Monday, October 24, 2016

Only One In Six Americans Fully Trust Religious Leaders

Only 13 per cent of Americans say they have a "great deal" of confidence in religious leaders to act in the best interests of the public. 

The figure, which comes from new research by the Pew Research Center, means that faith leaders have the confidence of fewer people than other groups such as scientists or the military.

The survey showed that 39 per cent of people said they had "a fair amount" of confidence in religious leaders, 32 per cent had "not too much", while 14 per cent had "no confidence" in religious leaders acting in the best interest of the country.

The study doesn't detail the reasons for people's lack of confidence in the idea that religious leaders have the best interest of the public at heart. 

Recent years have seen widespread unrest about clergy child abuse scandals and the political interventions of some faith leaders.

The Pew Research Center said: "Confidence in religious leaders is closely tied to people's own religious identity. 

A 64 per cent majority of those affiliated with a religious group, whether Protestant, Catholic or some other religion, say they have at least a fair amount of confidence in religious leaders to act in the best interest of the public. 

White evangelical Protestants are particularly likely to say they are confident in religious leaders (78 per cent have a great deal or fair amount of confidence)."

You Have The Right To Be Angry! Bishop Of Liverpool Advice To LGBT Christians

The Bishop of Liverpool has urged lesbian and gay Christians not to hide or suppress their anger about the way they have been treated by the Church. 

Too often, people in power dismiss angry people with phrases such as, "Calm down, dear," he says.

"In the face of this old and cold advice I want to offer an even older, warmer, Biblical encouragement to those on the edge in the churches, and in this season to LGBT Christians in particular: be warmly angry, be hot with anger, but do not boil away."

He urges them not to give up, however hard things get.

"Feel what you feel, and turn the feeling to strength. Don't mourn, organise. Let the person you are in God speak out, so that your own desires and your own anger become the engine for a just world."

He is writing on the Via Media blog, set up by the General Synod member Jayne Ozanne who recently came out as a lesbian.

Bishop Paul Bayes, from the Church of England's evangelical wing, admits Christians have a tradition of denying anger. 

Yet anger is not sin, he insists.

"The Christian tradition has often suspected anger, excluding it from this vision of the whole of life redeemed, expecting disciples to amputate it or repress it or ignore it, at any rate to suspect it and fear it, to regret it and deplore it and certainly not to listen to its voice and amplify its cry."

He has written about this subject to address poor practice in the Church.

"The poor practice is this; that people whose inner and outer lives are deeply impacted by an issue, and who become angry as a result, are discounted precisely because of their anger.

"This has been the age-old fate of women in the West, and the fate of any oppressed group, and it is the fate of many LGBT people in the Church today. The advice from the men at the top (and they usually are men, and they are always at the top) is the old, infuriating, demeaning advice: 'Calm down, dear'."

He cites the story of a desert saint of the early Church, who kept a stone in his mouth for many months "until he learned to speak without anger".

Bayes writes: "For much of the church and much of the time, to be angry has been the same as to be immature. In such a view anger must be bottled up, we must hedge the heart before we speak."

This supports the view that the only thing that matters is dispassionate argument.

"In such a view argument is what makes a difference, argument is what moves and changes people, only argument. After argument there can be no room for feeling, only argument moves the world and the church family along, we were born to argue and then to submit to the better argument."

Even Jesus hmself said the angry would be subject to judgement, in Matthew 5:22. Yet Jesus was not afraid to show his own anger when he cleared the Temple.

The answer is that aggression should be present, but "reasonable".

He quotes former Labour leader Neil Kinnock in 1992 speaking to Philip Gould: "That's what politics is about, Philip; love and anger."

Bayes also quotes director Ken Loach, who said this year: "That constant humiliation to survive. If you're not angry about it, what kind of person are you?"

Bayes says: "What motivates people to make a difference? What motivates people to return, day after day, in the face of discouragement and misunderstanding and opposition, to make a difference again? And to keep on making a difference until things are different? How do we find the strength inside?"

Yet the jumble of emotions, desires, longings and hopes is made in the image of God, therefore God-given and capable of redemption.

"From there the journey begins, the journey to change the world inside and outside. Kieran, one of the leaders of 'Open Table', our LGBT congregation in Liverpool, told me this week of a saying they have there: 'Come as you are. Be as you are. Leave differently'."

Muslim Children As Young As Five In Pakistan Are Being Taught To Hate Christians, Says Archbishop

Muslim children throughout Pakistan are being indoctrinated with hatred for Christians, a senior Church leader has warned.

A rare insight into how the anti-Christian persecutors of tomorrow are being created in Pakistan was provided this week by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Lahore, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw.

"A huge problem we face in Pakistan – one that is deeply divisive across many sections of society – is hate material in school text books," he said.

"For example, in class one, five-year-olds are given a lesson in which they are told: 'Who am I? I am a Muslim and the other people are infidels.'

"In sociology books used in class seven, 12-year-olds are told to 'respect the Prophet (PBUH). Do not trust the Jews or the Christians'."

These materials have caused "hatred and division" in society and many minority groups feel unwanted, he said, adding that things got worse after 9/11 when Christians were accused of being associated with and allied to the US or the West.

The Archbishop also criticised the notorious evidence and blasphemy laws of Pakistan.
Under the evidence laws, the evidence of a Christian man is worth half that of a Muslim man and the evidence of a Christian woman is worth just a quarter.

Under the blasphemy laws, it is a crime punishable by death to defame the name of the Prophet and descration of the Quran is punished by life in prison.

Then there are the cultural aspects of Islamisation, the Archbishop added.

"In some parts of the Punjab Province, even in the 21st century, Christians are prevented from using the crockery used by Muslims.

"Christians, for example, cannot drink out of the same glass as a Muslim. This was the alleged offence committed by Asia Bibi who even now could be executed because of the supposed blasphemous comments made to defend her actions."

A member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Archbishop Shaw was in London as a guest of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

He addressed a meeting  in Parliament and also spoke at this week's Foreign Office conference on preventing violent extremism by building inclusive and plural societies.

In his Foreign Office talk, he drew on the vision of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan in August 1947.

"A model society is a society in which an individual is free to choose his or her religion and is free to express his or her faith both in public and in private.

"Moreover, such an individual not only respects his or her rights and responsibilities but equally respects the rights and responsibilities of others. This is the society in which an individual acts justly and in equal measure receives justice," he said. 

Jinnah also wrote: "You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in the state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the state."

Archbishop Shaw said Pakistan had now fallen under the influence of hard-line Islamic groups, and from being a home for Muslims it has gradually moved in the direction of becoming an Islamic Republic of Pakistan, he said.

On the bright side, however, over the past 14 years he and other Christian leaders have built interfaith groups at all levels – within villages, towns and big cities – aimed at striving towards a vision of the common good.

"We do not discuss matters of faith; we look at devising solutions to social and economic problems for example peace promotion, health issues, combatting poverty and education. Through these means, we Christians have become better accepted in society. No longer is it presumd that we are agents of the West or the US."

The strategy has been to train young people to promote Christian values rather than engage in debate and get bogged down in theological controversy. 

"The path to inter-religious harmony is long and winding, but at least we have begun and we are seeing the fruits of our labours," he said.

Of Pakistan's 192.8 million population, 3.9 million are Christians.

According to the Open Doors World Watch List, it is the sixth worst country for persecution, and Christians experience more violence in Pakistan than almost anywhere else.

New book launched on the legacy of Irish missionaries

front-cover-of-the-legacy-of-irish-missionaries-lives-onThe former president of Ireland and UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate has said she is pleased to see the “increasingly important role being played by faith-based organisations at the United Nations”.

In her Foreword to a new book, ‘The Legacy of Irish Missionaries Lives On’, Mary Robinson says religious leaders are now more at the heart of global decision-making where, through their extensive networks in the developing world, they advocate about living conditions there, abuses in civil rights and social justice, and climate change.

Elsewhere in her contribution to the new book, Mary Robinson suggests that “Missionaries are an important part of our diaspora.”

She said that “Their committed work, as illustrated dispassionately in the book and supported with diverse testimonial evidence, has helped to establish a recognition of Irish values internationally. The missionary movement is firmly enshrined as a key part of our national heritage.”

She describes the book as commending the past and pointing to the future, where the work of the Irish will be continued in a new era by local and indigenous missionaries and by Irish lay missionary volunteers.

Mrs Robinson praises the book for providing new insights into the role played by missionaries in the setting up of APSO in the early 1970s, which led on quickly to the establishment of Ireland’s overseas aid programme in 1974.

Of the author, Matt Moran, she says he has taken great care in presenting a deep understanding of the intrinsic values that faith brings to development and humanitarian aid. She also says that missionaries “have long … been advocates for protection of nature and the environment as God’s creation”.

Matt Moran is a former chairman of Misean Cara and he headed up fundraising and development for the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart for ten years. His book was launched by Senator Rónán Mullen at St Paul’s Church on Arran Quay.

It reflects on the great humanitarian and development work of missionaries and provides some case histories.

It differs from other books about missionaries by illustrating how the missionary era has changed.

It tells how local and indigenous missionaries are now carrying forward the legacy of the Irish missionaries with the same passion and commitment in poor and deprived communities, and during natural disasters or emergencies where they are first responders.

Most of these local missionaries are members of congregations with bases in Ireland, but many are also diocesan congregations founded by the Irish and are a key part of the Irish legacy.
In her Foreword, Mary Robinson writes, “Told by a lay insider the story is easy to read. Matt Moran has an in-depth knowledge of the missionary movement.”

Using his knowledge of missionaries, she says “he has thoughtfully brought together in this book the views of academics, leaders of church and state, development specialists, media personnel, historians, and diplomats as well as missionaries and the people they support in the developing world.”

“Their shared experiences provide a wealth of knowledge and insight into the truly remarkable contribution and impact that our missionaries have made, and are continuing to make alongside their successors and partners in the developing world.”

She also highlights how the shift in Christianity from the north to the south is impacting on the number and visibility of missionaries in Ireland, and thus the traditional connection between Ireland and developing countries is declining.

“Using his experience in town twinning and supporting it with interesting case histories, Matt Moran demonstrates how parish twinning is an innovative model of partnership in international relations and a bridge that can connect communities in Ireland and the global south.”

Mrs Robinson says that many missionaries are passionate leaders in tackling issues of gender equality and improving the welfare of women in developing countries.

“Both directly and through their networks they focus on education for the girl child, female genital mutilation, pregnancy and child-birth services, early marriage of girls, the vulnerability of women and girls especially in human trafficking, and psycho-social supports during crises such as Ebola and HIV.”

Sponsored by the Irish Missionary Union and Trócaire, ‘The Legacy of Irish Missionaries Lives On’ is published by OnStream Publications Cork.

The book contains a series of articles and reflections from across four continents by missionaries, leaders of church and state, diplomats, documentary-makers, journalists, development consultants, and academics, as well as some beneficiaries of the work of missionaries, including a tribal chief in Nigeria.

The numbers of Irish missionaries now serving in developing countries has declined to 1,100 and there are few new entrants to missionary congregations in Ireland.

Unlike earlier books which give a historical account, this book illustrates how the work initiated by the Irish is being continued by indigenous members of their congregations in the global south where vocations are plentiful, and by diocesan congregations that some Irish missionaries founded, particularly in Africa and in India.

Missionaries receive significant Irish Aid funding through Misean Cara, and the book advances a strong case for the continuation of that funding to local and indigenous missionaries whose development and humanitarian work amongst the poor is an integral part of Ireland’s overseas aid programme.

Speaking to, Matt Moran said he believed the most significant contribution that the book makes to discussion about the Irish missionary movement is that it illustrates how the legacy of the Irish is being carried forward in the global south.

“It shows how this continuation is being achieved through the ministry of local and indigenous members of congregations with whom we have been familiar in Ireland for many decades, by local diocesan congregations whom Irish missionaries founded, particularly in several African countries and in India, and by lay missionary volunteers from Ireland who dedicate a period of their lives to mission activities and building the capacity of those local missionaries.”

He added, “Just one example in volunteering is the Columban Fathers having over 50 lay volunteers working with them overseas.”

“So, whilst the Irish missionary movement as we have known it is changing, its legacy lives on through the seeds that it sowed and are now bearing fruit in the global south. This reality is often ignored in the public commentary in Ireland about mission today.”

He also explained that the number of parish twinning partnerships is increasing between communities in Ireland and developing countries, and that this is not just in Catholic communities but also in Anglican communities.

“Our missionaries were the human bridge or connection between Ireland and developing countries but as their numbers now stand at 1,100 and are declining more and more, that link is being weakened or broken in many parishes.”

“Parish twinning is a community process involving all ages including school children and other groups. As Archbishop Michael Neary has pointed out in the case of the Westport-Aror Partnership and Bishop Michael Smith has pointed out in the case of his diocesan schools twinning programme in Meath with Myanmar and Thailand, these new forms of missionary linkage have enriched faith in these Irish communities as well as providing support to poor communities overseas.”

In 1999, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples recognised twinning as a valid form of direct co-operation between churches, and in 2009 the Irish Missionary Union published ‘A Guide for Parish Twinning Relationships’.

According to Matt Moran, the totality of the influence and impact of twinning partnerships includes “solidarity, global consciousness, humanitarian and development aid, culture exchange, and values in social justice … based on equality and the spirit of the gospels. They see the global church as one body – our brothers and sisters in Christ – exactly as our missionaries have seen it for centuries. Effective twinning can continue the missionary links but also create new ones in a new situation and a new future.”

‘The Legacy of Irish Missionaries Lives On’ is available in bookshops or online at

Profit from sales will go to World Missions Ireland for missionary activity in the global south.

Focolare hosts party for Syrian refugees

syrian-dance-2There were tears, smiles and blown kisses as 120 refugees from Syria boarded three buses to return to Monasterevin at the end of the Intercultural Party at the Focolare Centre in Prosperous, Co. Kildare last weekend.
Over 70 people from the village of Prosperous helped in preparing the party on Saturday 15 October, with local shops donating food, local schools donating furniture and bunting, and businesses supporting the event in other ways.

“It was a proud day for the parish,” remarked parish curate, Fr Bill Kemmy.

On their arrival, the refugees – most of whom were Muslim – were greeted with applause, smiles and Irish music.

“It was a very emotional moment for us all when our brothers and sisters from Syria arrived in the Focolare Centre. I felt that having come through all the horror that must be present-day Syria, they had arrived in just the right place, somewhere where the mutual love amongst us could begin to heal their wounds of spirit and soul,” said Fran Meagher from Focolare.

Inside Curryhills House a banquet of vegetarian food awaited the Syrians. Some had a little English but many had none. “Somehow the language of care and courtesy bridged the gap as Irish and Syrians met and ate together, exchanging names and helping each other care for the children,” said one of the organisers.

Marian Byrne from Dublin described her conversation with a young mother from Damascus who had been studying law. “There were tears in her eyes as she spoke of the war and the bombs. Her mother and sister are still in Syria and she worries about them. There was so much warmth and love between us in a matter of a few minutes.”

Afterwards, Syrian and Irish joined in games, and some of the men were introduced to hurling. Inside, there was face painting, arts and crafts. Every so often the Syrian drummer would begin a drum beat and people broke into spontaneous dance.

Later in the afternoon, everyone crowded into the hall of the Focolare Centre for a concert which opened with a short Powerpoint presentation showing Ireland to the group. 

Syrians and Irish watch presentation on Ireland at Intercultural party.
In Arabic, it told of Ireland’s ancient civilisation, its Christian roots and its moments of profound suffering – like the Famine, when a million people died and 1.5 million fled the country as refugees. It also referenced  the country’s bitter civil war in 1922. The Syrians, some of whom had only arrived days beforehand, listened with great attention, many filming the presentation on their phones.

The concert included Irish and Syrian music. Music became the common language. “They really enjoyed the Irish music and it opened the door for them to share their music. There was a great sense of giving and receiving,” Fr Bill Kemmy told

At one point, a Syrian man took the mike. “The Irish aren’t human; they are like angels,” he said. The concert ended in an outburst of Syrian dance, during which everyone joined in, with one person describing it as “a mad Arabic Céili!”

“The great enthusiasm and love shown by the Focolare and friends and local people which was also reciprocated by our Syrian friends made me very happy and thankful to God for our shared humanity,” said Anna McHugh from Focolare whose involvement as a volunteer at the Monasterevin centre had been the impetus for the party.

For Fr Kemmy, the party reminded him of the Eucharist. “It is about what is here – our concern and how we look at the world and each other as brothers and sisters. But it is also meant to be a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. The gathering [on Saturday] was in some ways a heavenly image of people from the different nations, different languages, sharing a bit of happiness and love for one another,” he said.

The Focolare is an ecclesial movement of the Catholic Church that promotes peace and universal brotherhood ( 

Its national centre is in Prosperous, Co. Kildare.

Catholic schools: future depends on ability to inspire

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Faith-based schools are called to foster not robots but “keen intellects and prolific pens [capable of] addressing the pressing subjects of the day”, according to the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin.

Addressing a conference sponsored by the Irish Catholic on ‘The Future of Faith-Based Schools in a Pluralist Society’, Archbishop Martin said the future of Catholic schools in Ireland would depend on “their ability to help young people find faith in Jesus Christ, but a faith that can bring its impact effectively on the values which will inspire a future and different Ireland.”

Uniquely in Western Europe, Catholic schools dominated the educational landscape here. “These schools are at the same time State schools and Catholic schools, but in some cases they suffer from a split personality,” he said. The dominance of Catholic schools reflected a “religious and cultural demographical situation of the past.”

If Catholic schools feel that they can continue to be all things to all citizens, then they may well end up with a compromised ethos, trying somehow to fit in with the scrambled ethos of the student and family mix around them, he warned.

“Faith schools are not instruments of religious indoctrination,” he continued. “There is no reason why they cannot and should not be open to receive children of other traditions, just as they should not be limited exclusively to one social class. An exclusivist ethos should be alien to any faith school.”

But he said that faith schools would only be effective if they were not “compromised in their ethos.”

The Archbishop said that “A faith school must be one committed to an integrated vision of education which fosters a future generation who, to quote Newman, ‘know their creed so well that they can give an account of it’ and give that account in our times within a pluralist society.”

Dr Martin referred to a talk that formed ‘The President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative’ by President Michael D. Higgins, in which the president set out to look at the philosophical underpinnings of a view of the economy which, almost unnoticed, had driven Irish society down wrong roads.

“This same culture of narrow pragmatism which damaged our economy is also a threat which can undermine education,” said Archbishop Martin. “Ethical and philosophical reflections are not a luxury or a waste of time.”

Reflection and critical debate about the type of society we wish to attain and sustain and the values which should underlie it are part and parcel of an integral understanding of education. 

“The faith school must be a school rooted in solid values,” the Archbishop said, and it must be a school which “fosters the ability of critical reflection and societal conviction on the part of its students.”

As believers, we have to identify aspects of our faith-language which can be understood and find resonance and attraction in a more secular world where there is still a sense of seeking for meaning.

He concluded: “There is not just room for faith-based schools in a pluralist society, but a pluralist society needs quality faith-based schools.”

Archbishop Martin was one of a host of speakers at the one-day conference. 

Other speakers included: the former UK ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Cambell, who is now Vice Chancellor to St Mary’s University at Twickenham; Baroness Nuala O’Loan, Columnist and Social Commentator; Daire Keogh, the President of St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra; and Rt Hon. Ruth Kelly Former UK Secretary of State for Education.

Diocese of Lexington Standing Committee votes to dissolve pastoral relationship with Bishop

hahncroppedThe Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington voted unanimously to dissolve the pastoral relationship with their bishop, The Rt. Rev. Douglas Hahn.

Hahn was suspended by the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in March, after it was discovered that he had had a previous affair with a parishioner which he did not disclose during the vetting and interview process before his election in August, 2012.

Lexington Herald-Leader:
The six-member standing committee said that in a unanimous vote Oct. 5, the committee agreed that “it desires the dissolution of the pastoral relationship between Bishop Hahn and the Diocese of Lexington,” according to a letter to parishioners.
Hahn, however, “has not accepted our decision; therefore, we are not in agreement,” the letter stated. The presiding bishop of the church has been notified of the situation as called for by church laws, according to the letter.
The committee said that it undertook a seven-week “listening process” this summer and concluded that “1. Bishop Hahn was dishonest throughout the episcopal search process. 2. As a priest, Bishop Hahn abused his position of power when he committed sexual misconduct with a parishioner in violation of the canons. 3. The emotional and spiritual effort necessary to attempt restoration of the relationship would continue to divert significantly diocesan focus and resources away from the mission and ministry to which we are called.”
According to the Herald-Leader, the Standing Committee spent seven weeks this summer gathering feedback from clergy and laity of the diocese, “hosting five “listening sessions” where about 175 people offered feedback about the situation. 

More than 100 people also offered written feedback.”
The committee said that it undertook a seven-week “listening process” this summer and concluded that “1. Bishop Hahn was dishonest throughout the episcopal search process. 2. As a priest, Bishop Hahn abused his position of power when he committed sexual misconduct with a parishioner in violation of the canons. 3. The emotional and spiritual effort necessary to attempt restoration of the relationship would continue to divert significantly diocesan focus and resources away from the mission and ministry to which we are called….”
The committee, which also met with Hahn, said that while most of the respondents had forgiven Hahn’s “sexual misconduct,” 80 percent said they still struggled with his “deception and do not believe the integrity of the relationship with the diocese can be restored.”
The committee said Hahn was asked “on several occasions” during the hiring process “if he had ever engaged in a sexual relationship with a parishioner. He failed to respond truthfully or to voluntarily remove himself from the nominating process.
“The most serious consequential effect for the majority of respondents is the violation of trust by our bishop,” the committee wrote.
The Rev. Peter D’Angio, President of the Standing Committee, says in a letter to the Diocese:
On October 5, the Standing Committee voted unanimously that it desires the dissolution of the pastoral relationship between Bishop Hahn and the Diocese of Lexington.  Authorized representatives of the Standing Committee communicated this decision to Bishop Hahn.
Bishop Hahn, at this point, has not accepted our decision; therefore, we are not in agreement.  Pursuant to Canon III.12.12(a), we have notified the Presiding Bishop of our desire to dissolve the pastoral relationship.
We recognize that there are those in the Diocese, people we love and respect, that may not agree with this decision.  They may be disappointed by it or even angered because of it. We can assure you that none of us takes pleasure in this work that was thrust upon us, as it has been a stressful and challenging six months.  However, we are encouraged and inspired by the kindness and Christian love we feel from so many of you.
We believe we have done what is best for our Diocese. We will continue our commitment to the Gospel and the people of the Diocese of Lexington, working and communicating honestly and transparently.  We are in prayer for you, all people affected by these events, and the whole Church.  We desire and request your prayers, too.

Papal apartments at Castel Gandolfo open to the public

Image result for castel gandolfoThe Papal residence at Castel Gandolfo has long been known as the summer retreat of Popes. 

But now in an historic first the Papal apartments opened to the public from October 22nd.

The Papal residence at Castel Gandolfo in the Roman hills has been offering Pope’s down through the centuries rest and relaxation during the summer months from the official duties of office.

The last Pope to reside there was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, but now Pope Francis has given permission for the papal apartments themselves to be open to the public. 

This follows the success of visits to the Villa Barberini Gardens and the Portrait Gallery of the Popes.

For tourists and those passionate about Church art and history, it’s a chance to walk in the footsteps of Pontiffs. There is the Swiss Hall, and the Throne Room with their impressive lakeside view. 

But it’s the Pope’s reserved quarters that evokes the most interest and gives a sense that one is imposing on a very private space. 

On the desk in the Pope’s private study there is still a pencil and eraser left by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the Pope’s bedroom gives an air of elegance without being ostentatious. 

Then there is the private Chapel which houses a reproduction of the icon of the Madonna of Czestochowa.

So with this opening, will the summer retreat continue to be a Papal residence? Sandro Barbagallo Curator of Collections of the Vatican Museums says like Pope Francis, not all Popes lived here. 

He says, “from this point of view the choice of Pope Francis is his personal decision, we can’t do anything but accept it and anyway this choice doesn’t in anyway mean the end of Castel Gandolfo as a summer residence.”

In honour of this historic inauguration musicians came all the way from the Guangzhou Opera House in China to perform popular Chinese songs entitled “beauty unites us”, and another cultural element to this event.

Down the road, the residents in the town of Castel Gandolfo take pride in the fact that Popes down through the years have chosen to come here for their summer break. So what do they think of this new opening. 

Stefano, a barman in the local café says, “it’s an important historical event because it’s true it shows, let’s say, the new opening to the public of the Pope’s residence, but it also demonstrates an end for now of the Holy Father at Castel Gandolfo and we are very sorry about that.”

Who knows whether a future Pope will decide to reside here again, but until then visitors can enjoy and be inspired by the beauty of this residence fit for a Pope.

The Papal apartments at the Pontifical residence at Castel Gandolfo opened on October 22.

Writing about the Devil isn’t lunacy – it’s the purest realism

Italian exorcist Fr Gabriele Amorth, who died last month, in his office in Rome in 2012 (PA)How do you write about the Devil without sounding like a lunatic? 

The answer is to be straightforward about one’s faith and the great truths that flow from it. 

It so happens that two articles in the Catholic Herald of September 30 did just this. 

In Omnium Gatherum, Fr John Zuhlsdorf says straight out, “The Devil and fallen angels are real, personal beings. There’s nothing cute about them. And they hate God, themselves and you.”

In the same edition Pastor Iuventus, whose regular columns always inspire reflection, refers to Fr Gabriele Amorth, the late famous Roman exorcist, pointing out to readers that he “did the Church and the world a great service in reminding them that evil is real and it is personal. It is not merely some kind of projection of my own “dark side”… When one experiences the reality of such presences stripped of the glamour with which popular culture surrounds it, it is horrible and frightening.”

I have also been reading the last book written by Fr Amorth, An Exorcist explains the Demonic, published not long before the author’s death on 16 September. Unlike his earlier books, which can seem – at least to a modern sensibility – rather melodramatic, Amorth is anxious to “discourage the temptation to sensationalism.”

Writing in an almost dry and legalistic way, he relates that for Satanists there are three basic principles: you can do all that you wish; no-one has the right to command you; you are your own god. Haven’t we all met people like that? They would never describe themselves as “Satanists” but that is their basic philosophy of life.

Amorth also mentions the temptation to slip into magical thinking, i.e. treating prayers like spells which will deliver our requests after careful ritualistic practices. I have met people like that too. He warns against certain forms of rock music, thinking “white magic” is good, bad friends and dabbling in spiritualism and séances. Where faith disappears, he remarks, “One abandons himself to superstition and occultism.”

Soon it will be Halloween. 

Our local village shop, like everywhere else, is awash with ghoulish fancy dress paraphernalia. 

That, according to Fr Amorth, is just as the Devil likes it; he is “content when…people consider him solely a medieval relic.” 

He is not. 

To paraphrase the writer Flannery O’Connor (quoted by poet Sally Read in my last blog), life is “about the salvation or damnation of the soul” – even if the Nobel Prize for Literature doesn’t always reflect this.

Report claims Christians are intimidated and attacked in German refugee homes

A security guard walks through an emergency shelter for refugees near Dresden (PA)Christians in German refugee centres are being intimidated and sometimes assaulted by Muslims, according to a report from World Watch Monitor.

One recently arrived refugee found these words written on the wall in his shelter: “The time has come to cut off the heads of all non-believers!”

“I was shocked!” he said. “In Iran this may happen, but I never expected such a thing to happen in Germany. This has shattered my trust.”

“We have underestimated the role of religion,” Germany’s home secretary told the Future Conference on Integration and Migration last month, admitting that Germany’s policy of integrating refugees of all religions together had been a mistake. Contrary to the widespread belief in Germany, said Thomas de Maizière, the importance of faith and religion have not decreased worldwide.

A report from Open Doors Germany, a Christian watchdog body which focuses on the support of persecuted and disadvantaged Christians, cites cases of Christians in religiously-mixed refugee camps being attacked, receiving death threats and in some cases being sexually assaulted. The attacks came, it is claimed, from both Muslim refugees and Muslim guards.

Two years ago German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Germany’s doors to Syrian refugees, saying that the policy that refugees must claim asylum in the first EU country they reach, as prescribed in the 1990 Dublin Convention, was placing a heavy burden on countries like Malta, Italy and Greece.

Open Doors Germany has urged the German government to provide separate accommodation for refugees of different religions, and to provide more non-Muslim guards in refugee camps.

Jesuits team up with ‘London’s poshest hotel’ to feed the homeless

Claridges hotel in London, one of 10 hotels and restaurants involved in the scheme with local churchesIt has been called “London’s swankiest hotel”. 

But last Monday Claridges served a different kind of clientele, as the executive chef personally delivered meals for 15 homeless people and 10 volunteers at Farm Street church in Mayfair.

The meals are part of a scheme organised by the West London Day Centre, Marble Arch, to care for a group of homeless people, provide a warm bed for them through the winter months, and work towards rehousing them and reintegrating them into society.

Farm Street church, run by the Jesuits, is one of several Catholic and Protestant churches – as well as a synagogue – in the Mayfair area which take turns in caring for the homeless.

“Every night they have somewhere to go,” said Scott George McCombe, Farm Street parish administrator who works with the homeless. He said there is a high success rate in rehousing them.

They are fed and accommodated in the church hall at Farm Street on Monday nights in October and November, and April and May next year.

The food is provided by around 10 local hotels and restaurants.

“They are very generous to us,” said Mr McCombe.

The meal delivered to the church by Claridges executive chef Martyn Nail was delicious, he said. 

It included freshly baked bread, chicken breast in mushroom sauce, fruit crumble with custard and cakes.

As Venezuela’s referendum is suspended, new cardinal calls for dialogue

Image result for Archbishop Baltazar PorrasThere must be dialogue between Venezuela’s government and the opposition, the country’s newly named cardinal said yesterday.

Archbishop Baltazar Porras of Merida, who has long been critical of the socialist government, has begun talks with both sides in an attempt to bring them together to help solve Venezuela’s economic crisis. 

The opposition had requested the Vatican’s mediation, but the government has yet to agree to it.

Yesterday the opposition’s petition to hold a referendum to oust President Nicolas Maduro was suspended by the country’s electoral council. They alleged that their had been electoral fraud.

Speaking at a press conference in Caracas, Archbishop Porras said: “It’s a long, torturous, difficult road, but you can’t throw in the towel.” It is made more difficult by the opposition demanding that before any dialogue there be a recall referendum on the unpopular President Nicolas Maduro, of whom (along with his predecessor Hugo Chavez) Archbishop Porras has long been critical.

When his appointment was announced earlier this month, Archbishop Porras said: “This is a blessing not for me but for the country, which denotes the affection and love that Pope Francis has for us, because of the situation the country is going through, and this is a call for hope to overcome the crisis in our country.”

Pope Francis, who will elevate Archbishop Porras to cardinal in a consistory next month, has taken a special interest in Venezuela, and his appointment of Porras is seen not just as a spiritual but as a political move.

Inés San Martín, a Vatican analyst for CruxNow, wrote this week: “It’s not far-fetched to say Porras’s view on the country’s ongoing crisis has the pontiff’s seal of approval.”