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Archive for the tag “Pope Benedict XVI”

Roman Pope speaks on African witchcraft and witch hunts

The Roman Pope, Benedict XVI, recently visited Angola, and expressed concern about the witch hunts that are taking place in some African countries.

Pope Calls for Conversion From Witchcraft in Africa – washingtonpost.com:

The pope began his day addressing Catholic clergymen and nuns, telling them to be missionaries to those Angolans ‘living in fear of spirits, of malign and threatening powers. In their bewilderment they end up even condemning street children and the elderly as alleged sorcerers.’

In Africa, some churchgoing Catholics also follow traditional animist religions and consult medicine men and diviners who are denounced by the church.

People accused of sorcery or of being possessed by evil powers sometimes are killed by fearful mobs.

The article is somewhad skimpy, and doesn’t report on what means, if any, Pope Benedict suggested should be used to deal with the problem, but it is good to know that there is concern about it at the highest levels in the Roman Catholic Church, which is probably the biggest single Christian body in Africa.

That’s not to say that others have not been concerned about it in the past, but many past responses have been ineffectual. The modernist response has been quite common among Christian churches — to assert, in the face of witchcraft beliefs and fear of evil spirits, that such things don’t exist at all, and that modern and enlightened people don’t believe in such primitive nonsense. Faced with that kind of response from the church leaders, people who fear witches and evil spirits conclude that the church is not equipped to cope with such problems, and so they resort to those who do claim to be competent to deal with them — diviners and medicine men, the so-called “witchdoctors”.

If Pope Benedict is urging church leaders to take the fears of such people seriously, and to help them to overcome them rather than despising them as primitive superstitions from the vantage point of a superior Enlightenment worldview, then that is to be welcomed.

But there is also the problem of some neopentecostal groups who, according to some reports, are actually fanning those fears into a flame, and thereby encouraging witch hunts and pointing the finger of suspicion even at children. That should be a matter of concern to all Christians in the continent.

Update

I’ve just found a link to the full text of Pope Benedict’s address here.

I believe this is a very important document for the Christian Church in Africa.

The pope, Bush, and the "Battle hymn"

From the Institute for Public Accuracy

After the Pope and President George W. Bush spoke at the White House this morning, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was played and broadcast on major U.S. networks. The lyrics were written by Julia Ward Howe, who would later write the first Mother’s Day Proclamation, a call for peace.

VALARIE ZIEGLER, author of Diva Julia: The Public Romance and Private Agony of Julia Ward Howe, said today:

“It’s fascinating to add the papal visit to the list of ‘Battle Hymn’ performances. … Howe was absolutely committed to the Civil War. Inspired by ‘John Brown’s Body,’ she wrote ‘Battle Hymn’ — an incredible theological document and also a stirring
call to arms — so that people would devote themselves even to the last measure to get rid of slavery.

“But after the Civil War, she was repelled by wars between nations, like the Franco-Prussian War. Peace and women’s rights became central to her. She began thinking about what might be possible for women to do on behalf of humanity. In 1870 she wrote the first Mother’s Day Proclamation, an impassioned call for peace.
[See: http://www.codepink4peace.org/article.php?id=217]

“Howe held that women were inherently more loving and nurturing than men, particularly if they were transformed by motherhood. This notion was propelled by women’s clubs across the U.S. at the time, which were dedicated to pacifism and women’s suffrage.

“Throughout her life, Howe contended with her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, who did not want her to have a public life. One line in ‘The Battle Hymn’ — ‘glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me’ — may be a reference to a novel about a hermaphrodite that Howe had written to examine the role of gender in limiting people.”

Ziegler is professor of religious studies at DePauw University in Indiana.

Seven deadly sins?

This is the 500th post in this blog, and deals with the magnificent seven — deadly sins, that is.

The media have made much of a so-called “new list of seven deadly sins” supposedly issued by the Vatican.

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Return of the Magnificent Seven:

Thanks to the Wonderful Jessica Hagy, (h/t Maggi Dawn), everything you always wanted to know about those deadly sins that have been in the news recently.

The diagram also demonstrates the distinction between “sins” as things inside which drive us to do wrong things and the symptoms, which surely aren’t, any of them, “sins”.


Most of the media reports of these “new seven deadly sins” have been rather facetious and flippant. One has to go halfway down the page of some of the reports to discover that

No official list of new sins has been issued by the Vatican, though the Bloomberg wire service reduced Girotti’s interview to a catalogue of ‘Seven Social Sins’: birth control, stem cell research, drug abuse, polluting, helping widen the gap between rich and poor, excessive wealth and creating poverty.

In fact, these are all issues the church has struggled with for years while trying to apply ancient teachings to modern ethical dilemmas.

(TheStar.com | Religion | Thou shalt not pollute or clone).

There’s a web site devoted to the premiss that “The press… just doesn’t get religion”, and they have published an analysis of some of the reporting on The Seven Sensationalist Sins. As in the case of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s remarks on Sharia, the standard of reporting has been abysmal, and it’s interesting that the chief culprits appear to be The Times and the BBC, which have in the past been held up as models of good reporting. How have the mighty fallen!

After reading some of these reports, I think that the problem is not that the press “doesn’t … get religion”. I think rather that the media, the Western media in particular, are actually out to get religion.

This story gets a little bit too close to home. Western values promote a culture of entitlement — “You deserve it!” say so many ads. After all you worked hard for it, or perhaps you didn’t, but you deserve it anyway. Who cares if your luxury creates poverty for others? Creating poverty is cool, as long as it makes you rich, therefore those who, like the church, say it isn’t cool must be mocked and ridiculed.

But now it is Great Lent, and it’s not really time to dwell on the sins of the media. If we didn’t ourselves believe so many of their lies, they wouldn’t be able to peddle them so easily.

The so-called Seven Deadly Sins are actually not so much sins, nor, as Bishop Alan suggested, are they symptoms. Rather they are passions, and the sins are the behaviours that spring from them, including contributing to pollution and poverty. Even if the media regard it as ridiculous that we should examine our behaviour and see how much of it is driven by the passions, we should do so anyway.

Orthodox Christians pray the prayer of St Ephraim a lot during Lent:

O Lord and Master of my life
take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, untio ages of ages. Amen.

Deconstructing Pope Benedixt XVI

I’ve been discussing this topic elsewhere, but it seems useful to try to draw a few threads together here.

The Ochlophobist: in gratitude of grand rhetorical strategies makes some interesting points:

The Pope gave this speech to European secularists knowing full well that Islamic extremists (that is, a sizable portion of Muslims in both Europe and the Middle East) would react to the speech in an uncivil manner. Their uncivil reaction would highlight to those European secularists who heard the speech or read it that the secular European world and the Catholic intellectual world share something in common that is not shared with them by the Islamic world in general – civility and a cultured intellectual reserve. By highlighting this the Pope suggests in a subtle manner that this shared civility may just have something to do with a common intellectual heritage – the synthesis of Christian and hellenic thought which is found in the intellectual patrimony of Europe.

and, even more interesting,

This week, six days after the Pope’s speech was given Catholic-Eastern Orthodox dialogue resumes. All of the significant players are meeting in Serbia. Pope Benedict already enjoys much better relations with the Russian Church than did JPII, in part due to relationships Ratzinger has quietly worked on over many years. Note that of all the quotes Pope Benedict could have used to make a point that has been made many times in Christian intellectual history, he chooses to quote a Byzantine emperor. Now, there are substantial differences between the way that many Orthodox view the relationship of faith and reason (and specifically the proper Christian appropriation of classical Greek thought) and the Catholic view of the relationship between faith and reason. Pope Benedict in his speech may have been sending a message to the Eastern Orthodox in which he attempts to convince them that there is common ground with regard to the understanding of the relationship between faith and reason. Furthermore, that message was sent in the context of a quote which refers to what we must now regard (once again) as a real common enemy that is a serious threat to both Churches. The fact that the Pope basis his argument on the sayings of a Byzantine emperor, combined with the fact that this results in violent Muslim over-reaction against Christians everywhere, only serves to build a sense of “us vs. them” between Catholicism and Orthodoxy (the two Churches comprising the us; Islam the them).

I had already commented on the interesting point that militant secularists and militant Islamists appeared to have made common cause in strident calls for apologies from the Roman pope, and there have been interesting discussions about his aversion to de-Hellenisation in the Christianity and society discussion forum. This seems calculated to draw the Orthodox, but I wonder about how that fits in with his connection with the Bavarian Catholic Church, which played a significant role in promoting the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession in the 1990s.

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