Archives For Religion

From I share this Easter prayer with you.

From the darkness of the grave
Blood poured out, a crown of thorns
Christ the Lord is risen to-day
ALL: Alleluia!

From the triumph that is won
Over the power and fear of death
Christ the Lord is risen to-day
ALL: Alleluia!

Walking from the empty tomb
Opening wide the gates of life
Christ the Lord is risen to-day
ALL: Alleluia!

Lord of life
You defeated death
To show that we can rise
From all that binds us to the world
Pride, envy, anger, fear
The debt of sin that holds us here
Christ the Lord is risen to-day
ALL: Alleluia!

Lord of life
You defeated death
To demonstrate a love that is
Beyond our understanding
That reaches out even to me
Saving Grace to all who hear
Christ the Lord is risen to-day
ALL: Alleluia!

Lord of life
We pray for all who bring your word of life
As a light to those in darkness
For those who bring your word of peace
To those enslaved by fear
For those who bring your word of love
To those in need of comfort
Lord of love and Lord of peace
Lord of resurrection life
Be known
Through our lives
and through your power
Christ the Lord is risen to-day
ALL: Alleluia!

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I enjoy reading about different religions and came across these stunning photos from the Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions. Hope you enjoy!

Girl with body paint for puberty ritual

Girl with bodypaint for puberty ritual, Monrovia, Liberia Thomas S. England Photo Researcher


Wearing a traditional turban, a Muslim prays in the Great Mosque in Sana, Yemen R&S Michaud-Photo Researchers

Russian Orthodox patriarch Reuters-Yuri Romanov/Archive Photos

Holy man

Hindu sadhu, or holy man Reuters-Sunil Malhotra/Archive Photos

Abe is the second son of Adam and Eve, who was slain by his older brother, Cain (Genesis 4:1-16). Abel, a shepherd, offered the Lord the firstborn of his flock. God respected Abel’s sacrifice but did not respect that offered by Cain. In a rage, Cain murdered Abel, then became a fugitive because of the curse placed upon the ground (a curse of infertility) onto which Abel’s blood had spilled.

Genesis makes the point that divine authority backs self-control and brotherhood but punishers jealousy and violence. In the New Testament the blood of Abel is cited as an example of the vengeance of violated innocence (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51).

Taken from Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of World Religions 1999

Alan Gates elected Saturday

BOSTON — The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts has a new bishop.

Clergy and lay delegates from parishes and missions across the diocese on Saturday voted for Alan Gates to succeed retiring M. Thomas Shaw, who has led the church since 1994.

Gates is currently serving as rector of St. Paul’s Church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

He was among seven candidates during polling at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston.

Clergy and lay delegates voted separately. A majority of votes on the same ballot from both clergy and laypersons was required for election.

The diocese says online that Gates was elected in the fourth round of voting.

Gates is scheduled to be consecrated on Sept. 13 to lead the diocese with 185 congregations in the eastern part of Massachusetts.

Cardinal will advise Pope Francis on protecting children

Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot

VATICAN CITY — Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley has been appointed by Pope Francis to a commission created to advise the Catholic Church on how to protect children from sexual abuse.

Francis named the initial members of a commission to advise him on sex abuse policy Saturday, tapping lay and religious experts – and an Irish woman assaulted as a child by a priest – to start plotting the commission’s tasks and priorities.

The Boston Globe reports that O’Malley is the only American on the commission, but he will not have to move to Rome and will continue to serve as the Archbishop of Boston.

The eight members, four of them women, were announced after Francis came under fire from victims’ groups for a perceived lack of attention to the abuse scandal, which has seriously damaged the Catholic Church’s reputation around the world and cost dioceses and religious orders billions of dollars in legal fees and settlements.

The Vatican in December announced that Francis had decided to create the commission to advise the church on best policies to protect children, train church personnel and keep abusers out of the clergy. But no details had been released until Saturday and it remains unknown if the commission will deal with the critical issue of disciplining bishops who cover up for abusers.

In a statement, the Vatican hinted that it might, saying the commission would look into both “civil and canonical duties and responsibilities” for church personnel. Canon law does provide for sanctions if a bishop is negligent in carrying out his duties, but such punishments have never been imposed on a bishop for failing to report a pedophile priest to police.

The eight inaugural members include Marie Collins, who was assaulted as a 13-year-old by a hospital chaplain in her native Ireland and has gone on to become a prominent campaigner for accountability in the church.

Also named was O’Malley, one of Francis’ key advisers and the archbishop of Boston, where the U.S. scandal erupted in 2002.

Two other members are professors at Rome’s Jesuit Pontifical Gregorian University, which in 2012 hosted a seminar for bishops from around the world to educate them on best practices to protect children. Several participants from that conference are now founding members of Francis’ commission, including Baroness Sheila Hollins, a British psychiatrist.

During that 2012 conference, Collins told the bishops of her own ordeal, of the hospitalizations, anxiety and depression she endured after Irish church authorities didn’t believe her when she reported her attacker, and then blamed her for the assault.

“I was treated as someone with an agenda against the church, the police investigation was obstructed and the laity misled. I was distraught,” Collins said at the time.

The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the institution of the commission was evidence that Francis believed “the church must hold the protection of minors among her highest priorities.”

But in a March 5 interview with Corriere della Sera, Francis appeared defensive about the issue, complaining that the church had been unfairly attacked.

He acknowledged the “profound” wounds abuse leaves and credited Pope Benedict XVI with turning the church around. Benedict in 2001 took over handling abuse cases because bishops were moving pedophiles around rather than punishing them.

In his final two years as pope he defrocked nearly 400 abusive priests.

Francis added: “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that has moved with transparency and responsibility. No one has done more. And yet the church is the only one that has been attacked.”

The initial group named Saturday will define the scope, statutes and priorities of the commission and propose other members to better reflect the church’s geographic diversity.

Other members include:

-Catherine Bonnet, a French consultant in child and adolescent psychiatry.

-Claudio Papale, an Italian canon lawyer and official of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex abuse cases.

-Poland’s longtime former ambassador to the Vatican, Hanna Suchocka, a constitutional lawyer.

-Rev. Humberto Miguel Yáñez, an Argentine Jesuit who studied with Francis as a seminarian and currently is head of moral theology at the Gregorian.

-Rev. Hans Zollner, the vice-rector of the Gregorian, a psychologist and psychotherapist who organized the Gregorian seminar and also serves on the German government’s round table on child abuse.

Church leaders headed to Arizona
Cardinal Sean O'Malley

Cardinal Sean O’Malley talks with reporters at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Palm Sunday, March 24, 2013.

Liam Martin/WCVB-TV

BOSTON — The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Boston will travel to Arizona to join a group of seven other bishops on a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border and celebrate Mass on behalf of the nearly 6,000 migrants who have died in the U.S. desert since 1998.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, one of Pope Francis’ key advisers, will join bishops from around the country during a trip intended to highlight “the human suffering caused by a broken immigration system, an aspect of the national immigration debate which is often ignored.”

The eight prelates are members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration. They will be in Nogales, Ariz., from March 30 to April 1.

Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo heads the committee. He says immigration is primarily about human beings, not social or economic issues.

Pope Francis may visit United States next year
Pope Francis

Vatican TV

BOSTON —Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is inviting Pope Francis to Boston during the pope’s first trip to the United States, tentatively planned for 2015.

Walsh has asked Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley to hand-deliver a letter this week while he is in Rome, the Boston Globe reported.

“I think people in Boston would be very excited about the pope coming,” Walsh said in an interview with the Globe. “I think it would also be good for the city.”

O’Malley has previously expressed doubt about the likelihood of a papal visit to Boston.

“The city of Boston has always been known as a city of profound faith: faith that its diversity makes it strong; faith in doing the right and appropriate thing for its poor; and faith in the power of truth and justice,” the mayor wrote in his letter to the pope.

Pope John Paul II visited Boston in 1979.

Will evolution debate blow up in the Science Guy’s face? It’s debatable

Alan Boyle, Science EditorNBC News


A video from Answers in Genesis promotes the Feb. 4 debate at the Creation Museum.

Why on earth would Bill Nye the Science Guy agree to debate evolution and creationism in a place called the Creation Museum? And how on Earth could creationist Ken Ham lose?

The conventional wisdom among evolutionary biologists is that they have much more to lose than to gain from Tuesday’s face-off in Kentucky — just as the consensus among creationists is that they’re getting a high-profile forum for their views, nine years aftersuffering a major defeat in federal court.

“I don’t think Nye should be getting into this,” Jerry Coyne, a biologist at the University of Chicago who uses the title “Why Evolution Is True” for his blog and his latest book, told NBC News. “He may be walking into a buzzsaw.”

Meanwhile, the organization that Ham heads, Answers in Genesis, says the debate will “equip believers with solid creation apologetics — while at the same time exposing the assumptions the evolutionary ideas rest upon.” Answers in Genesis is already offering the DVD on pre-order.

Debaters get ready
Nye acknowledges that he’s getting some heat from colleagues for giving creationists a high-profile forum, but insists that an open debate is necessary. “We’re just trying to change the world here, and draw attention to these forces in our society that are trying to get creationism in science textbooks,” he told NBC News. “My argument is, this is bad for the country, bad for our economy. We can’t raise a generation of science students who are not scientifically literate.”

He said he’s been preparing for the debate by consulting with experts via email and studying how Ham and other creationists have stated their case in past forums.

Image: Bill Nye

Bill Nye
Bill Nye the Science Guy

“Many people have been critical of me for taking this debate because I’m not an expert on evolution,” Nye said. “But this is not advanced evolutionary theory. This is not high-school science. It might be elementary-school science. That Mr. Ham and his followers don’t embrace it is troubling.”

Ham is preparing as well — in consultation with creation-minded colleagues who have Ph.D.s, such as molecular biologist Georgia Purdum and geologist Andrew Snelling. Like Nye, Ham is researching his opponent’s past statements on evolution. And like Nye, Ham says he’s doing this debate to reach the next generation.

On his blog, Ham said he has seen lots of young people leave the church “because they saw evolution as showing the Bible could not be trusted.” In a follow-up interview with NBC News, Ham said, “If you’re taught that there’s no God, that you’re just an animal that arose through natural processes, that has great bearing on how you view yourself, and your fellow man, and your morality.”

Some of the handicappers on Nye’s side of the fence, like Coyne, worry that Ham is the more experienced debater. Ham, however, said he’s taken part in only one formal debate on evolution, back in the 1990s. He also pointed to Nye’s years of TV experience on “Bill Nye the Science Guy.”

“He’s like me. He’s a communicator,” Ham said. “We’re not really used to doing formal debates.”

Debating the debate
On each side of the debate, there’s yet another debate going on: For example, some of the defenders of evolution education think Tuesday’s face-off won’t be such a bad thing.

Image: Ken Ham

Answers in Genesis
Creationist Ken Ham

“In general, we advise people against doing debates. The biggest thing is that a debate on stage is not how science is decided. It’s entertainment, it’s theater,” said Josh Rosenau, program and policy director for theNational Center for Science Education, which defends the teaching of evolution. “But because it’s about entertainment, if anyone’s going to do it, I think Bill Nye is not a bad choice.”

Nye isn’t a professional scientist, but a mechanical engineer who became a comedian and then blossomed as a science popularizer. “The thing that Bill has going for him is that he is great at explaining science,” Rosenau told NBC News.

He said the way the debate is framed may give Nye an added advantage. The official topic of the discussion is whether creationism provides a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific world. “I hope that means that Ken Ham is actually going to try to offer some sort of scientific claims for his position,” Rosenau said. “I think he’s going to have a hard time doing that, coming up with a scientific argument.”

Bible as scientific evidence
Ham’s view is that the Genesis account of the universe’s development and the rise of life on Earth is literally true, including the part about everything being done in six 24-hour days. As a young-Earth creationist, Ham contends that the universe is only about 6,000 years old. So what about the 70 million-year-old fossil bones of dinosaurs? The way Ham sees it, those are the millennia-old bones of animals referred to in legends as dragons.

“What we believe about the age of the Earth (that it is relatively young) is a consequence of our stand on biblical authority, and nothing in observational science contradicts that,” Ham wrote this week. “You see, we use the Bible as evidence!”

Even among folks who insist there’s evidence that the universe was designed by some sort of intelligent being, such views don’t always sit well. Stephen Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and the author of “Darwin’s Doubt”sees pluses as well as minuses to Tuesday’s debate.

“It’s a plus because it generates interest in the topic,” Meyer told NBC News. “It’s a minus because it inhibits an understanding of the complexity of the issue.”

Meyer worries that the debate over evolution will be portrayed as Darwinian materialism vs. biblical literalism — leaving out such ideas as theistic evolution, old-earth creationism and his own perspective, intelligent design. “It would be really terrific if the proponents of the mainstream Darwinian view of origins engaged some of the other critics of their theory, who see evidence of design in nature but are not biblical fundamentalists,” he said.

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It’s all about the children
Neither Ham nor Nye expect to convert the other guy on stage. Instead, they’re playing to wider audiences.

“One of the reasons we’re doing this is to overcome censorship,” Ham told NBC News. “The naturalists say, ‘Do not debate creationists.’ They want to shut down discussion. In the public schools, there’s been legislation to protect the teaching of naturalism. Students aren’t even allowed to critically analyze evolution.”

The teaching of intelligent design in public-school science classes was decisively swatted down by a federal judge’s ruling in 2005, but the focus of the debate has shifted to whether public-school teachers should encourage skepticism about the basics of evolutionary biology. Laws in LouisianaTennessee and Texas say that’s OK, and similar laws are being considered in MissouriOklahomaVirginia and South Dakota. In addition, there are continuing battles over biology textbooks.

Evolution education has even sparked political controversies in Kentucky, the site of Tuesday’s debate.

“My concern is for the future of Kentucky schoolchildren, and then the future of U.S. schoolchildren,” Nye said. “There are billions of religious people in the world who accept and embrace the natural history of the Earth, and our descent from other beings who had DNA. They’re not troubled by this. This guy and his followers are outliers.”

In December, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center suggested that 60 percent of adult Americans sided with the pro-evolution perspective, as opposed to 33 percent for the creationist view. But some of the demographic breakdowns indicate that the issue is becoming more politically polarized.

Will Tuesday night’s debate change minds? Both Nye and Ham hope so. Jerry Coyne, the blogging biologist, isn’t so sure. “I have found that a debate is not a good way to change people’s minds or have them reflect thoughtfully about the issue,” Coyne said.

He thinks there are better ways for Bill Nye the Science Guy to make use of all the good will he’s earned from his science TV shows.

“I’d tell him, ‘Keep going around giving talks about evolution. Write about it. Give lectures.’ People love that,” Coyne said. “He’s greatly beloved by a large number of Americans. But don’t get into a one-on-one with a creationist. If you show up for a debate like that, you lose.”

More about the evolution debate: and will offer live video coverage of the debate from the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., beginning at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday. NBC News Digital science editor Alan Boyle will be on the scene.

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. —Members of the Jewish and Christian communities spoke out Wednesday against a proposal to eliminate religious holidays from the school calendar in Northborough and Southborough.

Read more from our Wicked Local partners

“Why don’t you pick Christmas and Easter and have school on those two days?” said Adam Winter of Northborough. “How would you feel?”

Winter’s comment reflected the depth of emotion many in the Jewish community expressed to members of the Southborough, Northborough and Northborough-Southborough school committees about the topic.

A recent calendar study committee recommended dropping Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Good Friday from school calendars in all three districts.

The committee – which included parents in addition to administrators and school committee members – reasoned that doing so would create more continuity to the beginning of the school year and would be more fair to Hindus and Muslims, who get no dedicated days off.

But Jewish residents from both towns said Wednesday that removing the holidays would be a step backward.

“We’ve been here before,” said longtime Northborough resident Jonas Goldenberg, who said he remembers when the decision was made to institute the holidays.

“It really feels like it’s moving back in time to (when) people weren’t sensitive to the religious beliefs of others.”

Goldenberg and others said a commitment from the school to not hold tests or major athletic events on the religious holidays isn’t enough.

“It’s a sign of respect for another religion,” he said of the day off, and helps teach children of other religions the meaning of tolerance.

Rachel Gurevitz, rabbi of Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough, said parents in some towns have told her teachers don’t always follow the directive to not hold tests on holy days.

Rabbi Michael Swarttz of Beth Tikva Synagogue said the policy change would be “a great step backward” as Jews increasingly struggle to maintain their religious identities in modern society.

Rachel Lipkin, a teacher in Southborough, said her fourth-grader son asked her to speak up because he felt it would be “really scary” to choose between school and his religion.

“The choice just isn’t a fair thing to put on young children,” she said – a comment echoed by several others.

Ernie Rivard, associate pastor at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church and chairman of the Northborough Interfaith Clergy Association, also spoke against the proposal.

“In a way I think it marginalizes some of the sacred (aspect),” he said, by treating it just like any other day.

Most of the 12 or so people who spoke are against the policy, as another 15 or so audience members nodded their heads in agreement. Several School Committee members indicated they had concerns about the policy, including Joan Frank, who said she wouldn’t vote for it.

Susan Dargan, chairwoman of the Northborough-Southborough School Committee, suggested the three committees get their policy subcommittees together and try to make one unified recommendation to take back to their respective boards.

A date for that meeting was not set, but Dargan said it would be a public meeting that will be posted soon.

Vatican: Hundreds of Priests Defrocked for Molestation 

For the first time the Vatican has revealed details on the specific numbers of priests removed in 2011 and 2012.

By John Heilprin and Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press

A document obtained by The Associated Press on Friday shows Pope Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests over just two years for sexually molesting children.

The statistics for 2011 and 2012 show a dramatic increase over the 171 priests removed in 2008 and 2009, when the Vatican first provided details on the number of priests who have been defrocked. Prior to that, it had only publicly revealed the number of alleged cases of sexual abuse it had received and the number of trials it had authorized.

While it’s not clear why the numbers spiked in 2011, it could be because 2010 saw a new explosion in the number of cases reported in the media in Europe and beyond.

The document was prepared from data the Vatican had been collecting and was compiled to help the Holy See defend itself before a U.N. committee this week in Geneva.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s U.N. ambassador in Geneva, referred to just one of the statistics in the course of eight hours of oftentimes pointed criticism and questioning from the U.N. human rights committee.The statistics were compiled from the Vatican’s own annual reports about the activities of its various offices, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex abuse cases. Although public, the annual reports are not readily available or sold outside Rome and are usually found in Vatican offices or Catholic university libraries.

An AP review of the reference books shows a remarkable evolution in the Holy See’s in-house procedures to discipline pedophiles since 2001, when the Vatican ordered bishops to send cases of all credibly accused priests to Rome for review.

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took action after determining that bishops around the world weren’t following church law to put accused clerics on trial in church tribunals. Bishops routinely moved problem priests from parish to parish rather than subject them to canonical trials — or turn them into police.

For centuries, the church has had its own in-house procedures to deal with priests who sexually abuse children. One of the chief accusations from victims is that bishops put the church’s own procedures ahead of civil law enforcement by often suggesting victims keep accusations quiet while they are dealt with internally.

The maximum penalty for a priest convicted by a church tribunal is essentially losing his job: being defrocked, or removed from the clerical state. There are no jail terms and nothing to prevent an offender from raping again.

According to the 2001 norms Ratzinger pushed through and subsequent updates, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reviews each case sent to Rome and then instructs bishops how to proceed, either by launching an administrative process against the priest if the evidence is overwhelming or a church trial. At every step of the way the priest is allowed to defend himself.

The Congregation started reporting numbers only in 2005, which is where Tomasi’s spreadsheet starts off. U.N. officials said Friday that the committee has not received the document.

In 2005, the Congregation authorized bishops to launch church trials against 21 accused clerics, and reported that its appeals court had handled two cases. It didn’t say what the verdicts were, according to the annual reports cited by the spreadsheet.

In 2006, the number of canonical trials authorized doubled to 43 and eight appeals cases were heard. And for the first time, the Congregation revealed publicly the number of cases reported to it: 362, though that figure includes a handful of non-abuse related canonical crimes.

A similar number of cases were reported in 2007 — 365 — but again the Congregation didn’t specify how many were abuse-related. Vatican officials, however, have said that it received between 300-400 cases a year in these years following the 2002 explosion of U.S. sex abuse cases in the U.S. In 2007, 23 cases were sent to dioceses for trial.

By 2008, the tone of the Vatican’s entry had changed. Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, traveled to the scandal-hit United States that year and is quoted in the annual report as telling reporters en route that he was “mortified” by the scale of abuse and simply couldn’t comprehend “how priests could fail in such a way.”

That year’s entry was also notable for another reason: For the first time, an official Vatican document made clear that nothing in the church process precluded victims from reporting abuse to police.

There was also another first in 2008, a critical year as abuse lawsuits in the U.S. naming the Holy See as a defendant were heating up: For the first time, the Vatican revealed the number of priests who had been defrocked: 68. Some 191 new cases were reported.

A year later, the number of defrocked priests rose to 103, while some 223 new cases were received, the vast majority of them abuse-related.

The year 2010 was another milestone in the sex abuse saga, with the explosion of thousands of cases reported in the media across Europe and beyond. Some 527 cases were reported to the Congregation. No figures were given that year for the number of defrocked priests, rather the Congregation described new church laws put in place to more easily and quickly remove them.

By 2011, with the new streamlined laws in place, the number of defrocked priests rose dramatically: 260 priests were removed in one year only, while 404 new cases of child abuse were reported. In addition to those defrocked, another 419 priests had lesser penalties imposed on them for abuse-related crimes.

In 2012, the last year for which statistics are available, the number of defrockings dropped to 124, with another 418 new cases reported.


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