“There is nothing serious to this. There is no particular concern in the Vatican. This news has no foundation,” the spokesman told CNA Aug. 26.
The rumors spread following an Aug. 25 article published in Italian newspaper “Il Tempo,” which said the number of jihadists in Italy is on the rise due to the influx of unidentified immigrants in the country.
According to the article, Islamic fundamentalists led by Al-Baghdadi plan to “raise the level of confrontation” in Europe and alluded to Israeli sources who said that Pope Francis is “also in the crosshairs of ISIS” as “the greatest exponent of the Christian religions” and the “bearer of false truth.”
Al-Baghdadi has been named as Caliph – the head of state and absolute monarch – of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in western Iraq and north-eastern Syria, and is the former head of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
While the reports regarding the threat of attacks in Europe and on the Pope appear to be unfounded, an Aug. 20 article published by Italian news agency Rai reveals that Italy is tightening its security.
According to the agency, there have been no targeted threats or specific indications of attacks on Italy. However, a nationwide alert has been issued.
US, August 26, 2014: The man behind the controversial “Jesus Tattoo” movement will launch a new campaign “Death Row Jesus” on Wednesday to spread the message that God was the “worse criminal” while on earth.
David L. Miller of the Little Pencil organization is known for his thought-provoking marketing campaigns that promote the Gospel. Last year, he erected 59 billboards throughout Lubbock, Texas, depicting the image of Jesus Christ clad in tattoos. But this time, he is opting for digital video advertisements that will launch in major cities throughout the U.S.
“When people think about Jesus, they don’t think about him being on death row, but if you think about what he did when he was on earth, that’s really the experience he had,” Miller told Lubbock’s NBC affiliate KBCD 11.
He continued, “We communicate very directly that Christ became the worst criminal in history when he took our mistakes on himself. The second message is we are all equally undeserving of God’s grace.”
Part of the video depicts Jesus in an orange prison jumpsuit as He is beaten to the ground. Another part transitions to the scene of the crucifixion where He is dying at the same time that other inmates in prison are being set free.
Miller says the funding for the video advertisements was raised through merchandise sales from the previous campaign, while adding that he is not out to make a profit.
“Corporations spend an enormous amount of money marketing whatever their product is and there is nothing wrong with that,” said Miller. “We just think in this case we have a much better product and one that’s everlasting, life-changing, and so it’s certainly worthy of whatever we invest in it.”
Last year, Miller’s campaign garnered controversy after he filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing Lubbock’s largest school district of allegedly violating his right of free speech after they refused to display his ad showing a tattooed Jesus on a jumbotron during high school football games.
The tattoos were the words “addicted” and “depressed,” among other negative descriptions on Jesus’ chest and arms, but the message behind them was that Jesus’ love can change people despite their labels.
At the time, the school district said it denied Miller’s request because by their own policies and practices they were prohibited from allowing religious advertisements with the use of government property, based on the Establishment Clause.
A federal judge eventually sided with the school district this past May saying that the district was right to reject a Christian company.
Miller’s Little Pencil organization was founded about a year ago. Its name comes from a quote by Mother Teresa, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”
- christian post
South Korea, August 15, 2014: Pope Francis will travel to South Korea this week for Asian Youth Day, making his third international trip as pontiff. He’ll be visiting a country that has experienced considerable religious change in recent decades. Here are six facts about Christianity in South Korea:
1. South Korea has no majority religious group. Its population includes a plurality of people with no religious affiliation (46%) and significant shares of Christians (29%) and Buddhists (23%). South Korea’s current president, Park Geun-hye, is an atheist with connections to Buddhism and Catholicism, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
2. In 1900, only 1% of the country’s population was Christian, but largely through the efforts of missionaries and churches, Christianity has grown rapidly in South Korea over the past century. In 2010, roughly three-in-ten South Koreans were Christian, including members of the world’s largest Pentecostal church,Yoido Full Gospel Church, in Seoul.
3. The majority of Christians in South Korea belong to Protestant denominations, including mainline churches such as Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist churches as well as various Pentecostal churches. Since the 1980s, however, the share of South Korea’s population belonging to Protestant denominations and churches has remained relatively unchanged at slightly less than 1-in-5. Catholics have grown as a share of the population, from 5% in 1985 to 11% as of 2005, according to the South Korean census. The growth of Catholics has occurred across all age groups, among men and women and across all education levels.
4. Only about 11% of South Koreans are Catholic, but a survey we conducted in March found that the population has a positive view of Pope Francis. More than eight-in-ten South Koreans (86%) said they have a favorable opinion of the pope, higher than the share of Americans (66%) who had a favorable view of him in February. (Among U.S. Catholics, 85% said they have a favorable view of the pontiff.)
5. The share of Christians in South Korea (29%) is much smaller than the share of Christians among Korean Americans living in the U.S. Nearly three-quarters of Korean Americans (71%) say they are Christian, including 61% who are Protestant and 10% who are Catholic.
6. As of 2012, South Korea had low levels of government restrictions on religion and social hostilities toward or among religious groups, based on our most recent analysis. In fact, religious restrictions in South Korea are lower than in the U.S., and significantly lower than the median level of religious restrictions in the Asia-Pacific region.
- pew research
Syria, August 11, 2014: Islamic State has crushed a pocket of resistance to its control in eastern Syria, crucifying two people and executing 23 others in the past five days, a monitoring group said on Monday.
The insurgents, who are also making rapid advances in Iraq, are tightening their grip inSyria, of which they now control roughly a third, mostly rural areas in the north and east.
Fighters from the al-Sheitaat tribe in eastern Deir al-Zor had tried to resist Islamic State’s advance this month, according to residents near the area and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring organization.
In al-Shaafa, a town on the banks of the Euphrates river, Islamic State beheaded two men from the al-Sheitaat clan on Sunday, the Observatory said, and gave residents a 12-hour deadline on Monday to hand over members of the tribe.
In other parts of Deir al-Zor province, the militants crucified two men for the crime of “dealing with apostates” in the city of Mayadin, and two others were beheaded for blasphemy in the nearby town of al-Bulel, the Observatory said.
Islamic State, which has fought the Syrian army, Kurdish militias and Sunni Muslim tribal forces, has made rapid gains in Syria since it seized northern Iraq’s largest city, Mosul, on June 10, and declared an Islamic caliphate.
The Observatory said a further 19 men from the al-Sheitaat tribe were executed on Thursday, 18 shot dead and one beheaded, on the outskirts of Deir al-Zor city. It said the men worked at an oil installation.
“No one will now dare from the other tribes to move against Islamic State after the defeat of the al-Sheitaat,” said Ahmad Ziyada al-Qaissi, an Islamic State sympathizer contacted by Skype from Mayadin.
Tribal sources say the conflict between Islamic State and the al-Sheitaat tribe, who number about 70,000, flared after Islamic State took over of two oil fields in July.
One of those, al-Omar, is the biggest oil and gas field in Deir al-Zor and has been a lucrative source of funds for rebel groups.
The head of the al-Sheitaat tribe, Sheikh Rafaa Aakla al-Raju, called in a video message for other tribes to join the fight against Islamic State.
“We appeal to the other tribes to stand by us because it will be their turn next … If (Islamic State) are done with us the other tribes will targeted after al-Sheitaat. They are the next target,” he said in the video, posted on YouTube on Sunday.
A Syrian human rights activist from Deir al-Zor who fled for Turkey last year said rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad had retreated to al-Sheitaat tribal areas from which they had been trying to mount resistance to Islamic State.
He said, on condition of anonymity, that the resistance had been crushed in the last few days. “The situation is very bad, but the people can’t repel them,” he said.
He said that, in tandem with their violent campaign, Islamic State was distributing gas, electricity, fuel and food to garner local support.
“It is a poor area. They are winning support this way. They won a lot of support this way. They are halting theft and punishing thieves. This is also giving them credibility.”
Another resident of Deir al-Zor, Abdullah al-Noami, said that four al-Sheitaat towns had fallen.
“These areas have fallen into the hands of Islamic State after the withdrawal of the (al-Sheitaat) fighters. The youths who were found were executed or their heads were cut off on the grounds that they fought against Islamic State,” he said.
More than 170,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war, which pits overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad, a member of the Shi’ite-derived Alawite minority, backed by Shi’ite militias from Iraq and Lebanon.
The insurgency is split between competing factions, with Islamic State emerging as the most powerful.
In Raqqa, Islamic State’s power base in Syria, its hold appears to be growing only firmer even as Syrian government forces intensify air strikes on territory held by the group.
One Syrian living in an area of Islamic State control near Raqqa said the number of its fighters in the streets had grown dramatically in the last few weeks, particularly since it captured the army’s 17th Division at the end of July.
The group has levied a tax on non-Muslims, and settled foreign fighters in confiscated homes, said the resident, who asked for anonymity due to security concerns.
But despite that, as in Deir al-Zor, it has won a degree of respect among locals by curbing crime using their version law of and order. For youths without work, salaries offered by Islamic State are one of the few sources of income.
“The (Islamic) State has respect and standing and its voice is heard,” said the resident, speaking by Skype.
Rep. Steven Palazzo of Mississippi sent the Good Book to his peers last week, along with a note including the official Congress letterhead.
“On a daily basis, we contemplate policy decisions that impact America’s future. Our staffs provide us with policy memos, statistics and recommendations that help us make informed decisions,” wrote Palazzo in the letter.
“However, I find that the best advice comes through meditating on God’s Word. Please find a copy of the Holy Bible to help guide you in your decision-making.”
The Reverend Rob Schenck, head of the Washington, DC – based group Faith and Action, told The Christian Post that he supported Palazzo’s Bible distribution.
“Rep. Palazzo is to be commended for sending Bibles to his members of Congress. For a Christian, sharing a Bible is one of the most meaningful things one can do for somebody you care about. So, it’s meaningful and generous,” said Schenck.
“Good for the Congressman. I’ll pray that his actions have a salutary effect on the thinking and actions of Congress as a whole. We need more of his kind of thing in Washington.”
Schenck also told CP that the Bibles were more likely to reach their intended audience because it was a peer like Palazzo sending them rather than an outside group.
“Bibles have been delivered to members by various groups and it’s always worth doing, but many times Bibles from the outside, so to speak, are intercepted by staff or diverted somewhere else,” said Schenck.
“When a Bible comes directly from a colleague, it’s far more likely it will land in the hands if it’s intended recipient.”
Palazzo’s gift went to all members of Congress, including those who do not consider themselves Christian, according to Sahil Kapur of Talking Points Memo.
“Palazzo’s letter was treated as a gesture of good will, including by non-Christian members of Congress who also received a copy of the Bible,”wrote Kapur.
“The first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), wrote back with a thank-you note. His office and other offices wouldn’t discuss the letter on the record.”
Not everyone was supportive of the move. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, spoke with concern about elected officials using the Bible as a pretext for public policy.
“When a politician calls for using the Bible as the basis for public policy, what he or she is really saying is, ‘Let’s use the Bible as I interpret it as the basis for public policy’,” said Lynn, according to TPM.
“Rather than look to the Bible or any other religious book to craft our nation’s public policy, we would do well to examine another source instead, one that was actually created to guide governance. It’s called the Constitution.”
Geoff Earle of the New York Post noted that Palazzo’s gift of a Bible to each member of Congress may be a timely act.
“Lawmakers will have plenty of time to study the Bible’s discourses on avarice, sloth, vanity and depravity. The letter went out Tuesday — right before the start of a month long congressional recess,” wrote Earle.
- christian post
Iraq, August 08, 2014: President Barack Obama announced Thursday night at the White House that the U.S. military will engage in targeted airstrikes against Islamic State terrorist convoys in Iraq if they advance toward the U.S. embassy in Baghdad or the consulate in Arbil.
Obama emphasized that while he believes the “U.S.cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world,” he said his administration is taking action in this case to help “avert a massacre.”
“In recent days, these terrorists have continued to move across Iraq, and have neared the city of Arbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces,” Obama said. “We’re also providing emergency assistance to the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.”
Obama said he’s also authorized targeted airstrikes to protect Iraqis who are stranded along Mount Sinjar, because the Iraqi government has requested military assistance.
“We’ve begun operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain,” Obama said. “As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis. And these terrorists have been especially barbaric toward religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis.”
“Yazidi women, men and children from the area of Sinjar have fled for their lives by the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands,” noted Obama, who said the U.S. had to act to “carefully and responsibly prevent a potential act of genocide.”
“Today, America is coming to help,” Obama commented, in response to Iraqi civilians’ pleas for intervention.
By Thursday night, the Defense Department said it had already dropped 72 bundles of food (8,000 ready-to-eat meals) and 5,200 gallons water to the estimated 40,000 Iraqis stranded on the peaks of Mount Sinjar.
Prior to Obama’s announcement, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced Thursday afternoon that while the administration would be taking action to combat the Islamic State terrorists who have a “callous disregard for human rights,” he emphasized that there is “no American military solution for the problems in Iraq.”
Earnest further explained that while the U.S. was considering airstrikes, the administration hadn’t yet committed to taking direct action, but did plan to coordinate strategic efforts with Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
“Iraqi and Kurdish authorities are focused on this specific threat to the nation, and to the vulnerable populations that live in these areas,” Earnest said. “The U.S. government and military is supporting the ongoing efforts of Iraqi and Kurdish officials to address this urgent humanitarian crisis that exists.”
Earnest added that the U.S. has military personnel on the ground in Iraq who are working with Iraqi and Kurdish Security Forces to evaluate their capabilities and will be providing an assessment of the situation to the administration.
The administration is also working to persuade Iraq’s Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to form a more inclusive government.
Islamic State terrorists extended their gains in northern Iraq Thursday, seizing more towns and strengthening gaining territory near the Kurdish region, according to Reuters.
“The militant group said in a statement on its Twitter account that its fighters had seized 15 towns, the strategic Mosul dam on the Tigris River and a military base, in an ongoing offensive that began at the weekend,” Reuters reports. “Kurdish officials say their forces still control the dam, Iraq’s biggest.”
Reuters also reports that two witnesses said Thursday that “Islamic State fighters had hoisted the group’s black flag over the dam, which could allow the militants to flood major cities or cut off significant water supplies and electricity.”
Mark Arabo, national spokesman for the group “Ending Genocide in Iraq,” told CNN Wednesday that “Christianity in the city of Mosel is dead and a Christian holocaust is in our midst.”
“This is truly a living nightmare that’s not going away,”Arabo explained. “Day-by-day, it’s getting worse and worse. More children are being beheaded; mothers are being raped and killed; fathers are being hung. Right now, 300,000 Christians are fleeing, living in neighboring cities, just wanting a chance — not just to survive, but to live.”
Arabo, who said his group met with Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes at the White House last week, has been asking the administration to take action against the Islamic State and protested outside the White House in support of Iraqi Christians seven weeks ago.
“The world hasn’t seen an evil like this for generations,” he added. “There’s actually a park in Mosul (the second largest city in Iraq) where they put beheaded children on a stick. These are crimes against humanity.”
Ninety five percent of all Christians have fled Mosul and 5 percent have converted to Islam, according to Arabo. He further explained that even if Christians are able to meet the Islamic State’s demands to pay a fine instead of converting to Islam or be killed, their homes and property are being taken and men are watching the terror group capture and kidnap their wives and daughters.
Andrew White, an Anglican canon at St George’s church in Baghdad, who has served the Christian community in Baghdad for 10 years, said in a newsletter that the Islamic State has been able to commit atrocities in Iraq without fear of reprisal because the world’s attention is focused on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
“The Islamic State simply said we can do anything now the world is just looking at Gaza,” White said in the newsletter sent to supporters of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, according to the Anglican Communion News Service.
“It is as if hell has broken out here and nobody cares … The situation is so serious and it is very easy to feel forgotten,” White said.
He continued: “Even in Baghdad people are terrified of what is happening around us. … The number of kidnappings here has soared and people simply do not know what is going to happen next.”
On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power released a statement announcing that the administration is condemning the Islamic State’s attacks in Iraq.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant … [And ISIL's] reported abuse, kidnapping, torture and executions of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities and its systematic destruction of religious and cultural sites are appalling.”
“The U.S. supports the Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga Forces working to defend these areas against ISIL. …. The U.S. is committed to helping the people of Iraq as they confront the security and humanitarian challenges in their fight against ISIL. Iraq’s leaders must move swiftly to form a new, fully inclusive government that takes into account the rights, aspirations and legitimate concerns of all of Iraq’s communities,” Power added.
Islamic State terrorists, an offshoot of al Qaeda, have come within a 30 minute drive of Arbil, according to Reuters.
- christian post
England, 14 July, 2014: Church of England is nothing if not polite. And in polite theological circles, it is best not to mention the “D–evil” word. The death of God had been announced in liberal theologies in the early Seventies. But the Devil, if never admitted to have actually died, had been sent to a home for superannuated fallen angels by the middle of the 18th century. So it is perhaps a matter for little surprise that, against the apparent objections of only a few, all mentions of the Devil are to be removed from a new alternative form of the baptism service. No longer do the Devil and all his works have to be renounced. The battle is now against an impersonal “power of evil”, not against Satan himself.
On the other hand, it is a notable event, for the Devil has been present throughout the drama of history as Christianity has portrayed him. Next to God, he has been the leading member of the cast. He fell out of favour with God shortly after creation, and it was he who entered the serpent and tempted Eve. The life, death and resurrection of Christ significantly reduced his power within the world, but his final defeat by God will only come at the battle of Armageddon at the end of history. So his removal from baptism does suggest that he is being written out of the Christian story.
It is a surprising development, too, because the Devil has recently returned to centre stage in conservative Protestant and Catholic churches. There has been a notable increase in reported demonic possessions in conservative Christianity, and a consequent growth in exorcism and deliverance ministries. Pope Francis has declared his belief in a personal Satan. The Devil has been at the core of the moral panic about the imagined sexual abuse of children within Satanic cults. And in conservative circles, there have been increased (though unwarranted) suspicions of demonic influence in the growing New Age movements, particularly modern witchcraft (Wicca) and neo-Paganism.
In fact, the Devil has been centre stage within popular Western culture for the past 40 years. When, in the 1973 film The Exorcist, a voice inside the possessed girl, Regan, announced, “And I’m the Devil! Now kindly undo these straps”, he was announcing, in Terminator mode, that he was back. The girl in whom the Devil had taken up residence spoke with a deep contralto voice, screamed obscenities, vomited and levitated, rotated her head 180 degrees and walked like a spider. Audiences were horrified and appalled, yet captivated and fascinated.
The re-emergence of the Devil in popular, if not in elite, culture is part of a new Western engagement with an imaginary enchanted world. He belongs to a new world of supernatural beings, both good and evil. He takes his place alongside vampires and fairies, witches and wizards, werewolves and wraiths, shape-shifters and superheroes, angels and demons, ghosts and dragons, elves and aliens, succubi and incubi, hobbits and zombies. Not to mention the inhabitants of Hogwarts.
This modern enchanted world is one of multiple meanings, where the spiritual occupies a space between reality and unreality. It is a domain where belief is a matter of choice and disbelief willingly and happily suspended. And in this new realm of limbo, the Devil finds a new space.
As the revised Anglican baptism service suggests, belief in the Devil is now very much a matter of choice, even within the Christian Church. It was not always so. For the better part of the past 2,000 years, it was as impossible not to believe in the Devil as it was impossible not to believe in God. To be a Christian was not only to believe in the salvation that was available through Christ, but also to expect the punishments inflicted by Satan and his demons in the eternal fires of hell for those not among the chosen. The history of God in the West is also the history of the Devil, and the history of theology is also the history of demonology.
For some forms of modern conservative Christianity, marginalised within Western secular and liberal theological thought, the Christian story of the Devil is very much alive still. The belief remains that the Devil is active and will remain so until finally consigned to an eternity in Hell at the end of history. The existence of the Devil and his capacity to act in history, nature, and human lives, remains for many Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, a satisfactory explanation of natural misfortune and human suffering.
And the modern world often does seem at times to be so evil and human actions so wicked that only a supernatural explanation can suffice. That Satan and evil always seem to be winning the battle against God and the good has always been only partially and paradoxically mitigated by the Christian conviction that, at the end of the day, he has been carrying out God’s will. Christianity has always wrestled with the apparent contradiction between a God who is both all-powerful and all-good, and yet appears either unable to control the Devil or unwilling to do so.
Still, the story of the Devil is one that had lost its central role in Western intellectual life by the middle of the 18th century. By then, for an educated elite if not for the masses, the Devil was no longer a matter of fact but of fiction, and even occasionally a folkloric figure of fun. For some, the Devil became merely a metaphor for the evil within us. For others, he became merely a personification of an impersonal force. It was no longer a valiant struggle against sin, the world and the Devil but rather, as the new baptism service has it, a matter of “standing bravely” and opposing “the power of evil”. For others, it was a convenient excuse for men, as Daniel Defoe put it in 1727, to “shift off these crimes on Him which are their own”.
It was the rise of secular scepticism about the Devil that made possible his effective elimination from liberal Christian theologies. His relegation to the darker corners of the Christian mind was perhaps the most important consequence of the growth of liberal Protestantism from the beginning of the 19th century. Yet, ironically, this very marginalisation of the orthodox Christian story of the Devil in the modern West has allowed for a proliferating of “lives” of the Devil in modern popular culture.
The Devil still exists within the Christian story, but also beyond it, an objectification of the often incomprehensible evil that lies within us and around us, threatening to destroy us. The spell of disenchantment has been broken. The Devil now has new domains and new borders. Hedged in by the traditional Christian story on the one side, on the other by modern secular agnosticism, he “prowls around, looking for someone to devour”, yet again, both delectable and dangerous, fascinating and terrifying, familiar and alien, in a newly enchanted world.
Philip Almond is professorial research fellow at the University of Queensland and author of ‘The Devil: A New Biography’ (IB Tauris)
Last night the president said that Eid “reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy.” He would have done us a service had he enumerated them. “That is why we stand with people of all faiths,” he continued, “here at home and around the world, to protect and advance their rights to prosper, and we welcome their commitment to giving back to their communities.”
No, Mr. President, you do not stand with “people of all faiths” in protecting and advancing human rights. As you speak, Christians are being beheaded all over the Middle East because they are Christians, and those carrying out this mass murder are doing so in the name of Islam. Yet you continue to say and do absolutely nothing about these unspeakable crimes. Do Christian lives mean so little to you?
When I type “President Obama Speaks Out,” or “Speaks Against,” in the search engines of Bing, Google, and Yahoo, the sentence automatically closes with such objects as “Trayvon Martin,” “Kanye West,” “Fox News,” and “Bullying.” I can search in vain to find you condemning the genocidal slaughter of Christians by Muslims.
Ditto for Jews. Muslim terrorists are killing Jews in Israel and their representatives have pledged to wipe Jews off the face of the earth. Yet your administration spends most of its time lecturing Israelis to be patient. About what? Being bombed because they are Jews? Do Jewish lives mean so little to you?
No one wants you to insult Muslim Americans in the White House, but you had an opportunity to at least call on them to speak out about what their people are doing in the Middle East, and you blew it. Instead, you decided to patronize them for all their contributions to human rights.
- catholic league
United States, July 23, 2014: Historians have a term we call the scapegoating concept of history. This is the idea that people tend to look for others to blame — scapegoats — for their condition. They then attack that group even if it had little or nothing to do with their situation. Scapegoats are usually weaker or marginalized members of society easily made to look suspicious.
Scapegoats ease our anxiety especially when ethnic minorities or immigrants come into view. Bigotry, however, while burning intensely, has a short memory.
Islam is currently on the list of things we are supposed to be afraid of. The threat is such that even the president himself is apparently some kind of secret Muslim in league with unsavory characters. We seem to have forgotten that the deadliest example of domestic terrorism in America before Sept. 11, 2001, came at the hands of Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. Despite McVeigh’s claims to loving Jesus, no calls to ban Christianity or close churches sounded following his detestable act.
If you know anything about American history, all this sounds familiar. In the 19th century, there was a flood of immigrants whose plan, social commentators said, was to destroy the United States, replace the republic with the iron fist of foreign religious law, steal our freedoms and make life generally unpleasant. This inherently violent and insidious group, this clan of people with their strange ways, odd accents and bizarre foods, who hated democracy and couldn’t be trusted, called themselves Catholics.
Though largely forgotten now, in the 1800s if you wanted scapegoats in America, you went looking not for Muslims, but for Catholics. They stood as enemies because they were reportedly loyal not to the Constitution, but to the pope. Fanatical papal armies, it was said, waited in French Canada and Spanish Mexico for the signal from the pontiff (who surely was the Antichrist) to attack.
Along with the many bizarre reasons to hate Catholics, there were the accusations of the Runaway Nuns: women who joined Catholic convents, but then left because of the insidious dealings they claimed went on behind closed doors. The media accepted their stories and they went on lecture tours. The most infamous Runaway Nun, Maria Monk, wrote “The Awful Disclosures” (1834) in which she detailed various atrocities and conspiracies being perpetrated by the church. It became one of the most popular books in the country, selling more than 300,000 copies.
The allegations of the Runaway Nuns helped stoke already-widespread suspicion and resentment among “real Americans” for “foreigners” and drove decades of vicious and often violent hatred of Catholics that continued into the 20th century. Arguments about John F. Kennedy not being fit to be president included his Catholic faith.
In the end, a series of investigations showed the Runaway Nuns to be hoaxes. They had been cobbled together out the raw material of fear-mongering by bigoted commentators and self-styled religious leaders with agendas all their own. Fortunately, anti-Catholic hysteria eventually died down as it became clear no Catholic conspiracy to overthrow the country existed and that Catholics were just as loyal and patriotic as any other Americans.
In years to come, we will look back on the current anti-Muslim hysteria and wonder how we could ever have felt this way, just as we look back on the 19th century anti-Catholic movement as a foolish part of our history. We will accept that Muslim Americans are just as patriotic and loyal as any other. Hopefully, we will get to that point quicker this time and with less memory loss. Brian Regal is a fellow of the Kean University (N.J.) Center for History, Politics and Policy.
Vatican City, July 28, 2014: His voice breaking with emotion, Giovanni Traettino, a Pentecostal pastor in southern Italy and longtime friend of Pope Francis, welcomed the pope, “my beloved brother,” to his partially built church in Caserta.
Pope Francis said he knows some people were shocked that he would make a special trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, “but I went to visit my friends.”
Traettino told the pope his visit was “unthinkable until recently,” even though, he said, “even among evangelicals there is great affection for you. Many of us pray for you, every day. Many of us, in fact, believe your election as bishop of Rome was the work of the Holy Spirit.”
Pope Francis told the Pentecostals that “the Holy Spirit is the source of diversity in the church. This diversity is very rich and beautiful. But then the same Holy Spirit creates unity. And in this way the church is one in diversity. To use a beautiful Gospel phrase that I love very much, reconciled diversity” is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In addition to the visit, the pope fulfilled one specific request of the Italian evangelical community by recognizing the complicity of some Catholics in the fascist-era persecution of Italian Pentecostals and evangelicals.
“Among those who persecuted and denounced the Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazies who would ruin the race, there were some Catholics. As the pastor of the Catholics, I ask forgiveness for those Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and were tempted by the devil,” Italian news agencies quoted the pope as saying.
The Vatican had described the visit as “strictly private” and, except for Vatican media, reporters were kept on the roof of a nearby apartment building. In the new worship space of the Pentecostal Church of Reconciliation, still under construction, Pope Francis met with about 200 people, including members of Traettino’s congregation, other Italian evangelicals and representatives of Pentecostal ministries in Argentina and the United States, the Vatican said.
The pope and Traettino first met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the late 1990s when Traettino was establishing ties between charismatic Catholics and Pentecostal Protestants. The then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and Traettino also appeared together at a large ecumenical charismatic gathering in Buenos Aires in 2006. Traettino was present June 1 in Rome’s Olympic Stadium when Pope Francis spoke to an international gathering of Catholic charismatics.
Meeting with Caserta’s Catholic priests and bishops from the Campania region July 26, the date originally scheduled for his visit with the Pentecostals, Pope Francis said he had not known that date was the city’s big celebration for the feast of St. Anne.
If he had gone to the Pentecostals that day, without celebrating the feast with Catholics, “the newspaper headlines would have been ‘On the patron feast of Caserta, the pope visits Protestants,’” he said. So, he asked an official in the Vatican Secretariat of State to help organize the Mass “to remove this noose from around my neck.”
Pope Francis also gave the priests a glimpse into his thoughts about Catholic relations with the Pentecostals, which some people have found surprising, especially given how many Catholics in the pope’s Latin America have joined evangelical communities.
He told the story of a priest who went on mission in a remote area of Argentina and met a woman who told him the Catholic Church had abandoned her and her fellow Catholics.
“I need the word of God, so I had to go to the Protestant service,” the woman said.
The pope said the priest apologized on behalf of the Catholic Church, but recognized and respected the depth and sincerity of her faith.
“Every man, every woman has something to give us,” the pope said. “Every man, every woman has his or her own story and situation, and we must listen. Then, the prudence of the Holy Spirit will tell us what to say.”
“Never be afraid to dialogue with anyone,” Pope Francis told the Caserta priests. Dialogue is not being defensive about one’s faith, although it can mean explaining what one believes. And it is not pressuring another to join one’s faith.
Pope Benedict XVI was right when he said, “The church grows not through proselytism, but through attraction,” Pope Francis said. And attraction is “human empathy guided by the Holy Spirit.”
Msgr. Juan Usma Gomez, who handles the Catholic Church’s official relations with evangelicals and Pentecostals, told Vatican Radio July 22 that Pope Francis teaches that “to work for Christian unity you need brotherhood,” which is why he continues to nurture the friendships he established in Argentina. The iPhone video message the pope made in January with another Pentecostal friend, Bishop Tony Palmer, who died in a motorcycle accident July 20, “opened a door because it reached a really significant number of people,” Msgr. Usma said. “It’s an adventure that Pope Francis is asking us to establish. … He’s way ahead of us and we’re trying to follow this pattern.”
Pope Francis apologizes to evangelicals for Catholic hostility
The Pope was traveling to the Italian city for the 2nd time in 3 days. On the previous Saturday he had visited the Catholic community in Caserta.
Pope Francis spoke to the Church of Reconciliation at the invitation of the pastor, Rev. Giovanni Traettino, with whom he has been friendly for years. The pastor greeted him as “my beloved brother,” and said that many Evangelicals pray daily for the Roman Pontiff.
The Pope, in his short address, said that some Catholics acted against Evangelicals “as if they were crazies,” and asked for forgiveness “for those Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and were tempted by the devil,” according to Italian news reports. His talk was warmly received by the 200 members of the congregation.
The papal visit to the Evangelical congregation had become a sensitive matter in Caserta, where Catholics had insisted that the Holy Father should first visit with the Catholics of the city. The Vatican stressed that the 2nd papal trip to Caserta was a “strictly private” visit, and no secular reporters were allowed into the church. Reports on the Pope’s talk came from Vatican sources and from others in attendance.
- catholic culture