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Author Topic: Pope Francis the 1st  (Read 45675 times)
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« Reply #135 on: Dec 15, 2013, 06:28 AM »

Hi All,

I am posting the following horror story about a "Christian" school that is the absolute perversion of all that Jesus taught. As you will read it is now in the process of being made into a documentary film that is still in the final stages of production. They need financial help to do so. So I am posting this story, and the trailer to their documentary which is on their website. On that website you can in fact donate whatever you can to help them, and to expose this evil to the world. Thanks for any help you can lend to them.

God Bless, Rad


Brutal offshore Christian reform school exposed in new documentary

By David Ferguson
Friday, December 13, 2013 12:11 EST

“Kidnapped for Christ” is a new documentary that tells the story of teenagers sent to an evangelical Christian boarding school outside the U.S. where school personnel attempt to rid them of feelings of same sex attraction or other “ungodly” influences.

“They mess your mind up,” said former student Deirdre Sugiuchi to Raw Story. “Prisoners have more freedom than we had.”

The “school” is Escuela Caribe, an evangelical Christian reform school that is run like a prison camp by an organization called New Horizons Youth Ministries.

Many of the students are the children of Christian parents who believe their sons and daughters’ nascent feelings of same sex attraction can be eliminated by the school’s program of Bible study, brutally hard work, exercise and physical punishment to break the students down.

Other students, like Sugiuchi, were the children of well-to-do evangelicals who were just being normal teens.

“My parents were fundamentalist Christians,” she said, “and they didn’t like the way I was turning out.”

So, at 15, Sugiuchi was sent to school in the Dominican Republic at Escuela Caribe. There were only about 40 students at the school at any given time, she said, and from the moment students arrive they are placed on a stringent system of punishments and rewards.

Students were broken down into levels, with lower level students forbidden from speaking or even looking at higher level students.

“When you start at zero level, you then had rules about who you could look at,” she explained. “You couldn’t talk to members of the opposite sex until you were on second level and you had to fulfill a wide variety of requirements to move up.”

“At zero level, you’d have to be three feet away from a staff member or a supervisor at all times. You had to ask to go from room to room. It was insane,” she said. “Prisoners actually have more freedom than we had.”

Sleep deprived and worked to exhaustion, the students are fed on a diet of “sugar and fat,” Sugiuchi said. “It was in no way adequate to the amount of manual labor we were doing. We weren’t getting the nutrients we needed.”

While only one student is known to have died at Escuela Caribe in a flash flood, Sugiuchi said that school officials pushed the students to the very brink of their physical endurance in order to make them more malleable and open to what she called a program of straightforward “brainwashing.”

“They mess your mind up,” she said. “The whole time I was down there I thought, ‘This is all going to be for the good, I must be living through this for something,’ but instead I came out incredibly traumatized.”

“People get sent off to these places and it ruins them,” she said. “I’m lucky. A lot of my friends have serious drug problems, broken relationships, broken lives, suicides, you name it.”

Treatment of the kids at Escuela Caribe often hinged on the moods and caprices of staffers, she said, so it would be hard to say who had it the worst at the school. LGBT students, however, were consistently singled out for abuse.

“That’s the thing,” she said, “the kids that were gay, most of the time they were picked on, and always kept on lower levels.”

Sugiuchi is currently working on a book, Unreformed, about her experience at Escuela Caribe. The film “Kidnapped for Christ” is premiering at the next Slamdance Film Festival, the rebel indie festival that now runs alongside the Sundance Film Festival in January. She hopes to raise awareness of these programs, which have deep ties to groups like Focus on the Family — who referred her parents to New Horizons Youth Ministries — and the Republican Party.

“If you follow the money, you’ll see that the Republicans are so, so in bed with these people,” she said. The Romney family contributes heavily to the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP), an umbrella organization for evangelical reform schools like Escuela Caribe — which was briefly closed down, then reopened under the name Crosswinds — and their Mormon equivalents.

Someday, she said, she hopes to see legislation against people sending their children to these types of schools, “but the legislation always gets stalled,” she said.


Director to Raw Story: Exposé on brutal Christian school cost me my faith

By David Ferguson
Saturday, December 14, 2013 8:00 EST

Kate Logan, the director of “Kidnapped for Christ,” a documentary exposé about a brutal offshore Christian reform school, said that she lost her Christian faith in the course of making the film.

In an interview with Raw Story, Logan opened up about how her initial intent was to make a documentary praising the school, but that the façade the Escuela Caribe presented to the world quickly crumbled when she began to interact with the students.

She first became interested in the school and New Horizons Youth Ministries at the age of 18 in 2004.

“I was a missionary working in the area,” she said. Escuela Caribe is located in the Dominican Republic, one of the most impoverished areas of the world. “And I found out about the school because you tend to notice other Americans there.”

When she first heard of the program, it sounded great.

“They told me the school was a place for kids that would either end up in jail, on the streets or dead, kids that were really in trouble,” Logan said, “And I thought to myself, what a great program, where kids can learn about another culture and get away from bad influences back home.”

A few years later, Logan was in film school and thought, “Hey, that would be a good project, to go down and make a short, kind of heartwarming documentary about these rough-and-tumble kids learning about Dominican culture together and getting therapy.”

“I had no idea what the school was really like or what their history was,” she said.

But as she began to do research, to film and meet with former graduates of the program, she said, “Slowly the story kind of unravelled about what was really going on at the school and all its dark past and what was still going on at the time.”

Students at the small school are consigned to life in a rigidly codified set of levels. As former student Deirdre Sugiuchi told Raw Story on Friday, “When you start at zero level, you then had rules about who you could look at. You couldn’t talk to members of the opposite sex until you were on second level and you had to fulfill a wide variety of requirements to move up.”

“At zero level, you’d have to be three feet away from a staff member or a supervisor at all times. You had to ask to go from room to room. It was insane,” she said. “Prisoners actually have more freedom than we had.”

Former students told tales of being prey to every sadistic whim of their superiors, of beatings and punishing exercise regimes, as well as endless work projects that the students were never compensated for.

“All of their stories were so similar,” said Logan, “that it was clear this wasn’t just one person exaggerating or one incident that happened one time. The abuses were systematic.”

The school’s program, she said, hasn’t changed, in spite of the fact that it shut down and reopened under a new name, Crosswinds. Crosswinds still works from same charter it used to and maintains the strict level segregation between students.

Believing that she was still making a pro-Escuela Caribe film, the school staff gave her full access for student interviews. Very quickly, Logan said, she began to see signs that all at the school was not as administrators promised.

“There were just a lot of things that were very obviously wrong right away,” she said.

Two students spoke particularly honestly to the documentary team: 17-year-old David, sent to Escuela Caribe because his parents thought he was gay, and 16-year-old Tai, who was African-American and outspoken, the latter trait landing her in frequent trouble at the school.

“We got really lucky with David and Tai,” Logan said. “Because David had only been there four or five weeks, so he wasn’t completely terrified yet of the insanity there. He still had hope, I guess?”

“Right away it was apparent that this kid should never have been accepted to any type of reform program in the first place,” she said. “He was a 4.0 student and he was upset that he couldn’t talk to his parents. He was worried what his boss at the store in the mall he worked at was going to think. His concerns were that of a good kid.”

“Another student was Tai,” Logan said. “She would just say what was on her mind and get in trouble for it. She was, like, ‘You can have my body, but you can’t have my soul.’”

The plight of the kids there was so horrifying that ultimately Logan lost faith not just in New Horizons and Escuela Caribe, but in all of Christianity. When Raw Story spoke with Escuela Caribe alumna Deirdre Sugiuchi on Friday, she said, “You should talk to Kate [Logan]. We both lost our faith there.”

“It was really tough to feel that I was betraying them” by making the film that she did, Logan said, that “in spite of the evidence I had that what they were doing was harming kids, I still felt like I was ‘undoing’ the work of fellow Christians.”

It took a while, she said, to accept that she wasn’t betraying people who had trusted her, but rather exposing a wrong that was being done. That process, however, led her in time to lose faith in Christianity and in religion altogether.

“The kids that they were hurting really needed someone to speak out for them,” she said. That became her spiritual mission. “That was way more important than potentially harming people who were harming others.”

“I no longer consider myself a Christian,” she said. “I think what I found at Escuela Caribe was a fairly large factor in that.”

But, she added “We have a lot of Christians working on the film and dedicating a lot of time and effort into it. The message of the film is not that Christianity is bad and did this. It’s that these people did something really wrong, things that never should have been done in the name of anything.”

UPDATE: Singer Lance Bass, formerly of ‘N Sync, is the film’s executive producer. He told Raw Story via email, “”People will be absolutely shocked when they see this film. It’s a powerful story that sheds light on a secretive industry that harms kids and exploits families. I hope it can reach a wide audience so that these abusive reform schools will get shut down.”

Please click here to watch the trailer on their website where you can also donate.

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« Reply #136 on: Dec 15, 2013, 07:13 AM »

Pope Francis says he is no Marxist

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, December 15, 2013 7:50 EST

Pope Francis said he knew a lot of “good” Marxists but was no communist himself, following criticism of his diatribes against unfettered capitalism from conservative commentators in the United States.

“Marxist ideology is wrong. But in my life I have met a lot of Marxists who are good people, so I do not feel offended,” Francis said in an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa published on Sunday.

He said his condemnations of the inequality caused by the current global economic system were not intended to be an expert analysis and were only a reiteration of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.

“That does not mean being a Marxist,” he said.

US radio host Rush Limbaugh labelled as “pure Marxism” a text published by the pope last month in which he warned that an unfair economic system “kills” and warned that unregulated capitalism was “a new tyranny”.

The criticism of the pope, who witnessed the effects of a devastating economic collapse first hand in his homeland Argentina, was repeated by members of the Tea Party movement and the television channel Fox News.

Francis is himself a moderate conservative and was a fierce critic of the leftist-inspired Liberation Theology movement in Latin America, although he has recently appeared to reconcile with its leaders.

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« Reply #137 on: Dec 16, 2013, 06:29 AM »

Pope says he is not a Marxist, but defends criticism of capitalism

Pope Francis says trickle-down economics do not help the poor, in a wide-ranging interview with Italian daily La Stampa

Lizzy Davies in Rome, Sunday 15 December 2013 13.39 GMT      

Pope Francis has rejected accusations from rightwing Americans that his teaching is Marxist, defending his criticisms of the capitalist system and urging more attention be given to the poor in a wide-ranging interview.

In remarks to the Italian daily La Stampa, the Argentinian pontiff said the views he had espoused in his first apostolic exhortation last month – which the rightwing US radio host Rush Limbaugh attacked as "dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong" – were simply those of the church's social doctrine. Limbaugh described the pope's economics as "pure Marxism".

"The ideology of Marxism is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don't feel offended," Francis was quoted as saying. Defending his criticism of the "trickle-down" theory of economics, he added: "There was the promise that once the glass had become full it would overflow and the poor would benefit. But what happens is that when it's full to the brim, the glass magically grows, and thus nothing ever comes out for the poor ... I repeat: I did not talk as a specialist but according to the social doctrine of the church. And this does not mean being a Marxist."

In the 95-minute interview, conducted last Tuesday by the newspaper's Vatican correspondent, Andrea Tornielli, but published on Sunday, Francis touched on many of the issues that have dominated his first nine months as head of the Catholic church, such as the suffering of the poor and his reform agenda.

He also took the opportunity to knock down speculation that he was considering taking the radical step of creating a female cardinal, saying he had no idea where the suggestion had come from. "Women in the church must be valued, not 'clericalised'," he said. "Those thinking about women cardinals are suffering a bit from clericalism."

Francis, who was elected as the Catholic church's first Latin American pope in March, turns 77 on Tuesday, and will soon be celebrating his first Christmas as pontiff. He said that his thoughts during that time went above all to Christians living in the Holy Land, where he is expected to go next year.

He said he would like to mark the 50th anniversary of Paul VI's pioneering visit in 1964 – the first papal pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the first time a reigning pontiff had flown on a plane – along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian church.

He added that violence targeted at Christians in some parts of the world was forming the basis of what he called a new ecumenism of blood. "In some countries they kill Christians because they wear a cross or have a Bible, and before killing them they don't ask them if they're Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox," he said.

"Those who kill Christians don't ask you for an identity card in order to know what church you were baptised in. We must take this reality into account."

Christmas, said Francis, was a time of hope and tenderness that should shake people from indifference when they are confronted with suffering in the world. Railing against food wastage, he said that at a recent general audience he had seen a mother with a hungry baby who was crying and had told her to feed the child in spite of being in front of the pope. "She was modest," he said. "She did not want to breast-feed him in public while the pope was passing by … I would like to repeat what I said to that woman, to humanity: feed those who are hungry! May the hope and tenderness of Christmas shake us from indifference."

Francis, who has made no secret of his desire to change the way the Vatican is run, said the Council of Cardinals – the eight advisers he picked to suggest ways of implementing change – was at the stage of concrete proposals and would be raising their suggestions at their next meeting with him in February. "I am always present at the meetings … but I do not speak, I just listen, and this does me good," Francis told La Stampa.

Speaking of the scandal-plagued Institute for Religious Works (IOR), known as the Vatican bank, the pope said the mission to make it more transparent "was on the right road" but left a question mark hanging over what its future role would be. "Regarding the future of the IOR, we will see," he said. "The Vatican central bank, for example, is supposed to be Apsa [the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which manages the papacy's assets]. The IOR was established to help with works of religion, missions and the poor churches. Then it became what it is now."

Last week Moneyval, the Council of Europe's body monitoring safeguards against money laundering and terrorist funding, gave the Vatican a mixed report, welcoming efforts to clean up its financial institutions but expressing surprise that the Holy See's regulators had not carried out more inspections of the Vatican bank or of Apsa.

Asked about speculation that he may change the rules that bar remarried divorcees from receiving communion, Francis said: "The exclusion from communion of divorcees in a second marriage is not a punishment. It's good to remember that. But [contrary to speculation] I did not speak of this in the exhortation." The pope said marriage as a whole would be discussed in the coming months and many things would be examined in more detail and clarified.

The interview with La Stampa is not the first time Francis has chosen to speak to the media. In September, he talked extensively to Antonio Spadaro of La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal, while the newspaper La Repubblica published what it described as an interview with him in early October. The article was later taken down from the Vatican's website, with a spokesman, Federico Lombardi, saying: "The information in the interview is reliable on a general level, but not on the level of each individual point analysed."

The journalist, Eugenio Scalfari, later said he had neither recorded the interview nor taken notes but had tried to relay the pope's thoughts faithfully after their meetings. Tornielli, in a video on La Stampa's website, said he had recorded his papal interview.

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« Reply #138 on: Dec 17, 2013, 06:34 AM »

December 16, 2013

Pope Replaces Conservative U.S. Cardinal on Influential Vatican Committee


ROME — Pope Francis moved on Monday against a conservative American cardinal who has been an outspoken critic of abortion and same-sex marriage, by replacing him on a powerful Vatican committee with another American who is less identified with the culture wars within the Roman Catholic Church.

The pope’s decision to remove Cardinal Raymond L. Burke from the Congregation for Bishops was taken by church experts to be a signal that Francis is willing to disrupt the Vatican establishment in order to be more inclusive.

Even so, many saw the move less as an effort to change doctrine on specific social issues than an attempt to bring a stylistic and pastoral consistency to the church’s leadership.

“He is saying that you don’t need to be a conservative to become a bishop,” said Alberto Melloni, the director of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna, Italy, a liberal Catholic research institute. “He wants good bishops, regardless of how conservative or liberal they are.”

Cardinal Burke, who came to the Vatican in 2008 after serving as archbishop of St. Louis, is a favorite of many conservative Catholics in the United States for his upholding of church rites and traditions favored by Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Burke’s preference for the long train of billowing red silk known as cappa magna, and other such vestments, has, however, made him seem out step with Francis, who has made it clear through example that he prefers more humble attire.

Last week, Cardinal Burke also seemed to create more substantive daylight between himself and the pope, giving an interview in which he raised concerns about comments by Francis that the church should reduce the focus on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“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,” Cardinal Burke said of the pope in an interview with EWTN, a Catholic broadcaster. “But we can never talk enough about that.”

Since his election as pope in March, Francis has received glowing news media coverage and widespread adulation from the faithful for putting a kinder, more inclusive face on a global institution that had been widely perceived as out of touch. He has expressed an intention to reorganize and overhaul the Roman Curia, the bureaucracy that governs the church.

Cardinal Burke still serves as the prefect of the Vatican’s highest canonical court, but analysts say his removal from the Congregation for Bishops will sharply reduce his influence, especially over personnel changes in American churches.

“The Congregation for Bishops is the most important congregation in the Vatican,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and the author of “Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.”

“It decides who are going to be the bishops all over the world,” he added. “This is what has the most direct impact on the life of the local church.”

To replace Cardinal Burke, Francis chose Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, an ideological moderate with a deep knowledge of the Vatican but also with pastoral experience. Father Reese noted that Cardinal Burke had been a leader of American bishops arguing that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be barred from receiving communion, while Cardinal Wuerl had taken an opposite tack.

“That certainly is in line with the pope, who has said that communion is not a reward for being good,” Father Reese said. “It is a sacrament of healing to help people.”

The pope also removed Cardinal Justin Rigali, the former archbishop of Philadelphia, from the Congregation for Bishops. From his committee post, Cardinal Rigali has long been a crucial player in shaping the American hierarchy. He stepped down as archbishop of Philadelphia amid a scandal over his handling of priest abuse cases there.

And Francis reconfirmed the congregational posting for Cardinal William J. Levada, a former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Like Cardinal Wuerl, Cardinal Levada is considered a moderate.

Some recent appointments have disheartened liberals within the church, particularly the pope’s choice in October to approve the Rev. Leonard Blair as the archbishop of Hartford. He was central in a doctrinal investigation that reprimanded a group of American nuns who were deemed to have drifted from church teaching.

Many church observers saw the hand of Cardinal Burke in that selection, as they did in the appointment of Salvatore J. Cordileone, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, as archbishop of San Francisco.

In an interview in Washington last week, Cardinal Wuerl suggested that the pope was altering the way the bishops’ congregation functioned. For example, Francis is already surveying a broader range of bishops than those in the congregation, the cardinal said.

“When it comes to future bishops, he is asking a number of sources,” he said.

Asked whether all of the pope’s changes mattered if Cardinal Burke still had such influence in appointing bishops, Cardinal Wuerl smiled.

“Don’t we have to give this pope time?” he said.

Jim Yardley reported from Rome, and Jason Horowitz from Washington. Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting from Rome, and Laurie Goodstein from New York.

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« Reply #139 on: Dec 17, 2013, 10:59 AM »

Pope invites homeless for birthday breakfast

Vatican City (AFP) ‎12‎/‎17‎/‎2013‎ ‎4‎:‎23‎:‎04‎ ‎PM

A photo released on December 17, 2013 by the Vatican shows Pope Francis (R) speaking with Monsignor Konrad Krajewski (2ndL) and three homeless whom the pontiff invited for breakfast

A photo released on December 17, 2013 by the Vatican shows Pope Francis (R) speaking with Monsignor Konrad Krajewski (2ndL) and three homeless whom the pontiff invited for breakfast

Pope Francis invited four homeless people to mass and breakfast in the Vatican on his 77th birthday on Tuesday, which he celebrated with Vatican staff and their families, Vatican radio reported.

The pope hosted the breakfast at St Martha's Residence, the Vatican hotel where he has stayed since his election, spurning the more grandiose Apostolic Palace where leaders of the Catholic Church usually live.

The four homeless people were among the dozens who spend every night camped out around St Peter's Square.

Photos released by the Vatican showed Francis speaking with three homeless man, including one holding a dog.

The Vatican said in a statement that the occasion was "particularly friendly" and the Vatican's "prime minister" -- newly-appointed Secretary of State Pietro Parolin -- wished the pope a happy birthday.

The pontiff, the first ever Latin American pope, is expected later to meet members of his favourite football team, San Lorenzo, who have flown over after their national championship victory in Argentina.

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« Reply #140 on: Dec 19, 2013, 07:02 AM »

Pope Francis trashes the ‘prosperity gospel’: Pompous Christians are ugly pagans

By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, December 18, 2013 11:25 EST

At his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis urged Christians to imitate Jesus Christ by being humble and “small among the small.”

“It is an ugly thing,” he said, according to Vatican Radio, “when you see a Christian who doesn’t want to humble himself, who doesn’t want to serve, a Christian who struts about everywhere: it’s ugly, eh? That is not a Christian: that’s a pagan!”

He warned Christians against placing themselves above others and called on the faithful to be in solidarity with the poor.

“Jesus Himself reminds us: He who has fed, welcomed, visited, loved one of the smallest and poorest of people, has done it for the Son of God,” the pope said.

Watch video, uploaded to YouTube by Rome Reports, below.
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« Reply #141 on: Dec 21, 2013, 07:20 AM »

December 21, 2013

Pope Warns Against Mediocrity, Gossip in Vatican


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis warned Vatican administrators Saturday that their work can take a downward spiral into mediocrity, gossip and bureaucratic squabbling if they forget that theirs is a professional vocation of service to the church.

Francis made the comments in his Christmas address to the Vatican Curia, the bureaucracy that forms the central government of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church. The speech was eagerly anticipated given that Francis was elected in March on a mandate to overhaul the antiquated and oftentimes dysfunctional Vatican administration.

Already, heads have started to roll: Just last week, Francis reshuffled the advisory body of the powerful Congregation for Bishops, the office that vets all the world's bishop nominations. He removed the arch-conservative American Cardinal Raymond Burke, a key figure in the U.S. culture wars over abortion and gay marriage, and also nixed the head of Italy's bishops' conference and another hardline Italian, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, earlier axed as head of the Vatican office responsible for priests.

Other changes are on the horizon: In the coming weeks Francis will name his first batch of cardinals and in February will preside over the third summit of his "Group of Eight" cardinal advisers, who are expected to put forward a first round of proposals for revamping the Holy See bureaucracy.

Francis has said he wants a Vatican Curia that is more responsive to the needs of local bishops, who have long complained of Rome's slow or unhelpful interventions in their work caring for souls. Francis has said he wants the church as a whole to be less consumed with moralizing than showing mercy to the needy, wherever they are.

Francis thanked the cardinals, bishops and priests gathered in the Clementine Hall for the Christmas address for their work, diligence and creativity. Deviating from his prepared text, he said "There are saints in the Curia!"

But he also reminded them that Vatican officials must display professionalism and competence as well as holiness in their lives.

"When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow drift downwards toward mediocrity. Dossiers become full of trite and lifeless information, and incapable of opening up lofty perspectives," he said. "Then too, when the attitude is no longer one of service to the particular churches and their bishops, the structure of the Curia turns into a ponderous, bureaucratic customs house, constantly inspecting and questioning, hindering the working of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God's people."

Francis also repeated a warning he has issued on several occasions in his morning homilies at the Vatican hotel where he lives: an admonition against gossiping. The secretive, closed world of the Vatican is a den of gossip, as revealed publicly last year by the leaks of papal documents from then-Pope Benedict XVI's butler.

Using terminology familiar to those present, Francis called for Vatican officials to exercise "conscientious objection to gossip."

"Let us all be conscientious objectors, and mind you I'm not simply moralizing! Gossip is harmful to people, our work and our surroundings."

Much gossiping of late has been focusing on the work of the two commissions of inquiry Francis named over the summer to advise him on reforming the troubled Vatican bank and rationalizing the Holy See's overall finances and administrative structures.

Four big-name consulting firms — Promontory Financial Group, KPMG, EY and McKinsey & Co. — have been contracted for various projects.
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« Reply #142 on: Dec 22, 2013, 10:47 AM »

'He Wants Pastors''

By Susie Madrak December 20, 2013 5:08 pm

Let's put it this way: This is the Vatican equivalent of directing U.S. senators to answer phones at one of their satellite offices. It should be rather humbling for the famously proud members of the Curia.

This pope continues to make his point in some very specific ways:

    As part of Pope Francis’ pastoral reforms, all 44 senior members of the Roman Curia, or governing body, must take turns hearing confession at a church near the Vatican.

    There is even speculation that Francis himself could hear confessions at the Church of the Santo Spirito in Sassia, just outside the Vatican walls, where his bishops and cardinals have been directed to perform the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

    “I think it’s likely the pope will discreetly hear confessions at some point,” said Giacomo
    Galeazzi, a veteran Vatican watcher from Italy’s La Stampa newspaper. “The pope has long been an advocate of the pastoral aspects of the ministry and now the Curia will as well.”

    Galeazzi and others said the change, announced Sunday (Dec. 15), is part of a wider reform of the Vatican bureaucracy under Francis that includes the appointment of Archbishop Pietro Parolin as secretary of state. The two share a similar approach with an emphasis on humility.

    The Curia, which has a powerful and central governing power at the Vatican, is seeing its role change.

    “The pope doesn’t want bureaucrats,” Galeazzi said. “He wants pastors.”
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« Reply #143 on: Dec 23, 2013, 07:11 AM »

Vatican journalist with front pew view of momentous year for papacy

Giovanna Chirri expected a Vatican meeting in February to be a dry affair, then Pope Benedict said meas ingravescente aetate

Lizzy Davies in Vatican City, Sunday 22 December 2013 14.52 GMT   

When Giovanna Chirri, seasoned Vatican correspondent for the Italian news agency Ansa, turned up to the consistory on 11 February, she wasn't expecting much. The media value of the event was, on paper, strictly limited: Pope Benedict XVI was due to fix a date for the canonisation of the 15th century Otranto martyrs, but that was about it. It was a holiday in the Vatican. Chirri's shift was looking quiet.

After the pope had made his saintly announcement, however, she began to realise that something else was going on. The pontiff had stayed seated and was speaking, in Latin, about a decision he had made that was "of great importance for the life of the church".

Chirri's ears pricked up. The Latin she had learned at school came in handy.

When he uttered the words meas ingravescente aetate – "my advanced age" – the journalist knew that she was to witness a historic moment. "I felt ill," Chirri says. "I had a very violent physical reaction … I don't know; it was like I understood first of all with my gut. I knew that something sensational was happening."

In a brief, tremulously delivered speech, Benedict had done what no head of the Catholic church had done for almost 600 years: resigned. It was, as the dean of the college of cardinals, Angelo Sodano, said, "a bolt from the blue", and it was Chirri who broke the news to the world.

By 8pm on 28 February, Benedict had left office, and by 13 March the world's 1.2 billion Catholics had a new pope: the first pontiff to come from Latin America, to be a Jesuit, and to take his papal name from the patron saint of Assisi, Francis.

Despite that bold profile, few could have then predicted quite how different the new pontiff would turn out to be. "I didn't know him," said Chirri. As it did to most Vatican watchers, the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio came as something of a surprise to Chirri, albeit a pleasant one. "And so began the great adventure of getting to know him," she said.

That adventure has not been limited to the Vatican press corps. Catholics around the world, Christians of varying denominations and people of different faiths, as well as secularists, have been caught up in the buzz of a fledgling papacy that has brought a strikingly new tone and style to the church. After nearly eight years of Benedict's intellectual, distant and increasingly brow-beaten leadership, the world has watched agog as his genial, wise-cracking successor pursues his mission to bring the church back down to earth and push its pastoral mission out to the fringes of society.

In the first nine months of his papacy, the world has watched Francis shun the apostolic palace in favour of a plain Vatican guesthouse; kiss women's feet; make phone calls to unsuspecting citizens; choose to use a secondhand Ford Focus, and carry his own bags on to the papal plane.

For Chirri, a devout Catholic, one of the moments that stands out is Francis's trip to Lampedusa, the Mediterranean island infamous for migrant arrivals – and deaths. "It was his very first trip [outside Rome]. I was there and I must say it made a real impression because he took this problem of the poor, personified by refugees – who represent one of the great emergencies of the contemporary world – and put them at the centre of the world's attention and the church's priorities," says Chirri, adding that "with a single act, like so many other things he's done", Francis has already had an impact.

Single acts may not be enough to engender the kind of sweeping reform of the Vatican that Francis has been urged to deliver. But mindful of the so-called Vatileaks scandal that plagued his predecessor in his final months, Francis has made it clear that cleaning up the Roman curia was a priority. Within a month of his election, he struck a blow for collegiality in church governance with the creation of an eight-strong panel of cardinals to advise him on how to improve the running of the Vatican's troubled bureaucracy, as well as the church as a whole. What he wanted, he was quoted as saying in October, was a church "with not just a vertical but horizontal organisation".

An indication of the direction in which this council of curial outsiders could take the church came in December, when it recommended Francis form a panel of experts to advise on the fight against clerical sex abuse – a move campaigners said was long overdue but welcome nonetheless. Another target of his reformist drive is the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), the scandal-plagued body better known as the Vatican bank.

Expectations, then, are high. Chirri believes this pope wants to and can deliver real change. But "with one proviso, which is that it won't be [him] alone who will do it", she says.

Reform of the global church depends on much more than just him, Chirri continues, and also on the degree of internal obstacles and dissent he faces. "They say bureaucracy kills all revolutions and the same goes for the Vatican," she says. "There are lobbies; there are powers; there are all those cliques who contributed in part to the tormenting of Benedict's pontificate. They're still there. They haven't gone anywhere."

For Chirri, who has been covering the Vatican since 1994 and used to have the feeling that nothing much would ever change, the past year has been a rollercoaster ride. There have been points at which she felt she was "living history". And, though for her it was a "very big shock, both personally and professionally", she has come to the conclusion that Benedict's resignation was an act of greatness that paved the way for renewal.

Having covered John Paul II's slow physical decline, and his successor's almost relentless torments, Chirri's beat is now an altogether more lively place. "Now, with this hitherto triumphant pontificate," she says, smiling, "it's clear that I'm having more fun."

A Vatican year to remember

February Pope Benedict XVI becomes the first pontiff to resign for almost 600 years. He points to old age and deteriorating strength as the reasons for stepping down. On 28 February he heads to the historic retreat of Castel Gandolfo and leaves office at 8pm.

March Cardinals from around the world fly to Rome for a conclave to elect the 266th pope. Many of those from outside the Roman curia urge reform to avoid further scandals. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, is elected on 13 March. He soon makes clear his desire for "a poor church", eschewing papal luxuries and refocusing debate on the marginalised in society.

April In what is greeted by one observer as the most important step in by the church in 1,000 years, Pope Francis appoints a panel of eight international cardinals to advise him on governance and Vatican reform.

May The Vatican's unprecedented era of papal cohabitation begins as Benedict moves into a former convent on Vatican grounds. Francis makes his most serious attack on unbridled capitalism, lambasting "the cult of money" and the "dictatorship of an economy which is …lacking any truly humane goal".

June Francis sets up commission to review the Institute for Works of Religion (the Vatican bank). Two days later, a senior Vatican cleric is arrested on suspicion of plotting to smuggle €20m (£17m) into Italy from Switzerland.

July In his first papal visits outside Rome and Italy, Francis goes to Lampedusa- – where he inveighs against a "globalisation of indifference" – and then to Brazil, where he urges pilgrims to reach out "to the fringes" of society. Back home the papacy has its first hiccup as the Vatican denies gay sex claims relating to the pope's representative at its bank .

August Francis appoints Pietro Parolin, a career Vatican diplomat, as his secretary of state, breaking with the scandal-ridden era of Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict's righthand man.

September In an interview with a Jesuit journal, Francis sets out his vision for a "new balance" in the Catholic church, with a less condemnatory attitude towards gay people, divorcees and women who have had abortions.

October The eight cardinals picked by Francis as advisors fly to Rome for their first series of meetings with him, in what is likened to a "papal G8", marking the beginning of the reform agenda in earnest.

November Francis hits out at the church's "excessive centralisation" and rails against unfettered capitalism's "economy of exclusion and inequality" in his first solely authored document, an apostolic exhortation.

December In the first concrete move from the council of cardinals, Francis approves creation of expert panel to fight clerical sex abuse. He is named 'person of the year' by both gay rights magazine the Advocate and Time.

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« Reply #144 on: Dec 24, 2013, 05:59 AM »

Francis meets Benedict XVI on first Christmas as pope

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, December 23, 2013 15:42 EST

Pope Francis visited his predecessor Benedict XVI on Monday for an informal Christmas greeting, as the Argentine pontiff prepares to celebrate his first Christmas as leader of the world’s Roman Catholics.

Francis met with the 86-year-old Benedict in a former monastery building on a hill inside the Vatican City walls where the pope emeritus has taken up residence following his historic resignation earlier this year.

The two men could be seen praying side by side in a chapel inside the residence and chatting amicably on white sofas with a Christmas garland in front of them in photographs released by the Vatican press service.

Both were dressed in the white cassocks used by popes.

Francis came to “give his best wishes for the Christmas celebrations”, the Vatican said in a statement.

The 77-year-old pope earlier on Monday compared the Catholic Church to an expectant mother during a homily at one of his daily masses in the residence where he has been staying since his election by fellow cardinals in March.

“Like the Virgin Mary, the Church this week is expecting a birth,” Francis said.

“Is there space for the Lord or is there space only for parties, shopping and making noise?” he asked.

The Christmas festivities begin with the unveiling on St Peter’s Square of a traditional Nativity scene named in honour of Latin America’s first ever pontiff at 1530 GMT.

Francis is expected to watch the ceremony from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking the square and light a candle for peace.

Then from 2030 GMT the Argentine will celebrate the solemn Christmas Vigil mass in St Peter’s Basilica.

On Wednesday, Francis delivers the “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and the World”) blessing at 1130 GMT on St Peter’s Square — where he first appeared after his momentous election by fellow cardinals on March 13.

Popes often use their “Urbi et Orbi” blessings to announce specific prayers, for instance, for the victims of conflicts or for global economic justice.

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« Reply #145 on: Dec 25, 2013, 07:21 AM »

Pope addresses first Christmas message to those hoping for better world

Francis is greeted by screams as he delivers message at St Peter's, saying thoughts at Christmas turn to the most vulnerable

John Hooper in Vatican City, Wednesday 25 December 2013 12.28 GMT   

Pope Francis has addressed his first Christmas message to every man or woman "who hopes for a better world, who cares for others while humbly seeking to do his or her duty".

He appeared at the vast balcony at the front of St Peter's basilica to be greeted by screams fit for a pop star. Below him in St Peter's Square was a crowd brimming with enthusiasm for the new pontiff and his humble, ascetic and socially aware form of Catholicism.

That view of his faith was at the heart of his address. "Looking at the child in the manger, our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable, victims of wars, but we think too of the elderly, of battered women, of the sick," he said.

"He exemplifies what a pope should be," said Marian Merrett from Belleville, Ontario. "He's like Jesus. Jesus too fed the poor and cared for the sick. He exemplifies what Jesus stood for. He lives like Jesus."

In his sermon at the Christmas Eve mass, Francis had returned to his favourite theme, declaring that the shepherds who according to the gospels were the first to see Jesus after his birth "were the first because they were among the last, the outcast".

"This is the pope we've been waiting for for a long time," said Anna Maria Pistorio as she waited by the barriers erected in St Peter's with her arm around her son, Luca, who has Down's syndrome. Pistorio, a postal worker, and her husband had travelled down from Vimodrone near Milan to be with their other son for Christmas and had taken the opportunity to come and listen to the pope.

"The churches have been emptying out," said her husband, Palmiro Gattella. "But this pope has given vigour to the church, and hope to many. The church has come down from among the powerful to be with the people."

The loudest cheering – and most of the screaming – came from a group of schoolgirls at the very front of the crowd who had arrived from a school in Rhode Island run by the Legionaries of Christ – a group that has much to fear from this papacy. Among the topics awaiting the pope's attention in the new year is a meeting in Rome at which the organisation – wracked by accusations of sexual abuse – is expected to be split up.

Francis was unable to shed totally the trappings of papal authority. The balcony of the mighty basilica was draped with rich velvet for the occasion. The basilica and the square exude pomp and majesty.

But the hallmarks of his style – the direct, almost conversational manner of speech and concern for those on the margins of society – were prominent in his address to the crowd, estimated by the Vatican as 70,000.

As is customary, he appealed for peace in a long list of countries topped by Syria. He also mentioned the Central African Republic "often forgotten and overlooked", South Sudan, Nigeria "rent by constant attacks which do not spare the innocent and defenceless", and appealed to God for a favourable outcome to peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

But he also had a word for migrants and expressed the wish that "tragedies like those we have witnessed this year, with so many deaths at Lampedusa, never occur again". The pope prayed that the spirit of Bethlehem would "touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realise the gravity of this crime against humanity."


Pope Francis: Those Who Hate Walk in 'Darkness'

By Diane Sweet December 24, 2013 10:50 pm

Pope Francis rang in his first Christmas at the Vatican, preaching a message of love and forgiveness.

Pope Francis gave his first Christmas Eve midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, emphasizing acceptance and humility throughout his sermon. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” the pontiff said, quoting from Isaiah. The grace that Jesus brought to the world, he said, “made salvation possible for the whole human race.” In his first nine months as pope, Francis has made an effort to promoting a less judgemental identity for the Catholic Church.

NBC News:

    "Of gay priests, he has asked, "who am I to judge?" He has washed the feet of prisoners, refused to move into the papal palace and celebrated his recent birthday breakfast with three homeless men. On Monday, he made a Christmas visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict and asked him to pray for him.

    "(He) is bringing a new era into the Church, a Church that is focusing much more on the poor and that is more austere, more lively, a Church that cares about everyone in the world," said Dolores Di Benedetto, who travelled from the pope's homeland, Argentina to hear him speak.

    “I thought it would be very nice to hear the words of this pope close up and to see how the people are overwhelmed by him," said Giacchino Sabello, one of more than 10,000 people who packed St. Peter's Basilica or stood outside watching the ceremony on mega-screens."

A CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday found that 88% of American Catholics approve of how Francis is handling his role as head of the 1.2 billion-member church.

Nine months into his papacy, the Argentine-born Francis has captured attention with crowd-pleasing acts of compassion, from embracing a severely disfigured man, to washing the feet of juvenile delinquents, to hosting homeless men at his birthday Mass this month.

According to one study, Pope Francis was the most talked about person on the Internet this year, and even atheists have expressed appreciation for the 77-year-old pontiff.


American Catholics give a thumbs-up to Pope Francis and his gay-friendly, ‘Marxist’ agenda

By Travis Gettys
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 10:25 EST

It seems that American Catholics love the seemingly liberal Pope Francis and the direction he’s taking their church.

A pair of recent polls found the new pontiff’s approval rating among his U.S. followers to be about as close to full approval as candy, ice cream and puppies.

A CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday found that 88 percent of American Catholics approve of the pope nine months into his term.

That’s not far off the survey’s 3 percent margin of error from a Washington Post-ABC poll released earlier this month, which found a 92 percent approval rating among American Catholics.

Pope Francis, who has urged Catholics to shift their focus from culture war issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion to care for the poor and vulnerable, was the most talked about person on the Internet this year, and he was named person of the year by both Time magazine and The Advocate.

The pope drew criticism from American political conservatives for his recent remarks on capitalism and trickle-down economics, but more than 85 percent of American Catholics say he’s neither too liberal nor too conservative.

Nearly two-thirds of American Catholics agree with the pope about capitalism’s effects on the poor, the poll found.

William Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League, offered a tepid defense of Pope Francis against right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, who attacked the pontiff’s agenda as “pure Marxism.”

“Catholic League has never, ever, ever been after anybody for criticizing the pope or priest or a bishop,” said Donohue, who is frequently presented on TV as the voice of American Catholics. “We get involved when you hit below the belt, when you start becoming insulting. He didn’t like the pope’s views on economics (and) Rush Limbaugh is entitled to that.”

Regardless of what Limbaugh or Donohue have to say, about three-quarters of all Americans regard Pope Francis favorably, likely making him the most well-regarded religious figure in the U.S., and 86 percent say he’s in touch with the modern world.

By comparison, more than half of U.S. Catholics agreed that Pope John Paul was out of step with the world in 2003, near the end of his 26-year papacy.

The pollsters said it’s difficult to compare the popularity of one pope to another, but Pope Francis has grown more popular in recent months, after making public comments on gays, atheists and economics.

A Pew Research poll found 79 percent of American Catholics viewed the pope favorably, about the same after his March election.

That’s similar to the highest ratings achieved by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who was viewed favorably by 83 percent of U.S. Catholics in 2008 and 76 percent in February 2013.

Pope John Paul II, who will be declared a saint in April, surpassed 90 percent favorability ratings in several polls in the 1980s and 1990s before his handling of the church sex abuse scandal eroded his popularity, including a 64 percent rating in 2003.

Pope Francis is more than twice as popular than President Barack Obama, who recorded a personal low 41 percent approval rating this month, and about eight time more popular than Congress, which earned an 11 percent approval rating – including an astonishing 84 percent disapproval rating – in another poll earlier this month.

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« Reply #146 on: Dec 25, 2013, 08:34 AM »

What race was Jesus? No one knows for sure

Jesus can be safely categorized as a Jew, born about 2,000 years ago in the Middle East in what is now Palestinian territory. Therefore, many scholars believe that Jesus must have looked “Arab,” with brownish skin.

The Associated Press

For two thousand years, he has been worshipped and adored. Multitudes look to him each day. And yet nobody really knows the face of Jesus.

That has not stopped humanity’s imagination, or its yearning to draw Jesus as close as possible. So when this Christmas season brought a torrent of debate over whether Jesus was a white man, it struck a sacred nerve.

“That statement carries a whole lot of baggage,” said Rockwell Dillaman, pastor of the Allegheny Center Alliance Church in Pittsburgh. “Political baggage, spiritual baggage, emotional baggage. Especially in a culture like ours where the relations of white people to other ethnicities has often been marked by injustice and distrust.”

Why should we even care what Jesus looked like? If his message is God and love, isn’t his race irrelevant? Some say God wanted it that way, because there are no references to Jesus’ earthly appearance in the Bible.

But the debate was a reminder of just how difficult it is for anyone to transcend race — even a historical figure widely considered to be beyond human.

“I find it fascinating that that’s what people really want to know — what race was Jesus. That says a lot about us, about Americans today,” said Edward Blum, co-author of “The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America.”

“Jesus said lots of things about himself — I am divine, I am the son of man, I am the light of the world,” Blum said. “What race is light? How do you racially categorize that?”

Jesus can be safely categorized as a Jew, born about 2,000 years ago in the Middle East in what is now Palestinian territory. Therefore, many scholars believe that Jesus must have looked “Arab,” with brownish skin.

“Today, in our categories, we would probably think of him as a person of color,” said Doug Jacobsen, a professor of church history and theology at Messiah College.

That view was contested by Fox News host Megyn Kelly while critiquing a column titled “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore.”

“Jesus was a white man, too,” Kelly said, launching a national discussion about history, tradition and just how white Christmas should be.

Her statement drew responses from impassioned rebukes to scholarly rebuttals.

“It’s just an incorrect statement,” Jacobsen said. “It’s an ignorant statement, not an intentionally false statement.”

Wrote Jonathan Merritt in The Atlantic: “If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening.”

If this is so obvious, though, why does a Google image search for “Jesus” reveal countless pictures of a European man with straight hair, fair skin and, often, blue eyes? Why is that the prevalent image in America, from stained-glass windows to movies to children’s books?

The first pictures of Jesus appeared several hundred years after his death, Blum said. Some depicted him in animal form, as a lion or a lamb. Blum said that from about 700 to 1500 A.D., various Jesus images proliferated throughout Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa — including hosts of black Jesus pictures.

“People in every culture portray Jesus looking like people they knew,” said Jacobsen. “They depict him as one of their own.”

Dillaman, the pastor, has a book that offers Bible images from different world cultures — a last supper where everyone is Thai; images of Jesus as Chinese or African.

“All these ethnicities are trying to capture Jesus in their own skin, if you will,” he said.

But in humanity’s yearning to identify with the holy, another path gets overlooked.

“Our calling is to know God as he is and to love God with all of our being and be conformed to the image of Christ,” Dillaman said, “rather than to make him look like us.”

By the 1500s, Blum said, 90 percent of Christians were European. As Europe colonized the globe, they took white Jesus with them.

In America, white Jesus images started to become widespread in the early 1800s, according to Blum, coinciding with a dramatic rise in the number of slaves, a push to move Native Americans west, and a growing manufacturing capability.

Today, a white Jesus image is ingrained in American culture. “When we live in a world with a billion images of white Jesus, we can say he wasn’t white all we want, but the individual facts of our world say something different,” Blum said.

“Jesus is white without words. It’s at the assumption level,” Blum said. “Lodged deep down inside is this assumption that Jesus was a white man. That’s where I think (Kelly) is speaking from.”

There also is a desire to fit Jesus into modern racial classifications. In America today, this logic goes, Jews are white. Jesus was a Jew, so Jesus must be white.

Yet Jews did not originate in Europe and for centuries were considered to belong to a nonwhite race of their own. Only recently have they been moved into America’s “white” column, along with Irish and Italians.

“The categories of white and black, coming out of the American experience, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to apply them to Jesus,” said Joseph Curran, an associate professor of religion at Misericordia University.

“The best inference is what part of the world he was from — he looked like a Palestinian because he was from that part of the world,” Curran said. “Does that mean he was black or white? I don’t think those categories matter much.”

For Carol Swain, a scholar of race at Vanderbilt University and a “Bible-believing follower of Jesus Christ,” the whole debate is totally irrelevant.

“Whether he’s white, black, Hispanic, whatever you want to call him, what’s important is that people find meaning in his life,” Swain said.

“As Christians we believe that he died on the cross for the redemption of our sins,” she said. “To me that’s the only part of the story that matters — not what skin color he was.”
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« Reply #147 on: Dec 26, 2013, 07:12 AM »

Ancient burial box claimed to have earliest reference to Jesus

Limestone burial box is typical of first century Jerusalem and has chiselled on side "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus'

Matthew Kalman in Tel Aviv, Wednesday 25 December 2013 16.41 GMT   

For 2,000 years, pilgrims and archaeologists have hunted for physical evidence of Jesus and his family, without success.

But now an ancient burial box claiming to contain the earliest reference to the Christian saviour is about to go on public display in Israel after its owner was cleared of forgery. It has not been seen in public since a single, brief exhibition in Toronto in 2002.

The modest limestone burial box, known as an ossuary, is typical of first-century Jerusalem, and is owned by Oded Golan, an Israeli antiquities collector. Chiselled on the side are the words "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus."

James the Just was the first leader of the Christians in Jerusalem after the Crucifixion. He was executed for apostasy by the local rabbinical court.

At that time, Jews were not buried but laid in a cave. The bones were collected after a year and placed in an ossuary. Thousands have been discovered, some of them inscribed with names to identify whose bones they contain. One other ossuary mentions a brother.

"This is the oldest evidence that mentions the name of Jesus Christ," said Golan, who bought the box in the 1970s but did not realise its significance until Sorbonne professor Andre Lemaire noticed it in Golan's collection. Lemaire published his findings in 2002 and the ossuary was briefly displayed at a Toronto museum, causing a worldwide sensation.

But sceptics questioned its authenticity. In 2003, the Israel Antiquities Authority seized the ossuary and appointed an expert committee who dubbed it a fake. Golan was arrested and charged with forging the mention of Jesus.

After a 10-year investigation and criminal trial, Golan was found innocent of forgery in 2012. Despite the verdict, doubts remain.

"Because of the differences in the depth and the clarity and the kerning [spacing] between the first half of the inscription that mentions James son of Joseph, and the second half, I'd be willing to wager that the second half was added in modern times," said Prof Christopher Rollston of the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem.

But other experts disagree.

"The inscription is written in the Jewish script, it was done with a sharp instrument and I think it was done by the same hand. It is an authentic inscription," Prof Gabriel Barkay of Bar-Ilan University explained.

Golan cites expert evidence from the trial showing the patina - a biological crust formed on ancient objects - inside the grooves of the inscription.

"There is no doubt that it's ancient, and the probability is that it belonged to the brother of Jesus Christ," said Golan.

Although Golan's trial ended last year, the ossuary was returned only a few weeks ago by the Israel authorities.

Golan plans to put it on public display, together with the expert opinions from the trial, so that scholars and the public can decide for themselves whether this box did truly contain the bones of the brother of Christ – a unique piece of concrete evidence of the family of Jesus.

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« Reply #148 on: Dec 26, 2013, 07:59 AM »

December 25, 2013

Pope, Off Script, Nods to Atheists in Holiday Call for World Peace


ROME — Pope Francis used the first Christmas address of his papacy on Wednesday to make a broad call for global peace and an end to violence in Syria and parts of Africa, urging atheists and followers of other religions to join together in this common cause.

On a windy Christmas Day, Francis spoke from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica as a throng estimated at 70,000 people listened below. The traditional address, known as “Urbi et Orbi,” Latin for “to the city and the world,” offered the pope an opportunity to give Christmas greetings to the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and draw attention to issues that concern him — in this case, the universal desire for peace.

“True peace is not a balance of opposing forces,” Francis said. “It is not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment.”

In the nine months since he became pope, Francis has generated global excitement among Catholics, and others, with his humble demeanor and his shift in tone from the more strident papacy of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, whose resignation in February stunned the Catholic world.

Francis has regularly attracted huge crowds in Vatican City, and almost overnight he has emerged as a major figure on the global stage, surprising many Catholics with his nonjudgmental tone on issues like homosexuality and divorce, and his focus on the plight of the world’s poor. He has also been unpredictable, telephoning ordinary people who have written him letters, embracing a badly disfigured man at St. Peter’s and making unannounced visits in Rome.

He proved unpredictable again on Wednesday, when he went off script to include atheists in his call for peace, rare for a Catholic leader.

“I invite even nonbelievers to desire peace,” he said. “Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace.”

This week, Francis visited Benedict, who lives in an apartment inside the Vatican, and offered a private Christmas greeting. Last Christmas, it was Benedict who appeared on the central balcony, offering an address that had some overlapping themes with Francis’ message. Benedict, too, called for an end to violence in Syria, while also speaking out for religious freedom in China.

Francis broadened his peace message to call for an end to violence in Syria, as well as in the Central African Republic, where Christians and Muslims have clashed in a country that he described as “often forgotten and overlooked.” He cited the rising tensions and violence in South Sudan, calling for “social harmony,” and he asked for a “favorable outcome” to peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis. He also renewed his focus on the plight of migrants, some the victims of human trafficking, others fleeing war and poverty to try to reach Europe.

Francis called attention to victims of natural disasters, especially Philippine typhoon victims, while renewing his call to protect the environment, which he said was “frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity.”
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« Reply #149 on: Dec 30, 2013, 06:57 AM »

Syria’s Assad sends message to pope


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a private message to Pope Francis on Saturday in which he expressed his “determination” to defend Syria’s citizens from religious extremists, Syrian state media said.

The pope has made numerous appeals for peace in war-torn Syria since his appointment in March, while Assad’s forces continue to battle for control of the country against rebel groups intent on his overthrow.

The message was passed on through a Syrian government delegation that held talks at the Vatican with the pontiff's Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and foreign affairs official Dominique Mamberti.

"The delegation brought a message from President Assad for the Holy Father and explained the position of the Syrian government," a Vatican statement said.

In the message, Assad expressed his government's "determination to exercise its right to defend all its citizens, whatever their religion, against the crimes committed by the takfiri (Sunni Muslim extremist) bands who attack them in their homes, in their places of worship and in their neighbourhoods,” the official Syrian Arab News Agency said.

Assad's regime prides itself on its secularism. While the rebels are mainly Sunni, the government draws much of its support from Assad's own Alawite minority, as well as from Christians and other minorities.

‘Foreign interference’

The message also railed against foreign intervention in Syria, condemning the "military, logistic and material support being provided to the terrorists by neighbouring countries" in an allusion to the aid being provided to the rebels through Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

Assad said the conflict could be resolved only by a "national dialogue between Syrians without foreign interference, because the Syrian people are the sole master of their own destiny".

Assad’s message came after Pope Francis used his first "Urbi et Orbi" speech on Christmas Day to plead for humanitarian aid access in Syria and an end to the violence.

"Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fuelling hatred and vengeance," the 77-year-old pontiff said.

"Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering, and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid."

The conflict is estimated to have killed more than 126,000 people and displaced millions since it first started out as peaceful anti-regime protests in 2011.

Earlier this month, the pontiff called for prayers for 12 nuns seized from their convent in Syria.

In September he organised a global day of prayer for peace in Syria, speaking out against the prospect of Western military intervention.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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