Monday, January 16, 2017

Priest files complaint over RTÉ comedy sketch

A Co Kerry priest has lodged a complaint with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland over the “ridiculing of the Eucharist” on the Late Late Show.

Fr Kevin McNamara, parish priest in Moyvane near Listowel in north Kerry, wrote in this weekend’s Moyvane parish newsletter about his “hurt beyond words” at hearing the host described as “haunted bread” by a member of the Rubberbandits hip hop comedy duo, “on the so-called flagship chat show ” of the national broadcaster.

The priest who is a native of Co Clare and was for many years based in Killarney, where he was hugely popular, and outspoken, said the phrase which he found so offensive was endorsed by presenter Ryan Tubridy.

Fr McNamara said he felt it was time to call a halt to the “disrespect for religious belief and for those of us who respect religious beliefs.”

The religious were “fair game” in this country for all sorts of remarks but the description of the eucharist on the Late Late on January 6 was “an all-time low”.

“We live in an age where there is great emphasis on the need for clean air, clean water and a healthy environment, but how much attention do we give to fostering a clean soul, heart and mind?, the address began in the newsletter to parishioners.

Fr McNamara outlined his complaint in detail: “On the Late Late Show of January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, there was a discussion in which the holy eucharist [holy communion] was referred to as ‘haunted bread’.

“During a discussion about whether religious practice long in decline, might be on the rise, comedian David Chambers, who performs as ‘Blindboy Boatclub’ in the comedy duo The Rubberbandits, said that young people attending midnight mass at Christmas were “not going there for haunted bread, but because it was a family event.

“Everyone at midnight mass is half-cut anyway”.

The priest told parishioners that “presenter Ryan Tubridy said he thought the phrase ‘haunted bread’ was a “great expression”.

“Mr Chambers said, ‘that’s what it is’, arguing that the Church ‘does not want us to use critical thinking’ and is ‘asking us to eat the ghost of a 2,000-year-old carpenter’”, Fr McNamara said.

On hearing that fellow guest Michael Harding had been a priest, he murmured ‘sorry about the haunted bread stuff’, the priest wrote.

“Isn’t it time we paid attention to creating a clean environment for soul, heart and mind? Fr McNamara has asked parishioners. 

“It hurt me beyond words to see the eucharist ridiculed on RTÉ’s so-called flagship chat show.

““I have made a complaint to the Broadcasting Authority,” the priest informed his parishioners at the Church of the Assumption.

Group claims 'nobody has been refused entry' to Catholic schools outside Dublin

A group representing Catholic primary schools is insisting there is no baptism requirement for their school places.

It comes as the Minister for Education Richard Bruton is due to announce plans this morning to legislate on the controversial school admissions system.

Under the so-called 'baptism barrier', many children cannot access religious primary schools unless they have been baptised in a Christian faith.

The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association says it only arises in cases of oversubscription for school places, when preference may then be given to a baptised child.

General Secretary Seamus Mulconry insists it is mostly a problem in the Dublin area.

He said: "There are a few in the commuter belt, but the vast majority of oversubscribed schools are in Dublin, and in affluent areas in Dublin.

"Nobody has been refused entry down the country, because their child hasn't been baptised, because oversubscription is not happening in rural areas."

In a speech later today, it is believed the Minister will say he believes it is unfair that publicly funded religious schools are able to give preference to children of their own religion ahead of those of no religion who may live closer to the school.

On Newstalk Breakfast, the Minister said he is aiming to ensure Ireland has "the best education service in Europe", and wants the system to accommodate people of different faiths.

"Ireland has changed very substantially, and we now need to respond to the new environment", he said. "Many parents want choice and don't marry in the Catholic or any other denominational setting."

Minister Bruton said allowances need to be made for these families as 96% of primary schools are denominational.

Meanwhile, new research by the campaign group EQUATE shows that almost one in four parents of children of school-going age would not have baptised their child if they did not need it to gain entry to their local school.

EQUATE Executive Director Michael Barron says there is growing momentum across Irish society to remove the baptism barrier.

He said: "We've heard from parents who actually regret baptising their children against their beliefs solely on the basis of getting their children into a local school", he said. "We heard last year from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who said he really did not believe in the practice of baptising children to get into your local school.

"I think there's widespread agreement that it's really not a practice that anybody can really support in a modern democracy."

School baptism rule to be scrapped

Image result for Education Minister Richard BrutonEducation Minister Richard Bruton is to tackle the "baptism barrier" that gives Catholic children priority admission to nine out 10 of the country's primary schools. 

Bowing to growing pressure for change, he says he plans to limit or remove the role that religion can play in the school admission process. It is the first such move by any Irish government.

Mr Bruton says the system is 'unfair' and does not reflect the reality of modern Irish society, where the number of Catholic-controlled schools is now well ahead of the proportion of families who are practising Catholics.

A Catholic-first admissions policy means many children cannot get into their nearest school because they are not baptised - and many parents are baptising children purely for school-entry purposes.

According to a new survey by Equate - which has been campaigning for reforms to the system to reflect social and cultural change in Ireland - 24pc of parents of school-age children would not have baptised their child if they didn't need to in order to gain entry into their school.

"It is unfair that preference is given by publicly funded religious schools to children of their own religion who might live some distance away, ahead of children of a different religion or of no religion who live close to the school," Mr Bruton said.

The minister will set out his plans today at a seminar organised by Equate, when he will put forward four options for discussion:

Catchment area approach, prohibiting religious schools from giving preference to children of their own religion who live outside the catchment area ahead of non-religious children who live inside the catchment.

'Nearest school rule', allowing religious schools to give preference to a religious child only where it is that child's nearest school of that particular religion.

Quota system, which would allow a religious school to give preference to children of its own religion in respect of only a certain proportion of places, meaning the remaining places would be allocated based on other admissions criteria, such as proximity to the school or a lottery.

Outright prohibition on religious schools using religion as a factor in admissions, meaning all places would be allocated based on other factors.

Adoption of any option faces considerable obstacles because of the legal entitlement enjoyed by denominational schools in relation to protecting their religious ethos - and admissions polices are a vehicle for this.

But Mr Bruton who, soon after taking office last year, asked officials in the Department of Education to explore options, clearly believes any difficulties are surmountable.

He is inviting the views of all interested parties, and hopes to have proposals to table when a Labour Party bill in this area comes to committee stage in June.

Mr Bruton acknowledges a number of potential difficulties in the road ahead, including avoiding possible breaches of the Constitution, traditionally put forward as the reason why the State could not introduce changes in the 'Catholic-first' rule.

He also says he is conscious of the need to protect schools of minority religions, such as Protestant, Jewish and Islamic, from the unintended consequences of any change.

He insists reform must not lead to 'postcode lotteries', such as other countries have experienced, resulting in pronounced divergence in quality of schools in more advantaged, compared to less advantaged, areas.

Overall, 96pc of primary schools are under the patronage of Christian religious organisations. In particular, 90pc are of Catholic ethos.

But Mr Bruton says Ireland must move on from the system of patronage/ ethos "that we have inherited and reflects a very different era in Ireland; change is needed to meet the needs of today's families".

"Over one-third of couples who are getting married are choosing to do so in a non-religious ceremony, and all the evidence points to a population in which very significantly fewer than 90pc of young families are religious," he added.

CW and the Eyes of Rome

CW Editor: It seems that we are indeed being well read in Rome and it leaves us to wonder whether it is the Irish Boyos on Ad Limina checking in or indeed perhaps (please God) someone in the Vatican is actually checking out what is ACTUALLY going on in this little country as opposed to the sanitised version presented to them by the Boyos....and the posts in relation to George Byrne and Diarmuid Martin hit over 1,200 views in 6 hours!!!

Lay Catholics frustrated over failure to raise celibacy issue

A group of lay Catholics has expressed "deep frustration" over the bishops' failure to bring proposals on ending the celibacy requirement for Catholic priests to Pope Francis during a visit to Rome this week. 
According to a spokesman for the Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI), there is a solution to the current chronic shortage of priests in the Irish Church but the bishops are "sticking" their heads "in the sand hoping the problem will go away".
The comments come after the Irish Independent revealed a middle-aged man has claimed he was sexually assaulted by a young cleric he met through a gay dating site.

Over 26 bishops representing every diocese in Ireland have begun a visit to Rome this week. 
But following an "inconclusive discussion" on celibacy, they decided not to bring a proposal to the Pope's attention that priests who left ministry to get married should be invited to return to ministry.

The ACI has warned that the growing shortage of priests needs to be addressed "as a matter of urgency to ensure access by the faithful to Eucharist in the years ahead".
The ACI lay reform group said it fully supported Bishop Leo O'Reilly of Kilmore's proposal to set up a commission to examine the issue of celibacy. 

That proposal emerged as a recommendation from a listening process last year among the laity and priests in Bishop O'Reilly's diocese. 
In its statement, the group pointed out that, in seeking the establishment of a commission, Bishop O'Reilly was "reacting positively to the urging of Pope Francis who, speaking about the shortage of priests, said that local bishops are best acquainted with the needs of the faithful and should be courageous and bring concrete suggestions for reform to Rome".

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Noel McCann of the ACI, said: "In addition to ordaining married men, the ACI believes there is a cohort of ordained priests who left active ministry to marry, without seeking laicisation, who could be invited back into ministry right now."
The high percentage of priests over 65 years of age in Ireland and the low intake of seminarians suggest that in 10 years' time, many parishes will be without a resident priest.
The clustering of parishes has already resulted in some parishes being without a daily Mass, while others can only provide prayer services on selected weekdays without the distribution of communion. 

"The crisis is clear, what is causing the crisis is clear, but what are we doing about solutions? Where is the urgency in terms of addressing the issue?" Mr McCann asked.

Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus

V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.
V. God the Father of Heaven
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Holy Ghost,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Holy Trinity, one God,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, Son of the living God, R. Have mercy on us.
Jesus, splendor of the Father, [etc.]
Jesus, brightness of eternal light.
Jesus, King of glory.
Jesus, sun of justice.
Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus, most amiable.
Jesus, most admirable.
Jesus, the mighty God.
Jesus, Father of the world to come.
Jesus, angel of great counsel.
Jesus, most powerful.
Jesus, most patient.
Jesus, most obedient.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
Jesus, lover of chastity.
Jesus, lover of us.
Jesus, God of peace.
Jesus, author of life.
Jesus, example of virtues.
Jesus, zealous lover of souls.
Jesus, our God.
Jesus, our refuge.
Jesus, father of the poor.
Jesus, treasure of the faithful.
Jesus, good Shepherd.
Jesus, true light.
Jesus, eternal wisdom.
Jesus, infinite goodness.
Jesus, our way and our life.
Jesus, joy of Angels.
Jesus, King of the Patriarchs.
Jesus, Master of the Apostles.
Jesus, teacher of the Evangelists.
Jesus, strength of Martyrs.
Jesus, light of Confessors.
Jesus, purity of Virgins.
Jesus, crown of all Saints.

V. Be merciful unto us, R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Be merciful unto us, R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.

V. From all evil, R. deliver us, O Jesus.
From all sin, deliver us, O Jesus.
From Thy wrath, [etc.]
From the snares of the devil.
From the spirit of uncleanness.
From everlasting death.
From the neglect of Thine inspirations.
Through the mystery of Thy holy Incarnation.
Through Thy Nativity.
Through Thy Infancy.
Through Thy most divine Life.
Through Thy labors.
Through Thine agony and passion.
Through Thy cross and dereliction.
Through Thy faintness and weariness.
Through Thy death and burial.
Through Thy Resurrection.
Through Thine Ascension.
Through Thine institution of the most Holy Eucharist.
Through Thy joys.
Through Thy glory.

V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us, O Jesus.

V. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.

Let us pray.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who saidst, "Ask and ye shall receive, seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Grant, we beseech Thee, to us Thy suppliants, the gift of Thy most divine love, that we may love Thee with our whole heart, and in all our words and works, and never cease from praising Thee.

O Lord, give us a perpetual fear as well as love of Thy Holy Name, for Thou never ceasest to govern those Thou foundest upon the strength of Thy love. Who livest and reignest world without end.

R. Amen.

Gay teacher files suit against NC Catholic school for being fired

A former Charlotte Catholic school teacher who claimed he was fired for being gay has filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, saying his firing violates the Civil Rights Act.

In 2012, Lonnie Billard was named Charlotte Catholic’s Teacher of the Year. He taught English and ran the school’s theatre department before scaling back to work as a long-term substitute.

The lawsuit, filed on Billard’s behalf by the ACLU and the law firm Tin Fulton Walker & Owen claims that his firing violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex and other characteristics.

Billard announced on his Facebook page in October of 2014 that he and his partner Rich were planning to get married in 2015. 

According to Billard, it wasn’t long before he was relieved of his duties.

“I got a call telling me I would not be allowed to teach anymore,” Billard told our sister affiliate WCNC. “As it was explained to me that because I had posted on Facebook to my friends that my longtime partner Rich — Rich and I were going to get married this spring. Apparently there were a couple of teachers that were unhappy with that.”

David Hains, spokesperson for The Charlotte Roman Catholic Church Diocese, the organization that oversees Charlotte Catholic, says Billard was fired because he went against teachings of the Catholic Church.

“Well, the Catholic Church opposes same-sex unions,” Hains said in a statement. “Marriage can only be between one man and one woman. He’s not being picked on because he’s gay. He lost his job as a substitute teacher because he broke a promise because he chose to oppose church teaching, something he promised he would not do.”

Billard said at the time of his employment, most people at the school knew he and Rich were a gay couple, with Rich often coming to school events.

“I loved being part of the Charlotte Catholic school community, and the classroom has always felt like home to me,” Billard said. “I know that the Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage, but I don’t think my commitment to my husband has any bearing on my work in the classroom. I have never hidden the fact that I’m gay and my relationship with my partner was no secret at school. But whether or not the school previously knew that I am gay is not the point. People should be able to fall in love and get married without risking their jobs.”

In Ethiopia, Church works against genital mutilation

Image result for genital mutilationA commission of the Eastern-rite Ethiopian Catholic Church recently held a three-day conference with school leaders and teachers to help them counter the practice of female genital mutilation.

In a news release, the bishops’ conference stated that “fear of stigmatization and being unfit for marriage are the causes that lead parents and even women themselves to the practice.”

In 2013, Ethiopia’s bishops forbade Catholics from taking part in genital mutilation, which continues in some rural areas despite being illegal under civil law.

The East African nation of 102.4 million is 44% Ethiopian Orthodox, 34% Muslim, and 19% Protestant. 

The Ethiopian Catholic Church has 83,000 members.

Six years on, the UK Ordinariate continues to “go forward in faith” (Comment)’s been six years. 

I remember sitting in a guest house at EWTN in Alabama—where I was working on a new history-and-traditions series at the time—and watching, via my computer, a great event unfolding in my native city of London. 

And I thought: “This is history…but because I know the Cathedral so well it looks just, somehow, ordinary!” And somehow “ordinary” was exactly the right words because—forgive the pun—I was watching Msgr. Keith Newton being established as the ordinary of the newly-created Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. 

He and two other former Anglican bishops were ordained as Catholic priests in Westminster Cathedral; he was appointed as ordinary and the other two as vicars-general. Msgr. Newton is the ordinary—with the rank and style of a bishop—because he cannot actually be a bishop, as he is married (to Gill, who, incidentally, has since become a good friend and with whom I have been carol-singing at London Bridge railway station). 

It was indeed history—Anglicans being invited to come into full communion with the Catholic Church, entering as groups along with their pastors, bringing with them their Anglican traditions in music and liturgy and pastoral practice. Pope Benedict XVI had called out “to groups of Anglicans”—Anglicanorum Coetibus—with an invitation that had come as a result of Anglican pleading. 

With the ordination of women in the Church of England, it looked as though hopes for reunion had ended, a door slammed shut, years of well-intentioned dialogue ending in a fruitless void. But Benedict salvaged something and opened a new chapter of history. For those who wished to come into full communion, a new door opened. 

Six years on, it’s worth looking at how things are going. 

It didn’t get off to an easy start, and things still are not easy. An initial press conference made a cheery show of goodwill, with the archbishops of Canterbury (CofE) and Westminster (RC) making friendly noises. But it was uncomfortably clear that there was an air of discomfort. After all, this was an effective acknowledgement that the CofE had moved into a sort of backseat position as far as Rome was concerned. 

Like it or not, the Anglicans were now going to be spectators and friendly visitors in Rome, not potential members of the family. The ordination of women, so far from being a minor issue (“What’s the problem? Women can be bus drivers and Prime Ministers can’t they? So why not priests?” a dear Anglican friend said to me in genuine puzzlement), was and is a central issue. The Catholic Church cannot ordain women and this has been reaffirmed clearly by Pope Francis, affirming the clear message of Pope St. John Paul—and of the unchangeable practice of the Church right back to Christ himself and his Apostles. 

The creation of the Ordinariate undoubtedly ruffled some feathers. It also proved difficult to explain to some cradle-Catholics. People asked—and still ask—“But are they real Catholics?”

Over and over again, it has to be emphasized: yes, they are. 

A priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is a Catholic priest, just like a Dominican priest, or a Franciscan one, or a Jesuit one. They celebrate the Roman Rite of Mass, but if they wish they can use the Ordinariate form, which incorporates some prayers from the Anglican tradition, in words familiar to Anglicans over four centuries of use in England’s churches. And they can incorporate in their ministry some expressions and traditions from Anglicanism—Evensong, Sunday School, Harvest Thanksgiving… 

In Devon, an energetic local Ordinariate group led by Father David Lashbrooke raised funds and bought a Methodist church that was due to close down; they are now transforming it into a busy little Catholic church dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham and St. Cuthbert Mayne ( a local Catholic martyr of the 16th century). 

In Kent, Father Ed Tomlinson and his team took on a small Catholic hall which served as a Mass-center on Sundays; it’s now a thriving church with a lovely sanctuary, statues, devotional side-chapel, and packed pews—with a new hall built alongside for the Sunday School and other activities. 

At London Bridge, the rather run-down Church of the Most Precious Blood was given to Ordinariate care; it now has a new floor, new heating, a new confessional, beautiful vestments, a children’s choir singing chant—and is full every Sunday and with a good weekday congregation. 

Processions now go through the streets in May—carrying a statue of Our Lady, of course—at Corpus Christi, at the Assumption, and at the feast of Christ the King. I was invited last spring to celebrate St. George’s Day in the village of Gainford in County Durham; here the lovely Catholic church in the heart of the village is now in the care of Father Ian Grieves of the Darlington Ordinariate, and I have never celebrated St. George in greater style or with more gusto. And every year in Holy Week, Ordinariate priests from across Britain gather at the central London church at Warwick Street near Piccadilly Circus for the Chrism Mass, with the papal nuncio in attendance, and lavish music from a splendid choir.  

But there has been coolness from some quarters—Catholic quarters: “These people say women can’t be priests,” said an indignant voice at one Catholic gathering where the subject of the Ordinariate came up. “So does Pope Francis,” I reminded her.  Then there is an innate conservatism of many Catholics—not without value in its way, but it can take strange forms: “Why can’t these people just become, well, normal—I mean, just join a parish and merge in?” 

Well, why do we need anything new, ever? Why didn’t Mother Teresa stay in her perfectly good convent and continue teaching geography to girls at a Calcutta high school? Why did John Paul invent World Youth Day? Why have a big pro-life rally every January in the USA and have people driving through the night to get there? Why don’t the Neo-Catechumenate just stop doing mission work? 

I’m not sure where the Ordinariate is going next. The journey so far has required courage and faith. An Anglican clergyman seeking to lead his flock into full communion with the Catholic Church will lose his home, his status, his livelihood. 

And the flock—even though they disagree with current Anglican stances on women priests, same-sex “marriage,” the Eucharist, the nature of Christ himself, and more, have their own conservatism. 

One former Anglican who is now an Ordinariate member described the reaction of his parish when the issue lay starkly before them: “They just kept saying ‘But, Father, we are Anglicans. We agree with everything you’re saying—but we don’t want to become Roman Catholics.’ And then there’s the church building—they are very attached to it…” 

People are often also tribal: they have their own sense of identity and say things like, “My family has always been Anglican” (not strictly true, of course, given the realities of history, but…). There are nuances of identity that defy easy analysis. And sometimes people take positions that have a bit of absurdity about them, like the poor lady who told me she simply couldn’t go to church anymore because there was now a woman priest who talks about “gay rights,” but “the Catholic Church is something for other people. I just stay at home. And I’m rather unhappy.” 

So things proceed slowly. Some Anglicans seeking full communion with the Catholic Church will quietly make their own decisions and join a local Catholic parish, following an RCIA course. Some Anglican clergy will opt simply to apply to become priests in the local Catholic diocese. 

But the Ordinariate has a special calling, fulfils a special need. Unwittingly, one of the things it has done has been to give something of a boost to cradle Catholics, who relish its contribution to good liturgical practice, good music, and a strong sense of the glory of the Catholic Faith. 

When Msgr. Keith Newton spoke to Pope Benedict after the first couple of years of the Ordinariate’s existence, the latter took his hand after hearing reports of how things were going and said, “Just go forward in faith.” 

And I think they’ll do just that.

'I have to do this': Why some Catholic women are defying Church doctrine and becoming priests

Marie Bouclin giving mass The curtains are drawn as Marie Bouclin transforms the wooden coffee table in her modest living room in Sudbury, Ont., into an altar, lighting candles and filling a chalice with red wine.

A dozen of her parishioners sit in a semicircle around her. 

One woman is so worried she might be identified, she asks that her face be blurred in any photos.

Bouclin, one of only two Canadian bishops in a small movement of Roman Catholic women being ordained outside the official Church, leads the room in a service that goes against 2,000 years of Catholic tradition and doctrine.

"In the early Church, people gathered in their homes," Bouclin says. "Who can say that what we're doing is not valid? Sometimes, we have to obey God and not men. And as much as some Catholics don't want to hear this, the Pope is not God."

Bouclin, 75, became a nun when she was 18, but after seven years, she decided to leave the convent to get married and raise three children. She obtained a Master's degree in theology from the University of Sherbrooke, focusing on the study of women who had been abused by clergy.

That led Bouclin to begin working with an organization called Women's Ordination Worldwide. 

In 2007, she became a priest herself, and in 2011, she was elected by the other priests in the women's ordination movement in Canada to serve as their bishop.
Bouclin is a self-described heretic.

"A heretic is someone who thinks differently," she says. "So, yes, I suppose I am."

Bouclin says she believes the Roman Catholic Church is sexist.
'It's the men's Church. I think they are afraid of change. I feel they are afraid of women.' - Marie Bouclin, bishop
"It's the men's church," Bouclin says. "I think they are afraid of change. I feel they are afraid of women. Women are the other. They are not to be trusted. They are going to take over. There seems to be that fear."

When women in the movement get ordained, they are automatically excommunicated by the Vatican.  

Still, Bouclin insists she loves the Catholic Church, as do many of her parishioners. Anita Corriveau, 70, drives almost four hours from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to Sudbury to pray with Bouclin.

"I feel like I'm hiding in the house. I don't want to hide," says Corriveau. "Open the doors."

Worldwide movement

The female priest movement began in Germany in 2002 when a bishop in good standing with the Catholic Church, referred to within the movement as "Bishop X," ordained seven women in secret.

Having a bishop within the Church perform the ordinations, members of the movement argue, allowed the apostolic succession — the line of bishops stretching back to the time of the apostles — to be preserved.

Bouclin says there are now 182 female priests and 16 bishops in 14 countries across the globe. Canada has 15 women who belong to the movement.

As one of a small number of bishops, it's Bouclin's mission to help find suitable candidates and ordain them.

Pat Cook, 70, is one such candidate. Bouclin met her at the ordination of another woman in 2015.

Cook, a retired teacher, says she was exhilarated by the ceremony and soon after began her own journey. She insists that if the priesthood had been an option when she was young, she would have chosen it.

"The call has been with me for a long time," says Cook. "Genesis tells us that God created us all male and female alike. I think the Church is wrong in excluding women. I think women are capable of being leaders. I think women are capable of being priests."

Cook admits to being nervous about her ordination, but mostly, she says, she wants to get it over with so she can help the people in her Toronto community.

"I will follow the rules," she says. "I just can't help that I am a female. And I won't apologize for that."

A recent New York Times/CBS poll reported that 64 per cent of Catholics in the United States support women's ordination. 

Meanwhile, the Vatican remains opposed to the idea, saying that the ordination of any woman is invalid. At a press conference in November, Pope Francis reiterated the church's long-held position and hinted that women will never become priests in the Roman Catholic Church.

Rev. Thomas Rosica is the English-Language press attaché for the Holy See. He admits it can be a challenge for the Church to explain why women can't be ordained.

"We live in a society where people expect much for the language of equality," he says.
'My heart goes out to them, but I am sorry, we have certain rules.' - Thomas Rosica, Holy See press attaché
"If a man can do it, a woman can do it. If a man can run for president, then a woman can run for president. So, everybody thinks that equality is the determining factor, but that's an equality that the world speaks of. The Catholic Church is basing its decision on a huge historical period, a huge tradition."

Rosica stressed that there are many ways that women can contribute to the Church without becoming priests.

"My heart goes out to them," Rosica said of the women who want to be ordained. "But I am sorry, we have certain rules. As with any organization and corporation, any workplace, [if] you don't play by the rules, you can't be a full part of it. But nobody is saying they don't love Jesus."

Ordination day

Mid-afternoon on a warm Sunday in November, Cook walks nervously down the centre aisle of a United Church in Toronto that has agreed to host her ordination.

There are about 50 people in attendance, including several members of Cook's family.

"I am feeling nervous but joyous and blessed," Cook says. "I just hope I am worthy. It's the culmination of my life."

When Bouclin steps up to the podium to officiate the ordination, she can't resist mixing politics with religion.

"Pope Francis reiterated that there would never be ordained women in the Catholic Church," Bouclin says. "How disappointing that he should be looking back, backward, and adopted the position of his immediate predecessors."

Bouclin says she doesn't care if some Catholics dismiss her and the women she ordains.
"To be honest, I feel sorry for people who are so closed-minded," she says. "Someone saying 'You are not a priest. You are not a bishop' doesn't take anything away from me. If anything, they're the losers."

Bouclin invites Cook to sit in a chair in front of the altar and lays her hands on Cook's head.

"I ask you, 'Are you ready to be ordained for priestly ministry in the Church by the laying on of our hands and the gift of the Holy Spirit?'" Bouclin asks.

Cook quietly states that she is.

"I am following who I am," Cook says after the ceremony. "I am being authentic. I am being me. So, if I hurt people by being a Roman Catholic woman priest, then I am sorry. I don't want to hurt people at all ever, but I have to do this."

Islamic extremists get local official in Yogyakarta removed because he is Catholic

The authorities in Bantul Regency (Yogyakarta special province), central Java, removed from office Yulius Suharto, head of Pajangan sub-district, following a massive lobbying campaign launched on social media by Islamic extremist groups and radical Muslims who targeted him because he is Catholic.
The decision to dismiss the sub-district chief was made on Monday as a result of the unrelenting campaign against the official (pictured).

In a statement, the authorities state that the decision is backed by scores of officials and citizens in Pajangan, ostensibly opposed to a Catholic holding the top office in the civilian administration of a predominantly Muslim area.

Bantu Regent Suharsono noted that Yulius Suharto’s removal was done in accordance with the law, in response to demands from regency and municipal leaders. 

Most officials welcomed the decision to remove the official because he was not Muslim.

Yulius Suharto is expected to be transferred to Bambanglipuro, a sub-district where most people are not Muslim, local sources said.

Last October, Pajangan saw fierce protests by Islamic extremists against the installation of a large bust of Jesus in front of the St Yakobus Alfeus Church.

Extremists were particularly incensed by the presence at the ceremony of women wearing hijab. When the images of veiled women at a Christian ceremony went viral, many of Indonesia’s extremists and Jihadi movements were enraged.

Yulius Suharto’s appointment as Pajangan sub-district chief was made on 30 December; his removal will come into effect on 30 January.

Yulius Suharto is not the only Catholic official in the crosshair of Islamic extremists. In recent weeks, the case of Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, governor of Jakarta, has been front-page news.

Ahok is on trial for blasphemy for allegedly insulting the Qurʾān and Islam. At a rally in September, he supposedly quoted from the 51st verse of Al Maidah, the fifth surah (chapter) in the Qurʾān, to ask Muslims not to use it “the wrong way”. 

The verse in question advises Muslims not to take Jews and Christians as friends.

As one of the few Indonesian political leaders to fight for freedom of conscience, the governor last June opposed the obligation imposed on female students in Jakarta to wear the Islamic veil.

In July 2015, he got involved in the struggle for the civil rights of the Ahmadi minority, which is considered heretical by majority Sunnis.

More than 6,000 Koreans ordained priests than 6,000 native Koreans have joined the Roman Catholic priesthood so far, according to local Catholic officials Tuesday.
In its recently released 2017 directory, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea notes that the number of ordained priests stood at 6,021 as of 30 September 2016.

The list includes Father Andrea Kim, the first native Korean Catholic priest and martyr, better known by his birth name Kim Dae-geon.

Overall, 5,021 priests are still active whilst 560 have passed away, and 440 have returned to their former secular lives.

President Duterte announces "National Bible Month" Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said that in January will be the "National Bible Month ". 

In a statement, signed on January 5, he states that "the State recognizes the religious nature of the Filipino people and the exhilarating influence of religion in human society. It is right and proper that the national attention is focused on the importance of reading and studying the Bible, to shape the spiritual, moral and social fiber of citizenship ". 

The signing of the document - according Duterte - is the constitutional obligation of promoting ethical and spiritual values ​​of the citizens and help them improve their morality.
Although in the past Duterte has recommended people not rely on religions, especially the Catholic Church, the Church has willingly accepted the president's statement.

Msgr. Ruperto Santos of Balanga has regarded the gesture as "commendable and inspiring" while Msgr. Robert Mallari Di San Jose said: "We thank the President for having given due recognition to the religiosity of the people and the importance of the Holy Scriptures to improve the nation." 

Msgr. Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos has called the declaration a ' "golden opportunity" for the parishes to "work together" with government units during the observance of 2017 as the year of the parish.

Colombo: eight years after his murder, no justice for Christian journalist eight years, the investigation into the murder of Lasantha Wickremetunge has gone nowhere and his family is still waiting for justice.
Killed in broad daylight on his way to work, the high-profile Christian journalist was the editor of the newspaper Sunday Leader

From its pages, he harshly criticised former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has always denied any involvement in the assassination.

Upon taking office, President Maithripala Sirisena reopened the case. 

However, the journalist's family has lamented the absence of any tangible results. 

Its attorney, Athula S Ranagala, said that the investigation has stalled.

On Sunday, family, friends, and some politicians met to commemorate his death, which has not yet been vindicated. 

For Prof Sarath Wijesooriya, the government’s quest for justice has not gone very far. “There is an invisible power, blocking its rightful end,” he noted.

For the occasion, the dead journalist’s brother Lal Wickremetunge wrote a letter. Since he is overseas, it was read by his daughter Raisa.

In it, he notes that today Sri Lanka is a better place to practice journalism, but the past should not be forgotten or revisited.

Recently, he noted, the media were informed of the existence of phone conversations between Lal Lasantha and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. But their content has not been released.

Sandhaya Eknaligoda was present at the memorial service. She is the wife of Prageeth Eknaligoda, a reporter and cartoonist who has been missing since January 2010.

She does not know about his fate, and so believes that she does not have the right to commemorate him. For her, "To commemorate Lasantha, one can light a candle or bring a flower. But I do not know where to bring a flower or light a candle as I do not know what happened to Prageeth”.

St Peter's McDonald's to feed homeless

 (foto: ANSA)The McDonald's outside St Peter's Square is to distribute more than 1,000 free meals to local homeless in an initiative involving the Medicina Solidale charity and the Apostolic Almoner, sources said Wednesday.

The charity said "the distribution will be made, thanks to the collaboration of the Apostolic Almoner's Office, every Monday from 13:00 in the St Peter's area and Via della Conciliazione where many homeless people live." 

The initiative is to start today.

US diocese acquires solar energy farm

Image result for diocese of VermontThe diocese of Vermont in the US-based Episcopal Church has acquired a $1 million (USD, approximately £825,763 GBP) solar array farm at its headquarters in Rock Point, Burlington. 

The 35-tracker 147 kW solar away was installed five years ago by AllEarth Renewables and was acquired by the diocese for $269,700.
It will provide more-than-enough energy to power the diocese’s 146-acre facility at Rock Point, which in addition to the diocesan offices, includes the Rock Point School, the Bishop Booth Conference Centre, and the bishop’s house. 

Additional electricity generated by the farm will provide an annual estimated income of $40,000.

The funds used to purchase the solar farm came from early contributions to the Rock Point Partnership Campaign, topped up with a loan from the Bishop Butterfield Loan Fund. 

Once the loan is paid off, the income from the farm’s excess electricity will be used to support the diocese’s organisations based at Rock Point.

The Bishop of Vermont, Thomas C Ely, said that the diocese’s long term goal was to purchase, rather than lease, the facility when it was built five years ago. “We are glad to have achieved that goal on the fifth anniversary of the installation,” he said.

“Care for the environment is an important aspect of our message in the Jesus Movement. The Episcopal Church in Vermont remains committed to environmental stewardship not only in Rock Point but also throughout the wider community,” Bishop Thomas said.