Following China’s opening in the 1980s, the Church went through the pontificates of Saint John Paul II, Benedict XVI and the current pontiff, Pope Francis, each cordially showing a desire to engage Chinese authorities in dialogue. Through humility and patience, China and the Vatican finally met in Beijing on 22 September 2018 to sign the Provisional Agreement on the appointment of bishops.
Answering questions from journalists, Pope Francis said that the Agreement was not just an impulse, but “a true journey”, and the negotiation “process went like this: two steps forward, one back, two forward, one back”. The Holy See spokesman Greg Burke said that the Agreement does not represent the end of a process but is its beginning.
The “independent Church” separated from the Pope is therefore not the Catholic Church; the bishops without the Pope’s appointment are not even pastors of the Church; what is false cannot be disguised as truth, even if it has been in place for 60 years thanks to government help, looking more and more like Catholicism but unable to mask its true face.
“…So, one day, they wait for Jesus to conclude His prayer in a secluded place, and then they ask, “Lord, teach us to pray” (v. 1). In response to the explicit question of the disciples, Jesus does not give an abstract definition of prayer, nor does He teach an effective technique for praying and “obtaining” something. Instead He invites His disciples to experience prayer, placing them directly in communication with the Father, inspiring in them a nostalgia for a personal relationship with God, with the Father. Here lies the novelty of Christian prayer! It is a dialogue between people who love each other, a dialogue based on trust, supported by listening and open to solidarity. It is a dialogue of the Son with the Father, a dialogue between children and their Father. This is Christian prayer.
When Jesus teaches us, the Lord’s prayer makes us enter into God’s paternity and shows us the way to enter into a prayerful and direct dialogue with Him, via the path of filial confidence. And it is a dialogue between the father and his son, of the son with his father. What we ask in the Lord’s prayer is already all realized for us in the Only-begotten Son: the sanctification of the Name, the advent of the Kingdom, the gift of bread, forgiveness and liberation from evil. As we ask, we open our hand to receive. To receive the gifts that the Father showed us in the Son. The prayer that the Lord has taught us is the synthesis of every prayer, and we always address it to the Father in communion with our brothers. Sometimes it happens that in prayer there are distractions but many times we feel the desire to stop at the first word – “Father” – and feel that paternity in the heart.”
To read full version of Holy Father Francis words at the Angelus prayer, click here; http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2019/07/28/190728a.html
Kevin Hargaden of Dublin’s Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice told this newspaper that instead of being dispersed over a number of churches, parishioners should gather in “larger groups”, creating opportunities for vacant churches to be repurposed for ecological means.
“I think that it’s a good idea for Christian communities that we would gather in larger groups for Mass on Sunday, but the buildings that don’t get used, I think can get repurposed. Again, that’s an opportunity for us to think about how do we make a church fit for the 21 Cenutry mission,” Dr Hargaden told The Irish Catholic.
He added that for a “whole bunch of logistical and operational reasons”, rationalising church buildings is a smart decision, and noted that unused land in parishes can also be rewilded – a process of restoring land to its natural state – to reduce Ireland’s collective carbon footprint.
Germany’s Catholic Church lost 216,078 members and Protestant churches lost some 220,000 in 2018, according to data published on Friday by the German Bishops’ Conference and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). The losses have hit hard the two main Churches of the country, as members pay up to 9% of their taxable income as church taxes.
Hans Langendörfer, secretary of the German Bishops’ Conference, described Friday’s figures as a ‘worrying’ statistic. “Every departure hurts,” said Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, president of the EKD. “Since people today, unlike in the past, decide out of freedom whether they want to belong to the Church, it is important for us today to make even clearer why the Christian message is such a strong basis for life.”
A study published by the University of Freiburg in May concluded that the number of people belonging to Germany’s two Churches will drop by half by 2060. The main reasons for declining membership in the two Churches include adults leaving the church, fewer baptisms and an ageing population, the researchers said.
Some of Hong Kong’s Christian leaders have issued an urgent call for the withdrawal of the extradition bill, an end to provocations and violence, and the establishment of a commission of inquiry to find the truth about the clashes. The letter, titled ‘Urgent Appeal regarding the Ongoing Clashes Between the Police and Members of the Public’, was signed by Card John Tong, apostolic administrator of the diocese, and Rev Eric So Shing-yit, president of the Christian Council of Hong Kong.
The two write that “The mass protests against the proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (the infamous extradition bill) have resulted in clashes and violence between the Police and members of the public, and the situation is deteriorating. The people of Hong Kong are deeply worried and distressed.”
The two Christian leaders end their plea urging “the government to take the initiative to confer with the representatives of different factions to seek a solution to the current impasse.”
Shawn Taseer delivered moving remarks about his father, the former governor of Punjab, who was killed for standing up to the blasphemy law there. He pointed out that while his father specifically was killed defending Asia Bibi, who is now finally free. He described them as prisoners of conscience who are include the elderly, sick, and illiterate. “Abandon them at your peril.”
Bibi was charged with blasphemy in a Pakistani court and sentenced to death. In late 2018 she was acquitted, but she was not allowed to leave the country until May 2019.
“As we celebrate these victories, we must be mindful of the challenges ahead,” he said. “While Asia Bibi — the world’s most famous prisoner victim of blasphemy is a free woman — I want you all to know that there are 200 Asia Bibis in jail accused of blasphemy law in Pakistan today and these are only the reported cases.”
According to Aid to the Church in Need, between the years 1990 and 2017 more than 20 Christians have been killed in Pakistan after being accused of blasphemy.
Souce: https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/ten-things-that-caught-my-eye-about-the-ministerial-on-advancing-religious-freedom/ and https://www.persecution.org/2019/07/20/son-slain-governor-claims-200-asia-bibis-pakistan/
The Christian faith will always present a radical challenge to any power that makes absolute claims for itself, and there are plenty of those in the world today. Across the globe, in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, Christians are being bullied, arrested, jailed, expelled and executed. Christianity is by most calculations the most persecuted religion of modern times. Yet Western politicians until now have been reluctant to speak out in support of Christians in peril.
‘The Times’ editorial cited above continued, ‘The West must be ready to support the Christian faith. That, rather than embarrassment, has to be the starting point of our necessary conversations with…. followers of other faiths.’ And it concluded, ‘We cannot be spectators at this carnage.’ Indeed we cannot, and it is the hope of the whole Review team that this report will help the FCO not to be spectators but to be actors using their very best efforts to address this egregious phenomenon.
Confronting absolute power is certainly a legitimate concern and policy objective of any democratic government. Indeed the Christian faith’s inherent challenge to absolutist claims explains why it has been such a key foundation stone of Western democratic government – and explains too why we should continue to support it vigorously wherever it is under threat.
Click this link to read more about Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO Support for Persecuted Christians: https://christianpersecutionreview.org.uk/report/