Today October 31st marks the 500th anniversary of the day that German theologian Martin Luther published his 95 theses, setting in motion, the events of the Protestant Reformation.
To mark the occasion, the "Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity", & the Lutheran World Federation on Tuesday issued a joint statement giving thanks for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation and recalling the commemorative events that have taken place over the past year.
It was exactly one year ago that Pope Francis traveled to the Swedish cities of Lund and Malmo to take part in a joint commemoration of the Reformation alongside leaders of the Lutheran World Federation. That liturgy held at the Lund Cathedral, focused on asking forgiveness for the sins of past centuries, while also celebrating the progress of the last fifty years and pledging to step up joint efforts in the service of those most in need.
And while Catholics and Lutherans can still not share at the Eucharistic table, the two Churches acknowledge their “joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ".
The Pope’s apostolic trip to Myanmar is just under four weeks away and already church leaders in that country are expressing some anxiety about what the Pope may or may not say; in particular, they are hoping that he doesn’t say the R-word. Fr Mariano Soe-Naing, communications director for Myanmar's bishops told CNS that, "The pope's visit is keeping us very anxious, as many things can go wrong. A wrong word from the Holy Father can plunge the country into chaos. Any mention by name of the Rohingya will have widespread implications here. "If the Holy Father in his speech even mentions the Rohingya, the nationalist groups will respond. This is a historic problem, and we need a lot of time to solve this problem. We cannot just say this or that."
Despite the caution urged by Myanmar’s bishops, the Pope has mentioned the Rohingya people by name and has expressed closeness to them, during his Angelus address on Aug. 27, when he asked pilgrims at the Vatican to "pray for the Lord to save them, to raise up men and women of goodwill to help them, that they may be given full rights." More than a million Rohingya Muslims live in Myanmar, but are seen by the government and the majority Buddhist population as foreigners, and widely hated and mistrusted after Muslim separatists launched a series of attacks on government security forces in that country. I will keep you up-to-date on this story as it unfolds, in the weeks to come.
To India now where a nun who was stabbed to death in 1995 will be beatified this Saturday, and one of those who will be there to celebrate is her assassin.
Clarist Sister Rani Maria Vattalil was stabbed in front of more than 50 bus passengers on a remote jungle track in Madhya Pradesh state on her way home for a visit.
Samandar Singh, then 22, murdered her on behalf of money lenders upset with Sister Rani Maria's work setting up self-help groups in the Diocese. Convicted of the murder and initially sentenced to death Sister Rani''s younger sister formally accepted him as her "brother" while he was in prison and facilitated his release.
"I am sad and sorry about what I did. But now I am happy that the world is recognizing and honoring Sister Rani," Singh told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview yesterday.
Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, will preside over the beatification. Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, Apostolic Nuncio to India, will lead the thanksgiving Mass Nov. 5 in India.
Now for you social media junkies, an initiative from the Vatican this month is inviting people to virtually connect with Pope Francis and learn more about Church missions and how to support them.
MissioBot is an automatic chat system on Facebook Messenger, which helps guide users through a chat experience with words from the Pope. Anyone with any computer or smartphone with the Facebook Messenger app can learn about the Pope’s mission projects around the world. The participant then has the opportunity to pray for a particular intention or donate to specific causes, such as orphans or victims of famine. People will also be able to click on “Papal Wisdom” to receive snippets of advice from the Pope himself. It’s like chatting with the Pope any time.
MissioBot is available for the entire month of October in commemoration of World Mission Sunday and you can get the app now at propfaith.net/missiobot and encounter the Missions and experience the humour and humility we have come to expect from Pope Francis, but online.
That is all for today. Join us again tomorrow when I bring you more news and stories from the Perspective of a Catholic lens.
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