Posted by: Fr Chris | January 13, 2011

A variety of things today from Facebook to Benedict XVI

Well that ought to perk your interest in today’s posting 🙂

Before going any further, a comment on the recent slaughter in Tucson: first,  that we pray for the repose of the departed souls; second,  that we pray for the parents of the shooter and for the salvation of the shooter who is, by all accounts, a very sick and lonely soul; third,  that we pray and advocate for greater care for mental illnesses in our communities – the dumping of the mentally ill back in the 1960s and 1970s has not resulted in more care for these people but ever less care, and less support to their families.

1. On the lighter side of life: for those who use Facebook, privacy has been hit once again with little warning. I suggest that you look at this article and make sure that  photographs of you have not gone around the entire planet unless you want them to: http://gawker.com/5729990/how-to-keep-facebook-from-humiliating-you-today

2. On the more serious side: Lebanon’s government has collapsed. The new rules that were created recently have weakened the presidency, which fortunately is still held by a Maronite Catholic, and the doors are open to Sunni-Shia fighting now with this crisis. The Hague tribunal will give its decision any day now on the level of Syrian and Hezbollah involvement in the killing of the Sunni leader Hariri in 2005. Most people expect that Hezbollah leaders will be named by the tribunal. Hezbollah is backed by Iran, which is flexing its muscles to become the Shiite version of the Persian Empire across the Fertile Crescent nations.  Sane people there do not want another civil war, or an Israeli attack again on Hezbollah bases in Lebanon. Please pray to Our Lady, the Protectress of Lebanon, that there would be peace, and that any uprisings be suppressed quickly with no loss of life. Both Muslims and Druze have joined Christians in pilgrimages to this shrine in the village of Harissa since 1908.  See  http://www.ololb.org/ from Lebanon (in English)

http://www.maryourmother.net/Lebanon.html

and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Lebanon .

4. The Church Suffering: Aid to the Church in Need is a worldwide papal charity that does tremendous work among Catholics who are at risk, especially in places where there is persecution or active discrimination, and places in need of outside help. Everything is carefully vetted and your donations go very far indeed.   After 1991, its work was expanded to include Russian Orthodox in Russia to assist in that Church’s renewal. This Australian site is regularly updated with accurate news on Catholics in any place where the Faith is under pressure, and so you can use this as an accurate information site:  http://members4.boardhost.com/acnaus/

This is the USA office: http://www.churchinneed.org/site/PageServer?pagename=mainpage

and here is the UK office: http://www.acnuk.org/

3.Papa locutus!

Pope Benedict XVI  gave a blunt speech to the diplomats accredited to the Holy See about the situation of Christians around the world.

You can read a redacted version here from Sandro Magister’s  site:  http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1346255?eng=y or get the whole speech at the Vatican site:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2011/january/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20110110_diplomatic-corps_en.html

This annual speech, delivered in French, is always anticipated with great interest by foreign states, as they look to see what the pope will be emphasizing in his outreach in the coming year — and whether their country is named in a positive or negative way. If the Pope has a criticism it is traditionally presented delicately. Not this year! 

On January 10, His Holiness gave a blunt speech. He named Egypt, Pakistan, China, India and “southeast Asia”, “the Arabian peninsula”  and Nigeria as countries where there is active persecution of Catholicism and of Christianity in general. He also pointed out, that the right to religious freedom is not fully respected when only freedom of worship is guaranteed, and that with restrictions as is so often the case in communist states and other systems which see religion as prayers only, and so: The West did not get off lightly

in our countries, there is marginalization of religion: a “tendency to consider religion, all religion, as something insignificant, alien or even destabilizing to modern society, and to attempt by different means to prevent it from having any influence on the life of society”  (I think he has hit the truth of western liberal secularism right on its head here!)

AND even further: “the banning of religious feasts and symbols from civic life under the guise of respect for the members of other religions or those who are not believers. By acting in this way, not only is the right of believers to the public expression of their faith restricted, but an attack is made on the cultural roots which nourish the profound identity and social cohesion of many nations.”

Like I said, he was blunt.

Pakistan was upset, along with Egypt. Pakistan of course has the awful blasphemy laws which were set up in the 1970s to “defend” the prophet and the Quran and Islam in general. Any Pakistani Christian who would attack the prophet or Islam or deface a Quran would have to be insane, as all of them know the risk of the death penalty. The laws are invoked when there are disputes about land, or dating among girls and boys, or money issues – or as in the case of Asia Bibi, outright hatred. The other women would not touch the water that she brought for their relief on a hot afternoon, saying that the  Christian’s hand polluted it.  As we saw with the murder of governor Salman Taseer who was shot an astounding twenty-six times by his own guard – and in the back by these brave warrior – these laws are crippling Pakistani civic society. You can follow the blashphemy laws and the struggle of Pakistan’s Christians and more moderate Muslims at http://www.asianews.it/en.html which is run by the PIME Fathers and is the best source for news about Asia and Christianity.

Egypt has pulled its ambassador, who is a woman by the way, and who said that the use of the word “persecution” was a legal term implying ongoing problems, and that the attack in Alexandria was an attack on all of Egypt. The ubiquitous phrase “our internal affairs” was invoked to deny the right of the pope to say anything more.  Hmm  – that is the phrase that the Communist Chinese and Cubans and the authoritarians from Chavez to Myanmar always use to keep human-rights workers out of their countries.  Funny how internal affairs always ends up seeing innocent and justice-oriented people suffer.

Why care about these regions and their rules and persecutions?

a. We are one body in Christ.

b. As Philip Jenkins’ books The Next Christendom and The New Faces of Christianity point out, we of North American and West Europe are losing our position as leaders of the Church, thanks to our selfish support of massive contraception, sterilization and widespread abortion, and our general failure to push hard for the defense of the Faith and human rights.  The South and East will dominate both Christendom and world markets.

c. we are one Body in Christ. Failure to pray, and advocate, and teach about the rest of the Church and those at risk on our planet should be seen as a sin.

d. Truth will set us free: we are woefully ignorant about Islam, about the East and South, and I think even the basics of Catholicism.

Pray for us, holy Mother of  God, for all your children who are Jesus’ brothers and sisters without distinction, that humanity would move further on the path of the Gospel, and not the teachings of self-interest and self-aggrandizement.


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