitoring of budgets and “the formation of personnel and human resources.”
The cardinals, in addition to speaking about the tribunals and bishop selection, continued to discuss points brought up during the last round of meetings, including the possible restructuring of the Congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples and Oriental Churches, and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley gave an update on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he heads, speaking about their plenary meeting in March and their visits to various ministries.
Carrying over from previous meetings, the council of cardinals also discussed decentralization, the relationship between bishops’ conferences and the Roman Curia, and how to be more in service to local bishops.
Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the council serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor bonus.
Keywords that have come out of the cardinals’ meetings so far and which have emerged as guiding principles for the ongoing Curial reform are harmonization, simplification, synodality, and the Church’s “missionary drive.”
The council of cardinals is set to meet again June 12-14 to continue discussion on moving forward in reforming curial structures.
Source: Catholic News Agency…
How Low Sunday became Divine Mercy Sunday
Crux || By Father Jeffrey F. Kirby || 23 April 2017
The Sunday after Easter was once called Low Sunday, but now we celebrate it as Divine Mercy Sunday. The reason is that after a long 20th century, the human family is in tremendous need of healing and hope, of both receiving mercy and sharing compassion with one another.
It’s interesting that just a little while ago, today was called Low Sunday. It received such a name because, after all the liturgies and devotionals of the Sacred Triduum, the church seemed to take on a nomenclature that reflected the tiredness of both priests and people.
Let’s face it, the past week was spiritually intense, emotionally draining, logistically busy, and sometimes either a circus or a zoo in organizing choirs, ushers and greeters, altar servers, lectors, and everyone else. After such a whirlwind, it seems everyone is ready for a Low Sunday!
Except it’s not called Low Sunday anymore. Now, we have Divine Mercy Sunday and that brings along with it another whole set of expectations and devotionals.
What happened? Where’s our break? Why a Divine Mercy Sunday?
The answer isn’t too complicated. It only involves two world wars, rampant nihilism, a Polish religious, a pope of mercy, and the third Christian millennium!
Two world wars. In the Great War of the early twentieth century, the entire world found itself in an historically unparalleled state of worldwide combat. The nationalism that was driving the conflict and its accompanying trench warfare, chemical attacks, and nascent air bombings only brought unprecedented destruction to the human family.
Peace was attempted in 1918 but an intemperate diplomacy, still driven by nationalism and a desire to punish the vanquished, only led to further tension and a second worldwide conflict seemingly hell bent on surpassing the first in the devastation it would inflict upon the human race.
The Second World War would ignobly conclude with the ghastly dropping of two atomic bombs on two cities full of homes and parks, families, and children.
Rampant nihilism. Such overwhelming wreckage and slaughter of human life traumatized the human spirit. People were both numb and in denial over what had happened, what they had participated in, or what they refused to denounce.
In a false comfort to weary souls, many concluded that the appalling series of events were just an evil without reason. And so, in the absence of rational explanation, nihilism pervaded as its own poisonous gas and humanity desperately breathed it in.
Nihilism convinced the survivors of humanity’s evils: There is no explanation, no meaning, no purpose, and no value. It’s all nothing.
The person intoxicated by such a nihilism runs the risk of living as an empty soul, moved only by momentary pleasure or self-interest. Transcendental experiences are explained away and relationships are marked by tension and a will to power. Life is just a flow of subjective satisfactions lacking any real sense of rationality.
A Polish religious. In the throws of these world wars and within the arena of the competitive spirits of nationalism and nihilism that sought to possess the human soul, a simple Catholic religious sister, hidden away from the world, received a liberating message for the human family.
The mystic, Faustina Kowalska, was given a powerful answer “ever ancient, ever new” to the turmoil and sufferings of humanity. Jesus appeared to her in her moments of prayer and shared with her the proclamation of Divine Mercy. For a desert, it would have been an ocean. For shadows, it would have been the sun. For humanity, the Divine Mercy was (and is) a declaration of love and a hope.
As Pope St. John Paul II taught: “It is this love which must inspire humanity today, if it is to face the crisis of the meaning of life, the challenges of the most diverse needs and, especially, the duty to defend the dignity of every human person.”
A pope of mercy. It would be exactly John Paul who would reveal and heavily endorse this message of Divine Mercy to the universal church. This backing included changing Low Sunday to the Divine Mercy Sunday. The pontiff even purposely waited to canonize Faustina so that she would be the first saint of the twenty-first century.
The third Christian millennium. In the Mass proclaiming her a saint, John Paul explained: “Sister Faustina’s canonization has a particular eloquence: by this act I intend today to pass this message on to the new millennium.”
And so, the third Christian millennium began with a canonization of the Divine Mercy.
In asking why we lost our Low Sunday, therefore, the response is painfully obvious. The human family is still in tremendous need of healing and hope, of both receiving mercy and sharing compassion with one another.
As good things often require sacrifice, so the comfort of a quiet and relaxing post-Easter Sunday now gives way to the celebration of a Divine Mercy Sunday with all its appropriate fanfare and devotions.
Low Sunday now bows to the Divine Mercy Sunday so that forgiveness and tenderness are proclaimed and the world hears a different message than one of emptiness or hate and is shown a path to reconciliation and peace.
Benedict XVI Shares a 90th Birthday Beer with Family and Friends
Crux || By John L. Allen Jr. || 17 April 2017
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his 90th birthday on April 17. Among those present was Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, Benedict's 93-year-old brother, who flew in from Germany for the occasion, as well as a small delegation from Bavaria, his home region. They brought to the party two staples of Bavarian cuisine with which the 90-year-old emeritus pontiff was obviously delighted -- beer and pretzels.
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI actually turned 90 years old on Sunday, but because the day was Easter, his closest aide Archbishop George Gänswein announced that a “modest” celebration would be held today instead, the day that Italians observe as Pasquetta, meaning the Monday after Easter.
What “modest” means for a retired pope living on Vatican grounds, however, is a bit different than for the rest of us.
Benedict XVI passed the day in the company of his beloved 93-year-old brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, as well as a small delegation from his native Bavaria in southern Germany. Among other things, the party enjoyed some beer and pretzels, both considered staples of Bavarian cuisine.
The emeritus pope today lives in a former monastery within the Vatican, called the Mater Ecclesiae, which was created by St. John Paul II as a residence for cloistered nuns who would pray for the intentions of the papacy.
On April 12, Pope Francis visited his predecessor to wish him a happy birthday. The Vatican stamp and coin office also celebrated the pope emeritus’s birthday with the release of stamps marking important events in the life of the church spanning almost 2,000 years.
In a recent interview with the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, Gänswein said that as he turns 90, Benedict occasionally talks about the prospect of death, but it’s not an “obsession” for him.
“I can say that he’s a serene person,” Gänswein said. “He has a soul at peace, and a happy heart.”
These days, Gänswein said, Benedict can no longer see out of one eye, although that’s an old problem, and also has difficulties walking, but otherwise is in good health.
“Certainly, he’s a man who by now is old,” Gänswein said. “It’s tough on him to walk, and he uses a walker. He can’t work on scientific texts like he used to do, but he still writes, and a lot. He has an enormous amount of correspondence from all over the world. He gets books, essays and letters, and he replies. Naturally that takes time and effort, but he thinks about every response, it’s never something done casually.”
Gänswein also said that for Benedict now, his most important activity is prayer.
“He’s convinced that prayer is apostolate number one,” he said. “Through prayer, he feels able to be close to the faithful.”
Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, was born on April 16, 1927, which was Holy Saturday, in a small Bavarian town called Marktl-am-Inn, just across the border from Austria and the city that enchanted his youth, Salzburg. He was baptized with the newly blessed Easter water in the town’s small parish church, to parents named Joseph and Mary.
In his 1998 autobiography, published in English as Milestones, the future pope wrote that his birth and baptism on the vigil of Easter was, for him, a symbol of the human condition in its “not quite” relation to Easter and the resurrection.