This interview with the Metropolitan Tarasios Primate of the Greek Orthodox of South America. The interview sheds light on Pope Francis, as well as the gracious personality of the Primate himself.
Pope Francis is an outgoing informal man, while Pope Emeritus Benedict is shy and introverted. But don’t let those differences in style confuse you. Both are holy men of fidelity to the truth of our Catholic faith. To learn more, watch the video below.
Easter isn’t all new clothes, gorgeous masses in stunning church buildings and arguments about red shoes and foot washing.
In some places, Calvary is present in the lives of the people. The Church itself and all its Christian people hang on the cross of persecution.
In other places, such as the United States and Great Britain, society is moving along the continuum toward violent persecution. Christians in those two countries have come to expect and accept that they will be subjected to hate speech against Christians, Christian-bashing on web sites. They are increasingly being forced to accept that they face growing legal discrimination against Christians and moves to force Christian speech and expression out of the public sphere. We are at the “you can go to church all you want, but leave it there,” phase of discrimination, and this discrimination is rapidly becoming government-enforced.
At the same time, Christians in Egypt fear being kidnapped with no police support to stop it. Christians in Bangladesh have their children stolen and trafficked and again, the police do not punish the traffickers. Christians in North Korea are imprisoned and worked to death. Christians in Nigeria are murdered, tortured and their churches are burned.
I could go on. But there is too much of it for one post.
Here is this week’s roundup of Christian persecution in Six Quick Takes.
1. Nigeria: Easter Attacks Kill 80, Thousands of Christians Flee to the Hills
By BosNewsLife Africa Service – “Nigerian Christians appealed for prayers Tuesday, April 2, after Easter season violence in troubled central Nigeria left as many as 80 people dead and displaced some 4,500 others.
At least 19 people were killed since Easter Sunday when gunmen believed to be nomadic Muslim cattle herders attacked the mostly Christian Atakar group in Kaura district, a remote area of Kaduna state, officials said.
Witnesses said the attacks on three communities, including the Mafang and Zilang villages, killed many women and children. Kaduna police spokesman Aminu Lawan told reporters his forces were still investigating.
Ataka Christians live near Plateau state where authorities claimed fighting between cattle herders, who are mainly Fulani Muslims, and Christian villages killed nearly 60 people in recent days.
The area is on the uneasy dividing line between Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north and largely Christian south…
Christians said that following Sunday’s violence, thousands of villagers fled to the nearby hills. (Read more here.)
2. Bangladesh: Christian Children Re-Captured By Trafficker
Eleven of the 16 Christian children who were rescued from Muslim traffickers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Jan. 2 have again gone missing. Sources in the Christian community, as well as reports in local newspapers, report that they believe the children were re-trafficked and taken to madrassas, Islamic training centers, where they will likely be forced to convert to Islam and study the Quran.
Eleven Christian children, originally from the Rangamati district of Chittagong Hill Tracts, disappeared for the second time earlier this year after being given back to the custody of their parents. “We were not aware that our child would be taken to a madrassa,” one parent told International Christian Concern (ICC).
The children, along with five others, had been rescued by police from a madrassa in the Abuzor Giffari Mosque Complex in Dhaka. The children had been missing for months. They were returned to their parents soon after their rescue, but traffickers continually threatened the parents until the recent re-disappearance of the children. Local authorities say the children were likely trafficked again to madrassas and are concerned that they will be forcibly converted to Islam.
“The [leader] of the traffickers gives a large sum of money to the traffickers to take the kids to the madrassa,” said an ICC source. “Because of this, they threatened the parents and took their children, again, to a madrassa. It is all because of large sums of money, and because there are no punishments for the trafficker.” (Read more here.)
3. North Korea: Number 1 for Christian Persecution
North Korea is the most hostile place for Christians around the globe, according to the annual “World Watch” list from the Open Doors Organization.
The list ranks the 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe. North Korea tops the 2013 list, thus holding its ranking for the eleventh year running.
“Christians are classified as hostile and face arrest, detention, torture, even public execution,” the Open Doors report said. (Read more here.)
4. Great Britain: Majority of Church-Going Christians Feel Persecuted and Marginalized
Over two-thirds of Christians in the United Kingdom feel part of a victimized minority, and David Cameron is making that worse by redefining marriage, the Coalition for Marriage says.
In a new poll commissioned by the group, almost eight in 10 said the prime minister’s same-sex marriage plan will lead to those who back traditional marriage facing the sack.
More than two-thirds (67 percent) said they felt part of a “persecuted minority.”
The survey also showed that over half of the U.K.’s Christians who voted Conservative in 2010 would “definitely not” do so again in 2015.
Colin Hart, campaign director of the Coalition for Marriage, said the poll showed “widespread and continued opposition towards David Cameron’s plans to redefine marriage.”
He added: “More worryingly it shows how Christians and those of faith are being treated like illegal aliens in their own country. They are being marginalized and persecuted for their beliefs. (Read more here.)
5. Egypt: Christians Targeted for Kidnappings
MATAI, Egypt (AP) — Ezzat Kromer’s resistance to his kidnappers did not last long. One of the masked gunmen fired a round between his feet as he sat behind the wheel of his car and said with chilling calm, “The next one will go into your heart.”
The Christian gynecologist says he was bundled into his abductors’ vehicle, forced to lie under their feet in the back seat for a 45-minute ride, then dumped in a small cold room while his kidnappers contacted his family over a ransom.
For the next 27 hours, he endured beatings, insults and threats to his life, while blindfolded, a bandage sealing his mouth and cotton balls in his ears.
Kromer’s case is part of a dramatic rise of kidnappings targeting , including children, in ‘s southern province of Minya, home to the country’s largest concentration of Christians but also a heartland for Islamist hard-liners.
The kidnappings are mostly blamed on criminal gangs, which operate more freely amid Egypt’s collapse in security since the 2011 fall of autocrat.
Crime has risen in general across Egypt, hitting Muslims as well. But the wave of kidnappings in Minya has specifically targeted Christians, and victims, church leaders and rights activists ultimately blame the atmosphere created by the rising power of hard-line Islamists.
They contend criminals are influenced by the rhetoric of radical clerics depicting Egypt’s Christian minority as second-class citizens and see Christians as fair game, with authorities less likely to investigate crimes against the community.
Over the past two years, there have been more than 150 reported kidnappings in the province — all of them targeting Christians, according to a top official at the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police. (Read the rest here.)
6. United States: Pro Life Student Group Banned at Johns Hopkins University
.- A pro-life student group at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., is appealing a denial of official recognition, saying that it is being discriminated against for its views against abortion.
Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America, told CNA that this decision is surprising, given that Johns Hopkins administration and students “pride themselves on being a ‘free speech campus’ – allowing dissenting opinions on campus and allowing a free exchange of ideas on campus.”
She added that there is a need for “upholding freedom of speech that isn’t popular.”
Voice for Life, a pro-life organization that is trying to re-start on the Johns Hopkins campus after several years of dormancy, has been rejected multiple times by the university’s student government, despite receiving clearance from the necessary committees as having met all campus requirements. (Read more here.)
I stand with the bishops and the Catholic Church on the HHS Mandate.
If you stand with the bishops as well, look at the alert below and take action!
I focused on Holy Week issues last week.
I would love to continue doing the same thing this first week of Easter. In fact, it might be nice to never do anything else. But the world and our duty to engage the world for Christ goes on.
Challenges to the HHS Mandate continue to wend their way through the judicial process.
Hobby Lobby was granted a hearing of its appeal against the HHS Mandate before a full federal panel of nine judges. Most appeals are heard by three judges. The fact that the whole panel will hear this one reflects the seriousness of the issue involved. I can think of few issues more serious than whether or not the First Amendment applies to applies to everyone.
We need to continue to support both EWTN and Hobby Lobby, as well as all others who have stepped up to fight for our freedoms. I got paid today. I’ll be too busy to do any shopping for a few days, but the first chance I get, I’m heading to Hobby Lobby. I may top it off with lunch at Chick Fil-A. I hope you do the same.
.- Christian-owned craft giant Hobby Lobby will be able to make its appeal against the federal contraception mandate before a full federal panel of nine judges, rather than the usual three.
“Full court review is reserved only for the most serious legal questions,” explained Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in a press release on March 29. The Becket Fund is representing the owners of Hobby Lobby in court.
Duncan said that the decision to grant a full nine-judge hearing speaks to the gravity of the issue.
“This case asks whether the First Amendment protects everyone’s right to religious freedom, or whether it leaves out religious business owners like the Greens,” he explained.
As its religious freedom case comes before a federal court, Hobby Lobby had petitioned for an “en banc” hearing, or an appeals hearing before the full bench of nine judges.
“We are grateful that the court granted Hobby Lobby’s petition,” said Duncan. (Read more here.)
Meanwhile, EWTN’s lawsuit against the HHS Mandate was dismissed by an Alabama court because the court said the case “wasn’t ripe.” I would make a comment about the choice of the word “ripe,” but it’s too easy. EWTN has vowed to fight on.
If you’re getting the idea that going to court is a roll of the dice, you’re right. It all depends on which judge you draw and if their lunch agreed with them.
.- The EWTN Global Catholic Network is “extremely disappointed” by a Monday court ruling that dismissed as “unripe” its lawsuit against a federal mandate that could require the organization to violate Catholic teaching.
“Contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs are not healthcare. EWTN cannot and will not compromise our strongly held beliefs on these moral issues,” EWTN President and CEO Michael P. Warsaw said March 25.
On Monday Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham dismissed the Irondale, Ala.-based organization’s lawsuit until new regulations are “created and finalized.” The March 25 court decision agreed that EWTN has standing to sue, but it sided with Obama administration lawyers who contended that the case is not ripe for review. (Read more here.)
They should be ashamed.
I watch The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson at some point during Holy Week each year. The movie, whatever the much-publicized weaknesses of its producer, is deeply meaningful to me.
This year I ended up watching it late, late Good Friday and early, early Holy Saturday, after my family had gone to bed. Earlier in the day I had shared a meal with one of my dearest friends. This lady is a cradle Catholic who doesn’t analyze the Church, she just believes it. She also uses her computer for work and turns it off. She’s not an internet junkie. Since we are blessed to live in a diocese where the bishops have always allowed women’s feet to be washed along with men on Holy Thursday, she had never encountered the discussions about this that float around the internet.
During our conversation, I told her about the happenings on Public Catholic, including the debate about washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday. When I mentioned that some people don’t think that women’s feet should be washed, she stopped and stared for a moment, then said, “Reaalllllyyyyy?”
It was the first time in all the years I’ve known her that I’ve ever seen this woman, who once thought about becoming a nun, angry over her faith. Why? Because she understood instantly that this attitude put her, as a woman, outside the circle of grace that the servant priesthood and the eucharist are meant to create for all humanity.
I explained it as best I could and moved on to other topics.
Later that night, as I was watching Jesus, standing before the Sanhedrin, something changed in me. Specifically, it was that moment in the film where He is condemned to death and the mob begins spitting on Him, hitting him and pummeling Him. He is surrounded, almost lost in the mob, fists coming at him from every direction. It was, as He said earlier that same evening, “Satan’s hour.”
I wasn’t thinking about my conversation with my friend. I wasn’t thinking about the outrageous attacks on the Holy Father because he had the temerity, by his actions, to include women in the whole of the humanity the Church serves. It was as if all the pieces clicked together by themselves with an almost audible snap.
This blog is a Catholic blog. I am a Catholic woman.
If you want to put the “teachings” of self-annointed internet magisteriums ahead of the legitimate authority of the bishops and the pope to determine the order of the mass and the liturgy, I can not stop you. But I will not publish you. This behavior is harming my Church, and I will not open my house to anything that furthers it.
You do not have to love the Holy Father to comment on Public Catholic. But you do have to refrain from disrespecting him, including posting links to those who are trying to make themselves his teachers in the rubrics of the mass.
I am not expert on this, but I’ve read that the girm that these people claim cancels out the teaching authority of the pope and bishops (not to mention the Gospels) was written around 50 short years ago in the 1960s. If I understand it correctly, the bishops have clear authority to modify certain things (including this one) in the girm, as part of their pastoral calling. I’ve read that Cardinal O’Malley of Boston specifically queried the Vatican about this issue after he was appointed to the Archdiocese of Boston and that this was the answer. He subsequently allowed women’s feet to be washed on Holy Thursday.
Presumably, other bishops, who had years more experience in this office than the Cardinal did at this time, already knew this. I know that (then) Bishop Bevilacqua asked the USCCB to clarify this issue as long ago as 1987, and got the same answer as Cardinal O’Malley received from the Vatican later.
I would guess that if I’m aware of this, the self-annointed internet magisteriums of which I speak are also aware of it. Since they’re making what is probably a very good living based on their supposedly superior knowledge of what they imply is the absolute and infallible dogma of the girm, they certainly should.
This fixation on one word and the obvious misogyny that fuels it are both serious problems for the people who are encouraging it. I mean they are serious spiritual problems for them. They are leading people away from obedience to their bishops and the pope in the name of the girm. They are appealing to the dark temptations of self-righteousness and clannish cliquishness that destroy community, limit faith and — worst of all — deny the core message of the Gospels.
I’ve been warned that by criticizing these people I am making myself the target of on-line attacks and defamation. If that doesn’t tell you that they are not of the Lord, then what does?
They should be ashamed of themselves.
Here is an excerpt from a Washington Post article describing the picayune grievances against the Holy Father by these people. Read it and weep.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has won over many hearts and minds with his simple style and focus on serving the world’s poorest, but he has devastated traditionalist Catholics who adored his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for restoring much of the traditional pomp to the papacy.
Francis’ decision to disregard church law and wash the feet of two girls — a Serbian Muslim and an Italian Catholic — during a Holy Thursday ritual has become something of the final straw, evidence that Francis has little or no interest in one of the key priorities of Benedict’s papacy: reviving the pre-Vatican II traditions of the Catholic Church. (More here.)
What the Court says in questions does not necessarily reflect how they will rule.
However, two days’ of questioning concerning Proposition 8, which was heard yesterday and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was heard today, seems to form a consistent pattern. The justices have remarked twice now on the fact that marriage has always been a state issue.
I don’t know if that’s an indicator of how they will rule, but I sincerely hope so. I think it would be disastrous for the Court to wade into this explosive issue that the states are actually handling through the electoral process with a judicial fiat. There is no reason that I can see for the justices to silence the voice of the people with thunder from the Court.
No one knows, but questions for the justices themselves seem to echo this sentiment. Justice Kennedy questioned whether the Court should be hearing these cases at all. On the other hand, Justice Gader-Ginsberg commented that DOMA reduced gay marriages to “skim milk” marriages.
I honestly don’t know what a “skim milk” marriage would be, but I assume that the question was meant to support gay marriage. I could be wrong, but that’s my guess.
From the Wall Street Journal:
By EVAN PEREZ, BRENT KENDALL and JESS BRAVIN
WASHINGTON—Justice Anthony Kennedy on Wednesday questioned whether the federal government has the right to define marriage, a role traditionally reserved for states, in the second day of Supreme Court arguments on gay marriage.
The comments by Justice Kennedy, seen as holding a key vote on the court, came after several justices sharply challenged the Obama administration’s handling of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Some questioned whether the court should be hearing the case at all.
Former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger tells WSJ’s Jerry Seib that arguments in the Supreme Court suggest justices may be seeking a narrow ruling that clears the paths for state action on gay marriage, rather than a sweeping ruling to settle the issue.
The arguments concluded shortly past noon Wednesday, a day after the justices heard a case on California’s gay-marriage ban.
Former Solicitor General Paul Clement, defending the 1996 federal law, said it merely defines marriage for the purposes of the federal government and doesn’t bind states, regardless of whether they want to approve gay marriage.
Justice Kennedy, however, jumped to express concerns with that argument, questioning whether the federal government was intruding on the states’ territory. He said the Defense of Marriage Act ran the risk of conflicting with states’ role in defining marriage.
Liberal justices joined Justice Kennedy in questioning the law. Justice Elena Kagan said it raised red flags, while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the federal law diminished same-sex marriages to “skim milk” marriages. (Read more here.)
Pope Francis is the Pope. If he decides to go for all the pomp his office allows ….
That’s fine with me.
Because he’s the Pope.
If on the other hand, he decides to wear sandals and walk rather than ride — or some black-shoed something in between the two extremes — that, too, would be ok with me.
Because he’s the pope.
It appears that most Catholics are like me: Over the moon about our new papa. But, you can’t please everyone. Human beings are too contrary for that to ever happen in this world. In their displeasure with our Holy Father, some of these displeased ones have fixated on one thing: The color of his shoes.
The red of the red shoes refers to the blood of the martyrs they tell us.
I’ve been thinking about this for days, largely because I don’t understand why we need to see red shoes to think about the blood of the martyrs. The blood of people dying for Christ is not an ancient artifact from a long ago history that has passed. The blood of the martyrs is soaking into the ground in a hundred places around the world as I type this.
This is the blood of the marytrs:
I have interviewed survivors of Christian persecution in Uganda and Nigeria. They are different from us. Their faith has been through the fire and this fire burned away the impurities of trivial concerns.
One of the many things about these people that impressed me is their gentleness; that, and their absolute faith in heaven. I never heard anything from them about the people who persecuted them being damned to hell. The harshest thing I heard was from an Anglican bishop who called them “ignorant.” Their focus is on Jesus. It is not on the ones who attacked them. They see past the persecution to heaven and the gift of eternal life.
More than once when I asked them how they got through it, they said two words: The cross.
They are different from you and me, these people who have been purified by the fires of persecution for the name of Jesus. I never asked any of them about red shoes. But if I had, I imagine that the response would have been incomprehension.
What Jesus Told Us
This is Holy Week.
It is also the week in which the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on Proposition 8 and DOMA. The potential is there for a major change in the way American law defines marriage. This could have far-reaching effects which none of us can predict for foresee.
What better week to issue a call to prayer than Holy Week? Tuesday is the day we have the Chrism Mass. Priests renew their vows at this mass and the holy oils which will be used throughout the upcoming year are blessed. It’s a beautiful mass and I urge anyone who can to attend.
History is coming at us so fast it’s hard to keep up. But we need to remember that this week, above all weeks, is a time for extra prayer and penance. I don’t want to make too much of it, but it seems poignant that so many points of history are converging on this one week. Proponents of traditional marriage are also staging a march in Washington, DC on Tuesday.
The cross, which defines this week and the life of the world, is not just a point of history. It is history. The cross is the fulcrum of all history. There was the world before the cross and the world after it, which is to say that there was the world without hope and the world without despair. Despair is impossible to anyone who understands the power of the cross.
We suffer in this life. We experience loss, setbacks, pain, loneliness, failure and grief. But we are never without hope because our hope is in the One who died for us on Calvary.
We need to pray this week, and not just for ourselves and our families, but for all the world that this light of Christ will shine in the darkness of the human heart everywhere.
This article, by our brothers and sisters at The Baptist Press, has details of the upcoming arguments before the Supreme Court:
NASHVILLE (BP) — On Tuesday and Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases regarding the issue of same-sex marriage. Few issues rise to this level of importance.
These two cases will do much to answer the question for how marriage is going to be viewed in the United States for the foreseeable future. On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop. 8). In this case, the court is being asked to decide the fate of Proposition 8 in California. At stake is whether or not the people of California can define marriage in their constitution as only the union of one man and one woman. In a worst-case scenario in deciding Hollingsworth, the court could rule unconstitutional the definition of marriage as only the union of one man and one woman, repudiating two and a quarter centuries of American jurisprudence in which marriage has been defined and regulated by each state, not the federal courts. Every state that has passed such laws would be affected. It would also be going against several millennia of the Judeo-Christian definition of marriage.
On Wednesday, the court will hear arguments in United States v. Windsor. That case deals with the constitutionality of section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Windsor case creates the possibility that the court could overturn DOMA in its entirety. DOMA is important at many levels. For one, it protects states that do not support same-sex marriage from being required to recognize same-sex marriages that have been performed in states where the practice is legal. For another, it provides a standard definition of marriage for all federal programs, assuring that only heterosexual marriage is recognized across all federal government programs. It also provides protections for federal workers from being forced to violate their consciences regarding marriage. If DOMA is overturned, military chaplains will be especially vulnerable to pressures to accommodate an expanded definition of marriage in their ministries. (Read the rest here.)
Pope Benedict XVI authorized the televised showing of the Shroud of Turin before he left office. The Shroud will be televised next Saturday, which is Holy Saturday.
The Shroud of Turin has been the subject of intense discussion for hundreds of years and still fascinates both believers and unbelievers worldwide. A radio carbon dating several decades ago indicated that the Shroud dates from the middle ages. However, this finding has been challenged based on the way the samples for the dating were taken and the possibility of a corrupt sample having been used that would have given inaccurate results.
No one knows exactly were the Shroud came from. Many people, including Pope Benedict himself, feel that the Shroud was the burial cloth of Christ. Others dismiss it as a fraud. One thing is certain and that is the Shroud is an inexplicable artifact that defies simple explanations. Even the most dedicated opponents of the idea that the Shroud is the authentic burial cloth of Christ are unable to explain how it was made.
The most challenging aspects of the Shroud are how was it made and why a medieval forger would do something so complex and difficult in the first place. Also, the anatomical facts of the figure on the Shroud are consistent with what a real crucifixion would do rather than what people in the Middle Ages thought.
I’ve read several books about the Shroud, but I have never seen it. I’m like a lot of people who find it fascinating and wonder if it really is the burial cloth of Christ.
I don’t know if the televised viewing will be available here in Oklahoma, but if it is, I plan to record it so I can watch it later.
Here’s the story from Vatican Radio:
(Vatican Radio) As part of the Year of Faith a conference gets underway here in Rome (Friday) tomorrow entitled “The Shroud and the New Evangelization. The two day event is being sponsored by the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum and will feature speakers including Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
The conference will deliver a programme presenting the shroud of Turin, which is believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, as a sign of faith that speaks to contemporary society.
“The message is this, the shroud is a sign, a sign that speaks to contemporary man and so I think in this year of faith this Holy Shroud has something to tell us in a very graphical view,” says Father Rafael Pascual LC, Director of the Science and Faith Institute at the Regina Apostolorum.
He told Lydia O’Kane that the face Jesus left us is one of suffering but also of love and donation. Listen