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A Christmas Message from
Archbishop Richard Smith
As war rages in the Middle East and racial tensions heighten in the United States, leaders of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths condemned violence and spoke of peace at Edmonton City Hall Dec. 6. The event, titled Voices of Peace from Abraham's Children, was sponsored by the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society for Harmony, an Edmonton group whose goal is to promote bridge-building and understanding among Christians, Muslims and Jews. "I feel that Islam, the religion that defines me, has been unjustifiably hijacked by (extremists)," said Yasmeen Quraishi Nizam, presiding co-chair of the society and the event's emcee.
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Catholics and Muslims have a similar mission. Both faiths want to bring people to God and both want to enrich human culture with their values. That's one conclusion drawn by leaders of the two faiths at the first annual Interfaith Gathering at the Matrix Hotel Nov. 25. Julien Hammond, ecumenical and interreligious officer for the Edmonton Archdiocese, and Ryan Carter, a Muslim chaplain with the Canadian Armed Forces Edmonton, addressed the topic Living as Neighbours in the Global Community of Edmonton.
If every Catholic is supposed to go to Mass on Sunday, Pope Francis wants every one of them to be well and truly welcomed when they get there – including the ones who randomly shout, rock back and forth in the pew, moan or unexpectedly laugh. Every family with an autistic child needs to feel at home in church, Pope Francis told 700 participants at a three-day conference Nov. 21-23 on autism organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry in Rome. "Everyone should be committed to promoting acceptance, encounter and solidarity through concrete support and by encouraging renewed hope," said the pope.
In reaching full unity with Orthodox Christians, "the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith," Pope Francis said Nov. 30. In a liturgy in Istanbul, Turkey, attended by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the pope assured Orthodox Christians they would not lose their distinctive forms of worship, spirituality and governance in a reunion with Rome. Full communion between the churches "means neither submission of one to the other nor absorption, but rather welcoming of all the gifts that God has given to each to show the whole world the great mystery of salvation realized by Christ the Lord through the Holy Spirit," the pope said.
Pope Francis said the Catholic Church must find new ways to integrate divorced and civilly remarried people into the life of the Church and to make it easier for Catholic families to accept their homosexual members. In an interview with an Argentine newspaper, the pope answered several questions about the October 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family, which considered a controversial proposal to allow some divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion even without an annulment of their first, sacramental marriages. By Church law, such Catholics may not receive Communion unless they abstain from sexual relations, living as "brother and sister" with their new partners.
Back by popular demand, Sandra Brenneis and St. Peter's choir in Villeneuve will again present their popular musical drama Mary's Veil. When asked why the show was coming back after six years, Brenneis responded, "When I talk to people they always ask, 'When is Mary's Veil coming back?' "To be honest, I had no intention of doing Mary's Veil this year. I felt that I was too busy, many of the cast could not return and I knew that if we did it, I would want to rewrite some of the music.
One seemingly obvious line in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World augurs, not a change in Church teaching, but in the Church's attitude to society and social change. "The social order requires constant improvement," says the constitution, also known by its Latin name, Gaudium et Spes (n. 26). Today, few people would question such a sentiment. Of course, they would agree, we should do our best to make a better society and eliminate social evils.