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Pray for Syria – Perspectives

On Today’s edition of Perspectives Pope Francis asks everyone to pray for Syria. Also, an Ottawa newspaper digs up the numbers about sex abuse cases on Ottawa.

Pope and Grand Imam meet at Vatican – Perspectives

For the first time in years a pope and grand imam have met formally. We have the details. Plus details have been released about the next World Meeting of Families, and we have a special invitation for viewers in Vancouver.

Behind Vatican Walls: New Custodian of the Holy Land


(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

There is a new Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land. The Order of Friars Minor elected Father Francesco Patton, OFM as the new Custos. He replaces Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa who ended a 12 year term as Custos in April.

Father Patton is 53 years old and comes from the Trent region of Italy. He was ordained a priest in 1983. Since then he completed a licentiate in Social Communication at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome and is enrolled in the order of journalists. He has had a variety of posts within the Franciscan order and with his diocese. Most recently Fr. Patton has been Minister General (superior general) for the St. Anthony Province of the order, which includes all Franciscan Friars in northern Italy.

The Custos of the Holy Land is considered one of the Catholic ordinaries of the Middle East even though he is not ordained a bishop.His mandate lasts six years but can be extended if the Franciscans and the Holy See believe it is necessary. The Custos works with the heads of the Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian Churches to maintain the status quo.

In regards to the Holy Land “status quo” refers to an agreement ratified in 1852 that lays out the ownership of the various christian sanctuaries and the spaces within them. The agreement also regulates the times and durations of religious functions celebrated in those sanctuaries by the different Christian churches. Any change to the status quo agreement requires the consent of all the churches represented by the agreement.

Given that the ownership of different sanctuaries is often linked to national interests of neighbouring countries, maintaining that status quo can be quite challenging.

New Custos, New Focus, New Story

The appointment of Fr. Patton could also signal a new approach to ministering in the delicate region of the Middle East. Father Patton holds a graduate degree in journalism and social communication while past custodians had extensive backgrounds in scripture and oriental churches.

During a recent visit to the Holy Land, representatives of various church organizations in the region told me one of the biggest challenges they face is telling the story of life in the Holy Land for Christians. The world is well aware of the plight of Christians in Syria and Iraq but less so about the challenges faced by Arabs, especially Arab Christians in Israel and Palestine. Various officials told me the information that makes it out to the international community about either overlooks the hardship faced by Arabs, or paints the picture of a menacing threat from which Israel needs to defend itself at all costs. There is little talk of severe water restrictions to Palestine, long waits at checkpoints, a near impossibility of getting permission to go to Jerusalem, or the seizing of land from private Palestinians for the construction of new sections of the Israeli wall. Another official told me tourists believe it is unsafe or not possible to visit Bethlehem. In reality tourism in pretty much the one industry Bethlehem has going for it.

Because of the hardships in the entire region, every year hundreds of Christian families leave the Holy Land. According to the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, if emigration continues at current rates, within 50 years there will be no Christian community in the Holy Land.

Given the need to get the full story of the Holy Land in the public eye and stay on good terms with all the key players on the ground, the appointment of a Custos with a background in Social Communication could signal a shift in approach. While theology, scripture, and historical knowledge are important, in this modern mediatic age, knowing how to shape a message and get it out into the world is just as important.

This week’s episode of Vatican Connections will be available below shortly.


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.


Ignoring the call of worldly things – Perspectives

On today’s edition of Perspectives, Pope Francis has some pointed words about the lure of worldly things like power and vanity. We have an update on World Youth Day from the organizing committee in Krakow. And if you’re in Vancouver you’ll want to hear the details of our upcoming fundraiser in Vancouver.

Coast to Coast: May 8 to May 14



Here is a look at the vast and varied things that we’ve been reading about across the country this week:

The Fort McMurray fire is still very much front and centre this week. The WCR has this special report about what its like to fight Alberta wild fires.

In Saskatoon, the Prairie Messengers is offering a five part series reflecting on the issues around euthanasia and the government’s push to bring in an assisted suicide law by June 6. Here is part one.

Vancouver is famous for its breathtaking natural beauty, astronomically high housing cost, and the squalor of the downtown east side. One couple in Van City is marking 20 years of doing what they can to help the poorest and neediest on Vancouver’s streets.

If you watched the tv show Flashpoint, you know his face. You probably don’t know that he grew up in a less than perfect family situation or that his refuge was his Catholic high school. The Catholic Register has Enrico Colantoni’s witness to the strengths of a Catholic school.

Behind Vatican Walls: Phoebe and the Deaconesses


Pope Francis will ask the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation to study the issue of women deacons. The pope announced the decision during a question and answer session with participants of the International Union of Superiors General plenary assembly.

During a question and answer session with the nearly 900 religious sisters taking part in the meeting, Pope Francis was asked what prevents the Church from including women in the diaconate.

Speaking without a prepared text the pope said there is evidence that women were deacons in the early church.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul mentions “our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the Church at Cenchreae” and asks that she be given a warm welcome. Deaconesses are also mentioned at the Council of Chalcedon. The council says deaconesses should not receive “the laying on of hands” under the age of 40. Once they do receive the laying on of hands, the council says they should not get married.

Pope Francis told the UISG members the evidence does not provide much detail about what women deacons did or if they were ordained ministers. It appears, he said,  the role of deaconesses in the early church was to help with the baptism of other women and to examine the wounds of abused women and report back to the local bishop.  

The pope went on to say he will ask the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to show him any studies that exist about the role of women deacons in the early church. He added that he will ask for a commission to be established to study the question of women deacons, “I think it will be good for the Church to clarify this point.”

At the same time Pope Francis warned against what he calls a desire to “clericalize” consecrated and lay women. He said when a lay person or a consecrated person shows a talent for pastoral work in the parish, has brains, and is organized, there is an instinctive reaction to want to give that person a clerical role. By that logic pushing for ordained women deacons is just another attempt to “clericalize” women.

Reaction to the pope’s comments were swift and divided. On social media three lines of thought were evident: those who were happy about the pope’s call to study the issue, those who were appalled he would consider such a thing, and those who were upset because they believe the pope did not go far enough.

After many news headlines proclaimed the pope is opening the door to women’s ordination, the Vatican issued a statement on May 13 saying “The Pope did not say he intends to introduce the ordination of female deacons and even less did he talk about the ordination of women as priests.”  

Reading the transcript of the Pope’s meeting with UISG participants it appears clear Pope Francis is calling for clarity on specific points: what were deaconesses in the early Church? What did they do? How did they do it? Were they ordained? If so, why? Why did the role of deaconess fall out use?

The answers to those questions do not lead straight line to women’s ordination. However they could lead to a wider vision of the role of consecrated women. Not to mention such a study could produce a better understanding of what roles lay people can and should take on in today’s church.

This week’s episode of Vatican Connections will be available below shortly.


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.

Pope Prays for Fort McMurray – Perspectives

On today’s edition of Perspectives: the pope prays for Fort McMurray while neighbouring dioceses help the relief effort. As well we have details on the Regina Caeli and the pope’s Charlemagne Prize.

Coast to Coast: May 1 to May 7



Here’s what has been happening across our country this week:

In Alberta, the fires in Fort McMurray have wiped out homes and business and caused residents to evacuate en masse. The fires have also impacted churches and parishes in the region. At least one Catholic church is believed to been lost to the fires and a diaconal ordination had to be moved. Here are some updates:

Western Catholic Reporter

Catholic Register 

Bishop Paul Terrio of St. Paul, Alberta posted this letter on the diocesan website

And Pope Francis himself sent a letter to our Nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Buonazzi upon hearing of the widfires.

Neighbouring dioceses are already stepping up to provide those who left their homes behind with some of the basic things they need right now.



Behind Vatican Walls: I Have a Dream…


The Charlemagne Prize was created in 1949 by Dr. Kurt Pfeiffer in Aachen, Germany as a reminder and a call for European unity. The 2016 prize was awarded to Pope Francis this week.

In post-war Europe several new organizations and pacts were in development. These organizations and agreements would unify Europe economically and politically. However, in 1948 work suddenly stopped on a customs agreement between Britain and France. This stopped the development work being done for a Council of Europe.

A group of citizens of Aachen, Germany started looking for some way to inspire a renewed push for European unity. Dr. Pfeiffer came up with the idea of awarding a prize for “most valuable contribution to western European understanding.” The Charlemagne Prize Society was founded in March 1950 and the first prize awarded in May of that same year.

Why Charlemagne? The Frankish king, who was later crowned Roman Emperor, is considered the Father of Europe, politically and culturally.

Since 1950 recipients have included the Italian Prime Minister Alcide de Gasperi, who was also one of the founding fathers of the European Community, Konrad Adenauer, a former Chancellor of the Republic of Germany who campaigned for an office for European Unity, Robert Schumann, another founding father of the EU, Simone Veil, the first woman president of the European Parliament, Brother Roger, the founder of the Taize Community, Pope John Paul II, and Andrea Riccardi, the co-founder of the Sant’Egidio Community.

On ten occasions the prize was not awarded because the Charlemagne Prize Society felt no one deserved the it. In the 1960s and 70s when the European unification process was stagnating, the board of directors felt it was better not to award the prize than to pick a “second rate” candidate.

European Prize, Pope from the ends of the earth

The board of directors of the International Charlemagne Prize decides who will receive the award each year and publishes the reasoning behind their decision. The board said they decided to award the 2016 prize to Pope Francis because at a time when European citizens are looking for guidance he has a message of hope and encouragement. Specifically, he encourages European officials and citizens to “return to the firm convictions of the founding father of the European Union.” The board refers specifically to the pope’s 2014 address to the European Parliament in which he appealed to every Member of Parliament to support and uphold the dignity of man, and keep the human person at the centre of their political action.

This week the board of directors and past Charlemagne Prize Laureates traveled to the Vatican to confer the prize on Pope Francis. The Holy Father gave an uncharacteristically long ( 30 minute) speech that is being called his “I have a dream” speech. He pulled no punches, calling on Europeans to step up, open their hearts and borders, and be the people they always envisioned themselves as being.

His speech is well worth reading. The full text can be read here.

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:


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.


Increase Dialogue, Decrease violence – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, an overview of the pope’s weekend activities and a priest known for his civil disobedience is remembered.