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A Christmas Message from
Archbishop Richard Smith
For more than 30 years, Cardinal Walter Kasper has been an outspoken proponent of a more welcoming attitude to those divorced and remarried Catholics not permitted to receive the Eucharist. More recently, his theology of mercy, outlined in his popular book Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life, has had a major influence on Pope Francis and is provoking new directions in the Catholic Church. One of the world's leading theologians, Kasper served from 1999 to 2011 as secretary and then president of the Vatican's Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
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Catholics can learn important lessons from how God is moving in and among First Nations, Metis and Inuit people, says Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith. Smith said aboriginal people have taught him the importance of listening deeply, respect for elders and how a person's sense of identity is linked to their place in the family and the wider community. The archbishop made his comments during his homily at the Dec. 12 Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica marking the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples.
After a four-month hiatus, the statue of Jesus is back on the cross outside St. Agnes Church, 10826-62 Ave. It was returned Dec. 10 and it looks sparklingly clean and shiny. It took two cranes to lift the 450-kilogram cast iron statue up and screw it back in place. Project manager Bob Forrow, a member of the twinned pastoral council of St. Agnes and St. Anthony parishes, was happy to see the project come to an end. "It's a unique job but there was always a problem."
There were kings and angels and shepherds. Mary arrived on a donkey this year and there were spotlights on the different characters. Jeffery Fidelak was a king and arrived at the manger with a huge cardboard camel and a wide smile. As always, baby Jesus was a real baby – this time three-month-old Gabriel Mitchell. Mary and Joseph beamed with joy holding the baby, caressing him tenderly. This Christmas pageant has been going on for more than two decades but is still a favourite event of many during Advent. This year, more than 300 people attended the play at St. Thomas d'Aquin Church and most presented gifts of food for the Edmonton Food Bank.
A simple cabin in Radway. That was the introduction of the Sisters of Charity of Immaculate Conception to health care in Alberta in 1926. Named St. Joseph's Hospital, it served both as a hospital and home for the sisters. Water was drawn from a well for surgeries, and bedding was washed and hung out to dry even in the brutal winter. Cost per bed was 50 cents to $2 a day. Two years later, a 20-bed hospital opened. The religious congregation first came to Alberta two years earlier to assume operation of a school in Edmonton. Education and health care were its main ministries during those early days in the province, apostolates that expanded into numerous other areas over the past 90 years.
A massive Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious ended with a simple call to the women themselves to continue discerning how best to live the Gospel in fidelity to their orders' founding ideals. Although initially seen by many religious and lay Catholics as a punitive measure, the apostolic visitation concluded with the publication Dec. 16 of a 5,000-word final report summarizing the problems and challenges the women themselves see in their communities. It also thanked them for their service to the Church and to society, especially the poor.
Over the last 500 years, writes the Canadian Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor in his book A Secular Age, the Western world has been transformed into a society of "disenchantment." By saying that society is disenchanted, Taylor does not mean that it has become fed up or disillusioned. Rather, he means the widespread sense that spiritual forces are at work which will protect us and ultimately triumph over evil has been lost. Prior to the onset of disenchantment, Taylor argues, people naturally assumed there was a thin veil between the material and the spiritual, and that the material world, including human persons, was constantly being affected by the actions of spiritual beings.