Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) -- The rift between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Catholic Church will likely grow thanks to new comments the abortion advocate made. Pelosi said in a new interview that the "free will" of women wanting abortions outweighs pro-life Catholic teachings.
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift conducted a year-end interview with Pelosi.
The conversation turned to the topic of abortion and health care and Pelosi blasted the Catholic bishops for their opposition to the pro-abortion bill.
She tells Clift it was frustrating that Catholic bishops "were not willing to accept what we know to be a fact" -- that the "public option" would supposedly not violate a ban on federally-funded abortions.
Then, as Clift asks about her "brushes" with the church, Pelosi drops a bomb.
"I have some concerns about the church's position respecting a woman's right to choose," Pelosi responds. "I am a practicing Catholic, although they're probably not too happy about that. But it is my faith."
"I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that is that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions," she continues. "And that women should have that opportunity to exercise their free will."
Pelosi also told Newsweek she doesn't appreciate being lobbied on abortion but understands her local Catholic officials will try to persuade her.
"When I speak to my archbishop in San Francisco and his role is to try to change my mind on the subject, well then he is exercising his pastoral duty to me as one of his flock," she said. "When they call me on the phone here to talk about, or come to see me about an issue, that's a different story. Then they are advocates, and I am a public official, and I have a different responsibility."
The comments will likely throw fuel on the fire of public opinion within pro-life and Catholic circles that Pelosi is well-outside the mainstream -- but she tells the pro-abortion Newsweek reporter she doesn't care.
"I don't choose to spend my time countering perceptions and mischaracterizations that the other side puts out there. I choose to do my job. Because we are effective, I continue to be the target," Pelosi contends.
Pelosi also talked about how she discussed the abortion funding in the health care bill with a Catholic leader.
"I talked to one of the cardinals. I said to him that I believe that what we are doing honors the principles we talked about: we want to pass a health-care bill, we want it to be abortion neutral, and we want it to [have] no federal funding [for abortion], which is the law. And we believe that our language does that," she recounted. "They said, 'We believe that it does not.' I said, let's sit down at the table and our lawyers can compare language."
For Pelosi, her motive appears to be more about winning than her reputation and standing.
"I don't care how popular I am. I'm not putting myself out there to run for higher office. I just [want to] make sure that we win the election next year," she said.The new comments follow on the heels of Pelosi thanking God that the Senate health care bill funds abortions.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Last Updated: 3:33 AM, December 28, 2009
Posted: 1:03 AM, December 28, 2009
(New York Post) - A recent papal decree moved Pope Pius XII, among others, closer to sainthood -- returning to the forefront the controversy over his role in World War II and the Holocaust.
Growing up Jewish in Queens, I never dreamt I would be defending the man I once believed to be a Nazi sympathizer and an anti-Semite. But my work since 2002 with my wife, Meredith, and the Pave the Way Foundation has led me to this point.
We founded Pave the Way to identify and eliminate nontheological obstacles between religions. Thus, despite our early prejudices, we decided to investigate the papacy of Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli), one of today's greatest sources of hurt between Jews and Catholics.
After years of research in documentary evidence and eyewitness testimony, what we found shocked us. We found nothing but praise and positive news articles concerning Pius' actions from every Jewish, Israeli and political leader of the era who lived through the war.
A few articles in the postwar era suggested that he should have done more to confront the Nazis -- but it wasn't until 1963, in the wake of the fictitious play "The Deputy" (written five years after Pius died), that accusations began flowing that he had failed to act, that he was a cold-hearted Nazi sympathizer who couldn't care less about the Jewish people.
The evidence strongly suggests this was part of a KGB-directed and -financed bid to smear Pius, a Soviet disinformation campaign meant to discredit the Catholic Church, which at that time was profoundly anti-Communist.
In any case, the facts simply don't match what so many have come to believe about Pius.
It is unquestionable that Pius XII intervened to save countless Jews at a time most nations -- even FDR's America -- refused to accept these refugees. He issued false baptismal papers and obtained visas for them to emigrate as "Non Aryan Catholic-Jews." He smuggled Jews into the Americas and Asia. He ordered the lifting of cloister for men and women to enter monasteries, convents and churches to hide 7,000 Jews of Rome in a single day.
Among the 5,000 pages of documents that Pave the Way has located, there is abundant evidence that Pacelli was a lifelong friend of the Jews. Some highlights:
* In 1917, at the request of World Zionist Organization Director Nachum Sokolow, Nuncio Pacelli intervened with the Germans to protect the Jews of Palestine from extermination by the Ottoman Turks.
* In 1925, Pacelli arranged for Sokolow to meet with Pope Benedict XV to discuss a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
* In 1930, Pacelli supported the German bishops' orders excommunicating anyone who joined "the Hitler Party."
* In 1938, Pacelli intervened to defeat a Polish anti-koshering law.
* In 1939, A.W. Klieforth, the US consul general based in Cologne, Germany, wrote a confidential letter to Washington reporting on the "extremeness" of Pacelli's hatred of National Socialism and of Hitler.
* In 1947, at the United Nations, he encouraged the 17 Catholic countries out of the 33 in favor to vote for the partitioning of Palestine to create the State of Israel.
* A 1948 deposition by Gen. Karl Wolff, the SS commandant for Italy, revealed the Nazis' wartime plan to kidnap the pope, kill countless cardinals and seize the Vatican.
But the personal tales may be more compelling. Pacelli's childhood best friend was Guido Mendes, an Orthodox Jewish boy. He tells how Pacel- li shared Shabbat meals with him. Mendes taught him Hebrew, and Pacelli helped him to emigrate to Palestine in 1938.
Pius XII's detractors prefer to criticize rather than simply look at the evidence. Two years ago, Pope Benedict XVI ordered the opening of the Vatican's archives up to 1939, containing much evidence of Eugenio Pacelli's activities leading up to his papacy. According to the sign-in sheets, few of Pius' critics have bothered to come to the archives to view the material.
Pinchas Lapide, a Jewish historian, theologian and Israeli ambassador, stated that the actions and policies of Pius XII saved as many as 860,000 Jews.
Were all these witnesses who lived through the war misguided?
Gary L. Krupp is president of the Pave the Way Foundation, which has many of the documents noted here online at ptwf.org and which will soon publish a book with the main evidence in English, Hebrew, Spanish and French.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
The enfolding arms of the Bernini colonnades welcome all, into a safe place known as St. Peter's Basilica.
And there at the Papal Masses you have the most colorful military unit in the world, the Swiss Guard. For the most part these guys do fine work and act as an able bulwark in protecting the popes and others.
On the other hand, there is the Corpo della Gendarmeria, whose members are Italian nationals. They are the private security detail of the pope (along with some of the Swiss Guard), who assist at some few other functions as well. Fat with nepotism, they have always been quite definitely in second place. The brass are older men who are wise in the ways of preserving themselves in power and they are most of the names on the Vatican Comitato per La Sicurezza and are the Direzione dei Servizi di Sicurezza e "Protezione Civile".
Everybody has seen the newsreel of the attack on the pope. What is not seen in the video is that after the girl was taken down (and subsequently took down the pope), she then got up ( = got away) and ran down the center aisle through waves of the security cavalcade and only then plowed into the 87-year-old cardinal about half way down the center aisle at which point the Gendarmeria security was (finally) able to stop her (only after she plowed into the cardinal) and carry her out (near the manger scene).
A lack of able security is akin to touching pitch. And this blessed obliviousness of the Gendarmeria has proven dangerous. The careless and carefree bonhomie of the Corpo della Gendarmeria only makes it clear that change needs to be in the air and that the return of the sedia gestatoria, which many are still against, might just be the smartest solution.
(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
By Selwyn Duke
Ah, Christmastime. Manger scenes and mistletoe, trees and tinsel, Santa and celebration, gift-giving and gratitude...and the ACLU roasting traditions on an open fire. Sadly, the last thing has become as much a seasonal expectation as the others, and the ACLU's practice of suing our culture into oblivion has gotten a lot of ink. Yet there is another attack on Christmas -- actually, another attack on Christianity itself. This less well-known attack could ultimately prove more damaging than the usual atheistic assaults. And it's embraced by religionists themselves.
I'm sure you've heard the charges. Christmas is a "pagan holiday," they say. It originated with a celebration dedicated to Saturn (the Roman god of agriculture) which, upon coming to full flower, took place between December 17 and 23. Or perhaps it was inspired by the commemoration of a sun-god's birth. Here we have two candidates: the Indo-Iranian god Mithras and the Roman god Sol. And people often seem to confuse these two deities and their festivals, mixing and matching them in a game of musical myths. But it doesn't really matter because both Mithras' and Sol's mythical births, we're told, occurred on the same day: December 25th.
... while the winter solstice on or around the 25th of December was well established in the Roman imperial calendar, there is no evidence that a religious celebration of Sol on that day antedated the celebration of Christmas ... The traditional feast days of Sol, as recorded in the early imperial fasti, were August 8th and/or August 9th, possibly August 28th, and December 11th.
... lots of people have imagined that the early Christians grafted their festivities onto an old pagan ritual. Maybe they did. But there honestly is no evidence for it, beyond the rough coincidence of dates. And, in fact, it was not until a few centuries after Jesus' birth had got fixed onto 25 December that we see signs of much Christmas merrymaking. In the middle of the sixth century they still thought it necessary to forbid fasting on Christmas day.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
A Dutch airline passenger told The Post how he leapt into action when an alleged Muslim terrorist tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner packed with 300 people just moments before landing.
Chaos erupted as alleged terrorist Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, 23, tried to set off a sophisticated explosive device strapped to his body.
"Suddenly, we hear a bang. It sounded like a firecracker went off," said Jasper Schuringa, a film director who was traveling to the US to visit friends.
"When [it] went off, everybody panicked ... Then someone screamed, ‘Fire! Fire!’"
Schuringa, sitting in seat 20J, in the right-most section of the Airbus 330, looked to his left. "I saw smoke rising from a seat ... I didn’t hesitate. I just jumped," he said.
Schuringa dove over four passengers to reach Abdul Mutallab’s seat. The suspect had a blanket on his lap. "It was smoking and there were flames coming from beneath his legs."
"I searched on his body parts and he had his pants open. He had something strapped to his legs."
The unassuming hero ripped the flaming, molten object — which resembled a small, white shampoo bottle — off Abdul Mutallab’s left leg, near his crotch. He said he put out the fire with his bare hands.
Schuringa yelled for water, and members of the flight crew soon appeared with fire extinguishers. Then, he said, he hauled the suspect out of the seat.
"I took him in a choke to the first class and all the people were like, ‘What’s going on?!"
"I don’t feel like a hero," Schuringa told the Post as he recuperated with pals. "It was something that came completely natural ... It was something where I had to do something or it was too late."
Friday, December 25, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI watches the faithful as he leads his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) Christmas Day message from the central balcony of Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2009. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano
Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano
Pope Benedict XVI waves to his faithful as he is flanked by his assistant Bishop Guido Marini (L) during his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) Christmas Day message from the central balcony of Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
BAROCCI, Federico Fiori
Oil on canvas, 134 x 105 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid
It is the time of year when customers at the Blisland Inn can generally be forgiven for thinking they are seeing things.
That wall, for instance, which has always seemed so solid with its feature barometers and real ale adverts and the old picture of the village football team.
Suddenly, like the legs of one who has had one too many, the wall does not seem so sturdy as before.
Art of illusion: Artist Janet Shearer who painted the 3-D mural on one of the walls at the Blisland Inn on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall
Mesmerising: Customers are in awe at the transformation of a wall in their local pub. It now shows the Virgin Mary, baby Jesus, three wise men and a shepherd
Thick stone pillars form a solid archway and the rough-hewn oak door opens to the sort of Nativity scene that has mesmerised people for more than 2,000 years.
There is Mary, cradling the baby Jesus in her arms, while Joseph, three wise men and a shepherd pay dutiful homage.
The scene is so realistic that one regular at the Bodmin Moor pub in Cornwall remarked, before taking a drink, this week: ‘I have been coming here for 40 years and I never realized that door was there before.’
Which it hasn’t been. For while some rely on humdrum tableaux of the Nativity this Christmas, the Blisland Inn is basking in the glory of a trompe d’oeil – a 3-D mural which makes it seem the pub has really grown an extra room – the stable where Jesus was born.
The extraordinary painting is the work of 56-year-old local artist Janet Shearer, whose previous commissions include a backcloth for the rock band Pink Floyd’s The Wall album and murals for Heathrow Airport and the film Aliens.
‘It’s the art of illusion,’ she said.
‘In reality it is just a blank wall full of barometers and pub memorabilia.
'My job was to make the painting appear to be part of the fabric of the building.’
Janet took three weeks to complete the canvas which is now stretched across the wall of the pub ready for its Christmas Eve unveiling.
For some locals, the picture is made all the more realistic by the fact that their faces have been used for the figures in the tableaux.
Landlord Gary Marshall, for instance, is Joseph while his barmaid Becky Van der Plank is Mary.
The Three Wise Men and a shepherd are played by customers Roger Winn, Ian Haggart, Steve Whiter and Janet’s partner Steve Jackson.
Janet has also included her five-year-old Jack Russell Ruby and painted some jokes on the door which say ‘Maximum Height – 5 Cubits’ and ‘No Camels’.
Gary Marshall said: ‘I was delighted to let Janet turn this blank wall into such an incredible scene. It was something different and has turned out to be absolutely brilliant.
'My customers absolutely love it. It has made our Christmas.’
Thursday, December 24, 2009
VATICAN CITY – A woman jumped the barriers in St. Peter's Basilica and knocked down Christmas Eve Mass on Thursday, a Vatican spokesman said.as he walked down the main aisle to begin
The Rev. Ciro Benedettini said the 82-year-old pope quickly got up and was unhurt. As the pope's procession was making its way toward the main altar gasps rang out through the public and a commotion could be seen among the clergymen surrounding Benedict. The procession came to a halt and bodyguards rushed to the trouble spot.
Benedettini said the woman who pushed the pope appeared to be mentally unstable and had been arrested by Vatican police. He said she also knocked down, who was taken to hospital for a check up.
"During the procession an unstable person jumped a barrier and knocked down the," Benedettini told The Associated Press by telephone. "(The pope) quickly got up and continued the procession."
After the incident, Benedict calmly resumed his walk to the basilica's main altar to start the Mass.
Benedict made no reference to the incident as the service started. As a choir sang, he sprinkled incense on the main altar before opening the service with the traditional wish for peace in Latin: "Pax vobis" ("Peace be with you"). The faithful responded: "Et cum spiritu tuo" ("And also with you").
It was the second year in a row there was a security breach at the service. At the end of last year's Mass a woman who had jumped the barriers got close to the pope but was quickly blocked on the ground by security.
Benedettini said it was not immediately known if the same woman was behind Thursday's incident.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be thou our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..
We're following up on a story tonight that shows one good turn deserves another.
Sunday night, we told you about a missing backpack in Kalispell. It contained a laptop and $6,000 that belonged to the former president of Burger King.
Russ Klein thought he put it in his rental car. As it turns out, the vehicle was someone else's.
We ran the story Sunday night.
The next morning, the car's owner took the bag, the laptop and the cash to Kalispell Police.
Klein offered a reward, but the good samaritan turned it down. So, Klein and his wife gave the Kalispell Police Department and our station $8,000 to donate to local charities.
"It's easy to pay back, and in this case, it's easy to pay back the community for the honesty that brought back our luggage," Klein said. "But we try to pay it forward, too. It's the way we try to teach our kids and our family all along. Before you're owed anything, try to give ahead of time, and it creates a certain vibe in your life."
We at KCFW are working closely with KPD to decide where to spread the money. We'll keep you posted on what we decide.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
By SEANNA ADCOX (AP) – 3 hours ago
COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina priest missed the $1 million top prize in a poker tournament to be televised this weekend but he won $100,000 for his church and he hopes his participation gives viewers a "fun twist" on their perceptions of the priesthood.
The Rev. Andrew Trapp said he entered the PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge in hopes of putting St. Michael Catholic Church "super close" to its $5.5 million fundraising goal to build a new facility. He also wanted to strike a public relations blow for priests.
"At the very least, even if I didn't win any prize money, I was hoping it would help people to see that priests can have fun and be normal people and hopefully get a little bit of a fun twist on the image of the priesthood," the assistant pastor said Tuesday.
The top prize went to retired New York Police detective Mike Kosowski. But Trapp won $100,000, untaxed, in a semifinal round in October for the coastal church's building fund, which has amassed $4 million after four years of fundraising.
For the final episode, a camera crew filmed a Sunday Mass at the church, about 10 miles southwest of Myrtle Beach, and taped Trapp talking about the need for a new building.
"It's really old. It's too small for our needs, and it's really vulnerable if a hurricane comes," he says in a segment on PokerStars.net.
He adds, "God gave me a gift of playing cards — that interest, that hobby — and I could put it to use to help build our church. That just was really exciting for me."
Congregants will gather Sunday afternoon at the church to watch the final televised round.
The 28-year-old Aiken native said he started playing poker in middle school at family gatherings. But it was in seminary in Columbus, Ohio, that he learned Texas Hold 'Em.
"We just played for fun," he said. "It was just a way to hang out with each other and to enjoy each other's company."
Ordained in July 2007, Trapp is the youngest Catholic priest in the statewide diocese.
"A lot of young people out there, young Catholics, have never seen a young priest," he said, adding that maybe the show will lead others to consider the profession.
Before playing, Trapp got permission from his pastor, who told him to "go for it." The Charleston bishop later gave him permission to be on TV, he said.
Joseph Ohens, executive assistant to the bishop, confirmed Trapp had the bishop's permission. "He wanted to show the world that priests are human beings like every one of us. ... He wanted to demystify priesthood."
To earn a spot on the poker finals, Trapp had to place among the top 10 in a free Internet tournament involving 10,000 contestants, then submit a two-minute audition video.
Trapp said he knew he would be chosen if he could just earn the right to audition: A poker-playing priest would attract attention and viewers. He played in his priestly attire. Since that's what he's used to wearing, it would've felt weird not to, he said.
Trapp calls it a game show where, instead of answering trivia questions, he plays cards. "This isn't even gambling, so to speak," he said, since everything, including the trips to Los Angeles, was cost-free to him and the church.
Trapp said the Catholic church doesn't see a moral problem with playing cards or games of chance, within reason.
"It's a question of moderation — just like anything else," he said. "We believe it's fine to enjoy a beer or glass of wine, but not to abuse it to get drunk."
A controversy about whether to stand or kneel during the high point of the Catholic Mass has spread from one church in the Belleville Diocese to at least three others.A three-page letter from Belleville Bishop Edward K. Braxton sent Dec. 11 to the Rev. Albert Kreher, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Trenton, orders him to tell his parishioners they must cease standing and instead, kneel during the reading of the Eucharistic Prayer, the point in a Catholic Mass where the bread and wine are believed to be transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ...
At St. Boniface Church in Germantown, the pastor, Monsignor James A. Buerster, said his 600 parishioners have stood for years during the reading of the prayer, despite a 1969 decision by what is now known as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that American Roman Catholics must kneel. Their decision was supported by the pope and is considered church law.
"Since the bishop is making an issue of this, we'll probably have to start kneeling here," Buerster said.
"When you have the kind of bishop we have, he makes issues out of things that in and of themselves are not that important," he said. But if Braxton orders that his diocese's parishioners must kneel, Buerster said, "then we'll be kneeling..."
"This is liturgical nitpicking that winds up harming the solemnity of the liturgy," said Frank Flinn, an adjunct professor of religious studies at Washington University in St. Louis...
"I think Braxton is being almost a policeman to enforce what the American bishops voted on," [The Rev. Michael S. Driscoll, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame near South Bend, Ind.] said.
At St. Joseph Church in Lebanon, where the membership is also under the pastorship of Margason, who heads the church in Shiloh, parishioner Jeff Greenstreet said churchgoers now kneel but some are not happy about be ordered to their knees.
"We live in one of the poorest diocese in the country with East St. Louis in our diocese, and he doesn't seem to be too much concerned with helping people they're in need and yet we worry about whether or not the parishes are standing or kneeling," said Greenstreet, a retired airline pilot.
"I don't think this is something that Christ would worry about, and I don't see we have any reason to need to worry about it ... but we have to comply, according to the bishop's mandate," he said. He added that after learning that Braxton wanted all to kneel, he knelt.
Flinn said the controversy is inflated in its importance.
Referring to Leonardo DaVinci's iconic painting "The Last Supper," Flinn said: "I think DaVinci got it right. We should all be sitting around a table sharing a meal."
60 Minutes' Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson Reflects on Meeting The Patriarch(CBS) Written by 60 Minutes Associate Producer Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson.
Last May I had the privilege of traveling to Istanbul, Turkey. We were heading there to profile the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I. I didn't know very much about him. For one, I always assumed the heart of the Orthodox Church was in Athens, Greece. Finding out it was in Istanbul, Turkey was the beginning of my history lesson
My knowledge of Greco-Turk relations was also very thin and so learning about the fragile position the Orthodox Church finds itself in, in a country that is 99 percent Muslim was also an eye opener. As with all stories done on "60 Minutes" the first step is research; some stories require more than others and this one involved 17 centuries worth of research! I knew that I was going to see Istanbul; Cappadocia in Eastern Turkey, the Sinai in Egypt and our trip would end in Jerusalem. Overall our story was about the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church and the position of Christianity in the part of the world where it all began.
Seeing Istanbul for the first time is like walking into a giant museum; not only is it a beautiful city, but you somehow get a sense that things happened there a very long time ago. Turkey in general is a beautiful country with lovely people and such a rich culture. So I constantly had to remind myself that our story was about a controversial issue in Turkey which had to do with a minority of people - Turks of Greek ancestry - whose presence had gone from a population of nearly 2 million in the early 1920s to only 4,000 today. The story was ultimately about discrimination and the lack of religious freedom on the part of the Turkish government. Our profile of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was to be his first on a major American television network and his candor, calm and determination are qualities to be appreciated considering the risk he took in speaking with us.
A slight man in stature, his presence is that of greatness. My first encounter with him is one that I will never forget. I was filming some shots with my camera crew at the Phanar - the Church's headquarters in Istanbul - when someone from His All Holiness's office came to us stating that The Patriarch wanted to meet us right then and there. Because this meeting was not to happen until that evening, I didn’t feel I was appropriately dressed to meet him right then and there. We are so focused on people's perceptions of first impressions that I feared his first impression of me wouldn't have been so positive. I felt - and was - underdressed to meet such a person of his stature, but of course I couldn't exactly say 'no, I'd rather go back and change and meet him later.' So here I am feeling both nervous and shy, walking through these lovely corridors and through two doors.
I walk in and up from his desk Patriarch Bartholomew walks towards me, with his hand out to shake mine and as soon as I felt him, I simply begin to weep. Rarely have I felt someone exude so much goodness, and he just held my hand for what seemed to be a good, long while in the most reassuring way. I composed myself and was invited to sit down.
Someone brought in a treat called "Mastica" which was a sweet, white paste on a spoon in a glass of cold water. I watched as the others began licking their spoons, so I followed and as the Patriarch was licking his, I couldn't help but think that here we are, so relaxed and this man is fighting a battle of survival, the survival of his church. It was really quite surreal.
That evening we had dinner with His All Holiness and other members of The Church. He talked of his travels and his education at the Halki School of Theology, his family and his life. He spoke fondly of his parents and his siblings and growing up on his home island of Imvros. A lot of the conversation was also in French, a language he's more comfortable in than English. Bob Simon and I are lucky to speak it and that made The Patriarch feel more at ease.
After that dinner we were to catch a flight to Cappadocia in Eastern Turkey and His All Holiness was very keen to know what our experience would be there upon our return to Istanbul. He told us that seeing the small churches there would make us better understand why the heart of the Orthodox Church is in Turkey and despite what he feels are efforts on the part of Turkish officials to eventually squeeze the church out of Turkey, seeing Cappadocia would, to him, make us better understand why leaving that land is out of the question.
With barely enough time to rest after our arrival in Cappadocia, our adventure began at about 5:00 a.m. in a hot air balloon. It was my first time in one and my curiosity and excitement about what I was about to see completely overshadowed any fear I had of getting in a balloon. The landscape just took my breath away and yet I also felt as though I was on another planet, or on the set of a George Lucas film. Seeing these caves carved into the side of these stone mountains was something unimaginable. I wondered how the people who lived in these caves survived and yet the evidence is there that these places were lived in for what seemed to be a long time.
I was also surprised to see quite a number of pilgrims there, yet another eye opener that not everything only happens in The Holy Land. Hearing that most of the caves with were built in the late 4th to early 5th centuries and seeing these frescoes painted on their walls just simply rendered me speechless.
We headed back to Istanbul and thanks to our trip to Cappadocia we were better prepared for the formal interview with His All Holiness at the Halki School of Theology.
The Halki was shut down by the Turkish government back in 1971 according to a Turkish law that states that due to that country’s secular position, there can be no religious instruction. The Halki's closure is His All Holiness's greatest battle and he’s determined that in his lifetime the school will reopen because he feels that its closure threatens the future of his church. The school is on a lovely property located on an island called Heybeliada, part of the Princes Islands. We took a private boat to the island from Istanbul because I was told that when His All Holiness would take the regular ferry, many times he was ridiculed and even spat on by non-Christians. The school, built in 1844, is inhabited by about three monks who maintain the grounds with a handful of helpers. It is kept in immaculate condition, at the ready, in case the Turkish government gives permission to reopen its doors. Throughout our tour, His All Holiness showed us the empty dormitories, classrooms and library. By the time we sat down with him he summed up the Turkish government’s actions towards him and his church in one word: crucifixion. Aside from the sniffles heard in that room, one could hear a pin drop.
Following our stay in Turkey, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew also sent us the Saint Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai in Egypt. That was yet another trip back in time and yet so 21st century. Seeing Christian monks living side by side with Bedouins, in total harmony was also an eye opening experience. It was an issue of National Geographic coming to life! It was a very peaceful place and the monks were, for the most part distant, but some were also very friendly and excited to see other faces. Seeing the largest collection of icons, protected by these 25 men was just another mind-blowing experience. I couldn’t believe that I was sleeping in a place, at the foot of Mount Moses (its correct name, I’m told - NOT Mt. Sinai), where Moses came down with the tablets of the Ten Commandments.
The end of our trip took us to Jerusalem and I saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Via Dolorosa… All of those Sundays of my life in (Catholic) Church all came to life during this trip; all the references to gospels and apostles were all now real in front of me and simply put, I felt like one of the luckiest people on Earth. What a privilege it was and I will never forget it.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Posted on Monday, December 21, 2009 9:45:31 AM by SoFloFreeper
To President Obama and all 535 voting members of the Legislature,
The U.S. Post Service was established in 1775. You have had 234 years to get it right and it is broke.
Social Security was established in 1935. You have had 74 years to get it right and it is broke.
Fannie Mae was established in 1938. You have had 71 years to get it right and it is broke.
War on Poverty started in 1964. You have had 45 years to get it right; $1 trillion of our money is confiscated each year and transferred to "the poor" and they are still poor.
Medicare and Medicaid were established in 1965. You have had 44 years to get it right and they are broke.
Freddie Mac was established in 1970. You have had 39 years to get it right and it is broke.
The Department of Energy was created in 1977 to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. It has ballooned to 16,000 employees with a budget of $24 billion a year and we import more oil than ever before. You had 32 years to get it right and it is an abysmal failure.You have FAILED in every "Government Service" you have shoved down our throats while overspending our tax dollars: AND YOU WANT AMERICANS TO BELIEVE YOU CAN BE TRUSTED WITH A GOVERNMENT-RUN HEALTH CARE SYSTEM??
Sunday, December 20, 2009
WASHINGTON — By declaring he will vote for the Senate health care bill, Ben Nelson touched off a firestorm of criticism Saturday on abortion.
Nebraska Right to Life said it had been “betrayed'' by the Nebraska Democrat, long an abortion opponent, who agreed to support compromise language on abortion.
His home-state colleague, Republican Mike Johanns, said he was “stunned and incredibly disappointed'' by Nelson's decision. And the chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party, Mark Fahleson, vowed that it was the “death knell'' for Nelson's political career....
CNA STAFF, Dec 20, 2009 / 05:16 am (CNA).- On Saturday, December 26, the universal church will commemorate the death of St. Stephen, the first man to give his life in witness to the Faith.
St. Stephen was a deacon in the early church. The sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles says that, Stephen was “a man filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit... filled with grace and fortitude.” The Bible also notes that Stephen was a gifted orator and that his logic was sound. The conversions of many people are attributed to him.
However, his outspokenness provoked the ire of some of his listeners and he was accused of blaspheming against Moses and against God. He was brought before the high priest and many false witnesses testified against him.
In his defense, he gave an eloquent analysis of Salvation History and the love and mercy of God. He also recounted Israel's repeated ungratefulness towards their God. However, it didn't sway his accusers who proceeded to take him outside the city and stone him.
As he was about to die, Stephen looked up to heaven and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” Then, as he was being stoned, he cried out, ““Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
His last words, as the stoning had brought him to his knees were, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
Vatican City, Dec 19, 2009 / 12:23 pm (CNA).- The Vatican made a declaration on the protection of the figure of the Pope on Saturday morning. The statement seeks to establish and safeguard the name, image and any symbols of the Pope as being expressly for official use of the Holy See unless otherwise authorized.
The statement cited a "great increase of affection and esteem for the person of the Holy Father" in recent years as contributing to a desire to use the Pontiff's name for all manner of educational and cultural institutions, civic groups and foundations.
Due to this demand, the Vatican has felt it necessary to declare that "it alone has the right to ensure the respect due to the Successors of Peter, and therefore, to protect the figure and personal identity of the Pope from the unauthorized use of his name and/or the papal coat of arms for ends and activities which have little or nothing to do with the Catholic Church."
The declaration alludes to attempts to use ecclesiastical or pontifical symbols and logos to "attribute credibility and authority to initiatives" as another reason to establish their “copyright” on the Holy Father's name, picture and coat of arms.
"Consequently, the use of anything referring directly to the person or office of the Supreme Pontiff... and/or the use of the title 'Pontifical,' must receive previous and express authorization from the Holy See," concluded the message released to the press.
It's not a pulpit but a podium. It's not an altar but a stage. There is no cross. Instead a huge globe spins, and two massive bubbling creeks flank the stage. A lighting system softens distant corners of the massive arena and spreads colored light and smoke in strategic spots. Somehow, the space that will hold 40,000-plus on Sunday morning doesn't feel like a sports arena...
Osteen's supporters and associates suggest mainstream Christian mistrust of his success may be as much jealousy as theology.
"Have you been to church in America recently?" one aide said. "They put on a funeral. If you put on a funeral every week, eventually people stop coming..."
And what of the Bible verse that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven? Or that Jesus preached his followers to give up all their belongings and follow him?
"Years back at least, you know you had to be poor and to show you were holy," Osteen said. "You're supposed to sacrifice everything, and I'm all for sacrifice and I believe in that, but I also believe that God wants us to be leaders. He's put gifts and talents in every person, that they're supposed to come out to the full..."
"The only true union"
Also they must restrain that dangerous manner of speaking which generates false opinions and fallacious hopes incapable of realization; for example, to the effect that the teachings of the Encyclicals of the Roman Pontiffs on the return of dissidents to the Church, on the constitution of the Church, on the Mystical Body of Christ, should not be given too much importance seeing that they are not all matters of faith, or, what is worse, that in matters of dogma even the Catholic Church has not yet attained the fullness of Christ, but can still be perfected from outside. They shall take particular care and shall firmly insist that, in going over the history of the Reformation and the Reformers the defects of Catholics be not so exaggerated and the faults of the Reformers be so dissimulated, or that things which are rather accidental be not so emphasized, that what is most essential, namely the defection from the Catholic faith, be scarcely any longer seen or felt. Finally, they shall take precautions lest, through an excessive and false external activity, or through imprudence and an excited manner of proceeding, the end in view be rather harmed than served.
(The photo is from TIME's magnificent archives)