#ShortNews: Holy See, Vietnam continue negotiations

Representatives of the Holy See and Vietnam held their sixth official meeting since 2009 with a view to establishing full diplomatic relations.

The delegations were led by Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, the Holy See’s Under-Secretary for Relations with States, and Bui Thanh Son, Vietnam’s Permanent Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Communist nation of 95.3 million is 7% Catholic.

At the conclusion of their three-day meeting at the Vatican on October 26, both parties issued a joint statement.

“The Holy See, while reaffirming the freedom of the Church to carry out its mission for the good of the whole of society, expressed appreciation to the Vietnamese government for the attention given to the needs of the Catholic Church, as recently witnessed through the establishment of the Catholic Institute of Vietnam,” the parties stated.

The parties also “agreed that the Catholic Church in Vietnam will continue to be inspired by the Magisterium of the Church regarding the practice of ‘living the Gospel in the nation’ and being, at the same time, good Catholics and good citizens.”


#ShortNews: Catholics should learn from Luther, Pope says in new interview

Pope Francis said that Catholics can learn a great deal from Lutherans, in an interview published as he prepared for a trip to Sweden to join in commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

The Holy Father’s latest interview appeared in the Italian Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica. The Pope was interviewed by Father Ulf Jonsson, the editor of a Swedish Jesuit magazine, Signum.

Speaking about what Catholics should learn from Martin Luther, the Pope said: “Two words come to my mind: reform and Scripture.” He explained that Luther set out to reform “a complex situation” in the Church, but because of political considerations his effort caused “a state of separation, and not a process of reform of the whole Church.” Regarding Scripture, he said, “Luther took a great step in putting the Word of God into the hands of the people.”

Speaking more generally about ecumenical relations, the Pontiff said, “Personally, I believe that enthusiasm must shift toward common prayer and the works of mercy” rather than concentrating on theological discussions. “To do something together is a high and effective form of dialogue,” he said.

Responding to questions about the objections that were raised to a papal Mass in Sweden, the Pontiff said that he deliberately avoided scheduling a Mass on the same day as the ecumenical prayer service that he will lead, to “avoid confusing plans.” He added: “The ecumenical encounter is preserved in its profound significance according to a spirity of unity; that is my desire.”

The Pope brushed away complaints by some Catholics that his visit to Sweden, and his celebration of the Reformation, will suggest a surrender of Catholic claims. “You cannot be Catholic and sectarian,” he said. “We must strive to be together with others.” He denounced the idea that Catholics should seek to convince Lutherans about the truths of the Catholic faith. “Proselytism is a sinful attitude,” he insisted.

Addressing ecumenical and inter-religious questions in a broader context, Pope Francis said that the prayer service in Assissi offered an opportunity for religious leaders of all faiths to take a common stand against the political manipulation of religious beliefs. “We together said strong words for peace: what all religions truly want,” he said. He went on to say that the exploitation of religion for ideological purposes is a form of idolatry, and continued:

“There are idolatries connected to religion: the idolatry of money, of enmities, of space greater than time, the greed of the territoriality of space. There is an idolatry of the conquest of space, of dominion, that attacks religions like a malignant virus.”


#ShortNews: ‘There will always be Christians in Iraq,’ prelate vows

As an international military offensive moves toward Mosul, liberating towns from the hold of the Islamic State, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako has visited towns on the Nineveh Plains, and seen the destruction and desecration of Christian churches.

The Chaldean prelate said that he is hopeful Christian refugees who fled from the Islamic State will soon return to their homes in the region—which he described as “our holy land.” He said that religious leaders of all denominations should join in building a “culture of peace and harmonious coexistence.”

Speaking from New York, another Iraqi prelate said that it may take a year before Christians are able to settle once again into their old homes in and around Mosul. Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said that refugees will face enormous challenges as they labor to rebuild their communities.

Archbishop Warda said that in his own archdiocese, about 80% of the Christian population want to remain, despite the threats to their security. But he vowed that even if many more families leave, the Church will continue to serve those who remains, and “there will always be Christians in Iraq.”


An Excerpt From The Strangest Secret

George Bernard Shaw said, “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them.”

Well, it’s pretty apparent, isn’t it? And every person who discovered this believed (for a while) that he was the first one to work it out. We become what we think about.

Conversely, the person who has no goal, who doesn’t know where he’s going, and whose thoughts must therefore be thoughts of confusion, anxiety and worry—his life becomes one of frustration, fear, anxiety and worry. And if he thinks about nothing… he becomes nothing.

How does it work? Why do we become what we think about? Well, I’ll tell you how it works, as far as we know. To do this, I want to tell you about a situation that parallels the human mind.

Suppose a farmer has some land, and it’s good, fertile land. The land gives the farmer a choice; he may plant in that land whatever he chooses. The land doesn’t care. It’s up to the farmer to make the decision.

We’re comparing the human mind with the land because the mind, like the land, doesn’t care what you plant in it. It will return what you plant, but it doesn’t care what you plant.

Now, let’s say that the farmer has two seeds in his hand—one is a seed of corn, the other is nightshade, a deadly poison. He digs two little holes in the earth and he plants both seeds—one corn, the other nightshade. He covers up the holes, waters and takes care of the land…and what will happen? Invariably, the land will return what was planted.

As it’s written in the Bible, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”

Remember the land doesn’t care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it will corn. So up come the two plants—one corn, one poison.

The human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and mysterious than the land, but it works the same way. It doesn’t care what we plant…success…or failure. A concrete, worthwhile goal…or confusion, misunderstanding, fear, anxiety and so on. But what we plant must return to us.

You see, the human mind is the last great unexplored continent on earth. It contains riches beyond our wildest dreams. It will return anything we want to plant.

An Excerpt From
The Strangest Secret
by Earl Nightingale

When Prioritizing Means Change

The past can be a powerful master of the heart, but only God should be the master we serve.

All of our reasons for not fully committing to a direction or a service that Jesus is asking of us could be very good reasons. They can seem very logical and even holy. But if they are excuses instead of blind trust in following Christ, and if they are rationalizations for taking an easier path or remaining in a lifestyle that’s comfortable and familiar, we are choosing death over life. We are the dead burying the dead.

Following Christ is never a static position. It’s an adventure that changes as soon as we get comfortable. God calls us away from doing one good thing to do a different good thing. The hard part is recognizing when it’s time to let go of the old to start something new, especially when it makes perfect sense to keep on doing what we’ve been doing, and even more especially when no one else can do it quite as well as we can.

Should we answer the pastor’s call for more liturgical readers, even though it means switching our schedule to a different Mass? Should we reach out to that person who could become a new friend, even though we’d have to sacrifice time that we’d normally spend with old friends? Should we turn our ministries over to someone else so that we can fill a need elsewhere?

You and I really do want to do what Jesus asks of us. If we truly trust him, we truly want to follow him wherever he leads. Choosing the right priorities is not our problem; our struggle is with recognizing the surprise changes in God’s plans.

After that, it’s a matter of moving forward in the new direction while trusting that if we’ve misinterpreted God’s plans, he will make sure we don’t go far in the wrong direction.

Instead of wishing that life could be predictable, we need to focus on what Jesus wants us to do today. How does he want you to follow him right now? Be content with whatever you’re doing but be ready for God to design another curve in your path.

If you need help getting through this struggle to move in the right direction, this e-book “Knowing God’s Will and Doing It Well” could help. It’s available at Catholic Digital Resources: catholicdr.com/ebooks/GodsWill.htm.

© 2015 by Terry A. Modica

Saint Alban

saint-albanLittle can actually be known about the real St Alban (estimated to have died c. 209 – 305 A.D.) Alban is believed to have been a Romano-British citizen of the third century in the Roman city of Verulamium, in the valley below the present Cathedral.  The earliest versions of his history say that he gave shelter to a stranger fleeing from persecution. This was a Christian priest, originally un-named but later called Amphibalus in the re-telling of the story.  Alban was so moved by the priest’s faith and courage that he asked to be taught more about Christianity, then still a forbidden religion.

Before long the authorities came to arrest the fugitive priest.  But Alban, inspired by his new-found faith, exchanged clothes with Amphibalus, allowing him to escape. Instead Alban was arrested and brought before the city magistrate.

Alban was bound and taken before the judge. The judge was furious at the deception, and ordered that Alban should receive the punishment due to the priest, if he had indeed become a Christian. In front of the judges, Alban refused to sacrifice to the emperor and the Roman gods and declared his Christian faith, saying in words still used at the Cathedral of St. Alban in England, “I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things.”

The magistrate ordered that Alban should receive the punishment due to the priest.  He was brought out of the town, across the river and up a hill to the site of execution where his head was cut off.

Legend tells us that on the hill-top a spring of water miraculously appeared to give the martyr a drink and that the original executioner was so moved by this manifestation of God’s power that he refused to carry out the deed.  After his replacement killed Alban the executioners’ eyes dropped out.

Alban was probably buried in the Roman cemetery now located by modern archaeological digs to the south of the present Cathedral. Alban is honoured as the first British martyr, and his grave on his hillside quickly became a place of pilgrimage. Amphibalus too was later arrested and martyred at Redbourn, a few miles away.

The first churches here were probably simple structures over Alban’s grave, making this the oldest continuous site of Christian worship in Great Britain.  Recent finds suggest an early basilica over the spot and in 429 St Germanus recorded his visit to this church.  In the early eighth century the historian Bede told the story of St Alban and described ‘a beautiful church, worthy of his martyrdom’.