On this day, 150 years ago, Alabama seceded from the Union, the fourth state to do so. South Carolina had gone out on Dec. 20, Mississippi on Jan. 9, and Florida on Jan. 10. States were rushing to dismantle the Union in order to preserve their rights to own and buy and sell other human beings.
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The pope's condemnation of violence against Christians is a welcome alarm. In sounding the protest, however, he asserts that such cruelties belong under the same umbrella when, on closer inspection,they result from different causes and circumstances.
Benedict treats them all as displays of a conspiracy against the Christian faith. Thus, he lumps the ancient tensions between Egyptian Muslims and Christian Copts, a sore spot that has, like Northern Ireland, become as much cultural and political as religious, with what he perceives as a secular offensive against European Christians.
The absence of historical memory and geo-political discernment therefore weakens the credibility of his prophetic call for and end to the brutality that does face Christians in many parts of the world.
Much of the conflict that kills Christians takes place roughly along the fault line between Christians and Muslims. To assume that Christians bear no responsibility for the strife is unreasonable. Both sides have fought a long struggle for the allegiance of Nigerians, for example.
I'd never been to a child's funeral before.
The idea of it always seemed to be a real challenge to faith, to belief in a God who was love. What kind of love is it, you wonder, that allows a child to be taken away? It is so unnatural, feels so wrong, for parents to bury a child.
Last week, I was at the funeral mass of a twenty-month old boy who suffered most of his brief life with ailments and injuries -- until he finally gave out. It was heart-wrenching and indescribable in many ways, but it was also -- to my surprise -- a testiment to faith.
The boy's death brought together hundreds of people, who packed a small church near the beach here in Los Angeles. His doctor's and nurses were there, and participated in the Mass through the presentation of the gifts. Aunt, uncles and godparents gave eulogies that brought on tears.
But at the center of it all was a mother and father. They must have been enveloped in grief, but in that church on that day, they were strong and calm -- in a way that was almost hard to grasp.
This New York Times review of Douglas Coupland's new book Marshall McLuhan: You know nothing of my work! caught my attention because I am a fan of both McLuhan and Coupland, who also wrote "Generation X.
I'm a fan of McLuhan because he "got" where mass media was going and Coupland because, in the spirit of McLuhan, he is trying to figure it out -- along with McLuhan's contribution to cultural inquiry and consequences.
One of McLuhan's successors at the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology, Professor Derrick de Kerckhove, spoke at an international meeting of Catholic communicators in Cologne, Germany in 1997 or 1998. He spoke quickly and in such a convoluted manner that it was impossible to follow. Nevertheless, I felt like I was experiencing a kind of multimedia phenomenon of confusion that McLuhan (and Bernard Lonergan, Walter Ong, etc.) foresaw and tried to explain as well.
I took notes and could not make sense of them after.
Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples Cardinal Ivan Dias, in Vietnam, conveyed best wishes from Pope Benedict XVI to the Vietnamese people, affirming the Vatican’s goodwill and strong wish to promote good relations with Vietnam.
The meeting between Dias and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung comes just days after the U.S. filed a protest to the Vietnamese government after a U.S. diplomat was roughed upwhen he was visiting a Vietnamese Catholic dissident priest in central Vietnam.
Relations between church and state in Vietnam continue to be somewhat precarious. Catholics within the church in Vietnam are also somewhat divided in thoughts about how to work with the Hanoi leadership. Some strong anti-communists say cooperation if impossible; others say the church needs to find ways to work with communist officials, especially on matters of pastoral concern.
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tDespite titillating news stories over the weekend, the Vatican has denied that it is collaborating with the U.S.-based Discovery Channel on a series to be called the “Exorcist Files.”
t In comments that first appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Discovery Channel President Clark Bunting reportedly claimed that the network has secured the Vatican’s cooperation for the project, including access to its secret archives.
tThe idea, as Bunting described it, would be to document cases of demonic possession investigated by the Catholic church – including, apparently, joining real exorcists for “ride-alongs” as they perform the church's rituals for casting out demons.
“The Vatican is an extraordinarily hard place to get access to,” Bunting was quoted as saying. “But we explained we’re not going to try to tell people what to think.”
tThe Vatican, however, says that no such project is the works.
Pope Benedict XVI today devoted his most closely watched annual foreign policy address to religious freedom, especially what many observers see as a rising global tide of anti-Christian hostility. He denounced assaults on Christians in Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and China, as well as a growing “marginalization” of Christianity in secular Europe.
On this day we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Agatho, who was elected in 678 when he was over 100 years old. He reigned until 681.
The inscription on his tomb reads: "the highest priest Agatho holds firm the covenants of the Apostolic See. There is piety! There is the ancient Faith! The undefiled badges of the Fathers remain, nourisher, through your efforts."
It was a tribute to his stance against Monothelitism. Pope Agatho's judgment that Christ had two wills, human and divine, put an end to the Monothelite heresy. The legates he sent to the Sixth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 680 carried letters that "repeatedly affirmed the inerrancy of the Apostolic See". The bishops agreed that "by Agatho, Peter spoke".
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