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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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The visit of the icon of St. Joseph the Worker to parishes and schools across the Edmonton Archdiocese brought awareness about the role of St. Joseph and increased devotion to the diocese's patron saint. In mid-November, the icon and historical exhibit created for the Jubilee 100 Year ended an 18-month journey to more than 70 parishes across the archdiocese as well as Catholic schools, festivals and youth rallies.
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.
The European Parliament should value the continent's faiths to rejuvenate Europe's social, political and economic life, Pope Francis told the body Nov. 25. "In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a 'grandmother,' no longer fertile and vibrant," the pope said. In too many cases, he said, the Judeo-Christian values and the humanist ideals that inspired the continental drive toward unity seem to have been replaced by "the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions."
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.
I've lived in Toronto most of my life, studied in New York and my beautiful wife is from São Paulo. I have also visited London, Paris, Rome, Beirut, Beijing, Hong Kong, Jerusalem and Nairobi. All of these places are famous in some way for their food. But my most unforgettable meal was about 15 years ago in a village whose name I can't remember. It was in the hilly interior of Nicaragua, in a school building that had lost its roof, windows and doors to a hurricane that had flattened the village.
Joseph's face saddened as he turned and walked out of the inn. No room. Again. Yet Mary, heavy with child, was about to give birth. Finally he turned to the only shelter he could see – the stable behind the inn. Warmed by the heat of the stable animals, a bed of soft straw, and Mary, surrounded by the animals, gave birth to her son, Our Saviour, Jesus. Cradling her child, Mary wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in the manger. And love surrounded him.
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.
The Catholic Church needs to find images and metaphors that will better communicate "the rich heritage which is ours" on marriage and family issues, said Archbishop Paul-André Durocher. Durocher told Catholic communicators that the Church tends to present its teachings in terms of laws and structures, but it should be making clear that faithfulness, fruitfulness and the indissolubility of marriage are "gifts that God gives to humanity." Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said there is "a disconnect" between the contemporary view of the family, at least in the Western world, and the Christian understanding of family.
ISTANBUL – A day after hearing Turkish leaders demand the West show more respect for Islam, Pope Francis prayed alongside a Muslim cleric inside Istanbul's most famous mosque. At the Blue Mosque, Istanbul's grand mufti Rahmi Yaran led Pope Francis to the mosque's "mihrab," a niche indicating the direction to the holy city Mecca. Then, as the grand mufti continued speaking, the pope fell silent and remained so for several minutes, with head bowed, eyes closed and hands clasped in front of him.
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.
What Father Pat Cosgrove started in anger is ending in communion. Chalice, the Catholic Canadian child sponsorship agency, has matured into a real partner to help feed poor communities in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Haiti and Ukraine. In Kenya, Chalice has launched a program that gathers small groups of people into support communities where they can learn to farm better and receive outside help to put what they learn into action. The program is called eRoots. It provides resources and training to help communities grow their own food and develop sustainable small farms. So far in Kenya, 165 "community development groups" have been helped, which translates into about 9,600 people working towards self-reliance.
More than 150 children in the Evergreen Catholic School Division entered the district's fourth annual Christmas artwork contest. Here are two of the entries.
EDMONTON – After naming its new schools for local Catholic personalities in recent years, Edmonton Catholic Schools will turn to a mix of the local and traditional in school names when a batch of newly-approved schools open in 2016. "We do not have any set policy," says Lori Nagy, Edmonton Catholic Schools Manager of Media and Community Relations. "When we are looking for names we post information on our district website asking people to send in their submission, there is a deadline date and the board will review those names. Of course, the archbishop is also involved."
OTTAWA – As Pope Francis inaugurated the Year of Consecrated Life Nov. 30, Canada's apostolic nuncio exhorted Canadian religious to build a culture of vocations. Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi urged Canada's religious men and women to not be afraid to make a courageous and direct call to young people. "Go among the youth," he wrote in a document entitled Take Care of Vocations. "Go personally to them and call."
OTTAWA – By the end of March, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) will choose four delegates and two alternates to attend the ordinary synod on the family in Rome in October 2015. The names of delegates, two from the English sector and two from the French sector, and one alternate from each, will not be revealed until after Pope Francis approves them, said Archbishop Paul-André Durocher. The United States bishops' conference chose its delegates at its recent plenary this fall, but the next CCCB plenary won't take place until next September. Usually, Canada's delegates for synods are chosen at the bishops' annual plenary assembly in the fall.
New Brunswick's Liberal government is removing restrictions to make access to abortion easier in the Maritime province. "As one newspaper headline said today, it is a monumental shift in public policy on abortion here in New Brunswick," said Peter Ryan, executive director of Right to Life New Brunswick. "For many years New Brunswick and (Prince Edward Island) have stood apart from the rest of Canada in that we have not had a policy on tax-funded abortion on demand. Now that has changed."
STRASBOURG, FRANCE – The project of European unity and cooperation, and ensuring peace on the continent, requires a commitment to dialogue and respect for others, Pope Francis said. The pope told council members that a "great toll of suffering and death is still being enacted on this continent." Visiting in Strasbourg Nov. 25, the pope marked the 65th anniversary of the 47-member Council of Europe. The council was formed to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe after the Second World War.
Catholic apologist Tim Staples used to love stumping Catholics with Bible verses when he was a Pentecostal. Then he met a Catholic who stumped him. Speaking in Ottawa Dec. 6, the director of apologetics and evangelization for Catholic Answers said he used to think, "You have to be brain dead to be Catholic." Raised a Southern Baptist, Staples joined the Assemblies of God as an adult. He became especially fond of Bible verses he called "zingers" that he believed proved the Catholic faith was wrong.
Creation care ministry combines both practical and Christian elements – an exquisite blend of why God wants us to care for his Earth and how to go about doing it. Norman Lévesque has written a book that provides a guide to going green the Christian way – Greening Your Church (Novalis). Lévesque's book includes not only ways to make your parish more environmentally responsible, but also ways to alter your own life as well as a theology to provide the foundation for such ecologically-inspired change.