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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom

Commemorated on January 30

Synaxis of the Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom: During the eleventh century, disputes raged in Constantinople about which of the three hierarchs was the greatest. Some preferred St Basil (January 1), others honored St Gregory the Theologian (January 25), while a third group exalted St John Chrysostom (November 13).

Dissension among Christians increased. Some called themselves Basilians, others referred to themselves as Gregorians, and others as Johnites.

By the will of God, the three hierarchs appeared to St John the Bishop of Euchaita (June 14) in the year 1084, and said that they were equal before God. "There are no divisions among us, and no opposition to one another."

They ordered that the disputes should stop, and that their common commemoration should be celebrated on a single day. Bishop John chose January 30 for their joint Feast, thus ending the controversy and restoring peace.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saint Jean-Charles Cornay

Also known as

  • Charles Cornay
  • John Charles Cornay
  • John Cornay
  • Johannes Karl Cornay



Priest. Member of the Paris Society of Foreign Missions. Missionary to Vietnam, working in Annam. Accused of theft after weapons were planted on his land to discredit him, he was actually arrested for his faith at Ban-ho. He was kept in chains in a cage for three months, routinely beaten, and when interrogated was told to sing his answers as he was known for his beautiful voice. One of the Martyrs of Vietnam.






Additional Information

Friday, January 28, 2011

Egyptian revolt not only political but also spiritual and Islamic
by Samir Khalil Samir

Muslim intellectuals and theologians draw the prospects for a change even in Islam: the value of women and fraternisation of sexes; rejection of fundamentalist Salafism, seeking a religion of the heart and freedom, against the formalism of the veil, the beard and abstruse ritual practices. And above all, they welcome secularism, the separation of Islam from politics.

Rome (AsiaNews) - The "document on the renewal of Islam" published by the magazine "The seventh day" (see 26/01/2011 Egyptian Imams and intellectuals: Renewing Islam towards modernity) is attracting great interest on the Internet. In one day alone it was published by at least 12,400 Arab websites. Each of these sites received many comments from the public.
We must clarify one point of which we received confirmation today: yesterday we attributed the document directly to 23 figures from the Islamic world. In fact, the 23 figures are not really signatories: the document was prepared by the magazine according to indications received from more than 23 people interviewed. For each of the 22 items listed there are also comments and explanations that make it clearer and more profound.
The importance of the document lies foremost in the themes indicated by the 23 scholars and the magazine's attempt to launch an interesting project of reform in Islamic discourse.
Of course, it is worrying to see that 88% are opposed to the document, with about 12% favourable. However among those who are against it, there are those opposed to just one or two points.
Another interesting aspect is that this project of reform of Islam was published Jan. 24, one day before the outbreak of demonstrations in Egypt. These protests have economic and political roots. This means that in addition to current politics, there is an intellectual current that is fed up with the Islam that has spread in the last 30 years in the country, an "externalized" Islam that puts the emphasis on external things (clothing, beard, veil, etc. ..). This shows that there is a global movement - both spiritual and political - in Egypt that wants to transform the country. And since it is a leading country in the Middle Eastern world, one can expect that the changes in act in Cairo will spread throughout the region. Perhaps the same demonstrations that are taking place on the streets of the capital will have an influence on this "externalized" Islam.
Now we come to our comments on some of the more important points.  
Fraternisation of the sexes
Take, for example, point 3, which talks about the fraternisation of the sexes. Their commentary states that the ulema should take into account the circumstances in which this takes place and ensure it is in accordance with sharia. If fraternisation of the sexes is a necessity, then there is no problem. But if there is no need, then it is bad. They cite an example: there are male and female students in university. Since this is a necessity of study, there is no problem in the fraternisation of male and female students. The same applies to the workplace. What is absolutely sinful is a man and a woman finding themselves alone, touching, hugging.
On the contrary, hardliners reject any form of fraternisation. In Saudi Arabia, male university students sit in front of the professor; female students are in another room, and follow the lesson via television monitor.
The reformist declaration, however, argues that Islam does not prohibit all contact between men and women. Such relationships are becoming problematic in Egypt because of a "Puritan" style which is increasingly becoming the norm. Some time ago, a fatwa issued by a doctor of Koranic law (faqih) caused quite a stir. In a television program, a woman explained that for work reasons she had to be in the same office with a man. But this was forbidden by Sharia, the woman could not resign and called for help. The ulema offered a solution: the woman should breastfeed her colleague. In response to the public's scandalised reaction, the ulema explained that by doing so her colleague would thus become "like a son" to the girl and so they could stay together in the office, without the risk of possible sexual relations (given their new familial "relationship"). The ulema defended himself from the public outrage by saying that "we must not judge with our emotions, but with the law." This fatwa gave rise to strong reactions in the Islamic world, so much so that the ulema was in danger of losing his job.
The sixth point is jihad (holy war). According to the reformers of the document, in Islam jihad is directed against occupiers of Muslim countries "Fight against those who fight against you in the way of Allah, but do not transgress," (Qur'an 2.190). In comments on this verse, it is clearly stated that it is forbidden to kill unarmed people, children, old people, women, priests, monks, houses of prayer. And they add: this vision - so modern – has been present in Islam for 1400 years.
The reformers, in this clarification, point out that jihad can only be defensive and only on Muslim lands. The problem arises when Muslims carry out jihad at the wrong time and in the wrong places (obviously it means that it is wrong to attack people in Europe for example, which is not "Islamic land").
When it is done, who can do it, where it can be done: the answer to these questions makes correct jihad from Islamic point of view. In this way the reformists condemn all Islamic terrorism, the attacks on the Church of Alexandria and Baghdad. It must be said that this interpretation of jihad is classic, but unfortunately there are very contrary interpretations that justify terrorism.
Outward piety
Section 7 explains the need to "stop attacks on outward piety and the use of foreign practices that come to us from neighbouring states".  Those battling against this externalized Islam, says it is a new phenomenon, only 30 years old. This is due to the fact that many Egyptians went to work on the Arabian Peninsula and came back with foreign customs. The magazine explains that Egypt too has its own customs and ways of dressing for a few positions in Islam. But - they say - "we have recently begun to imitate the dress in the neighbouring countries [ in short Saudi Arabia - ed] with the long beard flowing to the chest, the long robe (jilbab), the veil .... Then arrived the obligation for women to use the niqab, the full veil as an expression of modesty". And they quote the Koran 24.30: "Tell the believing men that they should restrain their gaze and be chaste."
The document states that "the important thing is the modesty of the gaze." It is recalled that last year there were thousands of attacks on women not dressed in an Islamic way. "The exterior - explain the expert reformers - has now become the true religion. The appearance of piety has now become the model of the believer in Egypt, without questioning the purity of heart and chastity of the eye, which the niqab can not hide. "
These emphases are fundamental and very close to the Gospel. It is a new mystical inspiration that warns: you will not be able to save the purity of the relationship between men and women by the clothes they wear.
And they add: these people – who have brought ways of dressing from elsewhere – have divided families, playing one off against the other, because the men want to impose the veil and the women rejected it. "We are now - ends the comment - a nation that takes care of the outside and that is empty on the inside".
Separation between religion and state, secularism
Section 8, on the division between religion and state, I believe to be the most important. The document uses the word 'almaniyyah, secularism. At the Synod on the Middle East we were afraid to use that word because it is commonly understood as "atheism", only indicating a secular enemy of religion and therefore to be rejected.
Instead, the document uses this very word. And it explains that this is based on the idea of separation between religion and state. Secularism - they say - should not be regarded as the opposite of religion; instead it needs to be seen as a safeguard against the political or commercial use of religion. "In this context - it claims - secularism is in harmony with Islam and secularism is therefore legally acceptable. The same can be said about the control of the (Islamic) activities of the State. "
At the same time it says: "All that distances religion from ordinary life is unacceptable." And it explains that it is necessary to affirm "the rights of God" and "the rights of the servant of God", namely human rights.
Atheistic secularism instead regards religion as a ball and chain and therefore demands absolute freedom. This secularism is opposed to Islam, which places certain limits. Those who want to choose faith must do so out of conviction and, therefore, accept the rules of religion, and can not play with them.
It is therefore claimed that there is a extremist secularism and a good one. On the Internet, this point on secularism attracts a lot of criticism. For example, the site "The guardians of the dogma" publish the following criticism. "Everyone must know that secularism means anti-religiosity, and that anti-religiosity is the fast track to atheism. Islam has to fight it, because secularism is the seed of all evil, etc. .. ".
This point, though much discussed, shows that Egypt is developing the concept of civil society, not immediately coinciding with the Islamic community.
Attitude towards Salafism
Point 9 is also interesting. It demands the "purification of the patrimony of the 'early centuries of Islam' (Salafism), eliminating myths (khurâfât) and attacks against religion".
The document states that "liberty, equality, knowledge, justice and science are the most important values that the Koran brought to us when it was revealed 14 centuries ago. They are the same values on which the society formed by the Prophet in Medina was founded. They are clear values on which there is no conflict. These values can not be minimised. We have a great need for these great values, more than in the past. " And it adds: "Countries do not develop other than in accordance with these values and will have no Renaissance (nahda) except with the abolition of this Salafi heritage that should be considered a drag on Islamic society, in its relation to myths (= human inventions), or inventions of schisms, or aggressions of religion".
These statements tackle the stifling practices of fundamentalism (dress codes, the pure and the impure, laws, etc ...) head on, which wants to reproduce the society of the time of the Prophet. For a Salafi, for example, it is forbidden to sit on a chair because the prophet sat on the ground; it is forbidden to use common toothpicks, instead he must clean his teeth with a twig taken from a plant in Saudi Arabia (miswak)! With these criticisms, the document aims at reforming Islam pushing it towards a more spiritual religious momentum.
Final Reflection
Judging from comments found on the Internet, we see that the great majority, contrary to the document, are prey to the external, traditional, formal, self-righteous Islam. There are still many intellectuals and religious thinking in a modern way, but they do not have the support of the institutions.
In the face of social unrest and pressures for change that are occurring in several countries of the Middle East and North Africa, we must say that Salafism is somehow a kind of "opium of the people", it focuses people's attention on external religious and secondary practices, regardless of the development, the well-being of society,. For their part, the political powers to leave be, provided they do not involve themselves in politics.
In Egypt, the political power is not a pure dictatorship, but to maintain power it allies itself, giving ever greater concessions to Salafism. The political power shows itself to be "Islamic" to avoid becoming an object of criticism of Salafism, or the Muslim Brotherhood. But each concession reinforces this exterior Islam and results in other, new concessions.

Council of Europe condemns violence against Middle East Christians RSS Facebook January 28, 2011

Denouncing "Christianophobia," the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe has passed a resolution condemning violence against Christians in the Middle East and calling for the development of "a list of measures against states which knowingly fail to protect religious denominations."
The assembly called upon European nations to "refrain from encouraging the members of the Christian communities in the Middle East to seek refuge in Europe, except in cases where the survival of such communities becomes impossible; in the latter cases, member states should take fully." At the same time, the resolution urged European states to "develop a comprehensive policy of asylum based on religious grounds, which would acknowledge in particular the specific situation of those who convert to another religion"-- a clear reference to Muslim converts to Christianity who face the prospect of death in their native lands.
Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

CHURCH: Journey decisively towards the full communion

Oriental Orthodox-Catholic Commission notes

VATICAN CITY, 28 JAN 2011 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received thirty members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

The commission was founded in 2003 as the result of an initiative by the ecclesial authorities of the family of Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The first phase of dialogue, between 2003 and 2009, "resulted in the common text entitled 'Nature, Constitution and Mission of the Church'", said the Holy Father. "The document outlined aspects of fundamental ecclesiological principles that we share and identified issues requiring deeper reflection in successive phases of the dialogue. We can only be grateful that after almost fifteen hundred years of separation we still find agreement about the sacramental nature of the Church, about apostolic succession in priestly service and about the impelling need to bear witness to the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the world.

"In the second phase, the Commission has reflected from an historical perspective on the ways in which the Churches expressed their communion down the ages", the Pope added continuing his English-language remarks to the group. "During the meeting this week you are deepening your study of the communion and communication that existed between the Churches until the mid-fifth century of Christian history, as well as the role played by monasticism in the life of the early Church.

"We must be confident that your theological reflection will lead our Churches not only to understand each other more deeply, but resolutely to continue our journey decisively towards the full communion to which we are called by the will of Christ", he said.

"Many of you come from regions where Christian individuals and communities face trials and difficulties that are a cause of deep concern for us all", Benedict XVI concluded. "All Christians need to work together in mutual acceptance and trust in order to serve the cause of peace and justice. May the intercession and example of the many martyrs and saints, who have given courageous witness to Christ in all our Churches, sustain and strengthen you and your Christian communities".

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Internet forum reveals psychological scars of IVF childrenRSSFacebookJanuary 27, 2011

Children born through in vitro fertilization and other advanced reproductive technologies often feel pain and resentment about their experiences, a new internet forum reveals.

Discussing their shared experiences, many children who were conceived using donated sperm or eggs show a keen interest in knowing the identity of the donors whose genes they carry. IVF practitioners do not provide that information, and have strongly resisted any move toward disclosure.

One woman participating in the forum expressed her frustrations in terms that vindicate the Vatican's warnings against artificial reproduction:

I am a human being, yet I was conceived with a technique that had its origins in animal husbandry. Worst of all, farmers kept better records of their cattle's genealogy than assisted reproductive clinics had kept for the donor conceived people of my era. It also made me feel strange to think that my genes were spliced together from two people who were never in love, never danced together, had never even met one another.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.


Asia Bibi moved to isolation cellRSSFacebookJanuary 27, 2011

Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Christian mother of five whose death sentence on blasphemy charges has provoked an international outcry, has been moved to an isolation cell in her Pakistani prison for her own protection. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, told the Fides news agency that two guards watch her cell constantly and that she is being given raw food to decrease the risk of being poisoned.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.


Fearing for safety, Pakistani Christians converting to Islam

RSSFacebookJanuary 27, 2011

Motivated by fear and better economic prospects, at least 20 Pakistani Christians are converting to Islam each week. In recent weeks, a leading Muslim politician who called for modifications to the nation's blasphemy law was gunned down, and thousands marched through the street of Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city, chanting, "Death to Christians and the friends of Christians."

"People have no faith in the police or justice system, and the kind of fear that exists now was never there before," says Peter Jacob, a prominent lay Catholics.

"No one feels safe right now," adds Nadeem Anthony, a Christian and a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. "People are scared."

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

St Thomas Aquinas


Saints this Month - 28th January: St Thomas Aquinas

As we celebrate the feast of St Thomas Aquinas, the great Dominican Doctor of the Church, it seems appropriate to reflect on his teaching, in which in particular we recognise his sanctity. First of all, we can marvel at the sheer quantity of writings he left: suffice it to say they occupy several shelves in the library here at Blackfriars! The amount of works St Thomas wrote, and the range of them, gives us a sense of his passion for exploring what we can know about God and for passing on his insights and discoveries to others. Perhaps unsurprisingly, among the many questions he considers is, in effect, what is the point of all this talking about God? Why do we need doctrine? How is knowing things about God useful?

The answer, which could be seen as a theme running through the whole structure of his most famous work, the Summa Theologiae, is that the fulfilment of human beings is to be found in something not just beyond ourselves but beyond what we could work out for ourselves: to discover it, and so to attain it, we need not only the conclusions we could come to on our own, but also the truths which God has revealed. In this already we see the amazing fact at the heart not only of doing theology but of our human life itself: God, the Creator of all that exists, is not some remote object for us to consider from afar, but has drawn close to us, revealed himself to us, and in that shown his love for us. In this we find that the purpose of human life, the fulfilment which we need God's revelation to understand, is nothing other than seeing and knowing God as he really is, in what we call the beatific vision. Thus, in seeking to know God, not only do we learn what he has revealed about our ultimate fulfilment, but already by his grace we have a foretaste of that fulfilment.

All this is amazing enough in itself: as we read the Bible and explore, with the great theologians such as St Thomas, the many implications of what God has revealed, we discover many wondrous truths about God and his love for mankind; and yet, as St Thomas reminds us in the words he spoke after the mystical vision he had at the end of his life, all that he wrote is 'as straw' compared with the splendour of the reality which awaits us in the blessed life to which God calls us all.


اليوم السابع | "اليوم السابع" ينشر أول وثيقة مكتوبة لتجديد الخطاب الدينى

اليوم السابع | "اليوم السابع" ينشر أول وثيقة مكتوبة لتجديد الخطاب الدينى

Renewing Islam towards modernity

Egyptian Imams and intellectuals: Renewing Islam towards modernity 
by Samir Khalil Samir
The program - truly revolutionary - wants to rethink the value of women, fraternisation between the sexes, the relationship of equality with Christians. And it also desires to clarify interpretations on the sayings of Mohammed and the myths of fundamentalist Salafism, rejecting the influences that come from Saudi Arabia. 

Rome (AsiaNews) - Rethinking fraternisation between the sexes; opening the doors to women right up to the Presidency of the Republic, guaranteeing the right of Christians to have access to positions of prestige (even the presidency), purifying and reinterpreting the sayings of the Prophet (the Hadith) ; bringing people to God through wisdom and thanksgiving and not with the threats ... these are just some of the – truly revolutionary - proposals that a group of professors, theologians and Egyptian imams are putting to their communities. The attempt to modernize the lives of Muslims, to put a halt to (and even stop) the fundamentalist influences that come from Saudi Arabia. The group of scholars holds the renewal of Islamic teaching at heart, as well as a relationship of harmony with Christians.

A score of intellectuals and theologians of Al Azhar have issued a text of enormous importance, entitled "Document for the renewal of religious discourse." The text was "posted" on the Internet on 24 January at 18:27, on the website of the weekly magazine Yawn al-Sâbi''("The Seventh Day"). The importance of the document also derives from its signatories, all noted scholars and profoundly committed Muslims.
Among these it is worth mentioning: Dr. Farid Wasel, former Grand Mufti of Egypt, the imam Sawfat Hegazi, Dr. Gamal al-Banna, brother of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the professors Malikah Zarrâr and Âminah Noseir the celebrated Islamist writer Fahmi Huweidi; Dr. Mabruk Atiyyah, a large number of preachers (du'ât), responsible for Islamic Propaganda, such as Khalid al-Gindi, Muhammad Hedâyah, Mustafa Husni, etc..  
It is the first time that such an attempt has been made by recognized Islamic figures. On being posted, the document received 153 comments in the same day. The majority (88.25%) condemned the text, saying it distorts Islam or tries to establish a new religion. Only 18 people congratulated the authors. This means that the path of renewal will be long and require much time and effort.
The original text of the document (in Arabic) and comments can be found at:
Here we publish a draft translation of the document, which will probably need to be reviewed. In the coming days we will also comment on some of the proposals.
Document for the renewal of religious discourse
  1. Review the books of the Hadith (the words attributed to Muhammad) and Koranic commentaries to purge them.
  2. Fine tune Islamic political-religious vocabulary, such as the gizyah (the special tax required of dhimmi, the second-class citizens).
  3. Find a new expression for the concept of fraternisation between the sexes.
  4. Develop the Islamic vision of women and find suitable ways for marriage laws.
  5. Islam is a religion of creativity.
  6. Explain the Islamic concept of gihâd, and clarify rules and requirements that govern it.
  7. Block attacks on external piety and foreign practices that come from neighbouring states [a euphemism that aims to expose the influence of Saudi Arabia-ed.]
  8. Separate state and religion.
  9. Purify the heritage of the "first centuries of Islam (Salafism), discarding the myths and attacks against religion.
  10. Give adequate preparation to missionary preachers (du'ât) and in this field open the doors to those who have not studied at the University of Al Azhar, according to clear criteria.
  11. Formulate the virtues common to the three revealed religions.
  12. Eliminate incorrect practices and provide guidance with regard to Western ways.
  13. Articulate the relationship that should exist between members of religions through schools, mosques and churches.
  14. Redraw in a different way [adapted] to the West the presentation of the biography of the Prophet.
  15. Do not keep people away from economic systems with the requirement not to deal with banks.
  16. Recognising the right of women to the Presidency of the Republic.
  17. Combat sectarian claims, [underling] that the flag of Islam [must be] one. Invite people to come to God through gratitude and wisdom, not through threats.
  18. Evolve the teaching of Al Azhar.
  19. Recognise the right of Christians [to have access] to important positions and [also] to the presidency.
  20. Separate religious discourse from power and restore the bond with the needs of society
  21. Establish the bond between the Da'wah (the call to conversion to Islam) and modern technology, satellite chains and the market for Islamic cassettes.

I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity.

- C. S. Lewis

Georgian Chant - 'When the glorious Disciples'

Sacred Georgian Orthodox Chant

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Al Azhar also expected in Assisi
by Bernardo Cervellera

Suspension of dialogue with the Vatican concerns Egyptian Church. For days, Patriarch Naguib, spokesman for the bishops and Catholic communities has submitted to the Egyptian government and the imam of Al Azhar, the Arabic translation of the Pope's speech that led to the apparent freeze. Accusations against Al Jazeera, of intentionally misrepresenting the papal message. In both east and west growing need for real religious freedom against terrorism and secularism.

Rome (AsiaNews) - The decision of Al Azhar to "freeze" dialogue with the Vatican continues to surprise and pain Egyptian Christians. The spokesman of the Coptic Catholic Church, Fr. Rafic Greich has expressed regret over the Islamic University's decision and his hopes that dialogue will resume. Vatican figures above all hope that Al Azhar will not miss the meeting with representatives of world religions in Assisi in October, wanted by Benedict XVI to remember the 25 years since the first meeting - at the time of John Paul II - and revive the "spirit of Assisi".
Unfortunately, Al Azhar and the Egyptian government continue to criticize the pope's words who – they maintain - asked the Western governments to defend Christians on New Year's day. In addition, they accuse the pope of only being concerned for Christians and of not taking to heart "the violence faced by Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan".
In fact, the pontiff's words were: "the threatening tensions of the moment and, especially, before the discrimination, abuse and religious intolerance that today are striking Christians in particular (cf. ibid., n. 1), I once again address a pressing invitation not to give in to discouragement and resignation. I urge everyone to pray so that the efforts made by various parties to promote and build peace in the world may be successful. For this difficult task words do not suffice; what is needed is the practical and constant effort of the leaders of Nations, and it is necessary above all that every person be motivated by the authentic spirit of peace, to be implored ever anew in prayer and to be lived in daily relations in every environment".
The satellite channel al-Jazeera, and many Western media short circuited in their titles, summarizing the words of Benedict XVI in a "The Pope calls on Western governments to defend the Christians in the Middle East." In short, a new kind of crusade.
It must be said that throughout the past few weeks and several times, Card. Antonios Naguib, head of the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Egypt, publically explianed the true meaning of the pope's words. A Catholic delegation, headed by Greek Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III, has visited Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq, Minister of Waqfs (Islamic Religious Affairs), to hand him the Arabic translation of Benedict XVI's address and clarify the ambiguity caused by al Jazeera that "attempts to sow confusion and stir relations between Egypt and in particular Al Azhar and the Catholic Church."
According to Fr. Greich, Al Jazeera deliberately turned the papal declaration into a "request for Western governments to protect Christians," while the pope only asked local governments to protect all citizens from terrorism.
A week ago, another Catholic delegation - including the auxiliary bishops of Alexandria, Mgr. Youhanna Golte and Mgr Boutros Fahim, along with Fr Greich - visited the Imam of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmad Al Tayyib to present him the actual statements of the pope and shed more light on Al Jazeera's manipulation thereof. At the end of the encounter Al Tayyib and the delegation agreed that Al Azhar would publish a statement on their meeting.
"Instead of the press statement - said Father Greich - we were shocked by the announcement of the freezing of dialogue between Al Azhar and the Vatican".
The growing feeling among experts is that the freezing of the dialogue between the Vatican and Al Azhar is a smokescreen to conceal Egypt's responsibility for the Alexandria attack. From the very start the Egyptian government denounced "foreign hands" behind the massacre of Christians, stressing that "Christians and Muslims in Egypt are one nation."
This declaration of innocence is not totally true. In fact, the Christians in Egypt face discrimination on many levels  (construction of churches, repairs, employment in public positions, etc. ..). Moreover, the government has one nothing to stop the growth of fundamentalism and fanaticism, which are the bedrock of terrorism.
From this point of view, in the aftermath of the attack in Alexandria, the Catholic Church has made a series of requests of the government (new laws on religious buildings; restructuring of the school curricula to erase discrimination, fair trials and the imposition of sentences for those who encourage fanaticism ,..)[1].
Instead, the government continues to favour the track of foreign terrorists, and is slow to address the problems of discrimination within its own borders.
To a certain extent, Egypt is behaving like many Western governments. These, too, after the bombings in Baghdad and Alexandria, cried terrorism, failing to realise that the crux of the problem of Christians safety lies within governments that prefer to sacrifice the followers of Jesus, rather than risk unhinging the Muslim world. Thus they do not help religious freedom, on the contrary, the leave the door open for fanaticism.
On the other hand, Western governments should not be invoked to launch wars and sanctions, but to strengthen cultural dialogue, to support education (an area that is becoming increasingly controlled by al Qaeda), to suggest effective reciprocity.
Under the shadow of this shameful situation of political inanity, both Eastern and Western, the real value of the meeting in Assisi and its "spirit" becomes increasingly relevant. As in the days of John Paul II, in no way does it want to be seen as a sort of "UN of religions", a watered-down syncretism of identities. Rather, the global meeting aims to be a symbol.
Its "spirit" wants to emphasize two elements: that religion and religions are not a problem for the world, but a resource. That they can live together and are not destined towards an inevitable clash of civilizations.
In this sense, the Assisi proposal aims, as a positive gesture, to counter the problems which undermine global peace as identified by the Pope; terrorism and secularism. The first because it uses violence to impose one religion, the other because it marginalizes the religious energies of society, reduces freedom of religion, and humiliates the dignity of all persons to the material dimension alone.
(André Azzam collaborated)

LAOS: Ordination

First ordination in northern Laos after in years
Ceremony for Pierre (Peter) Buntha Silaphet supposed to take place on December 12 but was postponed for nearly two months. The small Catholic community celebrates the Lao in his hometown, Van Phnom, ordination held in Takhek, 800 km further south. Fr. Pierre will help the vicar apostolic Fr. Tito Banchong left alone after the expulsion of foreign missionaries in 1975.

Vientiane (AsiaNews) - The first ordination in forty years in northern Laos will be celebrated on January 29, 2011.  It was to have been held December 12, 2010 but was delayed by almost two months. The new priest, Pierre (Peter) Buntha Silaphet, is thirty years-old, was born in Phnom Van (Sayaboury - Northern Laos) and belongs to the K'Hmù ethnic group.  A coincidence that the Catholic community in Laos judges providential, Pierre's Lao name is "Buntha," as that of the last ethnic K'Hmù priest, ordained in Luang Prabang February 22, 1970: 41 years ago, by Msgr. Alessandro Staccioli, vicar apostolic from February 1968 to 1975. In that year the government decided to expel all foreign missionaries, who were refused the right of return. Since then Fr. Tito Banchong, after the expulsion of foreign priests, has remained alone in the Vicariate, and understandably was overjoyed to give the announcement of this new ordination.
The small Catholic community will celebrates with Pierre Buntha when he returns to his native village of Phnom Van (Sayabouri), after his ordination, which will take place in Takhek, 800 km further south The ordaining bishop is Mgr. Marie-Louis Ling, Apostolic Vicar of Pakse, an ethnic K'hmù like Buntha.
The new diocesan priest belongs to one of the families evangelized between 1960 and 1975 by Father Pierre Marie Bonometti, OMI (Oblates of Mary Immaculate), in Ban Houei Thong in the province of Luang Prabang.
The apostolic administrator, Mgr. Tito Banchong, received all the necessary permits from the authorities to celebrate this event. Unofficially, it has been made clear to those involved that the ordination ceremony must not attract too much attention, and instead take the form of a village holiday. Since 1975, the Vicariate of Luang Prabang has been without a cathedral, but only small chapels around the country. The government is closely monitoring the activity of church life and Christian minorities. The Catholic Church is present across the four apostolic vicariates: Luang Prabang, Pakse, Savannakhet and Vientiane. There are 39,725 Catholics, representing 0.65% of the Lao population.

St. Romuald's Brief Rule For Camaldolese Monks


Sit in your cell as in paradise.
Put the whole world behind you and forget it.
Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish,
The path you must follow is in the Psalms — never leave it.

If you have just come to the monastery,
and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want,
take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart
and to understand them with your mind.

And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up;
hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

Realize above all that you are in God's presence,
and stand there with the attitude of one who stands
before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting,
content with the grace of God,
like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing
but what his mother brings him.