Friday, May 30, 2014

Bartholomew: With Pope Francis, we invite all Christians to celebrate the first synod of Nicaea in 2025

by NAT da Polis

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - On his return from Jerusalem , where he met with Pope Francis at the Holy Sepulchre, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, has revealed an important appointment for unity between Catholics and Orthodox: a gathering at Nicaea in 2025, where the first real ecumenical council of the undivided Church was celebrated.

Speaking exclusively with AsiaNews, Bartholomew says that together with Pope Francis "we agreed to leave as a legacy to ourselves and our successors a gathering in Nicaea in 2025, to celebrate together, after 17 centuries , the first truly ecumenical synod, where the Creed was first promulgated".

The Council of Nicaea (now Iznik, 130 km south- east of Istanbul) , brought together more than 300 bishops from East and West in  325 and is considered the first true ecumenical council. It was there that the formula of the Creed was decided, similar to the one recited during the liturgy today, saying that Jesus "is co-substantial to the Father,"to counter the Aryan ideology.

Francis and Bartolomew met to mark 50 years since the embrace between Paul VI and Athenagoras. The 1964 meeting broke a centuries old silence between the Christian East and the West, with all the socio-political consequences that have arisen, and from which Europe still suffers.

The meeting at the Holy Sepulchre has revitalized dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox , two Christian visions that despite their differences, have a common vision of the sacraments and  apostolic tradition.

"The dialogue for unity between Catholics and Orthodox - Bartholomew tells AsiaNews - will start again from Jerusalem. In this city, in the autumn , a meeting of the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Commission  will be held hosted by the Greek -Orthodox patriarch Theophilos III . It is a long journey in which we all must be committed without hypocrisy".

 "Jerusalem - continues Bartholomew - is the place, the land of the dialogue between God and man, the place where the Logos of God was incarnated. Our predecessors Paul VI and Athenagoras have chosen this place to break a silence that lasted centuries between the two sister Churches".

"I walked with my brother Francis in the Holy Land not with the fears of Luke and Cleopas on their way to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24: 13-35), but inspired by a living hope which we learn from our Lord".


Anglican Blogger and his Family Become Catholic

By Greg Griffith

After more than ten years on the front lines of the Anglican wars, I have made a major change. This past Easter vigil, my family and I were confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church.

It’s a measure of what a long and strange journey it’s been for me over this past decade that I’ve even had to entertain the question of what kind of reaction this might cause among people I’ve never even met, or the political ripples it might send out through the various quarters of my allies and opponents.
I was raised in a straight-from-central-casting, large Southern Baptist church: The building occupying an entire city block, the Sunday service televised, communion (as it were) once a year, consisting of saltine crackers and Welch’s grape juice.

After about a decade as a more or less unchurched young adult, I married a Catholic girl, in the Catholic church, but due to a dismal experience in pre-marriage counseling classes, we quickly drifted away from the church. Following her parents - who reconciled a Catholic/Methodist marriage by joining the Episcopal Church - within a few years we were also received into the Episcopal Church. Nearly a decade of quiet, uneventful participation was followed by another decade of, shall we say,  intense participation, beginning with the fallout from the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003 : Before that, I was sitting quietly in the back pews. Soon after, I was one of the most visible Anglican laymen on Planet Earth.

That is not how I planned it to be, or even how I would have predicted it would be, but as we all know, God has his own plans for us and they are rarely what we would have chosen if left to our own devices.... (continued)


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ordination Anniversary

By Father John Zuhlsdorf

Many priests observe the anniversary of their ordination at this time of year. It is a common time for ordinations, probably because Ember Days were common times for ordinations and Ember Days fall during the Pentecost Octave.

It is my anniversary of ordination today, 23 years ago, by now-Saint John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica.  I suppose that might make me a 2nd class relic.

It was not only the Feast of St. Philip Neri, but it was also Trinity Sunday. A beautiful sunny day...

Anecdote: After our ordination we lined up, new priests on one side of the side nave, all the cardinals and various prelates on the other. The Holy Father came and greeted us all.  To my shock, my boss, the late and great Augustine Card. Mayer who had joined the recessional, came across the nave and, in front of the Roman Pontiff, knelt down and asked for my blessing. It was one of several startling lessons Card. Mayer gave me.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pope says baptism is for everyone, even Martians

Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis on Monday declared that everyone has the right to be baptised, even aliens should they come knocking on the church's door.

Christians cannot "close the door" to all those who seek baptism even if they are "green men, with a long nose and big ears, like children draw," the pope said at his daily mass, according to Vatican Radio.

"If tomorrow, for example, an expedition of Martians arrives and some of them come to us... and if one of them says: 'Me, I want to be baptised!', what would happen?" Francis said in another display of his lively sense of humour.

The Argentine pontiff known for his down-to-earth style has often used colourful and humourous expressions to make his points on the direction of the Roman Catholic Church.

On baptism Francis has stressed that it should not be refused, especially to children whose parents may be breaking Church rules such as living together as an unmarried couple.

As for his humour, the first Latin American pope showed it from the beginning right after being chosen leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics in March last year. 

"It seems that my brother cardinals have gone to the other end of the world to get one! But here we are," he told the crowd gathered in Saint Peter's Square.

He later joked with the cardinals over dinner: "God forgive you for what you've done!"


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

About a “meeting” between the Pope and Bishop Fellay

(DICI) On May 10, 2014, the English-speaking blog Rorate Caeli published under the pseudonym “Adfero”, some “exclusive information” whose sources could not be – according to him – disclosed. This “exclusive information”, spread by the media, revealed that Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, met with Pope Francis. On May 11, the Roman agency I.Media published that Bp. Fellay’s two assistants, Fr. Niklaus Pfluger and Fr. Marc-Alain Nély, had attended the Pope’s private Mass.

Fathers Pfluger and Nely have never attended the Pope’s private Mass, and journalists who claim otherwise would have a hard time to indicate the day of the alleged assistance. Here are the facts:

On December 13, 2013, Bishop Fellay and his assistants went to Rome for an informal meeting at the request of the Ecclesia Dei Commission. Following this interview, the Secretary of the Commission, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, invited his counterparts for lunch at St. Martha House’s dining room where they were joined by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, Assistant Secretary of the Congregation of the Faith. It is in this large refectory that the Pope takes his daily meals, away from other guests.

Archbishop Pozzo insisted on introducing Bishop Fellay to the pope while the latter was leaving the refectory. There was a brief exchange where Pope Francis said to Bishop Fellay, according to the usual polite formula, “I’m very glad to meet you.” To this, Bishop Fellay answered that he was praying a lot, and the pope asked him to pray for him. Such was the “meeting” that lasted a few seconds.

In the interview he gave to Le Rocher (April-May 2014), Bishop Fellay answered the following question: Has Rome made an official approach to renew contact with you since the election of Pope Francis? – “Rome made a ‘non-official’ approach to renew contact with us, but nothing more, and I have not asked for an audience as I did after Benedict XVI’s election. For me, things at present are very simple: we stay as we are. Some concluded from my close contact with Rome in 2012 that I regard the necessity of a canonical recognition as a supreme principle. Preserving the Faith and our traditional Catholic identity is essential and remains our first principle.”

(Source: SSPX/MG – DICI 05/12/14)


Monday, May 12, 2014

Harvard's satanic black mass canceled after outrage

By Joshua Rhett Miller

(Fox News) A Harvard student group’s planned satanic “black mass” has been canceled after widespread condemnation from religious and educational leaders, who called the event an affront to the faithful. reports that The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club announced Monday it would no longer hold the event because negotiations broke down between the group and the bar where it was scheduled to be held. The club was unable to find another location to hold the mass.

The group said that the New York-based Satanic Temple, which had co-organized the event, planned to still hold the mass in an undisclosed, private location to "reaffirm their respect for the Satanic faith and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is to shame those who marginalize others by letting their own words and actions speak for themselves."

The ceremony has traditionally been performed by satanic cults to parody the Catholic church, and officials at the Archdiocese of Boston were furious that such an event was originally scheduled to be held on the Ivy League school's hallowed grounds.

“I would say that the event is an attack on the Eucharist, regardless of what the organizers state,” archdiocese spokesman Terry Donilon told in an email. “The event is offensive to Catholics and people of good will.”

The archdiocese called last week for the event to be canceled.

“For the good of the Catholic faithful and all people, the church provides clear teaching concerning satanic worship,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “This activity separates people from God and the human community, it is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places the participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil.”

Robert Neugeboren, dean of students and alumni affairs at Harvard Extension School, said the “deeply disturbing” event is offensive to many at Harvard and called for it to be canceled.

“While we support the ability of all our students to explore difficult issues, we also encourage them to do so in ways that are sensitive to others,” Neugeboren said in a statement. “To that end, the Harvard Extension School has worked with the club’s student leaders to address specific concerns that have been expressed.”

Archdiocese officials had scheduled at least two events in response to the black mass, including a Eucharistic procession in Cambridge. It was unclear whether those events would proceed.

"The best way to combat hateful speech is to overwhelm it with loving and prayerful speech, and that is what we intend to do," Rev. Luther Zeigler, president of the Harvard Chaplains, wrote in an email.

The student club, meanwhile, said in a statement that the performance’s purpose was not to denigrate any religion or faith, but instead to “learn and experience” the history of different cultural practices.

In a statement to the Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper, the cultural club said the event would not silence anyone.

“The complaints are founded metaphysical concerns, and there is simply a disagreement with regards to how this faith is practiced,” club organizers wrote The Harvard Crimson. “The flawed assumption seems to be that because Satan is the representation of evil incarnate for some faiths, that Satanist[s] are part of a hate group and their practice devoted toward denigrating Catholicism … The point of this event is to challenge the stigmatization of marginalized groups.”

Nearly 400 Harvard students and 100 alumni reportedly signed a petition opposing the event.

“This form of satanic worship not only ridicules the central practice of Catholicism, the Mass, but it also mocks and offends all who have faith in Christ,” the petition reads. “Far from being an event that promotes an understanding of “cultural practices,” it, in fact, promotes contempt for the Catholic faith and religion generally. We are Catholics, other Christians, and supporters of genuine tolerance and civility, and we are offended and outraged this event has been permitted to take place at Harvard.”

Harvard President Drew Faust, in a statement released Monday, said it would be “deeply regrettable” if the event’s organizer proceeded despite the fervent opposition by some local residents and students.

“Nevertheless, consistent with the university’s commitment to free expression, including expression that may deeply offend us, the decision to proceed is and will remain theirs,” Faust said. “At the same time, we will vigorously protect the right of others to respond — and to address offensive expression with expression of their own.”


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

HGTV Pulls New Home-Flipping Series After Report Emerges Identifying Its Stars As Anti-Gay Activists

By the Deadline Team 

(Deadline Hollywood) After the group Right Wing Watch reported the twins who star in HGTV’s recently greenlit reality series Flip It Forward are anti-gay activists, the network said this morning it had given the hook to the series, which was set to debut in October. Yesterday, HGTV said it was “currently in the process of reviewing all information about the Benhams and we will provide an update as soon as possible.”  Then came a tweet today:

Right Wing Watch reported Tuesday that David Benham had led a prayer rally outside of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC in 2012, in which he told conservative radio host Janet Mefferd that America’s Christian majority must repent for tolerating “homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation” and “demonic ideologies tak[ing] our universities and our public school systems.” He also said his brother had joined him in the prayer protest. The group also claimed David leads protests outside of abortion clinics.

HGTV announced at its upfront presentation last month in Los Angeles that it had picked up the home-flipping series about brothers David and Jason Benham. The network’s description of the show at the time: “After a decade of flipping houses for profit, brothers David Benham and Jason Benham now help families buy the homes they never thought they could afford. In each episode, the guys help a deserving family find a fixer-upper and transform it into their forever home — with a healthy dose of sibling rivalry between the brothers along the way.” At the same presentation, HGTV also announced it had greenlighted a design competition show from Ellen DeGeneres.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Arab Newspaper: Maronite patriarch's Jerusalem visit would be 'historic sin'

Beirut (AFP) - A visit to Jerusalem by the patriarch of the Lebanon-based Maronite church to greet Pope Francis would be a "historic sin", a leading newspaper close to the anti-Israeli Hezbollah said Saturday.

Patriarch Beshara Rai, whose church is the largest Christian denomination in Lebanon, told AFP on Friday he would travel to the Holy Land to welcome the pontiff during his brief May 24-26 visit.

In doing so, he would be the first patriarch to do so since the creation in 1948 of Israel, with which Lebanon is technically at war.

In response, the leading Arab nationalist daily As-Safir ran a critical piece headlined "Historic sin: Rai goes to Israel".

Calling it a "dangerous precedent", the daily argued that the trip would "not serve the interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese, nor those of Palestine and the Palestinians nor Christians and Christianity".

It speculated on whether the patriarch, who is also a Roman Catholic cardinal, "would shake hands with Israeli leaders who will be in the front row to welcome Pope Francis to Jerusalem".

Even if he does not, he would still have to coordinate his trip with Israeli officials, the paper added, claiming that the visit "is part of the normalisation between the head of the Catholic church and the occupier".

Al-Akhbar, another newspaper close to Hezbollah, said a group of Lebanese politicians will try to dissuade Rai "from visiting Jerusalem as long as it is under Israeli occupation, which would signify a normalisation with the occupier".

Lebanese citizens are banned from entering Israel, but Maronite clergy may to travel to the Holy Land to minister to the estimated 10,000 faithful there.

Rai insisted that the trip will be strictly religious and has no political significance.

The Maronite church has its roots in the Fertile Crescent of the early 5th century. It is named after St Maron, a hermit whose holiness and miracles attracted many followers.

Following a bloody persecution a century later, the Maronites fled to the mountains of what is now Lebanon to seek refuge.

They have their own distinct theology, spirituality, liturgy and code of canon law, but are in full communion with Rome.


Meet the Christian Leaders Who Are Suing for Gay Marriage as a Religious Right

By Solvej Schou

(Takepart) Rev. Nancy Ellett Allison has joyfully officiated same-sex marriages in her corner of the conservative South since 2006.

“It is just a delight to be able to help these couples celebrate their lives together and work with them to craft their vows,” said Allison, her bright voice laced with a twang.

What Allison, the senior pastor at Holy Covenant United Church of Christ in Charlotte, N.C., has been doing is considered a misdemeanor crime under state law, punishable by up to 120 days in jail. Not only are gay marriages and domestic unions illegal in the state, but it’s considered criminal for clergy to officiate religious vows between couples who have not yet obtained a valid marriage license.

This week, though, the progressive United Church of Christ fought back, filing the first federal lawsuit to say gay marriage bans are a violation of religious rights. It’s an unprecedented move—experts say it’s the first such lawsuit ever in the United States.

The church joined with plaintiffs that include Allison, other UCC ministers, and six same-sex couples to file a lawsuit Monday against North Carolina state and county officials challenging the constitutionality of the state’s anti-gay marriage laws as violating the church’s free exercise of religion. In 2012, voters approved a ballot measure to ban gay marriage, imposing a legal definition of marriage as an act that can occur only between a man and a woman, and making it part of the state’s constitution.

The UCC’s lawsuit seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction against all laws that would make it a crime to perform religious rites that sanctify the union of same-sex couples.

“Not until we entered this lawsuit was I aware that it was illegal to perform a same-gender marriage ceremony without a marriage license. That was one of the shocking things I learned,” said Allison, who noted that Charlotte, like other major North Carolina cities, is more open-minded than rural areas, and that the state voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 (though Republican Mitt Romney won it in 2012).... (continued)


Friday, May 2, 2014

Subway removes ham and bacon from nearly 200 stores and offers halal meat only after 'strong demand' from Muslims

By Sean Poulter

(Daily Mail) Fast food giant Subway has removed ham and bacon from almost 200 outlets, and switched to halal meat alternatives in an attempt to please its Muslim customers.

It has confirmed turkey ham and turkey rashers will be used instead in 185 of its stores, where all the meat will now be prepared according to halal rules.

The chain, which has around 1,500 outlets across the UK, explained its decision by saying it had to balance animal welfare concerns with 'the views of religious communities'...

Muslims are forbidden from eating any non-halal food and meat from pigs and Subway said customers can identify those stores selling halal food by the special 'All meats are Halal' sign, which must be displayed in participating branches.

In the halal-only branches ham and bacon has been substituted for turkey ham and rashers...

A Subway spokeswoman told MailOnline all halal meat served in the participating branches is from animals who were stunned prior to slaughter.

She said: 'The growing popularity of the Subway chain with the diverse multicultural population across the UK and Ireland means we have to balance the values of many religious communities with the overall aim of improving the health and welfare standards of animals.

'We put a programme into place in 2007 to ensure that the population demographic is taken into account when new store openings are considered in order that we meet consumer demand in each location...


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Netanyahu 'Asked Rabbi to Allow Giving David's Tomb to Vatican'

An MK Says Netanyahu has contacted the Chief Sephardic Rabbi, asked for halakhic permission to make the move.

By Hezki Ezra, Gil Ronen 

(Arutz Sheva) A Knesset Member said Thursday that Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef told him that the Prime Minister's bureau contacted him and asked to grant halakhic permission for Israel to hand over the Tomb of David to the Vatican.

The startling news was revealed by the Knesset Member during a tour of the Tomb of Daid by four MKs – Yoni Chetboun of the Jewish Home, who initiated the tour, Moshe Feiglin (Likud-Beytenu), Nissim Ze'ev (Shas), and Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism – UTJ).

The MKs were unanimous in declaring that they intend to do everything within their power to forestall any attempt to hand over the Tomb to the Vatican. There are also reports that not just the Tomb, but the entire Mount Zion compound is up for transfer. The MKs made clear that the zone is under Israeli sovereignty and will remain so.

There have been reports, recently, of a secret negotiation channel between the Vatican and the Israeli government, regarding the Tomb – and especially its second floor, which the Vatican calls the “Room of the Last Supper” – and the Mount Zion compound.

Officially, this report was denied by the government, with Deputy Minister Ze'ev Elkin taking to the Knesset podium to state that it was untrue.

However, the government has decided to place the exclusive authority regarding the holy sites in the hands of the prime minister – fueling speculation that a secret deal is indeed in the works.

The Vatican's attempts to gain a sovereign foothold in the Mount of Olives have been going on for year, but thus far unsuccessfully.

The visit to Israel by Pope Francis is less than a month away. This is a factor in the timing of the MKs' tour of the compound. A representative of the Religions Ministry's Department of Holy Sites was also present.

The MKs promised to pass a law making the Tomb of David an official holy site.

"For many years, the Vatican has been investing large sums in purchasing assets in Jerusalem, with the purpose of blurring the city's Jewish character,” said Chetboun. “This trend must be blocked, and the Basic Law on Jerusalem, which forbids handing over sovereignty on parts of the city to foreign entities, must be enforced. Today's tour is only the beginning of the struggle, and we will bring more MKs here. The Tomb of David is a cornerstone of the city's Jewish history, we must safeguard it.”

MK Feiglin said after the tour, “The attempts to transfer sovereignty over the Tomb of David to the Vatican are a direct continuation of the transfer of sovereignty in the Temple Mount to the Jordanians. The government of Israel is buying a false calm at the price of forfeiting our most sacred sites, under cover of darkness and against the law.”


Israel vandals hit mosque, church as Christians threatened

Jerusalem (AFP) - Vandals suspected of being Jewish extremists hit a mosque and a church in Israel, police said Tuesday, in the latest of a string of racist and religious attacks.

In a separate development, police arrested an Israeli man after he threatened the Roman Catholic bishop of Nazareth and demanded that Catholics leave the country or face God's wrath.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP vandals had scrawled "Close mosques and not yeshivas" (Jewish seminaries) on the outer wall of a mosque in the small Arab town of Fureidis, near the northern port city of Haifa.

The tyres of several nearby cars had been slashed.

Police were also investigating vandalism at Tabgha church on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which was built on the site where Christians believe Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
Church officials said a group of religious Jews in their early teens had damaged crosses there and attacked clergy. 

Elsewhere in northern Israel, police arrested a Jewish man in his 40s for threatening Roman Catholic Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo of Nazareth, and members of his faith.

- Letter from the 'Messiah' -

In the letter, the suspect said all Christians, "except Protestants and Anglicans," should leave Israel by May 5 that if Marcuzzo and his community did not comply, they would all be "killed by the heavens".
There are also other Christian communities in Israel, such as the Eastern Orthodox, Armenians and Copts.

The letter, which was signed by "the Messiah, Son of David," quoted Jewish sources who hold that Christianity is a form of idolatry and should be banned. 

The suspect said the message must be distributed to the community through the media by 1700 GMT Tuesday, saying every hour of delay would "cost the lives of 100 Christian souls."

Reacting to the vandalism, police spokesman Rosenfeld said "crimes committed for nationalist motives are extremely serious."

President Shimon Peres apologised to the mayor of Fureidis in the name of Israel's citizens, and said in remarks relayed by his office "we will do our utmost to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice."

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni also condemned the incidents.

"Whoever did these deeds is not part of my people," she wrote on her Facebook page, pledging to "catch and punish" those responsible. 

The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land said there was "a grave and increasing frequency of what are called 'price tag' attacks, which, in the absence of any real response, are becoming a dangerous phenomenon, threatening one and all."

Denouncing the attacks in Tabgha, the letter to the bishop and the Fureidis attack, it demanded "a thorough and serious investigation of those who incite, on an almost daily basis, against those who differ from them in opinion or belief.

"We pray that the events of yesterday and today might be the last of these criminal events, witnessed by our holy places and religious symbols in this Holy Land," its statement added.

Politically motivated acts of vandalism with their trademark Hebrew graffiti are euphemistically known as "price tag" attacks.

Carried out by suspected Jewish extremists, thought to be predominantly teenagers, the attacks initially targeted Palestinians and their property. They have since grown in scope to include Christian sites and anyone opposed to the settlements.