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John Thavis in studio to discuss Amoris Laetitia and more

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Perspectives: The Weekly Edition
Catholic Update with John Thavis
Friday, May 6th at 7:00pmET

A month after the release of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love), renowned Catholic journalist and author John Thavis is in studio to break down the contentious issues and discuss the implications of this new magisterial teaching.

Amoris Laetitia is the final product of a more than two-year synodal process initiated by Pope Francis in the fall of 2013.  Two synods of bishops were held in Rome in October 2014 and 2015 to discuss the pastoral challenges facing families around the world, in their particular cultural contexts.  Significant debate took place inside the Synod hall and publically in the media, as bishops tried to navigate the muddy waters of complex marital and familial situations while upholding the ideal of traditional marriage.

Two positions emerged clearly.  The majority of bishops, following the impulse of Pope Francis, pushed for a more pastoral, merciful approach in attitude and action when dealing with challenging situations.  The shift from the more traditional articulations of the Church’s teachings on marriage and family life typical of JPII and Benedict XVI was one of emphasis more than substance.  As Pope Francis stated clearly on the first Tuesday of the 2015 Synod, “Catholic teaching on marriage has not been put into question.”  At stake was the attitude with which the Church approaches and deals with people in their particular circumstances.

A minority of bishops pushed back against this development.  Their argument was essentially the “slippery slope” theory.  Present too much of a pastoral, merciful attitude to families in difficult situations and it will lead the Church down the dangerous path of relativizing the doctrine of marriage, giving the false impression that traditional marriage is an unattainable ideal.

The final document that emerged from the 2015 Synod was deemed unsatisfactory by the hardline minority bishops, in particular a few paragraphs that did not reaffirm the traditional teaching of JPII and Benedict that no divorced and remarried Catholics who have not obtained an annulment can receive Communion.  And yet, each paragraph of the final document received the necessary two-thirds majority vote to be considered “approved” by the synod and ready to hand over to Pope Francis.

Five months later Francis issued Amoris Laetitia, the authoritative teaching by the pope and the synod on the family.  Filled with so much of what the bishops discussed during those weeks in Rome last year, yet characteristically “Francis” in language and style, the document represents a new chapter in magisterial teaching and synodality in the Church.

Needless to say, we’re happy to welcome the former Rome Bureau Chief of Catholic News Service John Thavis to the S+L studios for Perspectives: The Weekly Edition, to analyze the synodal journey and the implications for the Church’s pastoral outreach.  In this episode we will also discuss Francis’ solidarity visit to the refugees in Lesbos, Greece, Bernie Sanders’ surprise invitation to the Vatican and possible implications of the US presidential campaign for the Church.

John Thavis is bestselling author of “The Vatican Diaries.”  His latest book, “The Vatican Prophecies: Investigating Supernatural Signs, Apparitions, and Miracles in the Modern Age,” will be featured on S+L’s new book show Subject Matters on Sunday, June 5 at 8:30pmET

New show, old medium

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There’s always something new happening at the S+L studios, and this spring is no different.  One of our most anticipated projects is a new book show entitled Subject Matters. The show is written, produced and hosted by Sebastian Gomes, and will premiere on Pentecost Sunday (May 15th) at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT.

In an era when printed books are on decline and e-books are on the rise, many people are asking why we’re creating a TV show based on this seemingly outdated medium!  Indeed books have been around for a long time.  They have been the primary vehicles for communicating new ideas and preserving old ones.  The centuries-old art of book and manuscript writing is the only reason we know as much as we do about ancient civilizations and cultures, religions and exceptional individuals.

Something that has withstood the test of time, as books have, is not likely going to disappear forever.  Books are to communication what Benedictines are to the Catholic tradition.  There’s something very stable about them.  No informed person would believe that books are heading toward extinction any more than the Benedictines are.  If anything, amid the rapid changes in communication in the 21st century, books might prove once again to be a staple of communicating ideas and preserving culture.

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Books are also very healthy.  They are the organic foods of the communication world: good for the mind (sparking imagination, creativity and critical thinking), good for the body (fostering moments of peace and quiet in an otherwise chaotic, noisy culture), and good for the soul (depending on what you’re reading!) And, despite their high cost, books are worth the investment over the long term to sustain a healthy life.

Finally, a word on silence.  Silence, as Benedict XVI wrote in his message for World Communications Day 2012, is an integral element of communication.  “In its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested.”

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Simply reading a book can promote that healthy balance between word and silence, something we all need to be effective and respectful communicators.  Our new show Subject Matters serves to promote the ancient practice of quiet reading, to introduce viewers to new ideas and to spark creative discussion.  We cover a broad range of topics of interest to both Catholics and non-Catholics.  By featuring relevant and readable books in a visually rich setting, we hope our audience will rediscover the old medium of the printed word, infused with new ideas for building a better world and living a joyful life.

It is of the new things that men tire—of fashions and proposals and improvements and change. It is the old things that startle and intoxicate. It is the old things that are young.
G.K. Chesterton

The Paris climate conference, and after?

(Co-founder of Equiterre Steven Guilbeault speaks about what Canada needs to do to meet the challenge of climate change in the wake of the landmark climate conference in Paris 2015, at the Mary Ward Centre in Toronto, Ontario, 21/04/2016)

A few dozen people gathered at the Mary Ward Centre in downtown Toronto last night to hear acclaimed environmental activist Steven Guilbeault, Co-founder of Equiterre, speak about the 2015 Paris climate summit and what Canada needs to do to meet the set goals and further challenges.

In his candid but hopeful presentation, Guilbeault noted that 162 out of 196 countries in Paris agreed to tackle the climate crisis; those countries account for about 95% of all global emissions.  Today, Earth Day, will serve as a reminder to what needs to be done, as an estimated 170 countries will formally sign the COP21 agreement at the United Nations.  Now the real work begins.

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The science presented in Paris projected that no change in behavior or policy would lead to an increase in the earth’s temperature by 3.6 degrees Celsius in a matter of decades.  The effects of this would be catastrophic.  Guilbeault noted that in the last global ice age, the earth’s temperature was only 4 degrees colder than it is now.  The agreement reached in Paris–should it be implemented completely by every country–would limit the rise in temperature to 2.7 degrees Celsius.  While the effects of a 2.7 degree rise will be less than a 3.6 degree rise, Guilbeault said it’s still not going to be pleasant for life on the planet, and much more will need to be done.  “Paris was only the beginning,” he said.

Guilbeault presented the numbers related to production of emissions, noting that wealthier countries will need to contribute more resources to fight climate change, not because they are wealthier, but because they have contributed more to the problem.  Statistics show that the vast majority of poorer countries have a relatively minuscule carbon footprint.  Given the grave situation of the earth and her climate, those poorer countries will need help adapting to the effects of climate change more than anything.

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Looking at Canada specifically, Guibeault weighed the cost of continuing a fossil fuel driven market versus creating one based on renewable energy.  The transition, he said, is inevitable, but while Trudeau’s Liberal government is much more inclined to invest in renewable energy, simultaneously expanding the fossil fuel market as they are, is a bad idea long-term for the environment, Canada’s global emissions commitments, and even for jobs.  “People argue that renewable energy is not a real economy, that it doesn’t create jobs.  But this is false,” he said.  Rather, the numbers show that a committed investment in renewable energy will in fact produce many more jobs and limit the amount of suffering (job loss) caused by over-reliance on a boom-bust market like oil.  The low cost (demand) for oil right now and the subsequent suffering of many Canadians should kick-start our moral conscience and mobilize the country to find ways to ensure market security and workforce longevity.  The way to do that is to see what is fast and inevitably approaching: a society built on renewable energy.

Ultimately, the challenge of climate change is not one of economics or technology, but of willpower and dedication.  Pope Francis calls it a moral imperative.  “Canada has the responsibility to show leadership,” concluded Guilbeault, “We have to do something about it, and we have to hurry up because the clock is ticking.”

(Above left: Development and Peace animator for central Ontario Luke Stocking answers questions with Steven Guilbeault.  Above right: Steven Guilbeault, who participated in the Paris climate conference delivers his presentation at the Mary Ward Centre)

Pope Francis updates and a new S+L series tackles euthanasia – Perspectives


Tonight on Perspectives: Pope Francis sends a message to Roman Jews ahead of Passover, a solidarity collection will be taken up this weekend for the suffering people in Ukraine, and a new S+L series tackles the controversial subject of legalized euthanasia in Canada.

Lay participants in the 2015 Synod respond to Amoris Laetitia

Pedro J. de Rezende and Ketty A. Rezende of the University of Campinas, Brazil were lay auditors at the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.  In that capacity they had the opportunity to address the Synod and participate in the small language groups which laid the foundation for the Final Relatio that was approved and given to Pope Francis on October 24, 2015.  After the publication of Francis’ exhortation Amoris Laetitia on Friday, the married couple drafted the following analysis.

A brief analysis of the apostolic exhortation “The Joy of Love”

by Pedro J. de Rezende and Ketty A. Rezende

It was with great anticipation that we awaited the publication of an Apostolic Exhortation on the family, as it had been announced shortly after the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that took place last October. Many believed that it would contain pastoral guidelines that addressed the great diversity of situations in which families find themselves in the contemporary world.

However, “The Joy of Love” (Amoris Laetitia) ended up being a pastoral document far beyond our expectations. At the same time that it is a reiteration of the church’s teachings, based on the Magisterium and on the texts from previous popes, one clearly sees the hand of Pope Francis in it: his style remains pedagogical, compassionate and very accessible to the lay Christian.

On the one hand, the document highlights doctrinal aspects already covered in previous encyclicals and exhortations. On the other hand, as is usual to Pope Francis, he stresses very concretely, to the couples and families who faithfully live their mission, the value of true conjugal love, openness to life and the education of children, as a source of wholehearted joy in the family environment and in the context of society.

It should be noted however, that “The Joy of Love” also promotes a pastoral novelty. It strongly emphasizes the aspect of “accompaniment” for those who are hurt or who place themselves apart from the Church. Francis speaks much about welcoming, caring and integrating them, in their present situation, into the Church’s loving environment. At the same time, he calls on us to help each person to find his or her path for continuous conversion and to gradually open themselves to the mission entrusted to them through baptism.

Therefore, this exhortation is a document to be studied and reflected upon by every Christian. It must be read with the same spirit of joy and love with which it was written: with an open mind, fidelity to the truth and a sincerely compassionate attitude, as demonstrated by Pope Francis himself.

Director of Jesuit Refugee Service in studio – Perspectives


Tonight on Perspectives: The Pope appoints a new Nuncio to the United States and Fr. Tom Smolich, SJ, International Director of Jesuit Refugee Service joins us to discuss the global refugee crisis and the Pope’s trip to Lesbos, Greece

New Perspectives tonight: A Common Date for Easter?

Perspectives: A Common Date for Easter?
Wednesday, March 23 at 7:05pmET

Repeat: Monday, March 28 at 7:05pmET
saltandlighttv.org/perspectives

Is finding a common date for Easter possible?

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(Guest host Sebastian Gomes interviews Fr. Peter Galadza of the Sheptytsky Institute about the ecumenical implications of finding a common date for Easter between the churches of the east and west.)

In May of 2014, Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria, Egypt sent a letter to Pope Francis. In it he expressed his desire to establish a single date for all Christian Churches to celebrate Easter. Since the 16th century the Catholic and Orthodox churches have used different calendars to calculate the date of Easter. But in modern times as Christian persecution has become rampant in many parts of the world, Christians are seeing more of what they have—and should have—in common. Pope Francis, who has proven to be a bold advocate for Christian unity, has not initiated anything officially, but said in an unscripted remark at a priests retreat last June that, “We have to come to an agreement” for a common date on Easter. Since then other Christian leaders have backed the proposal, including the head of the Anglican Communion Justin Welby, and Patriarch Aphrem the 2nd of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.  The practical question of how a common date could be established is still up for debate. So too are the potential ecumenical implications.

A new episode of Perspectives: The Weekly Edition examines this question of finding a common date for Easter.  Guest host Sebastian Gomes and Fr. Peter Galadza, a liturgist from the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, discuss the history of the Julian and Gregorian calendars and what it will take to bring the churches of the east and the west together in a very tangible way in the 21st century.

Perspectives: A Common Date for Easter?
Wednesday, March 23 at 7:05pmET
Monday, March 28 at 7:05pmET

Where the Shepherds kept watch – #SLPilgrimage

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Some of the Salt + Light team are in the Holy Land on pilgrimage. We are also preparing something special for you to watch in the near future. Stay tuned! In the meantime, here is the text of a reflection that was recorded at the Shepherd’s Field in Bethlehem:

The Shepherd’s fields lay in the Judean countryside about two miles east of Bethlehem.  It’s here that tradition says the very first public proclamation of the birth of Jesus took place.

Now there were Shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.  The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.  The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is the Messiah and Lord.

Luke 2:8-11 

The story of the annunciation to the Shepherds is unique to Luke’s gospel.  Since it is the first public proclamation of Jesus’ birth, we have to assume that this scene of the angel visiting the shepherds is a key part of the Christmas story for Luke.

The word angelos means “messenger”.  In the Scriptures, angels are important characters who communicate a divine message to human beings.  But apart from the message they bring—which is extraordinary in itself—the visit of an angel always points to the importance of the person receiving the message.  In fact, the only other characters in Luke’s narrative who are visited by an angel are Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, and Mary, the mother of Jesus.

While shepherd figures and imagery are prominent in the Judeo-Christian tradition, shepherds in Jesus’ time were not the most highly respectable people.  Nomadic in lifestyle, it wasn’t uncommon for shepherds to herd their flocks through other people’s private land.  And so, they were looked upon with suspicion and considered to be dishonest; they were excluded from testifying in the courts; they were physically and ritually unclean, living on the margins of a Jewish society that centered on devout religious practice in the Jerusalem Temple.  Based on all of this, we have to assume that Luke the Evangelist was aware of the reputation of shepherds…

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:13-14

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Why does Luke relate this story of preferential treatment to the lowly shepherds?  Who were they to receive such a gift of good news from God?  What was Luke trying to communicate to us, the readers of his gospel?

We can better understand this preferential treatment of the shepherds if we look at Jesus.  He spent his adult life with people on the margins: sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes.  Over and over again he was looked upon with suspicion and contempt because of the people he associated himself with.  Even in birth, Jesus, the Messiah and Lord, was associated with the poor, being born to an ordinary family in a manger among animals.  In his exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis writes that “God’s heart has a special place for the poor, so much so that he himself became poor.”  Luke tells the astonishing story of the angel announcing the good news of Jesus’ birth to shepherds, precisely because God favors the poor and the marginalized.

When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”  So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant laying in a manger.

Luke 2:15-16

Luke tells us that the Shepherds left the Holy Family glorifying and praising God for what they had heard and seen; we never hear from them again.  These fascinating characters help to kick-start the story of Jesus in a profound way, telling us that from the very beginning, Jesus holds a privileged place for the poor and marginalized.  Standing here in the Shepherd’s fields—such an ordinary place—we come face-to-face with this truth.  Here, a defining attribute of God is revealed.  He sees the exceptional in the oddest and most unexpected places.  Can we do the same?  Can we give a privileged place to the poor and marginalized people in our lives, and our society? The story of the Shepherds reminds us that salvation history unfolds through the lives of ordinary, simple and unsavory folks, and that God can is able to write straight with crooked lines.

Sebastian Gomes is an English producer for Salt + Light.

Faced with an unimaginable decision – #SLPilgrimage on the Mount of Olives

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A Salt and Light team is on the ground in Israel for a Lenten pilgrimage where they’re also filming TV reflections.  On March 2nd they visited the Mount of Olives, half of which is decorated with natural olive tree gardens and the other half with Jewish tombs.

Standing on the Mount of Olives there is a spectacular view of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Kidron Valley.  From there you can effectively trace the final days of Jesus’ life from his weeping over the city, to his trial, execution and burial.  Perhaps the most moving site on the mount is Gethsemane, where Jesus underwent tremendous agony over his impending death.

The Church of All Nations was built on the site in 1924 and commemorates this Gospel event.  It is a beautiful, simple church, stark in atmosphere—which is very appropriate—and is surrounded by centuries-old olive tree gardens.  Walking amidst the olive trees is an equally moving experience as praying in the church; one’s imagination is sparked, especially in light of Luke’s descriptive account:

“He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”  Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”  Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.  In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.  When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” 

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What confronts the pilgrim who comes to Gethsemane is the humanity of Jesus in the decision he had to make.  Even he was not immune from the anxiety felt by one staring death in the face.  A wonderful and informed description of the scene can be read in the late Fr. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor’s archaeological guide to the Holy Land:

“Having eaten the Paschal meal somewhere in the city (Lk 22:10), Jesus went forth across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden (Jn 18:1) on the Mount of Olives called Gethsemane (Mk 14:26).  The place was known to Judas, for Jesus often met there with his disciples (Jn 18:2), perhaps to take a rest before starting the climb up the steep steps en route to Bethany (where his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived).  Jesus knew his life to be in danger (Jn 11:8); he suspected Judas of treachery (Mk 14:17-21).  On his way up the Kidron valley he could not have avoided seeing the tombs in the bright moonlight.  Awareness of the imminence of death struck him with great force; he had to stop and be alone for a moment because a decision had to be made.  His enemies would come from the city, but ten minutes’ fast walking would bring him to the top of the Mount of Olives with the open desert before him.  Escape would be easy; he could postpone the inevitable.  Only in prayer could he find the answer to the agonizing question of whether to stand or retreat.” (The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide, 5th edition, 2008)

Sebastian Gomes is an English producer for Salt + Light.