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« Reply #300 on: Oct 14, 2014, 06:15 AM »

Vatican: ‘Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer Christians’

Bishops say although Catholicism does not support same-sex marriage, it must find ways of making gay people feel included

Lizzy Davies in Vatican City
The Guardian, Monday 13 October 2014 14.47 BST      

Is this the modern family according to Francis? From gay relationships to extramarital sex, from divorce and remarriage to civil unions, the Roman Catholic church has signalled it is ready to adopt what some see as a markedly more conciliatory tone towards those in “irregular” familial setups.

While clinging to doctrine that considers gay sex wrong and marriage indissoluble, bishops in Rome for the pope’s extraordinary synod on the family endorsed a midway report which said the church should accompany its teachings “with mercy” and focus on the “positive aspects” of different life models.

The document, known as a relatio post disceptationem, received applause when it was read aloud in the synod hall after a week of discussions, due to continue this week. It does not contain any decisions but offers a significant idea of the gathering’s direction of travel. Some Vatican observers said its change in tone on homosexuality and cohabitation was remarkable.

“The document published today by the synod of bishops represents an earthquake, the ‘big one’ that hit after months of smaller tremors,” wrote John Thavis, author of The Vatican Diaries. “The document clearly reflects Pope Francis’s desire to adopt a more merciful pastoral approach on marriage and family issues.”

Referring to the increasing numbers of people choosing to live together before marriage, or to have civil weddings, the bishops spoke of the need to see “the constructive elements” in those options while not viewing them as an equal substitute for Christian marriage. “In such unions, it is possible to grasp authentic family values or at least the wish for them,” they noted.

In a passage entitled “welcoming homosexual persons”, the bishops said that although the church could not support gay marriage, it needed to explore ways of making gay people feel included. “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?” the document says.

“Often they wish to encounter a church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

In its catechism, the Catholic church brands “homosexual acts … intrinsically disordered” and the pope, while encouraging a more welcoming stance towards gay people, has said nothing that deviates from that.

The relatio, released on Monday, appeared to be an attempt to balance the two factors. “Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions,” the report says, “it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.”

The Rev James Martin, a Jesuit author, said the words represented “a stunning change” in the way the church spoke of gay people. “The synod is clearly listening to the complex, real-life experiences of Catholics around the world, and seeking to address them with mercy, as Jesus did,” he told the Associated Press.

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« Reply #301 on: Oct 17, 2014, 06:32 AM »

‘Blind reporting’ of abuse allegations in Catholic church defended by officer

Elizabeth Cullen, a police officer for 28 years, breaks down in tears as she defends the practice to Police Integrity Commission

Australian Associated Press, Friday 17 October 2014 08.50 BST   

A senior police officer at the centre of hearings into the force’s relationship with the Catholic church has broken down in tears while defending the practice of “blind reporting” sex abuse.

Inspector Elizabeth Cullen was a member of the Professional Standards Resources Group (PSRG) between 1999 and 2005, a body that supported the church’s Professional Standards Office (PSO).

But Cullen, a police officer for 28 years, told the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) it was not her role to make direct reports to her superiors at the child protection squad about incidents of abuse being handled by the PSO.

Counsel assisting, Kristina Stern, on Friday asked Cullen if sex abuse victims whose cases were brought before the PSO should have been encouraged to talk to police so they could make an informed choice about making a criminal complaint.

“There was an over-arching factor that their wishes be respected,” she said, referring to abuse sufferers who requested privacy while detailing allegations.

Cullen started to cry.

“What right do we have to presume that they can’t make an informed choice on their own,” she said.

Using a system called “blind reporting”, the information about abuse incidents would be given to police without victims’ details. In some cases, the blind report said the victim did not want police involvement when in fact they did.

Cullen, who attended the PSRG meetings on a monthly basis, said she did not see it as her role to be a conduit of information to police.

She prepared the pro-forma “blind reporting” forms that were used by the PSO to pass information to police. But she told the inquiry she was never present when a complaint was taken down.

Stern asked whether as a police officer she should have taken steps to ensure all information was being given about cases. Cullen replied: “No. I don’t think so.

“It was my understanding that information was given to police on all relevant matters.”

Cullen was shown details of a 2001 case seen by the PSRG that contained information about a serial sex offender.

Asked if she advised the group that more details should be given to police, she replied that just because the PSRG meeting minutes did not reflect her advice, it didn’t mean it was not given.

The process of blind reporting worked, she said, and it was not sensible for her to assess every piece of information brought before the PSRG. If she had information that should be given to police, Cullen said she would advise PSO members, Michael Salmon and John Davoren.

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« Reply #302 on: Oct 18, 2014, 05:56 AM »

Pope Faces Key Test with Vote on Divorcees, Gays

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 October 2014, 09:03

Pope Francis was set to sort his allies from his enemies Saturday with a Vatican vote on a document drafted at the end of a fierce two-week debate over opening the Catholic Church's doors to remarried divorcees and gays.

The vote and accompanying message to the world's Catholics will close a special synod of bishops from around the world which has seen conservatives clash publicly with liberals over a Francis-backed drive to reform the Church by softening its approach to sinners.

A preliminary report on Monday made waves around the world by suggesting the Church should reach out to homosexuals, who have "gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community", outraging traditionalists who had to be reminded by the Vatican that it was a work in progress.

A fresh report Thursday summed up the reactions of 10 working groups of bishops, which mixed declarations of respect for homosexual people with fierce insistence that any opening up to sinners risked implying the Church sanctioned their behavior.

The final document, which will go to a vote, is expected to take into account at least part of the long list of amendments proposed by the bishops, but will be written by a drafting committee made up of perceived progressives appointed by Francis himself.

The fallout in the corridors of power, which Boston Globe Vatican expert John Allen described as "like a daytime soap opera", has left religious watchers wondering just how close the vote will be -- if the document passes at all.

"The Synod splits over gays and divorcees: there's a risk of an anti-pope vote," read a headline by Franca Giansoldati, Vatican expert for Italy's Il Messaggero daily, which described the vote as "a nasty test for Pope Francis."

"The risks are high. If the amendments are not inserted in the text the biggest surprise could come from the vote. The majority, for now, do not seem to be in favor -- and the count could prove fatal," she said.

- Possible 'revolution' -

Francis has called for the Church to take a more merciful approach to unwed mothers, remarried divorcees and gay people, famously saying of homosexual people, "Who am I to judge?"

German cardinal Walter Kasper, an ally of the pope's who has been pushing for reform, has said he believes the "majority" of those taking part in the synod are open to change.

But critical bishops have said the initial document placed "too much emphasis on the problems facing the family" and should instead focus on the positive aspects of lives lived according to the rules of the Church.

"Many bishops have asked that the document be thoroughly re-written. There have been such a number of negative reactions that the risk is it won't pass the vote unless its heavily revised," Marco Tosatti, who writes for La Stampa's Vatican Insider, told AFP.

"However, such are the number of proposed amendments that it would be extraordinary if it was not overhauled," he said.

The vote will reflect the attitude of the top rungs of the Church towards reform -- and ultimately towards Francis's rule, which has been coloured since his election in March last year by a determination to show the more humane side of the centuries-old institution.

This synod will be followed by a year of further consultations and a follow-up questionnaire will be sent out to diocese around the world. A second, larger synod will then be held in October 2015.

After that, the results will be handed to the 77-year-old Argentinian pope, who will have the final say in outlining the Church's stance on family matters.

Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Society of Jesus -- to which Francis belongs -- told the I.Media religious news agency to watch out for a possible "revolution" a year from now.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #303 on: Oct 19, 2014, 05:50 AM »

Controversial conservative cardinal of St. Louis says he was demoted by Pope Francis

Amanda Holpuch, The Guardian
18 Oct 2014 at 13:27 ET   

Cardinal Raymond Burke, the conservative American who holds the top position in the Vatican’s justice system, on Friday told BuzzFeed he was being demoted.

Burke, a former archbishop of St Louis, has publicly challenged Pope Francis on issues including abortion and homosexuality.

A preliminary report from the church’s extraordinary synod on the family, released on Monday, signalled a readiness to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards homosexuality, divorce and other “irregular” family situations.

More than 200 bishops contributed to the report, which said: “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?”

A day later, Burke expressed concern, and said a great number of synod fathers had objected to the contents of the report. He told the Catholic World Herald Francis was “long overdue” in making a definitive statement about suspected changes in the Catholic church.

“The pope, more than anyone else as the pastor of the universal church, is bound to serve the truth,” Burke told Buzzfeed. “The pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith.”

Burke told Buzzfeed he was being transferred from his position as prefect of the supreme tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura to be patron of the sovereign military order of Malta, though he said he had not received a formal order. He assumed his role as chief guardian of canon law in June 2008, having been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict also appointed Burke to the Congregation for Bishops in 2009. Four years later, Francis removed Burke and 13 other bishops from the 18-man group. Days after he was removed from that post, in December 2013, Burke criticised Francis in an interview with the Catholic broadcaster EWTN.

“One gets the impression, or it’s interpreted this way in the media, that he thinks we’re talking too much about abortion, too much about the integrity of marriage as between one man and one woman,” Burke said. “But we can never talk enough about that.”

When National Catholic Reporter asked Burke who told him that he was being removed from the Vatican’s justice system, he replied: “Who do you think?”

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« Reply #304 on: Oct 19, 2014, 05:55 AM »

Catholic bishops veto gay-friendly statements leaving Pope Francis the loser

Final report of Roman Catholic extraordinary synod on the family removes talk of ‘welcoming’ gay people

Lizzy Davies in Rome
The Observer, Sunday 19 October 2014   

Pope Francis appeared on Saturday night to have lost out to powerful conservatives in the Roman Catholic church after bishops scrapped language that had been hailed as a historic warming of attitudes towards gay people.

In the final report of an extraordinary synod on the family which has exposed deep divides in the church hierarchy, there is no mention – as there had been in a draft version – of the “gifts and qualities” gay people can offer. Nor is there any recognition of the “precious support” same-sex partners can give each other.

A paragraph entitled “pastoral attention to people of homosexual orientation” – itself a distinctly cooler tone than “welcoming homosexual persons” – refers to church teaching, saying there can be “not even a remote” comparison between gay unions and heterosexual marriage.

“Nevertheless,” it adds, “men and women of homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity.” They should not suffer from discrimination, it adds. But the shift in tone is clear. And, in a potentially stark sign of the discomfort provoked among many bishop, even this watered-down passage failed to pass the two-thirds majority needed for it to be approved.

One hundred and eighteen bishops voted for the text and 62 against. A Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said the voting numbers had been released at the behest of Francis, who wanted the process to be transparent.

Because the names of the bishops were not released, however, it was unclear whether the paragraph’s failure to pass was due to a protest vote by progressive bishops who had wanted to keep more of the original wording.

At any rate, in a speech to the bishops which received a four-minute standing ovation, Francis showed no sign of disappointment, insisting that disagreement and debate was an intrinsic part of the synod process. “Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these … animated discussions … if everyone had agreed with one another or had kept silent in a false and acquiescent peace,” he said.

It was the synod’s other highly controversial subject – considering whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried should be allowed to take holy communion – that included the only other sections to fail to muster the necessary two-thirds majority. Walter Kasper, a German cardinal known in media circles as “the pope’s theologian” because of his closeness to Francis, has been the key backer of a move to allow more people access to the sacraments. But, in an indication of how far his proposal was from gaining a consensus among his global peers, the sections dealing with the thorny issue were guarded and merely noted that there was a clear clash of views. “The question will be further explored,” said the report.

Thomas Rosica, Lombardi’s English language assistant, said the sections without two-thirds majorities had not been “completely rejected”. He stressed that it was “not a magisterial document” but “a work in progress” that provided the basis for another synod next autumn.

The final report will come as a blow to those in and outside the church who had hoped a corner might have been turned in the way Catholic leaders discussed and dealt with homosexuality – even if not even the most optimistic of followers had been expecting a change in doctrine, according to which “homosexual acts” are “intrinsically disordered”.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group in the United States, said it was “very disappointing that the synod’s final report did not retain the gracious welcome to lesbian and gay people that the draft of the report included”.

“Instead, the bishops have taken a narrow view of pastoral care by defining it simply as opposition to marriage for same-gender couples,” he told Reuters.

The draft released last Monday had been hailed by some church observers and gay rights groups as “a stunning change” in how the Catholic hierarchy talked about gay people. It had been written with a voice that seemed to echo closely Francis’s own, pragmatically pastoral phrase: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”

Exploring the idea of extending mercy to people considered to be in “irregular” situations, it asked whether the church was capable of offering gay Catholics “a welcoming home” and “fraternal space”, admitting that despite “moral problems” associated with them, “homosexual unions” provided “precious support” to each other.

No sooner had it been released, however, than leading conservatives began to speak out against the text. One, American cardinal Raymond Burke, criticised a lack of transparency, saying the mid-point report had not reflected the diverse views of the whole synod.

“A great number of the Synod Fathers found it objectionable,” he said in an interview.

Burke, a leading doctrinal rigorist in the church who had vocally opposed any move to ease the ban on remarried divorcees taking communion, is currently prefect of the supreme tribunal of the apostolic signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court. But he said on Friday he was to be demoted to a lesser post. Asked by the National Catholic Reporter who had made that decision, he reportedly responded: “Who do you think?”

Vatican observers say that, by calling the first extraordinary synod in nearly three decades and encouraging the nearly 200 bishops taking part to speak their minds during the fortnight-long gathering, Francis, 77, has embraced a radically more collegiate style of church governance than has been seen for decades. But although the Argentinian wanted to listen to what the bishops had to say, he may not always have liked what he heard.

Ever since his election last March, he has made clear his belief that the church needs to become more inclusive and understanding of real people’s lives if it is to survive, let alone grow.

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« Reply #305 on: Oct 19, 2014, 06:05 AM »

Vatican and Vietnam Edge Closer to Restoring Diplomatic Ties

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 October 2014, 22:46

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met Pope Francis in Rome Saturday with both saying they were committed to restoring diplomatic relations.

The country's communist regime broke off diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1975, but both sides have been working on warming relations since 2007.

The meeting marked "an important step in the process of reinforcing relations between the Holy See and Vietnam," a Vatican statement said after the meeting.

The Vatican said it welcomed the support of the Vietnamese authorities for the Catholic community, which makes up around seven per cent of the country's population of 89 million.

During his five-day visit to South Korea in August -- his first trip to Asia -- the pope called for communist countries Vietnam and China, which do not have formal ties with the Vatican, to accept a "dialogue" with Rome, insisting that Catholics did not view Asia with the mentality of "conquerors."

The Vatican had earlier hailed the "positive developments" from talks between the two sides held in Hanoi on September 10 and 11.

The papal nuncio in Singapore, Leopoldo Girelli, has been the Vatican's "non-resident pontifical representative" to Hanoi since 2011.

The pope is keen for the Church to tap into Asia, a continent where the number of Catholics, currently just 3.2 percent of the population, is rocketing.

Source: Agence France Presse

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« Reply #306 on: Oct 20, 2014, 05:27 AM »

Pope Francis Beatifies an Earlier Reformer, Paul VI

OCT. 19, 2014

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday beatified Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978 after shepherding the church through a period of internal reform amid an era of social and political change and growing challenges to the church’s traditional teachings.

The ceremony closed a two-week assembly of bishops, known as a synod, convened by Francis to discuss how the church can best offer guidance to its flock in light of the complexities faced by many families today.

The synod report approved Saturday evening revealed divisions among the bishops over changing church teachings on marriage and families. The tumultuous closed-door discussions suggested that many bishops are challenged by efforts to change traditional church teaching, such as that regarding offering communion to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, or the issues of cohabitation and same-sex couples.

In his homily Sunday, the pope quoted Pope Paul VI, who concluded the work of the historic Second Vatican Council that introduced significant reforms and changed how the church communicated with other faiths — as well as nonbelievers, the faithful and the modern world.

“By carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society,” the pope said, quoting from a 1965 apostolic letter written by Paul VI.

Change, Pope Francis said, is not to be feared. “God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways,” he said in a message to 70,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the beatification, including about 200 bishops and clerics who participated in the synod and were attending the Mass.

Giovanni Battista Montini, cardinal of Milan, was elected Pope Paul VI in 1963 following another reformist pope, John XXIII, who became a saint this year along with Pope John Paul II.

Paul VI was a pope of many firsts, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re told reporters last week. He was the first pope to stop wearing a papal tiara “to show that the authority of the pope is not tied to temporal power,” and when he sold the tiara to raise funds, “he gave these to the poor, a sign of his commitment to social justice.”

Aside from the reforms instituted by the Second Vatican Council, he cleaned house, abolishing the pontifical court and simplifying the Curia, the Vatican’s administrative arm, which Pope Francis is also trying to reform.

Paul VI understood the importance of the arts for the church and inaugurated the Vatican Museum’s collection of modern art.

He promoted Christian unity and ecumenical dialogue. He was the first pope to travel to Israel before the Vatican officially recognized the state, and the first pope to visit six continents during his 15-year papacy.

He is also remembered for his 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), which reaffirmed the church’s opposition to artificial birth control.

The beatification followed the certification in May of a miracle attributed to Paul’s intercession: the healing in 2001 of an unborn child whom doctors expected to be born with a number of birth defects. The boy, now 13, is a healthy American teenager whose identity is being withheld at the request of his parents.

A second miracle would be required for Paul VI to become a saint.

In his papacy, Paul VI tried to find common ground between the church’s progressive and conservative elements, and after the Second Vatican Council he instituted the Synod of Bishops to foster continued dialogue among clerics and the Vatican.

Beyond a personal affinity with Pope Paul VI, the current pope has chosen to bring closer to sainthood a man “who had the ability to open a climate of important discussion” on many issues, said Alberto Melloni, a Vatican expert and church historian. “He is beatifying the idea that Paul VI acted in a holy way when he opened discussion, instead of saying, ‘Stop, this can’t be debated,’ ” he added.

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« Reply #307 on: Oct 20, 2014, 05:48 AM »

Pope Francis’s healing, loving revolution is unstoppable

A minority of bishops clings to conservative ways but the Catholic church is slowly changing and will be holier for it

Austen Ivereigh   
The Guardian, Sunday 19 October 2014 19.44 BST   
The remarkable gathering of global Catholic leaders in Rome that ended on Saturday has mostly been filtered through a political lens, as a debate between factions. Thus the hopes of gay people and the divorced were raised by a swing to the liberals but dashed by the conservatives reasserting themselves. But that doesn’t capture what happened. The actual dynamic was more complex, and very different.

For the bishops who attended, assent to doctrinal orthodoxy was the starting point. What Pope Francis called “the fundamental truths of the sacrament of marriage” were never in question: before, during and after the synod, sex was for marriage, marriage was for a man and a woman, open to life, for life, and sexually faithful. There was no debate on these points. Pope Francis did not call this synod to change teaching, but to expand it to include the missing part: the “missionary” and “pastoral” dimension – the merciful, healing, loving, welcoming part of Catholicism, which those outside the faith don’t get to see. Understand why they don’t and you get the point of the synod.

Those of us who know the church know that in our parishes and schools and institutions, our pastors pastor. They tend to us, nurture us, help us and support us, whoever we are, and whatever our stage of moral development. Most of us live in the gap between who we are and who we are called to be; being a Catholic isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. The doorway is wide; and inside, on the whole, it’s warm and welcoming: a clinic for the feeble, not a club of the smug. It’s nuanced and compassionate, even if it keeps the goals clearly in the spotlight.

So why do so many people see only judgmentalism and rejection, even pharisaism? Because since the 1980s, Rome has concentrated on asserting doctrinal clarity and uniformity, partly to restore direction following divisions opened up by the second Vatican council in the early 1960s. This meant keeping out the pastoral. Bishops attended synods but the Vatican controlled the agenda. Awkward pastoral questions were asked but not discussed, and existing teaching and practice were reaffirmed.

Francis has flipped that omelette. He has brought the periphery into the centre, breaking open the Vatican to a new pastoral language. He has invited tough questions to be asked with unprecedented frankness: how to bind the wounds of the divorced, while promoting indissolubility? How to embrace gay people while celebrating marriage as a conjugal institution? How can the church be, like a good parent, both clear teacher and merciful mother? The tensions are as old as Jesus, who called people to lifelong sexual fidelity yet saw the adultress as both sinner and victim. What’s new is bringing the tension into the governance of the universal church.

A few think this is deeply misguided. Tallies of the votes on the final document reveal a small group of 25-35 “rigorists” opposed to the Francis pontificate; they yearn for the old clarity. They made a lot of noise but compared with the 160-180 who consistently voted in favour of Francis’s pastoral and missionary reset, they are a tiny number. The synod was made up overwhelmingly of pastors like Francis, who have agreed to review a whole series of practices and changes.

On two issues the synod did not get a clear green light. One group couldn’t see how the divorced and remarried could ever return to the sacraments without compromising indissolubility. Another group of African and Latin-American bishops refused to agree to treat gay people with respect and tenderness because the wording implied the existence of a gay “identity” which they cannot for cultural reasons accept. These are still minorities – perhaps 30-40 – but, combined with the rigorists, their veto ensured there would not be a two-thirds majority for three of the 62 paragraphs of the report.

But that means only that a lot more discussion and reflection are needed before the synod of bishops comes up with concrete proposals next year. What matters is that the pastoral is being brought to bear on the doctrinal: the church has decided to live in that tension. It’s a lot less tidy, but a lot more holy.

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« Reply #308 on: Oct 25, 2014, 06:56 AM »

Turin shroud was made for medieval Easter ritual, historian says

Charles Freeman believes relic venerated as Jesus Christ’s burial cloth dates from 14th century and was used as a prop

Charlotte Higgins   
The Guardian, Thursday 23 October 2014 18.40 BST   
When it is exhibited next year in Turin, for the first time in five years, 2 million people are expected to pour into the city to venerate a four-metre length of woven cloth as the shroud in which Jesus Christ was wrapped after his crucifixion, and on to which was transferred his ghostly image.

Despite the fact that the cloth was radiocarbon-dated to the 14th century in 1988, an array of theories continue to be presented to support its authenticity – including, this year, the idea from scientists at the Politecnico di Torino that an earthquake in AD 33 may have caused a release of neutrons responsible for the formation of the image.

But, according to research by British scholar and author Charles Freeman, to be published in the journal History Today, the truth is that the shroud is not only medieval, just as the radiocarbon dating suggests, but that it is likely to have been created for medieval Easter rituals – an explanation that flies in the face of what he called “intense and sometimes absurd speculation” that coalesces around it.

Freeman, the author of Holy Bones, Holy Dust: How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe, studied early descriptions and illustrations of the shroud. None predates 1355, the year of its first documented appearance in a chapel in Lirey near Troyes in France, before it was acquired by the House of Savoy in 1453 and “converted into a high-prestige relic” to shore up the power base of the insecure Alpine dukedom.

In particular, he turned up a little-known engraving by Antonio Tempesta, an artist attached to the Savoyard court, who made a meticulously detailed image of one of the ceremonial displays of the cloth to pilgrims in 1613.

“Astonishingly,” he writes, “few researchers appear to have grasped that the shroud looked very different in the 16th and 17th centuries from the object we see today.”

The Tempesta engraving, as well as a number of 15th- and 16th-century first-hand descriptions, emphasise a feature that is much less obvious now – that the figure was covered in blood and scourge marks, relating to Christ’s flagellation. These extensive markings can be explicitly related, argues Freeman, to a focus on blood in depictions of the crucifixion that emerged in the 14th century – a “dramatic” change in iconography that sharply differentiates depictions of the crucified Christ from those of earlier centuries, and which reflects revelations of a bloody, wounded Christ reported by mystics such as Julian of Norwich in the 14th century.

The original purpose of the shroud, argues Freeman, is likely to have been as a prop in a kind of medieval, theatrical ceremony that took place at Easter – the Quem quaeritis? or “whom do you seek?”

“On Easter morning the gospel accounts of the resurrection would be re-enacted with ‘disciples’ acting out a presentation in which they would enter a makeshift tomb and bring out the grave clothes to show that Christ had indeed risen,” he said.

Freeman’s idea was shored up by his study of the earliest illustration of the shroud – on a pilgrim badge of the 1350s found in the Seine in 1855. On it, two clerics hold up the shroud, and beneath is an empty tomb.

The church officially regards the shroud with an open mind: as a object to be venerated as a reminder of Christ’s passion, rather than, necessarily, the physical imprint of his body.

Next year, millions of pilgrims will beg to disagree – as they will with Freeman’s argument that places the shroud at the birth of northern European drama rather than at the dawn of Christianity, and that identifies the images on it as traces of a “crude and limited” painting of the 14th century.

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« Reply #309 on: Oct 25, 2014, 07:28 AM »

Pope Francis brands life in prison a ‘hidden’ death sentence

Agence France-Presse
24 Oct 2014 at 09:27 ET   

Pope Francis on Thursday branded life-long prison terms “a hidden death sentence” in an attack on “penal populism” that included severe criticism of countries that facilitate torture.

In a wide-ranging speech to a delegation from the International Association of Penal Law, the pontiff said believers should oppose life-long incarceration as strongly as the use of capital punishment.

“All Christians and men of good faith are therefore called upon today to fight, not only for the abolition of the death penalty — whether it is legal or illegal and in all its forms — but also to improve the conditions of incarceration to ensure that the human dignity of those deprived of their freedom is respected,” the pope said in Italian.

“And this, for me, is linked to life sentences.

“For a short time now, these no longer exist in the Vatican penal code. A sentence of life (without parole) is a hidden death penalty.”

Broadening his comments in a manner likely to enhance his reputation as one of the most liberal of popes, Francis went on to slam what he described as the risk that sentencing in many countries was becoming disproportionately severe.

“In recent decades a belief has spread that through public punishment the most diverse social problems can be resolved, as if different diseases could all be cured by the same medicine.”

Reiterating the Catholic Church’s teaching that the use of capital punishment is a sin, the pope also made what appeared to be a thinly-veiled attack on the European countries which have, at the behest of the United States, facilitated the extraordinary rendition of terror suspects to detention centres in parts of the world where they can be tortured with impunity.

“These abuses will only stop if the international community firmly commits to recognising… the principle of placing human dignity above all else,” he said.

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« Reply #310 on: Oct 28, 2014, 07:13 AM »

‘God is not a magician’: Pope says Christians should believe in evolution and Big Bang

Travis Gettys
28 Oct 2014 at 08:53 ET     

The “Big Bang” and evolution are not only consistent with biblical teachings, Pope Francis told a Vatican gathering – they are essential to understanding God.

“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything — but that is not so,” the pope told a plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

“He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment,” Pope Francis said.

The earth’s origins were not chaotic, the pontiff said, but were created from a principle of love, reported Religion News Service.

“He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous presence, giving being to every reality, and so creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the creator who gives being to all things,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said the theory of evolution did not contradict the Bible or church teachings, as creationists claim.

“God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” the pope said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

Catholic teaching has not traditionally been opposed to evolution, unlike evangelical Christianity in the U.S., although a close associate of Pope Benedict XVI criticized the scientific theory in a 2005 opinion piece published in the New York Times.

Pope Francis made the speech while unveiling a bust of Benedict, his predecessor.

The pope said biblical teachings gave humans the responsibility to care for the earth and its inhabitants.

In the Book of Genesis, God commanded Adam “to name everything and to go ahead through history,” Pope Francis said. “This makes him responsible for creation, so that he might steward it in order to develop it until the end of time.”

He warned that it was a “grave sin against God the creator” to destroy the environment, and scientists held a special responsibility to protect God’ creation.

“Therefore the scientist, and above all the Christian scientist, must adopt the approach of posing questions regarding the future of humanity and of the earth, and, of being free and responsible, helping to prepare it and preserve it, to eliminate risks to the environment of both a natural and human nature,” Pope Francis said. “But, at the same time, the scientist must be motivated by the confidence that nature hides, in her evolutionary mechanisms, potentialities for intelligence and freedom to discover and realize, to achieve the development that is in the plan of the creator.

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