Vie de l'église

While formal dialogue about the…

While formal dialogue about the theological and historical causes of the splits in Christianity are essential, so, too, is a recognition that « sinful actions and attitudes » have contributed and continue to contribute to divisions in the body of Christ, Pope Francis said.

« We are called, then, to work toward the restoration of unity between Christians, not merely through signed agreements but through fidelity to the Father’s will and discernment of the promptings of the Spirit, » Francis wrote in a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople Nov. 30, the feast of St. Andrew.

« We can be thankful to God that our churches are not resigned to past and current experiences of division, but, on the contrary, through prayer and fraternal charity are seeking instead to achieve full communion that will enable us one day, in God’s time, to gather together at the same eucharistic table, » said the pope’s letter, which was read publicly at the end of a Divine Liturgy in the patriarchal church of St. George in the Phanar, the patriarchate’s headquarters in Istanbul.

The letter was delivered personally by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, outgoing prefect of the Dicastery for Eastern Churches, who led a Vatican delegation to Istanbul for the feast of St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, and patron saint of the Orthodox patriarchate.

The pope and the patriarch send delegations to each other’s churches each year for the celebrations of their patron saints’ feast days: the Vatican’s June 29 celebration of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul and the patriarchate’s celebration of the feast of St. Andrew.

Francis included in his letter condolences over the Nov. 13 Istanbul bombing that killed six people and wounded more than 80 on a busy street lined with shops and restaurants.

« I entrust to the mercy of Almighty God those who have lost their lives or have been wounded by the recent attack in your own city and pray that he will convert the hearts of those who promote or support such evil actions, » the pope wrote.

The bombing is another sign that « dialogue and encounter are the only viable path for overcoming conflicts and all forms of violence, » the pope said, mentioning how that position and the importance of interreligious dialogue, in particular, was affirmed by the pope and patriarch when they met and prayed together in early November in Bahrain.

« The full restoration of communion among all the believers in Jesus Christ is an irrevocable commitment for every Christian, » the pope wrote, because « the ‘unity of all’ is not only God’s will but an urgent priority in today’s world, » so often marked by violent divisions.

Catholics and Orthodox, he said, must acknowledge that their divisions « are the result of sinful actions and attitudes which impede the work of the Holy Spirit, who guides the faithful into unity in legitimate diversity. It follows that only growth in holiness of life can lead to genuine and lasting unity. »

Francis also remembered Bartholomew and the Orthodox community at the end of his weekly general audience that day.

With thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Francis told them, « I wish to express my special affection to my dear brother Patriarch Bartholomew I and the entire church of Constantinople. May the intercession of the holy brother apostles Peter and Andrew soon grant the church to fully enjoy its unity » and grant « peace to the whole world, especially at this time to the dear and tormented Ukraine, which is always in our hearts and prayers. »

Vie de l'église

Russia has lodged a formal protest…

Russia has lodged a formal protest with the Vatican over Pope Francis’ latest condemnation of atrocities in Ukraine, in which the pontiff blamed most of the cruelty on Chechens and other minorities in an apparent effort to spare ethnic Russian troops from criticism.

The Kremlin’s ambassador to the Holy See, Alexander Avdeev, told the RIA Novosti agency that he met Nov. 28 with a Vatican official to express his “indignation” about Francis’ comments, which were contained in an interview with the Jesuit magazine America that was published Nov. 28.

In his comments, Francis defended his usual reluctance to call out President Vladimir Putin by name, saying it was clear Ukraine is the “martyred” victim in the war. But he also said that, while it was the Russian state that invaded Ukraine, “Generally, the cruelest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryats and so on.”

The pope’s apparent distinction between the mostly Muslim Chechens and Buddhist Buryats on the one hand, and ethnic Russian fighters on the other, irked Moscow.

“I expressed indignation at such insinuations and noted that nothing can shake the cohesion and unity of the multinational Russian people,” Avdeev was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

Throughout the nine-month war, Francis has tried to spare direct condemnation of Moscow for fear of antagonizing the Russian Orthodox Church, which has strongly backed Putin’s invasion on religious grounds. Francis has previously blamed “mercenaries” for the atrocities being committed in Ukraine, drawing criticism from the Kyiv government.

In the new comments, Francis was clearly trying to draw a line between those who follow « the Russian tradition” and allegedly more brutal Chechens and Buryats, when in fact Russian troops have been accused of war crimes regardless of their ethnicity.

While it wasn’t entirely clear what Francis meant by people who follow the “Russian tradition,” it could be a reference to the predominantly Russian Orthodox Christian roots of an estimated 68% of the population.

The RIA report also cited the regional leader of Buryatia, Alexey Tsydenov, as describing the pope’s remarks as “at least strange.” Buryatia, a Siberian republic which forms part of Russia, is home to indigenous Buryat Mongolians, who were reported to be disproportionally targeted by Moscow’s mobilization efforts alongside other minorities.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of predominantly Muslim Chechnya, has been one of the most outspoken supporters of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, though fighters from the southern Russian republic have participated on both sides in the war. Pro-Kyiv volunteers, for example, have named their grouping after a late leader who headed Chechnya’s drive for independence from Moscow.

The latest dustup over Francis’ comments come as the Holy See tries to play a mediating role in the conflict. Francis and the Vatican secretariat of state have made repeated offers to try to facilitate peace talks, to no avail.

Asked Nov. 28 about the latest offer, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow appreciates the gesture but he noted that Ukraine has refused to hold talks.

The Vatican has a tradition of not taking sides in conflicts, believing it can be a more effective peacemaker with behind-the-scenes diplomacy. And Francis has tried to balance his rhetoric, expressing solidarity with the “martyred” people of Ukraine while also seemingly acknowledging Kremlin complaints about NATO “barking at its gates” by its eastward expansion.

The day after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion Francis made a very public gesture by going to the Russian embassy to the Holy See to personally appeal to Avdeev for peace.

Vie de l'église

A 90-year-old Roman Catholic…

A 90-year-old Roman Catholic cardinal and five others in Hong Kong were fined after being found guilty Nov. 25 of failing to register a now-defunct fund that aimed to help people arrested in the widespread protests three years ago.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, a retired bishop and a vocal democracy advocate of the city, arrived at court in a black outfit and used a walking stick. He was first arrested in May on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces under a Beijing-imposed National Security Law. His arrest sent shockwaves through the Catholic community, although the Vatican only stated it was monitoring the development of the situation closely.

While Zen and other activists at the trial have not yet been charged with national security-related charges, they were charged with failing to properly register the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped pay medical and legal fees for arrested protesters beginning in 2019. It ceased operations in October 2021.

Zen, alongside singer Denise Ho, scholar Hui Po Keung, former pro-democracy lawmakers Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho, were trustees of the fund. They were each fined 4,000 Hong Kong dollars ($512). A sixth defendant, Sze Ching-wee, was the fund’s secretary and was fined HK$2500 ($320).

The Societies Ordinance requires local organizations to register or apply for an exemption within a month of their establishment. Those who failed to do so face a fine of up to HK$10,000 ($1,273), with no jail time, upon first conviction.

Handing down the verdict, Principal Magistrate Ada Yim ruled that the fund is considered an organization that is obliged to register as it was not purely for charity purposes.

The judgement holds significance as the first time that residents had to face a charge under the ordinance for failing to register, Ng told reporters after the hearing.

“The effect to other people, to the many, many citizens who are associated together to do one thing or another, and what will happen to them, is very important, » the veteran lawyer said. “It is also extremely important about the freedom of association in Hong Kong under Societies Ordinance.”

But Zen said his case should not be linked with the city’s religious freedoms. “I haven’t seen any erosion of religious freedoms in Hong Kong, » he said.

The 2019 protests were sparked by a since-withdrawn bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. Critics worried the suspects would disappear into China’s opaque and frequently abusive legal system. Opposition morphed into months of violent unrest in the city.

The National Security Law has crippled Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement since its enactment in 2020, with many activists being arrested or jailed in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to China’s rule in 1997.

The impact of the law has also damaged faith in the future of the international financial hub, with a growing number of young professionals responding to the shrinking freedoms by emigrating overseas.

Vie de l'église

Here’s a list of Advent movies,…

The Advent season is a beautiful time to unite in prayer through all sorts of art. While many of us enjoy watching some of the same Christmas movies over and over again (claymation classic « The Little Drummer Boy, » anyone?), I have compiled a list of Advent movies, music, art and books that can add new elements of joy and understanding to your family’s Advent journey.

  • Family movie night: « The Nativity Story » is a 2005 film that retells the harrowing journey of Mary and Joseph traveling to  Bethlehem as they prepare for Christ’s birth. The filming, notably featuring a young Oscar Isaac as Joseph, presents a very human retelling of the world’s most famous story — one that acknowledges the moments of shock, fear, awe and most importantly prayer, that brought Christ’s earthly parents to the foot of his manger bed. Parents, may want to make note that the film portrays Mary as having experienced pain during Christ’s delivery. The film is still chock-full of value and worth watching together and discussing after.
  • A film to watch and discuss with your secular friends: « The Ultimate Gift » is a 2007 film that, while not explicitly Christian, teaches Christian values such as selflessness, charity and forgiveness. The story centers around a man named Jason, whose inheritance from his billionaire grandfather is a list of altruistic tasks he must complete if wants to earn « The Ultimate Gift. » Along the way, Jason meets a woman and her young daughter, who is dying of leukemia. Jason receives the gift of perspective, as he learns what’s really important in life.
  • Put on a movie for the kids: « The Star » is a 2017 animated film that tells the nativity story through an unexpected set of eyes — the manger animals. Mary and Joseph’s trusted donkey steed and the wise men’s camels are joined by all sorts of animal friends as they journey toward Bethlehem, intent on delivering the child savior safely. Though the animals encounter dangers and enemies along the way, even the « bad » animals that tried to stop them are redeemed through friendship  This unique telling of the nativity story engages kids and is filled with lots of extra lessons on the importance of kindness and trust. « The Star » features the voice acting skills of Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Gina Rodriguez, Kelly Clarkson and many others.
Vie de l'église

In her book Heathen: Religion and…

As a Native Catholic, I often run into one particular accusation lingering beneath conversations about the incorporation of culture into religious practice; one word ever-present yet amorphous: « heathen. » But how to know what counts as « heathen »?  

When I press, the qualifications always seem to change. For instance, I am told my traditional plant-based smoke cleansing — like with cedar, sage, or sweetgrass — is something to avoid for prayer. And yet European-style incense smoke cleansing is fine. Then there are the warnings without specific distinctions at all; the ones that slip and slide until they fall into the category of Just Not European White Enough.

Author Kathryn Gin Lum assures me I am not wrong to perceive a slippery nature in the « heathen » assertion. In her book, Heathen: Religion and Race in American History, Gin Lum traces how the othering use of « heathen » has changed through the years to meet the evolving needs and desires of power and whiteness. While chronologically the story of Heathen begins with the use of the term for Roman othering and early Christianity, the book makes sure to paint a picture of the full trajectory: the function of heathenism to create our uniquely American brew of racism and white Christian supremacy.

Part I of the book, « Imagining the Heathen World, » traces the efforts of white European Christian secular and theological thought to grapple with their own pagan past and explain, while validating, conquering desires. The chapters « Precedents » and « Origin Stories » present racial theories of paganism ultimately leading to the Doctrine of Discovery, discussed extensively in Chapter 3, « Landscapes. » That chapter, and the following chapter « Bodies, » explain in detail the efforts of the concept of heathenism to control the people and lands desired by a hungry white Christianity eager for capitalistic success.

Control of the narrative is a recurrent theme. Part II, « The Body Politic, » moves this discussion into its political usefulness in creating and maintaining the United States. Slavery and its Christian justifications are the major focus of the chapter « Barometer. » Chapter 6, « Exclusion, » includes anti-Chinese policy and the Asian othering using heathen. This distinctive experience is often left out of these discussions, that tend to focus primarily on the Black and Native stories. It impressed upon me that memory and academic research are strongly influenced by who is in the discussion and who is writing the books.

I appreciated the special attention given to the Hawaiian experience and specificity when discussing Native people. They are covered in Chapter 7, « Inclusion, » which reminds us that the appearance of acceptance is not benign. There is a temptation when covering a topic so vast to flatten groups for simplicity’s sake. Gin Lum made the effort to respect individuals in her research and presentation. That is not a given in historic and modern academic research.

Part III, « Inheritances, » brings us to the 20th century and the myriad ways the same concept of heathen has morphed to fit in our modern America. Chapter 8, « Preservation and Pushback, » shows the impact of salvage anthropology and the insidious admiration of the heathen. A substantial portion of this section can only scratch the surface of the reframing necessary to maintain missionary beliefs. Chapter 9, « Resonances, » frames out the mission structure worldwide and the beliefs that perpetuate it. Words like « ethnic » and « third world » have taken the place of « heathen » and continue to influence how Americans view our modern-day others.

The final chapter, « Continuing Counterscripts, » makes explicit the resistance to control of narrative, land, bodies and mind by those who have carried the heathen label. The epilogue and postscript catch us up to now with the patterns seen in the response and reactions to COVID-19.

There were times I found this work difficult to read. I would frequently pause and realize Lin Gum was putting into words something I knew from experience but had never seen articulated in a sourced academic work. Representation feels simultaneously validating and vulnerable.

Native people, as well as most people ascribed to the « heathen » grouping, have a long history of being studied in a dehumanizing and objectifying way. As I read works of this genre, I feel myself waiting for the shoe to drop; for the racism to come roaring out; to hear the white colonizer perspective centered, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s easier to find that source material. But it didn’t happen in Heathen.

It is a deliberate choice to write a book that holds up such a harsh and timely mirror to Christians in the United States. I am grateful to Kathryn Lin Gum for writing this book and offering such unapologetic representation in the academic world.

Vie de l'église

The centuries’ old silver fir tree…

The centuries’ old silver fir tree that had been destined to become the centerpiece Christmas decoration in St. Peter’s Square will now live, perhaps to see another century.

Forest service rangers arrived at the scene — a mountain grove in central Italy’s Monte Castel Barone — Nov. 14 to alert workers to halt preparations for felling the tree.

When it emerged back in 2019 that the small village of Rosello in Italy’s central Abruzzo region was donating the tree to the Vatican for 2022, local activists started flagging problems, such as the lack of transparency concerning the donation and the failure to carry out an environmental impact study.

Dario Rapino, a lawyer and nature photographer, even wrote to Pope Francis in 2020, pointing to his encyclical « Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home » and the importance of avoiding any unnecessary human impact on the environment, according to local media reports.

Even the World Wildlife Fund had put out a statement Nov. 7 saying, « cutting a tree of this size in the midst of a climate crisis is a debatable decision, » which required « greater transparency. »

However, it wasn’t until Rapino recently tracked down the 98-foot-tree, that he discovered it was not located in Rosello, much less in the region of Abruzzo, but was, in fact, in a protected area in the nearby region of Molise in the township of Agnone, according to a report Nov. 12 by ChietiToday. The tree’s size, he said, also put it at around 200 years old.

He told the press, « The pope will be given a tree from Agnone passed off as being from Rosello, not that it changes much, because it is still all about destruction. »

Rapino said he notified the region of Molise and the province’s forest service about stopping the operation since Rosello lacked the authorization to cut down a tree outside its jurisdiction, according to a report Nov. 13 by

According to the same outlet, Col. Gianluca Grossi, head of the provincial forest rangers, told the news outlet Nov. 14 that the planned tree-cutting was stopped because local officials from the town of Agnone and the village of Rosello called for a delay so they could complete the required documentation.

Rapino told ChietiToday Nov. 15 that the village of Rosello had decided to take a tree for the Vatican from a tree farm in Palena in the region of Abruzzo.

The Vatican had announced Oct. 28 that the traditional tree lighting ceremony and unveiling of the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square would be held Dec. 3. The display will remain up until after the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jan. 8.

The Nativity scene that will sit under the tree this year will feature 19 life-sized figures carved in cedar by artisans in the northeastern Italian town of Sutrio. The decorations on the tree were made by young adults at a residential psychiatric facility in Rosello.

The cedar for the Nativity scene figures, the Vatican had said, came from trees selectively cut by gardeners to improve the health of other trees in several public and private gardens. None of the trees were cut specifically for the sculptures.

The Holy Family, the ox and donkey and an angel will be under an arched structure made of larch. The other figures — including the three kings, the shepherdess, a carpenter, a family and a « Cramar, » or local wandering salesman, will be on the surrounding platform or ramps leading to it.

Vie de l'église

Francis, the comic strip: Happy…

Vie de l'église

‘The government protects…

A federal appeals court will rehear Apache Stronghold’s case against the United States to save the sacred site of Oak Flat, a 6.7-square-mile stretch of land east of Phoenix that a private venture is seeking to turn into an underground copper mine.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced Nov. 17 that it will rehear the case in front of a full 11-judge court instead of the original three-judge panel.

Earlier this summer, the divided federal appeals court, in a 2-1 ruling, held that the government could proceed with the transfer of Oak Flat to Resolution Copper, a company owned by the British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto. 

It ruled that Apache Stronghold, a nonprofit working to protect Oak Flat, failed to show a substantial burden on its religious exercise.

« The government does not substantially burden religion every time it ends a governmental benefit that at one time went to religious beneficiaries: there must be an element of coercion, » according to the ruling.

Apache Stronghold founder Wendsler Nosie Sr. said Resolution Copper’s mine will swallow the site in a massive crater and render « longstanding religious practices impossible. » Apache Stronghold had vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if judges decided against rehearing the case.

« The government protects historical churches and other important religious landmarks, and our site deserves no less protection. We are glad the Ninth Circuit is going to take a closer look at this decision, and we hope it will do the right thing and protect Oak Flat, » Nosie said in a statement.

Nosie has likened Oak Flat to Mount Sinai — « our most sacred site, where we connect with our Creator, our faith, our families and our land » — and has underscored how an attack on Indigenous religion — the oldest religion of this part of the world — is a threat to all religions. »

The Apache people hold a number of important ceremonies at Oak Flat, known in Apache as Chi’chil Biłdagoteel. According to court filings, the ceremonies can take place only on the site, which would be destroyed by mining. The Apaches believe Oak Flat is a « blessed place » where Ga’an — guardians or messengers between the people and Usen, the creator — dwell.

Congress approved the transfer of the land to Resolution Copper in 2014 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act in exchange for 6,000 acres elsewhere.

« The court now has an opportunity to correct its earlier mistake and protect Apache religious exercise at Oak Flat, » said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, which is representing Apache Stronghold. « A win for Apache Stronghold will be a win for people of all faiths. »

La chaine de KOFC

Spiritual Warfare (Into the Breach) – Preview

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Family (Into the Breach) – Preview

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