This little boy still can’t talk or move – but his mother has never been happier

May 26, 2015 by admin  
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NachitoSantiago, May 22, 2015: Constanza Saavedra spends 24 hours a day devoted to her son Ignacio, or “Nachito” as she affectionately calls him. He’s only seven years-old and suffers from a serious congenital muscular condition that prevents him from breathing on his own. He depends on a respirator to survive.

When he was born on August 17, 2008 in Santiago, Chile, the midwives advised the family not to get emotionally attached to him because he would probably die within a few hours. Surprisingly, it didn’t happen.

Ignacio’s health is so delicate that his mother hardly ever leaves the house for fear of infecting him with some kind of virus or bacteria. She is with him all the time.

Moreover, the cost of his care has become so high that this family has had to sell the little they had to survive and have had to move in with their parents. She and her husband Gonzalo Opazo have now dedicated their lives to care for their only child.

For many, it’s a devastating story – but for Saavedra, her son is the best thing that ever happened in her life and is the reason for her joy.

“I am humbled to say I’m happy. I feel completely fulfilled. For me it’s an honor that such a marvelous child should be my son,” she said in an interview with ACI Prensa.

Due to his condition, Ignacio can’t move most of his muscles and has to communicate through simple sounds. Consequently, he has daily physical therapy sessions to work on his motor skills and breathing as well as two days with a speech therapist.

He spends most of his time in bed. His pastimes are reading and watching television, but without a doubt his favorite is playing with his mother.

“For sure it’s a very serious muscular condition, and true, he cannot breathe without a respirator that breathes for him, but anybody who knows him realizes how immensely happy he is,” she said.

“He is very intelligent, knows how to read, and communicates extremely well. We spend the whole day playing, learning, singing, reading, doing entertaining things…and he knows that his little head has no limits,” Saavedra said of her son.

NachitoThis mother is also a family doctor, but she could not continue practicing her profession at any medical facility after “Nachito” was born. However, as she says, this has been “the most important and beautiful medical challenge that I have been able to experience. In no way do I feel frustrated. I’ve learned a lot and I also have been able to help others.”

Saavedra said that as a family “we have everything that matters to us. We’re not lacking anything important. We enjoy our days and we want to continue this adventure with our son.”

“For me it was never an option to abort Nachito. If I had known just how much I would be losing, it would have been the biggest mistake in the world,” she said.

Saavedra noted, however, that many women in her country lack the support to make the same decision for their children.

“There’s a problem…and we can’t cover it up,” she said. “Without support there are mothers and families nowadays that are shouldering a large percentage of the expense of having a child with a chronic illness. It happened to me and it’s happening to a lot of other mothers a lot worse than for me.”

“You can’t put a price on the life of a child. And a family shouldn’t have to be out on the street because they put the well being and health of their child ahead of everything else,” she added.

“So the government has to take the responsibility to guarantee all possible available support for these women, their children and their families.”

Saavedra also runs the Facebook page “Testimonies for Life” that gathers together real life stories of mothers that have gone through an at-risk pregnancy such as she did, women who have decided to go forward with courage and resolve.

“Every human life inherently has dignity,” she reflected. “Because what defines dignity? Health? If that’s the way it is then a high percentage of society would have lives without dignity.”

“All the old people, all the people dependent on others, the little children, sick people, poor people. So who defines what dignity is? Another thing is quality of life. For me quality of life doesn’t consist in what you can or can’t do,” Saavedra said.

“Rather, it’s about how much you enjoy your life, and how much you look forward to wake up the next day and go on living, and my son clearly enjoys his life.”

- cna

10 interesting facts about Evangelicals from Pew’s religion report

May 23, 2015 by admin  
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EvangelicalsAmerica, May 17, 2015: The big story this week from Pew Research Center’s report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” was the sharp decline in the number of Christians and large growth in those who are unaffiliated with any religion. Digging deeper, the report contains interesting news about Evangelicals.

Here are 10 interesting facts about Evangelicals from the report:

1. The number of Evangelicals likely increased.

Evangelicals were the only segment of Christianity that likely saw growth. Evangelicals added about two million to their fold from 2007 to 2014. Taking the margin of error into account, the actual increase could be anywhere between zero and five million.

2. Evangelicals were the only Christian group that had more people joining than leaving.

8.4 percent said they left evangelical Christianity while 9.8 percent said they joined evangelical Christianity, a net change of plus 1.5 percentage points. By comparison, Mainline Protestants had a minus 4.3 percentage point net change and Catholics had a minus 10.9 percentage point net change.

3. The percentage of Evangelical Millennials did not change.

There was a large increase in unaffiliated Millennials, from 2007 to 2014. They increased 10 percentage points, from 25 to 35 percent of all Millennials.

This increase, however, did not come from Evangelicals. The proportion of Evangelical Millennials stayed the same, at 21 percent.

The largest drop, six percentage points, came from Catholic Millennials, down from 22 to 16 percent.

4. Evangelicals are now a clear majority among Protestants in the United States.

Pew’s 2007 data showed Evangelicals were 51 percent of all Protestants. Taking the margin of error into account, that may or may not have been a majority.

In 2014 Evangelicals were 55 percent of all U.S. Protestants. Even with the margin of error, one can now say Evangelicals are clearly a majority of all Protestants.

5. Nondenominational Evangelicals are growing; Baptist Evangelicals are shrinking.

The share of Evangelicals who said they belonged to a Baptist denomination shrank from 41 to 36 percent while the share of nondenominational Evangelicals grew from 13 to 19 percent.

6. Some who attend Evangelical churches don’t identify as Evangelical, and some who don’t attend Evangelical churches do identify as Evangelical.

Among those to attend an Evangelical church, 15 percent answered “no” when asked if they would describe themselves as “a born-again or evangelical Christian.”

Twenty-seven percent of Mainline Protestants and 22 percent of Catholics describe themselves as born-again or Evangelical.

7. Those who joined Evangelical churches as adults were mostly raised in homes that were Mainline Protestant or unaffiliated.

Among those who currently identify with an Evangelical church, 19 percent were raised in a Mainline Protestant home and another 19 percent were raised in homes that were unaffiliated with any religion, the highest of any other group.

For comparison, among those raised in Evangelical homes, 12 percent are now Mainline Protestants and 15 percent are now unaffiliated.

8. Among Millennials, the retention rate for the unaffiliated is higher than that for Evangelicals.

The retention rate (the percentage of those still in the religion in which the were raised) is 67 percent for unaffiliated Millennials. In other words, two-thirds of Millennials raised in unaffiliated homes are still unaffiliated. This is higher than the 61 percent retention rate for Evangelicals.

9. Evangelicals are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse.

The share of Evangelicals who are not white increased from 19 to 24 percent.

Catholics and Mainline Protestants saw a similar growth in non-whites. Among those three, Catholics have the smallest proportion of whites, at 59 percent, and Mainline Protestants have the largest proportion of whites, at 86 percent.

10. Evangelical growth came from Latinos.

Among Hispanics, the portion of Evangelicals increased from 16 to 19 percent. It was the only race/ethnic group to see an increase in its proportion of Evangelicals.

Also among Hispanics, the largest drop was among Hispanic Catholics, from 58 to 48 percent. The largest increase was among Hispanic unaffiliated, from 14 to 20 percent.

- christian post

No more mega-parishes, Pope told

May 20, 2015 by admin  
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ChurchCalifornia, May 19, 2015: Catholic reform groups meeting in Ireland have called on Pope Francis to halt the Church’s policy of clustering parishes into megaparishes, NCR Online reports.

Leaders from 24 international reform groups who met in Limerick, Ireland, in April are urging Pope Francis to call for a halt to the Church’s policy of clustering parishes into megaparishes as a response to the decline in priest numbers.

In an open letter, the 32 signatories — from groups such as Catholics for Renewal in Australia, A Call to Action in England, and the Society for Open Christianity for the 21st Century in Slovakia — tell Francis that the future of parish life is “massively threatened.”

Bishops seeking to address the priest shortage are “merging active and vibrant parishes into anonymous and unmanageable superstructures,” the letter said.

While merging seems to be “the formula of the hour,” the reform leaders warn that in these new megaparishes, personal contact between people and ministers is being lost as the sacraments are removed ever further from the everyday life of church citizens.

This is leaving the faithful “alienated, unsettled and insecure” as priests are increasingly focussed on administration instead of caring for souls.

Signatories included Fr Helmut Schüller of the Austrian Pfarrer-Initiative in Austria; Martha Heizer, the excommunicated chair of We Are Church Austria; and Deborah Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch in the US.

They were among delegates from more than 10 countries who met in Ireland during April 13-17 to discuss the governance of the church and to develop strategies for church reform.

Calling for new models of ministry and new ways of managing parish life, the letter tells Francis that there is opposition to clustering among a cross-section of the faithful — young and old, divorced and remarried, gay and straight — and that new paths to vibrant parishes where everyone is “welcome without exception” are needed.

“Let us establish a new culture of co-responsibility and joint decision-making in all structures of our Church,” they write.

- cns

Franklin Graham says he has no faith in Democratic, Republican or Tea Parties, Urges Christians to run for office

May 18, 2015 by admin  
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Christians in PoliticsU.S, May 15, 2015: The Rev. Franklin Graham said in a recent interview that when it comes to the American political system, he has no faith in the Democratic Party, Republican Party or the Tea Party. Instead, he called on Christians to go out and vote and run for office in the upcoming 2016 elections.

“I have no faith in the Democratic Party, I have no faith in the Republican Party, I have no faith in the Tea Party, whoever they are,” Graham told WIAT 42 News in an interview posted on Thurday.

He added that he’s not endorsing anyone in the 2016 elections, but urges Christians to run for office.

His remarks echo an earlier statement he made in April, when he said he doesn’t believe either Democrats or Republicans will be able to fix America’s problems.

“At 62 years of age, I’ve lived long enough to learn that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can turn this country around; no political party or politician is the answer. The only hope for this country is Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ,” Graham said in a Facebook post.

At that time he also revealed that he will be traveling in 2016 to all 50 U.S. states to rally Christians to get involved in political elections.

“I want to challenge Christians to boldly live out their faith and to pray for our nation and its leaders. I want to encourage Christians to get out and vote, and to cast their ballots for candidates who uphold biblical principles,” the evangelical preacher explained.

“I want to strongly urge Christians to run for public office at every level — local, state, and federal. We will not be endorsing any political candidates, but I will be proclaiming the truth of God’s Gospel in every state.”

Graham also discussed the topic of same-sex marriage in his WIAT 42 News interview, and suggested it was the will of judges rather than the opinions of the people that are pushing for the practice to be legalized.

“Every place this has been put up to the vote of the people, the people vote it down. It’s the judges that are overturning the will for the people. I don’t think this is as big of a problem as it sounds with the people,” he said.

On his Facebook page Graham has been urging Americans to pray each day for one of the nine Supreme Court justices. The highest court in the land is getting ready to rule on whether to allow gay marriages to continue to be decided on a state-level, or whether the Constitution requires they be legalized everywhere.

“Today pray for Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, that God would give him wisdom and guide his mind as the court weighs the important issue of same-sex marriage in our nation,” he posted on Thursday.

- christian post

ISIS claims trained soldiers are ready to attack in U.S states

May 9, 2015 by admin  
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ISIS TrainingTexas, May 7, 2015: Terror group ISIS reportedly has 71 trained soldiers, at least 23 of who are ready to carry out attacks in 15 states similar to the shooting on Sunday at a cartoon contest featuring images of the Muslim prophet Muhammad in Garland, Texas.

“Out of the 71 trained soldiers 23 have signed up for missions like Sunday, we are increasing in number,” reads the warning, posted on a file-sharing site and attributed to Abu Ibrahim Al Ameriki, the moniker of an American believed to have joined a terror group in Pakistan several years ago. “Of the 15 states, five we will name: Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, California, and Michigan.”

Fox News reported that U.S. officials are looking into the threat, but believe it comes from a low-level militant rather than ISIS leadership.

The threat makes reference to Sunday’s incident in Garland, where two terror suspects opened fire outside the Curtis Culwell Center, but where shot dead by a police officer after wounding a security guard.

The event was hosted by political blogger Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, in response to the controversial Islamic “Stand with the prophet” conference held at the same Texas location on Jan. 18 that featured New York-based Imam Siraj Wahhaj, who was an alleged “co-conspirator” in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

The online posting reads: “The disbelievers who shot our brothers think that you killed someone untrained, nay, they gave you their bodies in plain view because we were watching.”

ISIS, which has captured cities across Iraq and Syria and has been hit by airstrikes by the U.S. and a broad coalition of allies, claimed responsibility for Sunday’s incident, and said that more attacks are to follow.

“We say to the defenders of the cross, the U.S., that future attacks are going to be harsher and worse. The Islamic State soldiers will inflict harm on you with the grace of God. The future is just around the corner,” the Islamic militants warned.

The jihadists, who have beheaded Christians in a number of their propaganda videos, addressing other believers as “the nation of the cross,” added: “We tell America that what is coming is more bitter and harder and you will see from the soldiers of the Caliphate what harms you.”

The FBI has been investigating reports of people tied to ISIS operating in the U.S., but has not yet produced conclusive evidence to support the claims.

In February, FBI Director James Comey said: “We are focused keenly on who would be looking to travel to join this band of murderers who will have come back from Iraq and Syria and to the United States.”

Comey continued: “We have opened cases all over the place focused on this threat, so it is not … a Washington thing — it is something we focus on throughout the FBI.”

The shooters in Texas on Sunday were identified as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, U.S. citizens who had both been living in Phoenix.

An investigation will seek to establish whether the suspects were indeed ISIS sympathizers, and to what extent they were linked to international terrorism. FBI reports have shown that Simpson, who was born at Dallas’ Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, was once the subject of a terror inquiry.

- christian post

USA: 5 facts about National Prayer Day

May 8, 2015 by admin  
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PrayerUS, May 6, 2015: May 7 is the National Day of Prayer, on which presidents annually proclaim that “the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.” The day has spawned a rival National Day of Reason on the same day, started by humanist groups and other opponents of the National Day of Prayer.

Here are five facts about prayer, including survey data on Americans’ prayer habits and historical instances of prayer intersecting with the government:

1. The National Day of Prayer was enacted in 1952 by the Congress and President Harry S. Truman. As with the addition of “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, the move came during the Cold War and was seen as a way of contrasting the more religious United States with the officially atheistic Soviet Union.

2. The Freedom From Religion Foundation unsuccessfully challenged the National Day of Prayer in court. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that the group, which aims to promote the separation of church and state, did not have legal standing to challenge the law.

3. For many Americans, every day is a day of prayer. More than half (55%) of Americans said they pray every day, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, while 23% said they pray weekly or monthly and 21% said they seldom or never pray. Even among those who are religiously unaffiliated, 21% said they pray daily. Women (65%) are more likely than men (46%) to pray every day. Older people (60%) are more likely than younger adults (45%) to say they pray daily.

4. A 2010 USA Today/Gallup poll asked Americans specifically about the National Day of Prayer. A majority (57%) said they favored having the Day of Prayer, while just 5% said they opposed it. A significant share (38%) said it didn’t matter to them either way.

5. Last year – in the case Town of Greece v. Galloway – the Supreme Court ruled that U.S. legislative and administrative bodies may begin their sessions with a prayer. On some occasions, however, the high court has rejected other types of state-sponsored prayer. For instance, in 1962’s Engel v. Vitale, the court famously struck down a policy requiring public school students to begin their day with a nonsectarian prayer.

- pew research blog

Ireland’s defense of marriage leaders speak up for mothers, fathers, children

April 29, 2015 by admin  
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Ireland's defense of marriage leadersIreland, April 26, 2015: Opponents of a referendum that would recognize “gay marriage” in Ireland face an uphill fight, but one commentator says they can win if people are willing to speak up and focus on the need for children to have a mother and a father.

“I think civil marriage is a really critical institution for upholding the common good – specifically the good of children being raised by their own mother and father in a lifelong committed relationship,” said Ben Conroy, a spokesperson for the Iona Institute, an Irish NGO focused on civil society and religion.

He said redefining marriage would remove from the Republic of Ireland’s constitution “any idea that there’s anything special, or unique, or worth protecting about a child being raised by their mother and father.”

“In fact, it’ll abolish the notion that there’s anything particularly special about motherhood and fatherhood at all, only ‘parenthood’,” he continued.

The referendum would amend the Republic of Ireland’s constitution to read, “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

The vote on the referendum will be held on May 22, with voter registration closing on May 5.

Conroy told CNA that opponents of the referendum are “definitely the underdogs,” according to opinion polls.

However, he characterized referendum support as “very soft.” He said most voters who currently favor the referendum have reservations about it, and almost all voters still appear to believe that a child is best adopted by a man and a woman in preference to other situations.

He noted that a marriage referendum in Slovenia showed a large majority in favor of redefining marriage in the campaigns ahead of the election, only to lose on Election Day.

“The question is whether or not we can get the message about the connection between marriage and the family across, in the face of a ‘Yes’ campaign that has overwhelming support in the media and elite Ireland,” Conroy said. “They’re determined to argue that this is just about love and equality, but I think that’s completely wrong, not to mention quite short-sighted.”

Conroy said voters in the Republic Ireland should consider Article 41 of the Constitution, which the referendum would change, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which considers marriage as part of the right to “found a family.”

“Marriage in Irish and international law has never just been about two people who love each other: it’s always been a child-centered institution,” Conroy explained.

“I think a lot of Irish people would prefer to see a better way of recognizing the legal equality of gay people without obliterating a child’s right to a mother and father.”

Conroy said many referendum opponents suffer social pressure and even a “climate of fear,” given that an Irish Times writer has called for the creation of a “homophobia watchdog” to monitor rhetoric surrounding the referendum. What Conroy characterized as “social media mobs” can also target those who do not agree with the referendum.

However, he noted that there are situations where opponents of the referendum are in the majority but in fact believe themselves to be alone until someone speaks up.

“Talk to people!” Conroy advised referendum opponents. “Tell them you think every child, gay or straight, deserves the love of a mother and father where possible.”

Conroy warned that there is no conscience clause in the referendum to allow bakers, florists, printers and others to avoid participating in ceremonies to which they object. He believes that legal cases involving these businesses will become more common, as they have in other places.

In Northern Ireland, a baker who declined to make a cake saying “Support Gay Marriage” was sued by the country’s Equality Commission, even though the U.K. country does not recognize same-sex civil marriage.

“I think that’s a harbinger of things to come if this passes,” Conroy said.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has said that Catholic schools will be expected to teach children that in Ireland people “will have the right to get married irrespective of their sexual orientation.”

For Conroy, that was “a pretty huge step” that he doesn’t think people have adequately considered.

“We’ve come a very long way in the level of love we show our brothers and sisters who are gay, and it’s only a very tiny number of people who don’t welcome that wholeheartedly,” he added.

“But marriage is a particular institution, with particular purposes, and children – gay and straight – do have a right to a mother and father where possible. There shouldn’t be a contradiction there, and I don’t think there is.”

The Republic of Ireland’s four main political parties all support the referendum. They and campaign groups like Yes Equality intend to spend almost $750,000 to promote it, the Irish Times reports. The main opponent of the referendum, Mothers and Fathers Matter, hopes to spend about $160,000.

In a March 10 statement, the Republic of Ireland’s Catholic bishops said they could not support the referendum.

“The effects of this proposed amendment will be far-reaching for this and for future generations,” they said. “We say to all voters: Marriage is important – Reflect before you change it.”

They voiced concern that if the Constitution is amended, “it will become increasingly difficult to speak any longer in public about marriage as being between a man and a woman.”

“What will we be expected to teach children in school about marriage? Will those who sincerely continue to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman be forced to act against their conscience?” they asked.

Ireland’s Catholic bishops could consider withdrawing from registering civil marriages if the referendum passes, given that the Church’s view of marriage and the state’s view will be “radically different,” Martin Long, a bishops’ spokesman, said April 13, according to the Irish Times. Almost 60 percent of registered Irish marriages in 2014 resulted from Catholic Church ceremonies.

- cna

Islam’s growth rate outpacing Christianity’s: Pew study

April 9, 2015 by admin  
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Islamic YouthInternational, April 8, 2015: Youthfulness and fertility are two factors that will help Islam come close to becoming the world’s dominant religion in just a few short decades.?

That prediction is the heart of a new study by the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life. ?

“Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35 percent increase,” the study says.

“Over that same period, Muslims — a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates — are projected to increase by 73 percent.

The number of Christians also is projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate (35 percent) as the global population overall.”?

That means that by mid-century, there may be 2.92 billion Christians on the planet Earth, as opposed to the 2.17 billion there are now, and 2.76 billion Muslims, over a billion more than there are now. ?

The closing gap between the two religions is more dramatic when considered according to the percentage of the world’s population.

While the percentage of Earth’s inhabitants who follow Christ is expected to remain fairly constant, at the 31.4 percent it is now, the percentage of Muslims will shoot up from its current 23.2 percent to 29.7 percent.?

Muslims and Christians are the two leading groups in fertility, the report says: “Globally, Muslims have the highest fertility rate, an average of 3.1 children per woman — well above replacement level (2.1), the minimum typically needed to maintain a stable population. Christians are second, at 2.7 children per woman.”?

The fact that 34 percent of Muslims in the world are under the age of 15 also helps ensure that Islam will grow faster than other religions. The share of Christians under that age is about the same as the world average, 27 percent. ?

The Pew study also projects that religious conversion will benefit Islam over the next three and a half decades, while Christianity will suffer a net loss due to religious switching.

Acknowledging that “conversion patters are complex and varied,” Pew predicts a net gain of 3.2 million Muslims and a loss of 66 million Christians.?Some of the other conclusions of the Pew study include:

Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion — though increasing in countries such as the United States and France — will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.

In Europe, Muslims will make up 10 percent of the overall population.

India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.

In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.

Four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa.

- aleteia

A lesson from Japan’s ‘hidden Christians’

April 6, 2015 by admin  
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Christians praying in JapanTokyo, March 22, 2015: One hundred and fifty years ago, on March 17, 1865, Fr Bernard Petitjean found 15 Japanese outside the door of a new church that had been constructed to serve the European community in Nagasaki. Three of the women among the group knelt and said to the priest, “The heart of all of us here is the same as yours.”

There had been rumors that in spite of more than two centuries of persecution, there were still Christians in Japan, the kakure kirishitan, or “hidden Christians” who had secretly passed their faith from generation to generation.

Those people who risked their lives to visit Nagasaki’s Oura Church were proof that the rumors were true. Their visit to the church sparked the last spate of persecution in Japan.

Christianity had been outlawed in 1587 and persecution had begun 10 years later with the execution of 26 Christians in Nagasaki. It was possibly the most brutal and systematic persecution of Christians until modern times were underway.

The evangelization of Japan began with the arrival of St Francis Xavier in 1549, and aimed, like much of the Church’s missionary work at that time, at the baptism of as many people as possible. Many missioners saw their work as a rescue operation, saving souls that were otherwise bound for damnation.

One result was that catechesis was not stressed. Even today, we see the influence of this style of mission in Latin America and the Philippines where the Church has a broad, but not always deep presence. People were baptized, often under coercion, while having only a very rudimentary understanding of the faith. They knew some prayers (often in Latin) and some devotions to Mary and the saints who were often amalgamated with local divinities.

In Japan, some Christians went on to learn more about their faith and set up a system of lay leadership. When Catholics were driven into hiding, some communities were better equipped than others to remember and pass on their faith.

But over the course of two and a half centuries, people forgot doctrines that the missioners had taught their ancestors. They had no Scriptures or catechisms since books would be evidence of their religion. In addition, most of the kirishitan were illiterate.

They gathered in secret to recite prayers directed at bundles of cloth that were hidden inside Buddhist altars. The bundles contained medals, statues or crucifixes that had been passed down to them. Their religion became a mix of Buddhism, Shinto and half-remembered Catholicism.

Fathers taught the traditions of the community to their children. Village elders led worship services. If they were discovered, death was sure, yet these small bands held to a sense of identity as Christians even though almost all the theology of Catholicism disappeared from their religion. Loyalty to their ancestors and to each other bound them.

When missioners like Fr Petitjean came to Japan and met the kirishitan, they faced a dilemma. The people considered themselves Christian, but their practices and beliefs varied so much from the teaching of the Church that it was hard to see how they could be accepted as any kind of Christians.

The response was to call upon the kirishitan to renounce the traditions of their ancestors and enter the Church anew. About half of the estimated 30,000 kakure kirishitan did so. The rest refused to abandon the faith they had protected through centuries of persecution. In some places the differences between their beliefs and orthodox Christianity had become so great that the people could not recognize the original connection.

For those kirishitan who became Catholics, missioners built churches in their villages and began the work of teaching them the actual faith of their ancestors.

Today, the descendants of the kakure kirishitan still form the core of the Catholic Church in Nagasaki. They are proud to be descendants of men and women who remained faithful in spite of persecution, even though their beliefs had strayed from true Catholicism.

Because of that history of persecution, their Catholicism has had a different emphasis from that of people in other parts of Japan. Until recently, it has been more traditional than the Church in the rest of the country, with an emphasis upon keeping the faith and passing it on to the next generation, a legacy of their ancestors’ faithfulness.

However, lately the Church descended from the kakure kirishitan has changed. From a Church that keeps the faith it is becoming one that shares the faith. These Catholics revere their ancestors who kept at least some memory of the faith but they are dedicated to deepening their understanding of that faith for the sake of mission today. They have come out of hiding.

The Church at large has something to learn from the Nagasaki Catholics. We have come out of a period of decades in which “keeping the faith” was given priority over sharing our faith. We were in danger of becoming a closed community of the elect, protected from the ways of the world.

Now, Pope Francis is calling us to proclaim Evangelii Gaudium, the Joy of the Gospel. And that proclamation is not simply the name of a papal document. It is the definition of the Church. We, like the Catholics of Nagasaki, must now focus on the proclamation of the fact that God’s love is stronger than sin, stronger than persecution, stronger than death.

It is time to come out of hiding and into the open with faithfulness to each other and to the Lord.

Maryknoll Fr William Grimm is publisher of ucanews.com, based in Tokyo.

- ucan

Cardinal rebukes 500 priests for going to the press with call to resist change to church teaching

March 26, 2015 by admin  
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Synod on the FamilyEngland, March 24, 2015: Cardinal Vincent Nichols has rebuked the almost 500 priests in England and Wales who have signed a letter resisting any change to church teaching at the Vatican’s next Synod on the Family in October, saying that discussions between priests and bishops ahead of the gathering are “not best conducted through the press”.

Almost 500 priests in England and Wales have signed a letter calling on the Vatican’s next Synod on the Family to proclaim the Church’s “unchanging” moral teaching and resist any move allowing Communion for the divorced and remarried.

The 461 priests endorsed a letter, reported earlier this month by The Tablet and published in the Catholic Herald, that was initiated by a group of a dozen conservative-minded clergy. The 12 had circulated a letter and a covering note to priests in England and Wales. The note invited priests to sign the letter that was composed for publication in the press.

The letter expresses fidelity to the Church’s traditional doctrines of marriage and sexuality, and affirms the traditional discipline “regarding the reception of the sacraments” (which bars Communion for the divorced and remarried).

The covering note to the letter contended that the media’s reporting of the 2014 synod had left a “distorted sense” that the Church’s moral teaching could be changed.

The letter with 461 signatories appeared on the Catholic Herald website on Tuesday. One signatory, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Catholic Herald there “has been a certain amount of pressure not to sign the letter and indeed a degree of intimidation from some senior Churchmen”.

On Wednesday, Cardinal Nichols issued a statement saying every priest in England and Wales has been asked to reflect on the synod discussion and that their pastoral experience and concern are of “great importance”. He added, however, that the “dialogue between a priest and his bishop, is not best conducted through the press.”

The number of signatories to the letter totals around 12 per cent of priests in England and Wales. There are currently around 3,000 active diocesan priests and 1,000 religious priests. The signatories include religious but do not say whether priests are retired or not. There are around 800 retired clergy.

The 12 priests who initiated the letter include the Dominican theologian Fr Aidan Nichols, who in a letter to The Tablet this week writes: “[The] nuptial relation between husband and wife embodies in sacramental form the bond between Christ and his Church-Bride. How, then, in the lifetime of a still recognised spouse can a household with a second (or third, etc.) partner present itself, in a “domestic church’ manner, at the Table of the Lord?”

Other priests supporting the letter are: Fr Julian Large, provost of the London Oratory, Fr Alexander Sherbrooke of St Patrick’s, Soho Square in London, Fr Tim Finigan, parish priest in Margate, Kent; Mgr Edwin Barnes, former Church of England bishop and a priest of the ordinariate; Mgr Gordon Read, chancellor of the Diocese of Brentwood; Fr Andrew Pinsent, research director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford; Fr John Saward, a theologian who is priest-in-charge of an Oxford parish; Fr Robert Billing, spokesman for the Diocese of Lancaster, Fr Roger Nesbitt, parish priest of St Bede’s in Clapham, south London, where the old rite is regularly celebrated, and Fr Neil Brett of the Diocese of Brentwood.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who attended the last synod and will be at the next one in October, has said divorced and remarried people could be readmitted to Communion under certain conditions.

- the tablet

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