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« Reply #210 on: Apr 02, 2014, 06:20 AM »

‘Holy Grail’ in Spanish church faces skeptical inquisition from historians

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 2, 2014 7:50 EDT

Claims that the Holy Grail has been found after sitting for 1,000 years in a Spanish church face a tough inquisition from doubtful historians.

Visitors flocked to the museum of the San Isidro basilica in Leon after a new book said it contained the chalice from which Jesus Christ sipped at the Last Supper.

Experts on Tuesday poured doubt on that dramatic claim by two Spanish historians, saying the Grail — subject of tales from Medieval times to Indiana Jones and Monty Python — was a myth, not a real drinking vessel.

“The Grail legend is a literary invention of the 12th century with no historical basis. You cannot search for something that does not exist,” Carlos de Ayala, a medieval historian at the Madrid’s UAM university, told AFP.

The cup joined a list of hundreds of pretenders to the title of Holy Grail, including one in the eastern Spanish city of Valencia.

Made of onyx and encased in gold and precious stones, the goblet in Leon has been known as the chalice of the Infanta Dona Urraca, daughter of Fernando I, king of Leon in the mid-11th century.

- ‘Kings of the Grail’ -

The historians Margarita Torres and Jose Manuel Ortega del Rio identified it as the prized Biblical relic in their book “Kings of the Grail”, presented last week.

“All the scholars with whom I have discussed this announcement have evinced surprise at what we read in the news, which is why I will be interested to see what is actually written in the book,” said Therese Martin, a US academic who has written a history of the San Isidoro complex.

“Medievalists tend to understand the legends of the Grail in a symbolic rather than a historical way.”

Ortega and Torres said Egyptian parchments led them to identify the upper part of the chalice, which is formed from two goblets joined end to end, as the Grail.

“Perhaps the researchers’ book reveals new sources that have gone unnoticed until now,” said Martin, a medieval art historian at Spain’s national research centre CSIC.

“But even if the Infanta Urraca had believed that one of the ancient goblets that form the chalice was the Grail, it would be difficult to support such a theory nowadays.”

The museum’s director, Raquel Jaen, said the cup has been taken off display while curators prepare an exhibition space large enough to accommodate the crowds that flocked there after the authors unveiled their study.

“Some people who come are sceptical and others are curious to know more about how the research was carried out, while others come for religious reasons,” she said.

Local clergyman Antonio Trobajo, a public relations official for the Diocese of Leon, said he hoped the cup would not be exploited for “the promotion of tourism purely for the sake of curiosity”.

“It is irrelevant to faith whether it is authentic or not,” he told AFP.

“To me as a believer it makes no difference at all whether the cup of Christ is here or in Valencia or elsewhere, because I will continue to believe, not in the object but in the person.”

- Stolen from Jerusalem -

Torres said the Leon chalice was stolen from Jerusalem and taken to Cairo by the Fatimid Caliphate.

When a famine swept Egypt in 1054, an emir in Spain sent food to the Caliphate and asked for the chalice in return.

He then gave it as peace offering to Fernando, a powerful Christian Spanish king.

Torres and Ortega themselves admitted there are 200 supposed Grails in Europe alone, and attempted to debunk some of those contenders.

“None of the others relies on such a solid basis,” Ortega del Rio said.

Jaen said the claims were “very important not only for our museum but for the city,” despite the scepticism.

“The research was very much based on scientific methods. It is for others to evaluate its conclusions and tell us whether they are valid or not.”

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« Reply #211 on: Apr 03, 2014, 06:28 AM »


Queen arrives in Italy and will meet Pope Francis for first time

Queen will have lunch with President Giorgio Napolitano before her private audience with pope in Vatican

Lizzy Davies in Vatican City
theguardian.com, Thursday 3 April 2014 08.45 BST      

The Queen has arrived in Italy for her first overseas visit in more than two years, a day-long trip that will see her meet Pope Francis for the first time.

Wearing lilac and looking relaxed, the Queen landed at Ciampino airport with the Duke of Edinburgh and was driven to the presidential palace of the Italian head of state, Giorgio Napolitano. The two heads of state are having a private lunch at the Quirinale before her private audience with the pope later on Thursday.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will be received by the 77-year-old pope in a papal study rather than the lavish apostolic palace where Francis met Barack Obama last week. On this occasion, the Queen is not expected to wear black or a mantilla (lace veil).

It is the Queen's first foreign trip since she went to Australia in 2011, and the first meeting between the supreme governor of the Church of England and the head of the Roman Catholic church since 2010, when emeritus pope Benedict XVI made a state visit to Britain.

The Queen did not attend his Argentinian successor's inauguration last March, and was instead represented by the Duke of Gloucester. But she has a long history of papal meetings, having made her first visit to the Vatican as Princess Elizabeth in 1951, where she was received by Pius XII, and presided over an unprecedented thaw in relations between the UK and Holy See.

During her reign, the Queen has been received by a pope three times at the Vatican: by John XXIII in 1961, by John Paul II in 1980 and again in 2000. The first encounter with the Polish pope marked the first time a British monarch had made a state visit to the Vatican, a landmark gesture reciprocated two years later when the pontiff made a pastoral visit to the UK.

The Queen's meeting with Francis, therefore, will be her seventh with a leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

Nigel Baker, Britain's ambassador to the Holy See, described the visit as a "reaffirmation" of the ties between the Holy See and the UK, noting that it was taking place in the centenary year of the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two, which occurred in 1914.

However, the visit is not without its potential tensions. "Thursday's meeting comes at a time when, on the surface, relations between the Catholic church and the Church of England are at an all-time high. But dig a little deeper and issues arise," said Dr Rebecca Rist, papal expert from the University of Reading, who singled out the CoE's ordination of women priests and push for female bishops.

Another issue that some say could set the two heads of state on a collision course is the status of the Falkland Islands, the British territory in the South Atlantic over which Britain and Argentina went to war in 1982.

As cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis spoke out about the ongoing row in blunt terms in 2012, paying tribute to Argentine soldiers who had died in the conflict and accusing Britain of having "usurped" the islands.

But since becoming pope he has steered clear of such proclamations and diplomatic observers expect that approach to continue. "The Vatican has been very clear with us, including in the last week and at a very senior level, that that longstanding neutrality on the [Falklands] issue remains in force," said Baker.

Although the papal audience is likely to dominate the headlines, the Queen is in Rome at the invitation of president Napolitano. The two veteran heads of state were supposed to see each other last spring before the widely respected former Communist was due to finish his seven-year mandate but the Queen had to cancel due to ill health. But as Napolitano was re-elected for a surprise second term, the two – who have already met four times in their current capacities – have another chance to catch up.

Napolitano, who is 88, holds the monarch in high regard, using a dinner in 2012 at the British ambassador's residence in Rome to praise her and express gratitude for the royal family's support for the Italian resistance movement during the second world war. The Queen acceded to the throne in 1952.


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« Reply #212 on: Apr 05, 2014, 06:32 AM »


Vatican to investigate sexual allegations against Cardinal Keith O'Brien

Pope sends Holy See's sex crimes prosecutor Charles Scicluna to look into claims of sexual misconduct by Scottish prelate

Lizzy Davies in Rome
theguardian.com, Friday 4 April 2014 21.53 BST   

A Vatican-appointed bishop will fly into Scotland next week to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct surrounding Cardinal Keith O'Brien, it has emerged.

O'Brien's successor as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Leo Cushley, announced the unusual step in letters sent to his clergy this week, according to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR).

The Pope's spokesman, Federico Lombardi, told the Guardian he had "nothing to add" to the report, which said that, following a request from Pope Francis, the Maltese auxiliary bishop Charles Scicluna would visit the archdiocese from 8-10 April.

According to the NCR, Cushley's two letters said Scicluna, the Vatican's former sex crimes prosecutor, would "listen to and report the testimony offered by past and present members of the clergy … concerning any incidents of sexual misconduct committed against them by other members of the clergy whomsoever."

The bishop – who co-represented the Holy See at a fierce public grilling by a United Nations panel of experts in January – has asked those wishing to speak to him to "prepare their narrative in writing", Cushley reportedly added. The letters reportedly do not mention O'Brien by name.

The move comes more than a year after O'Brien resigned amid allegations published in the Observer of sexual misconduct from three priests and one former priest. The Vatican subsequently ordered him to spend a period of time in "prayer and penance".

Last month, one of the men appealed directly to Pope Francis to intervene, describing the church as a "formidable machine" and accusing officials of having "passed the buck, misrepresented the truth, engaged in cover-up and … shamelessly procrastinated".

"I want to ask Pope Francis can you sort this out?" the man told the Observer.

As the Argentinian pontiff marked his first year on the papal throne last month, his response to the sexual abuse scandal was singled out by many observers as a blind spot in an otherwise impressive record.

In a statement, Cushley reportedly said Scicluna's visit was "a positive step towards truth and eventual reconciliation". "This may not be an easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do," he added.

A spokesman for the archdiocese did not return requests for comment.


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« Reply #213 on: Apr 10, 2014, 06:27 AM »


Francis looks to heal Church with two pope saints

AFP
By Jean-Louis de la Vaissiere
04/10/2014

Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis aims to unite conservative and reformist strands of Catholicism with the first canonisation of two popes this month -- an impressive masterstroke that has already stirred dissent in some quarters.

Conferring sainthood on John XXIII and John Paul II means bringing together two distinct schools of thought on what a pope should be -- a humble parish priest figure or a globetrotting, charismatic superstar.

John Allen, a Vatican affairs expert at the Boston Globe in the United States, has written that the joint canonisation shows Francis's "inclusive spirit".

"Francis is speaking not just to the outside world but to rival camps within the Catholic fold who see John XXIII and John Paul II as their heroes -- meaning liberals and conservatives, respectively," he said.

Just a few months into his reign, Francis broke with tradition last year by dramatically propelling the canonisation case for John XXIII -- known as "Good Pope John" and a pontiff with whom he shares similarities.

Less widely known than Poland's Karol Wojtyla, Italy's Angelo Roncalli played a key role in modernising Catholicism in the 1960s and to this day inspires progressives who want a more down-to-earth Church.

- 'Sainthood now!' -

The two popes will be canonised together in St Peter's Basilica on April 27, with many pilgrims -- anything from hundreds of thousands to a few million -- expected.

Rome city authorities are deploying thousands of police officers and setting up four giant screens in the city centre so pilgrims can follow the canonisation mass.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, who last year became the first pontiff to resign since the Middle Ages, could also attend, meaning two living and two deceased popes would be present at the historic ceremony.

Enthusiasts can follow the action on the dedicated website www.2papisanti.org which has even been coming out with daily vignettes depicting the two popes preparing for sainthood as comic-book characters.

While sainthood appeared a foregone conclusion for John Paul II from the moment a vast crowd of mourners chanted "Santo Subito!" (Sainthood Now!) at his funeral in 2005, the result for John XXIII was less obvious.

With his canonisation announcement in July 2013, Francis confirmed two miracles attributed to John Paul II in the traditional procedure for sainthood, but crucially skipped a step for John XXIII.

Francis declared the Italian pope, who only had one supposed miraculous healing to his name, so widely venerated already that he did not need a second miracle -- a rare loophole under Catholic Church rules.

"It highlights the fact that the devotion was not very widespread", said Marco Tosatti, a Vatican expert for the La Stampa daily, suggesting that fewer people praying to John XXIII meant less chance of miracles.

"He wanted to make someone he really likes a saint."

The move has irritated Wojtyla's Polish fans who say it overshadows their hero -- a divisive figure who critics say turned a blind eye to paedophile priests and waged a campaign against leftist clergymen.

Vatican conservatives have also expressed concern about bending the rules on sainthood, seeing this as the latest example of maverick behaviour from a pope who has shown impatience with tradition.

- Political flair -

Bergoglio has frequently expressed admiration for John XXIII, a former Vatican diplomat known as the driving force behind the reformist Vatican II Council.

He has also eulogized -- although less often -- John Paul II as a "missionary" and a "tireless preacher".

Vatican experts say that the double canonisation shows "political flair" by Pope Francis but it remains to be seen whether his efforts to unite Catholicism pay off.

Experts also point to some similarities between John XXIII and John Paul II, who both showed a tradition-breaking style tempered with conservatism on doctrine -- similar to Pope Francis.

But expert Bruno Bartoloni said John Paul II's fame overshadows that of John XXIII so much that the latter could end up being "a bit of a detail" at the ceremony.

"There was a veneration in Italy, he was extremely popular. Taxi drivers used to have his image on their dashboards! But now that generation is gone," he said.


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« Reply #214 on: Apr 10, 2014, 08:47 AM »

Prominent Jesuit: Pope Francis’s first major issuance ‘almost a direct refutation’ of the GOP

By Eric W. Dolan
RawStory
Thursday, April 10, 2014 9:20 EDT

Pope Francis’s first major publication can be read as an attack on the Republican philosophy of low taxes for the wealthy and reduced support of welfare programs, according to a prominent Jesuit professor.

During a panel discussion at Georgetown University last month, American Jesuit and Boston College professor David Hollenbach was asked how the faithful should engage with the poor in light of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

“I think there are multiple dimensions,” Hollenbach replied. “One of course is to find ways to help people who are members of the Church find a way to be in contact, become friends with those who are poor — an experiential dimension. That’s very important. But I don’t myself think that is going to solve the whole problem, because I don’t think it is going to be — as much as the document says it is the responsibility of every Christian to become friends with the poor, I don’t think it is actually likely to happen very much, or at least to happen as much as it’s needed.”

Christians also needed to examine the structure of society, and how political institutions treated the least among us, he added.

“There is an enormous amount of interesting material in this document [the Evangelii Gaudium], not focused as the central spotlight of the document, but… this document deals with solidarity and its relationship to subsidiarity. I mean, in a certain way that could be written almost as a direct refutation of the recent Republican budget proposal of a year ago. It is a direct challenge to some of the fundamental arguments that are being made in the United States Congress about structures.”

The pontiff released his Evangelii Gaudium, or Joy of the Gospel, last year. The 224-page document called for a “return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.”

“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems,” Pope Francis wrote in the first major document to reflect his own vision for the Catholic Church.

The pope also attacked the theory of supply-side economics, which holds that reducing taxes on the wealthy helps everyone by increasing capital investment and consequently increasing job growth. The theory was advocated most prominently by President Ronald Reagan.

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” the pope said. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Hollenbach noted that Catholics had talked about altering the structure of society before, citing “Economic Justice for All,” a pastoral letter published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1986. But the calls for economic reform fell on deaf ears.

“People said, ‘Oh, I really agree with the part about the Bible, but I don’t buy all that stuff they said about the market,’” he explained. “And they wrote it all off.”

Click to watch:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=+David+Hollenbach+on+Pope+Francis%27s+Evangelii+Gaudium+
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« Reply #215 on: Apr 11, 2014, 05:48 AM »


Pope Francis says human trafficking is 'a crime against humanity'

Police from around the world and religious leaders pledge to work together and to fight against human trafficking

Lizzy Davies in Vatican City
theguardian.com, Thursday 10 April 2014 18.23 BST   

Pope Francis has described human trafficking as "a crime against humanity" as international police chiefs and religious figures pledged in the Vatican to work together to fight modern-day slavery.

At the end of a two-day meeting, organised by the bishops' conference of England and Wales and chaired by the archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Pope Francis met privately with four women, all former sex workers who were the victims of trafficking.

In his address, the Argentinian pontiff said: "Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity."

Attended by the home secretary, Theresa May, as well as Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, the conference was designed to encourage cooperation between the Catholic church and law enforcement officials on the ground.

The pope's backing for the project was invaluable, said Hogan-Howe, not only for the moral stance it would send and the network of 1.2 billion Catholics it would reach but also for his sheer pulling power.

"If I'd asked 20 police chiefs from Thailand [and] Australia to travel to London, they may have, but I can guarantee that if the pope shows his interest, people will be interested. And that leadership is so powerful," he said.

The pope's backing of the conference could help move human trafficking up the agenda of governments throughout the world, added Hogan-Howe. "Apart from its mere statement, it encourages governments to pass laws. It seems to me that by making such a declaration it encourages governments to take this as a very high priority."

The conference heard that only 1% of human trafficking victims currently come forward and the church believes it can play an important role in providing sanctuary for them, as well as support in reintegration, regularisation and psychological recovery.

Participants of the conference have dubbed themselves the Santa Martha group because many were accommodated in the Vatican guesthouse, or Casa Santa Marta, where the pope lives. They have agreed to meet again, in London, in November, said Nichols.


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« Reply #216 on: Apr 12, 2014, 06:42 AM »

Pope Francis asks forgiveness for child sex abuse by Catholic priests

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, April 11, 2014 9:04 EDT

Pope Francis on Friday personally asked forgiveness for child sex abuse by priests — the first time he has made such an apology since being elected last year.

“I feel compelled… to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children,” the pope said at a meeting with members of a children’s charity, Vatican Radio reported.

Francis said the number of guilty priests was “quite a few in number” but “obviously not compared to the number of all the priests”.

“The Church is aware of this damage,” he said.

“It is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed,” he added.

Francis was meeting with members of International Catholic Child Bureau, which works to protect the rights and dignity of children worldwide.

Thousands of cases of abuse by priests have come to light over the past decade and the Catholic Church is regularly accused of trying to cover up the crimes.

But the Vatican has vowed a zero-tolerance approach and has begun implementing prevention and detection measures to root out abuse, although this varies widely between different countries.

Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI had also made a personal apology for the abuses.


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« Reply #217 on: Apr 24, 2014, 06:28 AM »

Rome braces for 800,000 to make pilgrimage to double canonization ceremony

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 16:31 EDT

Rome is getting ready for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and dozens of foreign delegations visiting the Vatican on Sunday for an historic event — the double canonisation of popes John Paul II and John XXIII.

Italy’s interior ministry said it is expecting 19 heads of state, 24 heads of government and 800,000 pilgrims.

“It will be an event of global significance,” Rome mayor Ignazio Marino said in the run-up to the ceremony that will confer sainthood on the two late pontiffs.

Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, head of the Vatican agency for pilgrims, on Wednesday said: “This is an event that Rome has never seen in its history — the canonisation of two popes in the presence of two living popes”.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, who last year became the first pontiff since the Middles Ages to step down, is expected although the Vatican said the elderly ex-pope has not yet made up his mind whether he will attend.

Rome city hall said local authorities have put in place a 7.8 million euro ($10.8 million) plan for increased visitors that began before Easter on Good Friday on April 18 and will run until labour day on May 1.

For the period of the canonisation, the city’s plan is to boost public transport with extra buses on Saturday and Sunday and run the metro system around the clock.

Nineteen giant screens are being set up around the city to follow the ceremonies in different languages including Arabic, French, Italian, Polish and Spanish.

- ‘Stress’ for Rome -

The mayor’s office is awaiting 4,300 coaches and there were will be special trains and flights to the city.

Some pilgrims will even arrive by boat to the port of Civitavecchia near the Italian capital.

“From Poland alone, we are expecting 1,700 coaches, 58 charter flights and five special trains,” said Maurizio Pucci, an official from Rome city hall, saying the canonisation will put the city under “stress”.

The interior ministry will deploy 2,400 security officers and there will be around 2,000 extra local police officers in the streets.

Law enforcement are also expecting an influx in pickpockets from across Italy to take advantage of the concentration of foreign tourists.

A “security corridor” will be set up along the main avenue leading up to the Vatican to allow through police, official delegations and ambulances.

St Peter’s Square will be closed to pedestrians on Saturday and access for pilgrims to the ceremony will only begin on Sunday at 530 AM (0330 GMT).

More than 2,600 volunteers from the civil protection agency will take turns helping visitors, giving out four million water bottles to tourists and pilgrims.

They will be helped by 600 volunteers from Catholic organisations, hundreds of doctors and nurses and around 1,000 cleaning personnel to keep streets tidy.

Vatican radio has said that alongside its spiritual programming, it will be transmitting public information announcements in different languages for pilgrims.

The result of the arrivals is already visible in rental prices, with the web portal Casa reporting the average for a furnished flat being rented out for the canonisation weekend up between 137 and 173 percent from previous weekends.

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« Reply #218 on: Apr 25, 2014, 06:38 AM »

Birthplace of 'good pope' John XXIII prepares for post-sainthood invasion

Thousands expected to descend on Sotto Il Monte, home town of sharecroppers' son who went on to become popular pontiff

Lizzy Davies in Sotto Il Monte Giovanni XXIII and Remi Adekoya in Wadowice
the Guardian, Thursday 24 April 2014 18.05 BST   
  
Gimmy Schiavi is trying to explain the function of the Casa del Pellegrino (Pilgrim House) in Sotto Il Monte, but his phone is ringing off the hook.

"As soon as possible," he advises one woman inquiring when she should book for a group of elderly locals to come for a visit. "Because May is already looking very busy."

He gives her the options for a visit with guided tour: €25 (£20) with lunch and €12 without. "We're getting many calls about many different things," says Schiavi. "The 27th is a fundamental date – for us, it's just a starting point – but it's clear that the requests are many. People want to find out what we offer, because we are rather new."
Pope John XXIII standing in front of his throne at the Vatican Pope John XXIII standing in front of his throne at the Vatican. Photograph: AP

In this little town in northern Italy, near the foothills of the Alps, preparations are in full swing for the biggest date in its history – the biggest, at least, since 28 October 1958, when Angelo Roncalli, fourth child of Marianna and Giovanni from the house on via Colombera, became pope. The son of sharecroppers went on to turn his four and a half year pontificate into one of the most important of the 20th century and earned legions of admirers as the down-to-earth "Good Pope John". Today, his name is written on the hillside, Hollywood-style, in white lettering, and his picture hangs, benevolently, over the ice-creams in the Pilgrim House cafe.

On Sunday, before a crowd of hundreds of thousands in St Peter's Square, Pope Francis is to canonise this popular Italian pontiff alongside John Paul II, recognising them both as saints. And Sotto Il Monte – total population around 4,300 – where Roncalli was born and raised for the first 10 years of his life, is bracing for an invasion. Between 5,000 and 6,000 pilgrims are expected to flood into town on the day, while Schiavi is expecting last year's 100,000 visitors to double in 2014 and "hopefully" stay at that level in the years to come.

Ever since the middle ages, places associated with the lives of saints have benefited economically from their attraction to pilgrims seeking bed, board, and, very often, relics. "That idea of business going alongside popular piety and devotion goes all the way back," says Dr Rebecca Rist, papal historian at the University of Reading.

But Assisi this is not. While St Francis's Umbrian home town now lives off the tourist industry, shuttling in pilgrims and art lovers on escalators with piped music, Sotto Il Monte doesn't even have a hotel. All its sites can be visited for nothing. The clearest examples of commercial anticipation are to be found in the small shop in John XXIII's Casa Natale, the rustic stone building in which he grew up: two commemorative canonisation medals for €55 and €45, and a new-look "pilgrim's bag" complete with scarf, rosary and guide for €12. It is hardly a cynical money-making machine. "Oops!" exclaims one of the assistants, upon seeing that a picture of Roncalli has tumbled out of its red velvet display case. "The pope's fallen over."

Often described simply as Il Papa Buona, the friendly pontiff who went walking around Rome and endeared himself to ordinary people in much the same way as Francis today, John XXIII is regarded by his admirers as one of the most courageous and important popes in history. Roncalli, who had spent much of his career as a Vatican diplomat in countries including Bulgaria, Turkey and France, called the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) in 1962 and died less than a year later. But the process of change he set in motion outlived him, proving key to the church's ability to retain a degree of relevance in the modern age.

Monsignor Claudio Dolcini, Sotto Il Monte's parish priest, hopes the canonisation will fuel a fresh interest in the real John XXIII and an understanding of him that goes beyond the "limited" idea of the Good Pope. "If this man began a work of this importance [Vatican II], consciously, despite his advanced age, it was because he had realised … through his experience as a traveller, as a nuncio, as a representative of the pope in the world, that the moment had come for the church either to update itself or increasingly risk showing the distance between it and the modern world," he says.

In an attempt to ease pilgrims' way around the quiet roads of Sotto Il Monte, the Pilgrim House – established in 2012 – has set out a route that takes in sites including Roncalli's childhood home, the church in which he was baptised and a sanctuary where he celebrated his last hometown mass before becoming pope. The money made by the tours is used by the non-profit Papa Giovanni XXIII Association to pay for guides and lunches, and fund the sites' renovation and upkeep, says Schiavi.

Local businesses, hit in recent years by Italy's longest recession since the end of the second world war, are anticipating a surge in takings this weekend. Beyond that, though, the future remains uncertain given the town's low-key infrastructure. "For the moment reservations are down because of the crisis," says Pieralberto, owner of the three-room Villa Enrica B&B – one of the few local places to stay – noting that the vast majority of visitors are day trippers. "There are lots of people around but they just don't stay." Tina, a cafe owner, says that although more people are expected, there is no question of hiking prices. "We need to give a good impression," she says, whipping out a small, home-made map of the town's sites from her till.

Tina has always been devoted to John XXIII, "even before he was beatified" in 2000. "Because, like Pope Francis, he was sincere. He was near to the people."

This is also an attraction for Emmanuela and Mauro, a married, middle-aged couple from Turin, taking a stroll around the town. They like Sotto Il Monte's quiet charm, and infinitely prefer it to Assisi – "too commercial". "This is more simple," says Emmanuela. Like, in fact, John XXIII? "Yes. Very basic. Normal."
Pope John Paul II's birthplace

John Paul II is probably the most revered figure in contemporary Polish history. He is also the country's biggest superstar, even in death – and at the risk of sounding crude, probably the main industry in Wadowice, his home town.
A Wadowice baker with Papal Cream Cakes, a childhood favourite of Pope John Paul II A Wadowice baker with Papal Cream Cakes, a childhood favourite of Pope John Paul II. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Here, even before his sainthood, you can buy everything from framed photographs of the late pope to Wadowice's most famous culinary item – "Papal Cream Cakes" a John Paul favourite and a registered trademark.

There are John Paul II museums in Kraków and Warsaw, hundreds of statues all over Poland, countless books on his life (which are more bought than read) as well as movies and plays about him.

But Wadowice is the principal pilgrim destination. A £5.1m multimedia museum in the refurbished building in which the late pope was raised has been opened. The exhibition is a walk through his life, from his army youth to his time as archbishop of Kraków and his latter years in the Vatican.

Everything is here, from his socks and trainers to the Browning handgun used to shoot him in 1981. The Wadowice museum charges £5 per person for a visit and expects 250,000 visitors this year.

Poland's central bank is also cashing in. This month, it issued 1.7m commemorative coins for the occasion of John Paul II's canonisation. People waited in long queues to buy the coins, the most expensive of which cost £1,500, though the more entrepreneurial are already selling them online for much more.

Some think the commercialisation of the late Pope has gone too far. In January, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, who used to be the pope's personal secretary, caused uproar with a book of John Paul's personal notes from 1962 to 2003, even though the pope's will instructed him burn them. The cardinal said he lacked the courage to destroy them as they were too historically valuable.

"The authorities here treat the late pope like a cash cow who they can simply make loads of money on," said Zbigniew Janowski, a student. "So do many store owners. They sell all sorts of papal souvenirs and books but have probably never read a page of JPII's teachings, much less reflected on them," echoed Tomasz Kowalski, a local schoolteacher.

Cab driver Darek Wójcik, is quite satisfied with the way things are. "Thanks to the fact that John Paul II was born here, tourists visit us and spend money in our city, which is good for us. We are proud of our pope and don't think he would have minded Wadowice getting all this attention."

• This article was amended on 25 April. It said the cost of a visit to the Wadowice museum was £25. It actually costs 25 Polish Zloty, which is equivalent to £5.


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« Reply #219 on: Apr 26, 2014, 05:51 AM »

Pilgrims Flock to Rome for Double Papal Sainthood Fete

by Naharnet Newsdesk
26 April 2014, 13:24

Pilgrims and dignitaries from the world over streamed into Rome a day before John Paul II and John XXIII are named saints in the first ever double papal canonization.

In front of the Vatican Saturday, families and groups of scouts armed with folding chairs and sleeping mats braved skies threatening rain to stake out their places in a swelling queue to get onto St. Peter's Square, which will only open in the early hours of Sunday.

"We've come early to get the best places on the square. I don't think we will be getting much sleep tonight, but we'll be singing and praying," French priest Etienne, who had come over from France with 50 pilgrims, told Agence France Presse.

Poline Tallen from Nigeria, who was dressed in a blue and yellow boubou dress with images of John Paul II's face on it, said she had traveled for the ceremony because the Polish pope "had a great impact on me. I met him in 1983 here in Rome, and it changed my life."

Nearby, the leader of a boisterous crowd freshly arrived from Lebanon said "we have nothing with us, just our flags. But we're happy to be here even if it rains!"

Schoolchildren wearing yellow John Paul II backpacks mingled with nuns lugging suitcases off coaches at Rome's main Termini train station, where Italy's civil protection agency had set up a huge medical tent.

Priests strumming guitars and singing Hallelujah had taken to the streets of the city's historic center late Friday, while others holding high crosses led prayers amid curious crowds of ice-cream eating tourists.

 

- Shiny new halos -

 

Also in Rome for the ceremony were 98 official foreign delegations, including Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk cut his trip short amid growing fears Russia could be about to invade his country.

Tapestry portraits of the new saints were on show high above the crowd in St. Peter's Square, while posters in the surrounding streets showed John Paul II and John XXIII already boasting shiny halos, presided over by a benevolently smiling Pope Francis.

The late pontiffs will join the roster of saints at what will be the first-ever double papal canonization on Sunday, seen as an attempt to unite conservatives and reformists.

Poland's charismatic, globe-trotting John Paul II became an icon to many conservative Catholics, while Italian John XXIII -- nicknamed "Good Pope John" --  garnered his liberal reputation by calling the reform-led Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which breathed new life into the Church.

The canonization of two of modern-day Catholicism's most influential figures will be presided over by Pope Francis and attended by his elderly predecessor Benedict XVI, bringing two living pontiffs together to celebrate two deceased predecessors.

Delegations from across the world will join thousands of bishops, priests, and scarlet-cloaked cardinals and the 800,000 or so pilgrims expected, who will be able to follow the ceremonies in different languages on 19 giant screens in some of the Italian capital's most picturesque spots.

Churches will remain open all night Saturday for prayer vigils ahead of the mass in St Peter's Square on Sunday to honor two Roman Catholic leaders whose pontificates spanned from the height of the Cold War with the Cuban missile crisis to the fall of the Berlin wall.

The Vatican's official bureau for pilgrims said 4,000 coaches bearing pilgrims would be arriving in the run-up to the 10:00 am (08:00 GMT) mass, along with special trains and boats, while other faithful will watch the canonization in 3D at cinemas across the world, from Argentina to the United States.

The unparalleled double ceremony has drawn criticism from some who argue the canonization process was rushed and the pontiffs in question do not deserve the honor.

John XXIII had only been credited with one of the two supposed miracles required for candidates to be declared saints, but Francis approved his canonization of John XXIII anyway, saying that the late pope was so widely adored that he did not need a second miracle.

And despite fierce accusations against John Paul II that he hushed up child sex crimes that began to come to light during his pontificate, his elevation has been the fastest since the 18th century when the current canonization rules were installed


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« Reply #220 on: Apr 27, 2014, 08:31 AM »


Popes John Paul II and John XXIII made saints in double canonisation

Hundreds of thousands gather at Rome to witness canonisation of two great figures of 20th-century Roman Catholicism

Lizzy Davies in Vatican City
theguardian.com, Sunday 27 April 2014 08.37 BST   

Link to video: Crowds gather for popes' double canonisation

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/apr/27/crowds-gather-popes-double-canonisation-video

Pope Francis has declared two of his predecessors, John Paul II and John XXIII, saints of the Roman Catholic church in an unprecedented double-canonisation mass in St Peter's Square.

The two towering figures of the 20th-century church were canonised to great applause from hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gathered in the Vatican piazza.

"We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II to be saints and we enrol them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church," said Francis in the official proclamation at about 10.15am.

Later, in his homily, the Argentinian pontiff paid tribute to "two men of courage" who he said had "co-operated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the church". "They were priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them," he said.

John XXIII, he said, was a pastor to the church, "a servant leader" who had called the Second Vatican Council. John Paul II, meanwhile, was "the pope of the family".

As the church approaches a crucial synod at which thorny issues to do with the family are expected to be tackled – such as the status of remarried divorcees in the church – Francis said he hoped the two new saints would intercede with God "so that … [the church] may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family".

Carrying flags, backpacks and rolled foam mattresses, pilgrims from all over the world had flocked into Vatican City overnight and were let into St Peter's Square from 5.30am when the piazza was opened by authorities. The Vatican said they totalled around 500,000 in St Peter's Square and the surrounding streets, while 800,000 people were thought to have gathered for the mass in Rome as a whole.


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« Reply #221 on: Apr 29, 2014, 07:16 AM »

Pope Francis is a far cry from the Reaganist Pope John Paul II he just canonized

By Andrew Brown, The Guardian
Tuesday, April 29, 2014 4:20 EDT

Inequality is the root of social evil, Pope Francis has tweeted, only a day after he canonised Pope John Paul II, a man regarded by American rightwingers as the spiritual arm of Ronald Reagan. So, Saint John Paul II is now officially stowed in heaven, and his attitude to capitalism has been consigned to the attic where the Catholic church keeps its lumber of discarded opinions.

Francis has been saying things a lot like this for years, most recently last autumn. Each time, the voices of largely American conservatives explaining that he has been misunderstood get a little less self-assured. It is – even for a Republican party hack – difficult to mistake what the Pope meant, although one site has already made a heroic attempt by translating the tweet into Latin: it appears to be a denunciation of injustice rather than inequality. But in last autumn’s essay, Evangelii Gaudium, Francis wrote that: “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘Thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills … Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalised: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.”

The claim that human beings have an intrinsic value in themselves, irrespective of their usefulness to other people, is one that unites Christianity and socialism. It can be even found somewhere in the shadows of Marxism, but there humans gain their value from history, and when they stand in its way, that’s tough for them, as the millions of Stalin’s victims could tell us. But if you think the market is the real world, it makes no sense at all, since in the market, value is simply the outcome of supply and demand.

The American Christian right is convinced that God so loves everyone that there is no need for anyone else to do so. Pope Francis harks back to a much earlier tradition of distrust for the market, which had been dominant in American Christianity until the rise of Reaganism. Then, a group of Catholic intellectuals, some former Protestants such as Richard John Neuhaus, reacted against the liberalism of the 1960s by proclaiming that the church was far more than social work and that only the market allowed people the moral freedom essential to the Christian vision. Equality was to these people fundamentally immoral.

In their arguments they made much of the claim that liberal churches were dying and strict ones flourishing. The claim became that middle-class, Guardian-style activist Christianity was doomed. Only an uncompromising proclamation of the great countercultural truths of Christianity could save the faith, restore civilisation and so on. Important among these great countercultural Christian principles was of course the necessity for the rich to get richer and richer.

This attack was effective partly because it was pitched in moral terms: it denied the moral superiority of the welfare state to the alternatives. What makes Pope Francis’s attack so significant is that his position, too, is charged in moral terms.

What he really believes is that riches in themselves are bad for people. That is part of the reason he does not live in the papal apartments. This is not a view shared throughout the Catholic hierarchy. Nor is it really, whole-heartedly, shared by the politicians who will praise his views. I don’t see any party anywhere in the world, except perhaps the Greens, running for election on the basis that they will make the voters poorer but more virtuous.

But at the very least Francis’s remarks show that Christianity can be a way to step outside the rules by which we are normally bound, and consider the world as it might be if the games we all played were different and had different goals.

• Comments on this article will be turned on in the morning

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014


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« Reply #222 on: Apr 29, 2014, 10:06 AM »

Medieval bishop anticipated Big Bang theory and multiple universes centuries before anyone

By David Ferguson
RawStory
Tuesday, April 29, 2014 9:07 EDT

A 13th century British bishop’s theories of the origin and structure of the universe were centuries ahead of their time, says a group of scholars. According to TheConversation.com, Durham University’s Ordered Universe project has found that Robert Grosseteste, the Bishop of Lincoln from 1245 until his death in 1253, anticipated the ideas of Sir Isaac Newton and other scientists by centuries.

Grosseteste was a philosopher, church reformer, poet, theologian and politician.

“Nearly 800 years later the example of Grosseteste’s works provides the basis for doing great interdisciplinary work, offering unexpected challenges to both modern scientists and humanities experts alike, especially in working closely together,” wrote the group of scholars who are attempting a modern revision of the 1912 publication of Grosseteste’s work.

One of the more startling finds among the Medieval thinker’s papers and notes is his work “De Luce” or “Concerning Light.” In it, Grosseteste made one of the first known attempts to apply a set of physical laws to the universe as a whole, transferring what he knew of light and matter to apply to worlds beyond our own.

Grosseteste formulated a theory of the universe’s beginning as a single point of light fused with matter, which expanded outward to its furthest extension, which he called the first sphere. A second type of light radiates inward, Grosseteste said, compressing matter until it will go no further, thereby establishing the second sphere.

The scientist reasoned that these nested spheres form our universe, a theory that is surprisingly in line with modern physicists’ contention that it is possible for multiple universes to exist simultaneously.

The team noted that Grosseteste’s mathematical calculations were “very consistent and precise,” and had he had access to a computer, they theorized, he would have arrived at the assumption of multiple universes all on his own.

“As well as inspiring the surprising new science, all of these investigations sharpen our knowledge of this thinker and his texts by urging a closer, ‘functional’ reading of the text,” wrote the team.

They concluded, “Each step is also deepening and widening our historical appreciation of Grosseteste and his creative, disciplined and vivid intellectual imagination.”

for more on him click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Grosseteste


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« Reply #223 on: May 04, 2014, 06:07 AM »

Vatican Panel to Develop 'Best Practices' to Curb Sex Abuse

by Naharnet Newsdesk
03 May 2014, 21:11

A Vatican panel said Saturday it would develop "best practices" for Catholic parishes to combat pedophile priests, but stopped short of urging mandatory reporting of abuse to police.

"In time, we will propose initiatives to encourage local responsibility around the world and the mutual sharing of 'best practices' for the protection of all minors, including programs for training, education, formation and responses to abuse," the eight-member panel said in a statement.

"We see ensuring accountability in the Church as especially important, including developing means for effective and transparent protocols and processes," said the panel, which includes prominent Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley and Irish abuse victim and campaigner Marie Collins.

The Vatican has been more proactive in investigating allegations of abuse and listening to victims in recent years and has promised zero tolerance for abusers.

But it faces a backlog of thousands of cases and has been criticized for failing to do enough to punish predatory priests or the senior clergymen who covered up for them.

Speaking to reporters after a three-day meeting of the panel at the Vatican -- their first since Pope Francis set up the panel in March -- O'Malley said there must be zero tolerance both for "those who perpetrated the offences" and "those who were negligent" in bringing them to justice.

"We want to make sure to have clear protocols... to make people accountable," he said.

In reply to questions, he did not elaborate on how abusive priests and those who protect them could be more effectively handed over to local law enforcement.

This was a key demand contained in a February report by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The committee called on the Church to remove all clergy suspected of raping or molesting children "and refer the matter to the relevant law enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution purposes".

On Monday and Tuesday the U.N. Committee Against Torture will hold hearings on the Vatican, which campaigners see as a fresh chance to examine the Catholic Church's record on child sexual abuse by priests.


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« Reply #224 on: May 06, 2014, 05:33 AM »


Vatican tries to draw line under clerical sex abuse scandals at UN hearing

Torture committee dismisses Holy See's argument that its obligation to enforce UN treaty stops at boundaries of city state

John Hooper in Rome
theguardian.com, Monday 5 May 2014 15.46 BST      

The Vatican has been given another hostile interrogation by a United Nations committee over its record on clerical sex abuse.

One member after another of the committee against torture brushed aside the Holy See's argument that its obligation to enforce the UN convention against torture stopped at the boundaries of the world's smallest country, the Vatican City state. They demanded the pope's representative give answers to a long list of questions about the treatment of sex abuse claims against clergy throughout the world.

The Holy See, which long predates the city state, is a sovereign entity without territory. It is as the Holy See that the Catholic leadership maintains diplomatic relations and signs treaties such as the convention against torture.

But Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's UN ambassador in Geneva, told the committee: "The Holy See intends to focus exclusively on Vatican City state."

The American expert on the committee, Felice Gaer, made plain her disagreement. She said the Holy See had to "show us that, as a party to the convention, you have a system in place to prohibit torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment when it is acquiesced to by anyone under the effective control of the officials of the Holy See and the institutions that operate in the Vatican City state".

Gaer described the line that church officials sought to draw between the treaty obligations of the city state and the Holy See as an "alleged distinction".

She demanded responses to claims that Italian bishops had been told they were not under any obligation to report suspected cases of sex abuse to the civil authorities, as well as to allegations that the Vatican had given refuge to a papal envoy accused of sex abuse. In January, a Polish prosecutor said Warsaw had turned down a request for the extradition of Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who faces accusations of sex abuse in his Poland and in the Dominican Republic.

But Gaer, the director of an American-Jewish human rights organisation, the Jacob Blaustein Institute, said the church's doctrine on abortion was an area of legitimate concern for the committee. She called for the Vatican to comment on allegations that its blanket stigmatisation of abortion had led to nine-year-old girls being required to give birth.

In February, the Vatican reacted with outrage when another UN panel argued that children around the world were suffering from Catholic teachings, including those on abortion and birth control. The Vatican said comments by the committee on the rights of the child constituted an attack on religious freedom.

The issue of sex abuse was raised on Monday by committee members from Mauritius and Morocco and by George Tugushi, from Georgia. He welcomed a new committee to advise the pope, saying it could "begin to change the climate of impunity". But he added: "It cannot be considered in our opinion as a substitute for a functioning investigative system of the Holy See's or Vatican City state's own."

Tugushi also questioned the treatment of Paolo Gabriel, the previous pope's butler who was arrested for leaking papal correspondence. Gabriel said his eyesight had suffered from being kept in a cell where the light was kept on 24 hours a day and that he was given no opportunity to exercise.


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