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What happens when an atheist encounters Christ? This poet found out for herself

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“Until two years ago, I was a really committed atheist and I really hated the Catholic Church,” said poet Sally Read, as she explained how all that dramatically changed during nine months in 2010.

“The whole process took from March to December, and I was received into the Catholic Church at the Vatican in December, so it was a bit of a lightning flash,” she told CNA on July 24.

A 41-year-old Englishwoman, Sally Read is regarded as a rising star within the world of poetry. Her publisher describes the former psychiatric nurse as “one of a new generation of younger poets shaping the future of British poetry.”

She now lives in the Italian seaside town of Santa Marinella with her husband and their daughter. It was there that her conversion story began two years ago while she was writing an anthology based on her experiences with psychiatric patients.

“As I was writing this book, I became very aware that I didn’t know where the soul was and I didn’t know if the soul existed. And it was really driving me crazy.” Her frustration led her into discussion, and often heated debate, with a Canadian priest who was based in the coastal resort town.

“So, while I was talking to this priest about, well, is there a God and all of that kind of stuff, I kind of had this feeling as a poet that God was the ultimate poet and the ultimate Creator, and I was simply being used as an instrument,” she recalled.

It was at that point that she phoned the priest to say, “I don’t think I’m an atheist after all.” But she refused to make the intellectual leap to Christianity, insisting to her priest friend that he would never convert her.

“He was very patient and very good.” He said, “Christ will convert you, I’m not going to convert you … .”

Read was raised in a strictly anti-religious household and, so, she now felt like “everything I had ever believed in (was) being turned upside down.”

“It was very, very difficult. I mean, I wasn’t sleeping at all. I was very emotionally traumatized,” she said, describing those months in 2010 as “the most disrupted period in my whole life.”

Her turmoil ended abruptly one afternoon when she stepped into a local Catholic Church.

“Just one day, I was in tears and said to this icon of Christ, If you’re there, then you have to help me. And, this thing happened which is very hard to explain, but I felt as if I was being physically lifted up and my tears stopped, and I felt this presence.”

She described the sensation as “utterly tangible,” so much so that from then on she “knew that life was devoted to Christ. There was nothing else.”

Her journey into the Catholic Church quickly followed.

“I realized that there was only one Church and the way to be closest to Christ was to be a Catholic, because it’s the Eucharist and taking Communion.”

Since then she has faced opposition from family members and shock from a socially-liberal artistic establishment. And, yet, “I’m still happier than I’ve ever been,” she said with a broad grin on her face.

As for writing, her third anthology of poetry will be released this year. But the philosophical outlook of her work has now changed dramatically.

“So, I don’t know where it’s going to go with poetry, but I think it’s going to be interesting,” Read said.

By David Kerr


Faith and the Future: Build on the Rock of Jesus and Become the Church Militant

The use of the expression Church Militant as a description of the mission of the Church on earth used to be very common. However, for lots of reasons, including a possible misunderstanding of the term in this increasingly violent age, it has fallen out of use. It needs to be revived, and placed in its proper context, a spiritual context. In 1953, the Pope Pius XII, who had led the Church through two decades of darkness in a world besieged by war, stated without equivocation – We belong to the Church militant; and she is militant because on earth the powers of darkness are ever restless to encompass her destruction.Hear again the words the Apostle Paul spoke to the Ephesian Christians – We do not wrestle against flesh and blood; but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:11,12)

In the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we read words from Jesus to his disciples concerning how they should live their lives. It is important to remember that Jesus Christ is not dead, He is alive. He has been raised and He lives that Risen life now in and through His Church, of which we are members. (1 Cor. 12:27, Eph. 5:30):

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” (Matt. 7)

These words are found in the Gospel text chosen for the Catholic Liturgy, or Holy Mass, on the first Thursday in the season of Advent. We are His contemporary disciples, and we need to hear these words in this urgent hour in which we now live. In the first reading of that same Liturgy, we also find words which the Lord spoke through the Prophet Isaiah, reminding Israel to “Trust in the LORD forever! For the LORD is an eternal Rock.” (Isaiah 26)

Are we building our life on the Rock? 

It is time to make an honest assessment. We should ask this question, “On what foundation are we building?”  We are living in increasingly turbulent times. The turmoil of violence in our streets seems to be happening so often that we are no longer even surprised by it. Everywhere one looks, we see a shaking of the foundations upon which we once relied.

There are fractures in the fabric of our civil order and deep wounds which must be healed. Our National economy is in an ongoing decline, in spite of the manipulation of malleable statistics and the banter of some economists who are propagandists for the delusion pushed by ideologues who foster a rosy picture when the thorns are evident. The facts simply get pushed to the side, Finally, there is little doubt that we went over the moral cliff long ago. All of this is connected because there is a moral foundation to freedom.

However, Christians need not be afraid. Our life together in the Lord, our connection together in Body of Christ, the Church, is meant to provide a place of shelter, not only for us, but for others who seek stability as the shaking continues all around.  Yes, the Church is also being shaken. However, that shaking is for her purification, fortification and reform. The Apostle Peter reminded the early Christians undergoing persecution that judgment begins in the household of faith. (1 Peter 4:17) So too does the shaking (See, Heb 12).

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews also reminds us “we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe.” (Heb 12:28)  Through our Baptism we now live in the in the Body of Christ. All who bear the name Christian, even if we are divided, are somehow still joined together in that Church which is founded upon Jesus Christ. It is the only place of safety. The shaking will continue. False foundations, some of which have lulled even some believers into complacency, may soon fall under the stress caused by the growing unrest and decline.

There is a place where we can stand secure and strong. And, from where we must to reach out to those who are succumbing to the fear being unleashed in the hearts of men, women and Nations. That place has an unshakable foundation. That place is the Body of Christ, the Church. That is where we must stand – and stand together. Not in order to withdraw from the turbulence around us, but as a firm foundation from which we can bring stability and freedom to those who are beginning to fear what lies ahead and fight “the good fight of faith”. ( 1 Tim. 6:12)

The Church Militant

From that place of safety we can wage war together against the world, the flesh and the devil. From that place we can reach out to all men and women with the love of God, fully manifested in Jesus Christ. And from that place we can reach out to rebuild the foundations of authentic freedom and lead others along the path to the only lasting peace.

On Monday, May 21, 2012, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI held a luncheon with members of the College of Cardinals to thank them for their kindness in wishing him a Happy 85th Birthday on April 16, 2012. In addition, he wanted to thank his friends for wishing him a happy seventh anniversary of his election to the Chair of Peter on April 19, 2012. Vatican News sources reported that Benedict reminded the brothers upon whom he relied for advice and counsel, that “The Church, the Mystical Body, exists on this earth, and is called the Church militant, because its members struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil.”

He shared many of his moments of joy during his apostolic ministry as the successor of Peter, as well as insights into the struggles, telling the Cardinals:

(I) especially thank the Lord for the many years He has given me, years with many days of joy, wonderful times, but also dark nights. But in retrospect it is understood that the nights were necessary and good. We see evil wants to rule the world and it is necessary to go into battle against evil. We (see) it does in so many ways, bloody, with various forms of violence, but also disguised with good and thus destroying the moral foundations of society. We’re in this fight and (in) this fight it is very important to have friends. I am surrounded by friends of the College of Cardinals: they are my friends and I feel at home, I feel safe in the company of great friends who are with me, together.”

I believe that the sentiments expressed on that day were pointing toward an historic  action which he undertook on February 28, 2013. With the humility which characterized his extraordinary papacy, Benedict resigned his apostolic office. The announcement was simple and straightforward. It was made to a consistory of his brothers in the episcopate, cardinals who had gathered in Rome where he approved over 800 causes for canonization. He became the first Pope since 1294 to resign his office in this way.

The use of the expression “Church Militant” as a description of the mission of the Church on earth used to be very common. However, for lots of reasons, including a possible misunderstanding of the term in this increasingly violent age, it has fallen out of use. It needs to be revived, and placed in its proper context, a spiritual context. In 1953, the Pope Pius XII, who had led the Church through two decades of darkness in a world besieged by war, stated without equivocation “We belong to the Church militant; and she is militant because on earth the powers of darkness are ever restless to encompass her destruction.”

As we face growing hostility simply because we profess our Christian faith in in our daily lives, it is important to hear again the words the Apostle Paul spoke to the Ephesian Christians: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood; but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:11,12)

Faith and the Future

In 1969, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict, wrote a small book entitled “Faith and the Future“. In it he spoke of what might be ahead for the Church. Little did he realize then that he would occupy the Chair of Peter? Here are a few excerpts which bear serious reflection:

“The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, she will lose many of her social privileges. As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members.”

“It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution – when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church.”

“Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.”

“And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

“But in all of the changes at which one might guess the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world.”

Our Faith and our Life Together

We all have a need to belong, precisely because we are not solitary by nature. We were fashioned out of – and created for – relationship. The heart of the Christian Revelation is that God is not solitary either. God is a Trinity of Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit who, in perfect love, is perfectly One. Jesus prayed for us to experience this kind of unity, beginning now – and being completed in the life to come. That beautiful prayer of Jesus is recorded in the 17th Gospel of John in its entirety. Here is an excerpt:

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17: 20-23)

Through the saving Incarnation – the conception, nativity, life, death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity and the Incarnate Word – we are made capable of participating in the Trinitarian Communion, by God’s grace. That participation begins now and opens up into eternity. That is not some esoteric or mystical concept reserved for just a few, that is meant to be normal Christian living. We are, in the words of the Apostle Peter, “partakers of the Divine Nature’. (2 Peter 1:4) We are called into a relationship in Him and with one another for the sake of the world.

It is in the gift of self to God, and then by grace to one another, that we actually find ourselves and discover our real mission in this world. The Christian claim is that we were made for God, and as St. Augustine said so well, “our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” It is there that we also find our true home. That home is in the Church, from which we now reach out to the world. God still loves the world so much that He sends His Son (John 3:16). His Son is still alive. He has been raised. He walks now through His Body, the Church, of which we are truly members. (1 Cor. 12:12-26)

The Church is fundamentally a relational reality, an ongoing encounter with the Risen Jesus, a participation in the Trinitarian communion in and through Jesus Christ. He is the Head of the Body. The Church is not some-thing but Some-One. This is an essential part of being a Christian. There is both a vertical and a horizontal bar to that Cross on the Hill of Calvary. Perhaps one of the most often quoted sayings of the early Christian fathers is from Cyprian of Carthage who wrote, “He cannot have God for his father who has not the church for his mother”.

That kind of family language points tto the irrefutable fact that the the early Christians believed that to belong to Jesus was to belong to His Church. They believed that just as we were all born from our mother’s womb – so we are invited by God, in and through Jesus Christ, to be “born again” into the Church, the new humanity being re-created in Him.

The process of redemption begins when we pass through the Sacramental Waters of the font of Holy Baptism. It continues as we cooperate with the Grace given to us in our life within the Church. It will only be fully completed when the Lord Returns and we are raised in Resurrected Bodies – and live in a new heaven and a new earth! This understanding of the Church as a  participation in Christ and entry into the Trinitarian Communion runs throughout the writings of the early Church Fathers. I offer a few examples in what follows.

The Early Fathers on the Church

First, some words from Origen (185-254 AD): “Christ has flooded the universe with divine and sanctifying waves. For the thirsty he sends a spring of living water from the wound which the spear opened in His side. From the wound in Christ’s side has come forth the Church, and He has made her His bride” Next, from Bishop Ireneaeus of Lyons (120-203 AD), a disciple of Polycarp who was himself a disciple of the Apostle John: “We need to take refuge with the Church, to drink milk at her breast, to be fed with the scriptures of the Lord. For the Church has been planted in the world as a paradise.

I could continue, but I have made the point. The early Christians did not see the Church as some-thing butSome-One. Membership in the Church was neither onerous nor optional. They saw it as normative for every Christian – and life giving to all.I will summarize some of what you will find in their beautiful writing in a few of my own sentences using the imagery deployed in the writings of the early Christian fathers.

The Church is a seed of the Kingdom which is to to come. The Church is the vine into which we are grafted. The Church is the Risen Jesus made truly present in the world. The Church is the new family begun at the Cross. The Church is where we learn to love as we enter into the very communion of the Love of the Godhead revealed in the total gift of the Son of God on the second tree of the Cross. Birthed from the wounded side of the Savior, who is the “New Adam”, on the altar of the Cross, the Church is His Body continuing His redemptive mission on the earth.

We do not make the Church in our image, the Church re-makes us into Christ’s Image through grace. Let me conclude with some inspiring words from one of my favorite contemporary theologians, an Orthodox layman named Olivier Clement. He writes of the Church:

In the Risen Christ, in his glorified body, in the very opening of His wounds, it is no longer death that reigns but the Spirit, the Breath of Life. And the cross of victory and of light, which is the pattern of our baptism, can henceforth transform the most desperate situation into a death-and-resurrection, a ‘Passover’, a crossing-point on the way to eternity. And that is what the Church, this profoundly holy institution is: it is the baptismal womb, the Eucharistic chalice, the breach made for eternity by the Resurrection in the hellish lid of the fallen world.”

“The Church is the Mystery of the Risen Lord, the place, and the only one, where separation is completely overcome; where paschal joy, the ‘feast of feasts’, the triumph over death and hell are offered to our freedom, enabling it to become creative and work towards the final manifestation of that triumph, the final transfiguration of history and the universe. .In its deepest understanding the Church is nothing other than the world in the course of transfiguration”

Build on Rock, do battle

Let us choose build our lives on the Rock of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church – and open our doors wide to the men and women of our age who seek stability and refuge as the world is being shaken. Stand strong and welcome others into the only place of real safety, the Church which bears His name. She may be divided, but she is still His home and reveals His plan for the whole human race. As we pray, walk and work together, he will heal the wounds of our divisions and reestablish our full communion. As Christians together, we are called to Love one another, in Him. (John 13:34,35) We are also given the grace to do just that.

It is time to get ready for the battle ahead and become the Church militant for this moment in His-tory. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul:”Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

“Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Eph 6:10-18)

By Deacon Keith Fournier


The 100th Fatima anniversary brings with it three ways to obtain an indulgence

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For the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, Pope Francis has decided to grant a plenary indulgence opportunity throughout the entire anniversary year, which began Nov. 27, 2016, and will end Nov. 26, 2017.

The rector of the Fatima Shrine in Portugal, André Pereira, explained to CNA that the plenary indulgence can be obtained during the entire Jubilee Year. There are three ways of obtaining the indulgence, detailed in a statement on the shrine’s website.

To obtain the plenary indulgence, the faithful must also fulfill the ordinary conditions: go to Confession and Communion, be interiorly detached from sin, and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.

1. Make a pilgrimage to the shrine

The first way is for “the faithful to make a pilgrimage to the Fatima Shrine in Portugal and participate in a celebration or prayer dedicated to the Virgin.”

In addition, the faithful must pray the Our Father, recite the Creed, and invoke the Mother of God.

2. Pray before any statue of Our Lady of Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima.Our Lady of Fatima (Our Lady of Fatima International Pilgrim Statue/Flickr).

The second way applies to “the pious faithful who visit with devotion a statue of Our Lady of Fatima solemnly exposed for public veneration in any church, oratory or proper place during the days of the anniversary of the apparitions, the 13th of each months from May to October (2017), and there devoutly participate in some celebration or prayer in honor of the Virgin Mary.”

Regarding this second way, the rector of the Fatima Shrine told CNA that the visit to the statue of the Virgin, “does not necessarily have to be only at Fatima or exclusively in Portugal,” but can be done anywhere in the world.

Those seeking an indulgence must also pray an Our Father, recite the Creed and invoke Our Lady of Fatima.

3. The elderly and infirm

The third way to obtain a plenary indulgence applies to people who, because of age, illness or other serious cause, are unable to get around.

These individuals can pray in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and most spiritually unite themselves to the jubilee celebrations on the days of the apparitions, the 13th of each month, between May and October 20017.

They also must “offer to merciful God with confidence, through Mary, their prayers and sufferings or the sacrifices they make in their own lives.”

By Maria Ximena Rondon


‘We pray with Christian hope’ – Pope Francis reminds us to pray for the living AND the dead

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In his last set of catechesis on mercy, Pope Francis focused on the works of praying for the living and the dead, as well as burying the dead, insisting that since we are all part of one family in Christ, we must remember to pray constantly for one another.

When we say “I believe in the communion of Saints” while reciting the Nicene Creed, “it’s a mystery that expresses the beauty of the mercy that Jesus revealed to us…all, living and dead, we are in communion.”

This communion is “like a union: united in the community of the many who have received baptism,” he said, noting that since all of us by virtue of our same baptism “are the same family, united,” we must “pray for each other.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall for his general audience, concluding his catechesis on mercy. He began the series last fall as a lead-in to the Jubilee of Mercy, which closed Nov. 20.

In his address, the Pope noted that while his weekly lessons on mercy, which culminated with the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, might be over, “mercy must continue! Let us thank the Lord for this and conserve it in our heart as a comfort and consolation.”

Turning to the final spiritual work of mercy, which is to pray for the living and the dead, he said it is a natural complement for the last corporal work of mercy, which is to bury the dead.

Burying the dead might seem like “a strange request,” he said, but noted that in conflict zones and areas “where they live under the scourge of war, with bombs that every day and night sow fear and innocent victims,” this work “is sadly present.”

“There are those who risk their lives to bury the poor victims of war,” he said, and because of this, to bury the dead is a work of mercy which “is not far from our daily existence.”

This work, Francis said, points to the burial of Jesus on Good Friday. He noted how after Jesus’ death, a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea came and offered his own new tomb.

“He went personally to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus: a true work of mercy done with great courage,” the Pope said, explaining that for Christians, “the burial is an act of piety, but also an act of great faith.”

When it comes to praying for the dead, Francis said this work is above all a recognition of the witness the deceased left for us, and of “the good that they did. It is a thanksgiving to the Lord for having given them and for their love and friendship.”

Pope Francis pointed to how during each  Mass, the Church pauses for a moment to remember those who have gone before us, noting that this prayer is a “simple” yet efficient and meaningful reminder, because in it we entrust our loved ones to God’s mercy.

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims during.Pope Francis waves to pilgrims during (Lucia Ballester/CNA).

“We pray with Christian hope that they are with Him in paradise, in the expectation of being together again in that mystery of love that we don’t understand, but which we know is true because it is a promise that Jesus made,” he said.

However, the Pope said that while it is good and necessary to remember the faithful departed, this shouldn’t make us forget “to also pray for the living, who together with us every day confront the trials of life.”

There are many ways to pray for others, he said, noting how many mothers and fathers bless their children in the morning and at night.

Francis also recalled a young business owner present at yesterday’s daily Mass in the chapel of the Saint Martha guesthouse. This man, he said, had to close his company because they couldn’t sustain it anymore.

This man, the Pope said, “cried saying: ‘I don’t feel that I can leave more than 50 families without work. I could declare the company’s bankruptcy: I go home with my money, but my heart will cry me entire life for those 50 families.'”

“This is a good Christian who prays with the works: he came to Mass to pray so that the Lord would give him a way out, not only for him, but for the 50 families,” Francis said, pointing to him as a clear example of what it means to pray for one’s neighbor.

Pope Francis closed his address by repeating that while his catechesis on mercy is over, we must pray “so that the corporal and spiritual works of mercy become increasingly the style of our life.”

The catechesis “ends here. We made this path of the 14 works of mercy, but mercy must continue and we must practice it in these 14 ways,” he said.

After the audience, the Pope noted how this Thursday, Dec. 1, marks World AIDS Day, which is an initiative promoted by the United Nations.

“millions of people live with this illness and only half of them have access to life-saving therapies,” he said, and invited those present to pray for all those suffering from AIDS and their families, and to promote greater solidarity so “the poor can benefit from adequate diagnosis and treatment.”

By Elise Harris


CHRISTIANS ATTACKED – Extremists destroy buildings and send Christians to hospital in Egypt

A Christian charity and watchdog group reported Coptic Christians in Egypt have become the latest victims of radical Islamists.

According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the village of Manshiet El-Naghamish was attacked by Islamists who were enraged at news of a new Christian church being built.

The attack occurred late November and resulted in a destroyed Christian guesthouse and 9 Christian homes.

Four Christian-owned shops were damaged and four believers were injured.

Samir Nashed, a Christian in El-Naghamish, told ICC: “On Friday [at] noon, November 25, following the Muslim prayers, a great deal of fanatic Muslim young men, some of them were carrying gas canisters and rocks while others came armed with automatic rifles, clubs, machetes and knives, they attacked Copts and Coptic-owned houses.

“The attackers cut [off] the road so that the fire trucks could  not enter the village; they also cut off the water and power supply to the village.”

Local Muslims heard a rumor that a new 4-story building in the village would become a Christian church, prompting the attack.

Sadly, the building is not to be a large church, but a community center, school and care home.

The nearest Christian church is three miles from El-Naghamish and Christians have asked on several occasions for permission to build a church in the village but the Egyptian government has yet to approve.

The village is home to a majority of Muslims while only 2,000 residents are Coptic Christians.

ICC claimed there have been several drawbacks to attempts of reconciliation between the village’s Christians and Muslims, including arrests and violent protests.

“ICC mourns with the families who have lost their homes and businesses due to these hate crimes,” ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, stated.

“This is the latest in a long string of similar attacks, and we are impatient to see proper justice served. The Egyptian government must do more to secure the lives and properties of all citizens, including Christians.”

By Kenya Sinclair


Thief who vandalised Liverpool cathedral is jailed

Christopher McGlynn caused approximately £30,000 worth of damage at Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral

A thief who caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral when he smashed statues, stole money and urinated on the floor has been jailed following his hearing at Liverpool Crown Court.

Christopher McGlynn, aged 44, caused approximately £30,000 worth of damage, including the smashing of two valuable vases, when he ransacked the cathedral last month.

Chris Hopkins, prosecuting, told the court: “[The vases] were smashed and around them was an amount of change on the floor. It is estimated there would only have been around £40 in the two glass vessels because they were emptied earlier in the day.

“But those glass vessels were commissioned by the cathedral – they were unique and irreplaceable as the artist has now retired.”

Mr Hopkins said the vessels were valued at around £10,000 each before adding: “The defendant had also urinated on the floor, near where the vessels stood.”

McGlynn, who pleaded guilty to the burglary, was one month into an 18-month suspended sentence for theft. Judge Elizabeth Nicholls activated that suspended sentence and extended it by a further nine months, meaning McGlynn will serve a total of 27 months in prison.



Lost tablets confirmed to speak of Christ, but is the story they tell true?

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Researchers have confirmed the authenticity of lead tablets that discuss Jesus Christ and date to the period of His ministry. As genuine artifacts, they serve as an additional, non-Biblical source to reference the existence of Christ.

A series of tables, or codices, written on lead and bound together with rings, has been confirmed as genuine. The codices date to the time of Christ’s ministry and detail his visit to the temple in Jerusalem. They add a chapter to the Gospel account that follows Christ’s driving out of the money changers.

What is written on the tablets is even more intriguing than their age. The tablets refer to God as both male and female, and suggest Christ was a member of an Hebrew sect and He did not seek to found a new, Christian religion.

The tablets tell a story that Jesus entered the temple to view the Face of God, and to restore an ancient Hebrew tradition that dated to the time of King David.

The tablets are bound with metal rings, much like a binder. The tablets are bound with metal rings, much like a binder.

These claims are virtually heretical, and as such many Christians view them with skepticism.

The tablets were discovered in 2008 by a Jordanian Bedouin in a cave. Scholars have studied the tablets and have concluded that they are authentic, dating back to the time of Christ. The dating method involved looking at the decay of the lead in the tablets and eliminating the possibility that they were artificially aged. Researchers concluded the lead is in an advanced state of decay, suggesting it is 2,000 years old. They also evaluated the language and the text, and found it is a form of Paleo-Hebrew. Taken together, the facts seems to affirm the tablets are authentic and date to the time of Christ’s ministry, or at least shortly following his death.
The tablets are concluded to be between 1,800 and 2,000 years old.

There are virtually no contemporary references to Christ, aside from a few Roman historians who briefly mention Christ or the Christians in their work. These tablets are now another source.

Following the death of Christ, many false gospels were composed. These were finally and firmly rejected when the Church established the canon of the Bible in the late fourth century. Could these tablets contain one of those false gospels?

It’s not only possible, but likely. However, the tablets do serve as evidence that someone named Jesus existed and had a profound impact on the world during His ministry.

By Marshall Connolly


Two great men from different sides of the spectrum meet at the Vatican

On Monday, science met theology in Italy during the Pontifical Academy of Sciences meeting at the Vatican.

The meeting, on Dr. Stephen Hawking’s presentation, “Science and Sustainability: Impacts of Scientific Knowledge and Technology on Human Society and its Environment,” included talks of a No-Boundary proposal concerning the origin of the universe.

The plenary session, according to Vatican Radio, will conclude Tuesday.

On Monday, Pope Francis met with Dr. Hawking during the four-day plenary session on Science and Sustainability, but he did not exchange many words.

While addressing experts at the session, Pope Francis stated: “We are not custodians of a museum and its masterpieces that we have to dust off every morning, but rather collaborators in the conservation and development of the existence and biodiversity of the planet and human life.”

The Pontiff continued, explaining modern society has grown up “thinking we are the owners and masters of nature, authorised to plunder it without any consideration for its secret potential and evolutionary laws, as if it were an inert substance at our disposal, causing, among other things, a very serious loss of biodiversity.”

His Holiness called for an “ecological conversion” to help people understand they are responsible for the care of the world’s resources.

It is time for people to recognize their responsibility to promote social justice and overcome “an  unfair system that produces misery, inequality and exclusion.”

Pope Francis explained how sustainable development would unite taking care of both people and the planet, promoting the common good worldwide.

He described the current “weak response” to international policies concerning the promotion of the common good and lamented how easily scientific opinion is “disregarded.”

Pope Francis greets Stephen Hawking.Pope Francis greets Stephen Hawking (L’Osservatore Romano).

Evidence of this blatant disregard is seen in how other countries remain “distracted” or delayed in applying international agreements on the environment, as well as the “continuous wars of dominance masquerading as noble declarations that cause increasingly serious harm to the environment and the moral and cultural wealth of peoples.”

Science experts sat in silence as the pontiff explained they should “build a cultural model to tackle the crisis of climate change and its social consequences so that enormous productive capacities are not reserved only to the few.”

To reach that point, the Pope explained scientists must be free of political, economic and ideological interests.

They should be leaders to propose solutions to water, energy and food security issues – all of which they are deeply knowledgeable in due to their studies and demonstrations of the many crises facing the planet.

Pope Francis believes the world’s scientists must collaborate to create a “regulatory system that includes inviolable limits and guarantees the protection of ecosystems before new forms of irreversible damage not just to the environment but also to coexistence, democracy, justice and freedom.”

According to Rome Reports, Salvador Moncada, from Latin America, and one of the newest members to the Academy, who won a 1998 Nobel Prize, witnessed the negative effects of climate change first-hand.

“The evidence for climate change is overwhelming now and it’s being accepted everywhere,” Moncada explained at the meeting. “I think the pope has had a great impact, a beneficial impact.

“It has made us think. It has made us reflect. It has made us understand which are the main problems confronting humanity and has added a sense of urgency to all our activities and I think it’s great.”

By Kenya Sinclair


Archbishop closes missing persons registry for fear of retaliation

The Archbishop of Guadalajara has announced that his diocese is calling off its distribution of a list of missing persons, because of fears of retaliation against family and friends of those who have gone missing in the Mexican state of Jalisco

“The people, because of fear, do not want their names to appear,” Cardinal José Francisco Robles Ortega explained in a statement on the archdiocese’s decision.

Within the past four years, drug cartels and organized crime have led to a massive uptick in violence and kidnappings across Mexico. Catholic priests and laypersons who have spoken out against the cartels’ crimes and activities have faced especially sharp persecution for their opposition to the violence.

In the past three months, the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco, has been asking for names of persons who have disappeared within the region. Originally, these names would be compiled as a list to distribute within the archdiocese, to help find the missing persons and to give to the proper authorities.

However, Cardinal Robles stated that the plan could not be “carried out in its entirety because people are afraid to contribute data,” citing citizen’s distrust of local authorities and the pervasiveness of organized crime.

Missing persons cases are closing.Missing persons cases are closing (Burhan Bunardi Xie/Shutterstock).

He added, though, that in some areas, such as in the city of Tala, Church authorities have received over 40 names of missing persons, which have been read at Masses in Jalisco. The cardinal further elaborated that some parishes in the archdiocese have also been continuing the search for missing persons as a pastoral initiative.

The Mexican non-profit “For Love to All,” which advocates for missing persons in Mexico, has stated that more than 3,000 persons have gone missing in the state of Jalisco in 2016 alone.

Roberto López Lara, Secretary General of Jalisco, has said that while he respects the cardinal’s decision, he disagrees with it. He noted that the state is the only one in the country with the inter-departmental resources to supervise investigations of disappeared persons, and stressed that the issue was a priority for the government.


In Syrian monastery, priest who escaped ISIS sees signs of hope

The fourth-century saint Mar Elian’s relics survived the Islamic State’s destruction of the Syrian monastery that bears his name, and a priest who escaped captivity says these are among the signs of hope for Syria.

“In Mar Elian, we have always hoped to welcome everyone. Mar Elian was really a sign of hope for the Syrian people,” Fr. Jacques Mourad told CNA. “Everything changed when I was taken hostage. But we can still build something. We must, however, await the end of this war.”

Fr. Mourad was captured by the Islamic State group in May 2015, and escaped some five months later. He was prior of the monastery of Mar Elian, in the Syrian town of Al Qaryatayn, about 60 miles southeast of Homs.

“Mar Elian was a hermit who lived in the fourth century, and his relics were kept in the monastery dedicated to him,” the priest said.

In August 2015, Islamic State militants captured and destroyed the monastery. Between 160 and 230 Christians and Muslims were abducted from the town. Several dozen are known to have escaped captivity.

Despite the horrors of war, the area’s Christians still looked to the monastery of Mar Elian.

“After the destruction of the monastery, we thought his relics were lost, but instead we were able to find them. This gave us great consolation,” Fr. Mourad said. The recovery of the relics represents “a great sign of hope for the coming days,” he added.

The priest reflected on the motives of the Islamic State.

“When ISIS troops took the region, among the first things they attacked was Mar Elian’s tomb, with the aim to destroy only the ancient monastery,” he added.

For the militants, he explained, tombs, relics and saints are “a heresy.”

“They cannot accept that the cities they seize have places where tombs or relics of saints are kept. They believe that there is no need for a tomb, as once a person passes away, his existence is over on earth.”

Fr. Mourad said that Islamic State militants, in capturing him, “wanted to send a message to Christians in the region: you are not welcome here. It was a way to push Christians to flee.”

Despite signs of hope, the future of the monastery, like the future of the people in the region, is uncertain.

Reviewing the situation, Fr. Mourad lamented that “nothing has changed in Mar Elian, and everything is abandoned.” He stressed that there is only a small community of Muslims still living in the area, “perhaps because they have no more places where to live.”

“Large parts of the city were destroyed,” he said.

Over 280,000 people have died since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011. Another 12.8 million people have been forced from their homes.

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