Utah diocese: Miracles happen. The ‘bleeding’ Host wasn’t one

Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec 17, 2015 / 03:25 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Red bread mold, and not a miracle, caused the changed appearance of a Eucharistic host that some said was bleeding, an inquiry by the Diocese of Salt Lake City has confirmed. The diocese … Read more

Regensburg bishop breaks with fellow Germans to oppose ‘gender theory’

Regensburg, Germany, Dec 17, 2015 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Bishop of Regensburg spoke out against “gender theory” in a homily recently made available in English – chastising the German bishops’ conference for presenting the idea “as being basically compatible with Catholic belief.” Celebrating the feast of St. Wolfgang, who was Bishop of Regensburg from 972 to 994, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer taught in an Oct. 31 homily that gender theory – the idea of separating biological sex from gender – does not contribute to equality, and is ultimately a denial of nature and the goodness of creation. It puts at stake the essence of man and woman, denying their nature as potential fatherhood and motherhood. A bishop’s pastoral ministry, he said, “includes the duty and the responsibility to act as a guardian, to raise his voice, as necessary, to draw attention to discrepancies or errors, however convenient or inconvenient this may be.” “Recently, just such a necessity has again arisen.” Bishop Voderholzer noted that the German bishops’ conference published a flyer in late October which “was written to declare these theories as being basically compatible with Catholic belief, in contrast to an extreme form of gender mainstream, and it claims to be formulating the Catholic position on this issue.” “In my opinion, the former appears impossible – finally, there is no such thing as ‘gender light’. The concept lowers the drawbridge and opens the gate to positions irreconcilable with the Christian faith. And the flyer not only fails to present the Catholic position, it leaves it out completely.” The bishop also noted that the publication “was released in the name of the Conference of Bishops, of which I am a member, without my having previously seen its content, much less having approved it.” He made three points on his opposition to the flyer, saying it “fails to mention the basic opposition between gender theories and the Christian belief in creation”; it pretends that “gender theories were an important contribution in service of the equality of all men, while the hostility such theories express towards divine creation is merely attributable to the exaggerations of a small minority”; and that it “fails to mention to the reader the large number of Church statements regarding gender theories, although there is no shortage of them.” Bishop Voderholzer stated that “anyone who commits himself to justice between the sexes or to the protection of man’s dignity has me at his side,” and that the Church cares for all human persons “independent of their age, sex, background and sexual orientation. The concern even applies to man prior to birth and in every situation and phase of life.” “But the gender debate is not about all of that,” he said. “Gender theoreticians use the equality issues in order to introduce in society a notion of man that goes far beyond specific concerns of equality and, finally, paradoxically, leads to the dissolution of that which ought to be protected, specifically the intrinsic value of male and female existence. The gender theory implies a denial of the nature of man and woman and, hence, also the exclusion of the belief in God, the good Creator.” The bishop distinguished between culturally-assigned roles and the essence of sex differentiation, noting that “of course men can also iron shirts, wash dishes and change diapers. And women can also park cars, become chancellor and change tires. This is not just a question of what is supposed to be ‘typically female’ and what is considered ‘typically male’. This pertains to what is essential.” “The excessive differentiation, in extreme cases, the separation of biological and social gender, is the basic error of gender theory.” Bishop Voderholzer taught that “the essence of man and woman is the potential to become a father and the potential to become a mother, respectively. These are not exchangeable roles, but rather gifts from the Creator, and, in the last instance, a calling.”There is no such thing as ‘gender light’. The concept lowers the drawbridge and opens the gate to positions irreconcilable with the Christian faith. The potential for motherhood orients a woman’s physical existence, her hormones, her physicality, he noted, adding that this remains true even “ if she lives single and remains childless because she has perhaps decided to follow Christ in a religious order, decided in favor of spiritual motherhood.” Gender theory’s “underlying message,” he said, “is the repudiation of the order of creation” and its goodness. “It is not only an excessive demand but rather a completely senseless endeavor to want to select one’s gender instead of accepting and cultivating the sex given to you at birth.” The bishop emphasized that the Church wishes to help people to live in accordance with their nature. “Nobody is condemned for having difficulties accepting his biological gender,” he said, “but then someone has to help them to accept their masculinity and their femininity. This is not surgically possible, it is only possible with human and pastoral care.” The process of maturation “can only be successful with nature, not against it!” he reiterated. He quoted Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, and added that “one can do without the concept ‘gender’ altogether, because, like a Trojan horse, the concept, finally, opens the door to anti-creation theories, that are related to it everywhere. Again: There is no such thing as a ‘gender light’ version.” Bishop Voderholzer concluded by noting the variety of popes and bishops who have spoken out against gender theory, saying the German bishops’ conference’s flyer “grandiosely claims to present the Catholic position in the question. But it fails to include the many statements on the subject issued by bishops and the Pope.” He began by noting five separate instances in which Pope Francis has spoken against gender theory, including his June 8 ad limina address to the Puerto Rican bishops, where he said: “Allow me to call your attention to the value and beauty of marriage. The complementarity of man and woman, the pinnacle of divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God. Without mutual self-giving, neither one can understand the other in depth.” The bishop then quoted from Benedict XVI’s 2012 Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia, in which he said that “people dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves … The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned.” Bishop Voderholzer then referred to the final report of the Synod on the Family, published Oct. 24, which called gender ideology “a very important cultural challenge” to the family and said that “According to our faith, the difference between the sexes bears in itself the image and likeness of God.” “It is clear words such as these that are absent in the flyer that I have criticized,” said Bishop Voderholzer. “And, indeed, they might have quoted German bishops as well, instead of omitting them.” His first example was Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg, who in 2005 said that gender theory “only allows man and woman, fatherliness and motherliness, to be defined as products of education and socialization. Hence, it is fundamentally wrong.” He also pointed to Bishop Heinz Algermissen of Fulda, who in a July homily “described gender theory as an ideology that completely opposes reality and the integrity of human nature.” Bishop Voderholzer concluded his homily by saying that “as a bishop who has accepted the torch of belief and pastoral responsibility from his forerunners, including Saint Wolfgang, I cannot, and may not, keep quiet on this subject, and I call upon you to add your voice to mine in this dispute so that the biblical image of man in its entire radiance and depth can also provide orientation to young people of our time in particular.” Read more

Pope Francis receives a birthday cake as he turns 79

Vatican City, Dec 17, 2015 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A chorus burst of ‘Happy Birthday’ and the smell of birthday cake filled the Vatican today as a crowd of young people from the Italian lay movement ‘Azione Cattolica’ gathered to festively wish Pope Francis a happy birthday as he turned 79 years old.  After the Pope blew out his birthday candle, he addressed the young people who were gathered for their annual Christmas audience, thanking them for the birthday cake and well wishes. The Holy Father went on to bless the movement’s commitment to the mission of welcoming migrants and encouraged them to become missionaries of Christ. To “journey towards the Lord means to take the good road – not the evil one; it means to put oneself on the road of forgiveness, of peace, of solidarity,” Pope Francis told the youth. “In this regard, your initiative in favor of Migrants in the Agrigento diocese is a very good one,” he continued. ‘Azione Cattolica’ is an association of Italian lay people who aim to proclaim the Gospel through their community and in education. One of their recent projects includes working with migrants, for which Pope Francis offered prayers and blessings. “So many brothers and sisters of ours who arrive full of hope, but are also wounded and in desperate need of so much, including peace and bread,” the Holy Father noted, asking the movement to continue their contributions to their community and to migrants in need.  Pope Francis encouraged the youth gathered to be charitable with their possessions, saying that they should share with those less fortunate than themselves. He also offered a blessing and greeting to the leaders of ‘Azione Cattolica,’ thanking them for their work for the Church.  The movement ‘Azione Cattolica’ was only one among many well-wishers who expressed birthday greetings to the Pope on his birthday.  Yesterday at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki gave Pope Francis a birthday cake in the shape of a sombrero. Alazraki noted on Twitter that the cake was given “in the name of Mexico, who awaits you” – speaking of Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Mexico in February. In addition, thousands of users on Twitter, including various news stations and dioceses, wished the Holy Father a happy birthday under the hashtag #HappyBirthdayPopeFrancis. Read more

New York Archdiocese responds to priest embezzlement claims

New York City, N.Y., Dec 17, 2015 / 06:56 am (CNA).- The Archdiocese of New York says that it takes seriously accusations in a recent lawsuit claiming that a New York priest embezzled money and maintained scandalous personal habits, while also saying t… Read more

Has much changed since India’s 2008 massacre of Christians?

Rome, Italy, Dec 17, 2015 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Though it has been almost a decade since a spat of violence left nearly 100 Christians dead in the Indian state of Odisha, it’s still foggy as to whether or not things have improved. Themina Arora, a lawyer in India who has helped with rehabilitation efforts since the 2008 attacks, says that while there has been no large-scale outbreak of violence, targeted attacks against both Muslims and Christians are still happening on a regular basis. “What we continue to see (is) physical violence, sexual assault, rapes, murders, desecration of churches and a lot of threats and intimidations,” she told CNA. Arora said 121 incidents were recorded from January through November 2015 – but she is far from having received all the reports. She expects the number to go up before the year is over, because “Christmastime unfortunately gets a little violent,” since people are out on the street and more visible. Arora was in Rome last week participating in a Dec. 10-12 conference titled “Under Caesar’s Sword: An International Conference on Christian Response to Persecution.” She participated in a panel discussion Dec. 12, during which she referred to the 2008 Odisha attacks as “the worst in independent India.” Following the August 2008 murder of Swami Lakshmanananda, leader of the right-wing Hindu nationalist organization Vishna Hindu Parishad, Hindu fundamentalists attacked the Christian minority in Kandhamal district of Odisha, whom they blamed for the murder. In the months that followed, nearly 100 Christians were killed for refusing to convert to Hinduism and 56,000 people were displaced, taking refuge in forests where they were susceptible to starvation and deadly insect bites. Some 6,500 houses and 395 churches were destroyed, and about 10,000 people have still not returned due to fear of reprisals.The families and friends of those who died have recounted stories of the brutal deaths of their loved ones, many of which include torture, the demand to renounce their faith, dismemberment and worse. Arora recounted how in talking with the victims firsthand, she found out that some had converted to Christianity and were targeted for it. She also heard tales of people who lost everything; wallets stolen, homes destroyed, families attacked, yet when it came to their faith would say, “of course we’re Christian.” She told CNA that the process of recovery “has been very slow,” and that as a lawyer she is still working to win compensation for those who lost their homes and property, as well as to make convictions in the cases of murder. While there has been no widespread attack on the level seen in Odisha in 2008, pockets of violence remain a common phenomenon in India. Concern has particularly arisen over a spike in the number of attacks against Christians and Muslims since the May 2014 election of Narendra Modi as prime minister. After Modi took office the country saw a sharp rise in the number of attacks carried out against people and property, most of them perpetrated by the radical Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, also referred to as the RSS, or the “the Sangh.” The group, which has been described as “fundamentalist” and “violent,” sits on the right-wing and has no official, legal registration in India. However they maintain strong ties with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Modi has been criticized for his silence regarding the attacks, which have continued to take place against the Christian and Muslim minorities, as well as their property. A part from a tweet or two, Modi has been silent largely silent, despite numerous calls for him to utter some sort of condemnation. As a full-time worker with the group, many are concerned that Modi is giving them a free pass. Concern has also been voiced that police are dismissive of the cases that are brought to them, though Arora says this is true regardless of whether the case is one involving persecution or robbery or some other crime. Police in India, she said, are “generally reluctant” to file complaints since they must be accompanied by an official investigation, which can be difficult to carry out and mean extra work and headaches. Of the cases she has seen which have gone through, Arora said the forensic evidence that was gathered, such as the DNA testing of bones and the forensic evidence of the bones collected after bodies had been burned, “had not been properly done, so it came back with inconclusive results.” Additionally, she said that the names and ages of witnesses had not been properly recorded, which meant that their testimonies couldn’t be disputed in court. “So those were real struggles and I think to that extent the situation still stands” for many of the victims of Odisha, she said, explaining that Muslim victims could say something similar, and that in many of their cases, the evidence “was not robust enough to result in convictions.” Since mob violence makes it more difficult to find the concrete evidence of the exact persons involved, Arora said she understands “the complexities” involved, but affirmed that even so, police ought to be “more diligent overall” in ensuring a rule of law. Due to the long process and high costs that arise from the investigations and paying a lawyer, churches with limited resources are finding it difficult to advance their cases when incidents occur, Arora noted, explaining that this is also an area of concern she is trying to work with. Part of the problem with hostilities against Christians and Muslims, she said, is that the law “isn’t being used properly,” and that when certain communities decide to waive their rights, “they begin to get watered down.” She recounted a few cases of churches being shut down for either a few days or for several months due to a misinterpretation of the law. However, after intervening in the cases, she was able to help re-open the churches within a matter of days. Arora said that she has seen several recent success stories which have been a source of encouragement, and suggested that in some cases the law could actually be on the side of those facing persecution, but it simply isn’t being properly used. Read more

In North Korea, Canadian pastor faces life imprisonment

Pyongyang, North Korea, Dec 16, 2015 / 05:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- North Korea has sentenced Hyeon Soo Lim, a Christian pastor and a Canadian citizen, to life in prison with hard labor, claiming he has committed crimes against the state. Canada’s foreign ministry said it was “dismayed at the unduly harsh sentence,” citing Lim’s age and health, the BBC reports. Lim, who is 60 years old, was in North Korea for humanitarian work in January. He was arrested in Pyongyang in February. The pastor is of South Korean origin and lives in Toronto, where he heads the Light Korean Presbyterian Church. His family said he had traveled to the isolated country to support a nursing home, a nursery, and an orphanage, and that his trips were not political. He was sentenced after a 90 minute trial. North Korean officials charged that the pastor had joined the U.S. and South Korea in a human rights “racket” against the country. They claim he fabricated and circulated false propaganda materials that tarnished North Korea’s image. Lim was shown at a press conference confessing a plot to overthrow the government and set up a “religious state.” He said that his humanitarian work was a guise for “subversive plots and activities in a sinister bid to build a religious state.” He allegedly admitted to giving lectures that North Korea “should be collapsed with the love of God.” Religious activity is banned in the country and foreigners are sometimes detained and undergo staged public confessions. The pastor was also accused of funding and aiding defectors’ escape through Mongolia. Lim has made many humanitarian visits to North Korea for two decades. Other Christians detained in North Korea include Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who was imprisoned for two years on charges of trying to overthrow the government. He was released in November 2014.John Short, an Australian missionary in his mid-70s, was held for a month and deported after a February 2014 arrest on charges he distributed missionary pamphlets, Canada’s CBC News reports. In 2014, an American Baptist named Jeffrey E. Fowle was detained for six months for an anti-state crime: leaving a Bible in a public washroom. Read more

We won’t respond to violence with hatred, religious leaders say

Washington D.C., Dec 16, 2015 / 05:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious leaders responded to global violence and terrorism with solidarity and prayer on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. “We will stand together, strengthened by the faith of each one in… Read more

Dallas’ next auxiliary bishop sees ‘a new call to serve’

Dallas, Texas, Dec 16, 2015 / 12:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Wednesday appointed Monsignor J. Gregory Kelly, a local priest, to become the newest auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Dallas. “I experience this new call to be an auxilia… Read more

How does God show mercy to us? Through the Church, Pope says

Vatican City, Dec 16, 2015 / 10:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church is the “living sign” of God’s love and mercy in the world, Pope Francis said during his Wednesday general audience. He reflected on the universality of communion as demonstrated by the global scale of the Jubilee of Mercy. “May this ecclesial communion become more and more intense, because the Church is in the world the living sign of the love and mercy of the Father,” the Pope said in his Dec. 16 catechesis. This “mystery of communion,” which is a sign of the “Father’s love” for the Church, “grows and matures in our heart when love, which we recognize in Christ’s Cross and in which we immerse ourselves, causes us to love as we ourselves are loved by Him.” “It is an endless Love, which has the face of forgiveness and mercy.” The Jubilee of Mercy is an Extraordinary Holy Year that officially commenced Dec. 8 – the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – with the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. It will close Nov. 20, 2016 with the Solemnity of Christ the King. Although the Jubilee of Mercy officially began last week, Pope Francis opened the Holy Door in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran this past Sunday. During his Wednesday catechesis, the Pope noted how every Holy Door – or “door of Mercy” has been opened in the cathedrals of every dioceses worldwide, as well as in individual churches and shrines by the respective bishops. He reiterated his desire for the Holy Door to be available at the local level, “in order that the Jubilee of Mercy may become a shared experience for every person. By extending the celebration of the Jubilee of Mercy to all dioceses – here the Pope cited especially his opening of the Holy Door in Bangui, Central African Republic during his visit November – the Holy Year becomes a “visible sign of universal communion.” The start of the Jubilee coincided with the 50th anniversary of the close of the Vatican II council, which – Pope Francis observed — had drawn attention to the theme of communion within the Church. “In effect, the Council contemplated and presented the Church in the light of the mystery of communion,” the Pope said. The pontiff said forgiveness and mercy are more than just nice words; they must be lived out in daily life. “Loving and forgiving are concrete and visible signs that the faith has transformed our hearts,” allowing us “to love and forgive as God loves and forgives.” During the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis said, the Holy Door is a sign of faith in Jesus, who came who came to save, not to judge. The pontiff warned against those who suggest that one must pay for salvation. “You do not buy salvation! The door is Jesus, and he is free! Salvation is free! It is a sign of true conversion in our hearts.” Those who walk through the open Holy Door should ask the Lord for help in keeping their hearts open, whereby they share the Lord’s love with others, the Pope continued. “Just as the Holy Door remains open, in order for it to be the sign of welcome which God Himself reserves for us, so too may our door always be wide open in order to exclude no one,” including those we find annoying. Pope Francis stressed the importance of the Sacrament of Confession as an important sign of the Jubilee of Mercy. To receive the sacrament by which we are reconciled with God is to have direct experience of his mercy,” the Pope said. “When we recognize our sins there is a celebration in Heaven!” The pontiff reiterated that we cannot receive God’s forgiveness if we ourselves are unable to forgive. “Certainly, forgiveness is not easy,” and cannot be accomplished on our strength alone. “If, however, we are open to welcoming God’s mercy for us, we too will become capable of forgiveness.” “Therefore, have courage!” he said.  “We live the Jubilee starting with these signs that involve the great strength of love.” Read more

Canadian judge rules in favor of religious liberty for Christian law school

Victoria, Canada, Dec 16, 2015 / 03:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has reversed a decision by the province’s law society that would have banned graduates of a Christian law school from practicing law in the province. The Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC) originally agreed to recognize graduates of the proposed law school at Trinity Western University (TWU), the largest Christian university in Canada, in April 2014. They reversed their decision in October 2014 with a vote of the members of LSBC, citing as the reason a covenant that all TWU students sign promising they will not have sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman, as well as uphold other biblical ideals. Of the approximately 13,000 members of LSBC, 74 percent voted to deny accreditation to TWU graduates. In a sharply critical reversal decision, Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson rebuked the Law Society of British Columbia for infringing on the school’s religious liberty and for overstepping their bounds by dictating the decision to a vote of its members without properly considering constitutional rights. “There is no basis upon which a conclusion could be drawn or any evidence from the Special General Meeting or the October Referendum proceedings that the LSBC’s membership considered, let alone balanced, the petitioners’ Charter rights against the competing rights of the LGBTQ community,” he said, according to The Vancouver Sun. British Columbia Law Society president Ken Walker said the judge’s decision is important and that the society will be consulting their legal counsel regarding next steps. In a statement on the school’s website, Earl Phillips, the executive director of TWU’s proposed School of Law, said the school is “very pleased” about the decision. “As the Chief Justice has affirmed, the decision to approve a law school graduate must be based not on personal opinions and feelings, but on the law and evidence. The evidence shows that TWU teaches its students to work and live with the highest levels of skill and integrity,” he said. Guy Saffold, a senior advisor to the president of TWU, said on the school’s website that opposition to the “Community Covenant” signed by students stems from misunderstanding. “The covenant isn’t about pushing anyone away, but about building a community where we’re free to honour our consciences,” he said. “The same covenant calls for all members of the TWU community to respect the dignity of others regardless of their background. Loving one another without exception is one of the most important principles of Christian faith.” Saffold added that TWU does not ask students about their sexual orientation during the admissions process, and that LGBTQ students were welcome to attend the school. The university has experienced similar backlashes in other Canadian provinces. The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society and the Law Society of Upper Canada each refused to recognize TWU graduates. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and the Yukon will recognize TWU’s law graduates. A decision by the Nova Scotia court requiring approval of TWU law graduates has been appealed by the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society, and an Ontario court decision against TWU has also been appealed. Saffold told The Vancouver Sun that while he is celebrating the decision in British Columbia, he knows that the process to get the TWU’s law school off the ground is far from over. “At least if it is in your favour you are happy for the day, but we know there is more process to come,” he said. “It’s a good day, but there’s always tomorrow.” Read more

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