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« Reply #255 on: Jul 16, 2014, 06:09 AM »

Pope Francis: Children Who Migrate Alone Must Be 'Welcomed And Protected'

By John Amato
July 15, 2014 10:54 am

Pope Francis jumped into the migrant children debate the US is having and demanded that these children are welcomed and protected instead of being immediately sent back home.

Pope Francis: Children Who Migrate Alone Must Be 'Welcomed And Protected'

Pope Francis jumped into the migrant children debate the US is having and demanded that these children are welcomed and protected instead of being immediately sent back home. There are many Catholic politicians and pundits like Bill O'Reilly who not only want to turn the children away, but are demanding a military response and presence to be included in controlling the border.

Jack Jenkins:

    Pope Francis directly addressed the growing crisis surrounding unaccompanied children on the U.S. border this morning, speaking up on behalf of the young immigrants and calling on the international community to do more to care for their needs.

    In a message sent to the Mexico-Holy See Colloquium on Migration and Development, the first Argentinian pope called for an immediate humanitarian response for the roughly 50,000 unaccompanied minors who have crossed the U.S. border this year.

    “I would also like to draw attention to the tens of thousands of children who migrate alone, unaccompanied, to escape poverty and violence: This is a category of migrants from Central America and Mexico itself who cross the border with the United States under extreme conditions and in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain,” he said. “They are increasing day by day. This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.”

    Francis also noted that, in addition to a robust relief effort by those on the U.S. side of the border, the international community should also move to address the vicious cycles of violence and poverty that are spurring the children to flee their countries of origin.

    “These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin,” he said. “Finally, this challenge demands the attention of the entire international community so that new forms of legal and secure migration may be adopted.”

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« Reply #256 on: Jul 16, 2014, 10:07 AM »

Hi All,

I am attaching a picture taken during the recent World Cup of football in Brazil that was taken by an ABC camera person that incredible capture the Sun within the outstretched arm of the giant statue of Jesus in the hills above the city of Rio.

God Bless, Rad

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« Reply #257 on: Jul 22, 2014, 08:01 AM »

Is the Pope being Catholic or communist when he attacks capitalism for ignoring the poor?

By The Conversation
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 8:29 EDT
By Bruce Duncan, University of Divinity

A blog in The Economist recently accused Pope Francis of following the founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, in adopting an “ultra-radical line” on capitalism. The blog, “Francis, capitalism and war: the Pope’s divisions”, was reacting to the Pope’s interview on June 9 in Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, in which he linked an earlier form of capitalism with imperialism as the main causes of World War One.

In response, in an interview with the Italian daily Il Messaggero, the Pope said:

    The communists have stolen the flag. The flag of the poor is Christian … The poor are at the centre of the Gospel.

Francis pointed to the Beatitudes, and Matthew’s Last Judgment scene when God will judge us on how we treated the hungry, naked, the prisoners.

“The communists say that all this is communist,“ Francis said, yet Christians said this 20 centuries earlier. Pope Francis said one could reply to the communists: “you are Christians” in your concern for the poor.
Reasserting Catholic social thinking

Pope Francis’s views are arousing controversy, since many people seem unaware how strongly Catholic social thinking is opposed to the neoliberal policies of the free-marketeers. In the La Vanguardia interview, Francis was distressed that in some countries unemployment levels exceed 50% of workers. He had been told that 75 million young Europeans under 25 years of age were unemployed.

“That is an atrocity, discarding an entire generation to maintain an economic system” that was collapsing, and that depends on the armaments industry to survive. Francis supported the possibilities of globalisation, but deplored the discarding of the young and the elderly.

It was “incomprehensible” that so many people in the world are still hungry. Francis said “the world economic system is not good”, and “we have put money at the centre, the god of money”.

Others disputed the Pope’s critique of inequality. In the UK Telegraph, Allister Heath contested the views of Francis for his attack on economic inequalities and the “new tyranny” of the “absolute autonomy of markets”:

    Francis’ wholesale condemnation of inequality is thus tantamount to a complete rejection of contemporary economic systems. It is not a call for reform … but a radical denunciation.

Heath rejected Francis’s criticism of “trickle-down economics” as a caricature of free-market arguments. Instead, Heath regarded capitalism as “the greatest alleviator of poverty and liberator of people ever discovered”.

Paul B. Farrell’s suggestion in the Wall Street Journal is for Francis to support Bill Gates’ “Giving Pledge” for the super rich to give away half their fortunes in their lifetimes. So far 122 of the super rich have agreed to do so. Alas, this would do nothing to challenge the causes of the perverse distribution of wealth in most capitalist economies.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires before he became Pope, Bergoglio experienced the trauma of Argentina going into the biggest financial default in history in 2002, owing nearly US$100 billion, much of it lost by mismanagement and war under earlier military regimes.

The percentage of Argentina’s population plunged into poverty rose to 50%, compared with 7% in the 1970s. Millions lost their savings, a quarter of workers lost their jobs and a quarter of the population was left destitute and hungry.

While most of the debt was restructured, so-called “vulture funds” bought up some of the debt for a pittance and demanded that Argentina pay US$1.33 billion, making a return of 1000% to these 1.6% of original bondholders. Despite a German court striking out similar “vulture fund” claims in 2013, astonishingly the US Supreme Court in June 2014 ordered the full debt be paid.

Francis is speaking against the background of such predatory forms of capitalism.
Francis condemns gross inequality

On April 28, the Pope tweeted:

    Inequality is the root of social evil.

    — Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 28, 2014

Francis was quoting from his exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, #202.

The message quickly drew thousands of retweets, some critical. Joe Carter, the director of the Acton Institute, an American free market think-tank that is underpinned by religious thought, tweeted:

    Seriously, though, what was up with that tweet by @Pontifex? Has he traded the writings of Peter and Paul for Piketty?

    — Joe Carter (@joecarter) April 28, 2014

Thomas Piketty’s massive tome Capital in the Twenty-first Century had recently been published in English, arguing that the capitalist economy was inherently geared to greatly increasing inequality. Francis considers extreme “unbridled consumerism combined with inequality” outrageous. He fears that resentment by impoverished populations will fuel revolutions, as it has in the past.

Francis is not arguing for absolute equality, as some of his critics have claimed. The Catholic Church has never called for absolute equality. It has argued for a just distribution of goods and services that ensures everyone the possibility of a reasonable life and standard of living. Perhaps “social equity” is a better translation for what the Pope has in mind, but this implies more than the notion of equality of opportunity, since outcomes matter as well.

While sharply critical of the neoliberal views that exacerbated the global financial crisis, Francis strongly supports economic policies that promote material and social uplift more equitably. Speaking in Rome last month, Francis said:

    It is increasingly intolerable that financial markets are shaping the destiny of peoples rather than serving their needs, or that the few derive immense wealth from financial speculation while the many are deeply burdened by the consequences.

These issues are likely to figure prominently in the forthcoming document on the environment that Francis’s team of advisers have been preparing.

The Conversation

Bruce Duncan is a Catholic priest of the Redemptorist Congregation and a member of the social advocacy organisation Social Policy Connections.

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« Reply #258 on: Jul 24, 2014, 06:56 AM »

Sudanese woman spared death for apostasy meets Pope Francis

Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to death for apostasy in May, sparking an international campaign to save her life

Mark Tran and Lizzy Davies in Rome, Thursday 24 July 2014 13.43 BST    

Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian Sudanese woman spared a death sentence for apostasy after an international outcry, has met Pope Francis after arriving in Italy.

The 27-year-old and her family were received at the pontiff's guesthouse for 30 minutes and she was thanked by the head of the Catholic church for her "witness to faith" and "perseverance", Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told journalists.

According to the Italian news agency Ansa, Lombardi added: "It's a gesture that goes beyond the meeting and becomes a symbol", saying Francis, 77, wanted the meeting to be a "sign of closeness to all those who suffer due to their faith and practice of their faith."

Earlier on Thursday, Italian television showed Ibrahim leaving the aircraft at Ciampino airport in Rome accompanied by her husband, two children and Italy's vice-minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli.

Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and to death for apostasy in May, sparking an international campaign to lift the death sentence. More than a million people backed an Amnesty International campaign to get her released, with David Cameron, the British prime minister, and the US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson among world leaders who clamoured for her release.

While on death row, Ibrahim, a graduate of Sudan University's school of medicine, gave birth in shackles in May. It was a difficult birth as her legs were in chains and Ibrahim is worried that the girl may need support to walk.

Ibrahim was told that her death sentence would be deferred for two years to allow her to nurse the baby.

Under the Sudanese penal code, Muslims are forbidden from changing faith, and Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men.

During her trial in Khartoum, she told the court that she had been brought up as a Christian, and refused to renounce her faith. She and Daniel Wani – an American citizen – married in 2011. The court ruled that the union was invalid and that Ibrahim was guilty of adultery.

Her convictions, sentences and detention in Omdurman women's prison while heavily pregnant and with her toddler son incarcerated alongside her caused international outrage. After an appeal court overturned the death sentence, Ibrahim, Wani, and their two children tried to leave last month, but were turned back. The Sudanese government accused her of trying to leave the country with false papers, preventing her departure for the US.

Her lawyer, Mohaned Mostafa, said he had not been told of her departure on Thursday.

"I don't know anything about such news but so far the complaint that was filed against Meriam and which prevents her from travelling from Sudan has not been cancelled," Mostafa told Reuters.

Ibrahim and her family had been staying at the US embassy in Khartoum. 

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« Reply #259 on: Jul 28, 2014, 07:07 AM »

A Liberal’s Handy Guide to the Bible’s Exaltation of the Poor

By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Monday, July, 28th, 2014, 8:09 am   

Because the so-called Religious Right is reluctant to listen to Jesus’ words; because the only Jesus who concerns them is a long-haired cracker with an AR-15, it has ironically enough fallen to the alleged “party of the Godless” – Democrats, to preach the Gospel to the Religious Right and the GOP.

It is a task we do not undertake lightly.

Because the Religious Right prefers cherry-picked and out of context Old Testament fire and brimstone, I thought, Heathen that I am, that I would take it upon myself to put together a handy list of Old Testament passages testifying to YHWH’s concern for the poor. This is far from a complete list, but it should get your started and perhaps provide fuel for further research.

Here’s the thing, fellow missionaries: from listening to conservatives you would get the idea that the entirety of the Bible is dedicated to condemning homosexuality, which in any case is a pathology of the 19th century CE and not the 19th century BCE. And besides, very little of the Bible, Old Testament or New, concerns itself with homosexuality.

Nearly the entirety of the Religious Right’s case rests on two passages from Leviticus:

    You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22)

    “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)

And in the New Testament we find:

    For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.(Romans 1:26-27)

Religious Right figures speak of Sodom and Gomorrah as further examples of God’s displeasure with the so-called “gay lifestyle” but in reality, Sodom’s sins had nothing to do with the dreaded “gay agenda.” The Bible itself tells us,

    Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

Egads! Sodom’s sin was not in advancing the gay agenda but rather in disregarding the poor and needy!

Sound like any group you know?

Really, there isn’t much in the Bible condemning homosexuality. A few passages, a couple of minutes worth of reading. It is hardly the case, as the Religious Right pretends, that the entirety of the Christian Religion is dedicated to opposition to homosexuality (let alone abortion!).

But it is the undeniable case that the Bible abounds with concern for the poor. So without further ado, here is your handy list of poor-oriented Bible passages. Feel free to spread the Gospel with your godless Religious Right neighbors.

First a quick overview of Jesus on the subject, just to provide some context, since these are the passages studiously avoided by Republican politicians and their Religious Right puppet-masters like David Barton and Bryan Fischer and Tony Perkins and Ralph Reed, etc, etc.

Jesus roundly condemned the rich and heaped praise on the poor:

Matthew 6:24
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Luke 18:25
For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Luke 6:20
Looking at his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

Luke 6:24
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”

Mark 10:21-22
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

1 John 3:17-18
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

From the guy many Christians believe was Jesus’ brother in the Epistle of James:

James 5:1
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.

And Paul is as concerned with the poor as Jesus, and no more welcoming of the rich:

1 Timothy 6:9
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

Acts 20:35
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Conservatives will quote from Romans when it suits their needs but they will not cite this passage:

Romans 12:13
Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Those little children on the border are God’s people. Almost to a man (and woman) the Republicans would turn them away.

2 Corinthians 9:6-13
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

The Old Testament provides abundant evidence that when he wasn’t ordering the bellies of pregnant women to be cut open, or condemning them to sexual slavery, YHWH was greatly concerned with the plight of the poor:

Psalm 12:5
“Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the LORD. “Then I will protect them from those who malign them.”

Psalm 35:10
“You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

Psalm 72:4
He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.

Psalm 72:12-14
For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.

Psalm 82:3-4
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 102:17
He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.

Psalm 107:9
… for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Psalm 109:31
For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him.

Psalm 113:7
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.

Psalm 140:12
I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.

Psalm 146:7-9
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Proverbs 3:27-28
Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow” — when you now have it with you.

Proverbs 10:3
The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

Proverbs 11:24-25
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

Proverbs 12:14
From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward.

Proverbs 14:21
It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.

Proverbs 14:31
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Proverbs 19:17
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Proverbs 22:9
The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.

Proverbs 22:16
He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich — both come to poverty.

Proverbs 28:27
Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

Deuteronomy 15:7
If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.

Deuteronomy 15:8
Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.

Deuteronomy 15:11
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

Similarly, Jesus said,

John 12:8
“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Isaiah 1:17
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 10:1-3
Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?

Isaiah 61:1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

Compare to Jesus at,

Luke 4:18
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.”

Jeremiah 22:16
“He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD.

Ezekiel 16:49
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

Zechariah 7:9-10
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’”

Job 5:15-16
He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth.

It is clear that if it obsesses about anything, the Bible obsesses about the plight of the poor. The rich are condemned by Jesus yet exalted by the Religious Right and their pet Republicans. The poor are condemned by the Religious Right and their pet Republicans yet exalted by Jesus. These are facts. It is impossible to refute them and if the Bible is the Word of God, as Republicans insist, how can they deny it? But they do, every day.

What we find at the end of the day, in Jesus’ own words, is that the Republican Party and the Religious Right have become what the New Testament has Jesus condemn most, the alleged hypocrisy of the Pharisees:

Luke 11:39-42
Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God.”

‘Nuff said, I think.

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« Reply #260 on: Jul 31, 2014, 06:07 AM »

Pope Francis sounds too much like Obama to be honored by Congress, Republican says

By Scott Kaufman
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 9:59 EDT

A bipartisan congressional resolution that would honor Pope Francis before his potential appearance in Philadelphia next year may not be acted upon because of Republican worries that the pontiff is perceived as being “too liberal,” The Hill reports.

House Resolution 440 aims to “congratulate Pope Francis on his election and recognize his inspirational statements and actions,” but according to one Republican backer of the legislation, the resolution is dead because Pope Francis is “sounding like Obama. [The pope] talks about equality — he actually used the term ‘trickle-down economics,’ which is politically charged.”

Republicans are upset because of comments the Pope made concerning the free market. Last November, for example, Francis published his Evangelii Gandium, in which he noted that ome 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. 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.”

The resolution states that Pope Francis should be honored for, among other things, being the first pontiff from the Americas, as well as “his commitment to economic justice and improving the lives of the poor, and his outreach to individuals from all walks of life have been universally praised and are living examples of Jesus Christ’s message.”

Of the 221 co-sponsors of the legislation, only 19 are Republicans. Democratic Representative John Larson (CT) sent House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) a letter last Friday requesting a vote on the resolution.

“To my knowledge this would be an historic first. I ask that you take a look at a bipartisan resolution introduced by Representative Peter King and myself, acknowledging the first Pope from the Americas … it is my sincere hope that you will consider this resolution for the suspension calendar for a vote,” Larson wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill.

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« Reply #261 on: Aug 10, 2014, 10:32 AM »

The Pope's 10 tips for happiness

By Jay Parini
CNN International
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1821 GMT (0221 HKT)

Editor's note: Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont. He has just published "Jesus: The Human Face of God," a biography of Jesus. Follow him on Twitter @JayParini. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Just when I thought my amazement with Pope Francis had run its course, he did it again. In a long interview with an old friend who was writing for an Argentine magazine, the pope put forward a 10-point plan for happiness. From where I sit, it seems, well, pretty damn good if not perfect. Here are Pope Francis' tips for a happy life and my comments on them:

1. Live and let live. It's an echo of the Pope's earlier remark on gays: "Who am I to judge?" Moreover, it's what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: "Judge not, unless you want to be judged yourself." (Matthew 7:1)

2. Give yourself to others. That is, give your money and your time to those in need. Don't just sit around like stagnant water. Give all you have and then some.

3 Move quietly in the world. The Pope quotes from a favorite novel by an early 20th-century Argentine writer, Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the novelist writes that in one's youth, a person is "a rocky stream that runs over everything," but as one gets older, one becomes "a running river, quietly peaceful." It's very like the Native American suggestion that one should walk "in balance and beauty" on the ground, making the least disturbance.

4. Enjoy leisure. The Pope says that consumerism has brought with it unbearable anxieties. So play with your children. Take time off. And don't spend all your time thinking about your next acquisition. Spend your time well, not your money.

5. Sunday is for families. This is actually one of the Ten Commandments. Honor the Sabbath. (Exodus 20:Cool Once a week, give a whole day to meditation, worship, family life, tending the needs of the spirit. This is healthy living.

6. Find jobs for young people. Who would have guessed that job-creation would be on list for happiness? But the Pope is right. Honest, simple work for young people is essential to their well-being. Somewhat surprisingly, in this moment in the interview, the Pope connected job creation to the degradation of our environment: "the tyrannical use of nature." He links the lack of good jobs to the lack of respect for ourselves and the Earth itself.

So creating jobs doesn't mean ruining the environment. It doesn't mean, as the politicians chant, "jobs, jobs, jobs." Good and productive labor is valuable, and it doesn't mean you have to have a fancy job description. You don't have to become rich. You can be ordinary. Happiness lies there. Do good work, create good work for others.

7. Respect nature. This follows from No. 6. "Isn't humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?" the Pope wonders. Not surprisingly, this is what Henry David Thoreau, a founding father of the environmental movement, said. "Most people live lives of quiet desperation," he said. He went into the woods, to Walden Pond, because he wanted "to live deliberately" and to "front only the essential facts of life."

A proper respect for nature means that you can't pollute the air, poison the rivers and chop down the forests indiscriminately without suffering greatly. I suspect that a huge amount of the anxiety and suffering that we see around can be closely traced to our wanton misuse of our resources. Just look at any garbage dump and see what is wasted. In a sense, we've wasted our souls.

8. Let go of negative things quickly. The Pope tells us not to complain about people who annoy or frustrate us, to let go of things as rapidly as we can. I have an old friend who used to say, "Put the bad things in your back pocket and leave them there." This may sound like escapism or putting your head in the sand, but it's more interesting than that. Life throws rotten things our way each day. People say nasty things to us, often about others. This stuff makes them miserable, of course. It makes us miserable, too. Flush it.

9. Don't preach your religion too forcefully. Proselytism brings on paralysis, the Pope tells us. Wow. I'm a Christian myself, and I don't mind saying so. But each person sees the world before them in his or her own way. The Pope says this. As a teaching, it seems to run counter to the so-called Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). Jesus said to get out there and spread the word. But the Pope takes a relaxed view of this activity, preferring that we should teach by example. Perhaps that really is what Jesus would do?

10. Work for peace. The Pope has preached this message from the beginning of his time as pontiff. He has gone to Jerusalem and worked to bring together Jews and Palestinians. He has prayed for peace and worked for peace. He has listened closely to Jesus, who said, "blessed are the peacemakers."

The Pope asks us to take in refugees, to think innovatively about how to create peace in the world. Jesus, of course, invites us to turn the other cheek when struck. This is a complex teaching. But it's essential to Christian faith. The Pope, once again, calls on us to take the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount seriously. This is very hard but crucial work.

Pope Francis has, in this unlikely venue, given us his own Sermon on the Mount, his Ten Commandments for happiness and inner peace. One can only be grateful for his wisdom, which is rooted in a sincere faith, in hard-earned wisdom, and a very practical knowledge of human needs and potentials.

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« Reply #262 on: Aug 13, 2014, 05:59 AM »

Vatican calls on Muslim leaders to condemn Christian persecution in Iraq

Statement suggests dialogue with Islamic representatives may be cut if leaders fail to denounce crimes in name of religion

John Hooper in Rome, Tuesday 12 August 2014 14.37 BST   

The Vatican has called on Muslim leaders to denounce unambiguously the persecution of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq – and hinted that it is considering breaking off dialogue with Islamic representatives if they fail to do so.

In a statement on Tuesday, the department in charge of inter-religious dialogue said: "The dramatic situation of the Christians, the Yazidis, and other minority religious and ethnic communities in Iraq demands that religious leaders, and above all Muslim religious leaders, people engaged in inter-religious dialogue and all people of good will take a clear and courageous stance. All must be unanimous in their unambiguous condemnation of these crimes and denounce the invoking of religion to justify them."

In a departure from its customary language in the highly sensitive area of inter-faith relations, the Vatican statement asked: "Otherwise, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders, have? What credibility could the inter-religious dialogue [which has been] patiently pursued in recent years have?"

The statement highlighted the fact that the campaign being waged against religious minorities by the Islamic State (Isis) threatens to provoke the biggest crisis in Catholic-Muslim relations since 2006 when the then Pope Benedict gave a controversial lecture in Germany in which he quoted a comment critical of Islam.

Up to 100,000 Christians are reported to have fled their homes in Iraq because of the threat posed by Isis.

The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue said Isis had committed "and was continuing to commit unspeakable criminal acts". To reinforce the point, it listed some of the atrocities for which Isis is reported to have been responsible. They included "the massacre of people solely for reasons of their religious adherence"; "the execrable practice of decapitation, crucifixion and hanging of corpses in public places"; "the choice imposed on Christians and Yazidis between conversion to Islam, payment of a tax (jizya) and exodus"; "the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of people, including children, old people, pregnant women and the sick"; "the abduction of women and girls belonging to the Yazidi and Christian communities as war booty (sabaya)", and "the imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation".

The statement, issued in French, appeared to be the work of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the pontifical council and an experienced diplomat who represented the Vatican in Beirut and Damascus. In 2008, he stirred controversy when he accused the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, of being "mistaken and naive" for saying that some aspects of sharia law in Britain were unavoidable.

Pope Francis gave an early indication of the Vatican's hardening attitude on Sunday when he said the news from Iraq had left him "in dismay and disbelief".

Last Friday, the pope named Cardinal Fernando Filoni as his personal envoy to the region. The cardinal was due to fly out on Tuesday after his departure was postponed on Monday, apparently because of security fears.

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« Reply #263 on: Aug 14, 2014, 05:46 AM »

Pope Says Dialogue Not 'Displays of Force' Key to Korean Peace

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 August 2014, 06:56

Pope Francis called for an end to "displays of force" on the divided Korean peninsula Thursday, as North Korea marked his arrival in Seoul for a five-day visit by firing short-range rockets into the sea.

In a speech to South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and top officials, Francis acknowledged the challenge of breaking down walls of "distrust and hatred" but said the quest for inter-Korean reconciliation was one that had implications for "the stability of the entire area and indeed of the whole war-weary world".

Peace could only be achieved through dialogue, "rather than mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms and displays of force," he added.

Just minutes before he stepped off his plane, the nuclear-armed North fired three rockets into the Sea of Japan (East Sea), and two more later in the day.

North Korea had been invited to send a group of Catholics to attend a special inter-Korean "reconciliation" mass by Francis next week, but declined, citing upcoming South Korea-U.S. military drills.

The choice of South Korea for the first papal visit to Asia in 15 years was a reward for one of the region's fastest-growing, most devoted and most influential Roman Catholic communities.

Smiling broadly and waving, Francis was welcomed at the airport by President Park and a reception committee that included two North Korean defectors and relatives of those killed in April's ferry disaster, which left 300 people -- mostly schoolchildren -- dead.

In line with his no-frills papacy, Francis then squeezed into the back of a compact Kia hatchback that he had specially requested for his visit.

- Message to China -

Since the early days of his pontificate, Francis has made it clear that the Vatican regards Asia as a priority, as it seeks to offset dwindling Catholic membership in Europe.

The last papal visit to Asia was by John Paul II to India back in 1999, a glaring gap for a region where the Church is making some spectacular gains but where Catholics still only account for 3.2 percent of the population.

The pope's flight to South Korea took him over China -- potentially the greatest prize of all, but also the hardest to claim. Beijing maintains a state-controlled Catholic Church, which rejects the Vatican's authority.

On entering Chinese airspace, Francis exercised papal protocol to send an unprecedented goodwill message of "divine blessings" to President Xi Jinping.

Beijing and the Vatican have been at loggerheads since China severed ties with the Holy See in 1951.

Francis will have a chance to address believers across the region on Friday when he meets several thousand young Catholics gathered in South Korea for Asian Youth Day.

The Catholic AsiaNews agency cited unidentified sources as saying a dozen Chinese priests attending the event had been warned by Beijing of repercussions if they attended the pope's address.

- Excitement in S. Korea -

Although Catholics comprise just a little over 10 percent of South Korea's 50 million population, the visit has generated a lot of public excitement, with welcome banners lining the streets of Seoul, and shops doing a brisk trade in everything from mini Francis dolls to commemorative coins.

Around one million people are expected to descend on the city centre for an open-air mass on Saturday that will see Francis beatify 124 martyrs persecuted during the early days of the Korean Catholic Church in the 18th and 19th centuries.

But the Vatican's real goal is clearly longer-term and wider-ranging: expansion in Asia.

"The pope's presence is a powerful symbol of the Vatican's recognition that it is in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa that the Church is growing most prominently," said Lionel Jensen, an expert on religion in Asia at the University of Notre Dame.

South Korea provides a model that the Vatican can only hope other Asian countries might follow.

The economic "miracle" that turned it from a war-devastated backwater to an export powerhouse and Asia's fourth largest economy in a little over five decades was accompanied by an equally dramatic boom in Christianity.

Christians now comprise the largest religious bloc. While Protestants make up the majority, the number of Catholics is growing faster, with tens of thousands of new baptisms every year.

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« Reply #264 on: Aug 14, 2014, 06:05 AM »

Fearing genocide against Christians, Vatican approves Iraq air strikes despite peace policy

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, August 13, 2014 10:10 EDT

Fearing a genocide of Christians, the Vatican has given its approval to US military air strikes in Iraq — a rare exception to its policy of peaceful conflict resolution.

The Holy See’s ambassador to the United Nations, Silvano Tomasi, this weekend supported US air strikes aimed at halting the advance of Sunni Islamic State (IS) militants, calling for “intervention now, before it is too late”.

“Military action might be necessary,” he said.

While the Vatican vocally disapproved of the US-led campaign in Iraq in 2003 and the 2013 plan for air strikes on Syria — fearing both might make the situations worse for Christians on the ground — fears of ethnic cleansing by Islamists has forced a policy change.

Tomasi’s appeal follows warnings from Church leaders in Iraq that the persecution is becoming a genocide, with urgent help needed to protect Christians and Yezidis in the north of the country, where tens of thousands have been forced to flee for their lives.

Military support was needed “to stop the wolf getting to the flock to kill, eat, destroy”, Rabban al-Qas, the Chaldean bishop of Amadiyah, told Vatican radio.

Tomasi insisted “those supplying arms and funds to the fundamentalists, (and) the countries tacitly supporting them, must be revealed”, while Qas pointed the finger at Saudi Arabia.

Others, like the Iraq-based leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Louis Sako, called for wider intervention, saying the US strikes offer little hope the jihadists would be defeated.

“The position of the American President Obama only to give military assistance to protect Arbil is disappointing,” said Sako, who has been trying to persuade his flock to resist attempts to drive them out of Iraq, and turn down offers of humanitarian visas to Europe.

- ‘What could be worse?’ -

The Vatican had been criticised for being slow to react, with Pope Francis limiting himself to calls for a peaceful resolution, expressing on Sunday his “dismay and disbelief” over the violence and calling for an “effective political solution”.

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue on Tuesday called for Muslim leaders to denounce the brutality of IS militants, saying there was no possible justification for their “unspeakable crimes”.

The council said Islamic State militants were guilty of the “heinous practice of decapitation, crucifixion and stringing up bodies in public places”, insisting that “no reason, certainly not religion, could justify such barbarism”.

Religious watchers said Tomasi’s support for air strikes did not mean a change in Vatican policy on war spearheaded by a bellicose Francis.

“There has been no change in thinking. The Vatican’s take is that the reality now is apocalyptic and there is no alternative,” said Vatican expert John Allen, who writes for the Boston Globe.

“They believed overthrowing Saddam Hussein in 2003 or Bashar al-Assad in 2013 would make things worse for Christians. In 2014, what could be worse for them than the Islamic State’s victory?” he said.

The Catholic Church’s catechism defines the concept of a “just war”, which includes the prevention of genocide among other war crimes.

For Sandro Magister, who writes for La Stampa’s Vatican Insider, the crisis should have elicited a stronger stance from the pope on Iraq.

“His timid response has been very surprising. He talks about the persecution of Christians in Iraq as if it was some sort of natural disaster, without singling out those responsible,” he said.

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« Reply #265 on: Aug 17, 2014, 06:38 AM »

Is this the toughest pilgrimage in the world?

St Patrick’s Purgatory involves three days of fasting and prayers, while standing on sharpened rocks. It’s not for everyone, but there must be a reason why people return each year …

Manchán Magan
Friday 15 August 2014 15.49 BST
The Guardian

St Patrick’s Purgatory is the Ironman of Christian pilgrimages, a gruelling three days of fasting, sleep-deprivation, hypothermia-inducing temperatures and prayer that attracts the gnarliest, toughest of pilgrims.

The site, on Station Island in Lough Derg, County Donegal, receives 15,000 visitors a year, and despite the cold, hunger, midges and tedium, people rave about it, emerging rejuvenated. Only a few devout and determined visitors brave the pilgrimage itself, but the vast majority of those who do are return visitors.

Historically, the cave at St Patrick’s Purgatory was considered a turnstile to the Gates of Hell, where St Patrick is said to have witnessed the tortures of eternal damnation in the fifth century, and in 1148 Knight Owein is said to have been dragged into the Underworld by demons with iron hooks. During the Celtic Tiger boom years, from 1995 to 2000, numbers fell, as they did in the century when a Dutch monk complained to the Pope that no demons had attacked him during his visit, but the pilgrimage – which comes to an end on Friday, 15 August with the feast of the Assumption of Mary – is thriving again.

Pilgrims begin their ordeal by crossing the exposed waters of Lough Derg to Station Island, where they surrender their shoes and socks before starting the three-days of prayers and invocations. These are completed while standing, walking and kneeling at various sacred spots, both inside the basilica above the cave and outside on treacherous rocks that are regularly resharpened, so that they remain as jagged as ever.

Pilgrims fast from the midnight before arrival until midnight of the third day, apart from a daily snack of dry toast or oatcake and black tea or coffee. There is the added possibility of a cup of infamous Lough Derg broth: hot water flavoured with salt and pepper.

Anyone caught trying to sleep on the first night is prodded awake by fellow pilgrims, or the volunteer organisers – possibly the same people who sharpen the rocks.

The chorus of Our Fathers, Hail Marys and renunciations of “the World, the Flesh and the Devil” has eased a little in recent year as people opt for a more inward, Buddhism-lite style of retreat. It’s still remarkably social, though. Communal suffering is a great social lubricant, whether you find God or demons.

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« Reply #266 on: Aug 17, 2014, 07:09 AM »

Pope Says Church Not out to 'Conquer' Asia

by Naharnet Newsdesk
17 August 2014, 08:00

Pope Francis reached out to China on the penultimate day of his visit to South Korea on Sunday, urging a closer dialogue and insisting that Catholics did not view Asia with the mentality of "conquerors."

In a speech to Catholic bishops from 22 Asian countries, the pope stressed the need to adopt a "creative" Catholicism that reflects the region's diversity and that listens with "empathy" to its different voices.

He made a particular appeal for better communications with nations like China, North Korea and Vietnam that do not have formal ties with the Vatican.

"I honestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not enjoy a full relationship, may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all," he told the bishops.

Deviating from his prepared text, the pope said the dialogue he referred to was "fraternal" in nature rather than political.

"Christians are not coming to Asia as conquerors," he said at a martyrs' shrine some 150 kilometers south of Seoul.

It is the first papal visit for 15 years to Asia -- a region the Vatican sees as having enormous growth potential to offset dwindling numbers in the United States and Europe.

But nearly a dozen Asian countries in the region do not recognize the Vatican's authority over their Catholic communities, including China which remains the great elephant in the Vatican's Asian room.

Chinese Catholics number 5.7 million according to official data, and 12 million according to independent sources. They are divided between an official Church dependent on Communist authorities and an "underground" Church loyal to the Vatican.

Beijing and the Vatican have been at loggerheads since China severed ties with the Holy See in 1951.

In March last year, Beijing warned the newly elected Francis against interfering in China's internal affairs, "including under the pretext of religion".

The pope had offered his blessings in a message to China's President Xi Jinping as his plane flew over China on its way to South Korea last week.

But the message never got through, a failure Vatican officials put down to technical issues.

An even more impenetrable country is North Korea, which carried out a series of short range-rocket launches into the sea just as the pope arrived in Seoul for his five-day visit.

Francis will focus on North Korea, which keeps all religious activity under the tightest control, when he holds a special Korean "peace and reconciliation" mass in Seoul before his departure Monday.

South Korea has a thriving and fast-growing Catholic community, but across Asia as a whole, Catholics account for only 3.2 percent of the population.

In his speech to the bishops, Francis acknowledged that the communities they tended to were a "small flock" in a "vast expanse of land", but encouraged them to find a way to shrink the cultural and social differences they encountered.

"On this vast continent, which is home to a great variety of cultures, the Church is called to be versatile and creative," he said.

Later, however, at a mass for thousands of young Catholics gathered from around the region for Asian Youth Day, Francis made it clear that being creative did not involve an abandonment of religious principle.

"You can appreciate the many positive values of the diverse Asian cultures," he said.

"(But) you are also able to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith ... and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt and lead to death," he added.

Francis is a staunch opponent of abortion, a key point of contention with China where nearly 330 million abortions were performed in the last 40 years, according to Beijing's Health Ministry.

According to various reports, scores of Chinese Catholics were prevented from traveling to South Korea for Asian Youth Day, and Beijing also warned Chinese priests in attendance not to participate in any event involving the pope.


Papal Visit That Thrills Catholics Is Unsettling to Protestants in South Korea

AUG. 16, 2014

SEOUL, South Korea — In a symbolic moment for the Vatican and South Korea’s 5.1 million Catholics, hundreds of thousands of people cheered as Pope Francis rode through central Seoul on Saturday to lead a Mass to beatify 124 martyrs directly in front of the palace of the old Korean dynasty that killed them more than a century ago.

“It feels like my heart is bursting,” said Yoon Ji-hyang, 45, between screams, as she jumped up and down to get a glimpse of the pope as Francis, waving and smiling, passed by on the city’s main boulevard.

Since the pope’s arrival Thursday, his visits to a center for handicapped children and his common-man touch have generated front-page news lavishing praise for his humility, which has been celebrated elsewhere. One news agency headlined its report: “Let’s Meet the Pope, ‘The Friend of the Poor,’ ” while the national public broadcaster gushed about his willingness to pose for cellphone pictures with ordinary Koreans.

But not everyone in South Korea has welcomed the pope, who is on a five-day visit meant to acknowledge Asia’s growing importance to the Catholic Church. And it is not Buddhists or Confucians — the country’s two major non-Christian religious groups — who are publicly expressing unhappiness with his visit, but members of Protestant groups who fear Catholic encroachment in a country where Christians make up 29 percent of the population.

“The enemy king has appeared at the center of our nation!” the Rev. Song Choon-gil, a Presbyterian pastor, shouted during a rally of hundreds of Protestants who gathered a few blocks from the papal Mass on Saturday. Accompanied by a band, the evangelical Protestants sang hymns and danced, shouting that they were sounding “the trumpets of spiritual war” against the “idol worship” and “satanic forces” they said Roman Catholicism represents.

Although tensions between South Korea’s Catholics and Protestants are not new, the pope’s visit has brought into focus the often ugly rivalry between churches vying for hearts and souls in South Korea. It also comes as the country is still reeling from accusations by prosecutors that the pastor of a relatively small Christian church siphoned money from the company whose ferry sank in April, killing more than 200 teenagers.

The broader Protestant community has officially welcomed Francis’s visit, the first by a pope to the country in 25 years, and the pope planned to meet the country’s religious leaders on Monday to promote harmony among different faiths. But even many mainstream Protestants feel unsettled by the trip, which comes as some denominations are suffering image problems and stagnating membership after decades of explosive growth.

“What is interesting is that there is very little mention of the pope’s visit to Korea in Protestant media, even though it is the biggest news in the country right now,” said Koo Se-woong, an expert on Korean religions. “That silence itself speaks to the resentment Protestants feel toward the Catholic Church, which enjoys a greater level of public trust than the Protestant side.”

Catholics first brought Christianity to Korea more than two centuries ago. But Protestant churches pursued aggressive evangelism, especially in the 1970s and 1980s when they reached out to the millions of people who migrated to cities during a period of rapid industrialization. The country is now home to some of the largest megachurches in the world, all of them Protestant, including Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, the world’s largest, with a congregation of more than 800,000.

Competitive proselytizing, however, also created some of the problems now dogging South Korea’s Protestant churches. Some non-Christians are offended by Protestants who seek converts on Seoul’s streets and subways, sometimes shouting through megaphones that nonbelievers will be relegated to hell.

In 2007, Protestants’ evangelizing zeal was criticized after young Presbyterian missionaries from South Korea were kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan, raising questions about whether church leaders had been reckless in sending them there.

Competition for believers has also increased in recent years with a proliferation of small Protestant churches. South Korea has long been open to the creation of new churches that share some beliefs of other Christian groups but are also shaped by the personal beliefs of their founders. Many of the churches are affiliated with major denominations but are so small they are squeezed into buildings crowded with restaurants, hair salons and bars.

Some, however, are more controversial and have no official connection to other denominations. While the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church is now more accepted in South Korea despite its highly publicized mass weddings, some of the newer groups have been labeled “cults” for their unique interpretations of the Bible and for the notoriety of their leaders.

The head of one such church is serving a 10-year prison term after persuading women to have sex with him in the belief that it would save their souls.

And more recently, many South Koreans were angered by the news about the church leader with ties to the ferry company. The man, Yoo Byung-eun, who was found dead in June while on the run from the police, was both a co-founder of his church and the head of a business empire, according to prosecutors, who say he and his family were enriching themselves even as they scrimped on safety measures for the ferry.

Mainstream Protestant churches have also suffered financial scandals in recent years as some preachers have been accused of misusing church funds to build their family’s fortunes.

Such scandals are thought to have contributed to troubling news for Protestants: In a widely cited annual survey conducted in December by the Christian Ethics Movement of Korea, South Koreans selected Catholicism as the most trustworthy religion, followed by Buddhism and then Protestantism.

“Unlike other major religious organizations that have suffered numerous financial and sexual scandals over the years, the Catholic Church in South Korea has proven to be remarkably clean,” Mr. Koo said. “So I am not surprised that the South Korean Catholic Church, with its strong moral authority, is enjoying a resurgence in the age of moral vacuum, while Protestant churches have stagnated, plagued by the perception of moral decrepitude and obsession with building megachurches.”

The Catholic Church has suffered its own problems, mainly criticism that it has focused less attention on the poor in a country already troubled by a growing wealth gap.

Still, the church is more often associated with the downtrodden than are Protestant groups, which generally embrace capitalism wholeheartedly and are aligned with some of the country’s wealthiest citizens and most powerful political leaders. That alliance was especially pronounced under the former president, Lee Myung-bak, a Presbyterian elder and a former business leader; when he was the mayor of Seoul, he vowed to “consecrate” the capital to the Christian god. Catholic leaders, on the other hand, often played a visible role in left-leaning causes, some of which resonated with a public that is generally enthusiastic about capitalism but increasingly concerned about social inequality.

Choo Chin-woo, a local newsmagazine reporter who has specialized in covering the country’s churches, said Francis’s comments expressing concern for the poor and his criticism of capitalist greed had made clear the difference between the pope and the Korean leadership of both Protestant and Catholic churches.

“In the standard of the mainstream Korean churches today,” Mr. Choo said, “the pope is clearly a ‘commie.’ ”


Pope Francis asks ‘What would we die for?’ at mass for Korean martyrs

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, August 16, 2014 5:31 EDT

'What would we die for?'

Pope Francis beatified 124 early Korean martyrs on Saturday at a mass in Seoul and challenged the massive crowd to ask what values they might be willing to die for in an increasingly materialistic, globalised world.

Hundreds of thousands of believers, most of them invited church groups from across South Korea. attended the open-air ceremony, held in hot, humid conditions in Gwanghwamun plaza — the city’s main ceremonial thoroughfare.

The centrepiece of the pope’s five day visit, the beatification mass was the subject of a massive security operation, with bridges, roads and subway stations closed, and police snipers posted on the roofs of overlooking office buildings, which had their windows sealed.

The most prominent among those to be beatified was an 18th century nobleman, Paul Yun Ji-Chung, who became Korea’s first Catholic martyr when he was executed in 1791 after clashing with Confucian officials.

According to the Church, around 10,000 Koreans were martyred in the first 100 years after Catholicism was introduced to the peninsula in 1784.

“They knew the cost of discipleship … and were willing to make great sacrifices,” Francis said in his sermon after the brief beatification ceremony, which gives the martyrs the title “blessed” and marks their first step towards sainthood.

On the last papal visit to South Korea 25 years ago, Pope John Paul II canonised 103 martyrs.

- What would we die for? -

“They challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for,” he said.

Continuing the theme that has dominated his visit, the pope said the lessons to be learned from the martyrs were as important as ever in an era marked more by selfishness and greed than sacrifice.

“Their example has much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing; where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded,” he said.

Up to one million people had been expected to converge on the venue for the mass, although only 200,000 who pre-registered were allowed to pass through dozens of metal detectors placed along a 4.5-kilometre (three mile) long security ring around the main plaza.

Some arrived hours before dawn, and whiled away the time reading the bible in small groups.

South Korea has a fast-growing Catholic community that punches well above its minority weight in one of Christianity’s most muscular Asian strongholds.

As the sun rose, Gwanghwamun boulevard was already crammed with spectators for a one-kilometre stretch north of City Hall.

The papal stage, topped with a giant cross stood at the top of the boulevard, backed by the giant tiled roof of the Joseon dynasty Gyeongbokgung Palace.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, unrepentant Catholics were generally paraded from Gwanghwamun southwest to Seosomun Gate where they were publicly executed.

Pope Francis began the day at a martyrs’ shrine at Seosomun and then made the journey of the condemned in reverse to Gwanghwamun, riding in an open-topped vehicle and waving to the ecstatic crowds on either side.

- Comforts ferry disaster relatives -

Organisers had been concerned about the relatives of victims of April’s Sewol ferry disaster, who have been camped out in Gwanghwamun for weeks to push their campaign for a full independent inquiry into the tragedy, which claimed 300 lives — most of them schoolchildren.

In the end, 600 family members were invited to attend the mass, effectively incorporating the protest into the event.

As he passed by, the pope stopped and stepped down from his vehicle to greet the relatives, including Kim Young-Oh, whose daughter died in the disaster and who has been on a hunger strike for more than one month.

“I am a Buddhist but I think the Pope can help us,” said Choi Keum-Bok, a construction worker who lost his son in the disaster.

Later Saturday, the pope was to travel to a hilltop community for the sick and disabled in Kkottongnae, around 80 kilometres south of Seoul.

The pope’s visit is very much aimed at fuelling a new era of growth for Catholicism in Asia, where the Church is making some spectacular gains in Asia, but where Catholics still only account for 3.2 percent of the continent’s population.

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« Reply #267 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:16 AM »

Pope Urges Divided Koreas to Unite as 'One People'

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 August 2014, 07:14

Pope Francis urged the divided Koreas to unite as "one family, one people" in a spirit of mutual forgiveness at a mass Monday that coincided with a South Korea-U.S. military drill condemned by the North as a prelude to war.

"Forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation", although it may seem "impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant", Francis said at a special mass for inter-Korean peace and reconciliation in Seoul.

"All Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people," the pope said, as he wound up a five-day visit to South Korea.

The mass, in the capital's Myeongdong cathedral, was one of the most anticipated events of the visit, and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye was among the congregation.

The pope's message was cloaked in a religious context and he avoided any overt political statement, with no mention of the repressive level of control exerted by the regime in Pyongyang over all religious activity.

"Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences," he said.

- North Korea threat -

The mass coincided with the launch of an annual South Korea-U.S. military exercise involving tens of thousands of troops to test combat readiness for a North Korean invasion.

North Korea has repeatedly called for the exercise to be canceled, and on Sunday its military joint chiefs of staff threatened to "mercilessly open the strongest... pre-emptive strike" if it goes ahead.

The Korean peninsula was divided in 1948 and the split was solidified by the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded without a peace treaty leaving the two Koreas still technically at war.

Church officials in the South had sent several requests to Pyongyang to send a group of Catholics to attend Monday's mass, but the North declined the offer, citing its anger at the joint military drill.

At the very moment Pope Francis landed in South Korea at the start of his visit on Thursday, North Korea carried out a series of short-range rocket launches into the sea off its east coast.

Pyongyang later insisted it had no intention of upstaging the visit, and said the tests had been timed to coincide with the anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

In his first public comments on arriving, the pope had stressed that peace on the divided peninsula could only be achieved through dialogue, "rather than ... displays of force".

The Catholic Church, like any other religion, is only allowed to operate in North Korea under extremely tight restrictions, and within the confines of the state-controlled Korean Catholics Association.

It has no hierarchical links with the Vatican and there are no known Catholic priests or nuns.

A recent report compiled by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry into human rights in North Korea concluded that practicing Christianity outside the state-sanctioned church amounted to a "political crime".

"Today's mass is first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family," Francis said Monday.

"The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to reestablish the original bonds of brotherly love," he added.

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« Reply #268 on: Aug 19, 2014, 06:06 AM »

Pope Says He Wants to Visit China

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 August 2014, 21:34

Pope Francis said Monday that he wants to visit China and called for the Catholic Church in the country to be allowed to do its "job".

"You ask me if I want to go to China? Certainly, even tomorrow," he told reporters on board the papal plane as he returned from a visit to South Korea.

"But the church asks for the freedom to do its job in China, there is no other condition," he said.

During the five-day visit to the divided Korean peninsula -- his first to Asia -- the pope called for countries like China and Vietnam that do not have formal ties with the Vatican to accept a "dialogue" with Rome, insisting that Catholics did not view Asia with the mentality of "conquerors".

Speaking on Monday as the Korean Airlines plane he was travelling in flew over China, he said the Vatican is "always open to contact" and that he has a "high regard" for the Chinese people.


Pope Francis mentions early retirement, jokes he has ‘two or three years’ left

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, August 18, 2014 21:10 EDT

Aboard the papal plane (AFP) – Pope Francis on Monday publicly broached the prospect of his own death for the first time, giving himself “two or three years” but not ruling out retirement before then.

Talking to reporters on a flight back to the Vatican from South Korea, the 77-year-old pontiff, who seemed in good spirits, was asked about his global popularity, which was evident again during his five-day visit.

“I see it as the generosity of the people of God. I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, not to become proud. Because I know it will last only a short time. Two or three years and then I’ll be off to the Father’s House,” he replied light-heartedly.

The Argentine pope said he could handle the popularity “more naturally” these days, though at first it had “scared me a little”.

While the pope has not spoken publicly before about when he might meet his maker, a Vatican source said he had previously told those close to him that he thought he only had a few years left.

Pope Francis also mentioned the possibility of retiring from the Papacy, as his predecessor Benedict XVI did last year, if he felt he could no longer adequately perform his duties.

Resigning the papacy was a possibility “even if it does not appeal to some theologians”, he told reporters.

He added that 60 years ago it was practically unheard of for Catholic bishops to retire, but nowadays it was common.

“Benedict XVI opened a door,” he said.

Francis admitted that he had “some nerve problems”, which required treatment.

“Must treat them well, these nerves, give them mate (an Argentine stimulant tea) every day,” he joked.

“One of these neuroses, is that I’m too much of a homebody,” he added, recalling that the last time he’d taken a holiday outside of his native Argentina was “with the Jesuit community in 1975″.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #269 on: Aug 20, 2014, 05:01 AM »

Pope Francis’ Flights Yield Candid Conversations

AUG. 19, 2014

ROME — Francis is not the first pope to answer journalists’ questions on a broad range of topics during the empty flight time on papal trips. But he has managed to turn these impromptu news conferences into front-page-grabbing events.

Case in point: Monday’s return flight from a five-day trip to South Korea. During an hourlong conversation with journalists, the pope touched on military intervention in Iraq and expressed a desire to travel to China, even “tomorrow.” He said that preparation of cause for the beatification of Óscar Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop slain in 1980, was well along and that he hoped to visit the United States next year, perhaps stopping in New York. He also suggested that he was open to following the example of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, and retiring.

Francis even spoke about his own death, though reporters on the flight noted that it was in a joking manner. Asked how he coped with his overwhelming popularity, the pope responded that he often meditated on his sins and mistakes, because he did not want to get too big for his britches. “Because I know this will last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father,” he said. (He also admitted to being neurotic. “One of the neuroses is that I am too attached to life,” he said.)

The Vatican press office on Monday released a transcript of the conversation translated from the Italian by the Vatican journalist Gerard O’Connell, who covered the papal trip for America, the Jesuit magazine.

Francis has made headlines before with his off-the-cuff comments and freewheeling exchanges. During the return trip from World Youth Day in Brazil last July, for example, he surprised the reporters on board when he said he would not condemn priests because of their sexual orientation. “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?” he said.

Other popes have also relaxed with journalists on long-distance flights.

But longtime Vatican reporters said Francis was more loquacious than his predecessor had been. His briefings are longer, “and he’s more open with journalists,” said Andrea Tornielli, a Vatican reporter for La Stampa, an Italian newspaper. “But remember that John Paul II was the same before he got ill.”

Asked whether he approved of the American military intervention in Iraq, the pope said it was “licit to stop an unjust aggressor.” But he added: “I do not say bomb, make war. I say stop by some means. With what means can they be stopped? These have to be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit.” He then called on the United Nations to decide what course of action to take.

Traveling over Chinese airspace on his way to South Korea, the pope said he had “prayed a lot for that beautiful and noble Chinese people, a wise people,” whose history, he said, is intertwined with that of Jesuit missionaries who went to China to proselytize. Did the pope hope to go there? “For sure! Tomorrow!” he said, adding that the church respected the Chinese people.

“The church only asks for liberty for its task, for its work — there’s no other condition,” Francis said. “The Holy See is always open to contacts. Always. Because it has a true esteem for the Chinese people.”

Francis expressed a desire to travel to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families in September 2015, adding that he had been invited to Washington to address Congress and to New York to visit the Secretariat of the United Nations. “So maybe the three cities together,” he said. He may tack on a trip to Mexico to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he added, “but it’s not certain.”

He praised the emeritus pope, Benedict XVI, for having the courage to step down when he did and said he was open to following suit. “You could say to me, if you at some time felt you could not go forward, I would do the same! I would do the same,” he said. “I would pray, but I would do the same.” Benedict, he added, “opened a door that is institutional, not exceptional.”

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