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Coast to Coast: February 7 to February 13

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Here is some of what we’ve been reading this week across the country:

In Ontario, Catholic Crosscultural Services is helping government-assisted refugees settle into their home

In Saskatoon, an elementary school has stepped up to sponsor a refugee family from Burundi.

From Edmonton, we get this look at what Lent is and is not.

 

Behind Vatican Walls: Historic Meeting of East and West

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For the first time ever, the pope will meet with the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The announcement was made in a joint press release issued by the Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow. Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill will meet in Cuba on February 12. At the end of their two hour meeting, they will sign a joint declaration.

Although the announcement seemed to come out of the blue, it reportedly took two years of quiet dialogue and negotiation. Russian Orthodox officials say this does not mean past tensions have been resolved, it just means there is a bigger problem that requires the Catholic and Orthodox churches to work together. Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion, who is responsible for the church’s foreign relations, said the problem between the two churches is the Ukrainian Catholic Church – which he referred to as “uniates.” He said “regrettably, the problem of Unia is still there, with Unia, remaining a never-healing blooding wound that prevents the full normalization of relations between the two Churches.”

However, Metropolitan Hilarion said the issue of Christians being persecuted in the Middle East and North Africa is bigger than the historic tensions between the two churches and requires them to work together. It is estimated that out of the 1.5 million Christians who used to live in Iraq, there are only 200,000 left in the country.

One of the requirements that had to be satisfied in order for the meeting to happen was finding the right location. According to Russian Orthodox Church’s department for foreign relation, Patriarch Kirill wanted the meeting to happen outside of Europe. The patriarch will visit Cuba, Paraguay and Brazil from February 11 to 22, while Pope Francis is scheduled to be in Mexico from February 12 to 18. The fact that both men would be in Latin America at the same time provided a chance to meet in fairly neutral territory.

The pope’s Mexican itinerary will not change. Instead he will leave Rome earlier than scheduled to allow for a stop over in Cuba. He is expected to touch down in Havana around 2pm local time and be on route to Mexico by 5:30 pm local time. The meeting will take place at Jose Marti International Airport. Some observers say Patriarch Kirill could possibly face backlash from within the Russian Orthodox Church for going ahead with the meeting.

This is not the first time a pope and Russian patriarch have tried to meet. Russian Orthodox official revealed today that from 1996 to 97 negotiations took place for a meeting between St. Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Alexy II. That meeting was supposed to be held in Austria but negotiations stopped after both sides got stuck on two points: actions of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and the activity of Catholic clergy within the geographic area of the patriarchate of Moscow which Moscow considered proselytism.

Vatican officials said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been informed of the meeting and is pleased.

The meeting comes just as Orthodox patriarchs have agreed on the details of the Pan – Orthodox Synod, to be held in Crete starting June 19.

CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:


AliciaHeadShot

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Drop in vocations saddens pope – Perspectives Daily

On today’s edition of Perspectives, Pope Francis meets with religious men and women and confesses what tempts him. Plus, the International Eucharistic congress wrapped up and the next host was announced.

Coast to Coast: January 24 to January 30

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In the brief hush of ordinary time between the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Lent, parishes and diocese focus their attention on the day to day and week to week aspects of faith life. Even in that, there are a few things for us to share this week as a sample of what’s been happening across the country:

La Loche, Saskatchewan became a household name this week for all the wrong reasons. Still, the tragedy also served as a window into how our aboriginal communities live faith in good times and bad. The Catholic Register spoke to Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin La Pas. He has a special connection to La Loche and didn’t think twice about driving 800 kilometers to serve the community in their time of need.

Interviews with Archbishop Chatlain are also featured on the Salt + Light Radio Hour and Perspectives Daily on Salt + Light.

In Alberta, Catholic schools are dealing with the issue of transgender students: What do the schools do to ensure a transgender student is safe and at home in the school while staying true to Church teachings? The issue has sparked public debate. Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton issued his own statement on the matter.

In British Columbia, on the banks of the Nicomekl River, a retreat house that has been serving the diocese for 54 years has had to close its doors. Here’s a look at the impact the centre has had on the lives of the very people who were entrusted with welcoming retreatants.

 

Pope Francis to Visit Sweden – Perspectives Daily

On today’s edition of Perspectives we have details from the closing prayer service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we learn about the Pope’s latest travel plans, and big changes coming to some Canadian dioceses. Plus, we have a look at the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, which started today.

Behind Vatican Walls: Apple vs. Android?

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This week the Pope’s message for the World Day for Social Communication was released with some fanfare at the Vatican. The real fanfare, however, was going on inside the Apostolic Palace. Pope Francis met with Apple CEO Tim Cook. The meeting comes one week after the pope met with Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. The meetings have set off a storm of speculation: Is the Vatican hoping to work with the two tech giants in some capacity? If so, what is this project?

Both executives are also philanthropists: Schmidt and his wife founded the Schmidt Family Foundation to support initiatives focused on renewable energy, ecological agriculture and human rights. Meanwhile Cook quietly announced in 2015 that he plans to give away most of his fortune and has reportedly spoken about human rights, immigration reform and HIV transmission as issues he is passionate about.

Much ado was also made about the fact that Cook is openly gay, with some reporters saying it is the first official audience the pope has held with an openly gay person. Such statements ignore a big part of the Church’s message on sexuality issues: a person is not defined by that one trait. Almost certainly Cook’s sexuality had nothing to do with the whatever was discussed during his meeting with Pope Francis.

What is clear though is that something is brewing involving the digital world. Whatever it is should be very interesting.

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A more usual type of audience happened at the Apostolic Palace: Pope Francis met with Cardinal Angelo Amato of the Congregation for Saints Causes. As usual Cardinal Amato came with a list of potential saints whose heroic virtues, holy deaths, or miracles need to be recognized by the pope. Among the causes that moved forward as a result of this audience:

-Blessed José Gabriel del Rosario Brochero

 Brochero was a diocesan priest from Córdoba, Argentina who is often referred to as the “gaucho priest”. He founded a house for spiritual exercises and dedicated himself to being available to all the faithful wherever they lived and in whatever circumstances they lived. He got the nickname “gaucho priest” precisely because he would travel by mule, as far as needed, to minister to whomever needed him. Pope Francis recognized the miraculous healing of an eight year old girl who suffered a stroke and should have been left severely, permanently brain damaged.

– Blessed José Sanchez del Rio

The fourteen year old Mexican was put to death during the Cristero war after refusing to renounce his faith. A miracle attributed to his intercession was approved by the Congregation for Saints Causes and accepted by Pope Francis.

-Venerable Engelmar Unzeitig

The Czech born priest was a member of the Marianhill Missionary Society. Ordained in 1939 he was sent to Austria and assigned to a parish. In 1941 he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Dachau concentration camp. Unzeitig ultimately died in Dachau of Typhoid, which he contracted after volunteering to live in the Typhoid barrack so that he could minister to those in need. Pope Francis recognized his martyrdom.

-Takayama Ukon

Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of this Japanese Samurai who died in 1614. Takamaya refused to give up his faith, which led him to disobey his chief. His decision led to him being forced into exile. He led a group of 300 Catholics to the Philippines, but died shortly after settling in Manila as a result of the journey.

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below!

Photo/Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/incredibleguy/5979571763)


Alicia

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Behind Vatican Walls: Mercy, Disagreement and Unity

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With the Christmas season officially over, this week the Vatican got back to business. Pope Francis had a full slate of meetings this week with a wide variety of guests: the priests from the Argentine College, the nuncios to Zimbabwe, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the papal delegate to Palestine and Jerusalem and a group of bishops from Peru. He also met with the Chairman of of Alphabet, the company that owns Google, and paid an unscheduled visit to a retirement home in Rome.

The meeting that church watchers were keeping on this week, however, was not a Vatican-meeting. The leaders of the Anglican Communion were gathered in England to discuss the issues that have caused division among the 38 provinces of that church. Specifically the provinces do not see eye to eye on issues around sexuality and the ordination of women bishops. The U.S. province, known as the Episcopal Church has elected women bishops, and opened ordained ministry to gay and lesbian members of the church. Both moves caused a strain in relations with the other Anglican provinces and led some Episcopal parishes to become part of other provinces.

As a result of the week long meeting the Anglican primates decided to sanction the Episcopal church. For the next three years Episcopal clergy will not be able to represent the Anglican Communion on ecumenical and interfaith panels nor will they have decision making roles within the Anglican Communion. This could have significant impact on the Anglican – Roman Catholic Theological Consultation in the U.S. The announcement has also sparked anger among some Anglicans in various provinces of the communion.

That same meeting also brought positive signs for Christian unity worldwide. At a press conference Archbishop Welby told journalists the Anglican primates agreed to join in on trying to unify the dates for Easter.  He said he discussed the idea with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II in Cairo last year. Pope Tawadros has been discussing the idea with Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The Coptic leader has proposed fixing the date for Easter at the second or third Sunday in April.

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Next week is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, marked by Christian churches around the world. Watch for ecumenical prayer services and other events taking place this week in your city. Pope Francis will celebrate a vespers service on January 25 to close the week.

The International Eucharistic Congress takes place January 24 to 31 in Cebu, Philippines. Prelates from around the world will be in Cebu giving talks and catechesis. Pope Francis is not attending the congress. Watch here for information about the event as it happens.

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:

CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout


Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Coast to Coast: January 3 to January 9

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Here is a look at what’s been happening and what we’ve been reading about across the country this week:

With all the news about Syria and the refugee crisis, it can be easy to forget that there are other parts of the world suffering as well. Here is a look at how one Canadian organization in helping with the drought that has been devastating Ethiopia for months.

In Regina, it has been seven years since the  Catholic and Anglican archdioceses signed an agreement to work together and pray together more closely. Now the time has come to look back over those years and see how much progress has been made.

The Canadian Government recently received the Truth and Reconciliation’s Commission’s final report on residential schools and vowed to ask the pope for an apology. One Canadian bishop familiar with the issue shares his take on how to overcome racism.

In Vancouver, the New Year comes with new priests. While the two men are very different from each other and took very different paths to get to their vocations, both are a sign of hope for this west coast archdiocese.

 

Behind Vatican Walls: New Year, New Hope

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History

On November 16, 1989 on the campus of the Central American University in San Salvador, six Jesuit priests were pulled from their beds in the middle of the night and executed. The military officers who carried out the killing went unpunished for decades. Five of six Jesuits were Spanish citizens.

In 2008 the Spanish Association for Human Rights and the Centre for Justice and Accountability lodged a criminal complaint in Spanish courts against the Salvadoran military officials involved in the killing of the six Jesuits. A judge in Madrid issued an order for the arrest and extradition of the Salvadoran officers named in the case. Interpol also issued a world wide warrant and extradition order. Authorities in El Salvador did not comply with the order. The officers accused were located and transferred to an ex-national guard military base.

Plot Twists

On January 4, Spanish judge Eloy Velasco issued a new arrest and extradition order for the 17 soldiers and officers accused of killing the six Jesuits. Salvadoran presidential spokesperson Eugenio Chicas told reporters “The only path for our security forces to take is to proceed with the arrests, that is, there’s nothing to do but follow the law.” He also said once legal requirements had been met, the order would be followed. However, it is up to El Salvador’s supreme court whether or not to extradite the accused.  

The statement from the Salvadoran government gave room to cautious optimism that perhaps justice would finally prevail. January 8 reports surfaced that the military defence counsel has presented a request for Judge Velasco to recuse himself from the case. The request claims that the judge is biased because he teaches at a Jesuit university and the case involves events that took place at a Jesuit university.

Happy Endings?

It remains to be seen just how much this case will move forward. Will El Salvador’s supreme court allow the 17 accused soldiers to be extradited? Will Velasco stay on as judge for this case? Will justice prevail? 2016 should bring plenty of things to watch.  

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:


Alicia

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

 

A new diocese in North America – Perspectives Daily

The new year brought some new things for the Church: a new diocese in North American, and a new bilateral agreement. Jubilee Year celebrations continue and we hear from Pope Francis about how and why Mary is a door to mercy.