“Is this the end of Christianity in the Middle East?” asks The New York Times

A long special report in the newspaper’s Sunday Magazine addresses this dramatic question. Within a century (1910-2010), the number of Christians in countries such as Egypt, Israel, Palestine and Jordan has plummeted from 14 to 4 per cent of the population

Christians in the Middle East are facing difficulties ranging from “bad” to “less bad,” said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem in recent days, adding, however, that the condition of Palestinians in the West Bank is still undoubtedly better compared to the hardship faced by Christians in Syria and Iraq. Particularly those who are forced to abandon their homes due to the advance of Islamic State militia.

“Is this the end of Christianity in the Middle Eats” The New York Times Magazine asks in its Sunday 26 July issue titled: “The Shadow of Death”.
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Mgr. Karcher: “Pope spends summer working but is happy”

The Papal Master of Ceremonies talks about how Francis spends a typical summer day: he keeps in touch with friends and misses going for a stroll and being surrounded by people. The General Audiences will resume on Wednesday 5 August

Summer holiday? What summer holiday? Despite his age, the Pope who is 78 going on 79, continues to work and study even during periods traditionally allocated to relax and rest. Mgr. Guillermo Karcher, Papal Master of Ceremonies and one of Bergoglio’s closest collaborators, said this in a statement to Vatican Radio.

After the intense week he spent in Latin America, Francis has “set to work” on some important engagements that are coming up, starting with his visit to Cuba and the US.” “He is calm and content. Every morning when I look at him he seems happy. He is always busy working as I see he is always holding something, letters, correspondence: he always likes to reply himself,” said Mgr. Karcher.
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By vassallomalta Posted in Comment

At the Angelus Francis appeals for release of Fr. Dall’Oglio and bishops abducted in Syria

During the Marian prayer this Sunday, Francis called for a “renewed effort from the competent local and international authorities” to make sure these clerics are freed. Commenting on the Gospel passage about the miracle of the five loaves and two fish, the Pope recalled that Jesus replaces the buying mentality with that of giving. Concluding, he invited faithful to register for the World Youth Day in Poland and signed up himself in front of the crowd using a tablet

No matter how poor we are, all of us are capable of giving something. No one should be deprived of bread and a dignified life,” Francis said before a crowd of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for today’s Angelus. “Jesus satisfies the hunger for giving meaning to life; we need to replace the mentality of buying with the mentality of giving,” Francis also said, before launching a “heartfelt and pressing appeal” for the release of Fr. Dall’Oglio, the Jesuit who was abducted in Syria two years ago and of the Orthodox bishops and other persons “who have been kidnapped in conflict areas”. Francis called for a “renewed effort from the competent local and international authorities” to ensure these individuals are set free.

Today, the Church remembers Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary and therefore Jesus’ grandparents. To mark the occasion I would therefore like to greet all grandfathers and grandmothers for their great and vital presence within the family.” Speaking off the cuff, he said: “let us greet and give a huge round of applause to grandparents who are still living and to those looking down on us from in heaven”.
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By vassallomalta Posted in Angelus

Jubilee: Faithful are given chance to undertake pilgrimage on foot to reach Holy Door

Vatican and Italian authorities are working on a Jubilee mobility plan. Mgr. Fisichella gives an update on the event’s organisation: “Co-operation between Holy See, government, region and municipality is proceeding smoothly”

Faithful will be arriving at the Holy Door “after a brief pilgrimage on foot”. Meanwhile, in terms of the organisation of the event, “co-operation between Holy See, government, region and municipality is proceeding smoothly”

Mgr. Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation, has updated Vatican Insider on the progress of the preparations underway. “We do not know how many pilgrims will be coming to Rome,” says the man in charge of co-ordinating the Extraordinary Holy Year. “No operational meetings with Italian authorities are scheduled for August but priorities have already been set.” The problems on the table are amplified in a city like Rome where there is a constant flow of visitors. This means there will be “daily problems linked to mobility, healthcare which the Region is responsible for and security which the government’s domain”. The Vatican has alerted the Italian side not only about the main events organised for the Jubilee which will attract huge crowds, but also about the “daily management of a widespread and continuous pilgrimage that will go on for the entire period of the Holy Door opening.”

Co-operation between the Holy See, the government and the regional and municipal administrations is “constant” and is taking place in a “very positive” climate. Despite the current difficulties Rome’s city council (Comune di Roma) is facing, contact with its authorities has been regular, without “any gaps or delays”.
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By vassallomalta Posted in Jubilee

Angelus: On the Multiplication of the Loaves

“God is capable of multiplying our little gestures of solidarity and make us participants of His gift.”

Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address today before and after the recitation of the Angelus to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning.

This Sunday’s Gospel (Jn. 6, 1-15) presents the great sign of the multiplication of the loaves, in the narration of John the evangelist.

Jesus finds himself on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and is surrounded by a “large crowd”. drawn by the “signs he was performing on the sick” (v. 2). In Him, the merciful power of God acts, that heals every ill of the body and spirit. But Jesus is not only a healer, He is also a teacher: in fact he goes up on the mountain and he sits, the typical behavior of teacher when He teaches: He goes up on that natural “cathedra” created by His Heavenly Father. At this point, Jesus, who knows well what He is about to do, He put His disciples to the test. What should be done to feed all those people? Philip, one of the Twelve, makes a quick calculation: organizing a collection, a maximum of 200 denari can be gathered to buy bread, that still would not be enough to feed 5,000 people.
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By vassallomalta Posted in Angelus

Indonesia is making progress in the field of religious freedom

Recent cases of violence “remain isolated”, says Apostolic Nuncio Filippazzi. Joko Widodo’s government has removed religious affiliation from citizenship-identification cards and is giving back space to the religions of indigenous peoples

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world, is currently experiencing a period of progress thanks to the government of President Joko Widodo; a season of openneness and progress in the fields of basic human rights and religious freedom.

Despite some incidents of violence attributed to Islamic extremist groups that are “small but make a lot of noise” – this is how the Archbishop of Bandung, Johannes Pujasumarta describes them to Vatican Insider –, visible progress has been made in terms of legislation on the rights of believers and in terms of the global approach of public institutions in fostering a climate of harmony and tolerance.
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time B

Reading I: 2 Kings 4:42-44
Responsorial Psalm 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18
Reading II: Ephesians 4:1-6
Gospel: John 6:1-15

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining. (Gospel)

Feed the Hungry

A cynic once quipped: “What would you get if you crossed a radical liberal social justice advocate with a strongly conservative pious daily communicant?” The answer? Dorothy Day!

That’s a piece of wit which can serve to throw some light on how one might begin, today, to live out the first corporal work of mercy, the command to feed the hungry.

How do we feed the hungry? Even if we are convinced, and perhaps even obsessed, by Jesus’ command to do this, how, in fact, can it be done today? The world is a big place and millions upon millions of people live in hunger. Moreover we live a situation of compounded complexity of every sort, political, social, and economic. There is no simple way to get resources from the rich to the poor, from your table to the table of someone who is hungry. How can you live out Christ’s command to feed the hungry, given the complexities of today’s world?

Generally speaking, rightly and wrongly, we look to our governments, to the United Nations, relief organizations, social services, welfare, and other such agencies to do this for us. Given the scope and complexity of poverty and hunger in the world, the tendency is to look over our shoulders, to something massive, to some big government or agency, to feed the hungry. We tend to feel too small and individually over-powered in the face of hunger’s enormity.
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Pell criticizes the “Laudato Si'” encyclical

In an interview with the “Financial Times”, the Prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy says: “the church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters”. But he added that “there are parts of it which are beautiful”

Interviewed by the British daily, Financial Times, the day the Holy See presented an overview of its financial statements, Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s “minister for the Economy”, issued a brief statement on Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’” which was published last month and focuses on caring for creation.
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

Martini: Benedict XVI’s resignation and the 2005 Conclave

Before his recent death, Fr. Silvano Fausti confided that the Jesuit cardinal played a decisive role in Ratzinger’s election and resignation. But other sources tend to play this role down

The disclosures made by the Jesuit Biblicist, Fr. Silvano Fausti, Carlo Maria Martini’s confessor and spiritual guide, who passed away on 24 June, have turned the spotlight back onto the role played by the formed Archbishop of Milan in the 2005 Conclave that elected Benedict XVI Pope. In a video interview published on Italian news website Gli Stati Generali, Fausti talked about two moments. One was Ratzinger’s resignation and the last conversation with Martini on 2 June 2012 in Milan, on the occasion of the World Meeting of Families. The Jesuit cardinal, who was seriously ill with Parkinson’s (he died three months later), met Ratzinger in the archbishop’s residence in the early afternoon.

During that meeting, according to Fausti’s version of events, Martini told Benedict XVI that the time had come for him to resign because the Roman Curia seemed irreformable: “it’s right now, one cannot do anything here.” Fr. Fausti is a primary source given the relationship he had with Martini. It also widely known that Ratzinger and Martini esteem each other, despite their different positions. There is no doubt that during that painful period the Holy See was going through, with the Vatileaks scandal in full swing, the Archbishop of Milan spoke frankly to Benedict XVI suggesting he resign.
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Thailand: Reconciliation can restore democracy

Students, civil society groups and religious communities are witnessing discontent among the populace with the military dictatorship in power. If social rifts are not healed, the generals will continue to have lady luck on their side and maintain a grip on power

A year after the military coup that plunged Thailand back into a dictatorship, intolerance in Thai society is growing. Young people, students, civil society groups, Buddhist and Christian communities as well as other religious communities are feeling and expressing the populace’s discontent.

Loud reactions broke out when the current Prime Minister, the General Prayut Chan-o-cha, confirmed the prison sentences of 14 students who were arrested in recent days for fathering in the street and calling for the return of democracy.
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

Pope Francis: Latin American Has Great Human and Spiritual Potential

Entrusts Fruits of Recent Apostolic Visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe During Angelus Address

In his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis recalled his recent Apostolic visit to South America, thanking God as well as the people of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay “for their affectionate and warm welcome & enthusiasm.”

The Holy Father began by reflecting on today’s Gospel from St. Mark in which Jesus was moved with pity for the crowds who followed him and who were “like sheep without a shepherd.” The Pope said that the reading gave a glimpse into what Jesus saw and felt with his heart.

The Gospel evokes three words he described as “the verbs of the Shepherd”: to see, to have compassion, and to teach.

“The first and the second, to see and to have compassion, are always associated with Jesus’ attitude: in fact his gaze is not the gaze of a sociologist or of a photojournalist, because he always sees with the ‘eyes of the heart,'” he said.
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By vassallomalta Posted in Angelus

“I am a parish priest in Aleppo, a place where God never ceases to amaze us”

Interview with 43-year-old Fr. Ibrahim Alsabagh who has been parish priest in the war-ravaged Syrian city since October. “My fears are overcome by the grace of the Lord”

“The parish is not yet directly under threat, but some of our neighbours risk their lives every day. Most of the jihadists who attack us do not even speak Arabic. They all come from faraway countries and have little to do with the Syrian revolution.” 43-year-old Fr. Ibrahim Alsabagh, has been serving as a parish priest in Aleppo since October. He was born in Damascus, completed his studies in Rome and then returned to Syria “to be with his people”. Internet and telephone lines are working one minute and are down then next in the city that has suffered the most devastation in the ongoing conflict. Water and electricity are a luxury. And yet this determined Franciscan friar continues to live there, helping anyone and everyone, Christians and Muslims alike, caught in a mire that spares no one.
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After the Andes the Pope looks to Cuba

On 20 July, Washington and Havana will be re-opening their respective embassies. In view of Francis’ arrival Yosvany Carvajal, Cuba’s youngest priest who will receive the Pope at Havana Cathedral, said: “He will come invoking the mysterious power of mercy, which overcomes evil in the world and it will be interesting to hear what he has to say”

20 July 2015 will enter the history books, even Cuban ones, along with the date of another key event which took place on 23 December 2014: the date the thaw in relations was announced: next Monday, the US embassy in Havana and the Cuban embassy in Washington will open their doors to the public.

Upon his return from South America, the Pope downplayed his role in the rapprochement between the two American countries after a rift that lasted half a century. He himself was surprised at the fact that all it took was a few words communicated in speaking or in writing for events to take a historic turn. It was clearly time and an impartial catalyst was needed in order to spark “the goodwill of the two countries”. Pope Francis was this catalyst, becoming the key factor in a mystery of history. Now that he has left the Andes behind, the compass is now pointing Francis in the direction of the Caribbean, where Francis will be visiting Cuba in September. The visit was a spur-of-the-moment decision taken with the aim of speeding up changes in relations between America’s two frontiers, the Latin frontier and the Anglo-Saxon frontier, which only until about a month ago had been at loggerheads.
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time B

Reading I: Jeremiah 23:1-6
Responsorial Psalm 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
Reading II: Ephesians 2:13-18
Gospel: Mark 6:30-34

… they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things. (Gospel)

Searching for God Among Many Voices

We are surrounded by many voices. There’s rarely a moment within our waking lives that someone or something isn’t calling out to us and, even in our sleep, dreams and nightmares ask for our attention. And each voice has its own particular cadence and message. Some voices invite us in, promising us life if we do this or that or buy a certain product or idea; others threaten us. Some voices beckon us towards hated, bitterness, and anger, while others challenge is towards love, graciousness, and forgiveness. Some voices tell us that they are playful and humorous, not to be taken seriously, even as others trumpet that they are urgent and weighty, the voice of non-negotiable truth, God’s voice.

Within all of these: Which is the voice of God? How do we recognize God’s voice among and within all of these voices?

That’s not easy to answer. God, as the scriptures tell us, is the author of everything that’s good, whether it bears a religious label or not. Hence, God’s voice is inside of many things that are not explicitly connected to faith and religion, just as God’s voice is also not in everything that masquerades as religious. But how do we discern that?
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Pope Recognizes Heroic Virtues of Ukrainian Archbishop

Recognition Brings Metropolitan Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky Closer to Beatification

Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtues of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky. According to a communique released by the Holy See Press Office, the Holy Father met this morning with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The Pope also recognized the heroic virtues of several religious/lay men and women from Italy, Spain, France & Mexico.

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky is considered to be one of the most influential 20th century figures in the history of the Ukrainian Church.
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

Pope: Mining industry needs radical change to protect people, nature

The mining industry, especially in the world’s poorest countries, must make a “radical change” to respect the rights of local communities and protect the environment, Pope Francis said.

The companies, the governments that are supposed to regulate them, investors and consumers who use the myriad products relying on mined material “are called to adopt behavior inspired by the fact that we are all part of one human family,” the pope said.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which had sponsored a reflection day in 2013 for two dozen mining company executives and was preparing another session with them in September, was holding a meeting July 17-19 with small organizations working at the grass roots to oppose mining operations in their countries.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the council, said his office could not ignore what Pope Francis, in his encyclical on the environment, called “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

Canada’s Bishops Release Pamphlet on Catholic-Muslim Relationship

Resource considers history and main teachings of Islam, state of interreligious dialouge, and suggestions for the faithful

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), through its Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews, and Interfaith Dialogue, has published a new resource to coincide with the conclusion of the month of Ramadan (Id al-Fitr, July 18).

The resource is titled A Church in Dialogue: Catholics and Muslims in Canada : Believers and Citizens in Society.

In a letter introducing the document, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of Gatineau, president of the CCCB, explains that “the pamphlet is meant to help Canadian Catholics better understand their Muslim neighbours.”
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

The “trickle-down” theory the Pope frowns upon

In his speech to the popular movements in Bolivia on 9 July, Francis spoke again about the “trickle-down” theory, an effect which according to some liberalists means that benefits for the most affluent automatically benefit the poor

Few noticed, but in his speech to popular movements in Santa Cruz de La Sierra, Bolivia, on 9 July, Pope Francis referred yet again – albeit en passant – to the “trickle-down” theory, which claims that the benefits received by the most affluent – in the fiscal department for example – actually benefit the whole of society, as they “trickle down” to the poor as well. Essentially, what this this theory says is that when the amount of liquid (wealth) in glass increases, the glass overflows at a certain point and the fluid trickles down, with positive effects both for the middle class and the poorer sections of society.

Francis spoke about this in point number 54 of his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (November 2013). “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
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Nigerian Priest: Boko Haram is Losing Ground

Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku Says Despite Attacks, Terrorist Group No Longer Controls Towns

While Boko Haram is capable of striking against Nigeria, the terrorist organization “no longer controls towns and villages.”

So says Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku, the Director of Social Communications in the Archdiocese of Abuja.

According to Fides, Boko Haram recently attacked several villages in northern Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, killing 43 people. The attacks are in retaliation to the formation of a military coalition by the three countries to take down the terrorist group.
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

Priest feared kidnapped in Syria

A Melkite Greek Catholic priest and his driver have not been seen since July 12 and are feared kidnapped, the Fides news agency reported.

Father Antoine Boutros is pastor of a parish in Shahba, Syria. He was being driven to another town to celebrate Sunday Mass but never arrived.

By vassallomalta Posted in News